Capernaum Movie Review

This is a review of the movie Caphernaum.  I also want to compare it with a 2005 Lebanese movie called Zozo which based on a slightly similar theme. The name of the movie, Caphernaum, is taken from the name of a village in Israel where Jesus is said to have performed most of his miracles. The word Caphernaum simply translated means Naum’s Village (Caphar = Village, Naum= Noam). However the village was forgotten and when it was discovered many years later, it was in an absolute state of ruin. Now this movie made by Lebanese director Nadine Labaki alludes to this new meaning of the word Caphernaum, it means when things fall into such a state of disrepair and wretchedness that they can never go back to their earlier state.


The movie is set in present day Lebanon where a twelve year old boy, who has lived in a life of poverty sues his parents for having many kids and failing to love them like they deserve. The child who plays Zain has faced similar struggles in real life, and boy does it show in his work! You have to wonder if this twelve year old is acting or merely reliving his experience. Zain Al Rafea manages to become a child a moment and in the next moment he can be seen struggling with issues of adulthood. His puberty and change in emotions are merely an addition to the other frustrations of life. Despite this depressing sounding ambience, the movie doesn’t become pessimistic as Zain’s constant struggle with whatever life throws at him keeps us hooked to the plot.


Although Zain seems unattached to most of his family, he is attached to his sister, Sahar. And the only thing that Zain knows is that his sister’s menstruation could get her married to a much older man and Zain’s solution to this problem is to ask his sister to keep it hidden.


Overall, Zain’s life is full of struggles for the basics such as food, clothing and shelter. So it is amazing that what he craves for most is love and attention. His want for a parent is so strong that if he doesn’t have a caring parent, he himself becomes a parent to a little baby whose Ethiopian mother, Rahil, has gone missing.


(To people who have said that Zain is too young to have used all the abusive, swear words in the movie, take a walk in your poor neighbourhood and discover the language.)

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Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds Review

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Humans have always had an odd relationship with nature. We are aware of how it nurtures us and protects us, at the same time, we are aware that it can do a turn-around and challenge us in ways we didn’t imagine. Instead of accepting the food chain as it was, we created a food pyramid, where we stood at the apex. We distanced ourselves from nature just enough that we were away from its dangers but close enough to exploit its advantages.

Despite all this distance, we have carried nature within us. Proof of this is how our dreams choose to convey our deepest fears and concerns through elements of nature. The dream analysis websites will inform you that if you dream about a wolf, you are perhaps worried about a sly person, if you see an elephant, you are likely to enjoy some good fortune. What is important is how these elements have become symbols. Great psychologist Carl Jung has called them archetypes. 

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Various ancient cultures have special spiritual symbolism, especially with birds. Many older myths, such as Native American or Indian, have stories being narrated by birds. No wonder that they form such as an important part of our collective conscious. Even modern writers like Edgar Allan Poe have built on this symbolism, by making the raven, for instance, a harbinger of impending doom.

It is not a wonder than that a director like Hitchcock, who was deeply interested in the human psyche, would find this topic so appealing. And given the efforts we take to keep nature at a decent distance, birds who resolutely overlook this distance are in a way an urban nightmare.

Birds have an entirely different relationship with us. Even though most animals stayed back in the wilderness, except for those that we willingly domesticated, the birds followed us, sharing our space without fear. And hence they have continued to show their presence in our narratives, be it the folk tales, the legends or our modern movies. 

birds movie 3

The movie’s name brought to mind the image of the albatross, from Samuel Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. It is amazing how this movie is not a new unknown terror unfolding but it is like an old forgotten nightmare being played out.

It would be interesting to mention of the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore here who had said that the most distinguishing factor between the Eastern and Western culture is that the East views nature to be an ally in the journey of life where as the West views it as an adversary, something that needs to be challenged and prevailed.

Sully Movie Review

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One of the risk of making a movie where the central character is a regular guy turned hero, there is much scope for a flat caricature in pursuit of grandiose over his/her humaneness.  But one of the advantages of having Tom Hanks as your movie protagonist is, he has the capacity to turn a caricature into a human, with a history and a heart. I had this sense of balance in deciding to watch the movie, Sully.

