Film Review of Abbas Kiarostami’s Certified Copy

It may be that a film reminds you of a time spent in affection and the revelations it brings with it. But creating that cinematic language and fluency where a film can retain the yearning of a love reserved for a time ahead of yours is unique. Abbas Kiarostami’s Certified Copy is one such gem. It’s intimate and perplexing.

The idea that you can go back to being a stranger to someone you’ve mapped your infinite and finite moments with. And to race ahead to recognize and share in a stranger’s closeness and sincerity as you would your own. Abbas Kiarostami shows you both possibilities and evokes in you a question, both timeless and wise: Does the difference between a piece of art and its copy matter?

The mirrored transparency of the question seeps into the philosophical and candid nature of Elle and James Miller. Their lucid conversation in Tuscany, the lanes that inhabit it, and the mysterious composition of it all – it’s intriguing and poetic. You never want it to end.

In films, we are so rushed to the climax, to the justification of all those sensations you felt throughout the film. But what this film wants you to do is to sit with those sensations. To stir in that wonder and curiosity that naming things and people usually erases. The walls we build up around people and label them depending upon how they make us feel. Only so that the experiences that contain them we can wrestle with for the remaining of our lives. God forbid we misplace our own identities were we to break down those walls.

Maybe watching a film like Certified Copy isn’t as simple as believing in one possibility. The film would gladly have an ending you want it to have. But in doing so, you would fail to grasp the universe the film inhabits. The language it so boldly wants you to learn; the depth of which no words can completely express. But you’re still holding on to what you can between the words and silences.

Book Review of Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other

Turning to the multicultural and labyrinthine narrative of Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other, you’re reminded of the multi-faceted and myriad tendencies of a self. A book that reads like a journal into the lives of 12 women – connected somehow in kinship and affectation – is sketched in a fictively symmetrical format.

The first few stories embrace a perceptible current. They prepare you for what’s to come. You’re as much a part of it as you’re the chanced observer. There are no full stops in the book in that every sentence is broken into smaller pieces so that it feels as uninhibited as the flow of water. To me, it proves the spirit of incandescent and translucent honesty of the characters.

Reading this book is no simple feat. The succinctness of each woman’s story may trick you into believing so. What Bernardine Evaristo does is she embraces certain consistent motifs that run along the length of the book. And out of this emerges a few crocheted structures. Upon each thread, each stream of thought, a woman is willed into being. You read her life to fruition. If at some point you stop reading her story, this “girl, woman, other” who is a sentient presence, by setting the book aside, it’s as if you’ve completely erased her.

The book’s ideal reader is someone who appreciates a quick and light read. It unabashedly taps into feminism but remains as a fictive impersonation of it. The boundaries of which, for the sake of literary fiction, have been pushed to extremes. And this was a significant let-down. It also brings up questions of entitlement. But they’re posed simply as questions; the answers fail to surface as the story stretches in its narration.

Film Review of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia

If what meets the eye is believable, and is believed, can it be a coincidence that what doesn’t meet the eye has had bad luck? It seems the objective here – of human actions and of human behavior – is that everything is a sneaky coincidence. Because if it isn’t, and if it were up to fate, the lives we would create would be empty and emptier still right to the end.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia tackles the mightiest force of existence – and that is chance. The film has everything. The suppressed emotions, dying wish, waking desires, yearning, loneliness, and melancholia. It works together in one swift and heady motion to reimagine separate lives not by their staggering tragedies or incomplete-ness but by their harmonic and sincere and self-same peculiarities.

This somehow reminds me of something I heard in Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice, “We wait for something. We hope, we lose hope, we move closer to death. Finally, we die.” And that it’s all the same. We all hope. We all have missed chances. But we’re all rowing the boat the same on different currents of life. When you’re confronted with such extremes, the path of least resistance is the path of letting go.

Magnolia is an instinctual and emotive film. It evokes feelings of continued wonder of what’s about to happen next in each story. The aliveness of his characters enables you to discover your own identity in each of them. So that, at the end, when you breathe in the clarity and transparency of life and its many absurdities, you’re not just another “spoke in the wheel.”

Film Review of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner

The neon signs, continuous rain, ethereal billboards, and the one-dimensionality of it all. Blade Runner is one of the strangest dystopian sci-fi films I’ve seen. The story hides well the humanity of humans and seeks, instead, to find the humanity of robots.

Set in November 2019, the film fashions the future in a hedonistic and dismissive manner. It is cruel with its stranded, empty, and ghoulish rooms. So dense and desolate is the atmosphere where the film takes place that even the sun fails to shine on it. But Ridley Scott’s cinematic imagination doesn’t fail to show you that there is a sun. That the endless night is a metaphor for the ripening of a forgotten and ruinous hierarchy.

