Category Archives: Film Reviews (International)

Reviews of films made out of India, anywhere across the globe.

Call Me by Your Name – BEST OF 19TH MUMBAI FILM FESTIVAL 2017!

Call Me by Your Name (2017)

written by Souranath Banerjee

Call Me by Your Name Review: Intoxicatingly romantic, intensely erotic and definitely the best ‘Coming-of-age love story’ of our time! 

My Ratings: 4.3/5

‘Sexual awakening’ is a tried and tested theme and some brilliant movies in the past like Moonlight and Blue Is the Warmest Color have portrayed the typical indecisiveness of the young curious mind in the most engaging and cinematic ways possible.

But then Call Me by Your Name though delving with the similar adolescent dilemma hits the audience as the fresh morning air and takes away our breath by the sheer beauty and subtleness of the story and its charming characters!

Set in early 1980, surrounded by the dreamy countryside of Northern Italy, stands a picturesque villa in the midst of lush green valleys, fruit orchards and blue lagoons, and there blooms an illicit love story – an irresistible chemistry between a seventeen year old boy and a man in his mid twenties that finally oozes into one of the most emotionally captivating relationships painted on celluloid!

‘Call me by your name and I’ll call you by mine.’ 

Elio (Timothée Chalamet) the young son of an archeology professor meets Oliver (Armie Hammer), a handsome American graduate student, who visits as an intern for the summer – and those six weeks Call-Me-by-Your-Nameof summer changes their lives forever. Especially Elio’s as the story is being told mostly from his perspective – not only does he discover love but he also reinvents himself.

Now the genius of director Luca Guadagnino (famous for the films I Am Love and A Bigger Splash) is not only in unfolding passion in the most lucid and eloquent manner (almost as if in slow motion) but also for treating the characters with electric erotism and yet never being carried away to the extent of indelicacy.

Never objectifying the central characters, never categorising their desires (both the leading men are shown with relationships with women as well), titillating but always with an uncanny sense of Call-Me-by-Your-Namespontaneous sophistication – both James Ivory (writer) and Luca Guadagnino (director) have adopted André Aciman‘s novel and made it into something very special and ageless!

And kudos to the exceptional performances by Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet – they have managed to perfectly portray the volatility of their relationship. And a special mention to Michael Stuhlbarg specially for his brilliant father-son dialogue delivery towards the end of the movie. Classic!

Poetic, alluring and ageless, as beautiful as the nude Greek male torsos that keep appearing in the film at regular intervals – probably the symbol for the eternal signature of love and passion.

Certainly one of the best films of the year!

Poster courtesy: www.imdb.com

MOTHER! – BEST OF 19TH MUMBAI FILM FESTIVAL 2017!

Mother! (2017)

written by Souranath Banerjee

Mother! Review: What on earth is happening and why doesn’t God do anything to stop these talented directors from going rogue in the name of symbolism? – there goes your cryptic God-Mother Earth theory!

My Ratings: 3.5/5

Mother! is one of the most talked about film of this year with extreme reviews from both the audience and the critics, extreme positives and extreme negatives!

Then the poster says ‘The most controversial movie in decades’ and you think why are these people trying to sell a Darren Aronofsky film by just hi-lighting on its controversiality aspect? Not as a brilliant horror film, or as a superb thriller or mystery or drama – but simply as ‘most controversial’. And then you watch the film and realise that the poor marketing people didn’t have much of a choice!

The story of a woman (Jennifer Lawrence), who wants to be a mother and eventually becomes one with the help of HIM (her partner Javier Bardem).  But in between, a number of guests appear at their house, all uninvited (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer to start with) and from there the film plunges into sheer catastrophe portrayed through a series of unimaginably horrific experiences that – let me see how to put it without giving away much details – that Mother!-Reviewtakes away all her fun of being a mother!

Now it’s difficult to merely narrate the plot of a movie like Mother! without wrapping it up into various symbolic metaphors. It is so uniquely chaotic and absurd for the real world (hopefully a caricature of the real world itself) that even while watching the film you constantly look for some allegorical inklings and eventually when you connect to the Biblical symbolisms which at certain points are pretty much on your face  – you finally feel at home and buckle up to absorb the rest of the gore and insanity!

