Friday, November 06, 2015

What a finish to the Mumbai Film Festival!



My Golden Days (Trois Souvenirs De Ma  Jeunesse)

Land And Shade (La Tierra y La Sombra)

Morning started on a low note, with life intruding on Deepa (the best movie watching partner!). I stepped into the theater alone, wondering how is it that kids manage to stay healthy all year and are feverish when mum wants to lose herself in the movies. While Deepa was on mom duty, I watched Taklub (Trap), a Filipina movie.

Having lived in Hong Kong, I have watched maids go from happy to distraught at news of hurricanes and typhoons, this movie jolted me more than it should have. The idea of survivors looking for their lost loved ones, building lives with the debris of their former lives looking for survivors after the typhoon where people lose everything is awful.

The movie is so real, you begin to think you are watching a disaster documentary. It shows how the lives of three people inter-linked and their concern for each other makes them so human.

And although the Filipinas are deeply religious, the loss of faith shown was too melodramatic I thought. 

Too much despair to start the last day of the film festival...

But then Charlie Kaufman came to the rescue, and we were plunged into the world of seriously strange stop motion animation. 

Once you got over the 'humanness' of the figures/puppets, you begin to enjoy the tale that is being told. The ice is broken by the common 'grab your arm' co-passenger on a flight (i choked on my chai here because I was reminded of a fellow film critic who grabs the nearest available arm at anything dramatic on screen).

But Micheal Stone is telling us the story of how everything and everybody conforms and that he is alone because he won't. Was weird bawling in an animated movie where people were gasping at the nudity in the shower. But if people have ever told you what to do with your life, or asked you, 'Why can't you be normal like everyone else?' you'd understand why the movie hit home.

Charlie Kaufman is telling us how lonely it gets when you do not conform. You want to adjust, and Micheal Stone tries really hard, but he cannot. The humor is never absent. And you are reminded by the uncomfortable laughs in the fully packed auditorium that you are watching the movie with many a tortured soul.

The line outside My Golden Days was so long, you wondered if the synopsis was misguided. Misspent youth sounds like a promise of lots of onscreen sex...

Once the movie started, my cynical side vanished. It was drowned in the most deliciously written correspondence between two lovers. Deepa (who was back!) and I, and possibly all the women in the theatre began to fall in love with Paul. 

The film has been shot beautifully and I loved the choice of non-conventional looking actors. Instant love for scenes from Tajikistan and one where Paul's dad walks into his own bedroom and finds his son with Esther, and slowly steps back embarrassed.

The film, no matter how much it indulges every woman's swooning poetic side, left me wondering why Paul hated his mother so much. It is probably fashionable to say 'How I hate my mother' but even so, it sort of rankled...

Came away wondering if there were shades of Heathcliff in the movie... Laughed pointedly at two gents who were having a conversation which something like: What men! French cinema and so little sex?

The sex was there. In the words of the letters they exchanged...

Land And Shade (La Tierra y La Sombra) seemed to be incorrectly named. 'Sombra' the Spanish word which has been called Shade is more 'Shadow'. The story of a family living in the shadow of the land they own, is a far, far sinister tale than the simplistic description Land and Shade.

You are immediately drawn to the horrors of cane farming and know why Don Alonso leaves the farm and why he is back. Especially in Maharashtra, where sugarcane is depleting the water table far more rapidly than ever, to watch the ash cover everything is an eye opener. You think of ways of saving the little family when you watch Alonso do the dishes, sweep the floor covered in ash. You feel claustrophobic when you realise that they dare not open windows because the ash and soot will cover everything.

A shower scene in a movie generally titillates, but the scene in this movie just made me want to kneel down and pray to the gods they had water.

It sounds trite, but even the drunken song Alonso sings touches you deeply. It gives you no time to think though, because the land continues to engulf this family in its shadow, attempting to bury them under ash and dust...

I stepped out of the theater, wondering how much it would have cost my dad to give up on the lands of his fathers. In my head though, I was sitting next to the mother, stubborn and helpless, unable to let go of the land that was hers.

A sombre end to a film festival that delighted my heart and head with so many amazing films. Deepa and I said quiet 'byes' and walked towards the parked cars, ready to be swallowed by reality once again.

We will meet again, over wine and discussions of about Waheeda Rehman in pants, Guru Dutt's designer forehead wrinkles, and Ingrid Bergman saying, 'Play it Sam, play 'as time goes by'...'

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