Selasa, 31 Agustus 2010

Louis Malle - My Dinner with Andre (1981)

From Ebert's 4 star review :

"The idea is astonishing in its audacity: a film of two friends talking, just simply talking—but with passion, wit, scandal, whimsy, vision, hope, and despair—for 110 minutes. It sounds at first like one of those underground films of the 1960s, in which great length and minimal content somehow interacted in the dope-addled brains of the audience to provide the impression of deep if somehow elusive profundity. 'My Dinner with Andre' is not like that. It doesn't use all of those words as a stunt.

They are alive on the screen, breathing, pulsing, reminding us of endless, impassioned conversations we've had with those few friends worth talking with for hours and hours. Underneath all the other fascinating things in this film beats the tide of friendship, of two people with a genuine interest in one another.

The two people are André Gregory and Wallace Shawn. Those are their real names, and also their names in the movie. I suppose they are playing themselves. As the film opens, Shawn travels across New York City to meet Gregory for dinner, and his thoughts provide us with background: His friend Gregory is a New York theater director, well-known into the 1970s, who dropped out for five years and traveled around the world. Now Gregory has returned, with wondrous tales of strange experiences. Shawn has spent the same years in New York, finding uncertain success as an author and playwright. They sit down for dinner in an elegant restaurant. We do not see the other customers. The bartender is a wraith in the background, the waiter is the sort of presence they were waiting for in "Waiting for Godot." The friends order dinner, and then, as it is served and they eat and drink, they talk.

What conversation! Gregory does most of the talking, and he is a spellbinding conversationalist, able to weave mental images not only out of his experiences, but also out of his ideas. He explains that he had become dissatisfied with life, restless, filled with anomie and discontent. He accepted an invitation to join an experimental theater group in Poland. It was very experimental, tending toward rituals in the woods under the full moon.

From Poland, he traveled around the world, meeting a series of people who were seriously and creatively exploring the ways in which they could experience the material world. They (and Gregory) literally believed in mind over matter, and as Gregory describes a monk who was able to stand his entire body weight on his fingertips, we visualize that man and in some strange way (so hypnotic is the tale) we share the experience.

One of the gifts of 'My Dinner with Andre' is that we share so many of the experiences. Although most of the movie literally consists of two men talking, here's a strange thing: We do not spend the movie just passively listening to them talk. At first, director Louis Malle's sedate series of images (close-ups, two-shots, reaction shots) calls attention to itself, but as Gregory continues to talk, the very simplicity of the visual style renders it invisible. And like the listeners at the feet of a master storyteller, we find ourselves visualizing what Gregory describes, until this film is as filled with visual images as a radio play—more filled, perhaps, than a conventional feature film.

What Gregory and Shawn talk about is, quite simply, many of the things on our minds these days. We've passed through Tom Wolfe's Me Decade and find ourselves in a decade during which there will apparently be less for everybody. The two friends talk about inner journeys—not in the mystical, vague terms of magazines you don't want to be seen reading on the bus, but in terms of trying to live better lives, of learning to listen to what others are really saying, of breaking the shackles of conventional ideas about our bodies and allowing them to more fully sense the outer world.

The movie is not ponderous, annoyingly profound, or abstract. It is about living, and Gregory seems to have lived fully in his five years of dropping out. Shawn is the character who seems more like us. He listens, he nods eagerly, he is willing to learn, but—something holds him back. Pragmatic questions keep asking themselves. He can't buy Gregory's vision, not all the way. He'd like to, but this is a real world we have to live in, after all, and if we all danced with the druids in the forests of Poland, what would happen to the market for fortune cookies?

The film's end is beautiful and inexplicably moving. Shawn returns home by taxi through the midnight streets of New York. Having spent hours with Gregory on a wild conversational flight, he is now reminded of scenes from his childhood. In that store, his father bought him shoes. In that one, he bought ice cream with a girl friend. The utter simplicity of his memories acts to dramatize the fragility and great preciousness of life. He has learned his friend's lesson."

no pass

Ingmar Bergman - Ansikte mot ansikte AKA Face to Face (1976)

Description: "Face to Face was intended to be a film about dreams and reality. The dreams were to become tangible reality. Reality would dissolve and become dream. I have occasionally managed to move unhindered between dream and reality, in Persona, Sawdust and Tinsel and Cries and Whispers. This time it was more difficult. My intentions required an inspiration which failed me. The dream sequences became synthetic, the reality blurred. There are a few solid scenes here and there, and Liv Ullmann struggled like a lion, but not even she could save the culmination, the primal scream which amounted to enthusiastic but ill-digested fruit of my reading. Artistic license sneered through the thin fabric."
— Ingmar Bergman, The Magic Lantern

no pass

subtitles - English
no pass

Shoaib Mansoor - Khuda Kay Liye AKA In The Name of God (2007)

Shoaib Mansoor’s highly ambitious project had been announced a few years ago and with time had become one of the most anticipated movies in recent Pakistani history (sounds almost like an accolade!) and indeed it arrived riding a wave of publicity the likes of which had rarely been witnessed in Pakistan before.

