It pays to be organised. This is as true at this year’s Mumbai Film Festival as it is anywhere else.
I’m not nearly organised enough. It’s day 4 and I haven’t watched any of the biggies I recommended happily to people: Taxi, The Assassin, From Afar. I missed The Lobster after the screening the first day got cancelled, because I never got a chance to book it again. I made stupid bookings. The schedule, which seems to change a little every day, is simply crammed with too many interesting films and not enough breathing space.
I know a whole bunch of people who seem to have ‘gamed’ the system. They’ve swallowed the entire schedule and digested it whole, something I cannot seem to manage to do. I say that I’ve booked so-and-so film at so-and-so slot, and they immediately say, “Yeah, but your film is playing at PVR Juhu and the previous film is 115 minutes long which will give you very little time to get to that screening. You’d be better off trying the 9 pm slot at Ghatkopar on the next day.”
Talking about what you’ve watched and what you’re going to watch is largely the only thing that seems to be happening. It’s a veritable dick-measuring contest, one in which you’re deemed ‘Not Passionate Enough’ if you aren’t watching at least 4 films a day — and the ‘right’ ones to boot. I have a feeling the looks of horror I receive upon saying I’ve missed Taxi are less intense than some I’d get if I told people I’ve been raised by cannibals.
Which is why every cancelled screening is annoying, because that’s one more slot wasted that could’ve been spent watching something else. I went for Shaunak Sen’s documentary Cities Of Sleep on Monday afternoon, which got cancelled after attempts to get the audio-visual sync right failed half an hour into the screening.
It was no accident that this happened at PVR ECX. Over the past two days, Indian filmmakers have been complaining about the poor quality of projection at the Andheri and Juhu venues. Gurvinder Singh, whose sophomore film Chauthi Koot is competing for the India Gold prize, wrote a stinging Facebook post about it, as did Aadish Keluskar (whose debut film Kaul is also in competition). Raam Reddy, director of Thithi, also told me about how the sound and picture quality at PVR Phoenix were both about “30% to 40%” better than what the audience saw at the premiere held at Juhu.
The South Bombayites may have been right all along. The closer you get to Andheri, the worse things become. Damn.
Meanwhile, I had an average day at the movies. I began with Body (Cialo), whose director Margolzata Szumowska won a Silver Bear at Berlin this year for it, which left me cold. I have a feeling that it was the wrong film to have begun my day with. So did the guy next to me, whose loud snoring was a source of constant amusement as well as distraction.
Next up — after the Cities Of Sleep fiasco — was the film In Your Arms, a drama about Niels (Peter Plougbourg), a thoroughly dislikeable young man in the grip of a fast-advancing motor neuron disease who is hell-bent on ending his life. Lisa Carlehed, who plays his pretty-but-inexplicably-socially-challenged nurse, turns in a great performance. However, the euthanasia drama, which had some echoes of Javier Barden-starrer The Sea Inside (2004), turned out to be standard, largely predictable arthouse fare.
The highlight of the day for me was Charlie Kaufman’s brilliant Anomalisa, for which a line had formed hours in advance at Juhu. A stop-motion animated portrait of a narcissistic man, Michael Stone (voiced by David Thewlis), who has an encounter with the rather plain (by his standards) Lisa (voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh), Anomalisa is the kind of gem that creeps up on you and gets inside your head.
Much of its first half is spent on banal-but-humourous conversations, but as things progress (with a hilarious, explicit sex scene livening things up considerably), Kaufman wickedly begins to unravel the layers and cuts Stone’s alpha-male ego down to size.
Although I went on to watch the Chinese film Kaili Blues right after — which, by the way, is quite dreamy and features an unbelievable 40-minute-long shot — it was Anomalisa that stayed in my head as I went to sleep.