Kolkata In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val 2017: Top 10 movie list out

The 23rd edi­tion of KIFF is once again at­tract­ing the world with its ex­per­i­ments. Even after all the ups and downs it is back with its top 10 movies.

Alive - - Content - by Sudipto Mul­lick

The way this film fes­ti­val is spi­ral­ing down year on year, pluck­ing out ten good films, let alone best ten, con­tin­u­ing this an­nual rit­ual seems to be re­ally hard. This has been quite the worst year in a while. But the top ten pro­duced be­low man­ages to hold its own.

As usual, only this year’s har­vest has been con­sid­ered. One can­not but help men­tion that Jean Luc Go­dard’s de­light­ful TV movie, Grandeur et dé­ca­dence d'un pe­tit com­merce de cinema (The Rise and Fall of a Small

Film Com­pany) re­cently trans­ferred to film, was a ver­i­ta­ble coup by the or­ga­niz­ers and a big draw in­deed. It had most of the el­e­men­tal at­tributes that one would ex­pect from a Go­dard movie. Since the con­sid­er­a­tions also bring into its gam­bit films se­lected in the Cinema In­ter­na­tional, it has to be men­tioned that the se­lec­tors need a mighty jab of bet­ter judg­ment. More so, when the sec­tion is over­reach­ingly sub-ti­tled as: In­no­va­tion in Mov­ing Im­ages, clear ab­sence of such can only il­licit snig­ger.

I had tried to pack in as much as pos­si­ble after a rea­son­able home­work. Two films were badly missed – ‘Love­less’, a Rus­sian drama di­rected by An­drey Zvyag­int­sev - the Palme d’Or Nom­i­nee­and a love story be­tween a hand­i­capped old man and an Asperger woman, ‘On Body and Soul’, di­rected by Ildikó Enyedi, which took the top prize at Ber­lin this year. Hunch said that, Wa­jib by An­nemarie Jacir, Cannes’ Un Cer­tain Re­gard Award nom­i­nee; Beauty and the Dogs by Khaled Walid Barsaouiand Kaouther Ben Ha­nia could have been a good watch.

Here is the top 10 from what I could see –

10. Re­doubtable (Michel Hazanavi­cius, France, 107 min­utes, 2017)

It’s a film based on a slice of Jean-Luc Go­dard’s life and of course the pro­tag­o­nist who is still liv­ing, quite char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally and finds it a “stupid, stupid idea”. 1968 was an event­ful year in Go­dard’s life. Post the re­lease of ‘La Chi­noise’, he was be­ing hailed as God and was de­rided for his Maoist sid­ings. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, the on­go­ing men of the Cannes film fes­ti­val did not agree to his so­cio-po­lit­i­cal stance. Then there was Anne Wi­azem­sky, the lead of Chi­noise, kin­dling an, on­the-set ro­mance, re­sult­ing in a break up within a year. Anne’s mem­oir, ‘One Year Later’, was adapted by Michel for this film which is rea­son­ably funny in some oc­ca­sions and bril­liant in fewer ones. Typ­i­cal cinema man­ner­isms, in­side-jokes, ref­er­ences, boor­ish and ni­hilist ten­den­cies are as­suaged but the over­all effort was as the French would say­comme ci comme ca.

9. Aurora Bo­re­alis (Márta Mészáros, Hun­gary, 104 min­utes, 2017)

The Grande dame of

Hun­gar­ian cinema is still go­ing strong at 86. She re­turns after eight years and quite un­der­stand­ably, the sharp­ness has whit­tled while some geri­atric sen­ti­men­tal­ity has crept in. The­mat­i­cally she’s prob­a­bly try­ing to re­vert back to her first film; ‘The Girl’ and I think it also touches her ‘Di­ary Se­ries’. Let­ters, adop­tion, sacri­fice, searches, rem­i­nis­cences, im­pli­ca­tions of postS­tal­in­ist regime, Ger­man oc­cu­pa­tion and sub­se­quent Hun­gar­ian up­ris­ing of 1956 are weigh­ing upon her mem­ory and have spilled into the screen­play. In­ci­den­tally this film was writ­ten with el­derly and re­spected Mari Töröc­sik in mind. Also, her on-screen look could well be mis­taken for Marta’s. Per­son­ally I felt that, on the ba­sis of a par­tic­u­lar pos­tur­ing to­wards the end of the film, with this, Kisvilma, as she’s af­fec­tion­ately called, maybe fi­nally had found peace.

