Directed by Chaitanya Tamhane
A sewerage worker's dead body is found inside a manhole in Mumbai. An ageing folk singer is tried in court on charges of abetment of suicide. He is accused of performing an inflammatory song which might have incited the worker to commit the act. As the trial unfolds, the personal lives of the lawyers and the judge involved in the case are observed outside the court.
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★★★★★ review by Arsaib Gilbert on Letterboxd
The intimate yet unobtrusive and "objective" visual approach Frederick Wiseman is known for is commonly seen in both documentary and narrative cinema these days, but it is rarely applied with as much discipline and restraint as it is by a 27-year-old Chaitanya Tamhane in his remarkable debut feature, Court. The film employs the context of a trial to explore a number of pressing sociopolitical concerns facing Indian society today. Given the subject matter, Tamhane’s tableau aesthetic feels entirely appropriate; like Wiseman, it allows him to be as unbiased as possible while maintaining a quiet, observational immersion into the film’s very real and complex milieu.
★★★½ review by Milez Das on Letterboxd
Winner of National Award for Best Film of the Year.
I was really excited to see Court. As it has won the National Award (which is equivalent to the Oscars) you tend to go with an expectations.
When the movie ended I started to analyze the movie. First I started with the story. Well, the story told was pure, simple and real. And this is a rare thing in India to show.
The film examines the Indian legal system through the trial of an aging folk singer in a lower court in Mumbai.
One of the most thing that shocked me was how the Court hearings were Silent... and this is the more rare thing in India.Silence....
Every proceeding is done withing the law, nobody argues more or less. Everything is examined. Also why the cases are going on and on and on for so many years. Lack of evidence, or presenting prepared witness.
There are many things brought up to light here. The story is beautifully told and it never misplaces itself.
Well, as much as I loved the story, I was flown away but its direction. When I was watching each and every frame used in this film or even the movie ended, I just saw Michael Haneke. I saw his movie Cache. The silent ambiance, the close ups during conversations, placing camera at an angle where the scene will go on the camera won't move. I never saw Chaitanya Tamhane's direction in the movie.
Why this movie is powerful, it is because of the screenplay and I applaud Chaitanya for writing such a great film, I was so glad because in our film club we always talk about the script and the screenplay and we have never mentioned and Indian Film in it and after watching Court I can proudly mention it.
The movie is intelligent with an powerful script.
★★★★ review by Chevalier on Letterboxd
Mandatory double feature with Masayuki Suo's I Just Didn't Do It, both films about fundamentally broken legal systems fueled by absurd guidelines. The law is suppose to protect the population, not punish them without reason. Sadly stories like this one will always remain relevant.
★★★★ review by Ben-ish on Letterboxd
I meant to write something about this, one of the very best films I saw in 2017, back when I watched it in December, but I forgot! I was also just stumped by it, to be honest. Especially by that cheeky little coda that Tamhane lops on after the film has reached its logical end. This is the first time in a while that the final shot of a movie left me going, “WHAT??” It needs to be watched again before I can parse out all the intricacies, but I really just want to give it a written endorsement (for whatever that’s worth), because I am totally in awe of this debutante, who can pull off something as downright anti-dramatic and AWKWARD as this, with the elegance and confidence of someone well beyond his experience. It did help that I watched it with a friend who knew/could recognise all the languages spoken herein, since it is quite central to the dynamics and power plays involved. But there is more than enough going around for those who don’t know Hindi, Gujarati or Marathi. The complexity that Tamhane evokes effortlessly, without contriving or overstating anything, is remarkable. Regional Indian cinema is 🔥 right now.
★★★★ review by preston on Letterboxd
Biggest surprise is finding out that Tamhane is only 28; this feels like it was made by some contemplative middle-aged person - though, crucially, the contemplative side (serene wide-shots from the back of the courtroom, stuff like that) is balanced by the cut and thrust of the legal drama. A "people's poet" is harassed through the justice system - but in fact the justice system is a collection of people, each one with their life outside the courtroom, a bittersweet irony that smoulders with quiet anger (it's great that the judge and lawyers emerge as human beings, but meanwhile the old man himself is rotting in prison), and of course there's also India, the larger case beyond this particular one - a country of contrasts, still struggling to become "post-colonial". The judge speaks Hindi (his speech gets interrupted by a workman bringing in an electric fan, air-conditioning not being part of this rickety justice system), the witness Marathi, the Westernised young lawyer speaks English; he listens to jazz and shops for red wine, then gets beaten up for insulting some obscure rural tribe. A film that contains contradictions, and does so effortlessly; entertaining, formally confident, and wise beyond its maker's years.
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