DIVERSE VOICES, COMPELLING STORIES.

As the title makes it clear, here are some honest artistic statements on the state of adult lives that realistically adhere to its full trajectories, be it in Frontier America( True Grit) or the monochromatic ebbulience and tensions tossed into the always unpredictable terrain of New York( The 40 Year Old Version) or even a morally complex landscape merging past and present, to exercise a civilizational tale of connectedness and humanity reaching out for a blemish-free community( as created notably in The Village).

So here they are, for viewers, cinephiles, for a more holistic understanding of human endeavours at their complex best.

**

45 YEARS

This film not only introduced me to the smouldering intensity of THE PLATTERS’ evergreen song SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES but kept me invested in its tell-tale signs of a rocky unraveling of a marriage of four decades and more. This was just by the reaction to its trailer alone five years ago.

When I finally watched it few weeks ago, I was devastated emotionally by how realistic and even-tempered it was; in its diagnosis of lifelong relationships that sustain their longevity even without a sign of endurance or guarantee of whole-hearted integration, it very clearly shows us the passage of time and the bitter fact that compatibility among strangers who do not share a prior bond and then decide to settle down to create that all-encompassing marital status over years comes with some dense realizations.

45 YEARS is one that beautifully illustrates its protagonists’ dotage and settled rhythm of everyday routines within a week before they ring in their anniversary. But the past comes by to sweep away all this accumulated sense of normalcy and mutual love and takes it to a place where both man and wife find themselves lonely and resentful of communication gaps that mostly social norms impose upon us. The man’s honesty about a previous lover prior to his marriage with his life partner opens up a portal of unrequited grief within him when a startling discovery about the same woman ,whom he lost almost fifty years ago, gnaws at his stricken consciousness. We see how youth and its mysteries never truly leave us nor does the agency of our first love. Tom Courtney accesses that uneasy truism and its overwrought burden with such poignant melancholy.

It’s Charlotte Rampling, however, who is the anchor not only to this marriage like thousands of women, but whose unraveling is more reserved but truly heartbreaking. At the end of the rope, she finds the knots have all opened up for her deception, as if these years were all a big fraud and she was merely filling in a model for a deceased beloved, for the man she chose to spend her life with. Her eyes become, truly, windows to her soul and in a memorably affecting scene where she accesses photographs from her husband’s trove of memories, she exhibits her understated brilliance at reaching at many fundamental truths about her bond with her better half. As also the reasons behind some of its glaring missteps, like their childlessness, his temperament and the way he always posits ‘he’s tired’ when the pressure-point comes in between conversations.

The ending stays true to that fabric of betrayal and keeping up appearances that define social compulsions, the biggest of which sums up marriage. But something snaps in the lady of the home and amidst the revelry of an anniversary party, unseen by anybody else, she stiffens up and refuses to play bait to her husband, taking it to a devastating finale. It is true to the way most marriages reach a point of reckoning. That brutal honesty is the hallmark of 45 YEARS in all respects. Ms. Rampling gives us a performance and a portrait so haunting that we will begrudgingly accept all faults within our own bonds when we watch her but ultimately reconcile that her face is a mirror reflecting all we know about the state of interpersonal relationships. Her eyes communicate every emotion. The silence within this screenplay attests to that. THE SMOKE GETS IN OUR EYES AND ENGULFS US FULLY THEN.

***

THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS

‘Truth is stranger than fiction’ is a statement that comes with its plethora of emotions in this eye- opening documentary, about three adopted boys,who at 19, discover each other through the intervention of fate and turn out to be identical triplets separated at birth.

From that heady rush of joy and years of togetherness, even celebrity, their collective tale plummets to depths of melancholy and a haunting sense of loss orchestrated by the foster system, the moneyed class, larger ethical issues pertaining to a horrifying experiment concerning twins in post war America and conflicts between dual entities of ‘nature and nurture’

THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS opens us to the very real presence of human corruption robbing youth and society, in general, of its innocence. It reminded me of the sibling dynamics of TELL ME WHO I AM, as chilling and sans resolution.

**

TRUE GRIT

This 2010 version of an original Western classic starring the legendary John Wayne is given the usual Midas touch by Coen Brothers who clearly specialize in period pieces. The authenticity and eye for detail here is strikingly their own hallmark.

