Jean De Florette

Gerard_Depardieu_in_Jean_de_Florette

It is a 1986 French period drama film written and directed by Claude Berri, based on a novel by Marcel Pagnol.  The film takes place in rural France, where two local farmers plot to trick a newcomer out of his newly inherited property. The socially awkward Ugolin Soubeyran (Daniel Auteuil) returns from military service to his family home halfway up a green mountainside near his uncle César’s house.
Ugolin looks to César (Yves Montand), whom he calls “Papet,” for guidance as to how to carry on the family name, particularly since he is the family’s last member. Ugolin decides to grow carnations, which he hopes will make him rich. Although initially dubious about the scheme,  Papet changes his mind when he considers purchasing a land from his neighbor.  After accidentally killing the man, Papet and Ugolin block up a spring on the property with a scheme to buy the land cheap.  However, the plot goes wrong when ownership of the land shifts to the recently deceased Florette de Berengere, whose hunchback son Jean (Gerard Depardieu) moves back to his ancestral home with his wife and young daughter Manon. A recently retired tax collector, Jean is a well-read man with a fine strategy to plant a farm and a rabbit-breeding facility that will provide for his family until his death. As the film progresses, our attention narrowly focuses on the principal characters and their evolution. We are not distracted by outside events. At the same time, we are torn between the two conflicting wishes for the success of two conflicting projects.
Director Claude Berri’s epic period-drama masterpiece of French cinema features impeccable performances by reknowned French actors- Yves Montand, Gerard Depardieu, Daniel Auteil. Their brilliant ensemble work here highlights the rich history of French Cinema. The high-budget picture elegantly captures the natural setting, social customs, and personal prejudices of French villagers whose source of spring water is manipulated at different times by manipulative individuals.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091288/

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La nuit américaine (Day For Night)

Day for night

 

“Shooting a movie is like a stagecoach trip. At first you hope for a nice ride. Then you just hope to reach your destination.” Early in the film, director Ferrand, played by François Truffaut, says this in a voice-over of ‘Day for Night’. A lot of the film illustrates this point. We are on the set of ‘Meet Pamela’.  ‘Meet Pamela’ is a love and revenge story, about a man falling in love with daughter-in-law. We get to know the cast and crew of ‘Meet Pamela’.  Julie Baker(Jacqueline Bisset), a second generation Hollywood star whose nervous breakdown she’s recovering from causes insurance problems; Alphonse (Jean-Pierre Léaud),a very jealous, very neurotic French actor who’s so madly in love with a girl he organizes the job of the script for her just to have her near; Alexandre(Jean-Pierre Aumont), a veteran actor who played many lovers in his life, but is actually a closet homosexual;  Severine (Valentina Cortese), an Italian actress with an alcohol problem who used to play opposite Alexandre frequently in her career, but hasn’t talked to him in years.
It is a film about making a film. It is also one of Truffaut’s most personal films. Day for Night” is Truffaut’s fondest, most compassionate film, and although it is packed with references to films and film people (Welles, Vigo, Fellini, Buñuel, among others), it’s not a particularly inside film. Bisset as Julie gives the film a bit of real heart as the one character who has something of a life beyond movies. Cortese is a treat, with both her sweetness and her lighter moments. Jean-Pierre Léaud is outstanding as selfish, spoiled Alphonse. Truffaut himself played the role of the director with a lot of confidence. “Day for Night” is an ensemble movie, showing how the many kinds of people on a film set surmount the many minor crises inherent in film-making.

 

Juste Avant La Nuit

Juste avant la nuit

Just Before Nightfall is another Claude Chabrol film that focuses on infidelity and again it’s an intriguing thriller and an excellent exploration of the human condition. When a sadomasochistic game goes too far, Charles (Michel Bouquet), a married man, strangles his lover, the wife of his best friend, and then does battle with his guilty conscience. The murder happens right at the start of the film, so it’s not exactly a spoiler. Bouquet despises the games she likes to play, mostly because he sees that what she’s really getting off on is his own distaste. He’s not sure whether he wanted to murder her.  He’s married to an elegant woman (Stephane Audran, Chabrol’s wife) and has a couple of nice kids and an elegant house that was designed by the victim’s husband.
His characters are generally from the section of French bourgeoisie. They’re respectable, they live in comfortable homes and work in well-paying professions, they present a facade of total respectability. But underneath there are dark passions and well-kept secrets and, at-times, the ultimate embarrassment of murder. The actors reveal their inner dilemmas with gestures more than words. Deep intentions run across surface motives. And the final gesture of this compelling film casts all that went before into another, deeper level. All the main characters are developed well and believable. The main character, Charles, is certainly the most interesting ; the way that guilt overtakes him provides a different take on the common murderer theme and makes for a very interesting watch. Guilt, forgiveness, revenge coexist and mutually triumph. Many of us assume these three moral stances are mutually irreconcilable. Chabrol balances them against each other and then fuses them together.

Chalachal

Chalachal.jpg

 

Sarama Banerjee (Arundhati devi), an exemplary student of medical science faced the crisis of poverty.  Avinash (Nirmal Kumar), a classmate of Sarama liked her a lot. Due to recommendation by his teacher Chandra Saheb ( Pahari Sanyal),  Sarama did manage to get a private tution.  Avinash used to suffer very frequently.  He left his studies and worked as a freelance artist.  In the meantime, Bipin (AsitBaran) came into the life of Sarama.  He was elder brother of Montu, the student of Sarama. Avinash sacrificed his love and Bipin got married to Sarama. Slowly Bipin started to doubt his wife. She is caught between her love for the sensitive but ailing artist Avinash and her loving husband Bipin.  None of the two men understand Sarama’s heart truly and Sen brilliantly captures the lone woman’s solitary struggle. The strength of Asit Sen lay in his ability to balance the script and handle complex characters with a certain level of maturity that make them connect directly with the audience.  Asit Sen was a master of the low-angle shots. He used his camera to root his characters and highlight their emotions.  Nirmal Kumar was inconsistent while Arundhati Devi,  AsitBaran did full justice to their roles.  This film was a good example of Asit Sen’s characteristic style to keep the movement happening as the script raced through, the characters conversing with each other in a perfect reflection of our daily lives.
 

