India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
Screen + Sound + Stage
July 15, 2020

Musings Of The Solitary Watcher

Text by Dilsher Dhillon

28-year-old aspiring game show host Dilsher Dhillon shares the list of 133 movies that he’s watched since March 22nd to help him channel his mental energy in solitude.

In retrospect, it seems laughable that we thought the lockdown (announced on March 22nd) would last only three weeks. Although if most of us had known at the outset that this wasn’t just going to be a brief hiatus and that so many people’s lives would be irrevocably affected, I doubt we would have embraced the novelty of the moment and seized the opportunity to double down on our “passions”.   

And so we did. Like optimal beings, most of us structured carefully designed routines involving both work and play to optimise our time. And as the lockdown continued, we organically entrenched ourselves in these routines, into our respective zones of comfort and palliative bliss.  

*** 

Like long-lost friends, books and movies have always felt familiar to me. But as much as I love to read and profess myself a “culture purist”, I have to admit that films offer me something books can’t: more of my senses are engaged with a lot less effort on my part.  

As a child growing up in an increasingly Westernised urban India, cinema became my Rosetta Stone – helping me interpret life, love and adulthood, and all their various possibilities.  

I’ve watched 133 films (at the time of this article’s submission) in the 115 days since March 22nd, when I began quarantining at my childhood home in Gurgaon.  

As per my Letterboxd diary, I’ve managed to watch a film every day after dinner without fail. Sometimes more than oneI find it easier to get through the day knowing I have a film waiting for me at the end of itEven though my chances of getting “wow-ed” diminish with each week  an obvious effect of saturation — films are, and always will be, a reward.   

But that’s not to say that my primary goal is entertainment or distraction. Nay, at the risk of sounding unbearably pretentious, I’ve consciously tried to make this part of my routine an “educational” exercise as opposed to simply a leisure activity.  

I’ve chosen films that I’d been meaning to watch for ages but never got around to because they seemed too “difficult” or “high-brow” : the esoteric gems hidden within a director or actor’s filmography, the art-house oddities, the black-and-white classics, the under-seen world cinema masterpieces. The Touki Boukis, the Citizen Kanes, the Pyaasas and the Personas.

I’ve tried to educate myself on a number of aspects, such as the way film movements have informed one another, the evolution of directors’ styles and how certain films responded to the predominant issues of their times. 

I’ve watched how Billy Casper, the tormented 15-year-old in Ken Loach’s Kes (1969), finds solace in falconry and, for the first time in his life, feels a sense of purpose and pride. I’ve marvelled at the apolitical defiance of Gabriele and Antonietta, the protagonists of Ettore Scola’s A Special Day (1977), who forge an everlasting connection as the rest of Rome waits at Quirinal Palace to welcome Hitler. Observing such characters stand resolute in the face of insurmountable odds has allowed me to confront the reality of the moment and, consequently, feel more hopeful.  

*** 

Perhaps I’m attempting to ascribe the activity of film-watching some “work-like” qualities as a way to feel more productive. Perhaps I’m trying to avoid the guilt I would have felt by only watching escapist commercial fare at a time like this.  

It’s an elaborate case of self-deception, but an effective one nonetheless. A convenient way to find purpose and pleasure in the same thing as I navigate this strange, interminable stretch of time.  

***

Dilsher’s quarantine watchlist: (This article will be updated every Friday to reflect the movies he’s watched that week)

