Raman Raghav 2.0 (2016) – Killer’s Kiss

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Raman Raghav 2.0 is not a story about the notorious serial killer of the 60s. It features his inspired fanboy who kills for fun. That fan is Ramanna (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) killing without qualms or an iota of remorse because he kills for the sake of it, as an end and not a means – as punishment, not liberation.

Ramanna enters a killing spree and soon becomes the most sought after killer. Investigating his case is the morally bankrupt ACP Raghavan (Vicky Kaushal) – who’s into drugs and has a heart of a psychopath behind the rags of khaki. The difference here is mere symptomatic.

Ramanna doesn’t need to hide behind any ideological mission to punish his perpetrators. Raghavan’s job is to punish. Here begins the story of these soulmates – the evil and the devil as two sides of the same coin– their only mission to kill: whether it’s people, or their souls within.

The screenplay of Raman Raghav 2.0 is consistent. It’s divided into chapters. Following the two characters simultaneously, Anurag Kashyap and his co-writer, Vasan Bala, create a contrast in their characterizations. Both are confused and both are driven by their thirst. For Raghavan, it’s narcotics and for Ramanna, it’s the smell of blood. Ramanna’s confusion stems from his assured-self, contradictory as it sounds. Raghavan’s confusion is more existentialist. He’s a lost soul.

13177326_884735191649046_4481842317797411431_nThese factors are barely obvious and the latent violence present in the movie makes it a disturbing affair. The gore occurs off-screen, but this suggestion makes it more unsettling – leaving it to the minds of the viewers to gauge the inhuman chaos than the vicarious rendering of violence on-screen.

The star element is of course Nawazuddin Siddiqui. In many scenes, Nawaz bowls you out with his demeanor as the starry-eyed fanboy of a dangerous killer. The opening sequence has Ramanna confessing to his crimes. His coolness is apparent when he talks in detail about the murders. There’s almost a sense of hilarity in all of this – and the scene, powerful as it is, blows you away with just the dialogs and performances albeit aided by the subdued sound effects.

It’s that instance when Ramanna finds his Raghav – and there begins a tale that brings together Raman and Raghav forming an unlikely union that is as dubious for Raghavan as it is for the spectators. There’s a similar scene when Ramanna enjoys his chicken in a pep talk with Paket – before he’s about to become a paketmaar (pickpocketer). That’s symbolic of course, but in that one phrase – Nawaz’s perilous mind reveals itself. It sends chills down your spine and Nawaz pulls it off with a nippiness that’s difficult to digest.

Raman Raghav 2.0 is, hence, nippy. It’s not enjoying as much as it’s gripping. The devilish tone tries to do justice to Nawaz’s performance. In fact, Nawaz makes you feel sympathetic towards the character – a commendable job done by Kashyap, Bala, and the actor.

Where Raman Raghav deters is the direction. Anurag Kashyap is an accomplished director. Not a constant here, save for a brilliant performance by Nawaz, Raman Raghav doesn’t leave a lasting impression by the end. Kashyap’s movies usually have power climaxes – Ugly, Gangs of Wasseypur series, No Smoking, and even his commercial try-out, Dev D. With Raman Raghav 2.0, the evolutions of the characters complete an arc, but there’s not much one would take away from the movie – except the scenes featuring Ramanna.

The usual slow pacing and a plot that’s far from unique – work against the powerful character of Ramanna. I can understand why Kashyap went for a methodical pace. Yet, the story presents nothing new – even if it’s difficult in the serial-killer genre by now.

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Nawaz’s performance deserved a story worth remembering for more than just the performance. There are elements Kashyap instills that are sure to, “push the envelope,” as he’s always tried with his cinema. It almost appears like desi-style innuendo from Park-Chan Wook – only the auteurship is Kashyap’s. The sunglass motif defines the movie concisely.

A fun fact: Pran as Michael D’Souza in Salim-Javed’s 1974 classic Majboor had a similar way of zeroing in – with his hand cupping over his eyes like a binocular. Incidentally, Pran borrowed this from director Ravi Tandon who used to frame his scenes this way!

Not sure whether Nawaz’s reenaction was a tribute or a perfect accident. Whatever the case, it compliments Nawaz as the delirious killer.