8. Un­cle Vanya (Anna Martinetz, Germany, Aus­tria, Poland / 134mins/ 2017)

Vi­enna-born Anna is a very promis­ing di­rec­tor with her fluid and free-form cam­era that she lent to Chekov’s renowned epony­mous play. This sec­ond film, which is part of her ‘Money se­ries’ touches upon the en­su­ing global fi­nan­cial cri­sis and puts her spin on de­pict­ing ni­hilism. The film might have lacked from a com­plex in­te­ri­or­ity and an un­due em­pha­sis on its fo­cus on act­ing. The length­ier di­rec­tor’s cut may help bet­ter com­pre­hend some scenes, like the man danc­ing don­ning a bear suit. But it is a very good effort in­deed.

In­ci­den­tally, she de­buted this film in this fes­ti­val – a mis­take in my book. She should have waited to give her­self a fair chance to be se­lected in the com­ple­tion sec­tion of Cannes.

7. Dragon De­fense (Natalia Santa, Columbia, 80mins, 2017)

Santa’s de­but had right found favour with the Cannes’ ‘Di­rec­tor’s Fort­night ‘se­lec­tors. Terse in its ap­proach and po­etic in its de­liv­ery, its only prob­lem per­haps was, and I hate us­ing this term, con­nect. The idea of ob­so­les­cence is not borne in a ret­ro­grade mode of liv­ing – which is al­right – but in a her­mitic ex­is­tence. Dragon de­fence is ac­ti­vated in chess when the King is threat­ened and there­fore has to be shel­tered by an­other piece which then de­cid­edly is more dis­pens­able. Santa’s pho­tog­ra­phy and fram­ing were re­mark­able. His sullen dusty set­ting was ap­po­site to his nar­ra­tive but, even then some more sliv­ers of ‘color’ – the one that ap­peared at the fag end via the fram­ing of the prim red nail-pol­ished toes – might have brought it home.

6. Af­ter­im­ages (An­drej Wa­jda, Poland, 116 min­utes, 2017)

This is the very last film from the great mas­ter that started with ‘A Gen­er­a­tion’ (1955) fol­low­ing it with, ‘Kanal’and ‘Ashes and Di­a­monds’. The piss and vine­gar against the com­mu­nist regime is very much prom­i­nent in his last oeu­vre. It tells about Sovi­et­trained avant-garde con­struc­tivist painter, Wla­dys­law Strzeminski played with aplomb by Bo­gus­law Linda, who re­fused to aban­don ab­stract im­agery for the new of­fi­cial dik­tat of ‘So­cial­ist Re­al­ism’. It shows that whoso­ever would dare to go against the grain dur­ing that claus­tro­pho­bic au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism – be it a one state cel­e­brated and well-re­spected artist – only a dog’s death awaits.

The coda de­picts a wob­bly Strzeminski try­ing to dress rigid man­nequins, los­ing his foot­ing, end­ing up on the floor supine with a des­o­late life­less hand swing­ing above his head.

5. Bright Sun­shine In (Claire De­nis, France, 94mins, 2017)

Co-writ­ten with nov­el­ist Christine An­got, this mood piece is rest­ing gin­gerly – and only just about - Roland Barthes’s ‘A Lovers Dis­course: Frag­ments’. The in­ner-work­ing of age­ing woman des­per­ately on the hunt for a lover’s con­stant warmth is swim­mingly ren­dered by Juli­ette Binoche. Truth be told, for some­one ob­vi­ous to the burn­ing smell of de­spair, a bit of the script in the end-third seemed a tad broad. The tran­si­tion from one lover to the next was some so­phis­ti­cated di­rect­ing. In be­tween a clas­sist dis­course – a la Rhomer made its way. The end se­quence with its ex­tended di­a­logue be­tween a hap­less but ea­ger Binoche and a de­lib­er­ately ram­bling and in­de­ci­sive Ger­ard Depar­dieu new age re­la­tion­ship ex­pert was hi­lar­i­ous. The roll of the end-cred­its dur­ing the on­go­ing con­ver­sa­tion was novel. Not bet­ter way of show­ing the cir­cles that go round and round.

