Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Vampire Owl: Have you read The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James?

Vampire Bat: Yes, I had read that novel as a part of writing an assignment during my English Language and Literature post graduation.

Vampire Owl: What would adding some fire to the title mean?

Vampire Bat: I don’t think that this has any relation with it. This one is actually French. This is not Korean or Chinese for a change. Let this burn bright!

Vampire Owl: So, the portrait is not really the portrait that one might be led to believe it is. I would still choose a Polaroid camera instead.

Vampire Bat: It was about a young woman who inhered a large amount of money, and becoming prey to some scheming.

Vampire Owl: I have heard about the author, but most of the people I know haven’t.

Vampire Bat: Well, he hasn’t been writing the kind of works, the vampires have been reading, and so its natural not to know.

Vampire Owl: So, you are now choosing French.

Vampire Bat: Yes, we have been going further international these days.

[Gets a vancho cake and three cups of masala tea].

What is the movie about? :: The story is set at some time period during the end of the late eighteenth century. Marianne (Noemie Merlant) is a young painter who takes painting classes to her eager students. As she makes them paint her portrait, one of her students asks her about a special painting from her, which Marianne used to call Portrait de la jeune fille en feu. It takes us back to the origins of that particular painting, and the same has a close relationship with Marianne’s past and her emotional side. Once upon a time, Marianne was called to an isolated island in Brittany in the west of France, to paint a portrait of a young woman named Heloise (Adele Haenel) by her mother The Countess (Valeria Golino). Marianne struggles to reach there, as she herself, and the canvas falls into the sea on her way.

So, what happens with the events here? :: There, she meets Sophie (Luana Bajrami), a beautiful young girl who works as the servant to the Countess and her daughter. They become good friends, and comes to know that Heloise was at the convent, and was forced to come back to marry a wealthy Italian nobeleman because her sister had died, supposed to have jumped off a cliff. Now, this portrait is to be sent to that possible husband of Heloise as soon as possible. The Countess says that her daughter was not ready to pose in front of any painter, and so Marianne will have to pretend that she was someone who had come to accompany her during her walks, to get rid of her boredom. It seemed to be the only way for her, and Marianne started being friends with Heloise who arrived there. She also started observing Heloise enough to paint her in parts. But there will be more than just a painting that we will be having here.

The defence of Portrait of a Lady on Fire :: There is some beautiful serenity that runs through this movie and its silence which serves more than anything else, as the main actresses really make a lovely impact with their expressions and body language itself, getting us immersed into this tale set in the late eighteenth century Brittany. The setting is incredibly beautiful, making you wish to make a visit, and one wonders where this particular island stands in history. This environment created as part of this movie is a charming one, but it is also a very simple one – it is not that usually colourful world from a grand historical past as we usually see in historical drama, action or thriller movies. We go through the eyes of an artist who is not just a painter, but someone with intimate feelings which she seems to have gained in connection to her work on the canvas – it reflects there as much as it shows up in her soul.

The claws of flaw :: Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a very slow movie, as you might have expected it from the talks about it, and also by what you have further read about the same. The movie also has some moments which are not utilized the best, especially related to the artistic work, the painting. The focus could have been more on that painting, and the artists feelings should have been above the person’s intimacy. There is also a lot of time taken in the beginning, and in between, which is felt more because of the movie’s slow pace. There could have also been some more characters to provide support, and this movie’s viewpoints are rather limited when you look at it. There is a lot of silence and a good number of dialogues, but there is less happening for the people who are looking for that as the thing which defines a movie – after all, this is close to being what you call the award movie in this part of the world. Two hours were not needed for this movie for sure.

Performers of the soul :: Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a movie nominated for Golden Palm, the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival, where it lost to the Korean Oscar Winner, Parasite, and so you know that this one had to score in its performances more than anything else. It has to be noted that all the main characters in this movie are female, and you see some men for that amount of time which can be better counted using seconds rather than minutes. The movie is that much dependent on its female characters, especially the two main ladies, with more to be added from a third young character, and a little more from the much older character who plays the mother. I haven’t watched many French movies, but Noemie Merlant is the one lovely actress who has come up with a perfect performance here which cannot be matched. She has been very expressive, and very much enchanting as the painter, closely followed by Adele Haenel who manages almost the same. Luana Bajrami, the next important character is done well, and Valeria Golino is there for less time, and does fine.

