Category Archives: Film Reviews (International)

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

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!

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.

Manchester by the Sea (2016) – BEST OF 18TH JIO MAMI MUMBAI FILM FESTIVAL 2016!

Manchester by the Sea review

written by Souranath Banerjee

A film so full of joy and sorrow, a sea of emotions and so very real!

My Ratings: 4.2/5

Certain films stay with us much longer than expected – like those few silly innocent moments of childhood, like a faded perfume of some beloved or like the sudden news of death of someone close to us.

Yes, writer/director Kenneth Lonergan‘s latest Manchester by the Sea is one such film that makes you relate and recollect to something deeper in yourself, a soul-stirring experience much more than manchester-by-the-sea-poster1just some characters stuck in a movie.  

It’s the story of Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) who unexpectedly becomes the legal guardian of his teenage nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges) after the sudden death of Lee’s brother Joe Chandler (Kyle Chandler).

A relatively simple storyline but uniquely layered and put together with sufficient expertise. Creditable both on the writing level as well as for it’s superb editing style. The whole movie goes back and forth in between the present and the past, and thanks to editor Jennifer Lame, the experience is both genuine and emotional.

In the acting department this is undoubtedly Casey Affleck‘s best performance till date. I wish he gets all the awards this year for his flawless portrayal of an irresponsible loner afraid of any kind of commitments in life.

Michelle Williams (small yet memorable performance)Lucas HedgesKyle Chandler and child artist Ben O’Brien simply adds more value to the film, superb performances.

And on top of that Lesley Barber‘s soulful music and Jody Lee Lipes moody cinematography makes Manchester by the Sea an experience you don’t want to miss.

So, don’t you dare miss it!

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.