Ten (2002) (aka 10)
Abbas Kiarostami

“You are wholesalers. We are retailers”


There are not more than a handful of directors who have the special ability to look beyond the boundaries and hop over the conventions of the medium. Abbas Kiarostami, with his radically fresh perspective and consistent streak of “different” films, undoubtedly is in the cream of that list. The loose and naturalistic style, that would have made Tarkovsky proud, still remains potent to intrigue the audience, even decades after its inception. Ten (2002) serves as an embodiment of that statement.

The whole film takes place inside a car whose driver is a married woman. She travels around the city the whole day and in the process meets women from various age groups and social strata. This group includes her insolent and impatient son, her sister, a jilted bride, an old woman on her way to a prayer and a prostitute. She listens to all their complaints and tries to console them, even though an act of formality. It is also revealed that the driver herself is on the brink of a break-up. The whole action takes place in a single day and inside the same car.

As ironical as it sounds, Kiarostami tries to provide a broad social commentary employing his alarmingly limited set of resources. The position of women in the Iranian society has been elaborated upon by contemporaries from the country such as Jafar Panahi and Tahmineh Milani. Kiarostami, taking a slightly different path (as usual!), does not stress explicitly upon the issue, but lets his characters and conversations drive the point. The range of characters that the driver meets helps the audience to delve into the social conditions, one step at a time.

What, ultimately, the viewers take away from Ten is its daring execution and its fearlessness at that. Whole of the film is shot using 2 cameras placed inside the car. The film is so claustrophobic and even borderline nauseating that one can almost smell the fumes from the car engine. The viewer, mentally, tries to break away from the spatial restriction imposed and the resulting suffocation and get out of the car, into the fresh. This, as in most Abbas Kiarostami films, is precisely what the director wants. The immense social and political restriction placed upon the women of the nation is directly mirrored in their physical placement in the car. As a result, both the viewers and the characters yearn for visual and social emancipation respectively.

As with all of the director’s films, Ten too has its fair share of admirers and haters. Its avant-garde style and non-judgmental observation of reality may be the revelation for many, but it still is a difficult watch. One can be easily cramped by the hour and a half of sitting on the music player of the car, unable to even turn his/her head towards a different view. But considering that such unexampled films do not come very often, nobody complains.

Do Bhiga Zamin (1953) (aka Two Acres Of Land)
Bimal Roy

“The land is the farmer’s mother. How can I sell my mother?”


DBZPost-war world cinema has been undoubtedly influenced by the Italian realist wave – be it the hard-hitting social commentary by Rosselini and Visconti or the soft delineation of day-to-day struggle by De Sica. After all, it gave birth to India’s greatest filmmaker Satyajit Ray! India, too, was quick to join the bandwagon and as a result, produced some terrific neo-realist films. Although a bit melodramatic, Bimal Roy’s Do Bigha Zamin (1953) may well be called the Indian answer to De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief (1947).

Shambhu (Balraj Sahni, the Indian Humphrey Bogart) is a petty farmer who is happy with his two acres of land, his wife Parvati (Nirupa Roy) and his son Kanhaiya (Rattan Kumar, who would go on to become the star in Raj Kapoor’s Boot Polish (1954)). Things are smooth until his tract of land comes under threat of industrialization – A scheme spearheaded by the zamindar and loan shark of the village Thakur Hamam Singh (Murad), who tricks Shambhu into either paying up a huge amount of money or relinquishing the claim on his land. As a result, he is forced to go to the city with his son and earn the required sum of money, leaving his father and wife behind in the village. Shambhu takes a range of jobs – from a coolie to a rickshaw puller – just in order to earn those few hundred rupees. Kanhaiya, too, tries to lend a helping hand to his father. The rest of the film follows their harsh life in the city of Calcutta, their hopes, struggles and the denouement of their exertions in a very pragmatic and undecorated fashion.

The ending, a poignant and satirical visual assembly, is a bit sorrowful contrary to the popular happy ending concept prevalent during its times. A very daring move by Roy that tests the comfort levels of the audience – an idea that would be given an in-your-face execution later in Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear (1957). The score by Salil Chowdhary, who also provided the story for the film, is low-key and does not manipulate the emotions of the viewers for most part of the movie while the restrained camerawork matches the intensity of its lead.