How it finishes :: The movie is not to be confused with The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, as the title only has the addition of fire in the end, which might have been enough to prove its point. But people are more or less attracted into feeling that this is the same thing, and only the fact that this is not a British or American movie making them feel that this is something else. But the movie is not a lesser classic when you look at it, as it feels like an old-fashioned throughout its run. It is a slow-moving thing of charm, which makes sure that the moments are there to stay. Portrait of a Lady on Fire is more or less a feeling set in that historical period, and it has that delicate beauty with the realistic touch which is to stay for the beauty of tranquility, and not for what we usually remember a movie for. Portrait of a Lady on Fire takes you through the different, classic path.

Release date: 18th September 2019
Running time: 120 minutes
Directed by: Celine Sciamma
Starring: Noemie Merlant, Adele Haenel, Luana Bajrami, Valeria Golino

<— Click here to go to the previous review.

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Clint

What is the movie about? :: Edmund Thomas Clint (Master Alok) is the only son of MT Joseph (Unni Mukundan) and Chinnamma Joseph (Rima Kallingal), and was named after the famous Hollywood actor Clint Eastwood, as his parents were his fan at that time. While his mother remained a housewife, his father has been working as an upper division clerk with the government. He loved colours so much that he started painting at a very small age. His work impressed his parents as well as people around, but their decision to accept the boy’s decision to not attend school anymore was considered, and often declared as radical and foolish by so many of his well-wishers. He has been known to be a curious boy who wished to travel and see things, reflecting them on his canvas, and when he couldn’t, he used the descriptions by the people around him and the books given by his father to come up with an idea of how things could really be, as he combined them with his creativity and sharp intellect.

So, what happens with the events to follow in this biopic? :: It is one of Joseph’s friends Mohanan (Vinay Forrt) who appreciates his work the most, among those outside his family. It is when he is getting more and more attention, and even while getting selected to participate in a number of competitions, that tragedy strikes. His doctor and nephrologist Joseph Abraham (Joy Mathew) lets his parents know the terrible thing, that his kidneys are failing, and there might not be many days left before him – they can only try, according to him. Shattered by this news, Clint’s parents’ life won’t be the same again. But they try their best to keep their child happy during his last days. But fate always wins, and there is no chance to stop him – but can they delay the inevitable as much as they can, and bring some hope? There is the certainty of more being painted by the boy, even when being so close to death.

The defence of Clint :: Showing the life of a child prodigy who is known to have drawn over twenty five thousand paintings during his short life of a little less than seven years, here is a certain amount of inspiration in store with this movie, and we get close to life of the little genius on the big screen. Telling the tale of a naturally skilled person, this one nicely explores how he had been doing what was best at. There are some nice visuals and a few memorable moments to go with the same. The setting is very good, and helps to make the movie better. Even though the child is at the centre, there are some familiar names who get to show their skills in the movie too. The best thing about this movie is that it hasn’t complicated things that much when it could have done the same, and it never does concentrate that much on the disease when the usual tendency to do the same. Without that, the movie provides us a pretty good journey through the life of the famous child prodigy.

The claws of flaw :: There is the movie going so close to melodrama, and some moments just seem to be added to bring the cliche stuff in a predictable manner rather than anything else. We also find some dialogues rather too much for the child, and the sequence involving Salim Kumar is rather strange instead of being funny – it is the worst point of this flick. It even has a barber who looks on like a butcher. The movie also drags in between, which is rather strange, because they could have kept things going just with the paintings, and children playing; also those dialogues between father and son, which could have been the highlights of this movie, goes rather restricted, despite the promise shown in the beginning. There seems to be limitations around here, with the story and its moments, for there was scope to bring in more and more, which could have made this movie a big, colourful thing just like the real child in his real life is known to be. There was the need for quality.

Performers of the soul :: It is never that easy to get a biopic related to the life of one special child with amazing skills at a very young age. It was essential to find the right cast, and Master Alok, despite providing us with a few doubts in the beginning, does a fine reflection of the character he plays here. The existential questions do provide him the chance to take it further, as life after death, one’s existence as stars after that, and many other come to him. He has his best moments after getting the disease though, and goes throughout without struggling at any point. Baby Akshara is good support to him, even though some dialogues given to her just go strange, as with Alok on a few occasions, but latter has better control. Children and their world, if given more life with the colours on the canvas reflected into them, would have provided these two something further cute to work with though.