After the first few shows of the movie, the accolades started to fly thick and fast; even normally sane people spouting four syllable superlatives and the queues growing longer and longer with each passing day. So, is the film all that it is touted to be? Does Khuda Kay Liye live up to the enormous hype and does this film signal the much proclaimed “Revival of Cinema in Pakistan” and will it win an Oscar? In the following write up cum review will we will attempt to tackle those issues.

Having spent the last day or two hanging out at a cinema in Royal Park that was screening Nasha Jawani Da, I had ample time to be amazed at the current level of commercial cinema in Pakistan as well as the state of most of the theatres themselves. Sitting in rubble watching Nasha Jawani Da, one wondered why even a poor labourer wouldn’t prefer to spend his time trying to catch some sleep then watch the garbage on screen…worse still that the garbage on screen was being projected by a relic built in 1938 and that the sound that came through the few still functioning, bust to pieces loudspeakers, can hardly be called sound at all. The coffee, chai and cold drinks kiosk lay in ruin as did everything else in this particular cinema in the heart of Pakistan’s film industry, Royal Park Lahore.

But to get back to the subject of reviewing Khuda Kay Liye – The titles sequence is simple yet dignified and the background music soft and pleasing suggesting even at the very outset that the audience might be in for a surprise and for those who watch films like Nasha Jawani da on a regular basis, they might very well keep the smelling salts handy. From the few opening scenes of the film, it is very clear that the aesthetic and language of the film is totally unrecognizable from the world of Nasha Jawani Da.

The acting on the most part is very commendable with some performances outstanding and some that are less than memorable, however on the whole, there is true quality in the performances yet the real star is the writer who has painted characters that are both believable and likeable, there are no garish songs nor any vulgar comedy – it’s all hugely refreshing.

Among the actors, Rasheed Naz walks away with a towering performance under his belt and hopefully the film’s success means we will see a lot more of him. He is brilliant; exuding just the perfect blend and balance of charm and menace his portrayal rings frighteningly true. The parents of Shaan and Fawad Khan are also well acted and perfectly believable. Shaan himself turns in an honest and sober performance even if he looks more like the parent of a college student than a student himself however his girlfriend is a very weak link and there moments together are perhaps the least effective scenes of the entire movie. The scenes at the Jazz college veer into some weird Teen age kids from Fame kind of thing with a really seriously cheesy number when all the kids join in with Shaan like some horrible We Are the World spinoff.

Iman Ali carries herself well and turns in a perfectly adequate performance despite the occasionally hysteria inducing accent cock up. Whenever she says Dave like Dive she suddenly morphs into a cockney lass from East London and then slips back into her regular blah accent – these accent malfunctions provide a couple of moments of comic relief, but criticizing the film for such negligible issues would be nit picking.

Shoaib Mansoor has taken on a herculean task and has for the most part accomplished what he set out to achieve. It is head and shoulders and in anything else above any other commercial film made in Pakistan in the last quarter of a century if not more. The message it delivers is a very relevant and important one and even without the message factor, the film succeeds on almost every count. That said, I did find the film over long to the tune of about 45 minutes – the second half was laborious at times and right at the very end with the court case scene and the arrival of Naseerudin Shah, the film appears to step into traditional Bollywood style uplifting sermons. However these are merely small quibbles with a film that will clearly set the standards for all mainstream movies to follow. It is a superb effort by Shoaib Mansoor, a truly towering achievement and his film totally deserves the success and the accolades being showered on it.

Khuda Kay Liye is a ridiculously gigantic step forward for Pakistani commercial cinema and watching the film with a packed, utterly involved crowd with not a seat to be found was something a little bit special. Can there be life after death for Pakistani cinema? Or will we be banished to premature hell and be forced to watch Nasha Jawani Da sitting in rubble that was once a cinema? Khuda Kay Liye and a couple of other films in the pipeline suggest that 2007 could well turn out to be a pivotal year in Pakistani cinema history and Geo who are the thrust of this “Revival of Cinema in Pakistan” deserve huge credit for daring to attempt what nobody dared and by doing so, retaining their cutting edge.