Let me admit I have the greatest respect and awe for the entire aviation field. The fact that a machine weighing hundreds of tons can float in the air is in itself like magic to me. What? In the era of quantum Internet? But if you really consider the Internet, once the computer was invented the internet was the logical next step. It was invented in the late 1940s and military was using it in its rudimentary form during the war. It is really a big repository of files that we access through wires. But the fact that we can fly a machine so high up in the air, which is more than a mere slingshot throw mechanism is a wonder.  At least for me a person whose motor skills have to be defined as something -challenged it is a wonder that something can be flown so high up.

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The movie talks about what happens to a man who assumes the responsibility, an unwritten pact that says, we will take you home alive and what happens when circumstances get in the way of executing this promise. Although the media and the people hailed the pilot, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who landed his plane in the Hudson river, as the hero, his personal experience was different.

Besides, the emotionally taxing investigation of the case, the movie portrays his own trauma of all the likely scenarios that could have occurred is beautifully portrayed and neatly paced. Tom Hanks’ performance of Sully brings all the dignity and endurance of the pilot, Sully himself. Watch it see how Hanks can turn a static scene into a bunch of nerves and the entire space is throbbing with this energy. I had watched Sully purely for the love of Tom Hanks but I am tempted to explore more of director, Clint Eastwood’s work.

RIP Aamir Malik from Khamosh Pani

aamir malik khamosh paani

No matter how much we think we have been surprised, the world never fails to surprise us more. So I learnt about this sad news that the talented actor Aamir Malik from the movie, Khamosh Pani, has passed away. The actor had been homeless for a long time and had been facing issues of drug addiction. This happened way back in January this year but was revealed only now. He passed away in his hometown Quetta in Pakistan.

Aamir Malik had received much acclaim for his role as Saleem, in Khamosh Pani, a movie which had  received several awards at the Locarno Film Festival including Best Film. The movie was directed by Sabiha Sumar who has directed many award winning documentaries on various issues.

He was clearly a talent that had gotten attention from some big names of the film fraternity. He was supposed to play the role of Bhagat Singh in the blockbuster Bollywood movie Rang De Basanti. But apparently Malik never showed up. The affable actor was of the opinion that Indian actors should become a part of Pakistani films. Incidentally, Kirron Kher and Shilpa Shukla were two Indian actors in a Pakistani film.

khamosh pani sabiha sumer review

This out of the box after a long time.

 

The movie Khamosh Pani was banned in Pakistan at least for some time as it was a story centered on the Partition of India and the regime of Zia Ul Haq.  Malik had played the role of a troubled teenager who is caught temporarily in a crisis of faith and lets his passion of youth override emotions. He abandons the gentle habit of playing the flute and joins a political group. Despite years of independence from colonisation, India and Pakistan have been unable to stop falling into the shackles of their own past and are constantly taken advantage of by politicians, making a farce out of democracy. Had this self reflecting, painful narrative created some sort of a trouble for the actor?

This is surprising for so many reasons. How is it possible for a popular actor to go missing in this age of continuous media attention? And what I know of Pakistani culture, which is so alike the Indian culture, is the stronghold of family on an individual, no matter how famous. Although the movie was shot way back in 2003, still it had given Malik international fame and popularity. And when even the most common amongst us have a tough time staying away from the number of electronic sources which keep us connected, how did Aamir escape everyone’s attention?

There is not much in the news about him except this report in the Pakistani newspaper Tribune. According to the report from this source his issues were going on for too long. His co-star from Khamosh Pani, Shilpa Shukla, who was Malik’s friend, said he had begun to avoid human company right after the success of the movie and seems like he was suffering from depression. He even refused help from those who wanted to admit him into a rehabilitation facility. It was said during last few months of his life, Malik would entertain common people on the streets of Karachi with verses from Shakespeare, Ghalib and many other poets while he himself surrendered to a life of anonymity.

