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A Fantastic Woman – Best Of 19th Mumbai Film Festival 2017!

A Fantastic Woman (2017)

written by Souranath Banerjee

A Fantastic Woman Review: Love is an empty word without respect but the real question is how much disrespect can one endure for the sake of his/her love?

My Ratings: 4/5

A Fantastic Woman originally titled as Una Mujer Fantástica is a film directed by Sebastián Lelioone of the most prominent figures of the post-dictatorship Chilean cinema. And his latest is this years’s official submission from Chile at the 90th Annual Academy Awards for the Foreign Language Film Award!

The idea of a man who chooses to become a woman, to live and die as a woman and wishes to be loved and treated like one is something that often people cannot accept without a certain hint of prejudice. And this is the touching story of a trans-woman named Marina, a young night club singer who aspires in this brutal society to live her life with as much dignity as any other human being.

She is in relationship with an older man named Orlando (Francisco Reyes). They are happy and in love but again that doesn’t guarantee that their romantic liaison will be wholeheartedly accepted and/or respected by others, especially by Orlando’s direct family (his ex-wife and a prick of a son).

And thus after the sudden demise of Orlando, Marina has to go through a series of humiliating and degrading events that made her A Fantastic Womanfight for her self respect, her pride and also for the rights for her lost love.

Daniela Vega who is a trans-woman in real life played the central character in the film with surprising efficiency. Most of her inner strength is expressed through her eyes – a brave soul with immense determination and yet so emotionally vulnerable, ready to face all the odds for the one who she loved so dearly!

And very intelligent storytelling by director Sebastián Lelio as he keeps the film very real, not once opting for any overdramatic cliches and providing just enough information to keep the viewers hooked through the otherwise pretty straightforward linear script.

Certainly the best transgender drama of recent times; this is the story of a woman who doesn’t allow anybody to dictate terms in her life, a woman of integrity, bold yet compassionate, sensual yet devoted – yes, she is indeed a fantastic woman!

Simran Review

Simran Review

written by Souranath Banerjee

Simran Review: Kangana Ranaut is a hit but that doesn’t mean Simran (the movie) shares the same fate.

My Ratings: 3.6/5

The Bombshell Bandit: In mid 2014 a young girl of Indian origin wearing a wig and over-sized sunglasses, and pretending to be wiredSimran-Review with bombs went on a five-week crime spree robbing four banks across three U.S. states (Arizona, California, and Utah), until finally she was arrested and taken into custody. Her name was Sandeep Kaur, who was a nurse by profession, a gambler by avocation and a bank robber out of desperation!

Now, in the movie Simran the character of this daring girl played by Kangana Ranaut has got a new identity, being called Praful Patel, her profession also altered to a housekeeping-lady and then with plenty of obvious dramatics tossed in – we are finally introduced to this bizarre tale of the lipstick bandit (yup, bandit-name modified too).

Directed by acclaimed Hansal Mehta, written by Apurva Asrani (and may be Kangana Ranaut too!) the film Simran is a women-centric movie perfectly balanced on the petite but confident and able Simran-Reviewshoulders of the lead actress, none other than three times National award winner Kangana Ranaut!

And this time (again) she is remarkable to watch, her transformation to a typical NRI Gujarati girl enjoying her independent Amreeki lifestyle is simply flawless. Her zeal for life, her intensity to fight back, her yearning to live life to the fullest and most importantly her flaws and deficits – is what makes the film worth watching (that too no comparison with her performance as Rani from Queen).

But then the real question creeps in – does the other characters or even the script of Simran match up to her brilliance? Honestly no!

Often a movie gets stuck midway in-between a sensitive drama and a commercial comedy flick and unfortunately that’s exactly what has happened in this case.

Stereotypical characters, certain forced dramatic dialogues, the abrupt unnecessary need of comic reliefs with funny background Simran-Reviewscores – such absurdities takes away the film far from what could have been an incredibly emotional film.

Sohum Shah as the potential husband was decent, surely far better than the ever-fuming dad Hiten Shah or any other secondary characters.

