Magic Lantern

Faiza Ahmad Khan: Supermen of Malegaon. 2008

Probably one of the best tributes to ‘cinephilia’ emerging out of India this century. Set in the industrial power loom town of Malegaon in Maharashtra, India, Faiza Khan weaves an engaging narrative crafted around very special and spirited people, unified by their endearing zeal and love for cinema. An elaborate behind the scenes, as it were, fortunately does not descend into dull trivia. What remains is the love, spirit, passion, and the unforgettable loom worker turned superhero, the late Shaikh Shafique. And, if you generally want to know why film-making is no laughing matter, see this.

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Michael Dudok de Wit: Animation Shorts 1992-2001

I first watched ‘Father and Daughter’ quite a few years back, and have never stopped watching it. The narrative sensitivity, technical finesse, and the labour of love was so evident and heartfelt. Dutch-British animator and illustrator Michael Dudok de Wit is part of a rare breed of creative artists whose work transcends spatio-temporal as well as socio-cultural boundaries, arguably, with relative ease. This is a selection of some of his best known animation shorts.

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Thomas Balmès: Bébé(s) [Babies] 2010

In ‘Babies‘ non-fiction filmmaker Thomas Balmès weaves an engaging narrative chronicling a year in the lives of four infants from four countries. Simple enough premise, but executed with great mastery, and it really feels like he did not have to try very hard. What gave me pleasure was the fact that this is a ‘silent film’, unencumbered by cinematic excesses of lensing, hyper-cutting, voice-overs and what not. Accompanied by an understated yet effective musical score by Bruno Coulais, get ready to welcome little Bayar, Hattie, Mari and Ponijao into your lives. Watch. Read More…

Short Films: Je t’aime John Wayne (1991) and Inside Out (1999)

Two delightful British shorts. Toby MacDonald‘s ‘Je t’aime John Wayne‘ is a witty tribute to ’60s Godardian actor Jean Paul Belmondo. Watch the unfolding of a hero, played with great aplomb by Kris Marshall. ‘Inside Out‘ by the Guard brothers, Charles and Thomas, captures a fleeting moment on busy Oxford Street in London sans dialogue, but with a hefty dose of ‘non-verbalism’. Watch.

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Jan Švankmajer: Animation Shorts II

I am a great admirer of Czech filmmaker Jan Švankmajer. I wish not to put a label to his work, but very often the tag ‘surrealism’ comes into play in describing his ‘super-real’ and very often, irreverent and thematically dark animation. Living and practicing his film craft throughout in his native Prague in the Czech Republic, Švankmajer’s vision of the world is uncoloured by chewing gum commercial imperatives. Which is, a good thing. Take a look.

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Jan Švankmajer: Animation Shorts I

I am a great admirer of Czech filmmaker Jan Švankmajer. I wish not to put a label to his work, but very often the tag ‘surrealism’ comes into play in describing his ‘super-real’ and very often, irreverent and thematically dark animation. Living and practicing his film craft in his native Prague in the Czech Republic, Švankmajer’s vision of the world is uncoloured by chewing gum commercial imperatives. Which is, a good thing. Take a look.

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Kenji Mizoguchi: Ugetsu Monogatari. 1953. (Japan)

Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu Monogatari ( “Tales of the Moon Obscured by Rainclouds“) left me with a peculiar aftertaste. Appreciative yet not. What remained with me strongly though is the ‘atmospherics’ (for the lack of a better expression) of the cinematic effort. ‘Ugetsu’ continues to be a very fine example of mid century Japanese revisiting of traditional cultural material to prop up a morality tale of enduring charm. Look out for Kinuyo Tanaka’s Miyagi, Mitsuko Mito’s Ohama and Mizoguchi’s ‘feminism’.

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Dalkomhan Insaeng: Jee-woon Kim. (South Korea) 2005.

Dalkomhan Insaeng (translated ‘A Bittersweet Life’) showcases the inimitable Lee Byung-hun primarily, with the obligatory ‘crimson tide’ that is somewhat a part and parcel of most gangster films. Part over the top action choreography, part dripping melodrama – not exactly a ballet with bullets, but comes close to an attempt at it. I found it strangely unsatisfying. Watch out for the violence – mature audiences advised.

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