The consummate screenplay by to-be-legendary director Hrishikesh Mukherjee, who also edited the film, handles many social themes with ease. The issue of internecine twin migration among the rural and urban not only becomes an integral part of the narration, but also serves as an eye opener for the hundreds of villagers who abandon farming in the dream of making it big in the city. Its counterpart, where agrarian lands are scathed, drained and made lifeless in the name of industrialization and development, is also subtly critiqued.

The most positive aspect of the film is the accentuation on upholding of one’s dignity and self esteem in the most perturbing situations. Though Shambhu could have executed his task easily in more ways than one, he opts for the most ethical choice of all – hard work. This universal theme of strong moral stand against a tide of corrupting influences would be seen in hundreds of movies that followed, more famously in Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep (1977), which stands at the pinnacle of American Neorealism.

The indivisible nature of the family, all of whose members work towards the fulfillment of a single objective, which is a feature of the traditional Indian society yet universal in application, is a motif in the film. All of the members – Shambhu, his wife, his father and son – intend to alleviate his situation and try to contribute in every way possible. Another theme in the film that is characteristic of the then rural India is the issue of illiteracy among small time farmers that results in their economical exploitation by the money lenders and zamindars. On slight deliberation, it is easy to see that the root of Shambhu’s afflictions is his naiveté towards the legal issues of debt and interest. This issue would be lapped up later by Mehboob Khan’s Oscar nominee Mother India (1957).

Bimal Roy distributed the film abroad in the name “Calcutta – The Cruel City”. Indeed, the shattering image of Shambhu overtaking a horse cart as his customer offers more money for going faster shows how humans and beasts are considered no different in the cities. The film carries a recurring contrast between the warmth of bucolic life and the sheer frigidity of urban living throughout. Shambhu is consistently snubbed and ridiculed when he asks for a job in the city whereas he was offered a Hookah in the village without even asking.

Mahatma Gandhi said that the soul of the nation lies in its villages. What happens if the soul is ripped apart by the existentialism of its body? It is evident that Do Bhiga Zamin has been influenced by and influenced tens of masterful movies spanning different geographical, linguistic, social and temporal backgrounds, but still has a firm foot in its culture. This testifies that cinema knows no barriers and can be ecumenical but at the same time, be uniquely encoded in its culture. To paraphrase film theorist André Bazin – “it is both pre-translated and untranslatable”.

First published in Dear Cinema

Der Himmel Über Berlin (1987) (aka Wings Of Desire)
Wim Wenders

“When the child was a child, it didn’t know that it was a child, everything was soulful, and all souls were one…


Wings of Desire (1987) takes off with a dedication to cinema’s three great stalwarts – Truffaut, Ozu and Tarkovsky. Indeed, elements of all the three directors’ works are present in the film. However, Wim Wender’s decidedly mood piece, released months after the Tarkovsky’s demise, is a film that is to be felt and not seen, much like the latter’s films. To quote Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978) – “Your eyes, your ears, your senses, will be overwhelmed”.

Damiel (Bruno Ganz) and Cassiel (Otto Sander) are two angels living in Berlin whose mission is to “assemble, testify and preserve” reality. They keep documenting the happenings in the city, going through the minds of its citizens in the process. Damiel meets a trapeze artist (Solveig Dommartin) and falls in love with her. After the suggestion from an ex-angel Peter Falk (as himself), he decides to shed his wings. Seemingly plotless and enigmatic, Wings of Desire makes a lasting impact on the viewers who watch it using their heart rather than their brains.

Damiel and Marion are a single soul separated by the ethereal skies (similar to Berlin itself where brethren of a single blood are divided by the ideological wall and humans have become no more than one-man islands). Both of them go through the same trauma. Both are strangers in spite of being around for a long time. Both have grown emotionless and are desperate to experience true feelings. Damiel acts as if he is one among the earthlings whereas Marion plays the part of an angel in the circus. Damiel wants to shed his omniscience, immortality and super-mobility in exchange for the mystery, fallibility and restrictions of human life. Damiel’s pining for petty human experiences holds quite an adversarial relationship with Cassiel who quietly and helplessly observes human suffering and even feels a bit hostile at the “conversion”.

