Tag Archives: Pallavi Patil Movie Reviews

Raise the Red Lantern – Movie Review

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Movie: Raise The Red Lantern

Original Title: Da hong deng long gao gao gua

Director: Yimou Zhang

Year: 1991

Country of Origin: China

Languages: Mandarin

Raise The Lantern Movie Review –

This is a movie about the sexual enslavement of women in a feudal system in China. It is about four mistresses living together. Their master lives in the central house and each of the four mistresses has a house of her own opening onto a central courtyard. The family is guarded by strict family customs and rules laid by the ancestors. According to the customs, red lanterns are lit in the quarter of the mistress with whom the master decides to spend the night.

This huge house is made up of high stone and brick walls and covers a massive area. It is a movie speaking about the almost inhuman male dominance in the society and the defiant Songlian (Gong Li) who marries into this house as the 4th mistress. Once a woman is married into this rich family, she cannot escape- come what may. Three mistresses are already living, sharing a very uneasy relationship with each other. The entry of the 4th mistress Songlian fuels this heated atmosphere and adds to the rivalries. The house overflows with luxury which is available to the mistresses (concubines-a woman cohabits with a man to whom she is not legally married, especially one regarded as socially or sexually subservient; mistress) but none has true freedom. Well, whats the use of a bath tub with candles and perfumes in a prison?

It is story of complete enslavement of women by their master under the effect of which the mistresses change their behaviour. The first mistress is old and has an adult son. She is the more experienced.  The 2nd mistress, Zhuoya (who first appears to be very friendly and helping nature) and has a son. The 3rd mistress, Meishan used to be a good opera singer. She is young, beautiful and filled with jealouy. The 4th mistress , Songlian, the lead actress in the movie drops out of college after her father’s death and marries this rich master, succumbing to the pressure from her stepmother. There is a teenage servant, Yaner, who is the master’s favourite and aspires to be a mistress herself…someday.

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Everybody in the family along with the servants mindlessly adhere to the family customs. It is clear that they do so, not out of will but due to the force of tradition and culture. A very good depiction of millions around the world, who never question our value system and customs and verify their correctness. What stops us from evolving? We are almost blinded by them.

The mistresses are not really happy and their whole existence revolves around- whom will the master favour. That’s their sole sense of achievement. And exactly this competition is what changes them at times to show their worst face. (Competition brings out the best and sometimes the worst out of people.)

Songlian soon learns that she is trapped behind the closed doors of the palatial house and those who seemed friendly are in fact plotting against her. This frustration of not being able to experience freedom along with the fierce competition to be the master’s favourite alters her behaviour in such a way that their personal dynamics changes into war.

The cinematography of the movie is beautiful with the ‘reds’ of the lit lanterns forming a lovely contrast against the grays and the blues of the palatial house. But there is something sinister about  this redness. The deep reds evoke a feeling of danger telling us that all is not well in the house and add a passion to the whole drama. The ‘reds’ also express the fiercely burning passion, ugliness and jealousy in the minds and hearts of the mistresses.

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All the drama takes place within the closed spaces of the tall, strong walls (there are some scenes in the open on the terrace of the house and they are beautifully pictured) . As a viewer at times you feel claustrophobic, gasping for fresh air. This is exactly how the mistresses feel in their own house which seems more like a big prison which they can free themselves from. The instrumental background score played while the lanterns are carried from one place to other is particularly befitting a thriller. This whole effect beautifully adds to the phobia and restlessness. The choir singing in high pitch is interimly used as background music and is very melancholy and haunting. It is beautifully crafted film.

The mistresses have to please their masters in bed and have to produce babies, especially a son to be an heir to the family. As the concubines express their reality of they being just animals and not human in the patriarchal society makes us sad and we get totally absorbed in their pathetic sate of existence. (Songlian ends up insane as she is unable to fight the inhumanity and is haunted by the guilt of her actions.)

The movie is about anarchy in a male dominated society and the results of it. But much more than that the movie has successfully initiated an argument in the superbly made 2hrs drama – We humans are always looking for dominance over each other. This chase of wanting to be on the top at times makes us lose our sense of well being and fairness. The four women knew they cannot escape. They could have come together to help each other and then may be they would have experienced a slightly happier life.  But they chose to fight with each other(wrong choice) to vent out their frustrations and for dominance and power. I completely understand the frustrations of a woman living in a male dominated society. I have been there. And some might feel that expecting the four women to co-operate is probably asking for something superhuman. But I still feel they could have handled it better. Its only in terms of crisis and severe pressure that we human are capable of coming out with our best and to rise above trivials. The mistresses could have empathized but they chose to criticize.  The film awesomely expresses that the whole helplessness of the human race of not being able to overcome jealously for a common good leads to tragic consequences for all. And after all that plotting against each other, does anybody really win? No…the anarchy continues. The 5th mistress arrives in the palace and the vicious circle moves on.

