Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread

“I can’t begin my day with a confrontation.” So says Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), a celebrated fashion designer, who lives and works in a quiet London square, and who despises any threat to his lifestyle. His sister Cyril ( Lesley Manvill) helps him to run his business.  One day, Reynolds drives to the coast and arrives at a hotel restaurant. A waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps) takes his order, which goes on forever. Alma blushes easily, yet there is no twitch of shyness; she bears herself with confidence, and, when Reynolds invites her to dine with him that night, she accepts the offer.  Thus she enters in to the life of an elite fashion designer. We are back in London. With time, Alma has become his favourite model and muse. At breakfast table, Reynolds sits with his sister. Alma is buttering toast, with firm swipes of the knife but the sound disturbs Reynolds attention. An argument takes place between them.
They bicker constantly and one night when Alma attempts to make him a romantic dinner, Reynolds lashes it out over how the meal is prepared. Alma decides to poison his tea with some wild mushroom she has gathered outside the house. It makes him terminally ill and with Alma’s care, he gets cured. That helps Alma to regain her control in the relationship.  Were they in love? its not sure. There are implications though. However, the woman had agency of her own. The style and manner in which Paul Thomas Anderson uses silence and long takes is ingenious, and it was most likely inspired from Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. Jonny Greenwood’s music adds another dimension to dramatic moments. The setting has similarity with Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.  Unlike Rebecca, here the woman is much stronger. She is well aware of her own position. DDL has always been a good actor but he was never among the best actors as he was made out to be (Something similar to Naseeruddin Shah in Hindi cinema). But with Paul Thomas Anderson, he gave his best performances. Here he repeats the same thing. But Vicky Krieps stole the show. She was successful in portraying all the vulnerable sides of her character.

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Ramybė mūsų sapnuose (Peace to us in our dreams)

peace to us in our dreams 1

A woman violinist suddenly stops performing at middle of her program. Returning home, when she was asked about the event, she replied by saying “shitty”.  Bartas casts himself in the lead, a father who is distant from his daughter.  He shows her an old video where she can be seen with her mother in a happy mood. The girl is played by Ina Marija Bartaite (Bartas’ actual daughter), and the mother by Katia Golubeva. The father ,his daughter and his partner violinist go to a trip to country side.
Most of the action is set in a small country home not far from Vilnius, where Bartas has actually spent a lot of time. His violinist partner seems to be in depression. Neither she is being able to perform, nor she is being able to communicate well with her partner.
There they find a neighbour who is supposed to take care of the house but spends most of the time fishing. He lives with his wife and their only son is in search of his own identity and desires. None of the film’s characters has a name, just to indicate how symbolic they are supposed to be. All of them are in a state of personal crisis but none of them are aware about their problems. The daughter yearns for the guidance of a mother she no longer has. A lady friend suddenly arrives at his house. She asks him “are you happy to see me? “. She tells him that she likes to be child at-times.  Children knows how to be happy at-times. But in the next scene,we see his daughter being unhappy. Father tells her that human spend their lives trying to understand reality. He adds that most of their perceptions are limited in nature. He tells her that it is best to have doubts as doubts help people to grow.
Much of the dialogue, which Bartas says was largely created through improvisations, has a similar ring of undigested philosophy and symbolism. Locked in tight close-ups, Bartas’s characters are constantly trying to reach out to each other in their own ways. All of them are finding it difficult to express their own feelings and desires. Brief, close-up shots of the characters and minimal dialogue, representing their extreme incomprehension and solitude , are contrasted with wide shots of Lithuanian scenery, remarkably photographed by Eityydas  Doshkus.

Teströl és lélekröl (On Body and Soul)

On Body and Soul

Ildikó Enyedi’s “On Body and Soul” opens on a buck and a doe going through snowy woods, in a fantasy that climaxes with the buck placing it’s head on the doe’s neck in a haunting gesture of relationship. Endre (Géza Morcsányi) and Maria (Alexandra Borbély) both see the same dream at night.  Both of them work in a slaughterhouse. Endre is the manager, a middle aged man with a disabled arm. Maria is the new hygiene inspector in the farm. She examines the slaughtered beasts for signs of disease or excess fat. She finds difficult to interact with human beings. In this film,we see some explicit shots of animals being chopped up. Such scenes might give an eerie feeling to the film throughout. Endre and Maria begin to fall in love. Both do share the same dream but when it comes to real life,both of them struggle to continue the relationship. Endre has a disabled arm while Maria finds it tough to communicate with him. Maria watches pornography to know about sex in details.  Both are lonely in their own lives. Just like the cows of the slaughterhouse, both of them are imprisoned in their worlds. Endre mostly talks to Jenö (Zoltán Schneider) but he is far from being his friend. One of the most interesting aspect of the film is the way window is used to separate them. At-times, Endre watches Maria through the windows of his office.
At canteen,he watches her through windows. They are so close yet so far. One day, both of them try to sleep in one room together. While doing so,they can’t sleep at all. The film is extremely well-shot. A lot of the imagery is splendidly unsettling. The music is hauntingly beautiful and Ildiko Enyedi’s direction is controlled and intelligent. She succeeds in connecting between human and animal behaviour and depiction of the alienation of modern human being.  Géza Morcsányi gives a stunning performance as Endre . He successfully conveys all the emotions with a bit of sophistication. Alexandra Borbély is even better than him. Some actresses perform so wonderfully that it stays in your mind forever. She is beautiful but in most part of the film she acts as if she suffers from inferiority complex. She hardly looks confident. The script is nuanced, poignant and thought-provoking, with some pertinent points made about the subjects it explores.

