Pain

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‘Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird’ 1940 (oil on canvas)

It was the first year of undergraduate studies and I remember Slam Books were very popular at that time. I had mine since the end of school days and only a couple of pages were left to be filled. There was a long list of boys who wanted to fill my Slam Book, but I wanted to learn only from two of them. To answer one of the questions, when asked to describe me, one of them wrote, “a beautiful girl who does not smile as much as she should…” I probably did not know then that it was true.

I first came to know about Frida Kahlo‘s self-portrait in the Bengali movie Antaheen (2009). I did not watch the movie when it was released but I watched it much later. When they showed the painting in the movie, it looked surrealistic. Her face had a somber expression, she was surrounded by a monkey, a cat, and a hummingbird and wore a necklace of thorns. with blood dripping from it. I was very intrigued. Being a huge movie buff since childhood, I remembered that the movie Frida (2002) was nominated for a number of Academy Awards – I have a special place for Salma Hayek and maybe that is why I remembered it. I immediately researched about Frida Kahlo and found her other paintings.

When I looked at them, I was taken aback and frankly, very shocked. Her portrayal of herself seemed violent and sometimes, just looking at the paintings was painful. Since childhood I have been very intrigued by the human condition. I remember when I went to Belur Math, as a child, instead of being mesmerized by the beauty and calmness of the place, I was fascinated with the young monks who lived there. For months I could not stop thinking what led young adults to leave their homes, every contact with their family and choose a life like that. But over the years, often the inquisitiveness would turn into sadness and since I knew I would be sad I tried to push these thoughts to the black corner of my mind and forget about it. That is what I did in case of Frida. I closed the images, and suppressed my inquisitiveness. Maybe I was scared that if I went digging in I will discover something that I did not want to know about.

Many years passed and in 2013 I visited MoMA in New York city. MoMA was fascinating to me, I will write a whole another post about how much I felt inspired after I visited MoMA if I ever get that much time. There, once again, I came across works by Frida which were not as violent as the ones I had seen on the internet before. I was curious and wanted to watch the movie Frida, but when I watched the trailer I decided to watch it later and then I kept postponing it, because I was not sure I will like it.

In 2014 December my friend visited La Casa Azul in Mexico City. When he came back he brought with him tons of photos of the place, specially the kitchen and he told me that I would have loved that place. I kept looking at the photos and kept wondering why would I have loved the place and if really I would. In architecture I prefer very modern clean lines, simplistic furniture, light colors and bright open spaces. This place looked quite the opposite. It was loud and rustic and the kitchen tools looked like art, not really useful. But it was fascinating. Every corner of the house looked like the person who lived there had paid special attention to it. I have not been to the museum myself so I am not sure if the Mexican authorities kept it as Frida (or may be Diego) had left it. But I like to think it is.

I started reading about Frida and what her work represented. Why did she portray herself in such violent details? What did they signify? I came to know about her accident, her chronic pain, her political activism and her tormented relationship with Diego Rivera. A few months later I watched the movie Frida, which depicts the professional and private life of Frida Kahlo. It stars Salma Hayek in her Academy Award-nominated portrayal as Kahlo and Alfred Molina as her husband, Diego Rivera. If you have not watched it yet, I highly recommend it. Salma Hayek‘s portrayal of Frida Kahlo is poignant. I loved the cinematography – throughout the film, a scene starts as a painting, then slowly dissolves into a live-action scene with actors. I was moved when I watched the movie. When I watched the movie I had already read so much about her, so I was not expecting to be overwhelmed like that.

