VIDEO REVIEWS

Posted on January 17, 2017

A RARE RAUNCHY ROMANCE!

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  • MOVIE – Mourir Auprès de Toi (To Die By Your Side)
  • YEAR OF RELEASE –2011
  • GENRE –Tragedy; Comedy
  • LANGUAGE – English / French (get the short film here- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TJ1HiXDObk&t=2s)
  • DIRECTOR –Spike Jonze, Simon Cahn
  • CAST –Soko, Spike Jonze, Pierre Le-tan
  • The Atlantic ONE PLOT SUMMARY Set inside iconic Parisian bookstore Shakespeare and Company, the film tells the story of the skeleton from the cover of Macbeth, voiced by Jonze himself, who falls in love with Mina Harker on the cover of Dracula. He sets out to meet her, but loses his head to a French version of The Big Clock on the way, trips and falls into Faulkner’s Sartoris, and is then swallowed by Moby-Dick. Harker, braving all perils, comes to his rescue; but gets killed. The death, however, is just the beginning of a very raunchy happily-ever-after.

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This fantastic piece of stop – motion animation, undoubtedly, is a great treat for lovers of short films and books. The innovative plot, as developed by Jonze, and handbag designer, Olympia Le-Tan is laudable; though it is another one in a long series of narratives that amplify the romanticism that shrouds bookstores, and sacrifices made in the name of Love. Notably, it provides a distinctive insight into relationships with a single sinister lesson: love consumes all. For all its laughs, it offers a very patriarchal narrative of sacrifice, selfishness, and lust. Harker is portrayed as a seductress – and an opinionated, strong woman who valiantly rescues her lover despite ultimately bending to the demands of circumstances, and her lover’s nature. After her skeletal lover is rescued from the clutch of Moby Dick, he rewards Harker with an accidental stab in the front, and comforts her that death is “not so bad”. In the afterlife, Harker is stripped of her human flesh, and she assumes the characteristic ‘state’ of her skeletal sweetheart. She, nonetheless, retains those aspects that subscribe to the societal notions of feminine beauty – eyes with beautiful eye-lashes, and long hair. Now on a equal plain, they give in to their carnal desires, embarking on flamboyant coupling. The narrative can also be read as one of sexual liberation. In the beginning – Harker appears modestly attired, tucked inside layers of bedding; in the end credits, she lies naked atop books, sexually gratified, whilst her lover sits afar, smoking. Is she stating that she is free to express her inner desires, hitherto repressed? Moreover, interestingly, the skeleton walks off a book cover that reads “tragedy”. He is already a tragic victim (of love?), yet he yields to the trappings of the emotion again. This alludes to the tendency of man to be drawn to things he cannot achieve or things that are not ‘healthy’ for his being. In fact, the audience is left with a warning – Love is the ultimate tragedy of mankind.

[For further information, please visit – http://www.openculture.com/2011/10/spike_jonze_presents_presents_a_stop_animation_film_for_book_lovers.html ; https://www.nowness.com/story/spike-jonze-mourir-aupres-de-toi ]


Posted on December 10, 2016

WHERE THE EROTIC IS MODEST AND SENSUAL …

antarmahal

  • MOVIE – Antarmahal: “Views of the Inner Chamber”
  • YEAR OF RELEASE – 2005
  • GENRE – Period Drama (19th century Bengal)
  • LANGUAGE – Bengali (get the full movie here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0w-RHMY0jk)
  • DIRECTOR – Rituporno Ghosh
  • CAST – Jackie Shroff, Rupa Ganguly, Abhishek Bacchan, Soha Ali Khan, Raima Sen, Sumanta Mukherjee, Bishwajit Chakraborty
  • IMDb ONE PLOT SUMMARY In late 19th Century, Bengal Bhubaneswar Chowdhury (Jackie Shroff) is a wealthy and tyrannical Zamidar (Squire). He has two main obsessions: his desperate attempts for an heir, which even his new second wife Jashomati seems unable to deliver; and competing with his regional rivals to produce the most magnificent effigy of a goddess for the annual Durga Puja ceremony. This year he concocts a master plan – why not change the face of the goddess for the most powerful woman on Earth – Queen Victoria. Meantime his two wives Mahomaya and Jashomati try to look out for one another especially as Bhubeneshwar begins to sexually assault his younger wife each night. Traumatized and lonely, Jashomati is dangerously drawn towards the youthful sculptor who has been employed to create the great effigy of Durga, Goddess of destruction.

