Movies

THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU

When I decided to watch this movie I thought it would be a dark comedy like In Bruges or Clerks but after watching, it came out much more than what I had expected. It is one of those few films that let the events unfold by themselves without any human or dramatic intervention. It falls in the genre of the movies that lives in the moment, witnesses the reality as it is untouched by any exogenous factors, concludes nothing, and shows people living their lives from one second to the other.

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The name of the character Dante Remus Lazarescu seems a satire, Dante Alighieri wrote The Divine Comedy, Remus, the twin brother of Romulus, was one of the founder of Rome, and Lazaraus was brought back to life on the fourth day after his death by Jesus.

The Romanian (Remus connection) movie deals with the overworked medical staff who are shown as human beings, not as saints. They also stress out, smoke, use cell phones, refuse treatment to patients etc. After circling (circles of hell in Dante’s treatise) through three hospitals, the fourth hospital (Lazarus was brought back on fourth day) accommodates the patient eventually and the ambulance driver along with the nurse, Mrs. Mioara could take a sigh of relief. The viewer is left wondering whether Mr. Lazarescu lived. The role of Mrs. Mioara played by Luminita Gheorghiu is something we can relate to from our experience. She represents the element of sincerity and humanness in us. Despite the high handed behavior of doctors with advanced ‘degrees’, she maintains her composure and makes sure that the job she has undertaken is seen through. I kept on wondering where have I seen her before and the words ‘pose and job’ kept striking me till I could trace it back to Child’s pose – another wonderful performance  from the actress as a wealthy matriarch in post Ceausescu Romania.

Yi Yi

Movies as life are a mix of happy and sad emotions, they are so concurrent to life that we fidget with the possibility of them coming true. They have the power to transform a mind, implant or steal an idea from you, and stay and with you like an organism. After meandering on Netflix like a milling crowd in Times sq., I promised myself  that this weekend I will watch a meaningful movie. I was going through articles from Harvard Film Archive (HFA) and it’s when I stumbled upon Edward Yang’s work. East Asian cinema has given us gems of directors such as Kurosawa, Takeshi Kitano, Hou Hsiao-Hsien and their work is unparalleled. The line of thought is authentic and relatable. HFA ‘s article can be found here : http://hcl.harvard.edu/hfa/films/2008septoct/yang.html 

Surprisingly enough New York Times published an article on Friday on the best 25 movies of this century so far and it did included Edward Yang’s work which I would consider a magnum opus. It’s as grand as Tolstoy’s war and peace and as real as the pathos of Kazuo Ishiguro – The remains of the day. If one thinks about the movie then there is nothing really special about it. It’s a movie that has all stages of life in it played by different characters, the movie starts with a wedding and concludes with a demise; it’s a movie about how different people handle the situations differently- from Yang Yang, the budding photographer to his father NJ, whose honesty doesn’t finds a place in a world driven by profit. The restless search and struggle for something meaningful, the creativity driven by and despite frustration is something one can relate to. It’s a very human movie; it takes time, experience, internal struggle, and external manifestations for characters to realize that they are human. The setup of the movie is in Taipei, one of the big cities in the world and it takes an artist’s perspective to put inanimate objects and concepts as artists and characters. The cities, though founded on the traditional values, offer global views but lack the humanness and one has to wade through them, weed out a lot to reach one’s destination. Yang Yang who likes to take photograph of back of people’s head is embodiment of a marvelous concept that we don’t see the entire truth, only half of the truth at one time. One memorable dialogue from the movie is between Yang Yang and his father in which Yang Yang says “I can’t see what you see and you can’t see what you see, so how can I know what you see?” For solving this paradox, Yang Yang starts taking photos of back of people’s heads so people will know what they can’t see, a concept though lucid but difficult to assimilate with.

Yi-Yi translates to one and two, and may be Edward Yang wanted to say “as simple as one and two”

Sonder is a word that means “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own”. The movie justifies the existence of the word.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0244316/

 

Bukowski 9 to 5

 

Few days ago I watched an old movie named Barfly starring Micky Rourke. The movie was based on the formative years of Bukowski when he was drinking himself to death and was on verge of destitution. He wrote the screenplay himself and portrayed the lead who finds solace in writing poetry.

One dialog from the movie is remarkable. Wanda asks Henry “Do you trust me”?, Henry replies “Yes, why not! It is easier that way”.

I am pasting one a letter here that goes hand in hand with what we feel today. How insecurity, the comfort, the society influences our actions and make us do things which we might not have done if free abstractly.

 

December 8, 1986

Hello John:

Thanks for the good letter. I don’t think it hurts, sometimes, to remember where you came from. You know the places where I came from. Even the people who try to write about that or make films about it, they don’t get it right.