Pakeezah

pakeezah 1

Some films want to buy classic status with massive budgets and crumple under the pressure of their own spectacle. Pakeezah is lavish in its treatment of a courtesan’s turbulent story, but its splendour fills the eye, stirs the senses.  The story begins with the elopement of a tawaif,  Nargis (Meena Kumari)  with her lover,  the Nawab Shahabuddin (Ashok Kumar).  Shahabuddin takes Nargis to his household,  where she is rejected by his honourable family.  Nargis flees to a graveyard, where she spends the next 10 months of her life, giving birth to a daughter in the interim.   Nargis dies in the graveyard, and her older sister Nawabjaan (Veena), on receiving this news, reaches there and takes the baby away. 17 years later Sahabuddin has received a letter written by Nargis on her deathbed. He comes to know about his daughter through this letter.  Shahabuddin rushes to Nawabjaan’s kotha and asks for his daughter Sahibjaan (Meena Kumari). A furious Nawabjaan tells him to come tomorrow morning.  Nawabjaan takes her to some other place.  They travel overnight by train and while both of them are asleep in their compartment, a fellow passenger climbs into their compartment by mistake. He is Salim (Raj Kumar).  Enchanted by her feet, he leaves a note “Aap ke paon dekhe, bahut haseen hai. Inhe zameen par mat utariyega — maile ho jayenge”.

There is grandeur in Amrohi’s filmmaking – an epic magnitude of treatment.  The evocative songs and the background music create the right period mood and Amrohi’s eye for details brings great depth to the lavish sets.  The film’s main merit in spite of its flaws, its at times disjointed flow, its stock situations and an over extended plot,  lies in its euphoric romanticism. Pakeezah is filled with symbols.  There is, for instance, the oft-used symbol of the bird in a cage.  Trains themselves form an important motif throughout the film.   A train is where Sahibjaan’s and Salim’s paths first cross, and ever after, trains continue to haunt  Sahibjaan.   Kamal Amrohi uses actions, expressions, little details to convey far more than dialogues do, and often in much less time.  The script is memorable in the hands of Meena,Ashok,Raaj Kumar, Veena etc to name a few.  Personally i was most impressed by the regal looking Kamal Kapoor. Meena Kumari lives the tragedy of Nargis and Sahib Jaan like her own. Coupled, with a captivating screenplay is a beautiful musical score, enhanced by the protagonist displaying notable command of classical Indian dance  (kathak).

Bu San ( Goodbye, Dragon Inn )

Goodbye dragon inn

We talk about cinemagoing as a communal experience, where we tend to bond with others over the images infront of us. When groups of us gather in a hall, we may be seeing the same images, but we are never seeing the same film.  Other ways of watching films-on a computer and even on a phone- have come to the fore, and, as a result, new ways of living with cinemas have emerged. They are no less important, but they are different psychologically.  For their final show, the theatre has programmed King Hu’s 1966 martial-arts classic, Dragon Inn. Entering the auditorium, the young man notices handful of other people. There are also several middle-aged man who seem far more interested in one another than in the film.Meanwhile,a crippled ticket taker is eating dinner in her small booth. She sets aside half of her food to take to the projectionist. The film becomes hypnotically addicting if you adjust urself to it’s languid pace. Tsai captures the simple pleasure of going into a cinema for a couple of hours, as well as the voyeurism that can accompany watching a film with a crowd of unknown people. Camera shows us desolate corridors and cluttered storage rooms, a lobby lined with brightly colored posters that might look garish if they weren’t so inviting. Everywhere Tsai takes us, the theater is thrumming with near-silent life.

Hell or High Water

Hell or High water 1

The 2016 feature by David Mackenzie tells the story of 2 brothers who will stop at nothing to save the land of their deceased mother, the last link to their childhood, and the riches that the oil under her land will promise. Marcus (Jeff Bridges) is a Texas lawman weeks before a forced retirement, training Alberto (Gil Birmingham) to be able to take his place. Just when it seems like it will be a quiet couple of weeks before his retirement, a rash of bank robberies occur and Marcus and Alberto take the responsibility to solve the case.  After their mother passed away, Tanner (Ben Foster) and Toby (Chris Pine) were faced with the realization that the land on which she lived was being seized by the bank. Toby has a former wife and a child to think about while Tanner is constantly on the run, in and out of jail. All of the performers in this film, right down to the bit players, are quite good, but Bridges shows yet again that he is one of the finest actors in America.
Bridges takes over the film every time he’s on screen. He doesn’t want to give up his job because, we feel, he wants to hold on to a West that no longer exists. . Pine, who usually chooses action hero type roles, makes us question whether he might not be a better character actor. He’s excellent here in part because the weight of the movie isn’t resting on his back.  Ben Foster does a pretty mean impression of a man who looks like he’s spent a week living in a gutter.  One character, a half-Comanche, puts it in perspective when he matter-of-fact observes that, 150 years ago, all this land belonged to his people. Hell or High Water is more of a drama than a thriller, although there are “thriller-type” elements in place. Mackenzie  prefers extended takes and tracking shots which lift the film to great cinematic heights. Mackenzie takes great pains to provide a compelling, credible motive for Toby and Tanner and to illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of the men pursuing them. In the superbly tense Hell or High Water, New Mexico stands in for Texas and the heist film stands in for a bleak present-day western.