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Berberian Sound Studio (#110 of 2)

Film Comment Selects 2013: Miss Lovely

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Film Comment Selects 2013: <em>Miss Lovely</em>
Film Comment Selects 2013: <em>Miss Lovely</em>

Full of inky blacks cast against a sickly patina of pinks, greens, and yellows, Ashim Ahluwalia’s Miss Lovely envisions a world in which Hollywood glamour has been passed through a filter of grime and decay. It’s a fitting look for this period portrayal of Bombay’s “C-movie” scene, one that immerses itself in a nasty demimonde of hustlers, gangsters, and wannabe actors, who produce cheapo trash flicks in blatant defiance of decency laws. Ahluwalia puts a lot of care into depicting this setting, which, despite its late-1980s time period, remains mired in a peak-’70s aesthetic, full of seething disco parties, gargantuan lapels, and regrettable hairstyles. A gifted stylist, the director nails the visual aspect, but struggles finding an interesting story amid the haze of hairspray and garish colors.

AFI Fest 2012: A Hijacking and Berberian Sound Studio

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AFI Fest 2012: <em>A Hijacking</em> and <em>Berberian Sound Studio</em>
AFI Fest 2012: <em>A Hijacking</em> and <em>Berberian Sound Studio</em>

The real world, or at least the attempt to transmit some finite aspect of it, has been the aim of many a film—that transcendental dream that the screen is a window to the world and a movie can provide an authentic experience of it. Danish writer-director Tobias Lindholm searches for that authenticity in A Hijacking, a dramatic story of modern-day naval piracy that was actually shot off the pirate-prone coast of eastern Africa. Some of that verisimilitude finds its way onto the screen, and there are successes in conveying the harrowing experience of a crew in captivity. But as with any grasp toward the real, there are fractures and questions and facets of the story left unexplored.

The film traces the fate of a cargo vessel hijacked by Somali pirates through the eyes of the ship’s cook, Mikkel (Johan Philip Asbæk); we bounce intermittently from the ship back to the home office in Denmark, where shipping CEO Peter (Søren Malling) tries to negotiate for the release of the ship and its crew. We alternate between their perspectives as the days of the standoff drag on into weeks and then months. It’s a study in contrasts, as both men attempt to maintain their resolve under what the film regards as different yet connected kinds of tension.