Tag Archives: Cinema

Why no filmmaker is compelled to do anything

Over the years, there’s been a rising misconception that a fictional film based on certain historical elements or consisting of historical characters (or just people who actually lived) is bound to or by law has to project all the elements as though it were a reflection of a History text book.


NO filmmaker HAS TO do anything, first let’s get that clear. Just like NO potential audience member HAS TO watch any film. 

It’s really that simple.

To explain this for the dummies, who think every filmmaker making a historical film has a responsibility to massage their egos, let me give you the example of Inglorious Basterds. This is a film by Quentin Tarantino, arguably one of the best filmmakers working today. The film won an Academy Award (and was nominated for another 7) and hey, the Academy and Quentin himself know so much more about cinema and film history than most or all of you. So why is this film relevant with regards to the pointless noise around SLB’s Padmavati?

In this film, QT distorted famously known historical “facts” (that even 8 year olds know) to fit into a story HE wove around characters who had lived. ADOLF HITLER WAS KILLED IN A MOVIE THEATRE, IN THIS FILM.The film is largely regarded as one of Tarantino’s Best Films. No body got offended by this distortion. Because it is FICTION. It is not a documentary. This is the first point I’m trying to get across.


Secondly, where are all the comments about Padmavati coming from? How many of those people have even watched the film? Not a single person, making noise for fifteen minutes of fame, having seen nothing but the trailer (which also, I highly doubt they’ve seen). So on basis of PRESUMPTION, they’re already DECIDING that they WILL be offended by the film. Before watching a second of the film. This happened with a lot of films out here. It happened with Prakash Jha’s Aarakshan as well. If I’m not wrong, it happened with a few words in the lyrics of Dibakar Banerjee’s Shanghai as well and has happened famously with a LOT of films. Many people have USED films to get the fame and limelight they have always been craving.

Thirdly, and this part is overtly disturbing, people are justifying a violent attack on Mr Bhansali which came months before the film, for something that MIGHT be in the film. There are two problems here. One, you are justifying violence for your own misunderstanding surrounding a director working on a film with historical elements and two, you don’t even know what is in the film. So according to these folks, a violent act on an innocent artist is justified because the film he is currently shooting MIGHT have something in it that MIGHT offend SOMEONE.


Fourthly, we have such a rich history. How many filmmakers on a commercial level are even making anything even minutely historical? The ones who are projecting the absolute beauty of those Worlds, always find themselves, in some sort of a problem that inadvertently builds up to a controversy. This discourages filmmakers from making historical films and then people say “Why aren’t they making films on our rich culture / heritage?” It’s because every time someone even comes close to making something about a historical character, SOMEONE decides to stand up and use that to gain some fame. SOMEONE or the other calls for a ban, calls for cuts, and so on.

Take a moment to think about this. All the people who are making this noise at the moment, how many opportunities would they get to get their names on all these platforms? To be seen on TV? To be written and spoken about? To be debated about on news shows? Very few or none. Some of them will use these opportunities to provide a proof of their existence. This is it. They are done now. They got what they wanted. At the expense of a great filmmaker, a large crew, who I’m sure have worked extremely extremely hard to create something that looks this spectacular.

There are no rules for a fiction film. No rules anywhere. That is why it is called fiction. Cinema, literature and the like, allow us to take characters who have lived, put them in different, interesting situations and create something. No filmmaker will ever do something to purposefully offend anyone. An artist will only create something because s/he wants to. It’s that simple.

If we make a list of things everyone in India is offended by, no one will be able to make a single film or even a painting or write a novel. 

Art and literature would cease to exist. 


Is ‘Dunkirk’ Christopher Nolan’s worst film?


For those who’ve followed Christopher Nolan right from his early works including Following, his first feature, have always found it hard to pick Nolan’s worst film. Around the time Dark Knight Rises came out, some of these debates had settled. However, the fact that it was a part of trilogy, it’s criticism found occasional but relevant counters. Before I go ahead with this, I have to say, I think it’s almost impossible for Christopher Nolan to make a bad film. Dunkirk is a very good film. But personally, I think it’s Nolan’s worst so far.

