Mongol: the rise of Genghis Khan (dir: Sergey Bodrov) the landscape, the endless meadows with horses galloping on vast stretches of grasslands, the nomadic, pastoral living of peoples in 12th century Mongolia. The film traces the life of young Genghis Khan as he rose from a nobody, a slave, to become one of the greatest conquerors the world has ever seen. The film doesn’t seem grand in scale, however is visually stunning and gives you a sense of grandeur in every frame. Following Genghis Khan’s early years, when he moved from slavery to captivity and then back to slavery, before he finally broke free and gathered his own army, the film portrays Genghis as a quiet and melancholy warrior, deeply influenced by his father’s sense of right and wrong and the heart of the Mongol culture. Throughout his journey’s he attempts to emulate the life of his father in every way possible. Another gift that his father gave him was the choice of a good wife, someone who stood by him through all his disappearances and his subsequent campaigns across the Mongolian steppes to bring together hundreds of warring tribes that forms the modern nation of Mongolia (though Genghis’ victories spread far beyond the Mongol border). 

Tadanobu Asano plays the lead brilliantly and subtly, supported with quiet strength by Khulan Chullun, who plays the wife Borte to the great warrior. 

Asano is both strong on screen and compliments the Mongolian landscape with his stoic and firm presence. Not just is the film a visual treat, but its slow rendering narrative allows you to become part of this era that marked human history so remarkably.

Barring some history lessons on Mongolia, my unfamiliarity with the period and its events allowed me to enjoy the film greatly. A subtle, well made film, on a subject matter that is not as frequently spoken of. 



#love #life #morelove #lovelove #allofus

#TO #Waterfront #tower #birdattack

When I encountered Tolstoy’s Confessions recently, I was made privy to the great writer’s disclosures on faith, his spiritual questioning and the existential conflict he suffered when he turned 50. A few days after I was done reading through his thoughts, I stumbled upon ‘The Last Station’, a film by Michael Hoffman made in 2009, which traces Tolstoy’s last years and  struggles with balancing his marital/worldly life and his spiritual inclinations. 

The Last Station is not just brilliant for Helen Mirren’s acting (playing Tolstoy’s materialistic troublemaker wife of 48 years, Countess Sofya) and Christopher Plummer as Lev Tolstoy, its also brilliant for looking at this world renowned author’s life at a very crucial juncture of his life. This man, who is known to be the greatest writer’s of all time, was at an interesting cross-roads during the latter part of his life. He was not only questioning the why’s and what’s of our human existence, he was also trying to lead by example by leaving behind the materialism of life for a more spiritual and humble existence. 

The film superbly crafts the life that Tolstoy and Sofya lived, as he had given up his novel writing and focussing all his energies to his Tolstonian beliefs and spiritual message. The pacifist that Tolstoy became in those years, was at the heart of all his teachings and sense of being. The film brings to us his thoughts, his eccentricities, his convictions and his conflict with his wife, who is not willing to part with all of his life’s work and jeopardize her family’s inheritance for Tolstoy’s new found pacifist generosity, which would leave everything behind to the Russian people.

Sofya is feisty, melodramatic, whiny, desperate at times and trying to persuade Tolstoy to not give away all of his work to the world for free. While Lev Tolstoy is taken by his beliefs and barring the responsibility he feels towards Sofya, wants to run away to a place of peace, where he can sit and work for the rest of his days. 

Helen Mirren brings something so unique to the role of Sofya, that being the only impediment to Tolstoy’s spiritual beliefs, she remains the symbol of social, religious and normative rules that Tolstoy is fighting against. Her desire to continue to benefit, indefinitely, from Tolstoy’s inherited and acquired wealth finds disappointment and sometimes disdain from the genius writer. The film is both an emotional depiction of the Tolstoy Sofya relationship and also the portrayal of how an artist oftentimes struggles to choose between their work and their worldly life. 

The Last Station is about the juncture where the world’s greatest writer faced the certainty of his end, but didn’t succumb to the pressures of his mortality and what comes with it. 

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#bench #woods #estuary #squamish #loitering #wood #classic #satonittotakepicture #lovedit

#solitary #thechief #squamish #walks #woods #life #nature #reflection #aloneness

#bridge #manmade #finite #nature #mountains #infinite #clouds #lovely #westcoast

I hand it to these two vampires to tell the ‘real’ world living in broad daylight of how we are constantly destroying our world, through conflict and lovelessness and selfish living.

The two vampires (played brilliantly by Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston) are not ordinary by any standards, as they have worked and influenced great writers, philosophers and musicians across hundreds of years, and have come to the conclusion that all of us humans are zombies and that the way things are going humanity is doomed.

Its hard to disagree!

Brilliant in all aspects of narrative, cinematography, music and acting, Only Lovers Left Alive is a must must see.