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Sadanga (2015) – Six Angles of Torture

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Right from the onset, Sadanga takes you to a world of craziness. A story about a man from the plains, it’s supposed to be a treatise on his life grappling with crime and politics. But nothing works in this wanna-be “neo-noir” flick—a movie that’s more about scenes put together in a poor edit than a story about the dirt of Kathmandu.

Sadanga is about Kalu Yadav, played by Saugat Malla, who seems to have given his best in preparing for this role, but somewhere you have to ask—why does this character have to be from a small village in Madhesh and not from any other part of Nepal. There is no proper logic backing this decision. A decision I admired when I first heard about it and the sole reason my footsteps romanced the floor of the theater.

The creators of this drama have chosen whim over rational in assigning the archetypical role to Saugat Malla ignoring that the story doesn’t demand such a character. In fact, the story doesn’t demand anything – neither your attention, nor your hard-earned money, and definitely not your time. Saugat Malla is loud in his portrayal, but what is even more loud is subtext and stereotypical representation of every character in the film—marked by poor performances and clichés that would cajole you to leave the premises right in the middle, for it is intolerable and the intolerability begins from the first sequence itself.

The ultimate sin, therefore, is the lack of story, or no story. Sadanga feels like a twisted series of misinterpreted pastiches than a movie. To call it a movie would be comical because it’s a succession (or, lack thereof) of shots and sequences put together that is invariably worsened by the lousy performances of Priyanka Karki as the Femme Fatale, Bijaya Lama, the ace entrepreneur who seems to be in a perennial state of throat cancer (no offense) throughout the movie. Not to forget the farce put up by Anup Baral as the DSP, and of course, the cream of the crop, Sauram Raj Tuladhar—who shows just why being a model doesn’t equate to being an actor. A wood’s job is to glorify the jungles but not dance around the wolves. The man is hopeless in his role.

Unfortunately, unlike some invariably bad movies, Sadanga doesn’t have any positives. The cinematography is inconveniently phony, and for the dough spent on the production design, one has to ask again—for the umpteenth time—why can’t Nepali filmmakers ever seem to do something right?

Rare instances apart, the whole state of cinema in this glorious nation seems to be held in a perpetual stalemate—led by farcical premises, poor plotting, lack of well-presented stories, and awful performances most of the time. The lack of education in film is astounding for a city, Kathmandu, where filmmaking and studies seem to be rising by the day.

Sadanga is an exhibition on how not to make a movie. The photography, lighting, and editing are amateurish. The dialogs are hopeless and one would presume most of Saugat’s dialogs were written just to show off his abilities to camouflage into characters, which again isn’t that impressive. Perhaps if the screenwriter read any basic book on screenwriting or even watched a film with eyes set on the story progression, maybe, just maybe, we’d have a presentable movie in front of us.

Alas, that’s not the case and of course, the discredit goes to the captain of the ship, the Director, Suraj Sunuwar—who’s also the screenwriter here—for having taken a massive gamble of gambling with the sensibilities of the audiences in creating a horrible product violating the abstract rights of humans to proper films and stories.

Avoid.

Dial M for Murder (1954) – Textbook Plan

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Based on a stage play, Dial M for Murder is like a play exclusively screened for the curtain. Much of the action revolves around the house of Mr. and Mrs. Wendice. The movie rarely treads out of the house amidst murder, deceit, and treachery—making excellent use of spatial elements. Frederick Knott penned the screenplay that is adapted from his own play.

When ex-tennis player Tony (Ray Milland) finds out about his wife’s affair with common friend, Mark Haliiday (Robert Cummings), he chalks up a petrifying plan to kill his wife and inherit her property. Blackmailing one of his old college friends (Anthony Dawson), Tony envisions a foolproof plan of getting rid of his wife, Margot (played by the classy Grace Kelly). But things do not go as planned for poor Tony after which he improvises another plan to eliminate his wife. In a moment of sheer epiphany, Tony uses the gnarls of law to send his wife into a sentence, thereby, inheriting her estate and taking his willful revenge.

Just like Tony’s plan, Dial M for Murder is a well-planned, meticulous, and an intelligent movie. It builds on the underlying psychologies of the characters and clutches viewers in the home-centric drama of Mr. and Mrs. Wendice. Dial M is quite similar to Rear Window (1954) as both movies appear claustrophobic and entangle in mysteries surrounding wives. While Rear Window is more passionate less tactical, Dial M, on the other hand, is more tactical, less about passion.

