Film Review: A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

A Fish Called Wanda is about a jewel heist that goes unsuccessful because people involved in the heist try to deceive each other to get his/her hand on the jackpot. The film starred John Cleese, Kevin Kline, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Michael Palin.

I had been considering watching ‘A Fish Called Wanda’ for some time. And I am glad that I did and unsurprisingly the film didn’t fall below expectations. Why would it? The film was produced and the story and the screenplay were written by John Cleese. This film and its spiritual successor Fierce Creatures are the only film projects that Cleese put money on. Maybe it was his passion project and the film did meet critical acclaim and acceptance from the general audience. Not only that, the film earned three Oscar nominations and bagged one win in Kevin Kline for Best Supporting Actor. Just guessing that it would have been quite a milestone to see a comedy film reaching the Oscars. Usually, comedy films are not considered but it doesn’t get the credibility of their being worthy to reach there.

But by all sorts, this film is a classic example of a comedy with an excellent story. There were so many twists in the continuity and made the film interesting with the comic timings. I do feel that the sexual element was just too pressing.

I think the film has some madness of black humor where the jokes played upon animals looked creepy. Somewhere, there was fresh dirt of horror in the director’s mind to play in the black humor. Just, for example, Ken mistakenly killing all of Mrs. Eileen’s dogs, Otto eating Ken’s fish from the aquarium, etc. It wasn’t normal at all but looked funny.

This was Charles Crichton‘s final directional film and he got nominated for Best Director at the Oscars. I do not believe if the direction was that spectacular because there were plotholes. Nor do I believe that Kevin Kline should have been nominated, forget about winning the Oscar. Michael Palin deserved to be nominated. He had the standout performance amongst all. His facial performances have always been impressive since Monty Python times and in the film, he showed the audience why is he so good. His stuttering performance and many of his scenes were brilliant.

A Fish Called Wanda is surely one of those few British-American films where the American audience wholeheartedly accepted British humor. The film will be remembered for its comic timings and a well-written screenplay. A comedy film that was fresh and exciting to the mainstream.

Ratings: 7/10

Film Review: Trans-Europ-Express (1966)

Trans-Europ-Express was a 1966 French experimental film about three people involved in establishing a film plot while riding on a train. During the travel, they discuss and present their idea about the plotline and its continuity for their next film. And the plot plays in the entire film with their commentary.

The French film industry was very thoughtful about the innovative approaches to filmmaking and this is why I choose this film. An around a 100-minute film about ifs and buts of future film project where the makers try to reason their plot and bring it to an ultimate end.

Plus their plot ran the screen in a careful characterizing of the leading actor Elias (Jean-Louis Trintignant) whose cocaine consignment is mixed with his own sexual fantasies with the prostitutes. The detailing of intimate scenes is striking. This is called exploitation cinema where the film majorly focuses or emphasizes a subject within the main plotline. The director takes time in exploiting the actor’s dark sexual desires.

Special praise for the camera work who took some breathtaking shots of beautiful women in the film. Especially the hotel scenes, where Elias takes pleasure in Eva’s company. The enchantment is dominant.

The film is directed by Alain Robbe-Grillet who was vastly known for his artistic and experimental techniques in filmmaking. The film deserves praise for being different from the usual.

Ratings: 7/10

Film Review: Village Rockstars (2017)

In her heydays in a village in Assam, Dhunu enjoys the company of her friends all over the village. One day, she decides to form a musical group out of her group and buy a guitar. Meanwhile, the villagers become concerned about Dhunu being the only girl in the group.

Village Rockstars is an Assamese-language Indian film that knocked the doors on many international films festivals and won most of the awards. It was the official submission for the Oscars in 2017. The most impressive part of the film is the backstory of the film’s production. The film in its entirety has been shot without a crew and Canon 5D has been used. There is no official budget for this film and most of the production is done by the director herself, Rima Das.

The film is shot in Rima’s home village. It may look like some docudrama but basically is a coming-of-age film that shows a girl as young as ten being harassed by the senior villagers for playing with boys and suggesting to marry her somewhere.

