Monday, October 13, 2014

Films That Debate Moralilty

Winter Sleep

Winter Sleep                                                                                                                         

Past halfway mark, and the Busan film festival’s deluge of films from corners of the world have had their usual effect – an astonishingly high number of young teenage Koreans upto 30 years of age thronging the theatres, and film buffs from everywhere bowing, waist down Korean style, in appreciation.

Busan is the last of the huge major festivals in the year. Its selection of its 312 films features the most talked-about festival titles that 2014 has so far showcased. Among them are Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s take on Checkov’s selected stories, the enticing four-hour Cannes winner, Winter Sleep, dialogue driven as it conveys genteel lives caught within closed walls -- and so riveting.

Then there is the film from France-Maurituana, Abderahmaine Sissako’s picturesque and poetic Timbuktu, set in a distant desert in Mali, where its simple people are subjected to mindless fanaticism; from Belgium, the Dardenne brothers’ Two Days, One Night on a worker’s conscience battling her employer’s manipulations to oust her; from Canada, the surprise hit of the year, Mommy, by Xavier Dolan, on a feisty widow’s strained and strenuous attempts to cope with her disturbed son as he drifts from hospital to her home.

At Busan, looking at the more human interest stories in cross sections of the programme, the thought comes across that the public concept of morality and good conduct are of concern in our times. A deeper understanding suggests that the driving social forces of today trigger people to become victims, forcing them into crass and manic behavior, almost to a point of self-destruct.

The only one competition section in the panoramic spread of this festival is its New Currents screening first or second-time directors. This year this section has 12 films from 10 countries. One is Sunrise by Partho Sen-Gupta in the Marathi language (it will feature in the upcoming Mumbai International Film Festival very shortly). The film has already evoked high praise from quarters as prized as both The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. Sunrise, a tense, brooding psychological drama set in Mumbai’s murky areas, follows a grieving policeman doggedly searches for his missing daughter. The film’s balancing of fact with fantasy gives it an eerie, lurid hue. Lead actor Adil Hussein’s angst-driven performance in the lead role adds immeasurably to the film’s impact.

In the same section is Bangladesh’s Jalal’s Story by Abu Shahed Emon, who has studied filmmaking in Dhaka, Australia and Korea. The film has three tales that connect surrealistically to one another – each one set around a child set adrift in swirling waters with the intention to kill. There is no ambivalence here on moral issues. The film clearly indicts a society controlled by boorish men, caste hierarchy, exploitative superstition and criminalised politics.

From Korea, Kim Dong-myung’s The Liar takes magnetic control of its out-of-gear subject on a young girl who is abandoned by a mother she craves for. She escapes her sordid and desperate conditions at home shared with an alcoholic fat sister and a wayward young bother, by slipping seamlessly into a world of fantasy and lies. She pretends she is buying a high-grade apartment or a costly refrigerator, saying blandly last minute that she has left her wallet at home and will send her down payment. In the Botox beauty parlour where she works, she lies again about a high-flying boyfriend who in fact is an employee of a car company, who really likes the girl. However, her twisted mind finally gives way. She deliberately destroys all that she has going for her.  Consumerism is the killer here.

From the UK, Morgan Matthews’ X+Y looks with compassion at a little boy who is a total misfit in every aspect of life. All he cares for are patterns, numbers and mathematics (at which he excels). He connects with his father who indulges him at every turn telling him he is gifted far more than others and so is unique – a goal that the boy grows up using as justification for his isolation and total disregard of others.  It is only by leaving home for Taiwan to compete in the revered Mathematics Olympics as a member of the British team, and aided by his mother’s long-suffering support and that of his ailing, anarchic tutor, is he finally able to reach out to others. Significantly, he chooses to drop out of the competition at the last minute.

From France, there is the seductively spectacular portrait of the French fashion legend, Saint Laurent directed by Bertrand Bonello. The film captures the heady, drug-driven, smoke-filled times of the 60s and 70s and also captures the quirky, thin but compelling creative drive of  Yves Saint Laurent in all its excessiveness and even silliness. The tormented man and his times come through vividly. 

Courtesy: - India's first independent on-line daily which was launched on January 27, 2014.reproducing Uma da Cunha's column

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