Nuri Bilge Ceylan: Uzak

Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan‘s ‘Uzak‘ (translated as ‘Distant’) from 2002 adds on to the growing pool of cinema of this century which is distinctly and necessarily in opposition to the mainstream commercial cinematic idiom, typified by the ‘stylized-pop-marketized’ fare out of the Los Angeles area in the USA. Ceylan’s cinema is a cinema of sounds and silences, of doors and windows (our separators from what lies outside, what stays in – who can walk through, who closes, who opens, for what). It is also a remarkably restrained cinema, especially when considering the cinematic excesses that one encounters in the everyday, in the there here and the now. But perhaps more importantly, Ceylan articulates the inevitability of human isolation, the ‘ephemerality’ of relationships (both desired and destructive at the same time), and the potential for urban dehumanization. Watch. (Update: Unfortunately, the full length film upload was taken down by the Tube. This is a trailer, and the ending scene, for you to have a glimpse. I will share the full length film as soon as it is available again.)

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Jonathan auf der Heide: Van Diemen’s Land. 2009. Australia

Probably one of the most under-rated and misjudged films from the last few years. In retelling the true story of the escape of eight convicts in 1822 from the isolated Macquarie Harbour Penal Station on Sarah Island in Tasmania (then Van Diemen’s Land), Jonathan auf der Heide engages in what cine-scholars would dub as ‘Tasmanian Gothic’. Nature and landscape forms a very vital part of this narrative, assuming qualities of malevolence and menace. What auf der Heide does, to his credit, is to shy away from creating spectacle, but rather dwell on ‘strange silences’ to craft a meditative, relentless film in exploring the heart of darkness of desperate men in an extraordinary situation. The incorporation of the ancient Irish Gaelic language casts a melancholic brooding net over this atmospheric piece. Watch.

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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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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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