YOU LOVE CINEMA, RANJAN DAS RECOMMENDSby Ranjan Das December 10 2023, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 4 mins, 54 secs
From Bad City to Fair Play, from Another Gem From Darbhanga - Pokhar Ke Dunu Paar to The Cut and Fahad Fasil’s Pachuvum Athbutha Vilakkum, check out what Ranjan Das recommends this week!
AN AMERICAN IRANIAN FILM
What seems like a desolate industrial town serves as the setting for this atmospheric film populated with drug addicts, drug dealers, prostitutes – and a young female vampire in hijab executing vigilante justice on corrupt individuals. Debutant Ana Lily Amirpour, an American of Iranian descent works up a strange world that is soaked in cinematic influences ranging from horror, spaghetti western, noir, and grunge to graphic novels. Shot in high contrast black and white, the incidents are supposed to be taking place in a fictional Iranian city appropriately called Bad City, but shot somewhere in California.
Soak up this unique cinematic experience on MUBI
CORPORATE WORLD & FAIR PLAY
Quite strangely, while watching the US film FAIR PLAY (2023) by debutant Chole Domont, I was reminded of Satyajit Ray’s MAHANAGAR (1963). In the Ray classic, a Calcutta housewife is forced to take up a job as a saleswoman to meet the increasing financial pressure of her conservative in-laws’ family. Her husband begrudgingly accepts the situation that begins to play on his insecurity as his wife evolves into a self-confident woman, but they continue to love each other despite all odds. Cut to 60 years later in New York, and we have a fiercely ambitious young couple working at a financial company, trying to claw their way up the corporate ladder. When the male partner is passed over for promotion that goes to his girlfriend, the first rupture in their relationship appears that gradually metamorphoses into mental and physical violence.
The two films could be a good sociological study of how a society that still has its values intact evolves into a no-holds-barred ruthless strive for success by sacrificing all values that are essential for human existence. Of course, the American film lacks the restraint of the Ray classic and is occasionally high-pitched and ‘Hollywoodish’, but it is still a study worth seeing.
Check out the trailer here:
FAIR PLAY by Chole Domont is streaming on Netflix.
ANOTHER GEM FROM DARBHANGA
Bihar film, POKHAR KE DUNU PAAR (2022) deals with a young couple who had eloped to Delhi but are forced to come back to their hometown in Darbhanga, because of unemployment induced by lockdown, where they take shelter in a dilapidated hostel room. While the girl (Tanaya Khan Jha), tired of the struggle wants to go back to her family, the boy (Abhinav Jha) wastes away his time with his local friends without any concrete plan. A sense of ennui pervades the entire film that is skilfully evoked by its production design, crumbling landscape, and long uninterrupted takes in mostly static shots where the players are left to improvise – and they do so with a candour that is breath-taking. Will the redemptive power of love be able to tide over the crisis?
This exquisitely layered film by Whistling Woods alumnus Parth Saurabh is perhaps the best Hindi film of the year streaming on any platform.
Check out the trailer:
Look it up on MUBI.
A PERSONAL FAVOURITE: FATIH AKIN’S THE CUT
Unlike the Holocaust and other disturbing moments in history, the Armenian genocide under Ottoman rule during the First World War has rarely been dramatized on celluloid. Fatih Akin takes up this underreported piece of history, in which approximately 1.5 million Armenians were systematically massacred, by following Nazaret, a blacksmith who is forced out of his home along with others into a death march. How he miraculously survives, loses his voice, and joins a gang of Ottoman deserters to eventually find a safe haven in a faraway town where he learns that his two daughters are still alive constitutes the first half of the film. The second half takes him across Lebanon, Cuba, and ultimately North Dakota in the US in search of his missing daughters.
German-Turkish auteur Fatih Akin spins a tale of epic proportions that showcases not human resilience so much as it does chance encounters and remarkable coincidences, thus stripping away the heroic quality that we generally associate with epics – and in this effort, the performance of the French actor Tahar Rahim in the role of the mute protagonist contributes significantly to bring out the pathos of the tale. You wonder if he is the same guy who later played the suave, cold-blooded serial killer Charles Shobraj in the BBC series THE SERPENT.
Don’t go by the ratings and reviews. Check THE CUT (Germany-France, 2014) on your own and immerse yourself in an unforgettable cinematic experience.
Streaming on MUBI.
A FAHAD FASIL FILM
This is quite a bewildering narrative in the sense that it packs in several stories that are woven around a main plot involving a character called Pachu (Fahadh Fasil in a winsome role) who is entrusted with the responsibility of accompanying an old woman (debutant Viji Venkatesh) from Kerala to Mumbai where he works as an ayurveda pharmacist. The lady disappears in a Goan town and Panchu finds himself, in a major plot twist, trying to rescue an underprivileged adolescent girl from Goa and to bring her to Mumbai. Caught in a maze of adventures involving attacks by local goons who try to prevent him for reasons that are explained through flashbacks, the film manages to weave in a delectable love story between Fahadh Fasil and the gorgeous Anjana Jayaprakash. Masterfully juggling all the pieces, the film never loses sight of its central objective. Ably written, edited and directed by Akhil Sathyan, the Malayalam film PACHUVUM ATHBUTHA VILAKKUM (2023) is a robust narrative full of action and comedy – and a delightful watch.
Streaming on Prime Video.