What’s unique in Dial M is the mise-en-scene environment. If we ignore the camera movement, Dial M almost feels like a stage play. It has a well-drawn set—the Wendice Apartment—and 95% of the action occur within the confines of this cozy-looking home. Yet, extending beyond this space, the mind does go off for a saunter and Hitchcock does, what he does best—create riveting tension and build towards an imploring climax.

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Despite the themes of deceit and greed, Dial M remains classy. Tony Wendice is a man of elegance. Margot Wendice is a woman of virtue and charm. Mark Haliiday is an empathizer, a detective fiction novelist and journalist—he’s aware of most murder mysteries and the intricacies of planning a perfect murder. His profession does have a major role to convey during the latter sequences of the film—rounding off his character with sincerity.

The star of the show, of course, is Ray Milland for his smooth reprisal as Tony Wendice—the silent assassin who has his way with words, manners, and etiquette. He can think on the spur and can generate ideas with ease. It was almost the perfect get-away, but as they say with crime and punishment—the criminal always leaves behind a trace.

Grace Kelly is her usual elegant self as in most Hitchcockian thrillers. As a free spirit, as the vocal woman, and as the companion of Tony, or the secret lover of Mark, she is on her game—with vivacity and a powerful screen presence. The rest carry off their roles smoothly. Robert Cummings does not have much scope due to the nature of his role, but does a fine job. John Williams, as Chief Inspector Hubbard, is somber yet penetrating and decisive, and he steals the show.

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Dial M for Murder is trademark Hitchcock. It’s jumpy and intriguing despite being a notch below other Hitchcock classics. It can get a bit slow at times, but Hitchcock’s mastery as a storyteller is enough to carry it off to an edgy climax—keeping viewers anticipated and enthralled for most parts. Not to ignore the brilliant extension of time and space, of mise-en-scene elements, and of subtleties only a master could transport with minimalism.

The Dark Mirror (1946) – Crude Reflections

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Olivia de Havilland as Terry Collins and Ruth Collins
Lew Ayres as Dr. Scott Elliott
Thomas Mitchell as Lt. Stevenson
Richard Long as Rusty

Two sisters form a cumbersome bond that shields them from the ulterior motives of the world. This bond helps them fend off unwanted predicaments. It’s almost like having an automated backup plan to everything. When these sisters happen to be identical twins, it’s hard to distinguish one from the other, which works as an added advantage for both.

The same advantage turns into a gross disadvantage when, allegedly, one of the sisters commit murder. All reflections could be useless, but as with the nature of the beast itself, who is to distinguish the criminal from the innocent, the captive from the free?

Terry and Ruth Collins are identical twins. Physically indistinguishable they may be, but their attitude towards life is completely different. When Dr. Frank is murdered one evening, the Police led by Lt. Stevenson follow their cues and reach the twins. Unable to discover concrete evidence against the twins because both have their own alibis, the police accept the inherent weakness in their accusation and turn to ace psychologist Dr. Scott Elliott instead to unravel the mystery. Performing various tests on the twins, Dr. Elliott arrives at a deadly conclusion [plot point ahead]: one of the twins is paranoid, with conscience of a 2-year-old and a ravaging jealousy for her sister. One of the two cannot accept the other being liked, whilst she continues to be rejected in favor of her sister. Who is nice and who is not so nice? That’s all this thriller is all about.

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The Dark Mirror is mysterious, but for all the thrills and intrigues, it’s a cool watch and a breezy ride of 90 minutes. The content is light for the heavy themes it carries. A psychological study of human nature, The Dark Mirror trots from psychiatry to romance, crime, jealousy, and murder with ease. And, considering the grave story, it’s perplexing how easy on the eye (and mind) the movie is. One of the simplest made Noirs, the pace is swift, the story ticks on—building to the climax gently almost like an education of sorts. Such blending of hard-hitting realities with the subtle emotions really makes it stand out as an early classic in the genre.

