Perhaps my most favourite Gulzar film is Namkeen. It is a very simple story actually. A mother and her three sisters are caught in the simple troubles of life. These are poor people and their daily concern is winning bread. The oldest daughter Nimki (Sharmila Tagore) takes care of the most household activities . Voiceless Mitthu (Shabana Azmi) expresses her words in poetry while their mother Jyoti (Waheeda Rehman) is at work all day. Gerulal (Sanjeev Kumar) brings a pleasant change to their lives. Or does he? It has a lyrical feel to it and the landscape (Darjeeling of 80s) is breathtaking. The way Gulzar uses nature to depict the complexities of relationships is extraordinary. The story is simple yet the nature of relationships are not. Gerulal loved Nimki while Mitthu loved Gerulal yet there is no sibling rivalry between them to get their desired man. Well, the film is not without it’s flaws. They were missing a male figure in their family. Gerulal fulfilled that position. In a way,it is implied that women need a better male figure in their lives. However the positive aspects (nuances of relationships,psychology of female characters) overshadow the flaws. And if one pays more attention, there is a spiritual angle as well. Sanjeev Kumar never needed to act. He just became the characters he played. Namkeen is no exception either. Even in a female-dominated film ,his performance scores over others. Sharmila always did well in Gulzar’s films. As expected, Waheeda and Shabana don’t disappoint in their roles. But most importantly, it is the touch of Gulzar which makes this film so special to me. The song “Phir se aiyo badra bidesi” where Mithu romances the mists of Darjeeling is so dreamlike and misty it moves us into a world where pain, anger, frustration and bitterness take a backseat. The song “Raah Pe Rahte Hai” aptly captures the pain and anguish of the lead character Gerulal when he leaves the village.
The entire film involves three characters in a violent game of psychological strategy. Rae (Nicole Kidman) is involved in a car crash which results in the death of her son. Her husband John (Sam Neil) suggests her to go for vacation, so that it will help them to overcome the grief. One day, they encounter a drifting boat that seems to be taking on water. A man, Hughie Warriner (Billy Zane), rows over to their boat for help. He claims that all of his friends died as his boat was sinking. John doesn’t believe his story completely. He secretly visits the other boat and finds that all of his friends are killed by Hughie. When Kidman’s son was killed in an accident, Sam was not with her. They were detached then. Later, Sam went to the other boat and his wife is left with the madman. They are detached again. The key image of “Dead Calm” is of two ships drawing near each other in the middle of a vast, empty expanse of ocean. This scene indicates that help is not going to come from anywhere and that the characters will have to settle their own destinies. Hughie is a naive psychopath. He trusts Rae as long as Rae acts well with him. Even when the trust breaks, he doesn’t try to kill her. He is violent but lacks intelligence. That is why, Rae outsmarts him at-times. But it isn’t easy as the actions take place entirely within a boat and there is no help available from outside. Dead calm generates genuine tension with minimum sound-effects. It doesn’t have much of dialogues either. Billy Zane does well as the villain. It isn’t easy playing the role as it has every chance of looking similar to a cartoon kind of character. Kidman is excellent as the emotionally distraught wife who is doing everything she can to keep it together while desperately trying to outsmart the stranger. Kidman does most of her job through her eyes. Sam Neil was ok. The atmosphere in Dead Calm is very haunting and incredibly restrained. The twist at ending was not required.
The film opens with Jen (Matilda Lutz) lazily sucking on a lollipop, having been taken away by helicopter to a remote desert location by her millionaire boyfriend Richard. Richard is a married man but he cheats his wife and he commits an affair with the mistress. Jen is hot and she is satisfied with her body. In the next day, Richard is joined by two of his friends . They are his hunting buddies. When all of them are having a party in that night, Jen starts dancing with Stan. But Stan feels that it’s an indication of sex.
In the next morning, when Richard is away, Stan tries to woo Jen but Jen clearly rejects him. Insecure Stan feels powerless and he ends up raping her. His friend covers for him. Richard comes back and hearing this, he hits Stan hard. Jen wants to go back to her house but Richard tells her to stay there. In a heated argument, Richard slaps Jen. Scared Jen escapes from the house but all three of them chase her. Richard pretends to call his pilot to take Jen home, then pushes her off a cliff. She falls unconscious and is left for dead by the three men. But Jen wakes up. The horror doesn’t come from the rapist but it comes from her most trustworthy partner.
That is the masterstroke of this film. Fargeat makes an interesting debut with her film. From the title,one can guess what this film is about. The treatment is different. Female sexuality is focal point of this film. Here, bodies become the main subject. The men are divided into parts and she reclaims her sexuality through her revenge. She only grows more powerful as she is attacked more. The lead actress Matilda Lutz looks perfect for the role. Actresses don’t need to build muscles to perform actions. It is all about the body language. She looks shaky yet determined. I don’t know if its feminist film or not. Feminists can tell it better. That is not much of my concern either.
I loved the fact that a woman director made a genre film by keeping female sexuality at the centre. To be a female director, one doesn’t always need to make a film outside mainstream territory.
Baisers volés is the third instalment in François Truffaut’s wonderful cycle of films concerning his cinematic alter ego, Antoine Doinel. Played memorably by Jean-Pierre Léaud, Antoine remains one of film history’s most enduring characters, a hopeless romantic who longs for perfection in his affairs with women and work, while finding it difficult to balance both. Here, he gets discharged from the army and then he takes few other jobs before getting finally settled as a private detective. The character of Antoine Doinel is an autobiographical extension of Truffaut. When Antoine Doinel gets discharged from the army,he laughs at the face of commanding officers. it is based on Truffaut’s own disastrous military experiences in the 1950s, when he was jailed as a deserter and eventually thrown out of the army.