Dhunu may be a subject of observation that a 10yo girl can dream big if she will. She saves every single penny to buy a guitar and waits for the good days. The mother-daughter chemistry is also picturized well where she tries to convince her daughter and put in her mind to dissuade from her wishes and do what the other girls have to for the future.

Village Rockstars is a 90-minute drama that spends most of the time in Dhunu playing and enjoying with friends. The village activities are directed with meticulous care. Maybe, the film would do way more than that if the crew was involved with a productional budget. I think the film deserves the credit for being a faithful story in such a raw production.

Ratings: 6.5/10

Film Review: The French Dispatch (2021)

I want to confess about my writing film reviews that it is always difficult for me to review the films directed by Wes Anderson. It is like a challenge to describe or judge his filmmaking artistry, his scrupulous application on the contemporary aesthetics, and to praise his narrative and visual understanding over the subject on repeat.

His latest work is The French Dispatch; Wes has called his project ‘A love letter to journalists’. And he rightly said so.

The film is about the editorial staff of the newspaper The French Dispatch that wants to republish three articles from the past in what will be the final issue of the newspaper after the death of their editor. So the film majorly picturizes those three articles with an obituary.

As usual, The French Dispatch is another Wes Anderson masterpiece that is thoughtful, artistic, and kaladeiscopic. It is a dark comedy but at the same time, the characterization of human elements like greed, nudity, poverty, power, rage are so well detailed in such an eye-catching camera work.

There is so much depth in artistic detailing. It is so gratifying when you watch a morning sketch of Ennui. Or the introduction of Café Le Sans Blague and the young boys and girls staring at the camera or dancing weirdly gives you a sharp reminder of some stylish retro films of the French Wave. One of the stories about a mentally disturbed artist, Moses Rosenthaler, was like an autobiography of suicide. The reeling towards each of his traveling segments was so well-directed.

The French Dispatch is the voice of liberation that successfully empowers the ethics of humor in the melancholic wisdom of thoughtful articles in the colorful odor of neoclassical realism. A fabulous stellar cast including Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Benicio Del Toro, Timothée Chalamet, Frances McDormand, Jeffrey Wright, Adrien Brody, Léa Seydoux, and many more makes this anthology drama more special.

This film is an honorary work in tribute to old-school journalism. Those who love poetry, those who are nonconformist, rebel, advocates of liberalization, and commentators of artistic presentation needs to watch this film. In short, this film is ‘A Work of Art’.

Ratings: 8.8/10

Film Review: Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021)

Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is assigned to run a story about a prisoner Cletus Kasady. Cletus is bitten by Venom after he infuriates him. The bite makes Cletus the host of the alien symbiote. Eddie and Venom still struggle to live together in peace but during all this, they will need to stop Carnage making carnage in the city.

I felt the sequel of Venom was supposed to be more about the clash between Venom and Carnage but I feel the film is more emphasizing the complication that exists within the body between Eddie and Venom that leads to damages in the city caused by Cletus/Carnage.

I think such a good actor like Woody Harrelson as Carnage has been terribly wasted. He looked like some mediocre actor pressing his character execution too much. And both Cletus/Carnage was not really developed at all. The same problem with Stephen Graham, he looked so average.

It was like watching a CW superhero show where writing makes no sense and the script runs in a jiffy because the time is short. I can’t believe that Andy Serkis directed this.

Well, of course, it is the mid-credit scene that steals the show. But let me tell you this. If you are desperate to watch that mid-credit scene, you do not really have to watch the entire film. You can just watch it after the film concludes.

Venom, just like its predecessor, is there for pure entertainment. Yes, the film relaxes your mood and enjoy all the nonsense Venom annoys Eddie. I have no idea how accurate is this film to the comic book series ‘Maximum Carnage‘. But if you are interested to pass some quality time with your friends getting entertained, Venom is recommended.

Ratings: 4/10

Film Review: Sardar Udham (2021)

The name Sardar Udham is significant for all reasons that shaped the movement for independence from the British Raj. A tragic event that ignited millions of Indians and encouraged them to oppose British Imperialism. Shoojit Sircar‘s latest is a tribute to the national hero who stood for his people and avenged by assassinating Michael O’Dwyer in London, the man who appointed Reginald Dyer to supervise the ever-haunting Jallianwala Massacre.

