We picked up a biscuit with butter and jam from a biscuit-focused food truck, stopped at Gunther Hans, then headed to the Globe for a double feature… and there was The River Arkansas again, still good. I believe this was a new restoration – shockingly clear photography with lots of close-ups. Journey film with slightly confusing storyline, though it seems like it should’ve been straightforward, intertitles explaining each phase. Katy is concerned with shooting India as an outsider, not understanding the Hindu rituals or family dynamics. I don’t know what anyone else thinks, since this was missing from letterboxd until now, but the Finnish director was present to tell horror stories of the difficulty of filming (or maybe I read that in the Neither/Nor book afterwards, I forget).
Black Sheep (Ed Perkins)
A true/falsey one, with interviews and re-enactments shot in the neighborhood where the story takes place. A British kid is moved into the countryside by his African-born parents where he encounters life-threatening racism and adapts by bleaching his skin, making friends with his tormentors and becoming one of them.
End Game (Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman)
The best of the bunch, focused on patients in varying states of mobility with varying family situations, all with terminal illnesses and only weeks or months to live. This is San Francisco, and the terminal patients are given palliative care (treating only the pain, since the symptoms are determined to be incurable) and told to make their peace. It’s a movie, so you know one of them is gonna beat the odds – they don’t. The directors are old-school – Epstein made The Times of Harvey Milk, and Friedman collaborated with him on The Celluloid Closet, Paragraph 175, and a Linda Lovelace biopic starring Amanda Seyfried.
A Night at the Garden (Marshall Curry)
Stock footage of a well-attended 1939 pro-nazi rally at Madison Square Garden. The movie gives little context, just plays around with slow-motion, inviting us to research the rest, so here goes. As I’m writing this, yesterday was the event’s 80th anniversary, and a few days ago the film was projected onto the side of MSG. The man rushing the stage was a Jewish plumber named Isadore Greenbaum, and the speaker was the German-born Fritz Kuhn, leader of a Hitler-worshipping group called the Bund. In the aftermath, Greenbaum was ordered to pay a $25 fine for causing a disturbance. Kuhn was investigated for stealing from his own organization, arrested at the end of ’39, and would spend the rest of his life in various prisons. Curry previously made a Cory Booker doc, a kart-racing doc, and a look inside the Earth Liberation Front.
Lifeboat (Skye Fitzgerald)
Following the (late) captain of a German rescue boat that tries to pick up Libyan refugees from their leaky lifeboats. Spends a couple minutes “putting a human face on the global refugee crisis” by interviewing rescued Libyans, the rest of the time on rescue operations with the crew, and reminds you that the world is completely horrible. Katy said it reminded her of Fire at Sea, which is not a good thing. The director works regularly on issues docs – acid attacks on women, unexploded landmines in Cambodia, the Syrian civil war, and a new one on gun violence.
Period. End of Sentence. (Rayka Zehtabchi)
After the racism, death, nazis and desperation, it was lovely to end on this story of community women outside Delhi working to manufacture and distribute sanitary pads. Much fun is had discussing the forbidden topic of menstruation, and they have dreams of conquering the country and improving women’s lives, but I became annoyed upon realizing that the movie is an advertisement. A feature came out the same year on the same topic, called Padman.
Two people with dissatisfying home lives meet via lunchbox misdelivery. The delivery service won’t correct the error because they insist their system is flawless, so the two communicate via lunch notes, while he (Irrfan Khan of The Namesake) deals with an overeager and underskilled accounting subordinate, and she (Nimrat Kaur of sci-fi series Wayward Pines) deals with an extremely inattentive husband. Heads in the obvious direction, but Khan is more crotchety than expected and the movie overall more finely made. The story didn’t linger in my mind after watching, but every minute of the movie was enjoyable, so it’s an Indian food-romance John Wick. Batra’s follow-ups were the Broadbent/Rampling Sense of an Ending (also about a grumpy old man) and the Redford/Fonda Our Souls at Night (also about lonely strangers making a connection).
Woman who lost her son receives cash from local corrupt politician, goes to the city where she is mistreated and eventually locked up for suspected forgery. Maybe it’s a subtitle thing, but they keep mentioning the “rupee note” when she actually got four. Anyway, she and her neighbor are finally released, and she throws away the cursed money. Slick-looking movie, which I had the extreme bad fortune to watch right after L’Argent.
This had weird similarities with Mountains May Depart, which we watched the night before. It spans about the same amount of time, during which a boy is separated from his mother, moves to Australia and forgets her native language.
This one’s the true story of “Saroo” who gets lost while adventuring with his big brother then accidentally rides a train to Calcutta where he doesn’t speak the language and almost gets captured by a creepy man then ends up in an orphanage from where he’s adopted by Nicole Kidman and the corrupt police chief from Top of the Lake. Years later he is Dev Patel of Slumdog, going to college and dating Rooney Mara when he learns about online satellite-map programs and becomes obsessed with finding his home town, which he’s been mispronouncing all his life, and seeing his real family again.
