Friday, 18 January 2008

Movies reviews - Koktebel, Jan Svankmajer Vol1


A Russian movie about a boy and his out of work recovering alcoholic father who travel across the country on foot to get to a little town called Koktebel. The boy is level-headed. His father isn’t. The movie begins with them hitching a ride on a train, moves on to them spending time with a railway guard, working on a house in exchange for money, meeting with and recovering from an attack, splitting up, and finally reaching the town.

They might be poor but they aren’t dumb. The father used to be an aeronautical engineer and knows his rights. The son is intelligent and curious about gliders and birds, yet far too old for his age, having lived with an alcoholic father in the past. The story told in the movie is mainly the story of the boy, his observations and experiences.

The movie is characterized by a light non-invasive soundtrack that suits the film. Other appealing things are the way the camera tends to linger on a particular person for a while, allowing us to watch that person at our leisure.

Collected works of Jan Svankmajer - Vol1

I happened to rent this without knowing what to expect. The DVD turned out to consist of various short movies (around 10-15 mins each) by Svankmajer. Each movie is made in a slightly different style like puppetry, stop photography (used a lot), cartoons, etc., and is usually silent, except for a soundtrack. Some shorts are in colour and some are black and white. Each movie is either about or contains physical or displayed representations of ideas, values, etc. i.e. the stories the director tells us are really pictorial representations of human nature, feelings, patterns, etc.

For example, his short about the picnic shows us a picnic with no people. Instead, the objects in a picnic seem to be enjoying themselves – clothes, tables, chairs, record player and spade all seem to be having a fun time by themselves. ‘Et Cetera’ shows us a collection of cartoons – in one, a man taming an animal turns into the animal and vice versa.

The director is talented; he uses sound and music in ways I’ve never heard before. An impulse I had while watching his shorts was to take notes. I felt like I was seeing something new, a new way of portraying ideas. With very little sound, your attention is taken up almost entirely by the visuals that move quickly and are edited crisply. The tone of the shorts is dark and morbid. In many instances, the ideas that the director chose to portray and images he chose to represent those ideas left me reeling. I need to see more stuff like this.

My favourite among the lot is ‘Punch and Judy’. It involves two puppets fighting over a guinea pig and how their fight escalates. A metaphor for violent human nature. I came across a review on IMDB that mirrors my exact thoughts about this short but is way better than what I could ever put down on paper:

And here as well,

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Movie Reviews - Secret Ballot, Ten

Saw two Iranian films this weekend - the first one better than the second.

Secret Ballot

A nice movie about an election agent who lands up on a little island to collect votes - all she meets with is apathy and ignorance. Some memorable characters are the man who brings a whole group of women in a truck and expects them to vote for who he says so; the group that finds out that the candidate they wish to vote for is not on the list, the man who refuses to vote for anyone but God; the villagers who refuse to vote because it means nothing to them; the list goes on. The best thing about this movie is that, though shot with Iranian actors speaking Farsi, the events and situations seen here could be taking place anywhere, and not necessarily on an seclusive Iranian desert island.


A film that looks at various issues in Iranian society today. The movie consists of ten sequences or conversations shot in a car with a still camera. The driver remains the same each time. She is our main character. The passengers vary from her sister to son to friend to strangers. Each sequence focuses exclusively on either the driver or passenger, so you can hear the conversation taking place, but not see the other character. The conversations are realistic, they deal with the lives of the characters, the problems they face, and how they deal with them - good viewing if you like intense movies that deal with relationships at this raw level.

World Gone Crazy As Usual

I rearranged the channel line up on my T.V recently so that all the news channels are now next to each other. I did this so that I can now compare the news on one channel with another one without wasting time flipping through channels.

I was able to try out my idea last night - almost wished I hadn't. All four Indian English channels (NDTV, TimesNow, Headlines Today and CNN IBN) were broadcasting one thing and one thing only - the Harbhajan/Symonds/Ponting/racism/sportsmanship/match referee/umpire fiasco.

Have we officially run out of news in Mumbai? (or, for that matter, the rest of India). No, we haven't. As a matter of fact, the bodies of two girls were found at Aksa beach yesterday. A rickshaw driver died and at least 4 people were injured in an accident on the Western Express highway yesterday. Lots of stuff happened yesterday. So why do our news channels focus only on Cricket?

Why do they treat our players like princes and spend so much airtime and print space on them. I just don't get it.