The songs in the film doesn’t make much impact neither does any particular set of visuals, overall a decent flick that seems to be made purely to promote the sheer brilliance of one lead actor.

If only the movie Simran could have emphasized more on the reality of the true emotions – the anguish, the torment and the helplessness of the characters rather than awkwardly trying to please the Bollywood crowd with a happy end.

If only films like Dancer in the Dark (2000) were made in our country, not necessarily dark or tragic to that extent but at least true to its intent and content. I wish …

Poster courtesy: www.imdb.com, Simran Facebook Page.

Trapped (2017)

Trapped Review

written by Souranath Banerjee

Up above the sky so high, invisible to the world, you cry, whisper and sigh!   

My Ratings: 4.1/5

When was the last time you were in a spot where there was no food and water – like literally – ultimate survival crisis – and you have to hunt animals for food and go ‘Morarji-Desai’ for your drink?

I know what you will say – that such extreme situations are only for the celluloid; like the shipwrecked Tom Hanks in Cast Away, marooned in an island with no company other than the mute round-faced Wilson; then there was this young James Franco who accidentally put his leg in-between some boulders and sat stuck Trapped-Poster-5alone for 127 Hours. I think WALL·E also did a decent job, forlorned up in the space – but then, he didn’t get much hungry or thirsty, if you know what I mean!

Now what if someone gets ‘trapped’ in an apartment, an ordinary flat in a multystored and otherwise uninhabited building, right in the middle of the concrete urban jungle (say around Mumbai’s Prabhadevi area); cooped up for days, without food, water, phone or electricity, entirely cut off from the outer world – with a birds-eye view of the entire city but still invisible to everyone!

This is exactly what happened to Shaurya (Rajkummar Rao), when he by a twist of fate gets locked inside an apartment in a high-rise, without any hope of ever getting rescued!

Trapped-Poster-1And the most scary part in the film comes from the sensation that it can actually happen to any of us so called ‘city-people’ out here!

Salute to the writers Amit Joshi and Hardik Mehta for such a brilliant idea and script. And then what a marvellous ‘jugalbandhi’ from director Vikramaditya Motwane and performer Rajkummar Rao!

National Award winning actor Rajkummar Rao was outstanding in the film. The combination of Rao’s boy-next-door looks and his brilliant portrayal of someone desperate for survival is what makes the film so real.

And for director Mr.Motwane, with only one character to tell his story, that too pinned in one location, he still managed to successfully Trapped-Poster-3grasp the attention of the audience till the very end!

Another very interesting human psychology portrayed in the film is that, when someone is in the brink of possible extinction, it is the general human tendency to discover an unfamiliar longing for some of the most banal things in their lives.

For example in the film, Shaurya trapped for days, often hallucinating from stress and malnourishment, never desired or yearned for anything particularly unique or remarkable. Rather he wished to relive those regular day to day events; his journey to the office in those overcrowded Mumbai local trains packed with sweaty co-passengers, those crammed up buses with irritating conductors, a simple plate of pav-bhaji with a dash of butter on top – in the time of an inevitable Trapped-Poster-4catastrophe the most ordinary things from our life become so special and desirable!

Geetanjali Thapa, in the short role as the love of Shaurya’s life was commendable, though honestly I thought her character wasn’t really required in the film other than the simple incentive for Shaurya to hunt for a place.

Siddharth Diwan‘s cinematography makes the film look very real while Nitin Baid‘s editing keeps it crisp and to the point. Alokananda Dasgupta‘s music works well, very subtle and used only when required. 

I just thank God, Shaurya has musophobia (fear of rats) and not vertigo (fear of heights), or else, it would have all gone down pretty worse!

Poster courtesy: www.moviescut.com

Elle (2016) – BEST OF 18TH JIO MAMI MUMBAI FILM FESTIVAL 2016!

Elle review.

written by Souranath Banerjee

If a rape victim desires to return to the act itself, then the next time, does she still remain a victim?