Acting wise pretty decent performances by all, specially the supporting characters Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer are terrific! Bardem though given much less screen time makes his presence felt and Jennifer Lawrence – her naivety and helplessness somehow reflects the anxiety of the audience – it’s like ‘why is this happening to me’ and this feeling doesn’t leave you till the very end of the film!

The one thing I really appreciate is the cinematography of Matthew Libatique that creates a certain earthy Mother!-Reviewmood that is essential for the movie. The repeated close-up shots of the Mother character makes us feel what she is going through, we desperately try to relate with her inner turmoils.

I have been a big fan of director Darren Aronofsky‘s previous works – the likes of Requiem for a DreamThe WrestlerBlack Swan and Pi and they are all psychologically disturbing to certain extents but for me his latest film is a bit too deliberate an attempt to create uneasiness – it’s like forcefully pushing a certain riddle/cipher through the audience’s throat than actually trying to create quality Cinema! 

A film that you may like or dislike but certainly it will make you think and discuss and figure out what the hell did you just watch! May be Mother! was destined to be neither good nor bad but simply controversial. Fair enough!

Poster courtesy: www.imdb.com

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!

Poster courtesy: www.imdb.com

Loving Vincent – Best Of 19th Mumbai Film Festival 2017!

Loving Vincent (2017)

written by Souranath Banerjee

Loving Vincent Review: Only on a few rare occasions when the visuals of a film enthrall you to such an extent that you gaily forgive the banality of the storyline! 

My Ratings: 4/5

Loving Vincent is the world’s first fully painted feature using oils on canvas!

A team of total 125 classically trained professional artists created 65,000 frames that finally resulted into 853 different oil paintings, each of them hand-painted using Van Gogh’s iconic style and technique!

Loving-Vincent-reviewAnd the result is irresistibly disarming; watching your favorite Van Gogh masterpieces coming to life in front of your very eyes is more like a dream (that you didn’t know you always had in your subconscious) coming true!

The plot concerns with an unopened letter from Vincent Van Gogh (the artist’s final letter) for his brother Theo, that needs to be delivered by a not so keen young man named Armand Roulin. Armand finds his traveling to Auvers-sure-Oise for the sake of this one-year-old-letter utterly pointless since he soon comes to know that both Vincent and Theo are dead!

But then once arriving at the village where Van Gogh used to reside till his last day, knowing the place and the people, Armand becomes fascinated by the life and death of the troubled Dutch painter! Did he really shot himself as most of them are convinced or was he murdered?

Overall decent acting performances by Douglas Booth, Eleanor TomlinsonSaoirse RonanJerome FlynnHelen McCroryChris O’Dowd and Robert Gulaczyk (who played Van Gogh) but then honestly neither the actors nor the storyline of Loving Vincent will keep you engrossed till the end. What does is the remarkable dedication of directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman and their team who over a period of 10 years have managed to breath life into some of the most popular paintings by the acclaimed impressionist of the 19th century!   

Well complemented by Clint Mansell‘s soulful music, 120 of Vincent Van Gogh’s finest works have been integrated into this amazing film!

Loving-Vincent-reviewFirstly the actors performed the whole movie in-front of the green-screen, their action turned into black outlines which was then projected into the artist’s painting-boards where they painted the full scenes using Van Gogh’s paintings as references. These paintings then photographed and put in-sequence, and then edited to create the final magic!

Probably the slowest form of film-making but I must say it certainly is the most satisfying visual experience ever!

If you are a fan of Cinema, a fan of Art, a fan of Van Gogh, or a combination of any of these three – you better go watch Loving Vincent!

Similar Interest: Mr.Turner (2014) Review

Poster courtesy: www.imdb.com

The Florida Project – Best Of 19th Mumbai Film Festival 2017!

The Florida Project (2017)

written by Souranath Banerjee

The Florida Project Review: You know a film is unique when it makes you sit up and look at your surroundings and rediscover the people around you!

