The Joy Of Life

There are many films that can be classified under the feel-good category. These are the films that leave you with a smile on your face. But among these films, there are those which make you smile as well as cry. Are these films really feel-good ? Well, let me put forth my interpretation of this. As we all know in life, there are ups and downs. So, to truly feel an up we need to go through something that brings us down. Only then can true catharsis be achieved. Even if I told you about the end of Anand it wouldn’t be too much of a spoiler as the movie does this in the very beginning. Therefore, I’d like to talk about what the film wants to say.

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To put it simply, the message of the film can be summed up as this: try to find the joy in life. Although this is easier said than done, it is certainly something that all of us could use a little of in life. We spend so much time cribbing about what we don’t have that we tend to forget what we possess. In the film, Anand is diagnosed with cancer and while it seems quite cinematic to make him celebrate life despite his illness, it is what makes the film memorable. Here is a man who lives with such fervor that it seems cruel that his life is going to be taken away from him. All this makes us root for him to recover and when he doesn’t, it hits you like a bullet. Though you are expecting it, you aren’t fully prepared for it just like it happens in life. To quote a famous liquor brand: it’s your life, make it large. This is precisely what Anand teaches us. Whether we follow it or not is in our hands. So, here’s to what we have and hoping we make life just a little large.

Until next time, bye.

The Demon Inside

One of the things that I like the most about any film by David Lynch is the amount of discussion that it inspires. Since his films have many interpretations, you can go on and on about what you feel about the film. His films are like puzzles that can be solved in different ways. This makes him a very unique filmmaker. One such puzzle that Lynch served is Blue Velvet. The most memorable aspect of this great film is probably is its villain, Frank Booth. He is one of the most horrifying characters to ever be created. But I would like to talk about another aspect of the film that is sometimes overlooked.

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During the course of the relationship our protagonist has with the singer, he has feelings that scare him. And this is because he’s scared that he is capable of stuff that he didn’t know he could do. When he hits her for the first time and is upset about it, he fears that he could become into another Frank. In a way, this is what we are all afraid of. The feeling that there is darkness lurking within us and that we’re capable of evil things. In my opinion, this is what the film is about. It is about what goes on beneath the surface. Something that appears to be serene and beautiful from the outside may be harboring something evil on the inside. Well, that’s my two cents on Blue Velvet.

Until next time, bye.

Masculinity And Friendship

In this breakout film for Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn, you can find many aspects of masculinity and friendship being shown. It shows us that despite all the bravado and the swagger a man may possess, when it comes to a real friend they really care. This is shown quite beautifully in the scene where Vaughn fights for Favreau’s character. Yes it does explore the stereotype of men not wanting to show their feelings and trying to conceal them. But by showing the contrast between these two friends, we get a better understanding of the male psyche. Swingers is not a film that is funny because of the situations or dialogues that are there but rather because of the truth that is present in these scenes.

Until next time, bye.

A Satisfying Meal

As far as debuts go, there are few that are as impressive as that of Ritesh Batra. With The Lunchbox he created one of the best films of 2013. In fact, it is definitely one of the best to come out of this decade. There are a few reasons why I feel this way about the film. First, the performances of Nimrat Kaur, Irrfan Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui. While the latter has a much smaller role in comparison, he leaves a mark on the viewer. Then comes the writing. Using a lunchbox, Batra is able to tell us so much about relationships, love etc. Even though the protagonists never meet each other, the connection between them is visible to us. It makes us care about these people.

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When all these elements come together, the meal (pun intended) is bound to be satisfying. Though the characters shown here are much older than me, I could really connect with their feelings. When Nimrat Kaur yearns for some affection from her cheating husband or when Irrfan Khan is forced to contemplate the fact that he’s ageing, these are examples of how real and universal these emotions are. We have all wanted love and attention from a particular person or have looked in the mirror and been taken aback by how older we look. This isn’t a film that works only for the Indian audience but is something that people will relate to, regardless of where they are from. That may be the film’s real triumph.