In all of Nolan’s films, his characters have been built remarkably. It might have been out of pure intention, but the fact that he refuses to give it time in Dunkirk, is quite damaging to the entire project. The whole idea, I felt, was to build tension, in a short time frame, throwing us right in the middle of something. This is something that might have worked much better with more build up time. Think about the most gripping scenes from Inception. Take that one where Leonardo DiCaprio says “We are not prepared for this”. The tension in that sequence is at a stunning level but we feel it more because of the build up before. The Joker prison scene in The Dark Knight with that ringing cell phone as another example. Take the scenes from The Prestige or Interstellar or Memento or even Insomnia. Christopher Nolan is the master of building tension. Not in Dunkirk however. Yes we feel the tension pretty well but not as well as we are used to by Nolan.


The counter argument to this can be, this was the entire intention. It can also be that there’s a certain bar Nolan has hit with Interstellar and Inception and so on but he hasn’t lost his right to make a smaller film (scale and runtime wise). Both of these are true. But the impact one usually feels, was much lesser in this one. That is something so natural, you cannot come up with it. It’s what you feel.



It was visually stunning
“Visuals were great”. Well, yes. Name one Nolan film which didn’t have great visuals. Watch his 1997 short film Doodlebug. 


Doodlebug (1997)

Even that had great visuals. You can’t be praising things that are sort of a standard in a Nolan picture, can you? Christopher Nolan is deeply inspired by Stanley Kubrick and his works. Primarily, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Over the years, he has incorporated a lot of what he has learnt from his master extraordinarily well. Visuals in a Nolan film are always stunning.


The Insomnia argument


Insomnia (2002)

What has not only been gravely unfair and frankly quite disturbing, is the treatment Insomnia gets from most people. Only because the film doesn’t have the grandiose Nolan’s other films have, it is barely considered anywhere near his best. (Obviously, by those who discovered him recently and watched his previous films now) I beg to differ. Insomnia is a fantastic film. Also, it is what put Nolan on the level at which he is today. Most have always kept the film aside while speaking of Nolan’s great works. Those who are doing the same to Dunkirk are not necessarily doing it out of the same reason. I personally love Insomnia much more than Dunkirk. It’s a far superior film with a lot of layers.

The bar

Quentin Tarantino candidly confessed that he always wants to top his previous movie. When asked about Inglorious Basterds, he said he wanted to top that too. With Christopher Nolan, who reached a high point with Interstellar that was extremely hard to top, Dunkirk, came nowhere close. Dunkirk to Interstellar isn’t what Interstellar is to Inception. (Don’t mean to ignore Dark Knight Rises, but lets consider Nolan’s works outside the trilogy)


Summing it up

Christopher Nolan’s new film is always a massive event. It has been for quite a few years now. It will always be. After watching Dunkirk twice, I definitely feel it is far, far and extremely far from Nolan’s best. I think it is his worst movie. Probably after Dark Knight Rises, but his worst. Something quite frequent with Nolan’s movies is the fact that they grow on you. Interstellar did, Inception did, Prestige did, Memento did, Insomnia did, The Dark Knight did. A lot of this has to do with the score, the soul of most of these movies. Particularly Inception and Interstellar, both had this effect and a lot of it was because of the exceptional score by Hans Zimmer. In this film, of course, the score was fascinating. Just like Nolan, it’s impossible for Zimmer to produce something bad. But it all felt like scenes / segments from those films mentioned above at best! As a whole, it wasn’t nearly as effective as any of those movies.



It’s harder to label any of Nolan’s films as his best but easier to pick his worst because he’s barely ever had anything that would contend for the spot. Until now.


Why ‘A Ghost Story’ is a modern day masterpiece


There was something about the first look of A Ghost Story that was so brilliant, I couldn’t wait to watch the film. Everything seemed minimal, well designed and in some ways like a painting. After waiting for the film for quite a few months, I finally had a chance to watch it. I was awestruck. The film blew me away.
David Lowery’s imagery is thought provoking and extraordinarily immersive.

Here’s a summary describing the film via IMDB :

“In this singular exploration of legacy, love, loss, and the enormity of existence, a recently deceased, white-sheeted ghost returns to his suburban home to try to reconnect with his bereft wife.”