My Ratings: 4.4/5

To depict realism through the art of Cinema and that too portraying the ordinary lives of the common people without a hint of any dull or preachy moments is always a tough job; only a few rare movies have achieved this special feat with such perfection as The Florida Project!

A series of low-priced hotels lined up just on the outskirts of the prime attraction of Florida – the Disney World. And the movie concentrates on the people living in these hotels, no not the tourists looking for cheap accommodations but the working class who have managed to turn these inexpensive rooms into their permanent home!

The-Florida-ProjectHome for those families who are on the edge of the social ladder desperate to make their ends meet, keep their jobs, pay their rents and have fun once in a while like everyone else!

Set over the duration of one summer, acclaimed director Sean Baker (of Tangerine fame) manages to knit a beautiful story around a group of children who stay in one of such hotels called the ‘The Magic Castle motel’. These kids are hilariously wacky, mischievous and street-smart, so full of life and yet very much aware of its harsh realities.

Among these kids the film concentrates on one particular young girl Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) and narrates such an engaging humane tale of compassion, friendship, desperation and most importantly the desire to survive The-Florida-Projectthrough all odds!

And then there is the hotel manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe) who though trying his best to be strict and professional finds it difficult to effectively detach himself from his tenants and their complicated life stories.

Colorful tones through out the movie, well captured by cinematographer Alexis Zabe.

Absolutely outstanding acting displays, especially by the kids Brooklynn PrinceValeria Cotto and Christopher Rivera – personally I don’t remember when the last time I have seen such natural performances by children!

And then fixing on debutant Bria Vinaite for the mother’s role is probably the best casting choice of this decade, she is incredible! Even Mela Murder The-Florida-Project(her debut film) and Karren Karagulian (a long time collaborator with Sean Baker films) played their parts to perfection.

But the best part of The Florida Project is that the film neither tries to victimize nor romanticize the characters or their situations. It’s too tempting for such movies to take the sympathetic route or become unnecessarily idealistic, but here lies the brilliance of Sean Baker – he maintained a perfect balance and portrayed the reality in its purest form possible!

The Florida Project is charming as well as heartbreaking, a fun-film and yet a highly emotional experience. Overall an absolute gem, and a must watch!    

Poster courtesy: www.imdb.com

Silence (2016)

Silence Review

written by Souranath Banerjee

A film apparently waiting to be made for the last two decades; is it really worth the wait?

My Ratings: 4/5

Finally Martin Scorsese unfolds his latest, his so called ‘passion project’, and his third religion-based movie after The Last silence-reviewTemptation of Christ in 1988 and Kundun in 1997. And it’s an absolute beauty!

I pray but I am lost. Am I just praying to silence?’

Adopted from Shûsaku Endô‘s novel by the same name, it’s a tale about two Jesuit missionaries Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garupe (Adam Driver) who travel all the way to Japan to confirm the fact that one of their mentors, Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) has publicly denounced God!

‘The moment you set foot in that country, you step into high danger.’

An eternal conflict about faith, religion and theology that seems to have no conclusive ending, or may be there is one?

silence-reviewThe film manifests some top notch performances specially by Andrew Garfield who is undoubtedly the most promising young actor of recent times!

Adam Driver is also superb and Liam Neeson as the wise controversial Father excels without fail. Even the Japanese cast Yôsuke KubozukaShin’ya TsukamotoTadanobu AsanoIssei Ogata and Yoshi Oida – they all have made their presence felt in the film.

Rodrigo Prieto does wonders shooting the mysterious foggy outdoors of Japan, and three times Oscar winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker creates magic with the images!

silence-poster2And composer duo Kathryn Kluge and Kim Allen Kluge truly do justice to the score of Silence.

Surprisingly non-commercial, even a bit too arty and poetic contrary to Scorsese’s usual raw, gritty and direct approach but then again it’s a 2h 41min of absolute visual brilliance.

It so much reminds you of Akira Kurosawa‘s work, not only because of Japan being the backdrop but also for the overall treatment and space used throughout the film.