One of the best aspects of KKL was that it didn’t ape Bollywood while Javed Shaikh’s Yeh Dil Aap Ka Hua leant so much towards Bollywood aesthetics. Shoaib Mansoor, to his credit has not styled the film to mimic the ethos of Bollywood or anywhere else, he has just followed his own impulses which have turned out to be a huge strength of the movie. On the whole, a very well crafted, intelligent and hugely impressive film which would have been even better had it been more concise. Oscar Awards may not beckon just yet but despite that the film is most definitely a well deserved triumph for Shoaib Mansoor.
(Review by Omar Ali Khan, owner of

no pass

Jamil Dehlavi - Jinnah (1998)

Description: Taken from IMDB may contain spoilers:

Biography of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of modern Pakistan is told through flashbacks as his soul tries to find eternal rest. The flashbacks start in 1947 as Jinnah pleads for a separate nation from the Muslim regime, infuriating Lord Mountbatten. Mountbatten then tries to enlist Gandhi & Nehru to persuade Jinnah to stop his efforts. Gandhi sides with Jinnah, which upsets Nehru. However, Jinnah turns down the offer to become prime minister and the film takes another slide back to 1916, which reveals all of the political implications that have occurred

no pass

Jan Mohammed - International Gorillay (1990)

From a IMDB comment:

“The film is a fabulous concoction and shows the Islamic world tottering on the brink of an abyss. Rushdie is leading the assault on Islam with his Satanic Verses and is targeting Pakistan (the "fortress" of modern day Islam) because once mighty Pakistan is dealt with, the rest of the Islamic world will hardly stand a chance. Rushdie plans to drive the final nails into the coffin of Islam by opening a new chain of Casino's and Disco's spreading contemptible vice and debauchery. Mustafa Qureshi, hen pecked to death by his demented wife, decides to call it a day with his day job at the Police station and induct his unemployed brothers to create a Mujahid (God's soldiers) trio whose sole aim is to seek out and destroy the despised Salman Rushdie before he manages to destroy all virtue and decency on the planet. The trio have a personal axe to grind as their beloved family cherub was recently slaughtered by Rushdie's men while protesting Satanic Verses.

The film is maniacal high farce and a laugh-a-minute caper as the three Mujahids go undercover to try to discover the evasive Rushdie even showing up in Batman outfits on one occasion to outwit their nemesis…….very appropriate undercover gear as surely nobody would find it at all odd to see three rather portly middle aged men wandering around in Bat-suits! There are numerous spectacular fight sequences with tons of stunts, explosions and rocket launching in evidence. Neeli and Babra perform some rather atrocious dances to dire sub-disco numbers…..though Madame Noor Jehan is irresistible when she coos "Oh no" in that inimitable sultry manner of hers. The film moves along at a rollicking pace and sizzles with its sheer intensity and dynamism. The direction is sledgehammer subtle as is the norm for Punjabi cinema and the one-liners have to be delivered slowly and deliberately and sometimes even three times in a row so as to not miss their point! A quite masterful and brilliantly opportunistic film that manages to expertly fictionalize the entire Salman Rushdie Satanic Rites issue and present it as a demented pseudo-religious fairy tale - a stroke of rare genius. An historic Lollywood masterwork not to be missed at any cost.” Guerillas.avi

hardcoded eng subs
no pass

Jamil Dehlavi - The Blood of Hussain (1981)

Description: Description by original uploader:
This is a landmark film in Pakistani cinema. First and foremost, it was one of the few occasions where filmmakers attempted to do something off-beat and high-brow (not unlike the ‘parallel’ cinema of India, that had just started to show its presence amidst the typical ‘Bollywood’ fare. We’re talking about late 1970s, when the average Pakistani film roughly resembled its Indian counterpart, if a bit more gaudy). Secondly, it is notable for being one of the country's very few (probably the first) English language film. And finally, it is a controversial film for being banned and remaining largely unseen (except on bootleg VHS) in Pakistan. That last factor certainly helped it gain cult status. Unfortunately, that also meant that to date, nobody has attempted to rescue the film from obscurity (unlike in USA, where Blue Underground, NoShame, Something Weird and other companies regularly restore and release cult classics).