The angels in the film represent everything that is both ancient and nascent, much like the city itself, which is a juxtaposition of culturally iconic structures (the Berlin Library, the Wall) and vignettes of massive reconstruction and renaissance (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, its skyscrapers). They have been around even before the appearance of the first creature on the planet, yet are mere infants, unable to differentiate between the emotional and sensual shades and colours. Like an infant, Damiel sees plain monochrome – he cannot discriminate between various souls (“everything was soulful, and all souls were one” ). But as the child grows up and as Damiel sheds his wings, they are no longer cherubic and recognize the harsh colours of humanity and become skillful (and even wily) enough to look at various hues and dimensions within people.

Cinematography is easily the first thing one notices and veteran Henri Alekan ensures that the camera velocity is neither too slow to contradict the dynamics of the scenes or too fast to prevent one from sinking into the ambience. The sepia tinged monochrome immediately enhances the already mellifluous verbal poetry. The film’s imagery and sound shuttle between subjective and objective realities, aptly sustaining the heavenly cinematic journey. The editing also suitably employs POV shots to compare and contrast the lives of people above and below the skies of Berlin. Bruno Ganz, who would ironically deliver the chilling performance as Hitler in The Downfall (2004), is out of the world, literally, and his childlike innocence emphatically emphasizes his emotions.

Wings of Desire is more than a yearning for preservation of humanity. It is a celebration of it. It is a celebration of sensitivity – of rubbing your hands during a cold winter day, of feeling pain due to a wound. It is a celebration of perceptibility – of sipping hot coffee while reading newspaper, of the occasional amusement at sight of red blood. It is a celebration of human life, its mortality, its diversity and its vulnerability. Each of its character is a poem, each image, a verse and each sound, a melody. Strongly recommended for anyone who loves mankind, reality and life.

Le Salaire De La Peur (1953) (aka The Wages Of Fear)
Henri-Georges Clouzot

“When someone else is driving, I’m scared.


After his back to back successes with Le Salaire de la Peur (1953) and Les Diaboliques (1955), Henri-Georges Clouzot was considered a leading contender for the throne of “The Master of Suspense” and a force Hitchcock had to reckon with. Incidentally, Hitchcock himself was hot under the collar for having lost the filming rights of the above two films to Clouzot who had delivered them big time. Though not as prolific or consistent as Hitch, Clouzot is nevertheless placed in the same league as the former. His famous pair of films has spawned tens of remakes, both faithful and revamped. The Wages of Fear may arguably be the more potent of the two by a miniscule margin.

(Spoiler Alert)

Mario, Jo, Bimba and Luigi are the temporary residents of Las Piedras, a small town in South American. Each of them has a need to earn a tidy sum of money in a very short amount of time. Just then, they find out that one of the oil fields of Southern Oil Company (SOC), the drilling giant which owns a number of fields in the country, is on fire and two truckloads of nitroglycerine are required to put them out. However, a tiny jerk to these trucks could blow them to nonexistence. These four people volunteer to drive the truck to the oil field for a decent sum of money. The rest of the film follows their nasty ride to hell and beyond, literally.

No other film ending has been as much debated upon as the ending of The Wages of Fear. Clouzot, clearly making a statement against the Hollywood endings, did the unthinkable and totally shattered the perception about films of the audience then. Additionally, the ending sequence also raises questions about death, fate and their inevitability, that reach out to everyone irrespective of their age, situation or morality. Till date, the ending elicits mixed reactions, ranging from brilliant to silly.

In Richard Schickel’s documentary The Men Who Made the Movies: Alfred Hitchcock (1973), Hitchcock puts forth his idea of suspense as thus: “If two people are talking across a table and a bomb suddenly explodes from under it, the audience is excited for about 10 seconds. But if in the same situation, if you tell the audience that there is a bomb that will go in exactly 5 minutes, viewers are pushed the edge of their seats for the whole 5 minutes and will be praying for the men to get out of that place. You can’t make the bomb explode after that, for it will disrupt the comfort level of the audience”.

This is exactly the style used in The Wages of Fear too. Only that Clouzot does not care about the last clause. The best part about this theory regarding on-screen suspense is that it can never become obsolete. A bomb threat is as gripping now as 50 years earlier. This, perhaps, is the major reason for the slew of similar films from across the world. The audience knows what is going to happen in the next few minutes, but still finds the happenings irresistible. Don’t forget to check out Andrei Tarkovsky’s student film There Will Be No Leave Today (1959) for a different take on the same structure.

