Movie Review- Captain Fantastic

SPOILER ALERT BE WARNED

You know the feeling when you go into a movie with zero expectations and end up being so moved and intellectually provoked that you feel the need to write about it? These are the best kinds of movies!

This movie is so not mainstream that I walked into the theatre expecting to watch a superhero movie. The movie opened on the breathtaking landscapes of the forests of the Pacific Northwest. All in all, if you love nature, are a hippie at heart and reject the notions of capitalism and organised society, this is THE movie to watch. But, other than the main theme of a family living autonomously, led by a “fantastic” patriarch, Ben Cash (very convincingly played by our very own ex Aragorn Viggo Mortensen) in the forest, away from civilization, the most interesting aspect of the movie is the director’s take on the notion of family. How parents shape their kids – the way they think, feel, behave, judge, act. In the movie, the kids undergo regular physical training during the day, learn how to subsist in the forest, hunt and skin game for food and take care of plants. More interestingly, they are home-schooled from scratch, and in the evenings, they read about quantum physics, mathematics, philosophy and literature. The children are also treated like real adults, being allowed to drink wine, to swear and are not cushioned by lies, but are told the bold truth because their parents trust them to be able to handle it well. The movie had really innovative notions about education – for example, when reading a book, they were discouraged to use the word “interesting”, instead they had to really critically analyse the way the text made them think and feel.

Training to make your body strong during the day, hunting for food, reading to feed the brain, and making music to bond as a family. Who needs anything else, really? It seems like the director Matt Ross made a movie about his dream way of best raising up his kids. Being able to wholly influence your kids in the “right” direction, with the right values, ways of critical thinking, right music, books, philosophies – this must be every parent’s fantasy.

Now for the matriarch. The movie starts with the news that the mother, Leslie, was bi-polar and could not be treated, even in the best facilities, and ended up ending her life. The six children are devastated – they want to attend the funeral. So they inevitably have to take their bus from their home to drive to New Mexico where Leslie’s parents were planning an elaborate funeral for her – when she wanted to be cremated. The scenes of the Cash children dealing with civilisation are hilarious, and each of the six children are extremely charming in their own unique way.

Well, however, like with all escapism stories (think the Beach movie), their underlying philosophy are put to test by the notion of physical and mental “safety”. Ben starts to blame himself for Leslie’s disease and for putting the children at risk. The movie has a mushy ending which almost (Ok, it did!) bring tears to my eyes, especially with this song which means so much to me already (this version is sung by the cast): Sweet Child of Mine

In fact, the whole movie soundtrack is epic, it makes me feel like I am actually in the Pacific Northwest forests in a bus called Steve. The soundtrack features the likes of Israel Nash, Sigur Ros, Jonsi and Alex, really, music for the soul. Whole soundtrack listing can be checked out here: http://www.soundtrack.net/album/captain-fantastic-soundtrack/.

Anyway, a must watch – for parents, for wannabe parents, for families, for hippies, ex-hippies, those fed up with predictable movies, for those who want to be moved, for nature lovers, for a change – please watch it!

Best movie quote:

Rellian (the most angry and rebel of the 6 kids) :“If you assume that there is no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, that there are opportunities to change things, then there is a possibility that you can contribute to making a better world”.

Rating: 8.5

Les Enfants de Troumaron / The Children of Troumaron

So the event of the week is most certainly the Avant-Premiere of Les Enfants de Troumaron, which I had the chance to attend thanks to the Institut Francais de Maurice. I have always loved Ananda Devi, ever since I read Pagli more than a decade ago. Her prose is like poetry, and the fact that she writes about Mauritius in a way that no one has ever written about Mauritius before, especially how she turns the underlying cultural tension into art, makes her one of the most unique and refreshing Mauritian authors I have ever had the pleasure to read. One of her books has been turned into a movie previously: La Cathedrale. Les Enfants de Troumaron is based on her book Eve de ses Decombres. I have never read it, and wanted to discover it firsthand watching the movie.

The Avant-Premiere was held at Bagatelle, and the cinema was packed, not a single seat was free. We showed up early and… Ananda Devi was there! Clad in a sky blue sari, she looked more beautiful than ever. I had never seen her this close before. If I wasn’t practically forced to talk to her, I would have shied away for sure. What do you say to one of your favourite authors when you finally get the chance to talk to them? Well, I had so, so much to say to her, but only managed to tell her that I was a big fan. I guess that would have to do for now.

The movie was directed by Harrikrishna Anenden and Sharvan Anenden, Ananda Devi’s husband and son. Harrikrishna could not make it to the Avant-Premiere because he was presenting the movie at some festival in Canada. And Sharvan Ananden, in Ananda Devi’s own words, preferred l’ombre a la lumiere, being behind the camera instead of being in the spotlight of the stage, and he preferred to let his work speak for itself…

(SPOILER ALERT!!!!)

