as with some of mohan's other films (a director as interesting as he is infuriating, and for overlapping reasons), strange, off-putting choices abound in isabella -- the early, jittery timeline jumps, an extraneous framing device that the film never returns to, an emotionally frigid male lead forever consumed by alcohol and self-pity, a terse approach to death/loss/tragedy, multiple undercooked scenes, and most of all a key courtship phase between the leads elided over opening credits (though also admittedly a beautiful yesudas song). still, the soundtrack (johnson, yesudas, janaki) saves it. and sumalatha definitely saves it.
ferociously, truculently modern in that ol’ ritwik ghatak way (of titash ekti nadir naam, particularly of jukti, takko aar gappo) -- history unfolded and examined in time, political action tied to movement, restless and dispersive and refracted onto a gradually transforming individual psychology in increasingly expressionistic ways.
also the first, possibly only, adoor bhasi anti-comedy, the guilt, paranoia and paralysis of the landlord class evoked by a complete neutering of bhasi's otherwise disruptively hilarious presence, a near-silent performance frequently framed…
seamlessly structured around santhosh narayanan's greatest ever collection of songs -- every song transformative, every lyric or accompanying dance (as in engum pugazh thuvanga, whose affective power within the film's context possibly surpasses even that of the more immediate classics like karuppi and naan yaar) suggesting an opening out of the film and its protagonist to newer, deeper emotional dimensions, the kaleidoscopic textures of their soundscapes around which the drama arises from and unfolds on a land, born as much…
wonderful in very familiar ways, startling in an entirely odd way. undulating rhythms of the fishing island-village, shots imbued with aching lyricism, solitary gestures, fights, conversation charged with great intensity of feeling -- bonny turning the boat back on his way home, a sad, non-diegetic interlude to bobby's loud rock work accompaniment as an earphone slips down, saji's drunken lament that unpredictably hastens towards tragedy. held together by a most marvelous ensemble -- among others, sreenath bhasi and anna ben…