The film is simply fascinating. Anything more than that brief ^ would be giving too much away. Lowery uses long takes, gorgeously designed shots, incredible silences and creates a truly immersive experience. Needless to say, we are mostly watching the film from the Ghost’s point of view. Lowery’s depiction of the wandering ghost is so compelling, it forces you to think and rethink a lot of theories you might have heard about ‘life after death’.

The film is far from a horror. It’s more of a fantasy, drama and in some sense, a journey movie. Needless to say, the film is thoroughly original in it’s entirety. There’s a scene quite early in the film between the Ghost and Rooney Mara that for me, was on par with some of the best scenes from Spike Jonze’s Her. The strangeness, mysteriousness and ambiguity used to establish such an emotional connect has been done so brilliantly only a few times in modern day cinema.

A Ghost Story is a modern day masterpiece. David Lowery has created something so fascinating and original that it will be remembered as a benchmark indie film for years to come.

Why ‘The Wailing’ is one of the greatest horror movies ever made



Readers who’ve not watched the film, keep reading until I tell you not to. 

Na Hong-jin, the man and his movies: 


Na Hong-jin, in a way is like the Tarantino or Kubrick of Korean cinema. Not in any particular way other than the fact that he’s made 3 films so far, since his feature debut with The Chaser in 2008. Three films, Worlds apart from each other, all written and directed by Na Hong-jin. Few filmmakers, World over, write and direct all their films. Na Hong-jin is not only a great great filmmaker but also a stunning writer. It all comes together gorgeously for him. All his work seems to have been supported not only by an unending research but also, at times, by folklore, beliefs of people from the streets, villages, cities and the like.


He makes sure he’s thoroughly aware of the World, probably getting as familiar with it as the people from that World, before getting into it and giving us his films. Sympathy / Empathy are not things he seems to consider. He tries to get into the minds of the people he is dealing with and thus having sympathy and empathy naturally entering his films as genuine byproducts as opposed to something forced down our throats. May be this is why his films scream authenticity. His filmography has a huge element of ‘We don’t know what to expect next’. Little did the World expect The Yellow Sea after watching The Chaser and least of all did they expect The Wailing after The Yellow Sea. By this I mean, it’s slightly unpredictable and that he’s ahead of the people who’re following his work closely. Even better, he hasn’t yet disappointed. All his films have won acclaim. If you ask me, every time one would think he’s hit the ceiling, he gets even better.

4-5 years ago when I watched it, to me, The Chaser was brilliantly written, performed and directed. One of the most gripping thrillers I have ever watched, I must add. Not only does it keep you on the “edge of your seat”, it makes it a point to whack you in the face about six or seven times throughout. After having watched that film, I quickly moved on to his only other film by Na Hong-jin at the point, The Yellow Sea. Gritty, grim movie with excellent treatment, almost a journey movie of sorts, it really got me wanting to know everything about Na Hong-jin. How a filmmaker, who also wrote his own stuff, found spaces within genres to move about with such impeccable detailing, was appalling to me.


It was clear that Na Hong-jin meant serious business after first two films of that kind. Sadly, we weren’t quite sure of when to expect the third film. It was only about a 7-8 months ago when I began to read about The Wailing on the internet. A couple of reviews from Cannes and some other festivals World over, we learnt that Na Hong-jin was entering the Horror space. You could only imagine the excitement. We waited.

The Wailing: Overview

I was quite shocked by The Wailing and I got an unending list of reasons to tell you about. Firstly, since I mentioned Na Hong-jin and his earlier work, it is important to understand that all 3 of his films are supported by a strong inherent understanding of the space he was getting into. To an extent, The Chaser is more of a genre piece. There’s no rocket science behind that. However, when you start approaching The Yellow Sea, things are totally different. The film has a number of satirical elements, an in depth understanding of illegal immigration, corruption and the brutality that binds it all together. This “deep understanding” shoots up astronomically with The Wailing. It all begin to make sense to me. Na Hong-jin had dived deep into his subject matter on all his films. The only difference coming from the fact that all 3 films come from different spaces, they all affect a viewer on different levels. Things started to get much more personal with The Yellow Sea and by the time we reach The Wailing, Na Hong-jin has a mind numbing impact on us. The only reason I could come up with is, the former two films are still a little distant from us. We can perceive that space between us and the matter the Director is dealing with. But The Wailing is about us. It tears into us and puts our short comings out on display. It breaks down the ideas surrounding society, religion, faith and all such things without holding back. Let’s begin.