Olivia de Havilland plays the twins—one who is charming, other who is deranged. What’s amazing is the masterful showcasing of special effects considering the era. Implanting both the sisters together on-screen, and that’s for good parts of the movie, director Robert Siodmak fascinates with the powerful combination of early special effects, gripping storytelling, and tight direction. The show stealer obviously is the show itself, Olivia de Havilland. It’s her movie, hence, her role, and she portrays both personalities with point precision. Adding her poignant touch to the roles, one is bound to appreciate her performances as both Terry and Ruth. The fact that these performances aren’t talked about is a nothing short of a shame. It’s one of the finest performances by a lead.

Stark cinematography (Milton Krasner), terrific use of lights and shadows, and the powerful motif of the mirror signifying the theme of reflection—opposite of what we are and never the exact copy—The Dark Mirror is a classic. Almost 70 years have passed since it hit the screens. Back then, it didn’t rake in as much appreciation as it ought to have. Today, it stands out as a tense psychological study balancing the various components of storytelling, with stylish use of cinematic techniques.

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It wouldn’t be precise to call Noir movies warm and uplifting, but those words wouldn’t be wasted if showered on The Dark Mirror. It manages to be intriguing, while maintaining a coziness that makes this movie a pleasant watch and an entertaining journey about two sisters cut from the same fabric, designed by different couturiers.

Fargo (1996) – Opposites Attract One Another

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Watching Fargo reminded me of Susan Glaspell’s one-act drama, The Trifles, not because the plot is the same, but the inherent poetry and irony in both the stories share a strong semblance. Perhaps they could be non-identical twins in the macrocosmic phenomena of fiction, yet Fargo is a romantic transcription of a story that the Coens claim to be based on true events. Whether that is true or not is up in the air, but that doesn’t change much; Fargo is a musical—almost too elegant—and is meant to be appreciated as a play, a brilliant play.

Directed by the Coen Brothers (credited to Joel Coen), Fargo is a musical crime drama set on the snowy blazes of Minnesota (shot across North Dakota, Minnesota, and Canada). Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) is buried under debts and more debts. As a remedy to all his woes, he hires two conmen (played by Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormar) to abduct his wife (Kristen Rudurd as Jean), the sole daughter of his ultra-rich father in law (Harve Presnell). The initial plan works out just fine but things don’t turn out as expected after the kidnapping. The family, the kidnappers, and our own Jerry are left in a muddy mess following a homicide in the middle of nowhere; the crime falls on the laps of the very pregnant, and adorably cute, local cop Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand). Twisted, complex, yet terribly simple, Fargo embodies the trifling absurdity of complexities and in a whisker, the movie channels a fresh turmoil told in an appealing and poetic manner by the Coens.

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Fargo is a crime thriller that is unique, as clichéd as that would sound, yet it is a new berth in the genre that attempts—very successfully—to blend the Shakespearean Era of Dramedy to the modern concept of crime thrillers. With witty and quirky characters, all having a dynamic routine, Fargo feels like an organized symphony of characters. No wonder, it has a catching, explicit background score (Carter Burwell) that evokes an emotional nuance and alongside the riveting cinematography (by Roger Deakins), the movie shapes into a musical crime fiction that almost gives the feeling of reading an artsy prose than watching the mystery unravel through the chirpy characters. In many ways, Fargo is satirical having a smooth flow, unobstructed and abstruse, garnered with awkward predicaments and a thorough examination of an episodic crisis. The steadfast characters in zippy conditions and their reaction to each situation catapult this movie as a bittersweet experience despite the seriousness in the situation, which the Coens present in a light, humorous, and distant manner.

As a spectator and admirer of cinema, I adore the cinematography of Fargo. Far-away shots, a warm color, textbook composition, and a melodic photography overall that is complimented by the sincere art direction stylizing Fargo as not merely a wonderful story on camera, but also visually abundant cinema that moves without really moving and captures the hearts of audiences with an expressive devising of a drat story. The scenic coldness of Minnesota, the snow-covered roadways, and the artsy inner decorations feel homespun—setting it as a story about connections and interconnections, a society in which we are all deeply connected in some form or the other. This visual aspect of Fargo exemplifies the heart of the story and the execution by Joel (and Ethan) Coen leaves you with a vintage feeling, maybe nostalgic for lovers of plays, prose, and poetry.

