Greetings from Toronto
The last movie we saw at Telluride, in fact at the ATFF, or After Telluride Film Festival, was Brick Lane, a movie about a woman’s ambivalent journey from Bangladesh to London, and her arranged husband’s ambivalent journey back. It is based on a book by Monica Ali.
It is the story of a precocious Bangladeshi woman who has a marriage arranged to an “educated” man living on Brick Lane in London. She arrives there and makes a life for herself, but dreams always of her village life and the fun she had growing up. In time she meets a charismatic young man who turns into a strong community leader as fall out from the World Trade Center bombings makes life even more difficult for the Muslim community. It is overall a well constructed story about the difficulties faced by recent immigrants and their children as they adapt to a foreign and often hostile new home.
The Band’s Visit
Bikur Ha-Tizmoret is the story of an Egyptian police band that gets lost in Israel on their way to the opening of an arab cultural center. The movie covers just about 24 hours, from when the band lands to the time they get to their final destination, by way of a culture-less town in the middle of the desert. In the brief time they’re lost, they all grow, develop schisms, heal them, and become more complete people while making a small contribution to healing the Arab/Israeli rift.
Ronit Elkabetz is absolutely enchanting as Dina. She completely owns the screen. She’s gorgeous and funny; her every expression is adorable. One could watch her for hours.
The Band was by far the funniest movie in the festival with a command of subtle, dry humor. I recommend it highly.
4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is a Romanian film about two college roommates dealing with one’s unwanted pregnancy and the trials the two go through to get an illegal abortion in pre-revolutionary Romania. The movie is very suspenseful and in places somewhat difficult to watch. Carolyn objected to the unrealistically trivial representation of the physical effects of the abortion on the woman who needed it, but the story is more about the afflicted girl’s friend, played by Anamaria Marinca, and the trials she suffers in support of her friend. The performances are all strong and the movies pacing is generally good.
Wind Man is a film from Kazakhstan about a small village on the steppe visited by both Death and an Angel. It’s funny and generally light-hearted, but the character development is weak and one is left feeling a bit unconcerned about the various deaths, some of which should be sad, but just aren’t.
I’m not familiar enough with the genre to really get the tropes, but Carolyn is and tells me that people find these crude comedies comforting, like sitcoms, as the same actors appear over and over in typecast rolls. While the movie is interesting and abstract enough to reach a global audience, it probably plays a lot better to a local one.
Not really Wings of Desire on the steppe.
Early Sunday morning we drove up to the Chuck Jones cinema at the top of the hill to see a tribute to Shyam Benegal, and his film Bhumika.
Shyam is a wonderful person. We crossed paths with his wonderful wife, Nira, many times over several days. They were always gracious and fascinating.
Indian melodramas generally fall into a class of films I have little patience for, but this is a genuinely good film about India’s Tallulah Bankhead, Hansa Wadkar who somewhat daringly (for the time) lived by her own rules and become a major Indian film star.
The film starts with Indian dancing girls in the Bollywood tradition, which is always fun, and goes on to tell the story of this daring woman’s life, her strong grandmother, her disapproving mother, her arranged marriage, and her genuine loves and affairs. Smita Patil is really wonderful as the lead: beautiful and funny and sweet.
Saturday evening we saw Jar City. It was a fairly traditional detective story with some nominally successful comic elements. Apparently it was the most popular movie in Icelandic history, meaning 100,000 Icelanders saw it, an entire third of the country’s population. But before that we saw a Korean film, Bound by Chastity Rules, which was directed by Shin Sang-ok, famous for possibly having been kidnapped by the Kim Jong Il. That was also the most interesting part of the film which was otherwise a somewhat tedious melodrama about a horny widow and her nasty mother-in-law.
Jar City was proceeded by Nash Edgarton’s short film “Spider,” which was screamingly funny. Literally. You can watch it on-line here.
Jar City (originally Myrin) is a story of rape and murder with a twist in that the rapist carried a very unusual genetic deviation, which was transmitted to the progeny of his “victims.” The plot device revolves around a somewhat controversial plan to genetically map every citizen of Iceland, and that the only expression of the genetic deviation is within this one lineage. Another interesting element is a measure of moral ambivalence around the rape itself.
The acting is very strong, especially the lead, Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson. The story holds together and is successful in leading the viewer along the adventure with a number of generally unexpected twists and turns. Perhaps the funniest character was Theódór Júlíusson as Elliði, the dangerous tough guy in the film.