For those who’ve not watched the film, good bye! (SPOILERS AHEAD) 

The Wailing: In depth analysis 


The Wailing begins with a quote from the bible

Luke 24:37-39, in which Jesus exhorts his followers

They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 
He said to them, “Why are you troubled and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have..

This somehow tends to be the most crucial theme of the movie. In a way Na Hong-jin may be trying to tell us that we have certain notions about ghosts. Some of them or probably all of them are incredibly wrong. Not only are we wrong now but we have been wrong for a very long time. Here’s what the Shaman, played by the brilliant Jung-min Hwang says;

“Not everything that moves, breathes and talks is alive. Countless people have perished because they didn’t understand that”

Both these quotes are strongly supportive of a lot of things that happen during the run time of this movie. The best way to analyse this film is to move character wise. Let’s observe the most important characters and try to understand the film.

We could label him as the lead character in the film. Everything or almost everything happens from his perspective.Kwak Do-won plays a rural policeman in the Korean horror film The Wailing.

He’s a simple cop, probably not so good at what he does, not so respected at work, always throwing an excuse for coming in late. In a way, trapped by the murders happening in the town and gets further sucked in when his daughter is in question.

The Japanese man:

20160504001039_0Easily the most controversial character. This is where we may part ways and have different opinions. It all depends on interpretations from now on.

According to people in the village, murders begin one by one AFTER the arrival of the Japanese man. This man claims to be a traveller and nothing else. The Shaman calls him a ghost, Jong-Goo can’t believe this, he tries to check himself. Along with the priest and his sidekick, Jong-Goo finds a lot “fishy” about this man, but still is not sure enough to call him a ghost. On their journey back, his sidekick presents him with a shoe. This shoe is claimed to have belonged to Goo’s daughter. This is where things begin to get worse for him and his family. Hyo-jin’s health begins to deteriorate soon after she starts acting strangely. By now, we may start assuming that the Japanese man, using her shoe, has gotten her possessed. We have enough evidences of devil worship in the man’s house. We could say that he’s possessed by the devil. After being run over by Jong-Goo’s car (probably being pushed by the mystery woman in white) his body is entirely taken over by the devil.
An evidence of how the Japanese man goes about his process is;
He finds a dead man in a car on the way to his house on top of the hill. Through his worship, he turns him into a “zombie” (zombies have been considered responsible for all the deaths so far either from being possessed or being affected by mushroom poisoning)

 The quotes by the Shaman and to the start of the film, relate to this because the zombie created using the man in the car, is actually dead. But “touch him and see, a ghost does not have flesh and bones..”
and for the Shaman’s quote; “not everything that moves, breathes  and talks is alive.” To end it, with the Japanese man being run over by Goo’s car, he is “dead” but…… Fill in the blanks.

The Shaman:


Entering the scene as a much needed helper, The Shaman has a journey of his own. He’s the first to doubt the Japanese man by asking Jong-Goo if he “disturbed” him. According to the Shaman, the Japanese man is a ghost. This is when he quotes what I’ve shared above.
Before the exorcism, he wants Goo to not interrupt. However, out of grave concerns for the life of his daughter, he does. From here, everything goes downhill. Especially for the Shaman. Goo ignores his calls. Near Jong Goo’s house he sees the white woman. As soon as he sees her he begins to vomit blood. Now we could infer that the Shaman, by now, is possessed and that she is trying to send him away (which she does). Considering his actions towards the end (with the photos / clicking new photos) something is definitely different about the Shaman now. If the White woman has tried to help from the start and she wants to send the Shaman away, may be she is right and he is wrong.