Since its inception, Fargo has gained popularity for the subtle and humorous treatment of a hard-hitting story that is somewhat close to the lives of the Coens. It doesn’t feel distorted or blurry at any time, although it maintains a distant look into the lives of the personas, whilst hovering into the periphery of these characters—so contrasting and so animated, each with a reason to move on. Throughout the movie, the Coens keep the screenplay tight, with the execution just right packaging it into a well-played out crime drama that has the right ambience, the right atmosphere, the right performances, and the right direction.

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Charming amidst glooms, Fargo is a parody of crime and satires the silent world of criminals. It is lyrical, almost too classy to be termed as a thriller and bears resemblance to the prose writing of Charles Dickens—detailed, structured, soothing, and rhythmic—and the drama of William Shakespeare—ironic, dramatic, humorous, amusing, and clever. What we get in turn is a true modern day gem.

RoboCop (2014) – A Soulless Reprise

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The original RoboCop is a legendary movie in its own right. One of the most cherished characters and movies in the history of cinema, the original RoboCop was more than a movie; it was a symbolic piece of art encompassing various emblems, meanings, themes, and motifs. To look into the remake of the cult classic from 1987 objectively and independently would be a tough ask, but I’ll try my best to table an independent commentary on José Padilha’s version of RoboCop. Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop reflected a different time and era. The modern adaptation symbolizes another era and today’s ideal of how a half-human, half-machine RoboCop would fair in dystopian society obsessed with dominance, security, and the perception of power. Verhoeven’s RoboCop was a satire of the highest rank, while this new reprise contains the satirical vibes of the old but reshapes itself as an action drama more than a symbolic satire.

We all know the story here. Officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is at death point, but they could save him—if his wife desired—only he would be part human, part robotic. Chief Scientist and Creator of RoboCop, Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) takes the responsibility for OmniCorp—the epicenter of robotics military—to create a menace with a heart. Amidst America’s world domination as a superpower and reflecting the predominance of media in America, OmniCorp is running a robotic construction project overseas, whilst installing such military robots around the world, except in America, due to the Dreyfus Act. CEO of OmniCorp, Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) wants to use these automated machines for law enforcement in America, which is why he wants his team to create a unified being of man and machine—to gift America its new version of a Superhero. There’s a new man in town, and his name—is RoboCop!

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RoboCop theorizes many themes and motifs. The satire on media, journalism, and the manipulative advances of media professionals as evidenced in the Novak Element, Samuel Jackson as Pat Novak—the pro-fascist television anchor, a clear parody on media supremacy and political perception in today’s world. Besides media, the movie sheds light on America’s obsession with world domination as a superpower, while also commenting on the monopoly of capitalism and select, elite business houses. In general, these themes remain intact as the major aspects of this version—making it honest and misleadingly rich in critical studies.

As a mainstream movie, RoboCop is nothing more than a template action movie from Hollywood, primarily aimed at mass consumption and capitalizing on the emotions of a much-cherished franchise in the history of Sci-Fi cinema. The emotional stroke is rather enhanced, with Murphy’s wife played by Abbie Cornish and his son (John Paul Ruttan) featuring largely in the movie. Despite that, it feels the movie lacks a certain emotional zing, and comes off dry and emotionless during many instances, which is somewhat paradoxical considering that the dramatic family angle is omnipresent throughout the movie. This remains one of the trite issues pulling the movie downwards.

Produced as a mellowed commercial movie (PG-13 rating), the actions sequences are pretty impressive and due to a technological leap, the optimal utilization of special effects, the production value and visuals are electric. Suited to today’s political environment of USA and the Western World, some aspects of the story—the mechanical man vs. the human—is much explored in this outing. RoboCop appears much more personal and poignant in comparison to Peter Weller’s immortal act, in which he portrayed RoboCop as a mysterious and enigmatic creature. The remake asserts RoboCop as a more subjective entity; having said that, the character lacks a definitive yoke, whereby the story loses in essence. Consequently, RoboCop is one movie high on externalities and gloss, low on content and assimilation. The most underwhelming part of the movie is the character of Raymond Sellars and the ensuing climax that comes and goes in a whimper contrary to what one would expect—a powerful pinnacle—from a movie of this stature. A poorly written climax, the unconvincing and poorly developed character of Sellars, and an overall loose execution hurt the quality of the movie, even as a standalone.