Besides obviously getting choked up by the climactic family reunion (and the inevitable footage of the real people being dramatized) I got much of the same feeling as Garth’s Top of the Lake – it’s a good-looking prestige pic tackling Important Issues, but when it was over it didn’t reverberate in my head in any meaningful way, just made me wanna go see another movie.
Also: Darth Gavis.
Movie #3 in our irregular Criterion Thursdays series. Dazed and Confused was #1, a Linklater link from Before Mondays to Criterion Thursdays, then after a month we picked up with The Cranes Are Flying. Last time I wrote up Cranes I didn’t note the insane life-flashing-before-eyes scene, all overlapped images, when the romantic hero gets shot. The point of the Criterion Thursdays was that I wanted to watch more new/unseen movies but so far they’ve all been rewatches… starting slow, but maybe we’ll get there.
I guess we last watched this pre-movieblog. Since then we’ve seen a bunch of movies about family drama before/during a holiday or event (Rachel Getting Married and A Christmas Tale come to mind), and none of them get the balance right… conveyed chaos vs. artful filmmaking, joy vs. conflict, individual vs. group scenes. But Mira Nair nails it, even managing to pull out a dark family secret at the last minute without upsetting the flow too badly. Between this and The Namesake she seems unusually great at family dramas.
The bride has been carrying on an affair with her boss. Her little brother wants to sing and dance. Her uncle used to molest the bride’s cousin and is showing interest in a new young girl. Bride’s mom thinks nobody knows she smokes, dad is stressed out, and the wedding planner PK Dubey is fond of marigolds and falls for the family’s maid Alice. That’s just the parts I remember. Won the Venice Film Festival, same year as Waking Life, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Secret Ballot and The Others (No Man’s Land won the oscar and Amores Perros the bafta).
Gorgeous movie. Looks different from the Apu flicks: strange angles and camera follows, and some stills at the end. Charulata (Madhabi Mukherjee, also of The Big City and The Coward) is a bored, rich housewife whose husband Bhupati is too busy with work on his newspaper, so he gets his cousin Amal (Soumitra Chatterjee, Apu in the third movie) to come hang out with her, which sparks her creativity as she and Amal both try to get stories published. What will happen when the neglected housewife spends all her time with an energetic young man? As a hint, the source novel was titled The Broken Nest. And while the husband’s relative is with his wife, Charulata’s relatives are supposed to be working on the newspaper but rob the accounts and skip town.
It’s widely believed that the story was inspired by [author] Tagore’s relationship with his sister-in-law, Kadambari Devi, who committed suicide in 1884 for reasons that have never been fully explained. Kadambari, like Charulata, was beautiful, intelligent, and a gifted writer, and toward the end of his life, Tagore admitted that the hundreds of haunting portraits of women that he painted in his later years were inspired by memories of her.
The further, depressing adventures of doomed Apu (now played by newcomer Soumitra Chatterjee) in an uncaring, godless world. Apu now lives alone, trying to write a book while dodging the landlord. When he finally attempts to find a proper job, he claims to be less educated and take a manual labor position, but then decides that won’t be any fun. Still with no ideas or direction, he accepts an invitation to the country and accidentally gets married.
Well it’s a weird situation – he’s going to his friend Pulu’s cousin’s wedding, but the groom appears to be insane. The girl’s dad is convinced that there’s an “auspicious hour” during which she must marry to avoid curse, so they ask Apu. “Is this a play or a novel? What do you take me for?” But he does it, returning to his city apartment with his bride Aparna (Sharmila Tagore, star of Devi the following year).
Aparna makes the best of the situation, seems to be a caring and hard working wife. Things are going well for Apu, so we know this can’t last. She goes home to her parents’ after getting pregnant, dies in childbirth, then he wanders away to finish his novel, leaving his son with the in-laws.
Pulu tracks him down five years later. Apu has abandoned the novel and is working odd jobs from town to town. He’s more of a fuckup than I thought he’d end up. He comes to see his son, convinces the boy to leave the disapproving grandpa and come a-roaming, in an apparently happy ending.
Film Quarterly called it “the most important single film made since the introduction of sound” and I’m not even kidding, while Rosenbaum calls it “the final and weakest part” of the trilogy. At least we can say it’s authentic Indian cinema, the same year Fritz Lang released his “Indian Epic”
Lovely, colorful 30-minute movie. Main character is a ringneck parakeet who escapes from a lonely princess, flies away to be captured by Irfan Khan (he’s asleep and has no lines). The bird, who speaks as fakely in Hindi as Hollywood parrots do in English, convinces a pretty goth boy to release it and leads him to the princess. Sensual-looking movie, with more bare breasts than I’ve seen in an Indian movie before, and a longer-held close-up on a navel than I’ve seen in any movie. Katy didn’t get it, and NY Times agreed, calling the movie: “a succession of brightly colored images that almost tell a story.” Somehow this is based on three different literary sources, despite its short length and basic story. I’ve read that Mani Kaul was a great artist, never checked him out before.
From Upperstall’s bio: “undoubtedly the Indian filmmaker who along with Kumar Shahani has succeeded in radically overhauling the relationship of image to form, of speech to narrative, with the objective of creating a ‘purely cinematic object’ that is above all visual and formal.”