De Martes a Martes
First-time actor Pablo Pinto plays the lead character of Juan Benitez in De Martes a Martes (From Tuesday to Tuesday) with such quiet intensity that it would be perfectly okay to be afraid of this gentle giant if you saw him approaching in a dark alley.

This is masterfully directed filmmaking. Director Gustavo Fernandez Triviño introduces us to the characters in Juan’s world at a leisurely pace. The people he works with, the people at the gym he works out at, the pretty girl who serves him at the store he frequents en route to work, his wife and daughter, all of them are introduced, and their relationship to Juan clarified in a patient manner. it’s as if he is saying, ‘pay attention, this will matter later on.’ And it does.

One evening, after Juan has begun exploring the possibility of realizing his dream of opening his own gym he witnesses the brutal rape of the girl from the store he frequents. Juan doesn’t act in the moment (he seldom does) and so the girl is brutalized by a wealthy stranger who acts under the assumption that ‘she was asking for it’. And because we have been following the slow-moving, deep-deliberating lead character for so long, it takes a moment to spark outrage at the fact that he doesn’t act to rescue the girl.

Instead he blackmails the wealthy man. And extracts a substantial sum of money from him. Does this make Juan selfish? Not entirely.

It is difficult to discuss a movie like this wherein the narrative unfolds so deliberately that it would be a disservice to the audience to know how it all ends without having seen it for themselves. This film got the most wholehearted applause of the four films I’ve watched at the festival thus far. And an acquaintance we watched the movie with called it “surprisingly feel-good,” which is not the first description one might dream up for a movie that pivots on the act of rape.

De Martes a Martes is not light entertainment by any standard, but for the way it is made and for the lead performance it is a film I wholeheartedly recommend. Seek it out, and if you are in Mumbai, the film plays again at Cinemax Versova tomorrow (Sunday, 21 October) at 8:15 pm.

Miss Lovely
Before De Martes a Martes we caught Mumbai-based director Ashim Ahluwalia’s debut fiction feature Miss Lovely. Set in the sleazy world of C-grade cinema in the 1980s, the movie is a love/lust triangle featuring two brothers Vicky (Anil George) and Sonu (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) involved in the business of making sleazy films, and the actress Pinky (Niharika Singh) who drives a wedge between them.

I couldn’t help thinking that the simple story at the heart of Miss Lovely wasn’t effectively extracted by the filmmaker (who also edited the film). Way too often one was taken out of the narrative by strange editing choices. Way too often I was forced to wonder whether this story was being told with clips that most editors would throw out, for being out of focus, or for having no bearing to the story.

The film does a decent job of capturing the time, as well as the grindhouse-y vibe of those movies that featured sex and horror in copious amounts. But I didn’t really feel like I was told a story.