Jio MAMI 2016 Day two: Oliver Assayas' Personal Shopper a big letdown
The second day at the 18th Mumbai Film Festival garnered a collective reaction from everyone — that the ticket booking system needs to be punched in the face.
Now, this is the biggest problem that the festival faces, and one with a sort of a conundrum. Until two years ago there was no online booking system for tickets and everyone used to camp overnight in tents in 5 km-long lines to be able to watch the films. While it was kind of fun for hard-boiled movie buffs to indulge in such fraternal bonding and exercising one’s yearning for the wonder drug that is cinema, it was never a comfortable way of attending a film festival. People standing in two-hour-long lines often missed other films that they also wanted to watch.
With the online booking system, the two-hour-long wait in the multiplex was cut down to two minutes spent in the comfort of your home on your laptop. This is an excellent change, until you realise that everyone and their nanny wants in on the action, and the tickets disappear within minutes. This is naturally frustrating and even more infuriating when you find out the booking portal Bookmyshow runs slower than the IRCTC website during the big race to get tickets. Luckily MAMI has furnished a percentage of seats that can be reserved only offline, that is at the venue, so those without internet connections and the ticketless film geeks on standby also have a chance.
The complaints from people are understandable, but there’s little more MAMI can do at this point to rectify this problem. Unless there are more screens and more venues, there will always be a crunch for seating. It would be interesting to see how MAMI addresses this issue next year. They’re doing a pretty good job as of now, and I haven’t seen logistics being handled so smoothly at any other previous edition of the fest. Bookmyshow, on the other hand, needs to pull up their socks and buy servers which run on operating systems more advanced than Windows 95.
Day 2 began with The Land of the Enlightened, an interesting, gorgeous looking but hollow documentary that follows a gang of children in a Soviet outpost of Afghanistan who collect opium, smuggle items and even run guns. The film is a strange hybrid of a documentary and fictional storytelling that often breaks off into philosophical mumbo jumbo voiceover, juxtaposed to slow motion shots of Afghanistan. As a montage of pretty and haunting scenery it works well, but it doesn’t really get any emotional response from you, mostly because you realise most of what the scenes between the people on the screen are staged. What is happening in Afghanistan, and most of the Middle East is devastating, and props to director Pieter-Jan De Pue for finding a new way to address the problems, but the film could have benefitted from less dramatisation of the events, given real life depicted in the film is powerful enough to be moved by. De Pue’s background as a photographer could be an indication as to how he stitched together amazing images to attempt a coherent story.
The next film to watch was Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman, and there was predictably a line that resembled the first show of a Bhai movie on Eid. People who were fortunate enough to have booked the tickets grinned from ear to ear, smugly standing in the 'reserved tickets' line. Those who didn’t have tickets stood in the labyrinthine 'stand by' line looking as destitute as the Jews in Schindler’s List. Some people went nuts when the stand by line began moving forward, pushing and shoving to the point of shouting. Some of them began arguing with the festival interns to let them through, while a couple, who had gone out for a smokes, was disgruntled by the fact that someone in the line didn’t keep their place and they weren’t let back in to the front of the line. One classy woman waved her bright red purse threateningly to an intern, reminding him that she knows people in high places incharge of the festival and could not only get a ticket but also get the intern fired for 'having the guts' to not let her through. I don’t know whether she managed to get in, but I doff my hat to the intern for maintaining his composure through such trying times. For all this struggle, ironically, the film turned out to be Farhadi’s weakest to date — so it was merely a 'really good film' instead of an all time classic or a masterpiece that he generally produces.
Personal Shopper, the new film from Oliver Assayas was the biggest letdown of the fest so far. A corny ghost story disguised as an auteur driver high-brow drama thriller, the film branches out into a variety of arbitrary subplots that struggle to string together and ultimately fails to make any coherent point. Assayas’ muse Kristen Stewart once again plays the angsty assistant to a rich celebrity, pining for her lifestyle. In that way this is quite literally a spiritual sequel to Clouds of Sils Maria as Stewart’s character tries to make contact with her dead brother. As long as the film doesn’t show the ghost it works very well, drifting into a more psychological zone, but it quickly falls into a Ramsay brothers territory when the spooks show up in bad CGI and begin making thumping noises in the dark. There are three subplots within the film that don’t really add anything to the protagonist’s journey and seem like they belong in different films of their own. Best to leave the horror genre to the experts.