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Didier Flamand in CLOWNWISE

The first–and hopefully not the last–film we managed to catch at the Mumbai Film festival this year was Clownwise.

The Slovakian film is a dark drama about ageing, friendship, and disease, but the filmmakers (writers Boris Hybner and Petr Jarchovský, and director Viktor Taus) inject so much humour into the tale it is not unfair to wonder whether the audience is indulging in nervous laughter during moments of levity.

The film begins with the return of Oskar (Didier Flamand) to his native land 30 years after he left for Paris and a better life. The country was not free when he left and the work he did with his compatriots Max (Oldrich Kaiser) and Viktor (Jirí Lábus) was considered important. Various reasons are ascribed to Oskar’s departure and opinions abound about the work he has done since he broke up the original trio.

As the film progresses we learn that Oskar abandoned his first wife and young daughter; we learn that Max is severely ill; and that Viktor’s wife has fallen victim to Alzheimer’s. None of this is cheerful stuff, but again I guess it would be completely pointless if we watched conventional Bollywood/Hollywood movies during a film festival.

The narrative progresses at a decent pace event hough it takes a little while to get to the big reveal but the performances are powerful and help pull the film together.I have to make a special mention of Milan Chadima’s cinematography: the way the camera floats and swoops and twirls and spins, it is a thing of beauty and serves to significantly energise the film. At its core this is a narrative that is being played out in a million homes/lives around the world and I suppose that specific universality is what lends this movie its power.

While I hope we watch a few more films before festival’s end I am pleased with the start we made.