My Ratings: 4/5

Quality erotic thrillers are hard to find but then Basic Instinct director Paul Verhoeven often comes to our rescue.

elle-reviewHis latest French thriller Elle was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and also has already won the Golden Globe Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language and the lead Isabelle Huppert won for the Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama!  

The film starts with a disturbing rape scene that makes the audience uncomfortable enough but then the alarming normality maintained by the ‘victim’ as she continues to perform her daily routine becomes even more disturbing. Why doesn’t she complain about her violation? How can she be so inert about her abuse? Does she know the attacker or will she track him down?

Multiple relations and several interesting plot lines crisscross their paths, and one has to admire the Dutch director’s subtle use of comedy throughout the movie, but then again, the erotic undercurrent is what makes the film so special!

elle-reviewAnd of course Isabelle Huppert‘s brilliant performance!

Actually “Elle” means “She” and so the whole film is seen from the perspective of the central character Michèle and Isabelle Huppert simply owns the part. Her beautiful, sexy looks, her cold and courageous character, her raw animal desires and her level of supreme confidence – no doubt she is the spine of this film.

Though according to me the ending of the film doesn’t justify her character at all but then again a performance to cherish for sure.

Based on the novel “Oh…” by Philippe Djian, I think the best compliment for this film would be that it feels very much like a Michael Haneke film, a lighter version may be with a hint of comedy in it!

Poster courtesy: www.impawards.com.

La La Land (2016)

La La Land review

written by Souranath Banerjee

A Classic is born and it will make you sing and fall in love all over again!

My Ratings: 4.3/5

The original 1953 20th Century Fox logo reappears on the big la- la-land-posterscreen and makes it seem even bigger, and then the magic begins!

Yes, the resurrection of the old Hollywood charm, that feeling when the white shoes start tapping in rhythm and the dialogues metamorphose into soothing songs – the sheer magic of experiencing a musical, an odd combination of a modern classic!

And you are lost in the darkness of the theatre, well suspended on your disbeliefs, wondering in a world so full of love and dulcet melodies, absorbed in the sheer beauty of brilliantly choreographed, colourful, talking Cinema!

“How are you gonna be a revolutionary if you’re such a traditionalist? You hold onto the past, but jazz is about the future.”

Director Damien Chazelle‘s love for Jazz was pretty evident in his previous film Whiplash but this time he makes a more definite statement – a desperate effort to save Jazz!

And thus he join hands with Ryan Gosling who learns to play piano like a professional just for this film, and then Gosling’s chemistry la- la-land-poster1with Emma Stone (undoubtedly one of the best actresses at present) is just so sublime! When they dance looking at each other’s eyes – that’s a major part of the ‘magic’ in the film that I was talking about earlier!

Long song and dance sequences masterfully choreographed that takes Justin Hurwitz‘s music to another level; great camera work and colour play by Linus Sandgren and crisp editing by Tom Cross. But again along with superlative directional capabilities thanks to Damien Chazelle‘s brilliantly written love story!

Recommended only for those who adore Jazz, Musicals, Ryan GoslingEmma StoneDamien Chazelle and powerful Cinema!

P.S – Oscar winner J.K. Simmons makes a guest appearance where he seems to hate good music!

Poster courtesy: www.impawards.com.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2016)

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk review

written by Souranath Banerjee

Rather than labelling it as an ‘anti-war film’ let’s say it is an emotional tale of war and the warriors! 

My Ratings: 3.9/5

Crouching Tiger, Hidden DragonBrokeback MountainLust, CautionLife of Pi – there is one man who is behind all these masterpieces, the acclaimed Chinese director Ang Lee!

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk reviewAnd it’s a war film! Well, actually a more sophisticated version of a war movie where the aftermath of the battle takes up the centre stage.

Based on the novel by Ben Fountain and screenplay by Jean-Christophe Castelli, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk essentially revolves around 19-year-old Billy Lynn, a war hero, retuning home from Iraq on a victory tour with his entire squad (the survivors of the gruesome war). 