‘I worry, they value these poor signs of faith more than faith itself. But how can we deny them?’

The premiere of Silence was held at the Vatican; and for me it matches up to be one of the best films directed by Scorsese till date – ‘Sometimes silence is the deadliest sound.’ 

Poster courtesy: www.impawards.com.

Lion (2016)

Lion Review

written by Souranath Banerjee

 A passionate narrative that celebrates both emotions and technology at the same time!

My Ratings: 4.1/5

80,000 children go missing in India every year never again to be reunited with their families, unfortunate indeed.

But then how many of these lost children are fortunate enough to get adopted by some kind-hearted couple from Tasmania, who are lion-poster1not only willing to give them their family name, but also enough love and affection, education and freedom to relive their own lives?

Well, Saroo a kid from rural India who loves Jalebis, happened to be one such unfortunate, yet fortunate soul!

At the age of five an unintentional train journey took him to an unknown city, alone in the streets, miserable and hungry, missing his family, and on the verge of getting exploited. But then, he survives, was sent to an orphanage and from there taken for adoption by Brierley family from Tasmania!

The first half of Saroo’s tale is dramatic enough to be made into a motion picture but the story doesn’t end there!

lion-posterAfter 25 years Saroo decides to find his roots, his village, his people, his family – he comes back to India in search of his brother and mother!

Exceptional performance by Dev Patel as Saroo, supposedly he had spent eight months preparing for his role! But more surprising was debutant Sunny Pawar‘s role, who played the part of young Saroo and stole the show!

Then of course Nicole Kidman (a great come back for her), David Wenham and Rooney Mara all made their presence felt. The Indian actors – Tannishtha ChatterjeeNawazuddin SiddiquiDeepti NavalKoushik SenAbhishek Bharate all shined in their cameos. But again the performance of Priyanka Bose as Saroo’s mother deserves a special mention, she is so natural yet subtle!

lion-poster2Brilliantly shot by Greig Fraser and edited by Alexandre de Franceschi. And also well complemented by the music of Volker Bertelmann and Dustin O’Halloran.

Since Saroo used Google Earth to try and locate his origins, Google have helped in the production of the film and gave the crew satellite imagery access and other technical support.

Director Garth Davis‘s Lion will remind you of Slumdog Millionaire but then for me it’s an entirely different treatment and story, after all it’s based on a true story!

P.S. – But why does the film named ‘Lion‘? Well, for a very good reason but you have to watch it to find it out!

Poster courtesy: www.impawards.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.

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Nocturnal Animals review

written by Souranath Banerjee

A film entirely based on performances and awesome editing!   

My Ratings: 3.9/5

There’s a very interesting dialogue in the film that says ‘When someone loves you, you have to be careful with it!’ I think it applies to Cinema as well!

I mean when a film starts good, interesting characters and situations that quickly grab our attention, and a certain level of anticipation Nocturnal Animals reviewbuilds up – but at this point the director has to be ‘careful’ with his film. The ending if not delivered as per expectation can hurt the feelings of the audience.

Nocturnal Animals is one such crime drama that grips you right away with it’s unique nonlinear story telling but then by the end, the film tends to loose it’s excitement.

A woman reads a book manuscript written by her ex-husband while she ponders upon her relationships. Often brutal and painful, the script adopted from Austin Wright‘s novel is very real and told in style.

Some directors have a valour for the art of parallel editing, that is telling multiple stories together and ace fashion-designer turned director Tom Ford definitely have set an example of that technique in this film. The way he along with his editor Joan Sobel have played Nocturnal Animals reviewwith the time line of the film – switching back and forth between the fiction and reality, and also the past and present with recurring time jumps and match cuts is definitely commendable. 

Pretty realistic performances by Amy AdamsJake GyllenhaalMichael Shannon and especially by Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the lawless, conscienceless wicked soul.

Abel Korzeniowski‘s music gives the film the needed anchor that connects and binds the multiple stories together.

But I only wish that as an audience I could get as involved as Amy Adams while reading her ex husband’s novel till the very end.

A good one time watch though, specially if you want to learn some cool editing! 

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.