  1. March 22: Jojo Rabbit, 2019  (3*)
  2. March 23: Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, 2013 (4*)
  3. March 24: 8 1/2 , 1963 (5*)
  4. March 24: The Gentlemen, 2019 (3.5*)
  5. March 25: The Way Back, 2020 (3.5*)
  6. March 25: Songs from the Second Floor, 2000
  7. March 26: Blow the Man Down, 2019 (3.5*)
  8. March 26: Rebels of the Neon God, 1992 (4*)
  9. March 27: Ilo Ilo, 2013 (4.5*)
  10. March 28: A Hidden Life, 2019 (4*)
  11. March 28: Underwater, 2020 (4*)
  12. March 29: Eastern Plays, 2009 (3.5*)
  13. March 29: Under the Volcano, 1984 (3.5*)
  14. March 30: Slacker, 1990 (3*)
  15. March 31: Coraline, 2009 (4*)
  16. March 31: Wanda, 1970 (4*)
  17. April 1: Playtime, 1967 (4*)
  18. April 3: When They See Us, 2019 (4.5*)
  19. April 3: Ready or Not, 2019 (4*)
  20. April 3: Bad Boys for Life, 2020 (3*)
  21. April 4: Never Rarely Sometimes Always, 2020 (4*)
  22. April 6: Little Fugitive, 1953 (3.5*)
  23. April 7: Southland Tales, 2006 (3.5*)
  24. April 7: In the Heat of the Night, 1967 (3.5*)
  25. April 8: A Special Day, 1977 (5*)
  26. April 10: Brazil, 1985 (3*)
  27. April 11: Wild Wild Country, 2018 (4.5*)
  28. April 12: Deepwater Horizon, 2016 (3.5*)
  29. April 12: Cat Sticks, 2019 (3*)
  30. April 13: Julieta, 2016 (4*)
  31. April 14: Court, 2014 (4*)
  32. April 14: On Body and Soul, 2017 (3.5*)
  33. April 16: Monos, 2019 (3.5*)
  34. April 18: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, 2015 (4.5*)
  35. April 18: Le Havre, 2011 (3.5*)
  36. April 19: Putney Swope, 1969 (3.5*)
  37. April 20: Good Morning, 1959 (5*)
  38. April 21: Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, 1985 (5*)
  39. April 22: Fury, 2014 (3.5*)
  40. April 23: The Third Man, 1949 (4*)
  41. April 24: Blackhat, 2015 (3)
  42. April 25: System Crasher, 2019 (3.5*)
  43. April 26: Bad Education, 2019 (4*)
  44. April 27: Touki Bouki, 1973 (5*0)
  45. April 29: Laurence Anyways, 2012 (4*)
  46. April 30: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, 1972 (2.5*)
  47. April 30: Normal People, 2020 (4.5*)
  48. April 30: 3 Women, 1977 (3.5*)
  49. May 1: Wild Strawberries, 1957 (5*)
  50. May 1: Wendy, 2020 (4*)
  51. May 3: Citizen Kane, 1941 (5*)
  52. May 3: Calm with Horses, 2019 (3.5*)
  53. May 3: Ema, 2019 (4*)
  54. May 5: The Assistant, 2019 (3.5*)
  55. May 5: Bicycle Thieves, 1948 (5*)
  56. May 6: Border, 2018 (3*)
  57. May 8: Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro, 1989 (3*)
  58. May 9: The Lone Ranger, 2013 (4*)
  59. May 11: The Son’s Room, 2001 (3.5*)
  60. May 11: The Battle of Algiers, 1966 (4*)
  61. May 13: Kes, 1969 (4*)
  62. May 13: Cemetery of Splendor, 2015 (3*)
  63. May 16: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, 2019 (3.5*)
  64. May 16: Spaceship Earth, 2020 (4*)
  65. May 16: And Then We Danced, 2019 (4*)
  66. May 19: Crumb, 1994 (4*)
  67. May 20: Happy Together, 1997 (4*)
  68. May 22: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000 (4*)
  69. May 23: The Hunt, 2020 (3.5*)
  70. May 23: Cinema Paradiso, 1988 (3.5*)
  71. May 26: Beanpole, 2019 (4*)
  72. May 27: Pyaasa, 1957 (5*)
  73. May 28: Army of Shadows, 1969 (3.5*)
  74. May 29: Ace in the Hole, 1951 (4*)
  75. May  29: The Invisible Man, 2020 (3.5*)
  76. May 30: Top Gun, 1986 (3.5*)
  77. May 3o: The Vast of Night, 2019 (3.5*)
  78. May 31: Eeb Allay Ooo!, 2019 (3*)
  79. May 31: Listen Up Philip, 2014 (4.5*)
  80. Jun 1: Persona, 1966 (5*)
  81. June 1: Hardcore, 1979 (4*)
  82. June 2: Om Dar-B-Dar, 1988
  83. June 3: The Colour Wheel, 2011 (4*)
  84. June 4: Gamak Ghar, 2019 (3*)
  85. June 4: The Daytrippers, 1996 (4*)