Until next time, bye.

Escaping Reality

One of the many impressive aspects of Far From Heaven is how accurately it evokes the 1950s era. You can sort of guess the period in which the film is set in just by looking at a couple of scenes. The gorgeous work of DP Edward Lachmann goes a long way in transporting us to the 50s. There is so much to admire on just a visual level that we tend to forget the brilliance in the writing and performances.

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When we look at the film and the themes it explores, a common element is escape. Julianne Moore wants to escape an unhappy marriage. Dennis Quaid wants to escape from his marriage and be with a someone he loves. Dennis Haysbert wants to be escape the depressing reality of racism in 1950s America. Moore and Haysbert have a common destination but they both know that it isn’t practically possible to get there. It would have made the audience happy to see them get together but would that have really possible in real life ? It would have been easy for director Todd Haynes to give them an escape from reality but by not doing that, the impact is more heartbreaking and devastating. In a way, at the end of the film, Moore really is Far From Heaven.

Until next time, bye.

Enduring Sadness

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

The 2015 film Masaan, is one of the finest films to come out of India from any decade. For a long time, Indian cinema has been attached with a particular image that is, not reflective of the deep heritage and quality of Indian films. It is a country that has been producing great films for more than a century, but a lot of these films don’t get the attention and recognition that they deserve. To be fair, India hasn’t been completely ignored by the world but there are definitely many more films that are waiting to be discovered. Luckily Masaan was a film that the world got to see and this is important as it meant that more people got to see this brilliant film. There are many elements that make this film great – from the performances to the direction but if there is one department that stands head and shoulders above the rest, it is the writing by Varun Grover.

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This above scene is probably the finest example of the quality of the writing in the film. It comes after Deepak’s love Shaalu has died and he has had a drink for the first time in his life. Then, he utters a line that for me is one of the most poignant dialogues that I’ve heard. He says, “Yeh Dukh Kaahe Khatam Nahi Hota”. When translated, it means: why doesn’t this sadness end ? In one line, he manages to say so much about life. When you think about it, life does seem like a constant stream of sadness at times. Most of life is how you react to the dukh (sadness, problems etc.) that happens to you. So, sadness becomes something that is enduring and something we have to endure. This is a man who has had his life turned upside down and he’s kept his grief bottled up until this moment, when it becomes too much to bear. There are times when we wonder why certain things happen to us. The truth is that there is no reason or even if there is one, we haven’t found it yet. Let’s leave that to Varun Grover to explore in his next film. If you haven’t watched Masaan please do. I am sure that it will speak to you on some level.

Until next time, bye.

Connecting In An Unconnected World

There are films such as Me And Earl And The Dying Girl, where you see a part of yourself on screen. Sometimes you like what you see but more often than not, you end up questioning yourself. In many ways, today’s youth have the highest amount of confidence and at the same time have an unusually high level of self-doubt/self-hate. This dichotomy is expressed quite subtly in the film. You can see characters experiencing both ends of the spectrum. While this is certainly an angle I’d like to explore, I have to write something related to the title, don’t I ?

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Relationships between human beings are endlessly fascinating. This is because of how diverse they happen to be and how much discussion that can be had about them. Take the relationship between Greg and Rachel, it is a bond that is forced to happen. But in the end it transforms into something beautiful. It goes against everything that Greg stands for i.e. not being noticed or in other words staying unconnected. In the film, Greg describes the various groups that exist in the school and it can be considered as a microcosm of the world. Despite more ways than ever before to connect with other people, our herd mentality is still quite strong. We still like to be in small circles and make real connections with few people. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this as these connections happen very rarely and hence it’s not possible for it to happen with many people.

