Monday, February 02, 2015

Great MFF Expectations

Here's a pitch for a short film: A multi-billion dollar conglomerate pulls out of a film festival, leaves it almost asphyxiated for the sake of Rs 5 crore in a land where every second week one movie earns Rs 100 crore, before crowdfunding revives it. We are talking about the 16th edition of Mumbai Film Festival (MFF), which had to endure an almost cinematic roller-coaster ride. This is supposed to be a preview article, but considering its recent past just go watch anything to support this wonderful event. Thanks to the kind hearts who donated generously, the line-up is anything but watered down. Here are a few films that are absolutely not to be missed. They have been divided into two categories inspired by Donald Rumsfeld-speak.

The known knowns

These are movies that have been acclaimed across the festival circuit. Topping this list is Richard Linklater's Boyhood, a cinematic bildungsroman that painstakingly chronicles the life of a five-year-old boy until he turned 18. As unremarkable as it might sound, here's the kicker: Mr Linklater shot the whole movie intermittently over 11 years (yes, during the boy's lifetime); and from whatever little I could glean from online clips and reviews, not a single shot of this 165-minute long movie is wasted. Next up is the Belgian drama Two Days, One Night by the Dardenne Brothers, the Coen Brothers of European cinema. A simple drama about a to-be sacked worker (Marion Cotillard) trying to win over her colleagues over the weekend to avoid the inevitable is already being hailed as one of the best movies of 2014.

Also getting top billing is Pride, the real-life story of a group of homosexuals in London in 1984 trying to support the miners of a tiny Welsh village who are ravaged by Maggie Thatcher's crackdown on the National Union of Mineworkers. This riotously funny movie about how the mining elders get over their homophobia and look at the Londoners' good intentions has been garnering rave reviews across the globe. And those of us who are willing to watch Jean-Luc Godard film every page of a dictionary will also have to make time for the Frenchman's latest feature, Goodbye to Language (3D).

Among documentaries, the prima donna is Martin Scorsese's The 50 Year Argument, a celebration of the 50th anniversary of what was for the longest time the enfant terrible of American letters, The New York Review of Books. With extensive quotes from its founder Robert Silvers and other talking heads, including Colm Tóibín and Michael Chabon, Mr Scorsese ensures this documentary is a must-watch for everyone who wants to try and recapture the seductive power of the printed word in this age of BuzzFeed.

The unknown unknowns

This category is for movies that are little known as yet but might just make a splash. This year's Mumbai Film Festival is celebrating French cinema in a big way - and what will bolster this effort will be the presence of Catherine Deneuve, who will be given a lifetime achievement award. Her latest film, In the Courtyard, an indie feature about a depressed rock-star-turned-janitor developing romantic feelings for a female retiree, looks eminently watchable. By the way, the Deneuve retrospective at the Mumbai Film Festival is incontestably awesome as well. Another French film that ought to give everyone chills is Mathieu Amalric's (the snarling anti-hero of Casino Royale) The Blue Room. A lushly romantic film, inspired by a Georges Simenon book, it promises to further embellish Mr Amalric's already diverse oeuvre.

Last month when the baby-faced Chaitanya Tamhane won two awards at the Venice Film Festival for his movie Court, a trenchant analysis of Indian judiciary, people back home noticed. Without even a YouTube clip doing rounds on the internet and with an India release months away, the Mumbai Film Festival auditoriums will be filled to the brim with people who at least want to see what the fuss is all about. Court is competing in the "International Competition" section along with other 2014 movie festival stalwarts, such as History of Fear and Macondo.

If you are the kind who swears by Russian literature, the Mumbai Film Festival is catering to you as well, showcasing the best of Russian cinema, including Andrei Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev and Sergei Bondarchuk's War and Peace.

Last but not the least, the opening and closing movies are both from Hollywood. The former being the period romance flick Serena (Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper) and the latter being the Brad Pitt-starrer Fury, the story of a tank crew in World War II that promises to reinvent the war movie.

See you on the flip side.


At 1:26 AM, Anonymous said...

I would rather say not swears by Russian literature, but smitten with it - the representatives you've named are not among my beloved, though(


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