Clearly, the most prominent theme in the film is the capitalist exploitation and misuse of power over the developing and third world countries. The Southern Oil Company (SOC, obviously, representing the US oil giant) in the film is portrayed as a materialistic and ruthless firm that pays for the fear and lives of the men in terms of money. This provided the west yet another reason to boo down the film. However, the film had already been recognized as a classic and Clouzot became yet another French director to look out for.

Ônibus 174 (2002) (aka Bus 174)
José Padilha

“Didn’t you kill my friends in Candelaria? I was there.”


Many would have seen the devastating account of the Brazillian slums and the juvenile violence breeding within them in Fernando Meirelles’ brilliant feature City of God (2002). However, a similar themed documentary film, Onibus 174 (2002) (aka Bus 174), does not get the same attention and credit as City of God. Released late in the same year as its fictional counterpart, Bus 174 is centered on a hostage situation in Rio de Janeiro, where an armed man named Sandro who had taken 10 hostages aboard a public bus.

(Spoiler Alert)

Sandro Rosa do Nascimento boarded a public bus on June 12th 2000 with a loaded gun in the intention of robbing the passengers. Things go out of control and the intended robbery snowballs into a tense hostage situation with full coverage by the national media. Sandro demands a gun and a new driver for the bus from the police. The police are neither able to negotiate and resolve the clutter nor are able to snipe him down because of the media. It is gradually revealed that Sandro is a kid brought up in the streets of Rio and had seen his friends being slaughtered by the police in the Candelaria church massacre.

As time goes, Sandro panics and asks his hostages to scream and even asks one of them to act dead in order to push the police. At around 7 in the evening, Sandro alights from the bus taking a female hostage along with him as shield. As the police try to capitalize the situation, one of their men approaches Sandro and fires from inches near his head. It misses and hits the hostage who is then shot many times by Sandro himself. The police now take the defenseless Sandro, stuff him into their vehicle and pounce on him, suffocating him to death.

(End of Spoilers)

For a documentary running for about two hours, the film could have been branded overlong if not for the director’s attempts to interestingly intersperse the various threads of the narrative and hence give the feel of a mainstream thriller. The calm and composure with which Luanna Belmont handled Sandro and talked him into contemplation shows that a brave person is not necessarily the one with the gun. Her act redefines what a hero is and even reveals the power of expression.

Bus 174 puts forth several social and political issues prevalent in Rio including the ostracizing of slum dwelling children by the public and government, ineffectiveness of the Rio police under crunch situations and the incessant intrusion by the media on delicate matters, but never once becoming unfocused on the central event. Though seemingly a tad sympathetic towards the teens of the slum, the film never champions any issues put forth and leaves the conclusions to the viewers.

Where Bus 174 scores over its companion piece is its tag of reality that persuades the viewer to know and analyze the world around. It does not let one to lay back and detachedly watch the on-screen massacre as one does in City of God. It prompts the viewer to listen to, not hear, the cries of the oppressed and weak. The last two adjectives are not to be associated with the brutality on the slum-dwellers or the pressure on the police but the involuntary involvement of civilians and innocents in the acts of violence.

In a world infested by racism, bigotry and communalism, it is only the efforts of individuals, not governments and organizations, which will help bridging the rift between them and prevent further misery. The Bus 174 incident is an embodiment of that statement. Don’t miss this one.

Pedar (1996) (aka The Father)
Majid Majidi

“Mehrolah, your mom has married a police officer”


For a large part of the world Majid Majidi’s filmography begins with the disarmingly charming Children of Heaven (1997). But the Iranian auteur had already struck gold a year before the first Oscar nomination from Iran. The themes, style and idiosyncrasies that were to mesmerize the world in the years following Children of Heaven clearly show their roots in Pedar (1996) (aka Father).

The film kicks off with the image of Mehrollah (Hassan Sadeghi), a boy in his teens working in the city in the south of Iran, purchasing clothes and ornaments, possibly for his family. The sweat on his face and his crumpled currency clearly indicate the boy’s struggle for a living. At his Spartan room besides the shop, Mehrollah packs his stuff that includes a photograph of himself with a man, probably his father, and leaves the city the next day.