The Mystery woman in white:


Towards the start, she appears to help the cops. Initiating this process by throwing stones at them to grab attention. Just when Jong-Goo tries to use her as a witness, she disappears. She however, appears at important intervals in the film. The scene with the Shaman and with Goo towards the end are the most crucial. During the scene with Jong-Goo, she does not let him enter the house.

Now this could mean two things:

  1. She does not want him to lose his life. She probably thinks he’s important for the town and wants him to live. As his daughter is (at the moment) killing his mother and wife. She probably stops him because she knows he could get killed as well. Considering the fact that she’s possessed, this is possible.
  2. The hair pin raises the doubts. The fact that it was with her certainly is a reason to doubt her. Or, was she trying to free the little girl from the devil? If she was not, it was only a battle of egos between the Japanese man, the white woman and the shaman.
  3. if the hair pin was a reason to suspect her she also probably did not want Goo to get inside as he would STOP her from killer his family. But this is contrary to what she says. She says “If you go in your whole family will perish”

The Young Priest:

The young priest is looking for answers. He’s the nephew of Jong-Goo’s side kick. According to an earlier scene, he’s not yet a priest. He is LEARNING.
This explains him going to the devil’s den towards the end. He is young and he is ready to explore. In a way, the film is trying to say, “Only those learning and still young are trying to find answers and make a change. The ones with the topmost post / position in the hierarchy is one of “hands up! I can’t do anything for you”

Rest of the film

Most of the film is open to interpretation. The best touch to the story is the mushroom case. This is also a mystery. Na Hong-jin attacks the practicality inside you. As in, if you believe all this was not possible and you’re a cynical person, you definitely think it’s something to do with the mushrooms.
The film also has strong references to religion using symbols such the ram head, black dog, etc. I haven’t dived into any of these things. All these things were smartly used by the filmmaker.  However, I have tried to analyse it as a film. I’m not knowledgeable about those symbols but I suggest you check the internet. You’ll find a million answers with no guarantee about the truth. The deep overall impact is what needs to be understood.

The Japanese man offers black hens while the Shaman (during exorcism) offers white ones. The colours are important symbols considering the woman wore white (this could be a reason to NOT suspect her) as the rest of the film divides black and white as good and bad.
The fishing reference is crucial to the story. It simply means when the devil looks for a “body” it could be any “body”. It’s like fishing. You don’t know what you are going to catch.

Beyond this all, something brilliant that hit me was that the entire film is a statement on crime.



This is a line used by Jong-Goo’s mother. This is huge statement on crime because Na Hong-jin could be trying to say every criminal is possessed by something. It does not necessarily mean a ghost or something as dark as what The Wailing is speaking about. But every normal crime, every murder happens due to something taking over the person. This was an idea that got an impetus as soon as Jong-Goo’s sidekick killed his family members. The priest is told “After all he’s a victim”. Let’s think about it for a second. He just murdered his family. But he is a victim. Yes, because he is taken over by something and he cannot control himself.

Hands down, The Wailing is one of the best horror films ever made. It’s shockingly good. Na Hong-jin is shockingly good. Every performance is shockingly good. It all comes together gorgeously for him.

Men Saving Film: Tarantino and PT Anderson on 70 mm and The Hateful Eight

Quentin Tarantino is a man who stood his ground on the topic of “Film vs Digital” ever since digital started biting into the gorgeous medium (Film) and one by one, film makers started to turn to the much cheaper medium (Digital). He labels Digital technology as “TV in public” and detests it to say the least.
But this time, QT and the Weinstein Company have done something extraordinary with their 70 mm movie, The Hateful Eight.

In this interview, QT sat down with Paul Thomas Anderson to talk about film and the use of 70 mm in The Hateful Eight.

Quentin: I didn’t realize how much of a lost cause [35mm] was. At the same time I didn’t realize to the same extent 70mm would be a drawing point. Not just to me and other film geeks. There is no intelligent argument to be had that puts digital in front of [70mm]. It actually might be film’s saving grace. Film’s last stand. Film’s last night in the arena — and actually conquer.

Paul Thomas Anderson: It was something that we could grow outside just a specialized thing. I never for a second thought we’d have a legitimate 70mm run. It was clear that people were coming out for that more than the 35mm.