Onibaba Movie Review

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Two days ago, on April 22nd was Japanese director Kaneto Shindo’s birthday. The first movie I had seen of the director was The Children of Hiroshima, which is entirely different from Onibaba and is more direct and realistic about the sufferings at Nagasaki and Hiroshima perhaps because it was made in 1952 very close to the tragedy. Instead Onibaba although about modern events sits on the framework of the past.

 I had seen the movie, Onibaba, referenced here and there and was curious about it. Since horror is really not my genre I had been hesitant in the past (because I am a scarredy-cat that’s why, not because they are beyond my taste). So finally today I had the chance to watch the movie.  

Japan has an old and enduring culture of horror stories. When I first came across it I was not very keen to check it out. You see, my knowledge of horror stories comes from the recent set of horror movies that focus more on supernatural entities and gore.

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And these laughable white lenses that the Zee team bought in bulk or received from the Ramsays.

While I enjoy a good story here and there, for the most part I stand at “from the time I discovered what monstrosities humans could commit, I stopped being scared of the monster under my bed.” But it is by sheer accident that I discovered the movie, Ugetsu, which has certainly piqued my interest in this genre. Onibaba is a film followed by that. Like Ugetsu, Onibaba is also a jidaigeki, meaning a period drama. While it is a period drama, this story is an analogy for the modern war, and especially the world wars which destroyed the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Onibaba, the movie is set in fourteenth century Kyoto, where wars between factions of samurais has led to a civil unrest. The story is centered on two peasant women who are pushed to manage on their own, as their son has left for a war. One of them is the older woman, and the other is her daughter-in-law. The film portrays their struggle for satisfying their most natural instincts. While hunger remains a constant struggle and no one hesitates to kill.

While hunger is not hardly met, sex becomes another struggle which for the younger woman is a matter of instinct, it is a matter of survival for the older woman. While there are few who could actively pursue the daughter during the wartime, the return of their dead son’s friend starts a challenge for the woman. She is forced to watch her daughter in law being drawn to the new man and fears that this would leave her alone.

THE SYMBOLISM

onibaba japanese movie review

Onibaba

the character of Onibaba is drawn from old Japanese folklore, which means a “demon woman” or an evil hag. The story itself had emerged out of the Kyoto region. An Onibaba is a woman who feasts on the flesh of a young pregnant woman and is depicted as carrying a knife or spindle. There are many alternative stories. The Onibaba of the movie is inspired from a Buddhist fable. What I loved about Onibaba is how myth is easily woven into such a realistic story.

The wilderness

onibaba japanese movie review

The wilderness is a very potent symbol used throughout the movie. A wilderness is a sign that the soil is fertile, not barren, however it also depicts that no one can be bothered to look after it. It is also a projection of the people living in it. It is possible the older woman is not that old at all but looks older due to the extreme poverty. Her own loneliness she can share only with a tree that is standing barren in the wilderness.

The Mask

The mask of the devil is yet another symbol that in a single scene conveys the real villain of the story, that is those samurais. The samurai is supposed to be a gallant and royal person, but underneath the mask is a rotten person. This “losing face” by losing the mask we realise has happened to quite a few people in the story’s setting.

Although the element of magic and myth is present in the movie, it does not take away from its stark reality. The woman becoming an Onibaba is due to necessity more than anything evil inside her.

Like me, if you have hated the horror genre, you should definitely check out Onibaba, definitely a classic fare.

Mesmerised by Cruachan – The Fianna’s Rendition

 Hello all! Hope you have had a good start to the new year. A tad late, ain’t I? Sorry for the disappearance!

irish folk music

So the reason I could not sit without posting today is this song or this tune that seems to have drowned me. I am no music expert but music is so central to my life, and my choice of music largely depends on my mood.  I have found it hard to express anything about it and it remains a sensory experience that is very personal.  

So last time anything had me this spellbound is when I had a heard Rufus Wainwright’s Hallelujah! Or Beethoven’s Moonlight’s Sonata, again I don’t understand is but it was as if my flesh was infused with it!

