MAMI Day 5: Things to Come wins the day as The Untamed disappoints
Endlessly binge-watching movies is supposed to be the bastion of the lazy, but I assure you it isn't. Going in to Day 5 of MAMI, I was already sleep deprived. But, like any good cinephile, I decided to mark day 5 with 5 movies.
Despite movie No.1 for the day being at a relatively late 10 AM, Mumbai traffic meant I still managed to reach at 10:05 AM. Late enough to have missed the national anthem. So I'd say, just on time. It plays before every movie at the festival and even the hardiest of freedom fighters would've lost all feeling for the anthem had they heard it as often as MAMI-goers have over the last 5 days.
The hall was half full for the Mexican drama film by Amat Escalante, The Untamed. It explores the subjects of misogyny, homophobia and, somehow, also manages to throw in a sci-fi twist near the end. It's about a couple in a troubled marriage. This time, they locate a meteorite that is the beginning of their encounter with a mysterious creature.
If that last line made you wonder "what the f*ck was going on?", you're not alone. That was my first though too and that of most in attendance. As I'm writing this, several hours later, that thought still stands.
The movie isn't bad, but, in its attempts to deal with various societal problems, aliens and sexual agency, it manages to effectively deal with nothing. Even so, lead actress (Ruth Ramos), who plays the mother to two children and wife to a hot-tempered husband, is outstanding.
It's one of those festival movies that will draw the extremes - people who praise it, or people who don't like it at all. I'm one of the few standing in the middle. The movie is bizarre and I don't really know which way to lean. I guess it could go down as one of those late-night television watches.
Still reeling from the confusing assault that was The Untamed, I walked straight into the standby queue for the Israeli flick Sand Storm.
This one reminded me of Wadjda, the Saudi Arabian film by female director Haifaa al-Mansour about a girl who wants to ride a bike and race against boys (looked down upon in Saudi Arabia). Wadjda is about breaking gender stereotypes and pushing through barriers and that's precisely what Sand Storm tries to do.
The movie is about a mother having to conceal her anger as her husband marries for the second time and her daughter pursues a forbidden love affair. It is superbly enacted by its two main actresses - Lamis Ammar and Ruba Blal.
It's a picture that may not have any overarching plot, but that doesn't matter one bit here. The characters pull you in, make you understand what they're going through, and take you on an emotional rollercoaster - not a tearjerker - that will leave you with mixed emotions by the end.
It's one of those movies that must be watched and, at just under 90 minutes, this one is a winner all-around. It was greeted with a unanimously positive response as the audience streamed out.
Alejandro Jodorowsky's Endless Poetry, where do I start? As Owen Gleiberman writes in Variety, "Jodorowsky has been a director has been a director of plays, a writer of comic books, a poet and novelist, a "psychomagic" guru presiding over therapeutic salons, and - oh, yes - the creator of a psychedelic Western splatter opera, "El Topo," that in its scrappy-surreal midnight-cult way transformed the world of movies."
This one though, I feel, as do many others in attendance, might just be the one for the masses. It follows the story of a Chilean artist's youth, a poet who frees himself from all his limitations, and meets a number of other young titans of the literature world. It's told through an autobiographical lens, inspired by Jodorowsky's own life, and occasionally even narrated by the director himself.
All the film really needed was a tighter edit and maybe a few less ideas, thoughts and happenings on screen, thrown at the viewer. It's a two-hour plus film but the lead, played by his son, Adan, and the father, played by his other son Brontis are great in their respective roles. The mother sings all of her dialogues and the writing is excellent.
This movie is strictly arthouse but one feels that Jodoworsky is trying to push his movies to more people and that works in Endless Poetry.
Agraharathil Kazhutai (Donkey in a Brahmin Village)
I had pre-booked Agraharathil Kazhutai, the Tamil movie by John Abraham (No, not the Bollywood actor). It was a restored print and despite watching it in PVR's Gold Class audi - which felt like business class on an airplane, I could only last 45 minutes.
It wasn't so much a problem with the movie as it was a problem with the print. Maybe it was PVR, maybe not. But the sound was too loud and jarring and the subtitles blended into the white background (the movie was in black and white).
The plot is as simple as the title of the film. That's it. The professor, the lead of the movie, gets a lot of flak for keeping a donkey and so he takes it back home, where he gets an equal amount of flak.
However, the jarring viewing experience made it impossible to soldier on, even as I was getting involved in the film. What makes it worse is that I doubt I'll find a decent print online to finish this movie, meaning this is one is dead in the water.
Things to Come
Luckily, Mia-Hansen Love's Things to Come, starring one of the best actresses alive, Isabelle Huppert, was up next.
It's about a mother - an academic and professor, facing a crisis at home. It's an intellectual film that at its core deals with a family crisis (yet again, a divorce). Huppert carries this movie from start to finish with her simple, yet warm performance as the lead character. As some say, it is a 'post-divorce' movie. Huppert is one of those actresses that you know will deliver.
In Things to Come, she does that and then some more. She is little perturbed by things going on around her and only does what she thinks is right, as she deals with her husband leaving her for another woman. It's a coming of age story of a woman in her 60s finally finding her freedom.
By the end of the movie, we are all the woman on the bus crying, the woman taking care of Pandora (her mother's cat) in the countryside and even the woman learning that her beloved 'Essay Collection' is being cut out. That's how powerful Huppert's performance is. It leaves the viewer, wanting to find out just how Nathalie (Huppert's) character will be, and that is what takes the movie a notch higher. Mumbles of "delightful," "warm,", "affectionate" and "terrific" is what I heard as I walked out of the hall.
This is a movie that, at least for now, is in my top four of the festival so far (Aquarius, Graduation and After The Storm being the other three) and one I'm going to recommend to a lot of people.