Madhabi “Charulata” Mukherjee is the wife of banker Anil Chatterjee (The Cloud-Capped Star). They’re barely making ends meet, supporting kids and parents, so she gets a sales job. Grandpa would rather guilt his former students into buying him favors than accept lady-money, but after Anil’s bank goes under, Madhabi gets promoted and becomes the sole breadwinner. Without anything to do all day, Anil suspiciously follows his wife around. Ultimately she’s too principled to be a capitalist, and quits in solidarity with one of her coworkers. An obvious sort of social issues drama, but with a very excellent performance by Mukherjee at its center.

Written as a follow-up to Pather Panchali (and set in 1954) but not produced for eight more years.

Chandak Sengoopta for Criterion:

The Big City was awarded the Silver Bear for best direction at the Berlin Film Festival in 1964, but it was at a festival nearer home that it had its greatest impact. When screened during a 1964 international film season in Dhaka (the capital of Bengali-speaking East Pakistan, now Bangladesh), enormous crowds, including thousands of women, queued for tickets for the three scheduled shows. The lack of seats precipitated a mini riot, and after more than a hundred people were beaten up by the police, the festival organizers were forced to schedule ten extra shows, running consecutively over twenty-four hours.

The moviest movie ever made, featuring the two most insanely talented and indestructible guys of all time. They are enemies due to circumstances and misunderstandings, but also they are best friends. Along the way is a surprising amount of brutality (Brits call a young girl’s mom “brown rubbish” then execute her, cop Ram is ordered to publicly torture his buddy Bheem) and joy (dance-fighting, an amazing CG-animals setpiece) and really good music. I accidentally watched the Hindi version and not the original Telugu, so I will simply have to watch this again.

I took no notes on this one, and am starting to forget it, but I take exception to the stills and description playing up the connection to recycled Bollywood film reels, incorporated into the toys produced by the village where this film is set, and into the film itself in quick colorful segments, since this accounts for about a minute of the runtime. Besides producing toys, they prepare for an eclipse, and make a sort of viewing tower. Lovely to sit in Big Ragtag again, beer in hand, happy flashbacks to The Grand Bizarre and Distant Constellation. James Tillman opened, on keyboard, guitar, and dying laptop.

Denoise (2017, Giorgio Ferrero & Federico Biasin)

After the feature, we finally visited the VR-cade, dodged the Kevin Lee thing about terrorist propaganda, and slipped into the dark room where I got randomly assigned this experience, a 360+ degree but position-locked, fixed-duration selection of scenes about industrial work. My first-ever VR experience – I was impressed by the overall feel, but not by the resolution of the goggles, which felt not at all like real life, but like a video, sitting too close to the screen. Impressive sensations: after a scene cut, a man on a catwalk talking to me, and I wondered “if he’s on the catwalk where am I,” so I look straight down and I’m hovering in space. Our physical selves are standing in the dark room at retro arcade consoles – I’ve got a steering wheel to orient myself in the real world, and at one point I look down at my hands, expecting to see them grasping a steering wheel, but visually, my hands don’t exist.

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).