“Life itself is an irony, when juxtaposed with death” – Satyajit Ray
Had he truly believed in this, he would have reclined to his favourite arm chair in his house and world would be robbed of some gems of cinema. I believe it to be an oxymoron; life is the conjunction between two deaths, the past and the future. The beauty of life lies in the fact that death being certain we tend to get the most out of life, live to the brim. Death comes only when life spills out of the cup. It is a basic tendency of the human soul to enjoy different occasions, ceremonies and cultural gatherings. And for film enthusiasts’ a film festival is a peak of annual celebration, equivalent to pilgrims’ yearly dip in the holy river.
The blood inside my veins was warm, when I was handed the delegate card at the Information Centre, Nandan; for this would be my first visit to Kolkata International Film Festival and the first time I’d be watching contemporary world cinema on the big screen. For me, Kolkata is the city of Do Bigha Zamin– a monstrous procession of concrete, crowd and chaos. Like my preference of films, I like my life to be slow, quiet and full of beautiful images of humans and nature. Courtesy of ten hours cinema and few friends made during the KIFF, I not only managed to survive but also had a pleasant experience for most of the time. Among the 35 features and one and a quarter short films, the quality varied from few great, some good, some moderate and a horrible (the short which forced me to go out after 5 minutes)film.
On 12th of November, I started with Rumbos (aka Night Tales) by Manuela Burlo Moreno– a film of many small climaxes in the relationships of a group of people, interconnected by fate, a radio show and fluent editing, occurring in a single night in Barcelona. Next came Paul Negoescu’s beautifully cooked Romanian delight of dark comedy Two Lottery Tickets with characters being the next of kin to those from the Coen Brothers’ Idiot Trilogy and many planimetric compositions making it a visual and comic enjoyment. In the afternoon, I entered Rabindra Sadan for Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s simple in form, beautiful in presentation and provocative in its inner philosophy- Pinneyum. Adoor introduced his film as a “simple one where life does not give a chance once again” after being introduced himself by Goutam Ghose. The film tells the story of Nair, an unemployed family man living with his wife Devi, a teacher, their daughter, retired father-in-law and specially-abled brother-in-law. After getting a dig at a MNC in UAE, greed takes the better of him although he was drawing a healthy salary each month. He plans to fake his own death and gulp the insurance money to start anew somewhere far away with his family. He returns to his family after many years but Devi is unable to accept him disallowing him another chance start afresh. Adoor uses the music, editing and some visual motifs like the rain, the greenery to full extent as the cinematic tools in the unfolding of the story. Though the floor isn’t as comfortable as the seats of Nandan II, but Rohan Perera’s Dreaming Butterflies made it worthwhile with its beautiful rural landscapes, childish humour, fantastic child actors and humane and tragic events. Dr. Mohan Agashe graced the theatre with his presence along with director duo Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukthankar for Kaasav (aka Turtle), the Marathi “stroke of genius” for which he turned producer. The parallel portrayal of the turtle conservation and a suicidal boy drifting away from the hypocrite society locking himself within his own shell is presented with utter brilliance in terms of metaphorical and layered storytelling.
After almost 9 hours of films in the first day, I wasn’t a bit tired when I queued for entering Nandan I in the second day (13th November) for Peter Greenway’s Eisenstein in Guanajuato. The comedy about Eisenstein’s stay in Mexico presented in montages in some sequences blended with an approach of painting, a style which Greenaway uses often, and music interprets the master director’s personality and uniqueness. Xavier Dolan impressed the jury at Cannes by It’s Only The End of The World with his wonderfully framed tight close-ups, lighting, and holding up of tension till the last, but I felt the film lacked the impulse to move beyond the dysfunctionality and pretentious small talk onscreen which marred its visuals to a certain degree. Dan Wolman’s film about the tragic love during the Israeli independence, An Israeli Love Story is simple, technically sound, linear piece with a mediocre outcome. La Fille Inconnue (aka The Unknown Girl) is a steady paced outlook of a doctor’s guilt and search for the identity of a dead girl is more of a psychological and social documentary by Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne. Ken Loach won his second Palm D’Or for his socio-political drama I, Daniel Blake, featuring the humorist Dave Johns as the protagonist is tale of anger against the intentionally pestering and pretentious system which has a way around the problems of the people. It is a direct film with a clear picture of the bureaucracy functioning against the people’s needs. The film comprises many beautiful yet strong scenes such as Katie eating at the food bank and her susequent breakdown, Daniel taking up the fight to the next level by writing his demands on the wall with the paint and so on, which shapes and powers the context of the narrative.
In the cinematic Sunday at the festival, I enjoyed a wave of films from the masters of modern cinema which will forever remain in my memories as my first ever “Super Sunday” in a film festival.