being at home for the past three days i have seen five films. here is a recap of them.
there is a case to be made for a straight faced voluptuous melodrama. the sincerity of belief in the form can lead to great cinema. in ‘navrang’ some wimp called mahipal plays a poet who creates an alter ego as a muse of his rather frigid wife who inspires wonderful poetry in him. the wife of course is shantarams own muse sandhya. this strange animalistic woman cant act, is quite, how should i put it, ‘unconventional’ looking and has no sense of rhythmn or grace when she dances. in spite of that she is a truly fascinating persona on screen and surprisingly it is quite easy to believe that mad brilliant images could be inspired by her.. enormous bells with apsaras on them, a half man - half woman holi dance, colored water spewing out of a womans body.. its all quite outrageous and thoroughly enjoyable. when this excessiveness is taken as a given, i could not help but be moved by the film, especially the melodramatic end. the music is amazing and the images unforgettable. ok, mukul- i agree.. the man was a genius.. perhaps, one of the insane type..
i think the darkest of all the pedro almodovar films i have seen. with the usual cast of characters that walk the fringes of what constitutes the so called normal- actors, film directors, gay men, cross dressers.. ‘bad education’ tells the story of a revenge drama and a love/lust story that paints a dark and disturbing portrait of human nature.
when his childhood sweetheart ignacio arrives at his office with the story of their childhood romance which was rudely interrupted by the jealousies of the priest who also loved the delicate ignacio, movie director enrique is smitten by the man and his fond memories of the love. it turns out later that the man pretending to be ignacio is actually his beautiful brother juan (played by gael garcia bernal- who also made an exquisite che guevara in ‘the motorcycle diaries’) and then the characters are involved in convoluted sexual games and deceptions. the real story of what happened to ignacio is told later by the priest who once raped him and left me with this bitter taste in my mouth.
i am not sure whether this transformation into a fairly serious film maker from the earlier madness of ‘women on the verge of a nervous breakdown’ of ‘matador’ or even the melodrama of ‘all about my mother’ is something that i think is better or worse. i did not like ‘talk to her’ much and ‘bad education’ i did. but i remember there was a fantastic energy in the early films which used to exhilarate and entertain me. that did not happen with this film.
i had given up on oscar nominated films after watching the inflated ‘the avaiator’. the only reason i thought that ‘sideways’ would be better was because it came from and independent film maker and got all this hype as being the best american film last year. ok, so.. two men in their middle ages decide to take a week out in wine country, california before the marriage of one of them whose only intention is to get laid before his wedding.
three classic american formulas for films are rolled into one film here- a road movie, a buddy movie and a sex comedy, except that the characters are at least 15 years too old. its predictable- as any piece of fluff should be, and pretty well written. its got this ‘alternative’ language thing going where the faces are unfamiliar and the dialogue is clever and witty. ‘pleasant diversion’ is what i thought.. not bad for a rainy evening with chicken chili dry on the side..
‘before sunrise’ was one of my favorite films when i was in my early twenties. a frothy, intelligent romance where american boy meets french girl in pretty european town and they talk all night and promise to meet each other nine months later- same place- same time.
they don’t and meet instead 9 years later in ‘before sunset’ in paris when one of them is a married author and the other an environmentalist. the conversation continues as if it had never stopped and we watch it in real time falling in love with the two of them all over again. julie delpy is beautiful and ethan hawke charming. though the topics for the conversation have changed the chemistry between the two burns up the screen. its all very beautiful and very romantic- the casual banter, the streets of paris, the seine in the evening, sunlight caught in their hair.. lovely.
if i had to choose the best from the films i saw this week- this would be it- easily. ‘nicole kidman plays grace who running away form gangsters ends up in the small town of dogville where the good people give her shelter and hide her from the mob and the police. grace is grateful for this generosity but soon comes to realize that the price they are extracting from her for it. she is abused, raped, enslaved – for her own good and suffers through it all – forgiving. at the end of the film she is betrayed by the townspeople and the man who claims to love her to the mob she was escaping from. grace has her revenge at the end.
told through nine chapters and one prologue, lars von trier uses what i learnt were ‘brechtian’ techniques to distance the audience from associating with the characters emotionally. a clipped voice over, a town that is completely drawn out on the floor of a huge set, were used to keep up analytical and rational through the entire drama. righteousness and high minded morality are exposed for the shams that they are. everyone acts from a purely selfish motive pretending otherwise, except for grace who in spite of being the perpetual victim suffers and forgives them until the end.
the movie has been criticized for its misanthropy and its anti-americanism- both of which are not necessarily untrue in this case. the movie is scathing about the hypocrisy of people and of any kind of ‘value system’ that we use to define good and bad - especially the ‘family values’ of right wing conservatives that seems to be the current direction of american morality. however, besides iraq and the gay marriage controversy and other american associations i could also read the film from the puritanical morality of our own right wing.. the dance bar ban, the rss version of ‘indian culture’..