There are many good movies that you watch and forget. There are good movies that you watch and remember. And there are good movies that influence you. Frankly it was not the movie itself, but watching this movies was like the amalgamation of all the information I had collected about Kahlo. This movie stayed with me. Even though many good things happened in 2015, it was the saddest year of my life. In my experience when you are sad for a long long time, that sadness becomes something physical, like a pain. Like a pain through your spine, like a lump in your throat, like a migraine that no medicine can cure. In no capacity I am comparing my pain with that of Frida’s but as the year progressed, I started to identify with her more and more. I have wanted to write a blog about the movie or Frida Kahlo for a long time. But it seemed a daunting topic. But in the past few months I found myself going back to her work, specially her self-portraits again and again. I have never been that girl who uses others’ pictures as her profile photo or borrows fancy quotes to describe her feelings- because I always felt that was very pretentious. But somehow, I feel that I can identify with Frida.

In case of Frida, the more I learned about her life, the more I started to appreciate her work. Initially I thought her work was grotesque and violent. But now I feel that there was a lot of passion and depth in her paintings. In her works, some people notice only her uni-brow and moustache, some people see only pain, but I see irony and humor along with the pain that she felt. I think what draws me to her is that she was a fighter. Many incidents in her life could have diminished her spirit, like the crippling accident, the health issues, or Diego’s infidelities. But she was not crushed by anything. She reminds me that: Pain… is strength.

All photos are sourced from Google.

This is Not a Movie Review: Venuto Al Mondo (Twice Born)

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probably I’m never going to meet a bunch of interesting strangers, fall in love impulsively and dance in the snow to rock n roll and classic American music

Director: Sergio Castellitto

Writer: Margaret Mazzantini (novel)

Starring: Penélope Cruz, Emile Hirsch, Adnan Haskovic

Release Date: 6 December 2013 (USA)

 

Last night I was eating dinner at my friend’s place when my sister pinged me saying she’s gonna watch “Twice Born”. After she finished the movie, she told me that I should probably watch it but warned me that it is intense so I might be sad.

Boston’s climate was confused whether it should rain or snow today – so it decided to shower both. I was curled up in my comforter, refusing to get up before 5 pm on a Saturday and that ‘sad’ keyword had attracted me to the movie like a bee towards a jar of honey (not sure, honey is artificial, wouldn’t it be more attracted to a flower with nectar, I give up!). I also checked imdb.com and I was surprised that it had 7.4 which is a pretty good rating. So I decided to watch it. Plus I love Penelope Cruz.

The description on imdb focussed on a mother bringing her teenage son to Sarajevo, where his father died in the Bosnian conflict years ago. But the movie was so much more. Throughout the movie, I kept thinking that I would love to read the book, just to understand the depth and complexity of the characters and the conflict in Bosnia that the movie could not reflect. I’m sure I would love the book even more than the movie, because, isn’t that always the case?

The movie starts with Gemma (Penelope Cruz) receiving an early-morning phone call from her old friend, Gojco (the boisterous Adnan Haskovic), urging her to return to Sarajevo. The work of an American photographer is the subject of an exhibition there. She agrees to visit with her son, to expose him to a different part of the world. Immediately, memories of this thrilling and tumultuous time come rushing back to her. The year is 1984, Gemma arrives in Sarajevo for her research for the Winter Olympics. Her guide is a poet Gojco who introduces her to a bunch of eclectic artists including the American photographer Diego (Emile Hirsch). Diego pursues her in a very reckless American way “Drop everything, and run away with me,” he purrs. They have only one night and then both are leaving for different parts of the world. Diego is leaving for Brazil to photograph children working in mines, whereas Gemma is going to Rome where she is getting married to her long time boyfriend.

Gemma’s marriage doesn’t last long and Diego comes back to meet her in Rome. “Every day will be a party with me, baby.” She resists the attentions of the younger man. Until she doesn’t.  Both of them want a family, but after multiple miscarriages they get to know that Gemma is 97% sterile and due to the past drug abuse and police records for Diego, the police would not approve them for adoption.

