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October 16, 2017

A Review Of What We Watched On Day 4 Of MAMI Mumbai Film Festival

Text by Nittal Chandrana

A story about two lovers who meet in their dreams and the journey of a Japanese woman pursuing her English language instructor

Testről és Lélekről (On Body and Soul)

Country: Hungary

Language: Hungarian

Duration: 116 minutes

Writer-Director: Ildikó Enyedi

Cast: Géza Morcsányi, Alexandra Borbély

Sensitive, mesmerising and beautiful, On Body and Soul is the story of lovers who meet each other in their dreams, urging them to explore the possibility of a relationship in real life.

Endre and Mária work together at a slaughterhouse, and through a strange exercise, realise that they both have the same dream. A stag and doe explore a snow-covered forest together and drink water from a lake. Both Endre and Mária take baby steps towards each other, and towards figuring out whether this is just a strange coincidence or an indication of something more. The two are introverts and find it extremely difficult to approach each other. Which is why when they do, every greeting, every effort made, and every line of conversation means so much more. Endre is a cripple and initially feels like Mária doesn’t want him because of his disability. She, on the other hand, is painfully shy and displays signs of Asperger’s syndrome which makes normal interaction like smiles and any physical contact a humongous hurdle.

This delicate interchange is juxtaposed with the brutality of a slaughterhouse. One sees many killings, shattered limbs and blood, and in a way, this renders the other part of the movie with a delightfully tender quality. The performances are real, touching and seem effortless. The very premise is so interesting that it overrides all the bizarre that they throw at the audience, although there are times when it seems to be moving a tad too slow.

It won the Golden Bear, the most prestigious award at the Berlin Film Festival and while this gives it that additional level of validation, it also carries the load of high expectations. We’d say it landed somewhere in the middle.

Oh Lucy!

Country: USA, Japan

Language: English, Japanese

Duration: 95 minutes

Director: Atsuko Hirayanagi

Screenplay: Atsuko Hirayanagi, Boris Frumin

Cast: Shinobu Terajima, Josh Hartnett, Kaho Minami, Kôji Yakusho, Shioli Kutsuna

This film was quintessentially Bollywood wrapped in Hollywood packaging. No wonder we loved it. Following the journey of a Japanese woman pursuing her English language instructor who lives in America, the movie was unpredictable, fresh, funny and gobsmacking, in equal parts. We lapped up all the random plot twists and after a while, were so desensitised to any sort of shock stimulus, that when one of the characters proceeded to jump off a cliff, there was laughter; no gasps.

Setsuko (Shinobu Terajima) takes a trial English language class on the insistence of her niece, Mika (Shiolo Kutsuna), to whom she gave a sizeable amount of money for college. The instructor John (Josh Hartnett) has an informal way of teaching, which Setsuko is very taken by, and she falls for him. This is where she is rechristened Lucy. When she returns to class the next day, they tell her that John has quit and returned to the USA. Further on, she is told that her niece has run away with him. With her money. If at this point you are feeling sorry for our protagonist, we urge you to spare these emotions for a little later.

Setsuko and her sister Ayako (Kaho Minami) set off to America in search of John and Mika respectively. The sisters don’t really get along and their squabbles are a joy to watch. I don’t know what it is about the Japanese that makes them steer clear of physical touch like hugging, but then think nothing of getting into a catfight. It made for multiple comical moments though, and we can’t really complain. Once there, they realise that Mika has abandoned John, stolen his car, and taken off on her own. If at this point you’re feeling sorry for John, we urge you to spare those emotions for a little later as well. Setsuko and John have sex when they are both under the influence of drugs and she even gets the same tattoo that he has. And no, that’s not it. We later find out that dear John already has a wife and child, and was lying to Mika all along. Let’s just leave it at Setsuko returns to Japan sad and dejected, and after an attempted suicide does find her happily ever after. Or at least, someone to hold her through the pain. And sometimes, that’s enough.

Terajima’s performance was lovely and she had the audience’s sympathy from the word go. Whether it was in the more endearing moments between John and her, or in the fiercer ones, with her sister, here was a character who wanted a different life and went after it, no questions asked. However foolish or dumb such a love might seem, my gosh it is all sorts of positive, and instead of thinking ‘Lucy, you fool, please go back home’, you find yourself wishing that John and she do end up having a little something together. Hartnett was an American stereotype in so many ways, and yet he wasn’t. I mean he did learn Japanese, a second language, didn’t he? (We kid) He helped the sisters find Mika, stood up for them when a waiter was mildly racist and did we mention how charming he is to watch?

The movie keeps getting more and more bizarre after each big reveal and you wonder how far they can take it before they lose you. But by then, you are so invested in the film, that you do indulge the story. Romance, drama, tragedy, thrills — it had a little of everything and while this one won’t rake in any awards, it won’t disappoint on the entertainment side of things. And why did that character jump off a cliff, you ask? Watch the film to find out!

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