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As a whole, RoboCop is a decent watch, amidst many flaws, and a neat criticism on today’s obsessive mechanized world, where humanity is giving way to mechanics. For students of media and journalism, RoboCop has always stood as a veritable goldmine, and this continues the status quo. However, as a movie, it lacks heart and makes for a detached viewing that is not awe-inspiring but worth watching nonetheless.

Le Samourai (1967) – The Death of Deathlessness

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There is no greater solitude than that of a Samurai’s unless it is that of a Tiger in the jungle… Perhaps – Bushido, the Book of the Samurai

Arid, soulless, without luster, and a piercing silence: all these peculiarities sound familiar to one man, one personality, Jef Costello (Alain Delon)—the brooding Samurai, without any traces, any form of life, or any indication of existence except his actions. Cruel as he may be, Costello carries a striking silence around him wherever he goes, whatever he does. There is something about the Samurai in Jef Costello—mysterious in many ways, yet devastatingly deadly and unnatural. Surrounded by the murmurs of bereavement, the Lone Samurai treads his path with a serene calamity in his expression, as if the Tiger does not exist; only the hunted and the hunting do. The hunting conundrum keeps this Tiger alive, whilst alarming the city of the silent stampings of this paradoxical man. Words fall short in transcribing the clandestine neighboring this paradox—precisely why, the man of paradoxes, Jef Costello, rarely has words for anybody.

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The movie starts with a psychological construction of a room, perhaps revealing the psychic of the silent assassin. With two windows throwing in light into what seemed a noir environment, Costello’s romance with life is only apparent due to the smoke his lungs pump out in form of a deep breathing pattern initiated by the smoky ashes of nicotine. Every other activity or lack thereof signifies silence and nothingness—except, perhaps, the caged bird that could serve as a symbolic metaphor of Jef’s own life and the way of his life. Lying on the bed of death, with nothing but hazardous smoke—his companion chirping—Costello rests awaiting the moment when everything ceases, comes to a halt and what is left is zero; the only presence of existence, no witnesses and no activities. The life of this mysterious assassin is as perplexing as it sounds and his ambition in life seems purely to do things the way they are meant to be done, based on his principles and ideologies—the Jef Costello way.

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Primarily, Le Samourai is a crime thriller with cryptic usages of psychology and philosophy. The movie is a biographical revealing of one incident in the life of an assassin, and how that incident—despite his geniuses—drags him to breaking point, and the beauty lies in the smooth and subtle breakage the assassin passes through, without remorse, guilt, or any second thoughts arising in his serene mind. Almost meditative and calm, the assassin lays one alibi after the other, but as destiny has it—his own alibis end up defining his sweet fate. The weaving forces into his knit come in the form of his employers (the side of his functioning), the Police (his romance with the immovable forces), his lover and friend (the pillar of recreation in his life), his sole companion (the bird, Costello himself), and eventually the dark Princess that brings him to his destiny (saving him, liberating him). Le Samourai tracks on as a movie, a story about a murky person amidst the consistencies of the world and the inconsistencies of fate.

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The startling power of Le Samourai lies in its undercurrent intermingles with death. The movie stands on the firm foundation of death, with every scene highlighting the vulnerability of life and the impending power of the inevitable event known as death. Continuously, Costello eliminates people from their bodies, and works on such assignments—without entertaining any other thoughts in his razor sharp mind. As the movie progresses, and as Costello pulls off the master plan—the events of fate bring him closer to his death. Perhaps he was awaiting his impending reaction and that is why the irony, Costello is prepared for his death—almost in passionate embrace only for fate to pull the trigger. No resistance, sheer acceptance—deep and profound akin to Costello. The thoughtless killer in Costello works extracted away from his soul—for the sake of work—and the inner pull of Costello is detached from all the actions, in perfect communion with his self and his status as a person already dying because death starts right from ones birth and everything since is, then, a countdown…

