November 02, 2015

MAMI 2015 Day 2: A Guilty Saturday Morning

How do you forgive yourself when you miss the first show of the day because you were late? And can you ever forgive yourself when that movie is Jafar Panahi's 'Taxi'. I think I can never free myself from this guilt. But let me tell you what happened, in some detail. So that you can help me feel a little better.

This year at the festival, they are doing something really nice. Suppose a movie has to start at 11.15am. They ask the delegates to stand in two queues outside the theatre, one each for those who have reserved the seats two days ago and for those who have not been able to book but are there with the hope to enter if there are any cancellations. Now, about thirty minutes before the scheduled time of the movie, 10.45am in this case, they allow the first queue to enter - those with tickets. By 11am, this queues disappears into the theater. They then count how many seats are still vacant. And then, allow the first few people in the second queue to enter and occupy those seats. So, the ticket holders must reach the venue by 11am. Otherwise, the their seats will go to those who have been waiting in the second queue for more than an hour. Now, I didn't know this - that I will not be allowed to enter, come what may, if I don't reach there by 11am. Had I knew, I would not have entered that unusually-crowded restaurant for breakfast and would have done something imaginative to save myself from the unsual traffic on a Saturday morning. All that had to go wrong, went wrong. And I reached the door to the screen at 11.13am. I was politely asked to join the long queue of people without tickets. And my face fell. I had missed 'Taxi' and it is unlikely that I'll be able to watch it during this festival. Jafar Panahi is not allowed to make films. And he still keeps doing that. And we are supposed to reach on time to watch his film. And I could not.

So, in order to rid myself of this guilt, I rushed to the other theater, twenty minutes away. And I was soon the second person in the 'without ticket' queue for 'Dheepan'. I had some time and there was no one behind me and the staff was cooperative. So entered the running show, which had some empty seats, to catch about half an hour of the documentary on Ingrid Bergman. It is called 'Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words' by Stig Bjorkman and just to be able to see the beautiful goddess, Alicia from 'Notorius' and Ilsa from 'Casablanca', for a few minutes was a treat.

Four movies followed.

'Dheepan' is perhaps the weakest Palme d'Or winning film I have seen in the recent years. It's a good film, for sure. Only, it does not have, in my opinion, what 'Amour' or 'Winter Sleep' or 'Blue is the Warmest Color' or 'The Tree of Life' had. But it had something else. The story of three Sri Lankan characters who reach France and try to make a living there was interspersed with Carnatic classical music, mention of Hindu gods and Indian food, and sari-wearing women. Tamil was the primary language and the faces of the actors made me feel they were not different from Indians, for obvious reasons. Of course, there is a point in the film where the lead actress struggles to explain to her employer that Sri Lanka is not India. And I know it is not. I just felt connected.

'Ixcanul Volcano' was next. Guatemala's Oscar entry this year, the film also won the Alfred Bauer Prize at Berlin Film Festival for openning "new perspectives in cinematic art." I loved the film, especially its writing. This film is also in Competition at MAMI this year and I hope it wins some awards.

'45 Years' was such profoundly moving film, perhaps the best film of the day. But it left me disturbed, once again, and hopeless about the institution of marriage. Looking at the old couple, and actors playing them won the top acting awards at Berlin this year, I often felt how it would be to grow old with someone you love. But the way the movie progressed, and it was brilliant, it again brought my cynicism back. '45 Years' has just postponed any possibility of me getting married anytime soon.

The final film of the day was 'My Golden Days'. It was fine and the tribute to French New Wave was obvious and added to my pleasure. It was my seventh film of the festival in two days, and it is such a low score. But I hope I redeem myself in the next couple of days.

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