Doinel celebrates his freedom by running immediately to a bordello. He tries to woo a young woman (Jade) who is initially indifferent to him but warms up when he shows signs of losing interest. He takes job as a private detective of Blady’s, which puts him as a planted spy in Monsieur Tobard’s Shoe Shop. He gets attracted to his wife Mrs Tobard (Delphine Seyrig). When Antoine loves Fabienne (the shoe shop’s owner’s wife), Christine is in love with Antoine. Every character is immersed in a love triangle.
Mrs Tobard also gets attracted to Antoine as well but for a very short period. She finds her husband unromantic and boring yet she has sympathy for him. Antoine likes to fall in love but he feels awkward in relationships. Like his previous work, this film has remarkable fluid camera movements as he gives us a breathtaking view of the eternal city and the journey Antoine is on in hopes of discovering his place. Léaud is always brilliant playing the director’s alter ego, he’s very funny, charming, very good looking.
Delphine Seyrig is brilliant in a short but very important role. She has a beautiful deep voice. During this period, May 68 revolution was taking place in Paris. In that situation, Antoine was trying to find his own feet. It is charming in its carefree tempo and disarming in its frankness about whimsical triviality.
In a prologue, we see blonde Katja (Diane Kruger) marrying jailed drug dealer Nuri Şekerci (Numan Acar). After returning from jail, Nuri corrected himself and he did set up a business. They had a happy family with a son. One day, Katja goes to a spa with her friend. While returning, she finds police barricades and learns that a bomb killed her loved ones. She is devastated totally. She tries to get back to her normal life but she couldn’t. From the investigation, it is learned that a neo-nazi group is involved in this murder. Since last few years, neo-nazi groups are creating terror in Germany. They are mostly violent towards Muslims. Katja’s friend Danilo Fava (Denis Moschitto) is prosecuting attorney, pitted against nasty defense lawyer Haberbeck (Johannes Krisch). Kruger convincingly conveys Katja’s anguish, fragility and fierce determination as a woman who has lost everything yet single-minded in a pursuit of justice that eventually turns to vengeance. The first half of the film deals with the tragedy of Katja. 2nd half deals with the court procedures. In the 3rd half, we witness the rage of a woman. The film just doesn’t focus on the terrorism issue. It also deals with the rage of a woman. Beside that, it deals with the grief of survivors. Court scenes were cleverly shot. We felt bored while watching that part. But that is how justice system works. The film cleverly used silence in crucial moments. One might hope for some action, but that is not going to happen.
Pallavi (Kitu Gidwani) , a successful classical singer trains with her mother to carry forward the Hindustani musical tradition. She is good but not as much skilled as her mother is. Her mother Karuna took training from an old man. He never performed on stage but used to give lessons to his students. When Karuna started to perform on stage , he cut off all contacts with her. He detested glamour world. The trauma of Karuna’s death, announced by the appearance of the old man and a little girl, causes Pallavi’s voice to disappear. Slowly her relationship with her husband (Bhaveen Gosain) becomes strained. She slowly loses her students and her career takes a backseat. Retreating into solitude, she finds the little girl Tara (Roshan Bano) again. Much of the music was composed by Shubha Mudgal, a classical singer who studied in the guru-disciple tradition. Director Rajan Khosa used music in crucial points to capture the essence and mood of the film. The film is spiritual but it is extremely honest in it’s approach. In other words,it located in Indian culture. Khosa didn’t opt for any dishonest trick to make it global.
Yet, it has an universal appeal. He is aided by fine technical work all around, from Piyush Shah’s soft-hued lensing to Amardeep Behl’s quietly refined production design. I always liked to watch KItu Gidwani. She has been an extremely talented actress. Instinct affects her acting more than anything else. Bhaveen Gosain is known in theatre circuits. He just did this film only. Here, he gives a very convincing performance as a caring husband. Vinod Nagpal shines in a very short role.
Immigration enforcement agent Charlie Smith (Jack Nicholson) lives with his wife in California in a small house. She forces him to move to a duplex in El Paso shared by border agent Cat (Harvey Keitel). Marcy wants to live a rich life and Charlie’s current wages won’t cover it. Cat gives him an offer to join him in a shady business. He introduces Charlie to the human smuggling operation he runs with their supervisor Red.
He uses this partnership to help a young Mexican woman, Maria, get across the Tex-Mex border along with her younger brother and her baby. Nicholson is constantly at odds with his bimbo wife (Perrine, perfectly annoying) and his morally corrupt partner (Keitel as always menacing). This is one of the few films which dealt with the issue of USA-Mexican border. It handles the human smuggling issue in details. After Charlie decides to join hands with Cat, the drama increases. While Cat is a perfect bad guy,Charlie still has some morals. It was never clear if Charlie loved his wife or not.
But the kind of guy is ,he will never cheat her. With time, he develops a special feeling towards Maria but that is only limited to feelings. Jack Nicholson here plays a totally subdued character and he plays it with elan. Valerie Perrine is superb as the annoying wife while Elpidia Carrillo does her job by slightly changing her facial expressions.
Harvey Keitel is as always dependable. The direction by Tony Richardson , is at times inspired and artistic, and at other times as ordinary as dishwater. Still, as a snapshot of poor Mexican immigrants (and would-be immigrants) as they clash with the border patrol culture twenty-some years ago,The Border is definitely worth a look.