Tuesday, December 13, 2005

More Movies

blogger.com says this is post #50.
Saw a bunch more movies recently.
  • Apaharan, Prakash Jha - Apaharan is like the proverbial curate's proverbial egg. The first half is eminently interesting and watchable. Somewhere in the second, Jha loses the plot. Not too stupendously, by the standards of Bollywood, but nevertheless the phillum meanders a bit, the histrionics and melodrama are kicked up a notch, and it all ends in a somewhat predictable ending.

    Jha seems to be inventing a "Bihari-politician-criminal-nexus" factory (a la Ramgopal Varma) all by himself, you go by Gangaajal and Apaharan. He has his stock set of actors doing the Bihari thing, and they all seem very convincing, to a non-Bihari anyway. Devgan is decent, as usual, except that he seems a little too old to play the "student" type role. Much better off as the fiery cop in Gangaajal. Nana Patekar (and indeed everyone else who plays a politician) is very engaging.

  • Children Of Heaven, Majid Majidi - Have the Iranian directors (Majid Majidi, Jafar Panahi, Abbas Kiarastomi, the Makhmalbaf family) taken over the "Cinema Featuring Children" franchise? Children of Heaven is very good, even if it does border on sugary-sweet sentimental at times. Like Panahi's White Balloon, the story revolves around the predicament of a brother-sister duo. In The White Balloon it was goldfish, in Children of Heaven it is a pair of shoes.

    The brother loses the sister's shoes, on his way back from the cobbler's, and now the children have to somehow (a)hide this from their overworked, somewhat irascible father and sick mother (b)pull the wool over their schoolteachers' eyes (c)find a pair of new shoes. Not to mention do chores at home, look after the baby, study, help out at the mosque and so on. There are many slices of life from Teheran's poorer quarters, and a foray into the posh end of town.

    The actors and actresses (the kids especially) were born for these roles and nothing else, or so it seems. Majidi weaves in what seem to be a atleast a couple of near-tributes to other directors. In one sequence, father and son get on a rusty old bicycle and trudge to the richer part of town, where they work as gardeners for a day. After a hard day's labour, they cycle back home, and on the way the father basks in thoughts of lifting his family out of their poverty (with the help of cycle), and of course its too good to be true and something happens. Shades of Vittorio De Sica's The Bicylce Thief.

    Majidi also has a way of building up suspense, using the most mundane devices. In one sequence, the girl (who is wearing her brother's sneakers) loses one shoe, which falls into a gutter and is borne away by the water. She gives chase, and the camera duly accompanies her, at breakneck speed through the alleys and lanes of their neighbourhood. As this is happening, the tension mounts. Will she get the shoe? You find yourself rooting for her, because losing this pair will just result in disaster. In another part of the movie, the brother signs up for a road race. The third prize is a new pair of shoes, and he must come third. In possibly one of the best sport sequences ever in cinema, Majidi's camera runs the race along with the kid, and here too, in the end, the suspense is unbearable.

    Enough already. Go see this one. One additional source of paisa vasool is the language (Farsi is absolutely beautiful), and the fact that you can catch glimpses of the origins of Urdu! Even the Farsi title (Bacheha-Ye Aseman) is tantalizingly accesible. The only complaint - the thing borders on the sugary-sentimental, the kids are tad too goody, but for someone inured to the "Mere paas maa hai" variety of movies, it isn't too bad. Nevertheless, it is Hereby Decreed that all directors will have a copy of "The Lord Of The Flies" close at hand when directing children's movies. So let it be written, so let it be done.

  • Mighty Aphrodite, Woody Allen
  • Sideways, Alexander Payne
  • Das Boot, Wolfgang Petersen
  • Manhattan, Woody Allen
  • Contempt (Le Mepris), Jean-Luc Godard - More about the movie later, but there seems to be a (possibly unintended) connection1 between one scene in this movie, and The Two Towers. There is a scene where the Fellowship sails down the Anduin, through Argonath "The Seat Of Kings", they pass between two huge stone statues, the likenesses of Isildur and Anarion. Part of this scene is a shot, where the camera appears to track from front and below the bearded dude (Isildur?) who is holding his arm out, to his left, and finally behind him, as the boat floats from upstream of the statues to the gap between them, to a point downstream.

    Cut to "Contempt". There are a couple of shots where Godard shows a figurine of a bearded dude (Zeus?), from a point-of-view that is below the statue. In this case, instead of the camera turning around, the statue itself rotates. Unfortunately, a picture of the statue/shot is not to be found anywhere, but there is a mention in a review. Both shorts are startlingly similar, or is it just that time has dimmed the powers of recall, and the memory of the first has fused into the already fading memory of the second, making one see things that don't exist?
  • Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan
Details to follow.

1. Another coincidence: In The Last Castle, Robert Redford plays a certain US Army Lt. General who rejoices in the name of John Eugene Irwin. Surely, it is not mere happenstance that this bloke's name more or less matches the first names of a certain other commander. Have not yet found anything to suggest this is more than a coincidence, but but but....

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