The movie opened on Eve, played by Kitty Phillips, casually pacing in the dark streets of colonial Port Louis, dressed in shorts and boots, smoking, waiting for her next customer. Seeing these familiar places in this light was quite an experience. Little things so beautifully portrayed, like the SDF (homeless) casually raising his head from his outdoor bed to check out Eve’s customers, not really interested, just out of passive curiosity. The movie is about 4 youngsters living in Troumaron, a rundown National housing Corporation set of flats on the outskirts of Port Louis, and how they all want to run away. Literally Troumaron means “brown hole”, but in the local slang, it has a dirtier meaning, which suits the place depicted in the story.

Eve is beautifully played by Kitty Phillips. I cannot imagine anyone doing a better job at impersonating the jaded 17 year old prostitute Eve. She is the backbone and the soul of the story. Her nonchalance, her resignation, her strength, her despair, which were no doubt intricately described in the book, were tastefully portrayed in the details of the scenes: Eve staring at the ceiling while smoking in her trashy room, Eve talking to her customers in night-time Port Louis, Eve shaving her head to renounce her feminity… The other actors, considering that none of them had real previous cinema experience, were really good as well.

But the beauty of the movie is the way the whole thing is packaged. The locations were beautiful and unique: Baie Du Tombeau, Apravashi Ghatt for the prison scenes, NHDC flats for Troumaron, Caudan (the steps leading to the water), the streets of Port Louis, the roof of the NHDC flats, next to a Resiglas water tank… Being a Mauritian and walking through these places every day, the scenes had a special meaning. I am not an expert, but I think the movie was filmed in a very professional and modern way. The way the killer was filmed slicing his vegetables for dinner made me think of Dexter’s opening credits. The soundtrack included a few of Menwar’s songs, which contributed to the “ghetto” atmosphere of Troumaron, and some Indian ghazal type songs which added depth to some of the scenes.

All in all, the movie was Ananda Devi material experienced in a totally different and beautiful light. And a first for Mauritian cinema. Les Enfants de Troumaron is proof that, given the right support, there might be hope for the industry. And being a young Mauritian always looking to be inspired, this movie made me feel so much more than I would have been able to feel with a non-Mauritian movie. That is why I feel the first step towards developing a sense of belonging to a country is to invest in the local arts…

Bridge to Terabithia

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This movie gets an 8.5, I loved, loved it! It’s got a feel of Anne of Green Gables to it, which is my favourite book, anime, cartoon, character, fantasy world of all times. The movie brings you back to your childhood world in a totally innocent, unpretentious, delicious, irresistible, fantastic way.  Anna Sophia Robb is mesmerizing in the role of Leslie Burke, the Peter Pan-like little girl with the frivolous imagination, who leads her friend Jess into a magical world that only the two of them share. The movie transports you back to your childhood fantasy world, reminds you of the special magical bond you shared with your childhood best friend, and also of the pain of when you lost it (which can be maybe figuratively interpreted as growing up…) and how you will always strive to remember that special feeling and those indescribable times you spent together, lost faraway in the fantasy you created, just you and your best friend in your very own cosy bubble, against the world…  Incredibly touching, surprisingly fresh, interestingly detailed, I will definitely have to read the book.

Detachment

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Wow what a movie! The kind that carries you, awakes certain thoughts in your head, and leaves you changed. Every wannabe teacher should watch this movie about the American teaching system. Ever dreamed about devoting your life to a job that makes a difference in the world? Have you ever thought what if you do your best and still fail? Will you be able to deal with the consequences? And what about your own baggage? Everybody has problems, life is hard, but to be able to forget everything and devote your whole life to a cause, however hard and unrewarding it might be, to do your best… this is what this movie is about.

Hugo Cabret

The other day, I had the chance to watch Hugo Cabret, and I absolutely loved it. I never thought a movie about two kids would prove to be so sweet and touching. Martin Scorcese outdid himself in transporting us to Old Paris and into the dreams of a little boy. If I get the chance I am definitely going to read the book.

Hugo Cabret: So I figured, if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason…

This quote is quite central to the plot, and I was deeply touched by it, especially considering that I am still trying to figure out my own function in the world. The characters were all very endearing, and now I know who George Melies was, apart from one of the Eleves Dieux in Bernard Werber’s Trilogie des dieux.

All in all, Hugo Cabret is a feast for the eyes and the soul. I feel a lot like how I felt after watching Ratatouille and Amelie Poulain, a sweet feel-good sensation, like a nice and warm chicken soup…