Jio MAMI 2016 day three: Neruda, My Life as a Zucchini, Things To Come surpass expectations
Day 3 at the Jio Mami 18th Mumbai Film Festival began with panicky a phone call from a friend at 7 am. She sounded worried and scared, as if warning me of a calamity that was about to happen. I asked what the matter was and I was told it was almost time to gear up and prepare to navigate through the Bermuda Triangle of the fest — that is, book the tickets for the next day. I then slowly wore a pair of headphones, played the Rocky theme, went for a run, did 400 push-ups, drank two gallons of energy drinks, twisted my body in impossible positions and meditated, prayed to all 30,000 Hindu gods and even the lone Muslim one as a backup, and finally opened my laptop and wore my Ray Bans. I clicked open Bookmyshow and heard the clock tick towards 8am. It was a tense moment.
The moment the booking opened, I banged on the keys like a Keyboard Ninja and procured tickets for every movie that I wanted to watch. As I walked away from the laptop in slow motion, a Michael Bay style explosion occurred behind me, doves flew away and I flicked the cigarette with my fingers, the sparks lighting the glint in my eyes and the victorious smile on my face.
With a fist pump and a swelled chest I hopped into an auto and headed to the Versova PVR to enjoy the blue moon twilight moment of my life where I managed to book four tickets in the same day. As soon as I reached the hall, I realised that in my celebration, I forgot to get my festival pass. As sad operatic music played in my head I asked the Bookmyshow folks if they could help me out in such trying times. One person understood my pain — she immediately went to speak to her superior about my ignominy but the superior was unwilling to offer me much sympathy. I realised that if you make such a stupid mistake as to misplace you festival pass, you will not get a copy of it at the venue.
Luckily, a good friend managed to pick up the pass from my home — after promising the friend that I would render the blood of my firstborn as thanks, I headed straight to the screening hall.
The first film I watched was Pablo Larrian’s Neruda, an absolutely terrific film that uses a fictionalised version of the story of Chile’s most famous poet to make things entertaining. The film chronicles Neruda’s (played by Luis Gnecco) life from 1948 where he was already a famous personality leading Chile’s revolution, to being stripped off senator post, branded an outlaw on account of his communist ideals, and being on the run. What really works is how Larrain depicts Neruda struggling to live underground, away from the lascivious pleasures that he is used to enjoying, and the dynamics with his loving wife (Mercedes Moran) while being chased throughout the film by the imbecilic detective Oscar Peluchanneau (Gael García Bernal). The film itself has an air of sarcastic fictional retelling of a more serious real life incident and seen through the eyes of both Neruda and Oscar, two men of differing political ideologies, we’re never really sure whose version was the actual truth. The funny thing is it doesn’t matter because it still manages to entertain, even if you are not much aware of Chilean politics. With No, The Club, Neruda and the upcoming Jackie Larrain has fast become one of the most fascinating filmmakers of this decade.
Just when I thought I wouldn’t possibly see a better film than Neruda the same day, the very next film My Life as a Zucchini surpassed all manners of expectations. An absolutely gorgeous French-Swiss stop motion animation, the film directed by Claude Barras chronicles a child whose mother dies and is sent to an orphanage where he meets other kids who have faced similar setbacks. It’s hard to describe what is the best aspect of the film because it just excels at everything — from the eye popping visuals to the heartbreaking screenplay to the thought provoking music and the lovely voice work. Onions show up near your eyes through most of the film, and every ray of hope that arrives in the story feels like a much-needed warm moment amidst the heavy snow in the film. And despite having a relatively short runtime of a little more than an hour the film manages to offer commentary on a dozen aspects in life. It’s not surprising that the film is Switzerland’s entry to the Oscars and it would be even less surprising if it wins.
Serving as the final of the one two three punch for the day was Things to Come, the film that finally cements Mia Hansen Love as one of the best filmmakers working today. The story follows a middle-aged philosophy professor (Isabbelle Huppert) who is suddenly thrown into an introspective journey after her distant husband tells her that he is now seeing another woman. Delving effortlessly into philosophical banter backed up by stunning French countryside vistas, this is the kind of film that makes you yearn for a trip to the country and reassess your own life. Hansen Love, as she demonstrated so beautifully in her previous film Eden yet again succeeds in showcasing ‘knots’ in life and how seemingly perfect relationships with the people you love can actually be far more difficult and jagged than you think. The film doesn’t give you all the solutions to the conflicts it presents and connects to your own life, but with its optimistic outlook it sure gives you a reason to not be completely bogged down by them and move on. It maneuvers through tragedy without pessimism or melodrama, and that’s a rare kind of filmmaking.