Their struggle to have a child is tragically and beautifully portrayed in the movie. In one of the scenes, Gemma tells the psychologist that “I’m here because I am afraid. I am afraid of losing the man I love. I want to give him a child, to tie him to me.” I couldn’t help but wonder is this why most people have children. To tie another person to you, so that they remain in the relationship with you even if they do not want to. I have a friend I have known for a very long time. People who are not close to her know that she does not want children. But since we were close, I Know that it is not that she did not want children, she just didn’t want to have a child with a man who is not there to raise the child with her. She did not want to have an absentee father or someone beside her but not in love with her anymore, which is often true in an Indian society. What she really wanted was a man who wanted to create something together, to build a life together, a family together. In the movie, both Gemma and Diego want that family, however they falter.

As their inability to have children starts wrecking their marriage. war builds up in Bosnia. Gojco is part of a Sarajevo arts community where denial about the war runs deep. Lines of people fleeing the city when the shooting starts only earn a “they would never touch Sarajevo” from him and his friends, the silly dreamers. The war plays out on television, until the snipers show up in Sarajevo and the power is cut off and the city is under siege. Meanwhile, Gemma’s efforts to conceive play out against that bloody backdrop.

At one point, Gemma and Diego are on the verge of splitting, but instead they decide to travel to Bosnia, to go back to their old friends and past life. In Sarajevo, Gojco comes to know about their sterility issues and he gets creative with the idea of surrogacy. This brings us to the one of the films vibrant and intriguing characters, an outspoken Croatian musician named Aska (Saadet Aksoy). But like every other character in the movie, she gets saddled with some truly awkward dialogue, much of which revolves around her obsession with Kurt Cobain. (This is also an easy shorthand to inform us that it’s now 1992, the year the Bosnian War began.)

I do not want to give away any more of the plot or the climax in here. I give Penélope Cruz credit for her role of Gemma – she is tragic and earthy as ever.  She is a wonderful actress. Gojco, has the best lines in the movie “Poetry is God when he feels nostalgic for man”, “For me the most beautiful word is ‘grazie’”. Emile Hirsch plays exuberant and callow well. Diego has a childish charm, a man-child vibe and reminds me of someone I fell in love with a long time ago, and which made watching this movie such a personal experience for me. I never understood, which is also a big flaw in the movie, how Diego moved away from Gemma or why. In fact, the two of them, Cruz and Hirsch, never really click in the movie, there is a serious lack of chemistry.

Irrespective of the flaws in storytelling, when the third act of the movie rolls in, the surprises start piling up. Events from long ago are shown through a more accurate lens in the backdrop of the war and in the context of love and motherhood. This is where “Twice Born” rises to something nobler and closer to heartbreaking.

The movie has really terrible reviews on Rotten Tomatoes which only goes to say that it’s not always the film critics opinion that counts. The movie hit me… hard. The mix of history, great performances, and an arresting plot, brought home the reality of what war means to civilians caught up in it. I didn’t enjoy the movie because it was hard to watch, but I loved sitting through the emotional journey that this movie was. If you have watched it, what did you think?

Sreeja

Movie Review:: Sicario

 

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Director: Denis Villeneuve

Writer: Taylor Sheridan

Starring: Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, and Josh Brolin

Release Date: September 18, 2015

 

When I went to watch this movie, I didn’t know what to expect. Uncharacteristically for me, I didn’t do much research. I knew it was a crime thriller, I wanted to stay away from all things romantic for a while and I just chose to go watch it. Plus, there was Emily Blunt.

The movie really surprised me. The first scene of the movie was as gory as it could ever get. There was a police raid, shooting, horrific smell from decaying corpses, scores of dead bodies and even a blast. I was amazed that I survived the first scene (mini feat).

But the movie got more interesting from there on. The plot of Sicario focuses on an FBI agent named Kate Macer (Emily Blunt). Kate is enlisted by government officials to track down a drug lord, who has been responsible for multiple grisly murders. She is going aid a number of people who, we find out in the course of the movie, are often on the other side of the law. The plot though simple, is very engaging.

