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.
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’.