Mehrollah makes a long trip by bus and arrives at his village. He halts to freshen up at a stream nearby and in the process loses the photograph. He notices his friend Latif (Hossein Abedini, who will go on to become the protagonist of Majidi’s spectacular Baran (2001)), and plays a childish prank on him. Immediately following that, Latif informs Mehrollah that after he had gone to the city following his father’s death, his mother had married a policeman. Mehrollah is infuriated and hits Latif, indicating his straddling between the playfulness of childhood and the fits of adolescent anger.

He reaches the policeman’s house where his mother and sisters are staying and notices the policemen with them. He throws the gifts he had bought for them at the gates and leaves the place in frustration. Determined that the policeman had married his mother only by offering money for the treatment of his sister, he decides to teach the man a lesson.

The next day he returns to the house and throws his wad of money at the policeman’s face and asks him to leave his mother alone. The policeman, much too experienced with these kinds of reactions, is passive and asks Mehrollah to either get into the house or flee the place. In another futile attempt at retrieving his sisters, Mehrollah refurbishes the place where he is staying in and brings his sisters without the knowledge of his mother. After the policeman and his mother track him down, he is rebuked severely. Following a minor protest outside the policeman’s house that rainy night, Mehrollah falls sick, only to be helped by the policeman. The policeman brings Mehrollah to his house for care and leaves the house for a few days in the pretext of a mission, leaving Mehrollah and his mother to bond. It is now that we find that the policeman was a divorcee and had married Mehrollah’s mother out of true love for her and her kids.

After the few days of bout, Mehrollah decides to hit back big time. He pinches the policeman’s pistol and leaves the village by night along with Latif, after wooing the latter with the hopes of making tons of money. The policeman, now out of his patience limits, sets off on his bike in order to arrest the juvenile delinquents who have now reached the beach at the city (a la Truffaut’s The 400 Blows (1959)). The two friends play in the sandy waters at the beach, a scene reminiscent of Elem Klimov’s war epic Come and See (1985), suggesting that they are, after all, children.

The policeman manages to track them down, but not without a marathon of a run. He grabs hold of Mehrollah and cuffs him to his own wrists suggesting his realization that he has to bring his kid up the hard way. He also sends the weeping Latif off to the village on a bus. The rest of the film follows the policeman’s struggle to bring back Mehrollah back home both physically and emotionally. The pair travels through the scorched desert on foot following the breakdown of the bike and get lost. As they set off on an excruciating quest for water and civilization, Mehrollah realizes how the policeman has taken responsibility of his safety and survival. He learns that the policeman has married his mother for reasons beyond what he had thought.

The policeman collapses, unable to keep with the heat, but not before freeing Mehrollah asking him to carry on. Mehrollah, determined to save his companion, runs in search of water and finds a stream at a distance. He performs a mammoth task by dragging the unconscious policeman to the stream and collapses besides him on the water. In the final moment, as poetic and moving as all of Majidi’s later film endings, a photograph of the policeman with his “new family” floats towards Mehrollah. Mehrollah, who lost the photograph of his father in a stream early on, finds this photograph coming to him through a similar stream. Mehrollah has found a new father.

Majidi’s films, unlike his contemporaries’ Jafar Panahi and Bahman Ghobadi, do not intend to highlight the social ills prevalent in society of Iran and the discrimination of humans based on gender and ethnicity. Rather, they focus on the best parts of the country’s culture and flourish on them. They are deeply rooted on the family values and traditions of Iran, yet are universal in their themes.

Pedar is shot in the rural localities of Iran, a place that may look like a whole new world to the outsiders. However, the alienation stops there and one will be emotionally overwhelmed as the movie proceeds. The global themes of fatherhood, adolescence and emotional bonding through distress will remind every viewer how the world is so large yet so small.

Killer Of Sheep (1977)
Charles Burnett

“Who the hell told you I’d help you do away with somebody?”


Killer of Sheep (1977) is an American neorealist film by African American filmmaker Charles Burnett. American Neorealism – Does it sound like an oxymoron? Apparently it isn’t. Charles Burnett’s portrayal of the life and times in the Los Angeles slums has been hailed as one of the greatest truly-American films and even compared to the works of Italian stalwarts Rosselini and Visconti.