They call it “9 to 5.” It’s never 9 to 5, there’s no free lunch break at those places, in fact, at many of them in order to keep your job you don’t take lunch. Then there’s OVERTIME and the books never seem to get the overtime right and if you complain about that, there’s another sucker to take your place. You know my old saying, “Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors.”

And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does.

As a young man I could not believe that people could give their lives over to those conditions. As an old man, I still can’t believe it. What do they do it for? Sex? TV? An automobile on monthly payments? Or children? Children who are just going to do the same things that they did?

Early on, when I was quite young and going from job to job I was foolish enough to sometimes speak to my fellow workers: “Hey, the boss can come in here at any moment and lay all of us off, just like that, don’t you realize that?”

They would just look at me. I was posing something that they didn’t want to enter their minds.

Now in industry, there are vast layoffs (steel mills dead, technical changes in other factors of the work place). They are layed off by the hundreds of thousands and their faces are stunned:

“I put in 35 years…”

“It ain’t right…”

“I don’t know what to do…”

They never pay the slaves enough so they can get free, just enough so they can stay alive and come back to work. I could see all this. Why couldn’t they? I figured the park bench was just as good or being a barfly was just as good. Why not get there first before they put me there? Why wait?

I just wrote in disgust against it all, it was a relief to get the shit out of my system. And now that I’m here, a so-called professional writer, after giving the first 50 years away, I’ve found out that there are other disgusts beyond the system.

I remember once, working as a packer in this lighting fixture company, one of the packers suddenly said: “I’ll never be free!”

One of the bosses was walking by (his name was Morrie) and he let out this delicious cackle of a laugh, enjoying the fact that this fellow was trapped for life.

So, the luck I finally had in getting out of those places, no matter how long it took, has given me a kind of joy, the jolly joy of the miracle. I now write from an old mind and an old body, long beyond the time when most men would ever think of continuing such a thing, but since I started so late I owe it to myself to continue, and when the words begin to falter and I must be helped up stairways and I can no longer tell a bluebird from a paperclip, I still feel that something in me is going to remember (no matter how far I’m gone) how I’ve come through the murder and the mess and the moil, to at least a generous way to die.

To not to have entirely wasted one’s life seems to be a worthy accomplishment, if only for myself.

Your boy,

Hank

Guide – 1965

To me R K Narayan has always been more than a fiction writer; at one hand he is a sweet reminisce of relatable stories and on the other is someone whose stories if read deeply can be as complex as Freud’s civilization and its discontents.

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http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059246/

Based on the book Guide which won Sahitya Academy, the movie – Guide, is a classic produced by Indian cinema industry. Few people know that it was Pearl S. Buck ( The writer of The good earth) convinced Dev Anand to produce a movie on this book while both of them were in Berlin film festival. Corroborated with excellent background score and soulful music, the movie is a mandatory watch to anyone interested in international cinema or any Indian who harbors the notion that CGI clad Hollywood movies are the best thing that have happened in this century. Although R K Narayan wasn’t elated on seeing the movie as the movie doesn’t adhere to the book verbatim, he extolled Waheeda Rehman ( Lead actress) for bringing Rosy alive on the celluloid.

It is interesting to see the how the characters of Rosy and Raju develop throughout the text. Love, skill, success, devotion, aversion, egotism, deception, introspection, withdrawal, asceticism, belief, altruism, and the eventual knowledge follow in order. The guide guides himself to glory. He guides himself to the strength that a few are introduced to and transcends the bridge of life and death. I can extrapolate Guide to the reverence with which The Great Gatsby is looked at and I think I am not wrong.

Blue Jay

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Yesterday I watched Blue Jay, quite an interesting movie it was. There is some old classic charm with the movies that are shot in black and white. Blue Jay is the one that falls in the category of Frances Ha, Nebraska, Clerks, Schindler’s list, Ida. The movie is short and sweet and literally has only two characters and the dialogues between them. I laughed at times at the reminiscences depicted. The film was quite relatable for the actors looked like next door people, nothing extra ordinary about them but then too I think there is a piece that is missing somewhere that would make us feel awestruck. The house of the guy, although in a disarray, looks like something that one can call home – it seems comfortable and one can have a good night sleep.

Florence Foster Jenkins

I have been on a movie spree for past few weeks and have watched nearly all that are watchable and are being shown in Manhattan. I watched Florence Foster Jenkins on Monday in a theater on Yorkville. Meryl Streep is a treat to watch but on Monday morning I came to know of a past case in which she had blocked the road for renovating her million dollar villa causing problem to general public. Shouldn’t law be same foe everyone? Why wasn’t she arrested for the same?

