The Border

jack 5

 

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.

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Debshishu

debsishu

In 70s and 80s, plenty of Indian directors made social-realistic films. Some of the notable directors were Shyam Benegal, Govind nihalani, Nabyendu chatterjee and Utpalendu Chakraborty.  Utpalendu Chakrabarty made very few films in his career. His last film was 25 years ago.  Even then, not all of his films are available. But if one watches Chokh and Debshishu , he/she will be convinced about his great skills and mastery over the medium. In the opening scene, we see a middle-aged guy announcing arrival of a debshishu (child god) in a remote village.  The child god fulfils wishes of people. A couple Raghubir and Seeta (Sadhu Meher and Smita patil) arrive at the village with their only child. They have lost everything in flood. Seeta comes to stay at her brother’s house for few days. However,brother’s wife (Rohini Hattagandi) turns out to be very cruel and insensitive towards them. Still, they manage to get a room in their house.  Raghubir realises that he can’t stay here for long. Soon,he has to find a job and a house of his own. One day, while going to market, he hears about debshishu (child-god). He visits there hoping that his wishes will be fulfilled. There he sees a magician (Om Puri). He remembers him showing magic in his village. When Raghubir and Seeta’s deformed bay was born, he went to his house to ask for help. The villagers warned Raghubir that if his baby is not killed,they will force them to leave the village. According to them, the baby will bring bad luck to the village. The magician told him to sell the baby to them and he will compensate it by giving good money in return.  Raghubir follows his order.  Raghubir realises that the child god is his deformed baby.

Let me tell you, this film is much different in content and form than other good social-realist films belonging to that particular period. Caste system,poverty,religion all are mixed here in a bizarre (important word) manner. While i do like most social-realist films of that period,very few of them did display the complexity of oppression. It isn’t just limited to landlords or wealthy ,powerful people oppressing others. The reality is bizarre and that is what this film is. The film highlighted how gods are born and how the poor people are forced to believe on its existence more. Sadhu Meher has been exceptional. Smita Patil and Om Puri are dependable.  Utpalendu was a gem of a director and to me one of the most important ones along With Shyam Benegal and Govind Nihalani. He used two flashbacks in the film. One of them was done in black and white to capture image of the rain more realistically. Another one was in colour when Sadhu Meher will visit Om Puri’s house.

 

Jiban Trishna

Jiban Trishna 1

Sophisticated millionaire Rajnath Samanta (Uttam Kumar) tries to woo the self-respecting,independent artist Shakuntala (Suchitra Sen). At first she avoids him but slowly she develops a feeling towards him. The relationship between Rajnath’s parents Dr Samanta (Pahari Sanyal) and his second wife, the ethical  Sudeshna (Chandravati Devi) is based on the need for care and understanding.  Sudeshna keeps her real identity hidden from Rajanth to maintain prestige of the family. The third relationship is the most interesting one. It develops between the dignified widow Sabita (Deepti Roy) and her neighbour Debkamal (Bikash Roy). Debkamal has hidden past.  Asit Sen with complete mastery over his medium could handle a 6-edged storyline with such finesse. All of the characters are equally powerful and all of them get equal space.  It is no mean task. The forte of Asit Sen lay in his ability to balance the script and handle complex characters in such a manner that make them connect with the audiences.  Asit Sen was a cameraperson himself, so cinematography used to be highlight in all of his films.  Each camera angle is well thought out and the low angle shots of Uttam Kumar and Suchitra sen were excellent. Uttam Kumar delivers a very good performance. This is not one of his best performances but in certain scenes ,he shows his spark. Especially during a scene where he will confront Suchitra in his room. Suchitra mostly matches Uttam though in certain sequences,she goes overboard. Overall, still she does a very good job.  In Asit Sen and Ajoy Kar’s films,Suchitra really did good job as actor. The best performances come from Bikash Roy and Deepti Roy.  Bikash Roy masterfully portrayed vulnerable shades of his character. Deepti Roy was attracted towards Bikash but she never expressed it in explicit manner. Her nuanced acting did manage to maintain the balance. One of Bhupen Hazarika’s earliest hits “Sagar sangame’featured in this film. Unfortunately in Angle’s video,the song is cut from the film. However,one can watch this song in youtube. It is a brilliant depiction of murmuring to oneself as one gets ready for the day.

 

 

Colo

colo

 

One evening, teenager Martha (Alice Albergaria Borges) asks her unemployed father (João Pedro Vaz) where her mother (Beatriz Batarda) is, and dad replies that she will probably never return. Her father goes outside . But after a while her mother does return, explaining that she has got an additional job. They are going through an economical crisis. Her father is jobless and her mother takes multiple small jobs to run the family.  But even that is not sufficient for them to pay electric bills. At-times, her father disappears without saying anything . Martha makes friend with a pregnant girl in high school. She observes the outside world through her window. She spends time by wandering at a beach. Her mother is so much occupied with many jobs that we can’t get a look at her psyche. The first hour consists mostly of mundane routines and interactions between these three. All of them try to understand each other but at the end, they don’t quite understand.  Random incidents are described without much context. Characters drift along,showing little certainty in what they do. Whether young or old, the people in Colo don’t quite understand what’s happening to them. The most attractive aspect of the film is its striking visual design. Both indoor and outdoor spaces, as well as the characters relation to them,are presented with great care. The natural world offers little solace in Colo, but it does suggest a yearning for a simpler, easier state of things. Despite suffering from economical crisis, the characters maintain their humanity.
Mother appears to be male of the family while father doesn’t shy away from crying. Mother acts like a protector of the family. Artificial and natural lighting helps to create an impressive visual control of mood. Other strengths include a delicate, sparing, use of classical pieces by Schumann and Shostakovich. This is my first film of Teresa Villaverde. She showed immense control throughout the film. I will like to explore all of her works.