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The inclusion of the two female leads—one who is Costello’s home and the other that is Costello’s path to redemption; both have two distinct levels of conscious existence. Jane Lagrange (Nathalie Delon) is Jef’s only contingence, his friend and lover, and the bright side of his life. She is the protective force he finds himself behind—the touch of Mother Nature’s sustenance, something he is not exclusively subject to. Valerie (Cathy Rosier) is the dark side of Jef’s reality, his work comes in tune with her morality and she finds him nakedly helpless—the touch of Mother Nature’s transformation, something that would sound music before the silence. The two polar sides of one Mother Nature act in favor of pulling Jef towards a path—rightful in their eyes, pathless in the eyes of the pathless warrior, Jef Costello. Drowned in such a predicament, with sense gushing out for the one glimpse of eternal reality; at the end, the great assassin listens to his inner consciousness and reveals the human emotion present in the emotionless Tiger, the Samurai. As has been the story of Costello’s life, his actions yet again determine the immediate reality.

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The director and co-writer of Le Samourai, Jean Pierre Melville, who has to his credit some classic European cinemas in the names of Le Deuxieme Souffle (1967), Army of Shadows (1969), and Le Cercle Rouge (1970) among many classic movies that mixed French Wine with the American Dream, creates a union of American crime and French art. Showcasing the beauty of this blend and including the powerful ingredient of minimalist cinema, Melville stands tall as the man behind the perfect movie, with a perfect story, perfect performances, and perfect execution. The repetition of scenes in the movie adds to the grandeur of the situation and the insurgency going on in the mind of the assassin. With the Police behind him—wanted dead or alive—and the men behind the schemes wanting him dead or alive, Costello has only himself and his genius stroke to rescue his body from this awful junction. Each scene repeats, each set repeats, and each lane appears repeatedly—only with a different impact—screening how human lives are such repetitive, with the only change of change itself.

In every possible way, Le Samourai is a showcase movie, a benchmark in the history of Cinema. Under the genre of crime thriller, Melville creates a psychological disclosure of human lives. The character of Costello is just a metaphor in the grand scheme of this ludicrous world. The bird served as a symbol of Costello’s life, while Costello serves as a symbol of our lives—trapped in the body of evidence and surrounded by forces beyond our imagination, with few elements to fall back into, yet insufficient in this race towards death. For it is not deathlessness that is immortal; it is those actions that withstand the depths of time—some tales that surpass immortality.

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The performance of Alain Delon is indescribable because what he shows through his expressions alone would call for a unanimous expression to do justice to the landmark performance from the eyes of the great film hero. Accepting himself as Jef Costello himself and cloning into that persona, Delon comes off as an assassin himself with only blankness on his face, calmness in his mind, and archaic focus on his eyes—the idiosyncrasies of the assassin has no differentiation to the intensity of Delon. Without any doubt, not a hair or the tiniest particle, Delon assumes his role as a hit man as good as any actor in the history of cinema and it would not be off the mark at all to call it the zenith of characterization. Not in any other manner, it would be an understatement to call this great piece of visual literature—as an excellent movie. In fact, it is a perfect, flawless—arguably the benchmark for psychological crime thrillers in cinema’s glorious history.

Unmatchable, unmistakable…

Image Credit – Listal, Cashier de Cinema, Toutle Cine, General Thinker

Karkash – An Ode to Foreshadowing (2013)

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My neighbor happens to have a beautiful daughter—whom I cannot fathom, but gaze and appreciate. I’m sorry. One day, I visited my literary neighbor. He is a very jolly man, with a nice dose of rage hidden somewhere. I wanted to learn about foreshadowing. He greeted me with a wonderful smile, somewhat naked in many ways.

“My boy, foreshadowing cannot be taught; it is a natural art, an oddity—a habit, if you will. Just days ago, one student of my colleague—very humorous person—visited him to learn about irony. My friend explained that, in the name of learning irony, if he slips his daughter out and flees away—it would be crude irony.”

I nodded and seemed to understand. I asked him about his daughter—my friend, Seeta. She came downstairs. Cue ten minutes later: there was a note on the table that we had eloped!

How wonderful of a foreshadowing!

Just before the audience laughed at or due to Karkash—depending on human consciousness—a note glittered on the screens of QFX Kumari, and everywhere Karkash found itself home. The note was about the meaning of the term Karkash. In Nepalese-English Dictionary, the emotion of the word suggests a cruel, harsh, or a piercing sound, cacophony, very uneasy to the ears. Call it poetic justice or irony, Karkash lives up to the name.

