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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Best on World Movies

MAGONIA (2001) is a quietly affecting film about the power of story telling, by Ineke Smits. Every week, a son visits his father living on a small flat island in the North Sea. Surrounded by the endless horizon of the ocean, the two spend much of the day on the beach. The son listens in rapt fascination as the father tells him tall tales from the magical land of Magonia. In one, a woman who cares for a elderly Muslim crier falls in love with one of his young apprentices. In another, an unhappy couple meets an old man accompanied by an older man, sparking renew warm in the couple's marriage. And the final tale concerns a woman waiting in a harbor for her lover to return after a particularly vicious gale. As the father tells these stories, the son begins to see his father's frailties and passions. The film stars Ramsey Nasr, Dirk Roofthoot, Willem Voogd, Nodar Mgaloblishvili and many others.

A SPECIAL DAY [Una giornata particolare] (1977) is the best film I have seen on World Movies. It stars Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni and John Vernon, as well as a special cameo appearance by Alessandra Mussolini, and was directed by Ettore Scola. The occasion is the first meeting between Mussolini and Hitler. Left alone in her tenement home, when her fascist husband runs off to attend the historic event, Sophia Loren strikes up a friendship with her homosexual neighbor Mastroianni. As the day segues into night, Loren and Mastroianni develop a very special relationship that radically alters both of their outlooks on life.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

World Cinema - now at home!

World cinema, i.e. films made in foreign languages, not the Hollywoodian fare though, have always been so difficult to view, especially for the common Indian viewers. Other than the festival circuit (for us Kolkatans, the Kolkata Film Festival is the biggest film event to showcase World Cinema), the films which are appreciated for their content, themes, sensibility and which convey so much in terms of their socio-cultural milieu, have by and large eluded us - as far as the mainstream sharing space was concerned. UTV World Movies has finally been the answer to our prayers..... seeking quality films from all over the world, on our television screens.... and it promises to fill the void.

The television channel, World Movies, has been screening films in diverse languages (with English sub-titles, of course), such as French, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Cantonese, Thai, Polish, Persian, Japanese, Russian and English. It is India’s only international movie channel, and is owned by the UTV Network. Interestingly, the line-up of movies include those that are contemporary, glamorous, award-winning classics and even the box-office successes.

World cinema has an unofficial implication of films with "artistic value" as opposed to "Hollywood commercialism." Foreign language films are often grouped with "art house films" and other independent films in DVD stores or on cinema listings. UTV World Movies has attempted to change that mindset. Furthermore, foreign language films that cross cultural boundaries, particularly where the visual spectacle and the style is sufficient to overcome the lay viewer's misgivings, have been emphasized upon. This will surely garner the initial viewership base.

I have been lucky enough to catch some really engaging films on the World Movies channel, and they are:

Magonia (Dutch)
Cleopatra (Spanish)
Machuka (Spanish)
Viva Cuba (Spanish)
Blessed by Fire (Spanish)
Secrets and Lies (English; UK)

The Mission (English; UK)
Karnaval (French)
Stolen Kisses (French)

Swindled (Spanish)
My Girl (Thai)
Scorchers (English; UK)
The Hidden (Spanish)
Finally Sunday (French)
Rendez-vous (French)
The Last Metro (French)
A Special Day (Italian)
Your Name is Justine (Polish)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The 'Dus Ka Dum' Andaz

The fourth of July, 2008, was a memorable night for the viewers of Indian television, as we got to see Aamir Khan feature on the reality show 'Dus Ka Dum', alongwith Imran, his nephew. The remarkable feat for the channel (Sony Entertainment Television) was to get the ever reclusive Aamir Khan on the show which is hosted by Salman Khan, his contemporary and often labelled as his 'rival' (by the media, of course).
Salman, Aamir and Imran seemed to have a ball at the show, which hadn't exactly been the favorite on the popularity charts. But things took a drastic turn that night as it attracted eyeballs from all over of the world, wherever the satellite channel has had its reach, as viewers were keen to see the chemistry between the Khan biggies Aamir and Salman return on the visbility radar, after a really long time!
It was an all-smiles-affair as the trio went on to play the game ‘Dus Ka Dum’. The Aamir and Salman bonding, however, remained the highlight of the special episode.
We were reminded of the ‘Andaz Apna Apna’ days when we saw Aamir & Salman on a buoyant cycle-sharing ride. While the ‘Jaane Tu.. ya jaane na’ debutant Imran Khan smiled and obliged to remain on the sidelines, the limelight being duly shared by the two biggies, he must have won many a young fan for himself as his manners, and charm were just perfect.

I sincerely wish that we get to see Aamir and Salman share screen space yet again ('Andaz Apna Apna' was way back in 1994), maybe thius time in an intensely dramatic film (unlike the zany, mad caper that 'Andaz Apna Apna' was!)...... the two of you do have a great buddy chemistry!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Cinema - Small, but Beautiful

Cinema - as we have known the medium through the ages - has undergone a sea-change over the years, and reasonably so. Other than evolving, there are thin chances of survival; hence changes are obvious, changes have to be welcomed.
The Youtube Screening Room is a revolutionary concept that promises to take filmviewing forward by one giant leap! The digital techmology has come to be the mainstay of the 21st century. There has been an ever-increasing demand for tools that democratise cinema.
Often the biggest challenge for the makers has been getting their films seen by audiences worldwide.
For a very long time, the distribution network for smaller films didn't exist, the distribution of films had to be executed through the dissolution of so many hurdles that it became impossible for the filmmakers to look beyond a target set of audience and a defined market, which again has its own limiting logistics, and is a prime opponent to creativity.
Reaching to a wider audience, connecting with the audience on a lucid & transparent basis has been now made possible to quality short films from around the world on Youtube.
A film that is literally made on a shoe-string budget of ten dollars can now compete with that made with the studio support or big finances, on a level playing field. It is really encouraging for us film buffs to learn that the barriers to entry have been lowered so drastically.
There is this promise of a new dawn, with cinema, albeit on a short scale, from around the world finding the audience they deserve..... I am so excited, and am sure there are millions like me.
The more important films, more important filmmakers will now be able to establish a dialogue with the viewers.
The small but beautiful world of cinema is definitely going to gift us some genuine gems that have the potential of becoming the conversation starter. The miniature classics can now seek audience beyond festivals. Cinema-lovers can form online communities to rally round these talented makers and support them in their endeavours.
Cinema empowers, and it is also high time that the Internet helps empower the creators in this manner.
Youtube promises to throw open its doors to cinema of all kinds, all dimensions; from utterly profound to utterly profane; a great film of any length, any budget can hope to play on one's computer screen, with just the click of a mouse.

Courtesy: The Youtube Screening Room
(launch video)

Experience the magic of cinema on Youtube