THELMA – Drama, 116m, Norway, Dir. Joachim Trier
A superlative film – easily one of the best in the Festival, it’s about a university student’s attraction – with near disastrous consequences – for her fellow female colleague. The seizures the former is prone to, coupled with the dark secret she and her parents share, form the major part of the film which ends in a stunning climax. The director has sensitively crafted an unusual subject with consummate ease.
LOVELESS – Drama / Romance, 127m, Russia, Dir. Andrey Zvyagintsev
With an impending divorce and the constant fighting of a couple, their 12-year-old son flees home. The bulk of the film is devoted to the boy’s search by a group of dedicated volunteers, as well as the couple’s cavorting with their new-found partners. It’s set in 2012 and a decrepit neighbourhood, the Ukrainian war, and the heartlessness of the parents are tenderly depicted by the director. A heart-wrenching story with some excellent cinematography made it one of the must-watch films of the Festival.
The Third Murder – Mystery / Drama, 124m, Japan, Dir. Hirokazu Koreeda
With ‘legal strategy IS the truth’ being the axiom of a high-profile defense lawyer, what virtually looked like an open-and-shut case, turns the courtroom topsy turvy as the self-confessed murderer accused keeps changing his stance. Having already served a term for a double murder years ago, the defense lawyer has miles to go before he can convince the jury and get the death penalty commuted to a life sentence. With excellent direction and portrayals to match, the accused’s proximity to the victim’s 14-year-old daughter adds to the mystery.
On Body And Soul – Drama, 116m, Hungary, Dir. Ildiko Enyedi
A stag and a doe’s intimacy – beautifully shot in the snow-forested regions of Hungary – is recurringly shown throughout the film, signifying the two protagonists’ common dream. One is a finance executive in a slaughter-house; the other – a recent addition to the office – a robotic, fastidious and reticent lady with a photographic memory. How their paths (read: dreams) meet socially and physically, forms the crux of the film. Her fourth feature and first in 18 years, director Enyedi has done a commendable job and brought the best out of her players.
Shalom Bollywood – Documentary, 76m, Australia, Dir. Danny Ben-Moshe
In this documentary, reportedly 11 years in the making, the Australian director traces the significance and contribution of the Indian Jews to Hindi cinema — David, Nadira, and Sulochana (the first female superstar of Indian cinema) being the more prominent ones. Most of the footage is the result of interviews with the subjects’ descendants. Though the film fills in a few gaps, there are some omissions and also scenes of cattle and snake charmers on Mumbai’s roads are needlessly shown.
ONE THOUSAND ROPES – Drama, 98m, New Zealand, Dir. Tusi Tamasese
The story of a former male boxer-turned-midwife who uses traditional ingenious healing methods to treat those in their last few months of pregnancy. Having shunned violence to atone for his past sins, he now has to treat his own daughter who has been physically assaulted by her boyfriend and who is in the last few weeks of her pregnancy. The Samoan director has done a fine job of this poignant tale of a father who has to decide whether to confront his daughter’s boyfriend, or to bury the demons of his past.
SLEEPING BEAUTY – Fantasy / Comedy, 82m, France, Dir. Adolfo Arrietta
Spanish director Arrietta brings old-world charm to this timeless classic of Grimm Brothers, where Prince Egon of Letonia discovers that his neighbouring kingdom of Kentz has stood still for 100 years. It’s a modern-day fairy tale where the chain-smoking prince, with his mobile phone, defies his father and sets off to undo the curse on the kingdom and awaken the princess – the Sleeping
FREE AND EASY – Drama / Comedy, 97m, Hong Kong, Dir. Geng Jun
A relaxed comedy with crime as a sub-genre, this languid feature emanating from China is shot largely in a disused factory town. It unfolds the encounters of a motley group of people — swindlers all. The film opens sedately and has an unfrenzied, slow pace throughout. A case of ‘the conman conned’.
BEACH RATS – Drama, 95m, USA, Dir. Eliza Hittman
The award-winning director gives free rein to the viewer’s imagination to explore the sexuality of a down-and-out teenager, whose escapades with his drug-dealing delinquent friends and sexcapades with older men form the crux of this story. Male bodies and New York’s Coney Island serve as the backdrop as his doting girlfriend makes brazen overtures, forcing him to reveal his true sexual identity.
GOOD TIME – Drama / Crime, 100m, USA, Dir. Josh and Benny Safdie
A bungled-up bank robbery by two brothers lands one of them, mentally imbalanced, in prison. This sets of a series of criminal adventures, where the other brother – combustible by nature and criminal in character – tries to free the heavily bandaged captured brother from the hospital prison. The film takes on several hues when he realises to his horror that he has adducted the wrong person, even going to the extent of using a 16-year-old girl to achieve his means. Though the criminal tone is maintained throughout the film, there’s not much of a ‘good time’ in it.