Anyone for Denis?

Un 32nd Août sur terre ((August 32nd on Earth), Denis Villeneuve, 1998)

Maelström (Denis Villeneuve, 2000)

Polytechnique (Denis Villeneuve, 2009)

Incendies ((Fires) Denis Villeneuve, 2010)

Enemy (Denis Villeneuve, 2013)

Québécois director Villeneuve has had a run of big budget sf blockbusters – Arrival (2016), Blade Runner (2017) and Dune Part One (2021) – of variable box office success and various level of my own disdain. Arrival seems to be scuppered by Sapir-Whorf nonsense, whereas the other two were unnecessary. Whilst Amy Adams is strong in Arrival, Blade Runner 2049 has less excuse for its misogyny than the original and a major female character in Dune doesn’t get to speak for the first three days of the running time. (Apparently she will be more prominent in Part Two.)

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Beyond the Pail

The Lunchbox (Ritesh Batra, 2013)

This romantic-comedy is an unexpected bitter-sweet gem. Neglected by her husband, Rajeev Sehgal (Nakul Vaid), Ila Sehgal (Nimrat Kaur) tries to woo him back with new recipes with the aid of her unseen aunt (Bharati Achrekar). Unfortunately, the lunchbox goes to retiring insurance claims clerk and widower Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan), who loves the food and falls in love with her via a series of notes, as does Ila.

It is a long-distance relationship — for much of the film neither lead character is in the same room, nor does the aunt appear on screen. The alienation of contemporary Mumbai is evident — all those lonely people etc. — and we are prepared for some dark tones, even as we can’t seriously contemplate the happy ending you would expect. But the film is more gripping than a series of shots of people reading notes might suggest.

Ida Thought

Ida (Paweł Pawlikowski, 2013)

I somehow missed Pawlikowski’s Cold War (2018) by blinking at an inopportune moment, but  I remember enjoying his Margate-set, faintly post-apocalyptic immigrant drama Last Resort (2000) with Dina Korzun and Paddy Considine. There I might have reached for Ken Loach and Lindsay Anderson, but here there is a feel of Tarkovsky without quite so much striving for poetry, in glorious black and white. Continue reading →