The Double Life of Veronique (1991)

Recommended: 85%

Dir: Krzysztof Kieslowski

The Double Life of Veronique (1991)

The Double Life of Veronique (1991) *source – rogerebert.com

*****Spoiler alert*****

‘La double vie de Veronique’ is a yet another gem by Kieslowski. It is recommended that you watch this before you attempt the Troi Couleurs trilogy. However, I happened to fall in the spell of the trilogy first. The Double Life…is the story of two girls Weronika and Veronique, both played by Irene Jacob. One of them lives in Poland and the other in France. Both of them have some major similarities; they are singers, budding artists, and full of life. But, they both have a heart condition. No matter how similar they might look, they have different lives.

Kieslowski, yet again, keeps his calm with the portrayal of the characters and the emotional depth is tangible. We are shown Weronika’s story first. She lives with her father and loves visiting her Aunt from time to time. She is jovial by nature, optimistic, but confused. She has a strange theory that she is never alone, even when she is.

One day, she sees herself boarding a bus on the streets of Poland, clicking pictures with some friends. She is surprised, but does not approach her. What will you do if you see yourself? This is the first time in the film, the double lives are revealed to us.

Just when things are going good for Weronika, her heart condition aggravates and she collapses during her first performance on stage. She dies.

Trying to avoid any confusion between the two different characters, we are now taken to the life of Veronique. Unaware if Weronika ever existed, she feels the same bond, which once existed between them, broken. Weronika’s death leaves her feeling lonely. An impalpable bond between two human beings living in two different countries is beautifully expressed by a short, yet important part of the film as Weronika’s story.

Veronique decides not to be a singer and starts teaching. In the meantime, she meets a mysterious man, who sends her clues through mail in order to meet her. As she tries to put together one of the pieces of his puzzles, which happens to be a tape recording, Veronique traces the exact place where the recording was done. In the hope of some revelations, she is excited about her meeting with this mysterious man. When it turns out be just a meeting with her admirer, probably in love with her. Though the feelings are mutual, her disappointment is evident. She fails to find out the answers to thousands of questions about her life, just like the film does.

The film asks thousands of questions, and then answers some of them. Others are left unanswered, just the way they are; just like life.

As Veronique pursues her love with this man, he points out a photograph she clicked some time back in Poland. A million doubts and disappointments rise in her mind. The complexity of a mind and how it deals with mixed feelings is the hardest part to express on screen. Kieslowski is the master of such emotional display.

In the pre-climax, Veronique wakes up in her lover’s apartment and we feel a strange familiarity with the place. Her lover shows her the new puppets he made. These are her puppets and he made two of them. No matter how much it bother Veronique deep within, she watches her lover display a small performance. As he dances the Veronique puppet on his fingers, the other puppet lays motionless on the table beside, as if dead.

Like the Troi Couleurs, which represented the French flag: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity; The Double Life of Veronique, supposedly, represents the relationship between Poland and France.

At one side Weronika, representing Poland’s sacrifice in WWII, dies an early death. Whereas Veronique, unaware of Weronika’s existence, feels this loss everyday she lives for the rest of her life.

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Elite Squad (2007)

Recommended: 50%

Dir: Jose Padilha

Elite Squad (2007)

Elite Squad (2007) *source – NYTimes.com

Elite Squad is a story that revolves around Captain Nascimento from the Special Police Operation Battalion (BOPE) — set in 1997 before the Pope’s Rio visit. The Captain is frustrated and is looking for a way out as he is soon to be a father. His plans involve handing his load to someone else and taking over the training of new recruits. Meanwhile, Rio, as they say, is the city at war. The crime is at its peak and corruption is eating the police department from within. Which is why, along with Ct. Nascimento, this is the story of a few honest and not-so-honest cops trying to clean up the mess they all are a part of — as much as possible. However, apparently, the question is whether this is only to prove a point before the Pope visits or a significant step towards a corruption-free future?

Written by the Academy Award nominated screenplay writer of City of God, Braulio Mantovani, it gives you hopes for another similar masterpiece, but let me be upfront: it is not. The cinematography decently handles the inside-the-action feel as steady cameras are avoided at all possible instances. What could have been a gripping screenplay is tarnished by the persisting over-explanatory narration, which is full of wise comments about the system, the police, Rio, the crime, etc.

Choosing style over substance, the story is divided into chapters, explaining the characters and few chunks of events that are semi-fictional. Some of these chapters are worth being considered as capable of being called individual chapters, but as you go halfway through the movie, the categorization of these chapters stops making sense.