  86. June 4: The Merchant of Four Seasons, 1972 (3.5*)
  87. June 5: The Descent, 2005 (4*)
  88. June 6: Searching, 2018 (4*)
  89. June 6: Old Joy, 2006 (5*)
  90. June 7: Shirley, 2020 (3.5*)
  91. June 7: Life Is Sweet, 1990 (4*)
  92. June 8: The Asphalt Jungle, 1950 (4*)
  93. June 9: Killer of Sheep, 1978 (5*)
  94. June 10: Revanche, 2008 (4*)
  95. June 10: All That Jazz, 1979 (4.5*)
  96. June 11: Safe, 1995 (3.5*)
  97. June 13: Da 5 Bloods, 2020 (4*)
  98. June 13: The King of Staten Island, 2020 (3*)
  99. June 13: Deep Cover, 1992 (3.5*)
  100. June 14: Sweet Smell of Success, 1957 (4*)
  101. June 15: Mother, 2009 (4.5*)
  102. June 16: City Lights, 1931 (5*)
  103. June 18: Secret Sunshine, 2007 (4*)
  104. June 18: Z, 1969 (4.5*)
  105. June 20: Les Miserables, 2019 (4.5*)
  106. June 20: Stop Making Sense, 1984 (5*)
  107. June 21: Babyteeth, 2019 (3.5*)
  108. June 22: if…., 1968 (3*)
  109. June 23: Life Itself, 2014 (5*)
  110. June 24: Lone Star, 1996 (4*)
  111. June 25: Come and See, 1985 (4.5*)
  112. June 27: The Raid 2, 2014 (4*)
  113. June 28: The Swimmer, 1968 (5*)
  114. June 28: Rango, 2011 (5*)
  115. June 29: Tokyo Story, 1953 (5*)
  116. June 30: House of Games, 1987 (2.5*)
  117. July 1: A Face in the Crowd, 1957 (4.5*)
  118. July 2: The Firemen’s Ball, 1967 (4.5*)
  119. July 3: Menace II Society, 1993 (4*)
  120. July 4: Magic Mike XXL, 2015 (4.5*)
  121. July 5: Unrelated, 2007 (3.5*)
  122. July 6: Closely Watched Trains, 1966 (3*)
  123. July 7: Hamilton, 2020 (5*)
  124. July 8: Julia, 2008 (4.5*)
  125. July 8: A White, White Day, 2019 (3.5*)
  126. July 10: Love Streams, 1984 (3.5*)
  127. July 10: Palm Springs, 2020 (4.5*)
  128. July 11: The Wild Goose Lake, 2019 (4*)
  129. July 12: Sideways, 2004 (5*)
  130. July 12: First Cow, 2019 (3.5*)
  131. July 14: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, 1966 (5*)
  132. July 15: The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, 2005 (3.5*)
  133. July 16: Asuran, 2019 (3.5*)
  134. July 17: Black Coal, Thin Ice, 2014 (4*)
  135. July 18: Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, 1985 (5*)
  136. July 18: The Spirit of the Beehive, 1973 (5*)
  137. July 20: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, 1962 (5*)
  138. July 20: One Cut of the Dead, 2017 (4.5*)
  139. July 21: Primer, 2004 (3*)
  140. July 22: Saint Frances, 2019 (4*)
  141. July 22: Rust and Bone, 2012 (4*)
  142. July 23: A Summer’s Tale, 1996  (5*)
  143. July 25: Distant Voices, Still Lives, 1988 (5*)
  144. July 25: The World Is Yours, 2018 (4*)
  145. July 26: The Good, The Bad, The Weird, 2008 (4*)
  146. July 27: Corpus Christi, 2019 (4.5*)
  147. July 28: La Notte, 1961 (5*)
  148. July 29: Still Walking, 2008 (5*)
  149. July 30: Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, 1991 (4.5*)
  150. July 30: Amarcord, 1973 (5*)
  151. July 31: Bodied, 2017 (3.5*)
  152. August 1: The Mermaid, 2016 (3.5*)
  153. August 2: A Brighter Summer Day, 1991 (5*)
  154. August 2: Irma Verp, 1996 (4.5*)
  155. August 3: Black Narcissus, 1947 (3.5*)
  156. August 3: Dogs Don’t Wear Pants, 2019 (3.5*)
  157. August 4: Black Orpheus, 1959 (5*)
  158. August 4: Comrades: Almost a Love Story, 1996 (4*)
  159. August 6: Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, 2011 (3.5)
  160. August 6: Daisies, 1966 (5*)
  161. August 7: The Work, 2017 (4*)

Dilsher Dhillon daylights as a journalist and screenwriter. When he’s not succumbing to existential despair, he’s usually dreaming up get-famous-quick schemes with his twin brother or scouring Tumblr for all things beautiful.

Related posts from Verve:


Leave a Reply