The skyscrapers deflect rather than protect. Everything you encounter in this film is desensitized, inhuman, and cold. I read in an article on BFI that Harrison Ford established that his character, Deckard was the only “human” on screen so that the viewer could develop an emotional bond with him. This, against the closeness of the “replicants,” the artificial people who their creator, Tyrell, wanted to manufacture as “more human than human,” feels intoxicating than ever.

But what really reels the film in is the intense background score. It does more for the film than the visuals because the latter alone, with its chaotic and color-dense personality, wouldn’t evoke feelings of terror and dystopia as the music did, by itself. Look forward to this film for its seasoned humaneness. Where the final end is not a test for mortality between human and android. The final end is living and whether one does it humanely or heartlessly.

Film Review of Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida

In my notes while watching this film, I wrote some lines, erased them, wrote over the split words, and found that what I wrote before, the first time, was right.

“The quietness and stillness of strength speak volumes.”

This is what Pawel Pawlikowski’s film, Ida, has given me. The understanding that a person’s display of strength when retracing their steps into the past has nothing to do with facing up to it. It’s a façade that you put up with to fool yourself, or perhaps to fool the world, that it’s okay; that you don’t fear what you’ve buried deep inside you that you now have to uncover only to find yourself.

The film uses silence and profound stillness to convey a feeling that even words would fail to evoke. The cinematography blends in rather than stands out with the way the film is shot. The car journey of Ida and her aunt to find where her family was buried when Ida was just a child is a solitary experience. The two journey to places as if they’re the only voyagers of lost souls in the world.

The way both worlds are imagined and plated for the viewer is unique. Ida’s orphaned and redeemed life story is felt through her aunt Wanda’s accessible and lonely lifestyle. Wanda feels deserted even though she’s a state judge who has sent people to their deaths. The ghosts of them, it seems, still persist as shadows clinging to her kitchen and bedroom. The film quickens your heartbeat to the point of complete fidelity to Pawel Pawlikowski’s style of filmmaking. It’s historically powerful. Every frame is a story to weigh in, to observe, to feel deeply.

Book Review of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway

“Did it matter then, she asked herself, did it matter that she must inevitably cease completely; all this must go on without her; did she resent it; or did it not become consoling to believe that death ended absolutely?”

If somebody told you that an hour is long enough, would you believe it? That, when measured against a string of forgotten, dry, and vain days, an hour is your only means of getting through life. The scales of time on a clock are well-defined, perhaps, to illustrate desire and the lack of it. The scales of time, however, inside our minds are not the same. They resist the temptation of passing. They grasp at what’s near; what’s remarkable and symbolic. Time asks nothing of us and still, we give to it our whole selves. So that later on, when we have become forgotten memories to time, time is somehow immeasurable to us.

Reading about age against the receding grains of mortality is thrilling. It’s disquieting as much as it’s the only thing sincere to the act of living. And Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, which is a book about a single day, is overwrought with the temporality of humanity. And why, as long as we are alive, living is a serious anomaly that most of us, for the most part, are oblivious to.

Mrs. Dalloway is a book about contemplation and presence. It halts the train of time so that it can offer you, in these troubling and uncertain moments, budding hope. Woolf’s embryonic stream of consciousness and awareness of time is insightful and inspiring. After reading To The Lighthouse and The Years first, my admiration for her work has only deepened.

The central theme of the book is time and its lasting effect. The narrative is perplexing; her language is determined to put you where her characters are placed; where their lives are given identity and also where they’ve been deprived of them. I wish I could have read this book in a single day. To live the entire story myself and walk the streets of London, past the urbanity of life. Precisely because it so redefines our idea of a normal life, considering the global pandemic. And helps us understand Woolf highlighting hers, in 1923, when Influenza was only a few years old.

Book Review of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own

In the meandering course of life, you need a book like A Room of One’s Own to ground you. The book reflects a lifelong yearning, to tirelessly be, to consider the self as an eternally shifting dimension, which comes together in the form of strength, conviction, and knowledge. This book contains the spirit of spirit itself. From beginning to end, it unshackles the imperfections of perfection.

The human mind, Woolf writes, must realize its masculine and feminine characteristics. This is what sets the foundation of all human experience. Only then is the being and becoming of a self primitive. Since its inception, a novelist is so absorbed in one’s own sex that it overwhelmingly devours one’s words and actions. That’s when ‘I’ becomes “a convenient term for somebody who has no real being.”