When there is too much ‘ME’, we not only lose the ‘WE’ but also destroy the ‘ME’.

 

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Reviewed by: Pallavi Patil

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The Reader – Movie Review

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Movie: The Reader

Releasing Year: 2008

Director: Stephen Daldry

Writer/Screenplay:  David Hare

Country of Origin: U.S.A & Germany

Running Time: 124 minutes

Languages: English, German, Greek

Genre: Drama, Romance, History

The Reader Movie Review:

Well ‘The Reader’ is a movie about an affair between a woman in her mid-thirties, Hanna (played by Kate Winslet) and Michael who is 15 (played by David Kross and in the later part of the movie played by Ralph Fiennes in his 60s). A movie with Nazi Holocaust as the backdrop. I have seen so many movies on this topic-the list is endless. But that event in the history of mankind, still inspires people to make movies on it. As there are so many aspects to it which the world hasn’t stopped thinking about. But ‘The Reader’ is much more than an expression on the futility of human cruelty. It is about love, reconciliation, and a woman’s pursuit to find redemption. Hanna defends herself in the war-crime trial and like many of us, realizes the severity of her crime much later in life, when it’s too late.

The Reader is a good comment on classic human behavior of ‘doing without thinking’. Hanna in the movie, at least had the courage to admit that she was one of the guards in selecting the Jews every month (as to who will go to the gallows). But her other colleagues just follow the bandwagon of ‘fallacy,’ denying their involvement in the crime. A very typical of human behavior of not wanting to rise above mediocrity, as we don’t wish to lose our comfort zone.

Michael’s affair with Hanna was more based on sexual relationship. Michael as a teenager discovers his own sexuality with Hanna who also wisely guides him in the act of lovemaking. There are good number of scenes of nudity and the experience of orgasmic fulfillment. But the relation between the two runs much deeper….more so, for Michael. Hanna is illiterate and loves to be read to. And Michael a good, animated reader reads to her some of the best works of literature (Homer’s Odyssey, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, The lady with the little dog). This reading followed by sex forms a bond between them-an experience, a relation that will affect Michael for a lifetime.

Life often gives us a chance to look back at our behavior, analyse our past actions, and rise above our errors to become a more wholesome and a responsible human being. But very few can justify this chance-just a few like Hanna did in The Reader.

At the end of the movie Michael meets a Jewish woman (a survivor of the Holocaust) with an expectation of the Jewish victims to understand Hanna. The woman does not forgive Hanna’s crime but does make an effort to understand the culprit better, which for me is a step towards forgiveness. This effort of great character does somewhere make the Jewish woman a slightly more satisfied human being. And therein lies the power of forgiveness.

The Reader Performances:

The performances by Kate Winslet and David Kross as young Michael are commendable. Bob Marley once said, “Truth is, everybody is going to hurt you; you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.” In this movie, Michael Berg finds that one worthy person.

 

Reviewed By: Pallavi Patil

Chungking Express – Movie Review

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Movie: Chungking Express

Original Title: Chung Hing sam lam

Releasing Year: 1994

Directors: Kar-Wai Wong

Writer/Screenplay: Kar-Wai-Wong

Country of Origin: Hong Kong (China)

Running Time: 102 minutes

Languages: Cantonese, Mandarin, English, Japanese, Hindi

Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance

 

Chungking Express Movie Review

I had a mixed bunch of feelings after seeing this film. I had seen Wong Kar-wai’s In mood for love which is a visual stunner with a very impressive background score. Chungking Express is less about the story or content and more about the visual style of depiction blended with different music scores. The movie features a lot of 80s pop, romantic jazz (saxophone playing in a couple of scenes is awesome in creating a seductive feel), Bhangra, Indian classical. Also Fayes’s (Faye Wong) addiction to the song ‘California Dreams’ by Papas and mama’s and the Cantonese rendition of a popular song by ‘Cranberries’.

Chungking Express Story-line

In terms of content the movie talks about love, hope and loneliness. The movie is in two parts, both of which are love stories-the first one is more grim and the second one has a comic sense. Both stories involve a cop, in and out of love.

In the first story a young guy, Cop 663 (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung) has had a break up and is looking for another woman to come into his life. His meditation on the fact that ‘everything in life comes with an expiry date, even love and relationships’, is kind of okay. The portrayal of the city life with all the hustle bustle and busy criminal world is lovely. The streets are filled with people and neon lights, a typical feel of urbanization. Here the visual style blended with a tapestry of musical scores, bringing out the existence of multi-ethnic city life is almost dizzying…at times intoxicating! I liked the way the film talks about our sometimes ‘bizarre’ existence in a city where millions live. We are nothing more than a product with an expiry date.