His memories and flashbacks of the battlefield, his personal heroic efforts and the lives lost in the combat – these are the crux of the film, put across through a superbly knitted nonlinear storyline.

Through John Toll‘s brilliant visuals and Tim Squyres innovative back and forth editing, no doubt Ang Lee has told his story in style!

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk reviewBut then again the performances make the 1h 53min film such a delight to watch; especially debutant Joe Alwyn who played Billy Lynn was incredibly natural!

Then of course we have brilliant actors like Garrett HedlundSteve MartinChris TuckerKristen StewartVin DieselBeau Knapp among others who have perfectly balanced the film. 

The only thing that bothered me was that it was a bit too vocal, like every emotion was spoken out in elaborate sentences loud and clear for the audience!

Then again Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is definitely a Cinema worth your time, highly emotional and also a cinematic achievement since it is the first film to be shot at 120 frame rate!

Poster courtesy: www.impawards.com.

The Salesman (2016) – Best of 18th JIO MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2016!

The Salesman review

written by Souranath Banerjee

 A Cinema that tends to alter the definition of ‘Justice’! 

My Ratings: 4.3/5

Is Cinema only a medium for entertainment? As a filmmaker how much social responsibility one is ready to accept? How successful is a film in depicting a certain time, an era, a place and its people and their circumstances? How close is it to reality?

Surprisingly enough a few filmmakers still reflects on these aspects of Cinema and takes upon the burden to create something that represents a particular culture and also the people bound by it.

Asghar Farhadi is one such filmmaker, who in his films not only portrays his country Iran in the true light but also delves in such depths of human psychology that the characters in his films become The Salesman reviewalive and their problems unique yet genuine and tangible for the whole world!

After making a brilliant film like A Separation (for which he won an Oscar) it’s difficult to create something at per or even better, but Asghar Farhadi has accomplished that impossible! The acclaimed Iranian writer/director who has given such amazing movies like About EllyFireworks Wednesday and The Past is ready to woo us with his latest – The Salesman; original title – Forushande.

A simple plot to start with – soon after the couple Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti) gets shifted to a new neighbourhood Rana gets assaulted by a mysterious stranger. She doesn’t have enough courage to go to the police, and neither does her husband. But Emad being a man with his ego and pride wants justice and desperately looks for the stranger responsible for turning their lives upside down. And finally … ok, you better now watch the movie!

But by the end of the film I am sure you will question the real meaning of ‘Justice being served’.

Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman’ is being intelligently used as a backdrop of The Salesman, a unique way to create a layer of The Salesman reviewadditional drama on the current plot.

Even there is reference of another famous play – ‘Cow’ by Gholam Hossein Saedi. “How does a man become a cow?” – “gradually”. This dialogues have a profound inner meaning on the characters in the film.

Even the status and obligations of women in Iran is being interpreted in such subtle yet profound manners throughout the film.

An exceptional team effort where every department of filmmaking comes together and creates something magical. Winner of ‘best actor’ and ‘best screenplay’ award at Cannes 2016 and according to me the ‘best actress’ award was also very much deserving.

In a way a satire that too on a very serious note on the current Iranian social structure, The Salesman is an Iranian Cinema that will soon be termed as a classic. Watch it!

Poster courtesy: www.imdb.com.

The Neon Demon Review

The Neon Demon Review

written by Souranath Banerjee

Blinding colour contrasts, a beautiful world so filled with blood and gory!   

My Ratings: 3.9/5

When you are watching a Nicolas Winding Refn film, be it the slick and classy Ryan Gosling starrer Drive (2011) or Tom Hardy‘s loud and insane performance in and as Bronson (2008); there is always something to expect, something quite out of the ordinary.

neon-demon-posterAnd even in his latest movie The Neon Demon, Mr.Refn haven’t let us down for sure.

This time he presents the unique story of ‘beauty’ and then he introduces the ‘beast’ as well, portraying the dementia and delirium that lurks behind the glitz and glamour of the fashion world!