So the original song is by Cruachan – The Fianna. Now they are Celtic Metal band, so it is not exactly my sound. But in this rendition here for Emirates Airlines Ireland promotion it just switches to an entirely new level. No seriously! But I think the Celtic comes across more beautifully and prominently in this one than the original.

So, is this beautiful or what? I think this appeals deep within to what they say is the collective conscious that flows through us all!

I can now see the Celtic connections in the melody connected with Paris. See like in this one… Needless to say, I am definitely going to explore more of the Irish folk music.

Has any song, sonata or any kind of music had this effect on you? What was it?

Fav Cartoon: High Note by Chuck Jones

It is rare to get an opportunity to get to talk about one’s favourite cartoon without sounding unusually nostalgic. So I couldn’t let go this opportunity to blog about it for the blogathon at moviemovieblogblog. Thanks for the opportunity!

Our love for emoticons, regardless of our age, is a sign that we find animated images very adorable. Okay I can’t say that about others but at least I know I do and include the gif trend as well. Of course this love has its roots in the Sunday morning cartoon of our childhood. Not that children don’t understand the laws of physics but what they don’t know is that they can’t be broken, so a world where animals speak, where one did not realise that they had walked off a cliff until they looked down, seems entirely possible! For one reason or the other I find these works of  imagination (and tenacity) always endearing.

1960 - High Note chuck jones

If I were to name my favourite cartoons the list would be long, and it includes a couple of mice, a couple of ducks and a dog — well two! But I know which ones were the most impressive. The one that tops the list is the animated short by Chuck Jones called High Note.

chuck jones animator high note

Jones is mostly known for the duels between two anthropomorphic beings that fight incompetently and without conclusion — say in Tom and Jerry or the Road Runner Show. Then there are those that won Jones’ his three Oscars. But a better representation of Chuck’s genius is High Note. It is cartoons like High Note that turned the entertainment of cartoons into an art form. Jones followed his act after another genius, Walt Disney. He was as industrious as Disney too. Did he feel the pressure to contribute to the legacy? If so it only triggered his genius. 

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The film features the famous waltz The Blue Danube by the Austrian composer Johann Strauss. It is hard to say why Jones’ chose this particular waltz. There are three more compositions referenced in the cartoon,

How Dry I Am and Little Brown Jug are featured in visual as an album cover.

high note chuck jones missing

As the composer starts playing the song, he finds a sole note has gone missing. He finds the note drunk in the Little Brown Jug. What ensues is a struggle to capture the drunk high note and bring it back in the waltz. The form that the notations take seem like a creative burst of how perhaps artists visualise musical notes.   

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High Note seems like a freewheeling exercise to understand the concept of a creative block.  The idea itself could have started in some stick figure doodling but how it progressed and the way it was utilised is the true beauty of this short film. 

Is it possible that what us mere mortals experience as earworm is experienced by artists too but instead of a song what their mind plays on loops is a note? The one I have heard is Robert Schumann hallucinating on an A in his final years.  Although I have no capacity for understanding how to even understand his trauma I can imagine this is how it could be visually represented. (Years after watching this short film in an episode of Seinfeld, George (Jason Alexander) gets a song from Les Miserables stuck in his head. And Jerry tells him that the composer Robert Schumann gets a note stuck in his head,) the reference reminded me of High Note.

The game of animation has changed since the arrival of CGIs. But it rarely reaches the height that the animation form in its early days achieved. Animation definitely is easier to create now and not there is lack of imagination as such either but I feel that these classics are definitely the golden days of the art form.

A Reflection on the movie Osama by Siddiq Barmak

Even before I start I can tell you I will ramble on and digress but that is the only way I can write about this movie…

Afghanistan has been in the news for a long time now, but not in the most flattering light. But every now and then a book or a movie pops out that shows a different side of this country.

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The Afghan Girl, Sharbat Gula, it means essence of the gardens.