Un lac

Un Lac

 

Philippe Grandrieux’s “Un lac” takes place in a country unknown to us. We know nothing about the place apart from that it is full of snow and dense forests. But before discussing about the film, i will like to explain few things first –
1) The id :- It is most primitive component of personality. It is not affected by reality, logic or external world. It doesn’t change with time or experience. It operates within the unconscious mind.
2) Ego :- It is the decision making portion of personality. Ideally it works by reason whereas id is mostly unreasonable. Similar to id, the ego seeks pleasure and pain but unlike the id ,it wants to develop a realistic strategy to achieve it.
3)Superego- It operates as a moral conscience. It develops during childhood. It is learned through parents and society. Superego tries to control id’s impulses.

Deep in the middle of nowhere, a young man lives with his sister, a brother, his blind mother and father. The young man suffers from epileptic disorders. He has incestuous relationship with his sister but it seems that his sister doesn’t quite enjoy the intercourse process.  One day, a stranger arrives but do things really change?. Grandrieux’s film has minimal plot but it deals with too many things- the id,ego,superego (as explained above). It shows a bleak world. Most of the cinephiles have seen films depicting world with hopelessness. However, Grandrieux is different. U will rarely see bodies in their entirely . When u see them arriving, they are usually out of focus. Sometimes, the characters are appearing from the dark. It is shot on an unnerving handheld camera, regularly capturing claustrophobic close-ups of the actors. U will hear every breathing of the characters. They live in such an isolation that incest is not a taboo for them. Grandriuex aims to involve all the senses of the viewer, not only his sight. That is why, the focus is on the heavy breathing of the characters. You aren’t going to feel for any character. None of them appears as good or bad or grey. We are watching a bleak world but we aren’t feeling the pain. The film is made in French but most of the actors are from Czech or Russia. This is cinema of the highest order .

Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie ( The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie )

discreet charme

 

“The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” remains Bunuel’s most successful film. It made more money than his famous “Belle de Jour” and it did manage to win Oscar as best Foreign language film. It was released in a year when Vietnam war was going in full form and the upper middle class was an obvious target of disdain.  Bunuel worked in Mexico,Hollywood,Spain before again returning to Spain. He spent years in political, financial and artistic exile, and many of his Mexican films were done for hire, but he always managed to make them his own. His characters are often selfish and self-centered, willing to compromise any principle to get their job done.
From the first shots of “Discreet Charm,” we are aware of the way his characters carry themselves. Fernando Rey stars as Don Rafael, the drug-dealing ambassador of a fictional Latin American country who lives in constant fear that one day he will be kidnapped and murdered by the guerilla terrorists outside his embassy. His friends repeatedly convene at the home of Monsieur Senechal (Jean-Pierre Cassel) and his wife, Alice (Stéphan Audran), whose dinners are constantly interrupted. The most amusing thing is that they never manage to dine properly. When the guests arrive for the dinner party, the hosts were having sex backyard. When the guests arrive at a restora to have dinner,they do hear that the owner is dead. Hearing this, they refuse to dine there and soon they leave the place. Elegant ladies sit down for an afternoon tea, only to be told by their waiter that the restaurant has run out of water.