I refuse to believe that this is an Indian film. I do not claim that Indian or Hindi-language films are that bad but the production of films like this still does not exist. The technical aspects of this film are extremely rich and carefully detailed. Excellent direction and stunning cinematography on many occasions.

Direction and camera work play a vital role if the screenwriting is to be justified, and this film is an example of an absolute masterpiece. Being lengthy is a problem that I will reason later but some portions need time investment and that demand is accomplished in the film. You may say that the time spent on Udham eating at her cousin’s place, his quest for O’Dwyer’s whereabouts, or speaking about freedom alone in the park were needless but I think Shoojit gave such minutes to build a thought about his character that meant a lot on all these occasions.

Vicky Kaushal‘s leading role will neither be criticized nor be pointed for objection because this, for me, will be remembered as one of the best performances in Hindi cinema for this new decade. You feel pain when his portrayal agonizes. There is much discomfort to watch his rage and hatred for British Imperialism and he has perfected that genuity you want to watch in the films about Indian freedom against the British. His tense courtroom scene of justification and in a lengthy struggle of saving many lives after the massacre are the best examples of Vicky’s notable performance.

Another factor that tops Sardar Udham is toning down the stereotypical elements of jingoism and giving rich feelings of sacrifices and excruciating pains of the British cruelty. No larger-than-life action sequences, no cosmetic dialogues. British portrayal and periodic productional set-up are so apt. The chosen actors for the British portrayal have done a fine job. Also, a superb background score by Shantanu Moitra made the mood to the audience.

Being a supporter of global diversity, I have a cordial affection for the name he used during his time in jail, Ram Mohammad Singh Azad. This name has been valued in the film that indicates the unification of the nation for freedom.

I have confusion about historical accuracy because the life of the freedom fighters was either a mystery or detailed with exaggeration. In some places, the readers won’t find strong pieces of evidence or authentic lead in their lives. Take the case of the Jallianwala Massacre; the film shows Udham to arrive late at the scene whereas one book ‘The Trial of Udham Singh’ claims that he was present during the firing. Whereas in other internet sources, there is no agreement on what official stats are about the casualties and survivors from that incident.

Also, there is no evidence of his love interest as shown in the film portrayed by Banita Sandhu. Was it necessary? Of course not. His involvement with Ghadar Party is also missing.

Minus? I’ll say the length of the film. It may be slow-burn to some extent but I am okay with the way the story moved with Udham’s character. The flow was acceptable. But I think the aftermath of the massacre was way too long. I understand the significance of the horror that still haunts millions of Sikhs worldwide but picturizing Udham and other fellows taking the severely injured victims from one place to the other for 20 minutes is overstretched. I actually thought maybe Shoojit stretched that scene so that Udham may eventually locate the body of his love interest but even that was not the case. The obvious ending could have been better.

I must mention the portrayal of the Jallianwala Massacre that was kept on wait after two hours well spent on developing the story and Udham’s character in entirety. Praising a massacre scene would make me foolish or call it great. So choosing my words carefully, I should write this way that the intensity and provocation of that bloodshed were extremely detailed. This scene was deliberately shot violent. The graphic detailing of this three-minute scene full of gunshots and painful cries was more savage than what Lord Attenborough showed in Gandhi. It was a scene that boiled the emotions and broke the hearts. Udham’s commentary about his fury for this incident all this time made his case.

Sardar Udham is an accomplishment in the Indian cinema that distinguishes the filmmaking of freedom-themed nationalist films from most of the others. Sardar Udham may not need to check the historical accuracy whether Udham was there or not. Maybe it is the directional artistry or some kind of representational theory that has been applied to demand an apology from the British government that India is yet to officially receive even after 100 years.

Sardar Udham is the ‘other’ side of a freedom fighter story that hardly any director wishes to direct. This film is about the crime for which the innocents had to pay that was demanding to the British to leave their country once and for all. Sardar Udham is not a film but a reminder to the present generation about what and how their great-great-grandparents suffered in the name of imperialism. Thank you, Shoojit Sircar.

Ratings: 9.2/10