Archive for the ‘100 remarkable films World Cinema’ Category

Calcutta 71

If I am asked “which film has moved you the most?,” my reply would be ‘Calcutta seventy-one.’ This film had a deep impact on me, when I first saw it about ten years ago. I am not fully sure how I would like it now, but I guess it would be the same. This analysis is based on my first viewing.

CALCUTTA 71 is an indictment against violence and corruption throughout the ages. The film was directed by Mrinal Sen. Made in Bengali, CALCUTTA 71 is based on four short stories by writers of repute, each different from the other but all connected or interlinked to bring out a powerful statement. The stories are by Manik Bandopadhyay, Probodh Sanyal, Samaresh Basu and others.

A searing study of the political turmoil of the seventies, CALCUTTA 71 is very harsh in documenting the agony of calcuttans. It had moments of high intensity rarely reached in Indian cinema. Stylistically, it bears the influence of Chris Marker. Sen had been collecting raw footage for this film since 1966. He did this for about five years or so. The film was released in 1972. It was a critical and commercial success, and ran for months in Calcutta.

The first story in CALCUTTA 71 deals with the fall from grace of a middle class family. Against the background of atrocities and turmoil of the fifties and sixties, what misfortune befalls on a middle class family is depicted here. The family has a small house with hardly any roofings. When it rains, the family has to wage a grueling battle to stay afloat and protect them from rain. This episode was enacted by performers who makes rare appearances in films. The sequence where the girl sits with the umbrella trying to stop the rain water from entering inside will forever remain etched in memory. Also when the man i.e. the head of the family agrees to take his family members to a safer place to Mr. Sarkar’s house, after much cajoling from his family members, and upon reaching there when he finds he has to occupy the same room with Bhulu, the same dog who used to disturb him at nights by barking and quarreling with other canines and also hundreds of people from lowly families, it was a shattering experience for him, but he has no other choice before him. He had to reconcile himself to this hobson choice.

In the second story, well-known performers like Madhabi Chakravorty, Binota Bose (who was the leading lady of the path-breaking film UDAYER PATHEY directed by Bimol Roy) and Anuva Gupta enacted the central characters. How necessity can compel even a mother to overlook her children’s’ wrongdoings is depicted here.

The third episode deals with an incident taken from everyday life. In those days, young boys were compelled to smuggle rice out of necessity. They used to commute by train while doing so. The law machinery, trying to grab them, was always hot on their trail. One of these boys who use the local train for their nefarious activities become the victim of a braggart. Of course, in the last memorable sequence, the boy manages to avenge and pay back the bully in his own coin.

In the fourth story, corrupt politicians are the object of banter. Ajitesh Bandopadhyay as the politician was credible. Satirical sequences where a new generation is emerging i.e. street-children while the politician is indulging in speech-making is very subtly presented.

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It takes you to a very different plane. The survival tale of a shipwrecked boy and a tiger is laced with gritty realism on the one hand, and a leap into a magical land and divine forces on the other.The visuals are stunning. The gritty tale of survival is based on a prize winning novel by Yann Martel. It weaves a fortituous tale of the protagonist Pi, a zoo keeper’s son who grew up in Pondicherry and thereafter loses his entire family in a ship enroute to Canada where his family was immigrating. They find themselves in an inclement, stormy weather.

He is the lone human survivor in the ship at sea. Keeping him company is a royal Bengal tiger Richard Parker, an orangutan, a hyena and a Zebra. The provisions in the ship would last a few weeks….Would Pi be able to hold himself in the midst of these ferocious animals and reach safely among human civilizations. Beneath the surface level tale of human drama and endurance, the film sublty weaves in spiritual philosophy, faith in the divine and incorporates elements of fantasy in the narrative when the protagonist reaches a strange island with miraculous happenings. Can a man develop a bonding with a man-eating beast? Do humans and animals react in the same way to tragedy? Find out the answers by watching this absorbing drama…

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Hats off to the cameraman and the computer team for this. It is difficult to really believe that Richard Parker (well that’s the name of the tiger) was really computer generated. The film is directed superbly by Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain). The cast includes Irrfan Khan, Tabu and others.

Rating: 4.75 out of 5

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The film ‘Hugo’ directed by Martin Scorcese stretches the frontiers of cinema,

it weaves a fine narrative style with innovate camerawork – an early shot is a longish one which traverses briskly along a crowded marketplace and culminates in a wall clock, the film is rife with such unusual shots quite a few of which are aerial zoom-ins. It revolves around a small boy who lost his inventor father (Jude Law) and his arduous struggle thereafter; he becomes a petty thief with the great ability of fixing machines, an inherited skill from his dad who died in an accident. He incurs the wrath of a toy shop owner (Ben Kingsley) who forcibly snatched his ‘notebook’ with a promise to return it if he puts in sufficient work at his shop to compensate for the items he had pilfered from the shop.

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Through flashback, it is revealed that Ben Kingsley was actually a good magician who thereafter became the very pioneering and celebrated filmmaker George Melius and made several landmark films together with his actress wife, who doubled as his ‘muse.’ The film touches science fiction (the robot like Automaton is simply great), philosophy (the boy is shown discussing philosophical significance of his life with his girlfriend), film restoration, societal indifference to great artists.

                                                                                                            

 This is simply a very different Scorcese that we’ve seen (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull) in the past, but he simply wows us with this one

The acting is commendable. Sir Ben Kingsley gives another sterling performance.

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The protagonist kid (Asa Butterfield), his assistant and girlfriend(Chloe Grace Moretz) & Mrs Melius (Helen McCrory)are all hugely likeable -even the comical and vigilant cop (Sacha Baron Cohen) with a dog always hounding our small hero, putting him inside a cell on an occasion & who undergoes a transformation at the end make the proceedings lively.

Rating: 4.75 out of 5