Whenever a casual moviegoer decides he wants to spend more quality time at the movies, he would want to separate the good from the bad, and would invariably at some point of time turn to movie lists to help him do that. But also, as the time spent watching films increases, one would also observe that rating movies and preparing lists is absurd. Indeed, like the great director Kubrick said, it is imperative that one watches everything in order to build a strong film vocabulary. Standard and well respected film lists such as the recently released Sight and Sound List 2012, and its past incarnations, tend to have, irrespective of the position the film is awarded, more or less the same films. And like Roger Ebert notes, in the current DVD and internet age, almost all of the films in these lists are widely available.
Apart from these films, there are indeed a lot of good films, that go to film festivals across the globe, win awards, and then, are forgotten. The Hindu is an Indian English daily, and is one of the most read, and most respected dailies in India. Every friday and sunday, the newspaper dishes out supplementaries called ‘The Friday Review’ and ‘Cinema Plus’ respectively. Through these supplementaries, one gets to know about a lot of independent films, Indian in origin, that, like I said, go to film festivals, win awards, and then are forgotten. Off the top of my memory, here are some of those films, ‘Kshaya’, ‘Supermen of Malegoan’, ‘Me and my Sister’, ‘Shuttlecock Boys’.
The main idea behind this article and the new category of articles named after this article, is that I hope to present under this category, movies that are lesser known, but nevertheless deserve your attention. They come from a wide variety of genres and languages, although,I suspect one might not find a lot of horror.
Also I am an evolving moviegoer, and therefore, any movies that readers might care to suggest are also welcome. I hope that this endeavour could make some of my readers care enough to take the trouble of checking these movies out. And if they liked these movies, they could also take the trouble to suggest these movies to their friends. All this could add to very little, but like Mother Theresa noted, the ocean would be lesser without that little drop.
I begin by presenting three movies, all of which, I have seen on the UTV World Movies television channel. Before the movies, I’d like to say a few words about this unusual TV channel. A regular TV channel would bombard its viewers with so many advertisements that by the time they get back onto the movie, the audience is on a different emotional state from the one it had been before leaving the movie for the advertisements. And this is important because, to experience a movie the way its director would want you to, you’d have to be in that particular emotional state the director wants you to be in to comprehend the scene correctly. Once you are out of that particular state, your movie experience is, so to speak, curtailed. The UTV World Movies channel is different from the rest of the pack because it airs just one advertisement during those intervals. And the intervals too are not too many. And so, you will not be out of that particular emotional state, the director wants you to be in, and so, you are going to have a uncurtailed movie experience. I guess it is now time we move on to the movies.
Autumn Spring (Czech) (2001)
The first is the 2001 Czech film ‘Autumn Spring’, also known as ‘Autumn Summer’, and the original Czech title is ‘Babi Léto’. Directed by Vladimír Michálek and starring Vlastimil Brodský in his last film role, the movie presents two contrasting approaches to old age , asking us if once, we become old, we resign and wait for death to consume us, or if we just wouldn’t care. The movie indeed makes a strong case for the latter, and also says that the moment you resign, you are more dead than alive.
Vlastimil Brodský plays Frantisek, or Fanda, as he is fondly called, and his friend Eda (Stanislav Zindulka), both well into their seventies, take pleasure in conning real estate agents into believing they are rich clients interested in purchasing properties. Pretending to be patrol officers on a metro station, they also con young women into kissing them for not having tickets. Both friends do not want to think of death, they just want to enjoy their lives.
Contrasting Fanda’s approach to old age, his wife Emilie (Stella Zázvorková) saves their pension money and often visits and cleans a grave their son had purchased second-hand for their funeral. She also goes so far as to have her own say in the obituary column that would be put after her death. The director tells us a simple story brought to life by its veteran actors. By the time the movie was over, I became so fond of this old acting pair, that I was disheartened to learn that Brodský had actually committed suicide less than a year after this film’s release.
Baran (Persian) (2001)
‘Baran’ is an Iranian production directed by Majid Majidi. Lateef, young and quarrelsome, works at a construction site in Tehran as one who makes food and serves tea to the workers. One day, an old Afghan refugee worker is badly injured at the site, and the next day, he sends his son Rahmat, to work at the site. The supervisor, Memar, is skeptical of Rahmat’s ability to work, but nevertheless, takes him in. We, and Memar, soon realise that Rahmat is indeed unfit for the kind of physical work, and so Memar, switches jobs between Lateef and Rahmat.
Lateef, furious, begins to hate Rahmat, and tries to sabotage his work. But then, one day, he discovers a secret about Rahmat, and this changes everything. I am not going to disclose the secret here, but I would disclose the effect it has on Lateef – It makes him a man. If you want to know more, go see the movie.
Majid Majidi, the director, I learn, is also known for films like ‘Children of Heaven’, ‘The Color of Paradise‘, ‘The Song of Sparrows‘, movies I am yet to see. ‘Baran’, as a coming of age tale, has shots reminiscent of another coming of age tale, Satyajit Ray’s ‘Apu Trilogy’. You might also expect, given that the story looks a bit darker in tone, one would see darker and duller images in the movie. That is not the case, fortunately, and, some shots are so colorful that they look like they come from a Bollywood movie.
The White Balloon (Persian) (1995)
Have a good look at this little girl’s face. Have a good look at all the innocence it exudes. I guess, we now understand what we lose when we turn into adulthood. The total running length of this film is 85 minutes. I’d say I was fortunate enough to have watched the last 30 minutes of this film. From what I gather through those 30 minutes, this is the story of the film – This little girl has lost a 500 Toman (Iranian currency) bill, dropping the money through the grate at the entrance of a closed store. The girl and her brother try to retrieve the money. While that is the basic outline out the story, there is something else that goes on, while her brother is out seeking help, the girl waits at the store. A young soldier walks towards the girl and tries to get her into a conversation. The girl is hesitant, she was warned not to talk to strangers. The soldier, though I am not sure he is speaking the truth, nevertheless succeeds. The conversation is a delight – It shows us all the innocence we’ve lost turning into adults. And that is the part that charmed me. I wish I saw the whole movie, but I am happy I atleast got to see what I saw.