The characters are well developed. Emily Blunt gives an incredible female lead performance as Kate – she hates violence, but is serious about her job. Both Benicia del Toro and Josh Brolin are great in their roles. I especially was intrigued by del Toro’s character. There were many moments that I never saw coming. The haunting score and the unpredictable plot line consistently engaged me. The movie was very dark, sometimes unsettling and even scary. There’s a lot of suspense and the recurrent darkest sentiment of the movie is the sense of hopelessness. I don’t like violence and gore, and I still I enjoyed the movie a lot.

I would recommend the movie if you like dark stories, crime thrillers and good acting.

I watched “O Kadhal Kanmani”

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!! my most favorite scene and shot from the movie !!

Yes! I watched a Tamil movie, myself, without anyone forcing me to watch it. Thinking about it, it’s not that strange so as to make a headline. Being a huge movie buff, I like to watch all movies, irrespective of their language. I just don’t prefer watching movies in foreign languages that much because I often find myself paying more attention to reading the subtitles than feeling the emotions. I have watched more western foreign language movies than foreign language Indian regional cinema by myself, so I thought I can make it a big deal.

I my opinion, one of the best feelings in life is when you realize that the one you love completely, loves you back the exact same way. This movie is about that. It was a simple story: Adi, a happy-go-lucky game-designer, bumps into Tara, a bubbly architect at their friend’s wedding. They started talking in sign language during the wedding (which was annoying, but I guess Mani) and find out that they have a lot of things in common, the most striking one being they both hate marriage. Adi being a boy needs no explanation to Indian movie goers for his beliefs. But Tara being a girl needs one, and it is because her father left them when she was young.

Now Adi wants to go to USA for advancing his career and Tara is moving to Paris for higher studies. So they both know there is no future to their relationship. So they casually flirt for a while, and then very soon they move in together for a live-in relationship. The movie was sometimes too simple – the main protagonists convince an elderly couple to let them live as paying guests for a live-in relationship in Mumbai, by singing some Classical Tamil song.

The most romantic part of the movie was perhaps the relationship between the old couple. I have always had very bad memory, so much so that I would sit blankly when my friends would discuss any incident in school or college that was not related to me. I even forget things and incident that did not involve me in any way.  always used to tell all my friends that I have a “memory like a sieve”. And when I watched Still Alice, I was convinced that I am going to get Alzheimer’s disease when I grow old and I am pretty sure I will no have someone to take of me. Anyways, through the slit on the open doors the young couple observe the old couple and learn that love is not only about the fun and frolic but it is more than that. Love is about genuine affection and commitment to each other. What I like most about the movie is that how the couple’s ask each other clarifying questions and then they answer those questions “truthfully” in the context of the movie. In my experience, it is hard to ask difficult questions, especially in a relationship. It is easier to assume and reach a conclusion, sometimes a decision; or to put things in the back of your mind, and ignore it completely.

The soundtrack of the movie was beautiful, even though I don’t understand the language! It was so beautiful that even the translation seemed nice. I am also a big fan of the cinematography. Overall, it was a nice movie to watch curled up in covers, sitting at home, bonus it was on Netflix. It was a feel good movie so if you are asking for in depth character analysis or something deep and thoughtful, then this movie may not make you happy.  Overall, I enjoyed watching this movie.

My thoughts about Damián Szifrón’s “Wild Tales”

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I just finished watching Damián Szifrón’s “Wild Tales”. The movie was nominated for Oscar in 2015 in the Best Foreign Film category. But what really sold me to watch it was that it has 8.2/10 rating on imdb.com and 95% rating on rotten tomatoes. I’m a big movie buff, but I haven’t really watched that many foreign movies because I think reading the subtitles takes my focus away from what is happening on screen and thus leads to less feels. Anyways, this movie was different. In fact I was never bored enough to look away from the screen and play Farm Heroes Saga on my phone. If you haven’t watched this movie and plan to watch it in the future, then I will ask you not to read this blog as it will contain some spoilers.

Because I do some research before watching any movie seriously (unless I’m on Netflix and planning to fall asleep while watching it) I already knew that the movie was broken up into 6 short stories and that it was about broken people and revenge. I didn’t want to read anymore so I just started watching the movie.

