Even as things slowly start to slowly open in India, the situation with the ever rising number of covid-19 cases looks grim. From the looks of it, we are still months away from any sense of normalcy. So I am following the principle of continuing to be as cautious as I can, working from home (I mostly did anyway when not shooting) and going out ONLY when absolutely necessary. The one good side to this is catching up on some essential viewing, which in normal times one is sometimes too busy to do. Here are some interesting movies, shows etc. I found to be a worthwhile watch.
The Mire (2018)
A Polish who-dun-it, this show of 5-episodes streaming on Netflix, based in early 1980s communist Poland, looks at the investigation into the murder of a local leader and a prostitute. What makes the show interesting, besides its setting and the time period, is that we see the investigation not through the police, but via two journalists, who are working in the local newspaper. One is the cynical older man and the other, the idealistic overenthusiastic rookie. As they dig deeper, they find the case being hushed up through various cover ups by the police. What’s more, their editor, not wanting to ruffle any feathers, also wants them to drop their investigation. The series boasts of fine performances from the entire cast but one has to single out Andrzej Seweryn as the has-seen-it-all older reporter. Netflix seems to have released only an English dub trailer but my suggestion is please watch it in the original language with English subtitles.
The Day Will Come (2017)
Initially a feature film made in 2016, The Day Will Come, was released as a 3-part mini-series in UK and USA in 2017 and Netflix has also chosen to stream it as a mini-series. Since this is how I saw it, I shall consider it a mini-series as well. The Danish series is set between 1967 and 1969 and is based on true events from the Godhavn orphanage, where lots of boys were victims of violence, sexual abuse and medical neglect. It looks at two young boys (and brothers), Erik And Elmer, who are put into a boy’s home by the Social Services when their mother falls critically ill and is unable to take care of them. The series then shows us the harrowing life of boys in homes like these, where they have to deal with much cruelty, inhuman physical punishment and sexual abuse. But through all the darkness, the resilience of the two brothers shines through strongly. The parallel track with the build up to Neil Armstrong’s landing on the moon and stepping out to explore a world far away from ours, serves as the perfect metaphor for the boys. Especially for the younger space obsessed Elmer, as the brothers dream of a better life, far away from their present one. The series is well acted and the performances, particularly by Albert Rudbeck Lindhart and Harald Kaiser Hermann playing Erik and Elmer respectively, are praiseworthy.
Cuba And The Cameraman (2017)
A fine documentary, streaming on Netflix, Cuba And The Cameraman, sees filmmaker Jon Alpert visit Cuba repeatedly over a period of 45 years, as he documents the changes in the country through the lives of three families. The film shows just how powerful human stories can be as Alpert follows a young girl he had photographed and who subsequently got out of the country, a slum resident and finally, three elderly farmer brothers and their sister, who give the film some of its most heartwarming and poignant moments. And above all, there’s Castro whom Alpert befriends. While the politics of the film could be questioned, there is no doubt that the documentary wonderfully brings out Alpert’s fascination and love for a vibrant country and its beautiful people.
Forget the Toilet Ek Prem Kathas. If you really want to watch a film that effectively (and cinematically) explores the issue of lack of toilets, especially for women, in rural India, then catch this National Award winning Tamil film. The sharply written satirical yet poignant tale, which is centred around a man’s efforts to make a toilet at home for his wife, mixes politics, drama, comedy, farce and tragedy extremely well to make for rich and layered viewing. Though a little ‘messagy’ at times, Joker gets it mostly right as it fearlessly makes a dig at various issues that plague the country today. The love story at the heart of the film is beautifully handled, giving the film its heartbreaking, emotional core. The lead pair, Guru Somasundaram and Ramya Pandiyan, make for a lovely couple and give fine performances but the true star of the film, is undoubtedly writer-director Raju Murugan. Joker is streaming on Prime Video.
Les Diaboliques (1955)
I need to have my regular dose of classic cinema ever so often and so after decades, I recently revisited this extraordinary French thriller directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot. Only to happily see that it holds up equally well today. The wife (Véra Clouzot) and mistress (Simone Signoret) of the headmaster of a boy’s boarding school (Paul Meurisse) get together and murder him. They then dump his corpse in the school’s swimming pool only to have the dead body vanish… Suspense, thrills, exciting plot twists – the film has it all. And while all the performances are spot on, Simone Signoret, in particular, is superb. Les Diaboliques is streaming here on YouTube with English subtitles. A must see.