Most of us were introduced to Afghanistan by the writer, Khalid Hosseini. Who knew this strategically placed country had such a rich history? Probably my ignorance in not knowing this. Odd because India’s connection with Afghanistan goes back to antiquity. It even gets featured in India’s epic, Mahabharata.  So it is odd that this country feels so foreign to us.

However, we do share other ways of kinship, the Afghanis love Bollywood (oh and by the way at least two superstars of Bollywood, Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan, can trace their lineage back to the Pathans,) and we seem to enjoy whenever we spot a word that is common between Urdu and Pashto. (Urdu is a language that was formed in the Mughal capital of Delhi as a hybrid of Turkish, Persian and Hindi, and the languages of Afghanistan, Pashto and Dari, are a dialect of Persian.)

The Banjara tribes, mainly street vendors in big cities, are said to be Afghani in origin.

The Banjara tribes, mostly seen working as street vendors in big cities, are said to be Afghani in origin.

Coming back to Hosseini’s book, it got me hooked and I wanted to know more about the culture. And as the world’s attention and curiosity remained focussed on the region we realised there was more to discover.

And in 2003 came a movie called Osama and although the name Osama, was quite known it was not a very beloved name. So when a filmmaker decides to call his movie, Osama, it is hardly accidental. But as much as the name is internationally known, the emotions that the film explores are thoroughly for the sake of an internal dialogue.

osama main poster

Osama is a movie about the trials and tribulations of a girl who has to live as a boy to support her family during the reign of Taliban in Afghanistan.

This movie made by Afghani director, Siddik Barmak in 2003 was an act resilience in itself. While he was growing up Barmak lead a comfortable life. However, his interest in filmmaking soon got him in trouble in the conservative background of his country. He also joined the group to rebel against Soviet occupation öf their land. But as luck would have it he was offered a scholarship in filmmaking by the University of Moscow and he made the pragmatic choice to accept it. When he returned the enemies had changed they were now homebred. He returned in 2002 after the fall of Taliban. But still the situation remained unchanged and artistic freedom was far more than welcome. It was in such an atmosphere that Barmak decided to make his movie. While Barmak was persistent in getting the funds from international sources yet, to tell the story he wanted the actors to be from his country.

Siddiq Barmak's Osama wins Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes

Siddiq Barmak’s Osama wins Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes

We all know at least one person who has been through so much in life and they continue to go about their lives as if nothing had happened. We might feel like shaking them up and telling them how brave they have been and how much respect they deserve. Perhaps this is the feeling Barmak had when he made the movie. In an interview he said that the only way his people could see their struggles reflected is through an audio-visual medium because his people cannot read or write. And what a wonderful catharsis cinema can be! It is very clear that the movie is an attempt at introspection, an imploration, a dialogue within the community…

The girl who was chosen to play Osama was a girl, Marina Golbahari, Barmak found her begging outside a theatre (the theatre where he watched his first movie and worked as a projectionist). He was certain her own experience of being out there in those circumstances where women couldn’t get out of their houses alone with or without a veil and regardless of their age, would help her with the role. And it does!

Osama's pigtails planted in a pot

Osama’s pigtails planted in a pot

A girl barely out of her childhood and without any understanding of womenhood observes in silence the continued tug of war of gender around her. Ultimately circumstances force her to live as a boy. One would think that being dressed as a boy would liberate this girl at least in such a society. But she never for a moment assumes the role. She keeps her cut off pigtails planted in a pot it becomes a symbol of her womenhood growing despite all acts of camouflage.

What happens perhaps in utter adversity is that people become impervious as can be seen happening with her mother who has to let her daughter search ways to earn her livelihood. She also remains absent when her daughter is forced to take shelter in a religious school called a madrassa and the person whom she entrusted her daughter leaves the country. Osama’s fate runs through various ups and downs. There is a semblance of a friendship with a boy, Espandi, but even that doesn’t entirely grow into anything. We expect an act of rebel from her side but this unfolding should be watched to be fully appreciated.

osama poster

We talk about the East-West divide, yet the East is so fragmented and varied that there cannot be a single narrative that encompasses all. Of course the feelings of being trapped, shamed or abused are universal but the voices in which they will be told will be different. The voice of Osama is a pessimistic one. Despite all elements of life put together like friendship or mutual human compassion, there is a despair and this is reflected in its ending. Did Barmak try to put elements of positivity? Yes, but they are dispersed and shortlived in this gritty, realistic tale.