From The Desk Of


Stacy Martin and Charlotte Gainsbourg (playing the character Joe) are the driving force behind this brazen, in your face discourse on hypersexuality. In my experience of watching cinema for over a decade now, I haven’t seen sexuality so boldly presented. Lars Von Trier’s greatest triumph is that nowhere through the five hours of this two part saga, did I see ‘sex’ from the prism of its ‘taboo’ status in our society. It was the subject of the film, like any other. The actors were naked, people were having sex, you saw erect penises and other parts of the human anatomy. However, not once did I have to say to myself, oh I am watching someone have sex on screen. The brilliance of this filmmaker is the ability with which he normalized this subject matter for me. Hypersexuality is so complex and multilayered that LVT knew this fact with every frame, every sequence of the film. He didn’t attempt to rationalize or simplify it for you. He served it to you as is and then let you do what you wanted with it and this is what I did.

I think the first part in its entirety stands out for me as a masterpiece, where through the narrative, his characterization of Joe (played brilliantly, nuantically by Stacy Martin), the cinematography, the music, the locations … everything true to style and appropriate for the story. LVT knew every frame, every piece of his frame intimately.

The film is told through this flashback narrative that Joe is giving to this man who picked her up from the street, because he found her lying there injured and beaten. He becomes her passive listener, her philosophical mirror, as he contextualizes life and its various ideas for her while she relives her journey to him. While Joe claims that she is a terrible person, Seligman (played by Stellan Skarsgard) wants to know why she thinks that of herself. He questions the very premise of this conclusion that Joe has come to. He tells her that she is not the bad person that she thinks and had it not been the prism of society through which she evaluates her life, she would have been like anyone else. This relationship between the two is powerful. There is critique and discussion and reflection and compassion and sharing….well up until just before the film ends.

Joe’s character is vulnerable, yet self assured and goes looking for what she wants. As a young woman looking to satisfy her sexual (unsatiable) apetite, there is really no reason for her to explain or logify anything. She is who she is and continues to have sex with men at will. The important aspect of the first part is the control Joe’s character exercises. Even though she is the woman, she is the one wanting to be satisfied, not once does she lose that place of power and authority. The basis of Joe’s ability to satisfy herself at will is the power she exudes. She never once comes across a man who refuses to give her what she wants, barring maybe once in the film, where the man wanted to save himself to possibly impregnate his wife who was waiting at home for him, so he rather not have sex with Joe. But outside of that, there was not one instance where she lost control throughout the first part of the film. This was what impressed me the most, inspired me.

There is the discussion that could be had of how far can sex only be a tool to exert power over men? While the film doesn’t dabble in that debate, what it does try to debate is the impact this so called power trip has on Joe and the lasting consequences it leaves her to deal with. In all of this men are shown in very poor light, as these animals easily persuaded to drop their pants at a given opportunity. And interestingly the only man who has some sense of power in the film, Seligman, stands at the other end of the spectrum to Joe. He is asexual.

Then suddenly LVT decides to push the envelope and has Joe fall in love when she finally meets Jerome, the same guy she lost her virginity to in the beginning of the film. Jerome and Joe come together as any two people in love would. But in making love to Jerome, Joe realizes that she has lost all desire for sex. She doesn’t feel anything anymore. She feels lost and suddenly frets to reclaim what she rightfully sees is hers.

The film turns here and we begin our visit to the second part of the story. Jerome allows her to go out looking for men, seeking that lost paradise that she years to reclaim. While the first part is inspiring, touching, empowering to an extent, the second part nose dives like no other film that I have seen. Joe is this victimized, brutalized woman who goes door to door seeking to be repaired, as she can’t feel anything anymore. She can’t seem to feel sexual anymore and thus she is the victim. She is beaten up by her ex-husband Jerome and thus she is a victim. She finds that her battle with self-assertion is slowly being lost and thus she is a victim. Its not what the film was meant to be, I think. LVT plays into the well established stereotype that punishes the woman for being who she is and what she owns as her own. And though he has Seligman take the stage and give a moral speech towards the end of the film, where he actually questions why Joe suffers the way she does, and responds to it by attributing it to her gender, that one speech does not negate the fact that LVT has turned Joe into a victim. Someone who must be punished for her deviance.

Yes there needs to be aspects of the ‘consequence’ of ones actions that follow us, however if sexual prowess is to be punished, because the world thinks so, then Nymphomaniac does itself a disservice.

Secondly, the entire discussion in the second part of the film turns to the analysis of sex addiction as a ‘deviance’. Furthermore, there is a categorization of all deviances, which now includes homosexuality, with pedophilia and the rest. This is troubling because no matter how something is seen by the rest of society, when tackling such a ‘taboo’ (i’ll use the word again) subject, one must question the norm, the status-quo. LVT doesn’t.

The final moments of the film would have left me with some take aways. I was watching and then it happened and all I said to myself was ‘what? .. really?’

This is a powerful film, very unpretentious and daring. However, LVT changed gears mid-point and could not get the speed in his wheels back after.

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May 9
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