My Cinema Paradiso

#2: The Patience Stone (2012)

The patience stone

 In a nameless country, and with nameless characters, writer and director Atiq Rahimi weaves a hypnotizing tale about the cultural and sociological fall of a country, as seen through the life of one of its women; the mesmerizing Golshifteh Farahani. This film will not blow you away, it will not amaze you, or give you any sort of immediate satisfaction. However, give it a couple of days and it will creep its way into your heart and soul, expanding on every aspect of delayed gratification.

 In a war-torn middle-eastern country, a young woman (Farahani) looks after her comatose husband, along with her two daughters, all cramped together in their old filthy house in a poor neighborhood that is in fact the frontline of the ongoing war. As the conditions harden, the woman finds herself talking to her unhearing husband, confessing her deepest secrets, and recounting her life story and how she came to marry him for ten years without him once listening to what she had to say. The longer she stays with the unconscious husband, the more she talks, and the more she talks, the more she reveals about the melancholic and often shocking mode of life imposed on the women of this country. It doesn’t really matter which oppressive middle-eastern country is depicted in The Patience Stone; as they all seem to obey the same pattern.

 The beautiful Golshifteh Farahani pulls her weight in a bewitching performance that is indisputably the best of her career. She puts her heart into her character, and carries out her performance with such skill and mastery, where every blink of an eye conveys multiple layers of emotion. With the addition of the attentive cinematography of Thierry Arbogast, and the dexterous script of Rahimi and Jean-Claude Carrière , The Patience stone captures the spirit of Farahani’s performance like no other, and ultimately that of human emotion itself.


 I read some reviews arguing that the film is rather slow or even boring. I remember when I first watched this gem I felt absolutely compelled to re-watch it again immediately. It was spectacularly abrim with emotions I had to watch it again to make sure I did not miss any of its facets. However, I do believe that a certain degree of knowledge of the dire conditions and toxic customs of middle-eastern countries similar to the one represented by Rahimi is crucial to recognize the expertly nuanced performance of Farahani, otherwise subtle emotions such as her fear of disobeying her unconscious husband, or her mixed feelings towards religion might go unnoticed.

 The Patience Stone is a heartbroken love letter from Rahimi to his homeland Afghanistan. His portrayal of the chaos and turmoil is highly accurate yet remains as elegant as can be. Even scenes of violence and assault are depicted with such grace that maintains the privacy and humanity of his characters. He expertly embodies the way war, and fanaticism affect an entire country through the solemn tale of one of its women. This film is a beauty that might prove baffling to some, but those who can truly see its essence will ultimately grow sentimental about it, I am sure of it.

My Cinema Paradiso

#1: Lore (2012)


 Now where do I begin? The stunning visual storytelling of Australian director Cate Shortland, or the graceful camerawork of Adam Arkapaw, or the beautifully humane performance of Saskia Rosendahl, and let’s not forget Max Richter’s haunting soundtrack. I watched this feature when I was fifteen without any prior knowledge of it, or all the beauty, love, and humanity it entails. It was the most spellbinding film I’ve ever seen at the time, and no matter how many incredible classic films, or huge blockbusters I watch, Lore will always remain this unparalleled work of art that will undoubtedly surpass them all.

 The story is set in 1945, after the fall of Nazi Germany; five siblings brought up by Nazi parents are forced to face the physical and psychological aftermath of the war after their parents’ arrest, as they are forced to travel across Germany to find their grandmother. Their journey, which spans the entire length of the country, paints a much more chaotic and depressing picture of the Allied victory of WW2. Lore is simply a coming of age tale, similar in its setting to Empire of the Sun and Hope and Glory, only this time it is told from the losing side. As the siblings’ journey continues, the oldest of the children struggles to reconcile her Nazi core beliefs with the ever-changing world around her, and as the children are eventually steered to depend on a stranger they met on the road whom Lore believes is a Jew, her struggles become much more psychologically exhausting.

Lore 2

 The film offers a tenderly humane look at a certain part of history often overlooked. It’s very hard to discuss this film without having any political arguments, or falling into a pitch black dark hole of what is and what is not politically correct, but the truth is this film is not about the politics, and dwelling on its righteousness will only prevent its viewer from seeing the greater picture. Director Cate Shortland elevates her characters from being simply pawns either on that side or the other, the time she chose for her film is one of great disarray and confusion, a time where political parties proved nugatory, and the only things deemed valuable where survival and clinging to one’s sanity.

  I remember quite vividly how Lore made me realize there was so much more to films than simply the story. It was Adam Arkapaw’s enchanting cinematography; the outstanding frame composition, the unforgettable cropped close-ups, the tasteful slow motion segments, and the slightly shifting color palette that tends to emphasize its characters’ state of being. It was all so magical to me when I first saw it, and it remains as such today. The cinematography of this film alone secured its place as my all-time favorite, but I believe it’s only fair to commend the impeccable sound design and editing of the film, which meticulously conveyed the distress and despair of Lore and her surroundings. With the addition of the mesmerizing soundtrack which I cited once above, Lore remains this irreplaceable film that introduced me to the world of cinema.