4. Birds Are Singing in Ki­gali (Joanna KosKrauze, Krzysztof Krauze / Poland / 117mins / 2017)

Say­ing it with im­ages takes a whole new di­men­sion in ‘Birds Are Singing in Ki­gali’. After the un­for­tu­nate demise of Krzysztof in 2014, Joanna picked up the threads to com­plete this movie, which is a feat in it­self. Both of them by the dint of ac­tu­ally hav­ing lived in Africa could em­pathize with the au­then­tic­ity of the mud­dled Hutu-Tutsi sit­u­a­tion. A fresh and gifted eye aided us to me­an­der through the trauma felt by the Rawan­dan refugee in the af­ter­math of the well­recorded geno­cide. Sadly it re­mained too much de­pen­dant on the vis­ual im­ageries. Dis­jointed, el­lip­ti­cal in parts – it did have its flaws but all could have been more ef­fec­tive if this cere­brally emo­tional flight would have made a stronger land­ing.

3. The square (Ruben Ostlund / Sweden / 142mins/ 2017)

Best film – Palme d’Or win­ner in this year’s Cannes it may be but com­pared to the other Cannes nom­i­nee placed higher up, this one was not very con­vinc­ing, at least not to me. It of course did have its mo­ments – spe­cially the per­for­mance artist-ape turned Franken­stein-like in an ex­per­i­ment con­ducted in a so­cial mi­lieu. Satire is some­times yanked by an ex­ten­sion cord to awk­ward­ness and farce and some­times it con­nected to ridicu­lous­ness. Roy An­der­son in­flu­ences were felt in cer­tain places. The geog­ra­phy of the Square – a space where com­fort and se­cu­rity can be deep­ened on with as­sur­ance was vaguely as­sim­i­lated. It ended with a car jour­ney, the end shot framed on a child. I think we are to be wor­ried and or ashamed of our so called legacy that we are leav­ing be­hind for our fu­ture gen­er­a­tion.

2. Ku­pal (Kazem Mol­laie / Iran / 81mins / 2017)

Even for those who are in the pro­fes­sion of ame­lio­rat­ing lives and then pre­serv­ing and thus per­pet­u­at­ing mem­o­ries after death, the ac­tual con­fronta­tion with this end­point event can prove too much to han­dle. Ku­pal, the hunter and taxi­der­mist, had to learn it the hard way. Ap­pro­pri­ately-lit, beau­ti­fully pho­tographed frames and well-crafted, this cham­ber drama turns into a sur­vival film with ac­tion­able bites of con­scious­ness. To para­phrase W.B Yeats, Kru­pal fore­sees his death and then suc­cumbs to it.

1. A Gen­tle Crea­ture (Sergei Loznitsa / France, Germany, Lithua­nia, Nether­lands /143mins/ 2017)

Those who know

Loznitsa know him through his pow­er­ful doc­u­men­taries, just like one would also know his il­lus­tri­ous fa­ther, Mar­cel. ‘This’, his first fea­ture is no less pow­er­ful. Of all the Cannes nom­i­nee for this year that we were privy to in this fes­ti­val, this film should have scalped the top prize. It has ob­vi­ously done so in my book. It quan­ti­fies “the enor­mous suf­fer­ing”, that an on-screen char­ac­ter speaks of early on in this hard-hit­ting scathing re­al­ity of a movie. Wel­come to true side of ‘Soviet Re­al­ism’. A jour­ney of the most ar­du­ous kind into the most ne­far­i­ous dun­geon of all hells is un­spooled in front of us in an un­hur­ried man­ner lest we slip into a sliver of com­fort. And then it took a wrong turn on Kafka Street. Yes, of course it was a dream, but then was it? The end shot was a bunch of peo­ple sleep­ing at a wait­ing sta­tion. Keep on dream­ing!

Bol­ly­wood ac­tress Ka­jol lights lamp at the in­au­gu­ra­tion of 23rd edi­tion of KIFF.

A poster of Red­outable, a film di­rected by Michel Hazanavi­cius.

A scene from the sets of the play Un­cle Vanya writ­ten by Chekov.

A still from the movie ‘Birds Are Singing in Ki­gali’.

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