Hailee Steinfeld in her breakout as Mattie Ross, Jeff Bridges as Marshal Rooster Cogburn and Matt Damon as ranger Labeouf are personalities that I had known through the years via perusal of reviews, writings and popular culture but watching them create a tale of settling scores with a blackguard (Josh Brolin) entails a ride one is willing to take with them.

The Coens’ dialogic dynamism, naturalistic progression of events without reliance on big set-pieces successively revives the hard edges of Americana. Like all their works, it ends with a more nuanced take on humanity. That is the real triumph.

**

THE 40 YEAR OLD VERSION

Radha Blank is a fresh new voice who juggles writing, directing and performing duties to curate a bittersweet autobiographical portrait of an artist, in an era that will only act as a welcome gateway for such multifaceted and original mavericks.

Shot in evocative black and white, it’s a familiar tale of artistic pursuits and moving ahead in the world, all the while negotiating a family legacy of personal integrity and racial stereotypes. What injects it with life is its lack of bitterness or overt cynicism, strokes of natural humour, musicality in the written word and the fact that it realistically hones in on the flowering of one’s true talents when at the periphery of middle age. Its characterisation of Blank playing herself, her students, her kindred artistic soul D and best friend Archie are all memorably etched. They stayed with me after I watched it on the third day of its release on Netflix. That’s a feat in itself.

THE 40 YEAR OLD VERSION is one of the least showy and positive tokens of original content to embrace 2020. Thank you for the smiles, Ms. Radha and for showing the true indomitable Spirit of artists that refuses to buckle under sundry pressures. It’s instantly relatable.

****

THE VILLAGE(2004)

This is one of those intellectually stimulating motion pictures that deconstruct the way civilization has tried to hoodwink human capacity for monstrous deeds and rationalize a core of purity for self-preservation. Like all Manoj Night Shyamalan features, its ambition is to strip the foundations of horror but its final destination and biggest concern is with generating empathy.

THE VILLAGE cues a love story and a man’s path to recovery parallel with a visually impaired young woman’s quest for individuality given the dangers galore in venturing beyond the forests, to prevent the wrath of those ‘who shall not be named’

The treatment is fascinating, emotionally resonant and the performances by the likes of Bryce Dallas Howard, Joaquin Phoenix, Judy Greer, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver and others inspire us to look beyond the obvious. On the other side is Adrien Brody’s arc as a mentally challenged young man whose condition becomes a point of reckoning for the way similar individuals are equated with a kind of monstrosity, that the community here utilizes to achieve its poignant but tragic outcomes. Harking back to an elemental time in terms of practices, customs, dressing sense and lack of technology, it is very reminiscent of the Amish community. The ending particularly comes as a knockout when the supposed period setting and almost mythical conflict comes in contact with the contemporary, ‘outside’ world.

As complex and unbelievable as it sounds in its premise, THE VILLAGE is a powerful allegory of the way we construct mores and worlds to advance betterment of society. Its final use of the word ‘kindness’ by Bryce for a security official she encounters unexpectedly captures this work’s tryst with empathy. Roger Deakins’ photography further adds to the mystique, complexity and ideal of purity it aims for.

***

THE HALL OF FAMER OF 2020

FATHER OF THE BRIDE – PART 3(ISH)

Amidst the worst phase of our modern lives, we are blessed to beckon the easygoing charm of this surprise reunion that pays tribute, in its loveable and innocent way, to communicating over Skype and Zoom chats. Socially distanced conversations never seemed so sweet or pure in its familiarity on screen than this, the third in the pantheon of FATHER OF THE BRIDE films from the 1990s that I personally loved watching back in the mid 2000s.

As an unique wedding gets solemnized over computers, old reigning guards of the franchise like STEVE MARTIN, DIANE KEATON, KIERAN CULKIN, MARTIN SHORT and the original bride KIMBERLY WILLIAMS PAISLEY return to spread cheer while newcomers include blazing current stars FLORENCE PUGH, ALEXANDRA SHIPP , BEN PLATT and the ‘father of them all’ ROBERT DE NIRO joins festivities.

With so many marriages and life-decisions finding a foothold through digital networks, this nearly 30 minute capsule is pithy and maintains the compactness of relationships and a yearning for joy. I loved it. In this festive season, FATHER OF THE BRIDE -PART 3(ISH) is like a magical interlude. Thank you Netflix!

****

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