Friday, July 19, 2013

10 Great Films!

I was recently requested by a site to list films I have loved in the last few years. It was a great exercise to prepare it. I felt dually obliged - to list five films that I consider masterpieces, for those who are not yet familiar with the work of Tarr or Haneke; and to make a list of five lesser known first or second features that are truly powerful pieces of cinema. With the exception of Kusturica's film, all the others on the list are films released in the last few years.

With all this thought put into it, I was shocked to see a disrespectfully edited and brainlessly truncated version on some sponsor's website! That is why I decided to share the complete piece on my blog - 

Du Levande (You, the Living)
Roy Andersson

50 hyperreal and urbsurd (urban absurdity, a word coined by Khushboo Ranka to catalogue the specific genre of surreal ironies manifesting in urban settings) vignettes seem to traverse a range of human misery, from alienation to apocalypse, and still manage to leave you with a sense of wonder (and even joy). The coldness of the fourth wall is reinstated in every frame, distancing the audience from the mirror to their desires, anxieties, insecurities and epiphanies. The cast of non-actors are studied pathologically in a sort of a human zoo. Every frame is a stunning piece of art, with a colour palette that can be described only as edible or dreamable, held together by the zombie like pale make-up worn by the actors.

The Turin Horse
Bela Tarr & Ignes Hranitzky

If nightmares are our mind's way of preparing itself for eventualities, this one prepares us for the worst - the end of the world, the suspicion that daily rigmarole is indeed absent of purpose, and the realisation of the complete absence of meaning. The tragedy of day to day existence is the other side of the inch by inch destruction of the world. From the haunting images by Fred Kelemen to the hypnotic score by master composer Vig Mihaly, the genius of Tarr and Hranitzky is in setting up the right triggers for every member of the audience to have their own personal enlightenment. If there is such a thing as a peaceful, soothing death, Bela Tarr's masterpiece is an insight into what that might be like. (At the risk of committing blasphemy, may I suggest that you hold a loved one's hand, as you walk on this edge of the world).

Emir Kusturica

This is one loud drunken Balkan stupor; baroque, gaudy, insane, epic, plenitudinous, layered with vodka wisdom and plum rakija insights into all things primitive - love, betrayal and war; produced by a country that exists no longer, directed by the super brat of Eastern European cinema. It is a celebration of devastation, a distilled (to some, reduced) polemic absent of political chicanery, a panegyric for innocence and longing. This is grandeur upgraded, it's Fellini ver. 2.

The White Ribbon
Michael Haneke

The American polemist Sam Harris, in his bullet thesis arguing the impossibility of free will, draws upon an episode of mindless cruelty to penetrate into the nature of choice and action, and the forces that guide them. It doesn't seem like a coincidence that Haneke chose a very similar episode in Funny Games to deconstruct the triggers in our environment that compel us to choose the course of action we take. From The Seventh Continent to The White Ribbon, the subject of Haneke's very disturbing constructs of violence, guilt, evil, fascism, conformity, and fanaticism, is indeed the suspicion of the absence of free will. With clinical observation and organised spontaneity, Haneke constructs a psycho-socio-political Rube Goldberg machine that has been set to motion by forces beyond the individual capacities of his characters, and will inevitably lead to consequences that are now a part of our shameful past. Haneke, while seemingly cold and punitive, is also an author of great empathy and redeeming power.

Holy Motors
Leos Carax

"All art aspires to a condition of music." - Walter Pater
In that, Holy Motors achieves the state of Baroque music. It is a thoroughly engaging, surprising, ecstatic, tragic, playful and self reflexive magic trick, constantly playing on your expectations from the real and the imagined. It invites you to participate in solving a complex puzzle, only to realise that the scope of the puzzle is far beyond the riddles presented by Carax and his namesake character (Leos Carax is Le Oscar ax). This film is a field day for a neuroscientist, especially a neuro-aestheticist. Wonder occurs when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and in that, Holy Motors is also truly wonderful.


Gyorgy Palfy
Surreal, grotesque and incredibly inventive, Taxidermia is a bizarre tale of the limits of the human body, a rich allegory of post war Hungary, and a stunning visual experience that is also an endurance test.

Giorgos Lanthimos
Dogtooth gives us a glimpse of a new way of looking, while challenging (if not shattering) our long held beliefs of filial obedience, compliance and sanctity. It's a social satire with two perfectly delivered experiences - suspense and wonder.

Gulabi Gang
Nishtha Jain
My favourite Indian film this year is a richly detailed portrait of Sampat Pal, the founder of the courageous women rights organisation Gulabi Gang, a document of their struggles against rural Indian caste politics and corruption, and a re-invention of the detective genre.

The Act of Killing
Joshua Openheimer
A human experiment in continuum with the infamous Stanford prison experiment and the Milgram experiment, only far more complex (and certainly not unethical). This film might well be the beginning of a long pending trial.

Ilya Khrzhanovskiy
Three people walked into a bar. Not a joke, but what a yarn! Old women in a village mourn the death of a young woman, their livelihood depended on her. It involved chewing bread into wet spongy paste, with their teethless gums, that she would use to make dolls. Was she one of the discarded clonal twin? (An indescribable film clearly - let's watch it as we anticipate the director's epic human experiment "Dau").


  1. Your taste reflects the type of films you have made and will continue to make, hopefully.

  2. A curious query, don't you any think any of Luis Bunuel's film can feature in your list? Like That Obscure Object of Desire or The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, since this list features quite surreal films. Just asking!

  3. Am a huge fan of Kusturica's Underground. Would love to watch your film but not playing anywhere nearby.

  4. Thank you, Anand. I really had tough time in comprehending a major portion of your blogs. Content density per word is huge! I felt inferior in terms of the level at which I think.

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  6. Thanks to you I discovered Du Levande, Holy Motors, Dogtooth and Taxidermia. Brilliant testimonies to the power of cinema but I have to admit I was totally blown over by Holy Motors. It is so out of the world that it felt like a punch in the gut reminding us what cinema is capable of. If something called Pure Cinema exists, Holy Motors is a brilliant example and I've been recommending it to all my friends. Thanks.

    And though I might come off as narcissistic, I just have to tell you how influential your talks have been to me.

    And this was before we spoke on the Ship of Theseus Google plus hangout.

  7. i have gone through a lot of your material ( movies, interviews, ted, blogs). |I would highly recommend Vipassana to you.. i hope your view of the purpose of life is not absolute, i hope that answer is still evolving... here is a link to better understand vipassana..

  8. Well, they Harvey Weinsteined your blog so that it could be understood by a larger audience. Love the pithiness and laconicism of your writings. Carefully formed sentences that give a complete idea about the essence of the films in as little words as possible. It reminds me of music critic Robert Christgau's writings. Why not become a film critic, Mr. Anand? You would really do good now that your name's hot in the industry.

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  10. anand bro i think u have napolean complex

  11. Anand sir I want to meet you and wants to work under your wings
    I want to bring positive changes in indian cinema and people like you are lighthouse in the dark sea
    Im in mumbai these days so if possible plz give your office address
    Charlie Pareek

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  13. i have an intense urge to remake the ABBAS KIAROSTAMIS film "where is the te friends home",and if i cant,you can,It is one of the profound movies of all time...

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