Tuesday, April 30, 2019
Nate Hood's On Further Review take on Aamis (2019) Tribeca 2019
Care for a fried calf cutlet? Or how about duck eggs with minced garlic and thigh meat? Such are the depraved yet mouth-watering dishes populating Bhaskar Hazarika’s Aamis, a tonally confused mishmash of genres, emotions, and gore. “Aamis” is itself the word for “ravening” in the Assamese dialect from northeastern India in which the film is shot, and it’s a succinct summation of the film’s central theme, the gradual whittling away of sense and sanity in the service of satiating bestial instincts. For the first half of the film, the soft cinematography, breezy pacing, and gentle soundtrack of strings and piano leads us to believe we’re watching a romantic melodrama centering around food; think an Indian take on Chocolat (2000) or the gangster subplot from Tampopo (1985). But after a sequence at the middle where Sumon has a hallucinatory nightmare about Niri, the film jumps the rails straight into cannibalism, revealing the couple’s sharing of food was less innocent courtship ritual than covert indulging of perversions like the car crash fetishists in David Cronenberg’s Crash (1996).
Alas, the film can’t commit to its subversity, keeping the sexual connotations at arm’s length, relegating Sumon and Nori’s passions to chaste, sexless eccentricity, retaining the airy beats of a romcom with none of the detachment that could make it ironically disturbing. Cannibalism shouldn’t be this bland.