Stan (Henry G. Sanders) is a man who makes his living killing sheep in a large slaughterhouse. He lives with his wife (Kaycee Moore) and two kids in the slums of Los Angeles. Theft and violence have become a commonplace in the neighbourhood. As he tries to make ends meet, he is asked by his friends to help them carry out a murder for a huge sum of money. He turns down the offer without consideration. Stan and his friend also try to buy a used engine for their car which, unfortunately, slips off the back of car and breaks.

Stan’s only solace in these testing times is a quiet waltz with his wife at home, isolated from the madness of the outside world. Stan and his friends also try to go out for a family outing just to discover that their car’s tyre has gone flat. In spite of the haunting nature of his job and the pathetic state of society, Stan seems to be uncorrupted and tries to live straight. The mundane life of Stan is interspersed with the dispassionate vignettes from the slum, mainly involving children, showing the oppressive nature of the life for the dwellers.

Stan is the icon of untainted humanity in the film. He is pushed to the extremes by his economic, geographic and ethnic afflictions but chooses to work it out in a fair and square way. He meets with nothing but disappointment in his ventures in the depressing and agonizing neighbourhood, yet tries to absorb his quota of happiness from events that may seem inconsequential to the rest of the world .The film, thus, stresses upon the need to maintain one’s dignity and composure during times of desolation

The unadorned tale of a man from the ghetto is so low-key in its execution with its organic camera work and lack of conventional plot devices and narrative techniques that it feels like a documentary for most part of the film. Though an act of financial pressure, the use of non-professional actors gels well with their milieu and highlights the vulnerability of the common man. The absence of plot in the film enables it to show how life itself is plotless, unless one wants to look at it that way.

At a time when American films had just dumped the World War for the Vietnam War and extravagance was the order of the day, the only representation of African-Americans on the celluloid came in the form of the token black guy who would be killed first in disaster flicks. Though Killer of Sheep never reached the eyes of the mainstream audience at the time of its release, the film pointed out that African-Americans did form an integral part of the history and demography of the US.

Killer of Sheep was revived in 2007 with the help of filmmaker Steven Soderbergh and was given a re-release. Made on a shoestring budget that would embarrass Hollywood, the film is a shrine of inspiration to independent filmmakers around the world and teaches them that good cinema is not about how sensational your visions are, but how well you connect yourself to the world around.

Tystnaden (1963) (aka The Silence)
Ingmar Bergman

“I didn’t want to accept my wretched role. But now it’s too damn lonely. We try out attitudes and find them all worthless. The forces are all too strong. I mean the forces… the horrible forces. You need to watch your step among all the ghosts and memories.”


The SilenceThe concept of faithlessness in today’s world has been filmed by a number of directors around the world in various manifestations. But none have come close to Bergman’s “faith trilogy” (save Andrei Tarkovsky, who Bergman himself considered unparalleled). The final part of the trilogy Tystnaden (1963) is perhaps the most difficult and coldest of the three films. The film itself was (in)famous for its graphic images that were unacceptable in that period of time.

Anna, her son Johan and her sister Ester are forced to spend a few days in a hotel in a foreign country following Ester’s illness. Anna is a free-lover and commences an intense affair with a waiter at the hotel. Ester does not approve this and Anna gives Ester a cold shoulder for probing into her affairs. Meanwhile, Johan who roams in the corridors meets various people and also bonds with one of the old stewards. Ester’s illness worsens and death is not far. Ester realizes this and regrets to the old steward that her relationship with Anna is not well. Ironically, Ester, who is professionally a translator, is unable to communicate to the old steward who symbolizes a pastor/God in this situation. She is hurt by the silence of god which is seen in the strained relationships of Ester and Anna. Eventually, she passes away after passing a letter to Johan that contains the equivalent foreign terms for a few words. The film ends with Anna leaving Ester to die alone and carrying on her indifference to non-bodily love.

