Festen – 1998

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Festen or ‘The Celebration’ is a 1998 Danish movie of the farce genre directed by the acclaimed Thomas Vinterberg. At first I preferred to watch this movie because it has generally positive reviews and was awarded the cannes jury award.

I didn’t understand why the movie had unconventional camera angles, crude filters and unclear sounds. I mean, why would anyone want to lose their reputation by going against the well established rules of film making up until 1998.

But little did I know that this is the first movie to be released under the Dogme 95 movement. And then I got curious. So here goes the rules that defines a movie under Dogme 95.

  1. Shooting must be done on location.
  2. The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa.
  3. The camera must be hand-held.
  4. The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable.
  5. Optical work and filters are forbidden.
  6. The film must not contain superficial action.
  7. Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden.
  8. Genre movies are not acceptable.
  9. The film format must be Academy 35 mm.
  10. The director must not be credited.

(source: Wikipedia)

After reading the rules it kind of looks like it is stifling the creativity of a film maker. But here’s what the founder of the Dogme 95 movement which includes Thomas Vinterberg had to say.

These were rules to create filmmaking based on the traditional values of story, acting, and theme, and excluding the use of elaborate special effects or technology. It was an attempt to take back power for the director as artist, as opposed to the studio.

And why would the audience want to watch such a movie? Because they claim it doesn’t alienate or distract them from the movie experience unlike what overproduction does. Seems logical right? But then why did the movement end?

I would say it had no beginning and no end, in fact the concept didn’t even exist. Take for example this movie which is supposed to have followed all the rules of Dogme 95 did have an exception. The film maker confessed to have used a prop. And such ideas were already present in some forms before this movement and is still present in the indie films of today. A movie filmed today with a camcorder following all these rules would look completely different from the ones taken during its initial phase. The reason is technological advancement in film making. In fact a indie movie today can surpass a high budget film of the 90s in many aspects. But this concept is here to stay.

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جدایی نادر از سیمین- 2011

A movie coming out of extreme censorship and appealing to people all around the world is no mean feat. That is why movies from countries like the erstwhile soviet union and Iran to name a few have a very unique character. “A separation” is one such gem.

As the movie progresses you feel more like a bystander observing the scene of action rather than an audience for a movie. This feeling is emphasized by the fact that most of the scenes in the movie has doors or windows or walls partially covering the frame, like the one above. It is like you the viewer is sitting in the adjacent room.

There’s a moment where Termeh gets into her grandfather’s room and kisses him goodbye. But all you see in each frames of this scene is a blurred out door and Termeh enters in bends down and gets out. It will be a completely different response to same scene where the characters and actions are clearly defined in full frame.

The film gives a comprehensive view of the Iranian middle class family, and you realize quite instantly that it is not different from the complexities of middle class families from other parts of the world.

Кавказская пленница – 1966

I’m a big fan of Russian pop music. But movies.. Well to begin with I had no idea where to begin with. Even this movie, I accidentally stumbled upon because of the popular song где-то на белом свете.

I’m glad I started here. There are already 10 Wikipedia pages that are open related to this movie :).

In short it’s a classic rom-com. A simple plot, healthy humor, great cinematography. But there was just one thing that wasn’t simple, it’s release. See back in 1966 at the height of soviet era, all movies released there had to go through a tough scrutiny. And this movie had to be approved by none other than the great Leonid Brezhnev. And what happened? He watched, he laughed and he approved, in spite of the plethora of political innuendos. I mean who wouldn’t love this movie.

I especially love how the lights are used to lit up each characters face. To aid this most of the movie was shot in the bright and cheerful Crimea. The visual just brings in the joie de vivre right at the beginning without even knowing the plot. It’s unique in a way I can compare it to the Eastman color films of the 1960s that were quite famous in South India (case in point – Kaathalika Neeramillai – 1964).

One character that drew my attention in particular is that of Yuri Nikulin. He’s one among the trio of kidnappers. I’ve read about him before, that he was a famous Russian clown and actor. But I’ve never seen his performance. No wonder why he’s so famous. Can’t wait to watch the fun that is Трус, Балбе́с и Быва́лыйрус in other movies.

Zu Besuch – 2015

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Throughout the 12 min of the film, I was waiting anxiously for the moment of tragedy, the moment of Peripeteia. That she gets killed and dumped in his basement. That’s the kind of eeriness the film starts with. The darkness is subtle but very palpable. But it turns out to be a simple film and leaves the ending to your own interpretation. That’s good, because a shortfilm’s success remains in its ability to leave a viewer with the weight worth of a feature film.

The Old Man – 2013

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The millennials are most likely to live a long and solitary life, whether you like it or not. After watching this documentary, I laid back and thought for a long time. What is that one thing that’s going to make me want to wake up everyday and work on when I get very old and very lonely? This feel-good 9 min Chinese short film shows an old man who is very happy to collect rewards from a video game like Farmville. This now leads me to question of value that playing games add to our life.

Kramer vs. Kramer – 1979

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A movie from a time when they still smoked at the work desk.

Ted Kramer – ” My wife used to always say to me : Why can’t a woman have the same ambitions as a man? I think you are right. And may be I’ve learned that much. But by the same token. I’d like to know what law is it that says a woman is a better parent simply by virtue of her sex?”

Many sensible things are being exchanged in the court room.

It takes some sacrifice by the self to succeed as a family.

In the Mood for Love – 2000

 

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You can add this face as a flashcard to remember ‘Melancholy’

Now I realize how hard it must be to keep track of the plot in silent movies. Su visits Chow’s apartment in Singapore. But I completely missed the fact that Chow did realize this after seeing a lipstick stained cigarette butt lying down. A critic had felt the beauty in the movie is almost a distraction. May be that’s what happened to me. The stunning lead characters (especially Maggie Cheung in that cheongsam), the slow moving camera, the worn out buildings, the rain at night, the smoke and above all the mournful cello refrain matched seamlessly with the lithe twitch of her hip are almost too pleasant for the eyes for us to ignore and follow the plot.

Tony Leung is to Wong Kar Wai what Toshiro Mifune was to Akira Kurosawa. He is considered to be one of the finest characters to come out of Hong Kong. His masculine personality with the slicked hairstyle and the range of emotions that his face exhibits, makes him really admirable.

Since the lead characters spouses are never shown I was of the opinion that every act was actually a reflection or rather a regret for the adultery that they committed before, and the unseen characters are the lead characters themselves and I was expecting a baffling twist in the plot. But the film is deceivingly simple. I’m still mulling over the question whether the film has an ulterior composition.