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Friday, May 30, 2014

Walesa. Man of Hope (2013)

Andrez Wajda’s biopic film “Walesa. Man of Hope” revolves around Lech Walesa (Robert Wieckiewics), a libertarian and revolutionary, who brought the first trade union to Poland during its communist regime. The film takes us through his life, his deeds and the driving force behind the two.

The film opens with a lady and her assistant in her car. They pull up in front of Walesa’s apartment and she introduces herself a famous journalist from the West. The two of them sit beside Walesa about to begin their interview. Walesa brashly asks her, “Is this interview going to hurt me or help me?” “That depends entirely on what you say,” she says composed. Meanwhile, we see that someone else is monitoring and recording their conversations. We learn later that this person is an official of the country.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Priest's Children (2013)

The Priest’s Children directed by Vinko Bresan is one of the more mainstream films I saw at CIFF 2013. It was silly, comical, family-friendly and lacking in substance. However, I don’t feel strongly enough to trash it or dismiss it outright. A film experience like this doesn’t warrant such emotion. My feelings are mixed, somewhere between disappointment and annoyance. I’ll admit though, I was mildly amused.

The premise is plain as day. Set in futuristic Croatia, where the country’s death rate considerably outweighs its birth rate, a man confesses to a priest that he is a murderer. He kills people before they are born, that is, by working for a condom factory. Did that score a chuckle out of you? Then perhaps this is your kind of film. Petar goes on to state that he cannot afford to lose his job, but can’t help feeling guilty for sinning in this manner. The priest lets him in on an idea, one that allows him to eat his cake and have it too. He advises the man to prick a tiny hole in every condom before it is packaged. The two men conspire together on a quest- to reverse the death-rate-to-birth-rate ratio- with the help of an eccentric pharmacist who takes up the task of replacing contraceptives with vitamin pills.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Fill the Void (2013)

Rama Burshtein’s Fill the Void opens with a chirpy young lady, Shira, groom-shopping at a mall with her mother Revka. The women point to different men scattered around and discuss them like potential prospects. All of them sport the conventional-orthodox-Jewish look. Afterwards, we see her run up to her pregnant sister Esther and brace her excitedly telling her that they’ve found a suitor for her. Her brother-in-law smiles in approval, sharing her joy.

This family seems to have quite a bit going for it. And everything does go well in their favour. That is, until a tragedy befalls them. Esther dies in childbirth, only to be survived by her husband Yochay and new-born son. Instead of focusing on the immediate implications of the tragedy, Rama Burshtein skips the melodrama and fast-forwards to a point where they’ve moved on with their lives. The past is no longer a dwelling issue for the family. It's the future. Shira’s marriage is approaching while Yochay himself is considering remarriage. The question lingering in Burshtein’s mind here is whether the family fabric will remain intact after such an incident. This question also happens to prod Shira’s mother, Revka, who dreads the possibility of an empty house.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Salvo (2013)

One of the dullest films I saw in 2013 was a film called Salvo directed by Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza. I looked it up before the screening, only to find that it received multiple awards at the Cannes film festival. This, I figured, was reason enough for me to choose it over the other five films playing simultaneously at CIFF 2013. However, this choice misfired terribly.

Salvo’s plot is wafer-thin. A gangster named Salvo and his boss go to another part of town to kill select people. Why they do it, what they have at stake, what this is in response to-- we are given none of these details. Instead, the film-maker chooses to focus on the more trivial details; like what time Salvo sets his alarm, what his servants think of him, whether his hostage girl is hungry and whether fish tastes better in a dog bowl.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Whirlpool (2013)

“Not for the faint-hearted” was all I had to see to choose a screening of The Whirlpool at CIFF 2013 over one of Oh Boy, a European Film Award winning black-and-white comedy. I am naturally drawn to boundary pushing films that can stick a wrench in my gut and effectively reinforce my bleak world-view.

The Serbian film directed by Bojan Vuk Kosovcevic failed to adequately satisfy my cinematic appetite. However, I still remain in praise of what it set out to do and how it attempts to accomplish just that, even though I found the ending quite inconclusive and ambiguous. I couldn’t dismiss away such an ambitious film that has so much going for it. But I wouldn’t deem it a success either.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Disciple (2013)

The Disciple is set on an island inhabited by a family of four. Vilhelm, the man of the house is in charge of a lighthouse situated here while receiving some assistance from his teenage son Gustaf (Patrik Kumpulainen), who works his days just to be able to prove to his father that he is indeed worthy of succeeding him. Vilhelm’s wife finds solace in music with the help of a piano while their daughter, the youngest member of the family, gets by playing with a dog in their barn. A boat approaches the island. Its only passenger is a young boy who introduces himself as Karl Berg (Erik Lonngren) . He becomes Vilhelm’s disciple.

At first, Vilhelm dismisses the boy as just another kid. But the boy proves time and again that he is young, strong, capable and a quick learner. Vilhelm slowly begins to see that Karl can be put to use and effectively does so. Karl has been sent from an abusive orphanage. He bears signs of whip lash on his bare back. Although critical by nature, Vilhelm eventually takes a liking for Karl. He sees Karl as everything his own son is unable to be. He decides to adopt the boy, welcoming him not just to his new job, but to his new family. While Gustaf doesn’t fare at his academics nearly as well as Karl, Finnish film-maker Ulrika Bengts resists the temptation to paint him as an easily replaceable entity. She shows us that Gustaf is actually more of an outdoor person. He’s an expert with the sextet, good at swimming and excellent at navigating the boat. He even lets these skills rub off on Karl. His father knows nothing of Gustaf’s hidden abilities and continues to find ways to reinforce his own belief, that his son is indeed useless.

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