This ‘I’ in a self is also what defines a person in “the relation of stone to stone.” It’s lacking in emotion and truth. Woolf urges you to map your inner and outer world in “the relation of human being to human being.” This activates in each of us a beauty and familiarity that is profound and indispensable.

Read A Room of One’s Own for its stunning wisdom and honesty. It’s for the androgynous mind. The mind that, in its every crease, has an unfathomable depth. The mind that shares in the common language that Virginia Woolf so contemplatively inhabits. Her words, her stream of consciousness is, in its very being, a stroke of genius.

Book Review of Jorge Luis Borges’s Fictions

The stories inside the cocoon of life’s perplexing and re-defining boundaries are never linear. They all inhabit different realities, different mysteries, different creators, and different evils. The point, however, is how they’re told. What if, within those worlds, every dream and its remembrance ignited a chain reaction? Sort of like a tunnel through which you could step over reality’s time-bound singularity and tuck yourself in as if tucked tightly under a blanket, an incomprehensible and strange dimension.

Reading Jorge Luis Borges’s Fictions felt like a tussle between known and unknown worlds. It occupies a prolific and celestial field. And on each stop on your journey is a unique and magical story; The Garden of Forking Paths, The Library of Babel, The Circular Ruins, The Shape of the Sword, and so many more. “Thinking, meditating, imagining,” Jorges writes, “are not anomalous acts – they are the normal respiration of the intelligence.” He instills in each of his characters, his worlds such an acute and concentrated sensitivity. That to understand the complexity and nothingness of life, you are relieved of the heaviness that is your own.

Separate yourself from your known reality’s dimensions to read Jorge Luis Borges. It is like transcending and strolling down multiple realities, each interlaced by its abstraction and mystery. You can be a different person in each, converge with different identities, laws, and natures.

Book Review of Raghu Karnad’s Farthest Field

“People have two deaths: the first at the end of their lives, when they go away, and the second at the end of the memory of their lives, when all who remember them are gone. Then a person quits the world completely.”

The measure of all things echoes in the stories that are left behind. The photographs of history tucked away between covers and in old and oxidized jewelry boxes. Farthest Field, penned in bold and imaginative strokes, is a story of India’s role in the Second World War. The fabric of the book is non-fiction but the patterning that gives it a personality is a fictionalized acquaintance of 3 young men.

The story is in parts sketched out of the author’s faithful and passionate re-telling of his ancestry. So it’s not all fiction. The roots of history have been dug up and revealed to the reader through records, memoirs, and interviews. The book shoulders that weight from the start. Especially when the following words, “For my mother, who didn’t let me forget” are pasted on the book’s dedication page.

This is history like you’ve never matriculated in school before. It’s factual, gripping, but oftentimes, a bit stretched to the extremes. But if you keep at it, the story sinks in deeper and stays there as something you aren’t forced to learn before understanding, as most of us did when learning about our history for the first time.

You can think of this story as “imperfect, live flesh drawn over skeletons rebuilt from scattered bones.” But what it also is is a quick and captivating read. Heavy with grief, loyalty, and courage rather than sacrifice. The kind that pulls you closer to home as you fathom a seedbed of humanistic force and conviction.

Film Review of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window

Nobody keeps you in suspense and surprise in the same breath as masterfully as Alfred Hitchcock. His films explore the guilty pleasures of mankind. Though the surprise is not as memorable as the suspense, it still lingers to keep you wide-eyed and craving for more. And Rear Window, which is about a man looking into his neighbors’ houses as he’s stuck at home with a broken leg, is a sensational film so artistically shot. The beautiful and bright visuals strike the perfect chord with the intellectual and philosophical dialogues. The camera moves back and forth between each house, into a person’s private and lonely and repetitive life. And that’s what so interesting about Hitchcock’s vision. He went beyond the ho-hum of routine and made it look imaginative and picturesque.

On closer inspection, you feel the anticipation and wonder of our most beloved protagonist, played by James Stewart. His refined inquisitiveness and charming sensibility evoke a realistic and entertaining atmosphere. When paired with Grace Kelly and her calm and poised disposition, the film is hard to resist. The film elicits an acute and unwavering feeling. As if you’re looking out of and into the rear window simultaneously. You’re the one watching and the one being watched. For a minute you’re there looking in, and soon after, you’re here looking out.

The cinematography allows no mistakes, nothing passes that you didn’t already see, and each movement goes directly to your memory, where films like Rear Window stay for longer and are often unforgettable. It’s a delicious and entertaining tour-de-force that explores the profanity of everyday lives, the ordinariness of it, and its imperfect clumsiness.