Being locked down, worried and anxious about everything at present and also about what lies before us in the future, has affected what I watch these days. Life just seems more transient and precious, the feeling of time running out so evident. In this frame of mind, I simply can’t bear to watch violent and disturbing content. So here are some gentler films, a documentary series I loved, and an animation feature, all of which offer some escapism from the Covid-19 nightmare.
A Year Of The Quiet Sun (1984)
Directed by Krzysztof Zanussi, this Polish film is a gentle and poignant love story, set in 1946 Poland, between an American soldier, Norman (Scott Wilson), and a polish war widow, Emilia (Maja Komorowska). Set against the backdrop of war-ravaged Poland, when Norman, part of the UN war commission investigating war crimes, and Emilia meet, she is painting and perhaps, it is this that brings them together. Because though both are past their prime, both seem to have the burden of having lived through the war. Yet they cling on to beauty and kindness. Norman speaks only English and Emilia Polish, yet they communicate and fall in love. When Norman has to leave , Emilia dreams of an escape to the West to join Norman, first in Paris and then America. The film won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and was a Golden Globe Nominee for Best Foreign Film. The film is now streaming on Netflix.
Streaming on Netflix, this Alex Lehmann directed film looks at two friends, Andy and Michael, two seemingly boring men who spend their spare time watching kung fu movies, eating pizza and playing an equally inane game, Paddleton, that they have invented, where they smash the ball into a wall and get points if it lands in a oil canister. Though the film starts when Michael is diagnosed with terminal cancer, the two still continue to pretend things are fine because Michael doesn’t want to change things. That is till he decides to go on a road trip to get a pill that will end it all before it gets too bad. The two keep fighting throughout the road trip as Andy just cannot bring himself to face the inevitable. Mark Duplass plays the cool Michael, while Ray Romano enacts the annoying and irritating yet achingly vulnerable Andy. Walking the fine tightrope between comedy and pathos, Paddleton is a touching film, which makes us wish our friends be around us forever.
A Sun (2019)
A Sun is a Taiwanese film directed by Chung Mong-hong, streaming on Netflix. It is the story of a family with two sons, A-hao and A-ho. A-hao is the taller, more handsome and star student acknowledged by the father, A-wen, while he constantly ignores the black sheep, A-ho, whom he considers a disappointment. The family is beset by a terrible tragedy concerning A-hao and subsequently, we see how things change as A-ho slowly makes his place in his parents’ heart but for this, all the characters must first face their own inner demons and redeem themselves as we come to terms with just how difficult it is for us to be truly impartial. With intricately woven lines and masterful performances, the film feels like one is reading a Russian novel, its ending, a beautiful, poetic sequence that is bathed in sunlight.
This is an absolutely amazing set of eight documentary films that aims to give a fresh insight into sensational events from the world of music involving famous musicians such as Sam Cooke, Bob Marley, Solomon Linda and Johnny Cash among others. Each of these singers have stood for something they believed in and some have, perhaps, paid for the same with their death.
Three episodes that stood out for me were The Two Killings Of Sam Cooke, looking at the life and ignominious death of soul singer Sam Cooke, Who Shot The Sheriff, delving into the social context around the attempted assassination of Bob Marley, and Massacre At The Stadium, an investigation into the killing of Chilean singer and activist, Victor Jara, in 1973 during the Augusto Pinochet regime.
Ruben Brandt, Collector (2018)
If you think you cannot have normal storytelling in the cubist style, you simply have to watch this mind-blowing Hungarian animation film by Milorad Krstic, streaming on Netflix. Ruben Brandt is a psychotherapist (art therapist), who has nightmares of being attacked by famous paintings so he recruits his patients, who are all thieves, to steal thirteen world famous paintings from Botticelli to Van Gogh, from Manet to Hopper and Andy Warhol. This brings Mike Kowalski the detective into play and what ensues are daring heists as more gangsters get involved. The last chase, after a crazy heist to steal the Double Elvis painting from an exhibition, is as nail biting and exciting as a Bond film! For art lovers, every frame has references to paintings, pop art, posters of films related to German expressionist cinema, film noir and of course Alfred Hitchcock. All this makes for simply delicious viewing.