Further performers of the soul :: It is only after the movie gets to come up with a talk with the real life parents of Clint that we get into the movie. After we get in there, it is Unni Mukundan and Rima Kallingal, especially the latter, who gets to work through the pillars of this movie, and hold it together for its protagonist to manage. Both of them provide us with what seems to be an honest attempt at making this work, and their presence makes some of those problems in this movie to be forgotten. They are really good right from the beginning, and they excel at the emotional sequences. There is not that much revealed about their characters, but the two rightly portray what is needed here. The next big role here goes to Vinay Forrt, who is not far behind in his portrayal of the friend and well-wisher. Renji Panicker comes in and contributes in a good, smaller role, but Joy Mathew is indeed the next noticeable one, as he does his doctor act with no problems.

How it finishes :: One can be sure that this is a good attempt at making a biopic on the life of our own child prodigy. But there will still be doubts if this couldn’t be any better. With four movies being there in the theatres from last ten days, including Thrissivaperoor Kliptham, Varnyathil Aashanka, Sarvopari Palakkaran and Chunkzz, along with the leftover movies Basheerinte Premalekhanam, Sunday Holiday, Kadam Katha and Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, Clint is going to have a tough time in the less number of theatres it is being screened. With some more, attention, this movie could have competed well, and even won against most of these titles – there can be more from the life of a child prodigy who has gone on to become someone whom we all know. As of now, as this movie stands, it becomes also our opportunity to check this movie, and feel the strength of the life of a little master of colours – it is where this movie has our attention, making an attempt not to be forgotten. I watched this one because I wanted to know, and I wished to see everything alive – don’t you too, for such a skilled child?

Release date: 11th August 2017
Running time: 138 minutes
Directed by: Harikumar
Starring: Unni Mukundan, Rima Kallingal, Master Alok, Vinay Forrt, Joy Mathew, Renji Panicker, Baby Akshara, Salim Kumar, KPAC Lalitha

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Nadan

nadan (2)

A Flashback :: Nadan comes from Kamal who had a great beginning to 2013 with the movie Celluloid which was the biopic of J.C Daniel, the father of Malayalam Cinema. It received seven Kerala State Film Awards including the award for Best Film and Best Actor (Prithviraj Sukumaran) and the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Malayalam. Before that, his works included a very interesting take or rather a satire on the pride of a rich common man (Swapna Sanchari), a critically acclaimed work focusing on the fate of poor Indians in the middle east through the life of an immigrant Indian housemaid in Saudi Arabia (Gaddama) and my personal favourite revenge story plus a success at the box-office (Aagathan). So the expectations were going to be high about this one making this the obvious first choice in the absence of a Hollywood release and a good Bollywood release, especially as the other movie at the box-office, Visudhan has got some mixed to mostly negative reviews (the audience was less in number when I watched though).

What is Nadan? :: We have already had a movie based on theatre this year, in the form of Daivathinte Swantham Cleetus (check my review of God’s Own Cleetus), directed by Marthandan and starring Mammootty – It had achieved mostly mixed reviews, but I liked that one for sure, more than most of those who watched it. Who can forget Yavanika? But nothing matches Bharathan’s Chamayam when it comes to the movies set against the backdrop of theatre. There was pure brilliance from Manoj K. Jayan, Murali and also Sithara. The 1989 movie Ramji Rao Speaking (remade in Hindi as Hera Pheri) and its sequel Mannar Mathai Speaking (partially remade in Hindi as Bhagam Bhag) also had some drama elements added to their popularity in a comical way, but nothing serious. Nadan, translated as “actor” gets into this world of theatre with a seriousness like never before. In the current situation where it not really about actor, but about hero and the fan clubs, this movie tries to make an impact in a way which might not be unfamiliar to you, but still remains fresh.

What is it about? :: After a long list of special thanks in the beginning, the movie comes up with the story of Devadas Sargavedi (Jayaram) after telling the story of his grandfather and father who were big names in the Malayalam drama industry. He tries to follow the foot steps, but in the end, losses out due to bad response for the drama compared to mimicry, serial and cinema. As the big screen and the silver screen takes over, the drama losses out – at the venues of temple festivals and church programs, the place is taken by music troops and other similar programs. We know how much it had lost in front of comedy skits, cinematic dance and music programs from the way each cultural programs has been conducted. He losses his muse Jyothi Krishna (Remya Nambeesan) with the rise of cinema as a powerful medium as well as his wife (Sajitha Madathil) as weaknesses take over the artist in him and he falls for his muse. He is left with only a few old artists, an old tempo and no booking for his shows.