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“… I must confess that I completely failed to understand how a race so protective of its women can tolerate the exposure of its goddesses thus in this unashamed voluptuousness that I see confronting me every day. An aberration! Her Majesty would surely be scandalized at this travesty committed in her name…”

Antarmahal (অন্তরমহল) or “Views of the Inner Chamber” commands a singular description: sensual. Unjustly dubbed salacious – this movie is one of the under – rated art films of the Bengali Film Industry as well as of Rituporno Ghosh himself. Famed for unparalleled “female – centric” oeuvres like Bariwali, The Raincoat, Chokher Bali, and Utsav – in Antarmahal, he brings out the social plight of 19th century colonial Bengal against the backdrop of the zamindari household of Bhubaneswar Chowdhury (Jackie Shroff). Though centered on the person of the patriarch, the narration (inspired by Tarashankar Bandopadhaya’s Pratima) weaves together the lives of his two wives – Mahomaya (Rupa Ganguly) and Jashomati (Soha Ali Khan), a British portraitist, and a young sculptor – Brojo (Abhishek Bacchan) in the months leading to the autumn festival of Durga Puja. Three strains are predominantly harped – those of hollow ritualism, sheer hypocrisy, and sexual exploitation; whilst concepts like sex, lust, submission, reverence are consistently reconfigured to bring out the moral chaos in the microcosm of a carefully monitored zenana; and the macrocosm of the Bengali society. Above all, the film exemplifies how the futile man hypocritically serves the distant unattainable objects of his fascination and neglects those at his disposal; at the end, serving both halfheartedly.

Bhubaneswar Chowdhury’s story is that of a man who lacks respect for women – his Wives, his Goddess, and his Queen. He doesn’t hesitate to invite a Brahmin in his boudoir, nor does he flinch from “loaning” his wife to five Brahmins for a blessed impregnation. He defiles his Goddess by providing her the countenance of a Christian Queen. He defiles the Queen by providing her a clay body, albeit of a Goddess, that was touched intimately by a lowly artisan during the realization of its form. In the attempt to worship her, he reduces her into one of the women of his zenana when he installs her portrait in a mandir behind a bamboo screen. He plans to serve her with “drumbeats, and sacrificial blood combined grotesquely in a barbaric ritual” – a manner abhorred by the Queen’s immediate subject .i.e., the British portraitist. In fact, Antarmahal provides a grim caricature of “Female” worship where women are valued as a source of higher power. Power and piety appears inseparably and pitifully intertwined. Both the Queen and the Goddess Durga are ‘worshipped’ because they represent intimidating powerfulness; the two bibis are ‘disregarded’ because they are powerless. Moreover, driven home is the far reaching impact of the Imperial Cult, and how distance between the worshiped and the worshiper results in derisory inaccuracies .i.e., the revering of a mortal ‘administrative’ queen as a de facto Hindu deity who should be appeased with offerings and diyas. In a sense, the worship of the Goddess who equally comes from afar is beset with inadequacies as those that characterize the worship of Queen Victoria.