The film was originally financed by NAFDEC, Pakistan’s official film development corporation. By 1977, while the film was close to completion or in post-production, Martial law was imposed in the country, and the late General Zia-ul-Haq became president of the new regime, imprisoning and ultimately hanging the deposed prime-minister Zulfiqar Bhutto. Zia got wind of the film and its anti-military stance (ironically, the film was about a fictional martial law regime…but eventually life imitated art), and tried confiscating it. Luckily, the negative had been sent to a film lab in UK, so it was safe. The director, Jamil Dehlavi, also managed to escape capture by the Pakistani authorities, living in exile from that time onwards. He managed to produce a final cut of the film, but since it was banned in Pakistan, it became something of a hot potato. Eventually, Channel 4 did air it on British TV, if only once. And it was a recording of this TV broadcast that began life as an under-the-counter bootleg tape in select video stores across Pakistan.

My copy of the film is derived from such a time-worn dupe of the original recording (which originally included British adverts), and it shows. Still, it was the best (indeed, only) copy I could find, and isn’t too bad (aside from some bad tracking near the beginning), all things considered. The color is still there, the dialog is audible enough, and overall it is watchable enough. Still, if someone out there has a better copy, please feel free to share. The film was shown in international film festivals, so there may be other copies. Also, Mr. Dehlavi supposedly has a pristine original 35mm print, as well as the negatives (however, my attempts to contact him have proved fruitless).

The plot of the film is simple enough to follow, on the surface. However, the whole story alludes to a crucial and famous incident in Islamic history that non-Muslim viewers may be unaware of:

Briefly, in the 7th century AD, Imam Hussain (grandson of the prophet Muhammad) refused to offer allegiance to the ruthless usurper caliph Yazid, and paid the price with his own blood as well as the lives of his family at Karbala (in Iraq), where Yazid’s army laid siege to his defenseless caravan. The incident became a symbol of steadfast integrity and faith in the face of overpowering odds and certain death. It is remembered with much emotion, reverence and fervor every year by Muslims, more so amongst the Shia community (glimpses of which can be seen in the film).

Jamil Dehlavi worked with a mix of Pakistani and international crew on this film, featuring the British actress Kika Markham, and plays a key role himself (the General’s chief henchman). The cinematography, music, make-up and effects are extremely professional (and easily discernable despite the poor print). If your only point of reference for Pakistani cinema is the likes of Maula Jat or International Gorillay, you are in for a surprise. This is closer to Tarkovsky or Pontecorvo, and it was not a fluke, either; Dehlavi has proved to be a filmmaker with a unique vision in other films like Born Of Fire, Immaculate Conception, Jinnah (for which he returned to Pakistan, and a film that garnered its own controversies), etc.

What the critics say

• 'A multi-talented filmmaker, he has created an extraordinary Arabian Nights
documentary-fantasy which has few parallels in the cinema.' The Sunday Times

• 'Dehlavi has a remarkable eye for the telling image.' The Times

• 'One of the strongest films from the Third World... a powerful and imaginative plea for
freedom.' The Guardian

• 'I was affected by the film's sheer force and beauty. It's the story of romance and
political intrigue, shot on breathtakingly beautiful Pakistani locations, with images that
make politics into poetry.' Chicago Sun-Times

• 'A skilled, fascinating movie.' Los Angeles Times

• 'A well-made film, lush lensing, played with forthright ability.' Variety, New York

• 'A very beautiful film.' Le Monde, Paris

• 'A very dramatic film in which the heroic-mystical tradition of Islam relives with
powerful symbolism and spectacular impetus. A rousing song of freedom for all
oppressed people.' II Messagero, Rome

• 'An admirable work, both from an aesthetic and political viewpoint.' La Presse, Montreal

• 'An important film.' El Pais, Madrid

• 'A masterpiece from Pakistan.' Anoreymatinh, Athens

• 'A gripping, moving film.' South China Morning Post

• 'Galvanising cinema. What distinguishes it is not just its sophisticated blend of politics,
drama and mythology, but also its shatteringly beautiful imagery.' Asiaweek

• 'A bold universal statement embracing the embodiment of revolution and the imbalance
of power. Dehlavi brings a modern interpretation of the parallel metaphor of the
martyred Imam Hussain, who fought against the tyranny of Yazid, the most notorious
despot in the history of Islam, and whose blood became a powerful weapon in the fight
for freedom.' The Natal Mercury

hardcoded eng subs
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