Much of the film takes place in the nightmares of its characters. The protagonists seem to know what they want but they never reach their goal. They have all kinds of knowledge about manners and gestures, but they cannot sit down and eat. In Bunuel’s films, the clothes not only make the man, but are the man. Consider the bishop (Julien Bertheau), who arrives at the door in gardener’s clothes and is scornfully turned away, only to reappear in his clerical avatar to “explain himself,” and be accepted. Meanwhile, the narrative cuts in and out of dream sequences; at one point, one character’s dream turns out to be embedded in another’s. The text falls apart, so we find ourselves focused on the subtext. For all it’s symbols and destructing narrative, it is never a difficult film. Buñuel’s emphasis on the implacable dream logic that drives the film’s forking-paths storyline isn’t what you would call unprecedented. His films have often incorporated dream imagery, leaving even the most melodramatic material with outbursts of oneiric intensity. For the first-time Bunuel was provided with a video-playback monitor. The film employs meandering, unobtrusive camerawork and odd crane shots. There’s an elaborate tracking shot that follows one of the persons across the living room, up the staircase, and along the hallway. All of the performances were wonderful.
Even in the most dramatic scenes,they were never out of line. Special mention goes to Fernando Rey who was effortless throughout.

The Handmaiden

The Handmaiden 2

Loosely based on the 2002 English novel “Fingersmith,” “The Handmaiden” begins in colonial Korea, where a young woman named Tamako ( Kim Tae-ri ) arrives to the marvellous home of wealthy book collector Kouzuki ( Cho Jin-woong ). She comes here to work as a maid of extraordinarily beautiful and sheltered Lady Hideko ( Kim Min-hee ), niece of Kouzuki’s late wife.  Hideko tells her that she can do anything except lying to her. Tamako is actually named Sookee—master pickpocket, expert appraiser of stolen goods, protégée of the Fagin-like figure ( Lee Yong-nyeo ) who raised the girl after her mother was hanged. Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo), a con man scheming to marry her, who instructs Hideko in art, wants to steal her fortune and have her submitted in an asylum. Her uncle, a pervert and Japanophile, is intending to do much the same thing. Count hires Sookee to get the job done. The count was fake, originally raised by Korean fisherman but claims to be Japanese and calls himself Fujiwara. He says “Frankly, I’m not that interested in money itself. What I desire is—how shall I put it?—the manner of ordering wine without looking at the price.”
The plan is complicated, but it gets awkward when Sookee/Tamako starts falling in love with Hideko. When uncle Kozuki leaves on business for a week, Hideko and Fujiwara elope. After stealing Hideko’s inheritance, Sookee, Hideko, and Fujiwara travel to the asylum, where Hideko and Fujiwara pass Sookee off as the “Countess”. Any further details will ruin the film experience for the audiences. In this film, everyone lies to everyone and things start to get more complicated as the story progresses. Nothing is what it seems in this movie, and the things that aren’t what they seem aren’t quite what they don’t seem to be. Most of the film takes place in and around the book collector’s country estate, a masterful creation which is one of the best mansions in film history.
It seems to change size and shape depending on a visitor’s angle of approach. After a few more scenes, you realize that you only saw a part of the house. There are secret doors and hidden passageways that only certain characters know about, leading to places where they can make love. One of many show-stopping setpieces is a reading of perverse erotica from the library, accompanied by one of the weirdest sex shows in mainstream cinema. Powerful cross-cut sequences feel like self-contained short stories of their own. “The Handmaiden” is neatly divided into three parts, each approximately 45 minutes long, each narrated by a different major character with incidental mini-narratives embedded within each one.

Antikörper (Antibodies)

Antibodies

 

Written and directed by Christian Alvart, the film begins with two German police offers on a call in which a woman has been hearing screams from an upper floor of an apartment. Upon investigating, the two officers are caught off guard and blasted by an alleged serial killer Gabriel Engel (Andre Hennicke), the man who has killed and sexually assaulted 13 young boys.  Soon Engel is caught and taken into custody. But he keeps mum about what he has done. Meanwhile, in a small country village, local farmer and town constable Michael Martens (Wotan Wilke Mohring) has been trying to solve the brutal murder case of a local 12-year-old girl.  Hearing the news of Engel’s capture, the villagers believe that cops finally managed to catch the killer. But Michael is not convinced.
Michael goes to the big city in hopes to find out the truth directly from the killer, himself. As he begins a deadly mind game with the madman, he gets more questions than answers. There have been a lot of comparisons between this film and Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs.  However, this film differs by directly referring to Silence of the Lambs in the very first meeting between Michael and serial killer Engel.
As the two meet for the first time, Engel says, “What did you expect? Hannibal Lecter? ” By doing this, the film is clearly able to take a stand different from Silence of the Lambs. Both the lead actors  (Hennicke and Mohring) do a superb job in their respective roles. Hennicke’s character is much more vicious than Hannibal Lecter.  Hennicke’s performance is incredibly effective and, in a way, much more terrifying that Hannibal Lecter. The cinematography for this film is stunning.  Hagen Bogdanski did an incredible job here. The grey and blue-tinted colour is used to depict the big city while the warm picture gives the feel of countryside. From the beginning the film is imaginative, brave and unpredictable.