My Cinema Paradiso

My Cinema Paradiso

 Have you ever watched a film that deeply affected you? a film that nestled itself in your mind for days and in your heart for life? Do you remember the first film, or films that simply turned you from a regular movie goer to a passionate cineaste? well I do. I have contemplated the idea of making a list of the films that actually made me as passionate about films as I am today, the films that I watched at a younger age and was blown away by their beauty and brilliance, the films that became an integral part my personality and eventually shaped my taste for the arts.

 This blog has been a very personal project of mine, therefore I think it’s only about time I shared this very special list of films that both awed and inspired me, and ultimately formed the person I am today. This is my Cinema Paradiso.

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Film Reviews

Film Review: Hounds of Love (2016)



 Australian director Ben Young’s debut feature film is a dark tale, the darkest I’ve seen in years, about a murderous couple in the suburbs of a small town in Australia. The film is a Psychological thriller based on the murders and kidnappings of Perth’s murderous couple The Birnies, and though this fact is never mentioned in the film, the similarities between the murders committed by The Birnies and those represented on screen are incredibly hard to miss. Now before we go any further, this film is indeed not for the faint of heart. Despite the fact that almost all of the violence and gore is done off-screen, Hounds of Love remains a nerve wrecking experience that will ultimately disturb its viewer.

 The story follows a rebellious high school girl, Vicky (Ashleigh Cummings), who is stuck in the middle of her parents’ divorce. One night she escapes her house after being grounded only to be lured into the home of deranged couple Evelyn and John White (Emma Booth and Stephen Curry). What follows is an 80 minute long nightmare of disturbing perversity and torture, and some very fine filmmaking. The strength of Hounds of Love lies not in the gore and the bloodshed, but in the fact that it keeps everything as realistic and authentic as possible. The way John and Evelyn lead their lives is highly plausible which makes for an even more chilling story. In other words; Ben Young managed to capture true human evil on screen, and it is both unsettling and mesmerizing.


 As the film progresses, we delve deeper into the demented psyches of the couple as the dynamic behind their relationship unfolds in front of Vicky, who soon realizes that her only way to escape is to use this dynamic in her favor. Hounds of Love goes the extra mile in trying to explain the highly abusive codependent relationship that binds these two murderers together. Backed by praise worthy performances from all the cast – especially the two leading ladies – the film delivers a powerful and troubling character study of the minds of serial killer couples. Perhaps the film’s only sin is that its pace is often confusing; with it being too slow for a thriller, yet too fast for a drama. This discontinuity gives an impression of being rather underdeveloped.

 Hounds of Love is a film destined for critical acclaim. Its powerful camerawork, intense performances, and ultra-realism all make for a respectable work of art that would both shock and captivate its audience, and it would definitely appear on lots of lists for best Australian films in the future.

Rating: 7.5/10


Film Reviews

Film Review: Baby Driver (2017)

 I have to be honest with you here; I was in a position to choose between Baby Driver, Edgar Wright’s latest action-packed, comedy heist movie, and Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan’s epic endeavor that has been showered by rave reviews from the critics over the past few weeks. Needless to say I went with Baby Driver, because I would take Wright’s quirky originality over Nolan overrated pretentiousness any day, but let’s not get into this argument just yet.


 Starring Ansel Elgort as the title character; a young man who is forced to work as a getaway driver for a crime lord called Doc (Kevin Spacey) in order to pay off his debt. Trouble arises as soon as Bats (Jamie Foxx), a wild and unpredictable mobster, joins the group for a risky heist that threatens to get everyone in it imprisoned or worse, and that includes fellow mobsters Buddy (Jon Hamm), and Darling (Eiza Gonzalez). The film which includes some of the most impressive car chase scenes over the past few years was shot by Bill Pope (The Matrix, Cosmos) with some gorgeous black and white vignettes about the main character’s love interest Deborah (Lily James) and a colorful color palette typical of Wright.

 The film also contains an extraordinary soundtrack including both classic rock tracks, and some original tracks remixed from actual dialogue in the movie. The remarkable thing with Wright’s use of the music in the film is that it’s not there simply to add some liveliness in the background of a scene, the music of Baby Driver is more or less the star of the film. It is explained in the film that the main character has a constant buzzing in his ears and thus uses music to drown it out, however the way the music tracks are incorporated in the car chases and basically the characters’ everyday lives goes way beyond that. According to an interview, Wright stated that the opening scene of the film was inspired by the track used in it; “Bellbottoms”, and that he even included the tracks he wanted to use in every scene with the script surprisingly before the studio secured these tracks’ from their owners.


 Baby Driver is an exhilarating ride with great visual comedy and not just some cool punch lines, it has a refreshing approach when it comes to using music in an action film, which keeps the whole thing original and creative. However, the film doesn’t really take itself too seriously in terms of exploring a new aspect of filmmaking or something similarly grand; it is simply a heist movie, it’s true that it’s a really cool heist movie, but it doesn’t really introduce any groundbreaking ideas to the genre, and that is exactly why I went with Baby Driver and not Dunkirk, because personally I’d rather pay for a film that knows exactly how good it is and what it offers to its viewers than another with somewhat exaggerated delusions about its own artistic value, and that kind of self-awareness is exactly why I believe Baby Driver will eventually evolve into a cult classic over the following couple of years.

Rating: 6.5/10