16 year old Jesse (Elle Fanning), new to Los Angeles fashion circuit quickly manages to climb the ropes to become one of the top models making her competitors jealous and insecure. And they will do anything to get back in the game, to compete with Jesse’s spark and youth!

And before you realise, the film The Neon Demon changes from a story of a pretty vulnerable girl looking for stardom to something unimaginably horrific – often surreal but almost always effectively neon-demon-poster1disturbing.

Acting performances are top notch, specially for young Elle Fanning and Jena Malone, whose transformations in the film are simply brilliant!

Even Christina HendricksBella HeathcoteAbbey LeeDesmond Harrington demands attention. Even if you see Keanu Reeves in the film – stay calm.

Natasha Braier must be credited for the brilliance of the colour, tone and ambiance of the whole film – the feel of a brutal fantasy, a savage dream from which there is no waking up!

The Neon Demon essentially revolves around the idea of human obsession with natural beauty. Unique style and treatment, disturbingly beautiful, but then again not recommended for everybody.

Poster courtesy: www.impawards.com.

The Wailing (2016)

The Wailing Review

written by Souranath Banerjee

A bit too long for a horror film and yet, it still manages to grip you by the fear! 

My Ratings: 4/5

There was a soaring anticipation for this latest horror flick made by the acclaimed South Korean filmmaker Hong-jin Na who had earlier given us a couple of brilliant movies like The Chaser and The Yellow Sea!  

the-wailing-poster1And I must say The Wailing (original title Goksung) surely lives up to our expectations!

In a remote village a series of unnatural deaths perplex both the villagers and the police.

Jong-Goo (Do Won Kwak), a police man soon suspects something beyond ordinary logic and reasoning; may be the rumours of a demonic stranger who have started residing near the village has to do something with all these grotesque murders. Or may be not!

Essentially a Korean folk lore and a mix of various religious beliefs and rituals, The Wailing creates a world so puzzling and disturbing the-wailing-posterthat we keep seeking for the answers till the very end frames of the film.

Visually pleasing or rather unsettling; dark images, often pretty violent and savage perfect for the mood of the film – thanks to Kyung-pyo Hong‘s cinematography.

And such brilliant acting – very believable performances by Do Won KwakJun Kunimura,  Jung-min Hwang, specially the little girl Hwan-hee Kim was superb in the film.

A must watch suspense-horror that reveals itself when you least expect it!    

Poster courtesy: www.impawards.com.

Swiss Army Man (2016)

Swiss Army Man Review

written by Souranath Banerjee

A bit over-glorified but then again, certainly the most eccentric film of this year! 

My Ratings: 3.6/5

Some films have pretty weird storylines (in Hollywood standard) but a rare few can really define the word ‘weird’ in its true context, and Swiss Army Man is one such film.

A young man named Hank (Paul Dano) gets stranded in an island all alone – yup, exactly like Tom Hanks in Cast Away but instead of a swiss-army-man-posterfloating Volleyball named Wilson, Hank gets a farting dead-body named Manny (Daniel Radcliffe)!

A dead-body who soon starts talking!

But then again, Manny is not just any ordinary talking-dead-body.

He is an unique multipurpose friendly-body who farts away on water like a speed-boat, his penis can be used as a compass, his fingers for lighting fire, his vomit as pure drinking water and he can also spit out things with superhuman velocity!

Didn’t I tell you in the beginning that this would be a very weird 1hr 37 min journey?

And so, Manny the super talented dead-body gets very friendly with Hank and tries his best to make Hank survive and return to swiss-army-man-poster1humanity or what we in general refer to as the ‘normal’!

Being a satire on our current society, writer/director duo Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert through their over the top loud gags and often pretty gross comic situations does manage to give us some deep imbedded messages through their film Swiss Army Man

Acting is superb, specially of Daniel Radcliffe as the dead body!

Imaginative, often really humorous and even cinematic, overall, Swiss Army Man is a film that embraces the absurdity and irrationality around us and makes us question and redefine our current social scenario (to some extent).

A decent one time watch if you can survive the repetitive dead-farts till the end!

Poster courtesy: www.impawards.com.