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But what makes the film stand out is the way in which Greg and Rachel’s relationship develops over time. The film doesn’t forget Greg’s flaws just because he’s found a friend in Rachel. It shows how, what he considers to be a virtue can be a problem sometimes. You realize when watching the story unfold how self-hate can be harmful to you and to those you love. Being in a state of self-hate is an excruciating feeling. You don’t want to be around people yet you want to be with them. You end up sabotaging your own social life. I can attest to this as I have similar feelings that Greg has. Is the moral of the story to love ourselves ? I don’t know, but the world would certainly be a better place if we hated ourselves a little less. Was that in any way related to the title ? You tell me.

Until next time, bye.

 

Oh Beautiful Nostalgia

There is a line uttered in Stand By Me right at the end, where our narrator, tells us of the friends he had when he was 12 and how it is difficult to find the same kind of friendship in life at a later stage. This got me thinking about how we use nostalgia as a source of comfort. Whenever we think of the past and if it’s something remotely nice, we end up overlooking the more unsavory parts of those memories. Take the movie for example. Despite all the problems that the boys have in their lives, they rely on their friendship to get them through life. Even if that friendship has its ups and downs, it is nonetheless that something they can look back at anytime and it will bring a smile to their face. Nostalgia also helps us understand something about life which is:

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The way to appreciate something when we are in that moment. All of us are guilty of this at various points in our lives. Sometimes when you are alone with your thoughts, your mind wanders around trying ways to fix things you know that are long gone. Well I think that’s enough of philosophy, let’s get back to the movie. This is a film that shows one aspect of teenagers that many films gloss over. It shows that no matter how close we are to someone and however important we may be to them, there is every chance of people drifting apart. This is a fine film not because of how nostalgic it makes us feel but due to the way it affects us. We see parts of ourselves in each of the boys and that makes us feel every emotion they feel. I would recommend this film to people not just for a dose of nostalgia but also to see life for what it is – a bittersweet journey.

Until next time, bye.

The Comfort Of Delusion

SPOILER ALERT

Terry Gilliam is a director who is able to distinguish himself from the crowd through the themes he chooses and the way he portrays them. While his films may not be universally appreciated, he has developed a devoted fan following over the years. I am a huge fan of him and one of his best films in my opinion is Brazil. In simple terms, it can be described as a satiric take on George Orwell’s 1984 but there are many other elements that are explored in the film that make it an absolute delight. These range from consumerism to inept bureaucrats. One of the chief aspects that Gilliam explores is just how much better it is to be in a dream like state rather than suffer in reality.

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We see our protagonist Sam Lowry go through so much during the course of the film and when it looks he may have gotten a happy ending after all, you rejoice because of the events that have happened so far. And then, the rug is pulled from under your feet. Turns out that nothing like that actually happened and Sam is left in a delusional state. What could be comforting from this you might ask. Well, there is a simple answer. It saves him from the soul crushing horrors of reality. In his mind, he and the woman he loves have escaped the totalitarian state and are embarking on a happy journey. But in reality, she has been killed and he’s been arrested. Put yourself in Sam’s shoes and think, dream or reality ? Sometimes it is good to be delusional.

Until next time, bye.

 

A Perfect Frame

SPOILER ALERT

Even with our favorite films, we remember them for a particular scene or sequence. Though we may remember the entire film, it is specific moments that are memorable and are forever entrenched in our memory. Call Me By Your Name has one such moment. It also features a bit of acting that is breathtaking and heartbreaking at the same time.

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This is the final scene of the film and it’s probably the reason why the impact of this frame is greater. Timothee Chalamet does such an incredible job of bringing out various emotions. In many ways it is a perfect scene. Everything from the soundtrack to the acting and the framing combine to create one of the most impactful closing shots of any film. Chalamet and director Luca Guadagnino are able to distill the entire story into this single frame. It is not an easy thing to do. The scene rings true with everyone because most of us would have gone through the emotions that Chalamet’s character is feeling. You are awestruck by the acting yet your heart aches because of what you are seeing. A perfect scene.

Until next time, bye.