Anyway, the movie is based on a real life character that walked the earth during mid 18th and mid 19th century noted for her gaudy star studded costumes and high pitch/low pitch singing. I enjoyed and laughed throughout the movie and who wouldn’t. Meryl Streep is one of the best actress and a nervous Simon Helberg has done justice to role of Mr. McMoon – the pianist. Hugh Grant’s role as a partner supportive of no matter what is adorable. Although Florence Foster was ridiculed many times for her singing but her ‘concerts’ were not karaoke – Japanese word for empty orchestra. If I were born in that era and I had enough money to afford concerts then I definitely would have gone to see her. She did what she wanted to do and enjoyed it thoroughly. One memorable quote from the movie “People can say I cannot sing but they won’t say I didn’t sing.”. When the movie finished I was looking at faces of people and found at least 7-8 who were crying during the final scenes. Such is a human spirit that we live in a world that adores perfection while Florence Foster Jenkins was able to fill the Carnegie hall despite her not so perfect singing.

Little Men

I watched little men directed by Ira Sachs at IFC few days ago. The movie has mixed reviews but I liked it. People view every aspect of the movie with such critical eye that movie reviews seem to be FBI investigations to me. I watched the movie on first day itself and read the reviews later and was surprised to read that there is an inkling of sexual desires between the boys. Why on earth would you say that? Because both wanted to be artists? To me they were just kids who enjoyed each others company and were whirling around in the storm of differences between their families. The movie reminded me that how easy it is when you are young to make friends with anyone and nearly impossible to do so when you are grown up. Of course there are exceptions to this thought. When you are a kid you don’t have any emotional baggage or a background that you want to hide while you are grown up you would be mindful of what to share and what not. In short, you are politically correct with people about your own life, your wins, losses and I think this politically correctness wipes the possibilities of befriending new people at deeper level.

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I liked the music, acting of young guys. Paulina Garcia of Gloria fame did justice with her role and handled nicely the evolution of the character throughout the 85 minutes. I didn’t know that there is a concept of teen disco in Manhattan.

A good movie on Maths and more

I, in general, have been quite critical of Indian cinema. I cannot bear the fact that the worst movies get a lot of attention of the viewers and few good ones get sidelined. It doesn’t mean that there is dearth of quality cinema in India. One doesn’t need Pixar or Disney standard animations or special effects as we saw in transformers  or some star studded crew for a movie to draw attention. There have been many wonderful and even low budget movies that have done wonderfully not only in India but also globally. Nil Battey Sannata is one such gem produced recently and how delighted I was to watch it.

A simple movie with heartwarming story corroborated with lovely acting performances. It touches one dreadful aspect in the lives of many students i.e. Mathematics. A poor young girl in school in grade 10 is giving up on studies but her mother has high hopes for her. The girl thinks she will end up being a maid as her mother is. But is that so? The music and the songs are catchy.

Links:

https://www.facebook.com/NilBatteySannata/?fref=ts

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nil_Battey_Sannata

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5005684/

 

Cinema Paradiso

I watched this movie few months ago and those who haven’t watched it are missing something. The movie explores the relation between a cinema projectionist Alfredo and a young lad Salvatore. The persistence of Salvatore for his first love is driven by optimism.

The last scene of the movie made me very happy and it was one rare moment of pure joy 🙂

Mustang

Yesterday I went to see Mustang at IFC in Greenwich village. Oh boy ! I was delighted. The film struck the chord from the first scene itself. Teenagers running around on beaches, playing and having times of their lives, plucking(stealing :)) fruits from the gardens. That is how kids should be- playing outside in the sun not stuck to minecraft or taking duck lipped selfies for snapchat. The long hair of the five sisters represented wildness and cavalier attitude and the title of the movie is so apt – Mustang, the free roaming horse. The youngest sister reminded me of myself – logical and not being afraid to confront. Everyone in the theater was laughing at many scenes of bravado shown by young girls. The entire film was captivating to me from the story to the escape and from the music to the stillness of the scenes. I haven’t liked a movie as much in years and recommend it to anyone who has even iota of interest in watching something meaningful.

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I experience a sinking feeling when I see what people in other parts of the world go through in the name of culture. Here I am living in a world that doesn’t asks any questions to me and there is a world out there which has bugged your entire life, your each movement is tracked and the self appointed moral police dictates what one is allowed to do. Talking on phone, using computer, reading books that are not approved by the “intellectual ones”, talking to someone who is not related to you, not believing in what others believe in will make you a pervert and your will be corrupted in thoughts and your being? Does this even make any sense? Sometimes Cynthia and I laugh that if we were not here but somewhere else we would have been stoned to death by now for sure. We are not related to each other but we commit the unforgivable ‘sin’ of talking to each other and exchanging ideas on anything and everything that exist on the planet despite not being ‘related’ to each other.

The music from the movie was elevating especially the one at the end. Comforting yet unsettling as it creeped and crawled under the skin.If interested then you can check the music out here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8x4DBBQi_8&list=PLSLN5gEzR2h6B27qBo4A1Lp1XztkGdh97&index=4

I looked at the elderly woman who was sitting with me in the 30 seater auditorium of screen 5 at IFC and tears were welling from her eyes. We did exchange a human smile.