I could also very well relate to the desperation that comes out of loneliness, sometimes finding it difficult to find a person you can talk to. I liked the scenes in the second story where the Cop 223 (Takeshi Kaneshiro), in bout of loneliness keeps talking to the soft toys. I have rarely seen men communicating with a soft toy. Many say it makes men look sissy. I disagree. The cop here looks more humane trying to overcome his adversity. The scenes where this cop talks to a torn mop, as if it were a human, brings out anxiety, desperation and sense of urgency to the whole situation.

Faye Wong’s portrayal of a free spirited, fun loving girl is particularly impressive. Her big eyes are so expressive, filled with hope and freshness. I love the scene where she finds a long strand of hair on the cop’s bed and cries bitterly like a child. Its too funny!

My Verdict of Chungking Express

The movie beautifully expresses the fetish of the east for the western culture. Here western culture seems to be an escapade, a promised land that can take away all your worries!

Personally for me the treatment of the movie is nice and with a fine balance between the more serious plot of the first story and a refreshing, comic look of the second story. But I still feel the movie is a lot of stylization and treatment without any concrete content.

Chungking Express Trivia:

  • Quentin Tarantino, after watching Chungking Express said, “I started crying. I’m just so happy to love a movie this much.”
  • The directed Wong Kar-Wai-Wong is hailed by many as the new Godard!

Reviewed By: Pallavi Patil

Through a Glass Darkly – A Movie Review

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Movie: Through a Glass Darkly

Original Title: Såsom i en spegel

Releasing Year: 1961

Director: Ingmar Bergman

Writer/Screenplay: Ingmar Bergman

Country of Origin: Sweden

Language: Swedish

Running Time: 1 hour 29 minutes

Through a Glass Darkly Movie Review:

‘Through a glass a darkly’ is the first movie of the series followed by Winter Light and The Silence which would later become the famous ‘Faith Trilogy’ or the ‘Religious chamber’ trilogy. This is a movie about a disintegrating family trying to hold on to their own faith. Karin ( Harriet Andersson) is a young woman who suffers from schizophrenia imagining that she is soon going to see God. She with her husband Martin (Max von Sydow), father David (Gunnar Björnstrand) and brother Minus (Lars Passgard) are on a summer vacation on a remote island.

Through a Glass Darkly Movie Story-line:

David has been staying away from home in order to find peace to write his novel. He is unavailable most of the time and his coldness and reluctance makes it very difficult for his children, Karin and Minus, to have a heartfelt conversation with him. Martin is aware that Karin’s illness is incurable. He loves her too much and hangs on patiently in the hope that his wife will feel better. Minus is desperate for his father’s attention and time, and has feelings of sexual overtones for Karin and understands the pain of his sister’s illness.

The movie slowly shows Karin slowly slipping away into the depths of madness and the relation between all the characters changes in under this effect. David selfishly sees at Karin and her illness as a prospective theme for his next novel. And the knowledge of this deeply hurts Karin and Martin. She is nothing more than an object for creative analysis for her father. In a heart piercing conversation, Martin confronts David. He questions, that how a man who cannot understand his daughter’s anguish and pain, will ever be able to connect with the world around through his writing. This really makes you wonder as an audience-does every artist have an iota of truth in his work of art? Is every artist really able to absorb and be in tune with life to be able to produce something that will bring solace to the world with his work of Art. What is the use of colours in any kind of art if the creator cannot look at the grays of life?

Martin is denied any sexual pleasure by Karin because of her depression and illness. But he hangs on very patiently, expressing his immortal love for her, willing to do everything to soothe her pain. It is his hope and love that gives him the courage to live in spite of the turmoil and anguish.

My Verdict of  Through a Glass Darkly Movie

Bergman’s father was a strict Lutheran Minister and all of Bergman’s work deals with the religious ‘baggage’ of his upbringing. In this film, he talks about the nature of Faith and God. And in its wake he beautifully portrays the interplay of human emotions and dynamics of relationships. Is Martin’s ‘Hope and Love,’ his God? Does God ever reveal himself to anyone?

The final dialogue between David and his son Minus expresses every man’s search for his faith. Is Love the ultimate God?….I think it is! Or is there no God at all. We need to question our own faith and decide for ourselves. Bergman once again creates a genius with his master cinematographer Sven Nykvist. The close ups of the world’s most enigmatic object- the human face, absorbs us completely making our hearts bleed with pain. The right interplay of shade and light and painstakingly shot frames makes it impossible to ignore anything that the characters are feeling. ‘Through a glass darkly’ is a must watch!

Reviewed by: Pallavi Patil