While the first film established God as love and the second one saw faith and disbelief in mixed proportions, Tystnaden spells faithlessness in most its characters. With Ester being the only believer, the only hope for survival is through Johan (in the form of the few foreign words she passes to to him that signify communication and hence love). The trilogy (the previous ones being Såsom I En Spegel (1961), Nattvardsgästerna (1962)), as a whole puts forth notions of God and Godlessness (that translate to love and lack of love respectively in relationships among various individuals) and manifests itself in different situations. A truly meditative set of films that you have to watch in a unperturbed environment.

Blowup (1966) (aka Blow-up)
Michelangelo Antonioni

“I wish I had tons of money… Then I’d be free.”

BlowupMichaelangelo Antonioni‘s films have always tried to establish the growing distance between humans and the alienation of self in the modern society. Though L’Avventura (1960) is his most intense meditation of that concept, it is measured in its pace and may not entice viewers of the newer generation. Ironically, his Blowup (1966) has more lovers now than it had during its time! Unlike its contemporaries which age with time, Blowup‘s appeal seems to grow with the years.

Thomas is a young and famous photographer who has models running after him for an appointment. He is indifferent towards them and even treats them as mere objects to the extent of being misogynistic. He spends his time doing ritualistic things such as collecting scrap objects and antiques. One day he finds a couple talking in a park and photographs them. The female in the couple finds this and asks him to return the film. On refusal, she tracks him to his studio and gives a futile attempt at recovering it. Getting suspicious, Thomas examines the photographs by blowing them up to the point where he sees a man holding a pistol among the bushes. He goes to the park to check and finds a corpse near the bushes. Shocked, he tries to call his friends who are too busy living in their own fantasy. Next morning, he revisits the park and is befuddled to find the corpse missing. He is not able to gather what is happening. In what I consider as one of the best endings in cinema history, a group of mime artists recreate a tennis match as Thomas watches on. Suddenly they act as if the ball has gone out of court. They ask Thomas to throw the ball in. Trying not to look different, he “throws the ball” to them. As the “match” progresses, Thomas is able to hear the hitherto silent rally of the ball. Thomas stands alone on the vast empty field as the screen fades to black.

Thomas is dissatisfied with a simple photograph of the park and digs deep into the picture using blow-ups. Thomas tries to find something extraordinary out of the ordinary picture similar to his real life where he is trying to find some meaning out of nothingness. He pursues false and assumed passions, engages in activities that only seem to bring happiness and tries to find an interpretation to everything and eventually fails. After the final encounter with the mime artists, he learns that the ball itself is a figment of his imagination. Thomas has realized his alienation and spoiled quest for meaning. Winner of Palm D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1967.

Todo Sobre Mi Madre (1999) (aka All About My Mother)
Pedro Almodóvar

“You are not a human being, Lola. You are an epidemic.”

All About My MotherPedro Almodóvar is nothing short of an icon for feminist cinema. The way how he uses his female characters, their position and responsibility in society, their independence in making decisions – all indicate his support for the equality of the sexes. Todo Sobre Mi Madre (1999) (as mentioned in the titles) is dedicated to all the women in the world and marks a very personal chapter in the canon of Almodóvar.

Manuela is the organ transplant co-ordinator at the local hospital. She lives with her 18-year old son, Esteban who is currently working on a book titled “All About My Mother“. On her son’s birthday, both of them go to the staging of “A Streetcar Named Desire” immediately after which Esteban is run over by a car. Having lost her only motivation for life, Manuela leaves for Barcelona in order to inform her now-transvestite husband Lola (also called Esteban) about the accident. There she meets her old transvestite friend Agrado and another young nun Rosa and settles down in Barcelona till she finds Lola. She also befriends Huma, a stage artist who plays Stella in “A Streetcar Named Desire”. Things take an sharp turn when she finds that Rosa is pregnant and suffering from AIDS because of Lola (again!). She decides to take care of Rosa till her end. After the delivery and subsequent death of Rosa, her parents are unable to take care of the child. Manuela decides to raise the child herself. She returns to Madrid, determined that she will not lose her Esteban for a third time.

Striking direction utilizes a script that was built with utmost care and crafted part by part to near-perfection. Manuela represents the quintessential woman – an actor who plays a number of characters in real life and a mystery who hides all her innermost feelings under her skin. The motif of acting and artificiality of outer self occurs throughout the film. A pleasant mixture of humour and emotion, all the way, won the film the Oscar for the best foreign film in 1999.