The film stylizes the police brutality in Rio, and quite effectively at that, as they struggle fighting the overwhelming wave of crime and their hollow, corrupt system, simultaneously. These struggles are evident in the training they provide and the way they treat their new recruits. Fortunately, by now, we get a sense that BOPE may not be as corrupt as the police force, and there may be some hope.

At many instances in the film, characters make bad choices, immature statements, and device faulty plans, but not as faulty as the story itself. Director Jose Padilha, as always, chose style over substance, ended up chasing City of God and tripped half way through. At instances, the movie appears to be making strong statements about the drug situation using some “cool” jargon, which like the rest of the movie disappears, eventually giving room to the glamorization of some police action and ending up as a mediocre revenge story.

In sum, the movie falls short of expectations, satisfies the glamour hunger, makes a few bold statements, but fails to cast a strong impression. At best, this is a mediocre attempt at making a Scorsesesce commentary at the crime and corruption in society. At worst, this is Jose Padilha’s desperate attempt at being “that cool director.”

51 Popular Hindi Language Films Worth Your Time

In 2010, I compiled a quick and dirty list of good Bollywood / Hindi movies as a decent entry point into Bollywood. Although later I went on to create better lists that introduce Indian cinema overall instead of just Hindi cinema, here is the first draft of that list. I think it is still a decent way to introduce Hindi cinema to people who don’t have any knowledge or background in it. I included a few non-Hindi or Hindi-dubbed films as well, because I think they were widely embraced as a part of Hindi cinema around that time. So, here is a list of popular Hindi language films that are worth a watch.

A still from Naya Daur (1957)

A still from Naya Daur (1957) – #11 on this list   *source – bollywoodfoodclub.com

  1. Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (a.k.a. Land tax) – 2001
  2. Sholay (a.k.a Embers) – 1975
  3. Mother India – 1957
  4. Pyaasa (a.k.a Thirst)- 1957
  5. Mughal-e-Azam (a.k.a The Emperor of the Mughals)- 1960
  6. Guide – 1965
  7. Do Bheega Zameen – 1953
  8. Anand – 1970
  9. Kaagaz ke phool (a.k.a Paper Flowers) – 1959
  10. Bandini – 1963
  11. Naya Daur (a.k.a New Trends)- 1957
  12. Satya – 1998
  13. Jaane bhi do Yaaro (a.k.a Who pays the piper)- 1983
  14. Deewar (a.k.a I’ll die for Mama)- 1975
  15. Salaam Bombay – 1988
  16. Aandhi (a.k.a. Storm)- 1975
  17. Sarfarosh (a.k.a Martyrs) – 1999
  18. Gol Maal (a.k.a Hanky Panky) – 1979
  19. Akrosh (a.k.a Cry of the Wounded) – 1980
  20. Bandit Queen – 1994
  21. Bumbai (a.k.a Bombay) – 1995
  22. Masoom (a.k.a Innocent)- 1983
  23. Rang de Basanti (a.k.a Paint it Yellow)- 2006
  24. Lamhe (a.k.a Moments)- 1991
  25. Pakeezah (a.k.a Pure Heart) – 1972
  26. Taare Zameen Par (a.k.a Like Stars on Earth) – 2007
  27. Jaagte raho (a.k.a A Night in the City)- 1956
  28. Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (a.k.a Bravehearts will take the Bride)- 1995
  29. Hum Aapke hai Kaun (a.k.a Who am I for you)- 1994
  30. Dev.D (2009)
  31. Namak Haraam (a.k.a The Ungrateful) – 1973
  32. Saheb Bibi aur Ghulam (a.k.a King, Queen and Knave) – 1962
  33. Saaransh (a.k.a The Gist)- 1984
  34. Arth (a.k.a The Meaning) – 1982
  35. Darr (a.k.a Fear) – 1993
  36. Waqt (a.k.a Time) – 1965
  37. Shatranj ke Khiladi (a.k.a Chess Players) – 1977
  38. Qurbaani (a.k.a Sacrifice) – 1980
  39. Umrao Jaan – 1981
  40. Amar Akbar Anthony – 1977
  41. Pushpak (a.k.a The Love Chariot)- 1988
  42. Daddy – 1989
  43. Yaadon ki Baarat – 1973
  44. Don – 1978
  45. Page 3 – 2005
  46. Suraj ka Satva Ghoda (a.k.a Seventh Horse of the Sun) – 1993
  47. Madhumati – 1958
  48. Ardh Satya (a.k.a. Half truth) – 1983
  49. Chashme Buddoor – 1981
  50. Roja – 1992
  51. Black Friday – 2004