Footpath (1953)

footpath

 

Nashu (Dilip Kumar) is an idealist young man who works for a small newspaper run by Ghosh babu. He lives with his brother Bani (Romesh Thapar) and sister-in-law Meena (Achla Sachdev). Nashu loves Mala (Meena Kumari) who lives nearby his house.   Times change and slowly it becomes difficult for Nashu to sustain his living by working in that small newspaper. Though his brother Bani cares for him, his sister-in-law does not. In the home, he had to bear lot of humiliation from her.  Out of desperation, he enters the world of black-marketing. From here,the story takes a dramatic twist. He becomes the most trusted associate of Ram Babu (Anwar Hussain). Being aware of this, Mala maintains a safe distance from him. At the same time, his elder brother suffers from poverty. His comfort loving wife Meena deserts him. The entire film is look in to the psyche of a man who failed to earn money by honest means.

The problem with the film is that ,it does make the point by repeating it often. On positive side , the film gives a glimpse of the black-market world. Also, the mood of the film is extremely dark. This mood  wasn’t common in Hindi films back then. Director Zia Sarhadi showed a lot of promise and eye for detail. The sequences shot indoors as well as in the black-marketing den shot in natural light by N. Raiaram are really convincing. However,keeping with the trend during that period, the villains look unconvincing. On the whole, the music score of the film leaves a lot more to be desired, considering that the film carries the Khayyam stamp. However, the film boasts of one of the most memorable Talat Mehmood songs “Shaam-e-Gham Ki Kasam”.It is clear that Zia Sarhadi was heavily influenced from neo-realism. Dilip Kumar does well in lead role. Low pitched modulated dialogue delivery and great use of right arm were his acting hallmarks. However at times,his low pitched delivery looks unconvincing. He did well but this is not among his best works.  Meena kumari gives a very restrained performance. In this film, she is shown taking a bath. Such scene was uncommon back then.

 

Get Out

get out

 

Jordan Peele’s directorial debut will make you think about your own privileges. In the opening sequence, we see a young black guy walking down a suburban street. While talking on his phone, he gets attacked by some random white people.
White Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) wants to take her black boyfriend Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) to meet her parents. While Chris was initially anxious, later he agrees to meet her parents. Her parents, Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener) welcome him in grand fashion. They were very supportive to him initially. At-times, it seems that they are behaving too good. The body language all seems perfectly above board. Why is their basement locked? Why are their two black employees – a housemaid and groundsman – both black appear to be controlled by some unseen force?
What’s the deal with the old white people showing up to a party scheduled during his visit? Get Out is tense, thrilling, and gorgeous. If anything, the film becomes darker and more soul-chilling once the secret is revealed. Get out is very direct and unapologetic about what it wants to convey.  There was an unsettling vibe throughout the film. Chris’s friend Rod warned him not to visit the white people’s house. While all this going on, his girlfriend Rose was completely supportive to him. One can find references of many film here starting from Halloween to Rosemary’s Baby.  Peele has effectively kept audiences on edge since the beginning, sending occasional jolts through the crowd. During Obama’s era, racism was under the carpet. White people was happy to be pretending as liberal. In Trump’s era, white people are concerned about racism again. Get out shows racism within progressive whites and it does by genre-mixing.  Daniel Kaluuya was very good as main protagonist but the surprise comes from Allison Williams. Watch the film to get to know the reason.

Lady Bird

lady bird

 

“Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento.”- Joan Didion. Hedonism refers to the idea that pleasure is the ultimate aim of human life. Sacramento has a charm of old world Americana. It is very much different from rest of California. Interestingly the director of Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig was born in the same place.  The film starts with the famous quote made by Didion. It centers on Christine McPherson ( Saoirse Ronan), a high-schooler who likes to live life on her own terms and conditions. She insists that she be called by her “given” name of  Lady Bird . She wants to spread her wings. She dreams of bigger things and feels weighed down by her circumstances.  More than anything, she wants to break free from Sacramento . She wants to go to a place where culture is omnipresent. Its not that she has great idea about culture itself. She is an average student in school. She doesn’t seem to be an intellectual from any angle. She wants to go to New York as it is famous for culture. Her mother strongly disagrees. Her mother is pragmatic while her daughter likes to live in her own world.
Her father is jobless. They don’t have enough money to recruit her in any college of New York. So, Lady Bird decides to apply for scholarships to east coast colleges with the help from her father. New York is at the core of Lady Bird. New York is the city of Lady Bird’s dreams, but her reality is Sacramento. The film, loosely inspired by Gerwig’s formative years, is a love letter to the city of her childhood. That is why the film is set in 2002-2003. Lady bird not only wants her mother to love her, she also expects that her mother likes her. Lady bird thinks that her mother doesn’t care for her. While her mother thinks that her daughter doesn’t love her. In reality,both of them love each other. Some of the sequences are extremely funny while some are very serious. Calling it a coming-of-age story doesn’t do much justice to the film.  The film also questions parenthood as much as it does on adolescence. While her mother fails to understand her daughter well-enough, her father is over-protective of her daughter. Lady bird thinks that she is an atheist. In reality,it seems that she is confused. It doesn’t glorify or condemn religion. In one of the most important scenes,it acted as a trigger which connects Lady bird to her mother as well as to her hometown. Saoirse Ronan is fantastic in the film and brings such heart to the character of Lady Bird. Metcalf is brilliant as the constrained mother that’s trying her best to keep the family afloat during tough times.