The substitution of Queen Victoria’s face for Jashomati’s in the climax of the movie echoes the grim prophesy that Mahomaya makes in the initial scene – how Bhubaneswar will put his younger begum in a natmandir and worship her as a goddess. The process of the building of the effigy not only transforms Jashomati into a goddess, but also transfers Brojo’s longingness for his wife, from Rukhmini to the woman he is idolizing. In the initial scenes, he is seen associating the Goddess’ body with that of his wife’s – however, as the movie progresses, he discards this notion, and opts for the more scandalous one – the association of the clay effigy with Jashomati.  But how can one interpret this casual shift or stroke of genius? In the beginning of the movie, via a beautifully captured scene, Ghosh arranges for the encounter between Brojo and Jashomati in the mandir where the portrait of the Queen is installed.  In reply to the zamindar’s inquiry whether he knew what Queen Victoria looked like, Brojo nods and replies that he has seen “her” in the mandir – here, the “her” appears quite confusing in the light of the climax. The viewers are left to chew on the ‘possibility’ whether Brojo indeed mistakes Jashomati as the “Maharani Victoria” and makes the countenance of the Goddess in her uncanny likeness; or that it is his deliberate faux pas as a sly rebuking of the zamindar for the disrespect he has for women.

The film literally explores the lives of the sexual creatures in the inner chambers of an aristocratic household; so lust works at several levels and is highly romanticized: the man’s lust for a woman’s body, the artist’s lust for his craft, a woman’s lust for a youthful male vigor, the affluent patriarch’s lust for power and dynastic ambition, and a deprived celibate’s lust for the domestic’s life. Yet not a single scene has the explicit sexual content that should qualify for a gross pornographic movie. On a slightly charitable note, these workings of lust can also be interpreted as the manifestations of obsession – the zamindar’s obsession for a male heir and power; the artist’s obsession for his craft, and the two bibi’s obsession for the youthful physique of Brojo – that stands as a contrast to Bhubaneswar’s pitiful impotency.

The primary actors in the film are needled together by a dichotomous thread in the narration; and in a sense, this is what that propels the story line forward. If the ugly tensions of polygamy play out in the day to day exchanges between the two wives of the zamindar, then so does a soft hue of sororal concern. Of the two, Mahomaya is the witty and pragmatic one, used to the ways of the ruthless world. Jashomati is younger, naive and innocent. Both devise ways to wrestle with the zamindar’s violent obsession for his progeny; unsuccessfully so. Both fall victim to his ambition and their liberation comes, accompanied by tragedy – one commits suicide whilst the other is left to be “devoured” by ‘hungry’ Brahmins. The other dichotomy involves the crude zamindar, and the more humane sculptor. The film focuses on their respective treatment of women – Brojo’s passionate relationship with his wife Rukhmini appears ‘smug’ on the face of what Bhubaneswar and his wives share – mechanical feelings, expressionless and distasteful sex, and intolerable torture: mental and physical. One treats women as sacred – the divine inspiration for his art; the other profane – viewing them as mere sexual vehicles to transmit his lineage. Also the illiterate Brojo’s psychology proves to be more complex than that of Bhubaneswar’s, riddled as it is, by egotism and insecurity. Nonetheless, despite Brojo’s ‘compassion’ for women, particularly for Jashomati – his treatment of her is, by far, more ruthless than her husband’s; for it seals her fate in his tribute. Lastly, the servants stand in contrast to their master and mistresses in their ‘rising to occasions’ unhindered by etiquette. They are the ones who flit through the harsh aristocratic household, the survivors of reality and providers of the much needed voice of rationalism and remedy.

Antarmahal gives a silent nod toward one of Satyajit Ray’s masterpieces – Devi, and captures elegantly the complexity of a moral as well as social labyrinth of a bygone era. Shroff’s and Ganguly’s acting skills command the audience attention. Bacchan and Khan are adequate in their roles. It is a must watch for art – film fanatics and for anyone who enjoys a good period drama and is in need of food for thoughts.

[For more reviews, please visit – http://www.mouthshut.com/Bengali-Movies/Antarmahal-Movie-reviews-925052521 ; http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0454391/  ; http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/film-review-antarmahal-starring-soha-ali-khan-abhishek-bachchan/1/192676.html ]

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