The defence of Nadan :: I can remember that I have watched one drama, and yet I can’t remember anything from it, may be because I was a kid. The movie takes us to three timelines, of the 1930s, 1950s and the 1970s – the last one continuing on. The movie takes a non-linear path to tell the story, as it starts from Devadas’ daughter updating her facebook account with the photos of her family, and it ends in the same period. The rest of the movie mostly goes through Devadas’ bad situations with occasional flashbacks. Kamal has successfully made that work. The story is a good experience as it raises nostalgia, and so does it make one think about the loss of dramatic works to the powerful medium which is cinema and the disgusting bore that is mega serial. There might be a question about why and how we have been missing our culture – the answer is the loss of drama, and instead of works which makes us think, we are after pathetic emotional nonsense and new generation nothingness – there comes the part to think for us.

The claws of flaw :: The movie wouldn’t come anywhere near Kamal’s earlier venture which was Celluloid. I would still hope that this one would get some recognition in the next Kerala Film Awards. There is also some fear that most of the new generation won’t accept it with its simple world and the recreation of the life in a way which is not at all an exaggeration. The songs could have been slightly better though, and even visually this can’t compete with Celluloid. There is also a certain amount of drag, especially in the second half. The character of Remya Nambeesan could have some more presence, and there could have been more scenes involving variety drama works and also rehearsals. Still, with whatever it has, the movie manages to connect, even if not in such a way Chamayam could. The beauty of drama is often restricted to the dialogues and the continuous praise that has been bestowed upon it. The climax could have been better. Even as there is a certain amount of sad feeling created in the minds of the viewers, the depth of Celluloid is missing, but it should be mostly due to Prithviraj’s character being a perfect gentleman without ego or flaws.

Performers of the soul :: This is one of those movies which deals with the drama and still the dramatist would seem to get more attention than the work of art – this movie is centered around the life of one dramatist, and yes, Jayaram has done a fantastic job. It would all have depended on how his character is taken, and one has to say that there is nothing lost with Devadas as a dramatist. Still, the movie could have concentrated a little more on drama as a spectacle of the contemporary world (it was good to see that they could touch the nonsense that has been hailed as drama these days, something which we did see a bit in Olipporu). Along with his powerful performance, Sajitha Madathil, Joy Mathew and K. P. A. C. Lalitha strongly contributes. Remya Nambeesan has a smaller role and less screen presence, but when she is there, she scores. One has to appreciate her selection of movies, as she didn’t start off that well, but has come up with her performances in some of the best movies like this one, Philips and the Monkey Pen, Arikil Oraal and Left Right Left, along with some good ones in between. Hareesh Peradi makes another clean strike after Left Right Left. The girl who played the daughter was very good too.

How it finishes :: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire hasn’t arrived here yet. Only God knows when Kick-Ass 2, Ender’s Game and Machete Kills releases here. With the much weaker other movies in the other languages around, Nadan should score good, even as its ability to connect with the newer generation and the entertainment lovers might be a little less. We can see that Nadan has impressed a good number of people, from their opinions. Now it is to be seen if it keeps that positive word of mouth which has been slightly going down, alive. The reviews haven’t been much positive. I would say that good nostalgic movies like Nadan has to be made more often. It is neither of the old generation not the new generation, as it creates its own group of viewers, a fine collection of people who loves movies as well as theatre. Despite its limited abilities and scope, Nadan rises, and that itself is a big positive compared to all those movies which destroy all the potential and go down the sewers or play the safe game and come up with quite an ordinary execution. The success of Nadan will only help the Malayalam movie industry to be innovative without going new generation – that should be great!

Release date: 22nd November 2013
Running time: 140 minutes (estimate)
Directed by: Kamal
Starring: Jayaram, Remya Nambeesan, Sajitha Madathil, Joy Mathew, K. P. A. C. Lalitha, P. Balachandran, Hareesh Peradi, M.Mukundan, Jayaraj Warrier, Shankar Ramakrishnan

nadan copy

@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.