Lauren Bacall in To Have And Have Not: A Memory

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This blog was written for the blogathon at In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Check out the other more interesting and more authoritative blogs here. Also check out the hostess’ blog of interesting Classic Hollywood times.

To Have and Have Not was adapted from a novel written by novelist Ernest Hemingway. However, not much of the novel made it to the movie despite the fact that Hemingway himself worked on the screenplay, along with William Faulkner and many others. There are some elements of Hemingway in it, as such the theme of World War, a bold female protagonist and a sort of “stuck” male protagonist. And although the film is categorised as a “noir” film, the romance is still central to it.bacall2

When I was growing up one of the first movies that got me interested in Hollywood classics was “To Have and Have Not” (it started with accidently watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s,). When I was done watching the movie I was very curious about this actress whom I didn’t know, (since this played on TV and I had missed the credits, and there was no Google). I was growing up on the Bollywood staples of the 80s (did any good come out of the 80s, anywhere?) where the chaste heroine was different than the vamp. She could be flirtatious, but anything even mildly sensual was to cross the line. And here was this woman saying what she wanted to but with such an air of dignity. Years later, I discovered that was Lauren Bacall!

And I am still as stunned by the line, “you know how to whistle, don’t you?” as I was those 10-15 years ago. Frankly, I did not know what to make of it, the fumbly early teens that I was in. Then a few days later I saw an advertise that said, “Anything more would be a suggestion.” And it reminded me of this scene.

Even if I were to compare her with the Hollywood actresses I had watched at that time, she still stood out. I think each of the actors have to bring an image with them to stand out. So there was the gentle but strong Audrey Hepburn, Katherine Hepburn who was a bit of a man, very gorgeous but I mean the personality and Ingrid Bergman who was the resilient, silent girl, who spoke more with eyes.

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And there was this actress with her feline charm, who looks very believable to have snuck on Harry. Who makes her presence felt if she wishes to but can be invisible if she wishes to. She does what she wishes to but is not manipulative.

The sensuality in To Have and Have Not can also be credited to the presence of Humphrey Bogart who she was in love with and later married. It is said that it was love at first, and the chemistry is visible between the two actors. Bogart was a much senior actor and yet Bacall, the rapport aside manages to keep the audience’s eyes glued to her.

She even has a different name, Slim, (actually Marie Browning,) which makes her feel — not beautiful, or so she says. She tries every way to get Harry to help her, moves that surprise Harry’s down-to-earth demeanour.

But even as she does all this and stuns you with her boldness, you can feel the vulnerability that lies just under the surface. When Harry cancels the plans of dropping the activists, she is naive enough to think Harry did that for her.

However, she does not ever get into damsel-in-distress mode, but is present enough for people to respond to her with kindness. And after all why not? When Eddie, the sailor, who keeps asking everyone, “Have you ever been bitten by a bee?” she is the only one who one asks him if he ever has. She brings to the character empathy and a rare sense of humour.

Despite her obvious helplessness of being stuck on the island due to lack of money, she gets along well due to her charm and worldly wisdom. She sings with Cricket (Gemini Cricket?) in a silly voice and then grabs the wallet from Johnson, which is only noticed by Harry. As an actress her job was to let us know that Slim was someone who had hardened up due to her circumstances, yet she has lost neither her pride nor her humour.

To Have and Have Not was launch vehicle for this actress and she made sure that she was noticed.

This was her debut feature film and she went on to act in many more movies where brought just as many nuances to the role as she did in this one when she was only 19. Whatever her age, she continued to bring her charm and vivaciousness to the role till her ripe age.