Jeff Nichols: Take Shelter. 2011

“There is a storm coming…like nothing you have ever seen, and not one of you is prepared for it” screams Curtis (played by the very talented Michael Shannon) in American director Jeff Nichols‘ film ‘Take Shelter‘ (2011). I would say nothing quite prepares one for a film like ‘Take Shelter’ as strands of the real and the non-real interweave to create this tapestry of a brooding, melancholic and menacing exploration of notions of anxiety, marriage and commitment, and communication in interpersonal relationships. This is probably one of the few films from that year that made me sit up and take notice of the classic independent cinema. A theme of a married couple with a young child going through difficult and intense times is a theme that has played on screens in darkened halls over decades now, and therein lies Nichols’ genius, for he takes this familiar as a doorbell universal theme, and retells it with a mastery and a quiet restraint far beyond his years. Read More…

Mikio Naruse: Tabi Yakusha (1940)

With a film directing and writing career spanning over four decades (1930-1968), Mikio Naruse, is certainly one of the lesser known figures of the classical Japanese cinema. An unassuming and socially somewhat withdrawn individual, Naruse’s prolific film output from early to mid twentieth century, saw him engage with a diverse range of themes, while consciously remaining rooted in telling stories of the ‘bleak’ everyday. As Japanese film scholar Donald Richie notes “…given Naruse’s skill, devotion, and honesty, the world he creates through film remains both profoundly troubling and deeply moving.” In ‘Tabi Yakusha‘ (Travelling Actors,1940), Naruse places his protagonists (a pair of artists / actors / ‘clowns’ of a travelling theatre group), Hyoroku (Kamatari Fujiwara) and Senpei (Kan Yanagiya), within the context of a performance in a rural area by the ‘distinguished’ visiting kabuki troupe of ‘Kikugoro VI’. In what is apparently a light comedy, Naruse, manages to engage in existential, absurdist queries (in some ways, Hyoroku and Senpei predates Vladimir and Estragon‘s ‘wait’), while tackling issues of the role of the artist in society, of truth/reality and imitation, of human and animal. Watch.

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