The New Wave Phenomenon of Nepalese Cinema has everything needed by an honest filmmaker. She has the equipments, the human resources, the scenario, setting, backdrop; wonderful, extravagant concepts, and everything nice—except, one major attribute remains in oblivion. That trait is the wonderfully astounding art of storytelling. A major question does arise: why do we make movies? There are many answers and many people would have their own judgment authorized by their Chief Justice up in the air. Nonetheless, if an honest person asked an honest filmmaker, her answer would be related to telling a story through moving pictures.

The pictures were moving. The technology was there. The human resources were mirabilis. The backdrop was there; so was the setting and one extravagant concept. With that and all, the storytelling aspect was missing as Karkash relied, in its entire arsenal, on a plot so beaten down that a mosquito bite would shred it apart. Yet, that is not all, the movie encompassed a murder of typical characters, and a concentration on foreshadowing over storytelling—remember, foreshadowing is a technique of storytelling not a substitute—and the truly unpredictable climax, for lack of better word.

Directed by Asif Shah, Karkash has some great moments amidst the comedy. The theater was buzzing with laughter, especially the couple just behind my row. In fact, they were laughing so much that I asked myself what was wrong with me. Karkash has the ingredients and being a lover of Nepalese Cinema, the dynamics might appear distorted, but the movie possesses the characters for a typical Nepali entertainer! Having said it all, Karkash does manage to foreshadow the content of the movie in an exemplary manner: Karkash after all.

Shadow of a Doubt (1943) – If it ain’t Wright, it ain’t Right!

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The name resounds. The man is a filmmaking engineer. The man is a pioneer. The man is, quite simply, Alfred Hitchcock. With yardsticks comprising an array of classic movies, the name Hitchcock has become synonymous with stylish, deep, and unbridled cinema. Dating a few years before the immortal Notorious, Alfred Hitchcock presented a family thriller capitalizing basic motions of storytelling in Shadow of a Doubt.

Charlotte “Charlie” Newton (Teresa Wright) is a happy, go-lucky, and angelic young girl who contemplates on the theory of soul, the value of family, and the idea of a utopian family. Dreaming of such chapters, the beautiful and innocent Charlie decides to call upon the perfect Uncle—Charlie Oakley (Joseph Cotton) to resolve the impending status of the family’s deformation.

Call it coincidence or telepathy, Uncle Charlie decides that it is time to meet his wonderful niece, Charlie and sends a telegram—informing them of his unexpected and imminent visit. Hearing this, the mood in the house, of niece Charlie and her Mom, Emma (Patricia Collinge) reflects the smile of the sun in the snowy month of January. Soon after the arrival of Mr. Perfect, things turn out not so perfect—especially for Charlotte, who begins to know more than she should have known.

Comparing Shadow of a Doubt to Hitchcock’s classics; Shadow of a Doubt is simplistic, with the characters holding the punch accompanied by an earnest setting and a methodical progression to a dramatic climax. The movie uses the element of empathy towards the beautiful Charlotte to advance the story, grip us to the point of confusion, and at last, feel for the predicament of Charlie—torn between her sense of righteousness and the emotions illuminating from the eyes of her mother.

The chemistry between the two Charlies draws this movie as a fine piece of sculpture, in what is a basic plot—filled with effective, but not always riveting exchanges. The glorious nuances of Teresa Wright—the sheen in her face of genuine beauty, the simplicity of her confusion—catapults this saga to a different level, while the mysterious serenity provided by Joseph Cotton and his changing colors, almost Chameleon-esque, does motion the viewers to get the best from the two focal points of the movie.

In what remains an honest effort in mystery and thrills, Shadow of a Doubt delivers the goods. Some may find the goods worth purchasing; others may consider other goods worthy of their effort, but this movie would not have achieved the glory it did—without the sincere performance of Teresa Wright, or the clench of Joseph Cotton.

Shadow of a Doubt may serve as a wonderful appetizer to the main dish that would come out in subsequent years from Hitchcock. It’s a noteworthy travel to a the classic age of cinema—beautified by glorifying performances and an honest effort. Alfred Hitchcock considered this as his finest movie. While one wouldn’t go that far, it certainly was the first of many to come.