The movie starts with a very hot Argentinian model going to the airport to board a flight. She asks if she can use her miles and the clerk at the airport says no. That was the first time something struck me as odd. Because when I fly I can always use my miles. It’s a different story altogether that i forget to add them. Anyways, maybe that scene was important to the movie or not, but it kind of got me hooked. This first short story is called “Pasternak” and it is about a person with the same name. The conversation in the movie was very interesting and it was fun to watch. At the end, they show an old couple and you are left to wonder if they are Pasternak’s parents or not. I’m pretty sure they are.

The girl in the second movie “Las Ratas” was very pretty and it was enjoyable to watch her. However, this movie was mostly surrounding the old cook and I think the theme was really how badly she wanted to go back to jail to lead a secured life. At least that is how I interpret it. I’ve watched Orange is the new Black and I think that the old lady will be quite the badass in jail.

The next story was “El Mas Fuerte”. When the story started then Diego Iturralde was driving through this beautiful road. As a newly confident driver myself I would love to drive on that highway between Salta and Cafayate, alone, blasting Enigma’s Return to Innocence. However, this is where it got really crazy and gory. This was perhaps the only story which was even funny at times, may be because at the core we are still ignoble. I fast forwarded the fight sequences a little bit because they are not really things I enjoy unless I’m in a movie theatre and I’m challenging myself.

After the third short story I started to question whether all these stories will be linked together at the end or not (a huge fan of Arthur Hailey’s Airport). I even started fabricating in my mind how all these stories could be related. Anyways, they were not.

The next story was “Bombita”. If I understood Spanish a little bit I would have set the expectation for this movie accordingly. This movie was fun to watch. I think i sometimes behave like this guy Simon Fischer. I will really overreact, shout and scream when something that seems unfair to me happens. I will react so much that everyone around me will remember my reaction instead of the bad thing that happened to me. Then from the next time onwards I will learn a lesson and just not react and do the same thing calmly without much fuss. Since I was relating the story to myself I was really confused when SImon, seating in a nice cafe, watched his car being towed. Anyways, I really just did not understand the ending of this story. Why would the wife who wanted a divorce because the husband was not spending enough time would come to meet him in jail happily with their kid. Also is it safe to bring a little girl inside a prison? I understand that all prisoners are not bad and often not guilty, but still… By the way, Simon Fischer is such a typically American name. Anyways, may be it is common in Argentina as well.

The fifth movie, ‘La Propuesta” was the one I enjoyed the least. I really have no comments about this story except two. Firstly, I really liked how the study and the video room in the protagonist’s house was decorated. I wish I have something like that someday. When my husband and children get too chaotic I will just lock myself up in that room and listen to Bocelli’s voice or Yanni’s composition to calm me down. I think this will remain a dream. The other comment is that I felt really sad when the gardener Jose was killed at the end.

The story that really frightened me was the last one “Hasta que la muerte nos separe”. Since I was a young child I have really worked on every aspect of my personality. It has really affected how I think about success, life, religion, relationships, career, politics etc. I have consciously chosen what I wanted to eat, what should be my impact and footprint on this world and many other things. The only thing I left untouched was my emotion and at this point in my life I feel like that is something that I should have worked on. This story kind of shows you that what a wreck you can be if you do not control your emotions at the correct moment. I really liked Érica Rivas‘s acting in the part of Romina. I admire actors who can let go of their need to look pretty on-screen and without any inhibitions become the character that they are portraying. Nonetheless, she looked so pretty in the end when she’s sitting on the floor, surrounded by her friends, crying and at the same time concerned about Ariel.

I cannot watch any movie without identifying personally with a scene, a character or at least imagining myself in a role in place of a character. I know many people watch movies objectively, just like a movie. But at the same time I think a movie like this one wouldn’t have got so much rating just for it’s entertainment value. I think it kind of shows what we as human beings are capable of doing if we are not constantly talking us out of it. All in all, it was an interesting movie to watch.