Sunday, January 24, 2010
i love musicals. with their over- the –top song and dance set eices and their characters full of charm and wit easy to love and laugh with. top hat’ is this classic fred astaire and ginger rogers farce from the 1940’s. some mindless plot about about mixing up identities is merely an excuse for some gorgeous dancing in pure white luxurious hotel rooms styled in florid hollywood art deco or in pavilions in the rain, and that lovely dance sequence in an italian hotel. and the conversations between the players are funny and sexy. ‘hairspray’ is john waters super camp tribute to college films of 1980’s looking back at the fab 60’s- think ‘grease’. while ‘grease’ could be seen as a classic to uphold all of the heteronormative values of the american dream- waters exaggerates these to show just how gay middle america really is with its big hair and over the top smiles. subversive but so endearing. nothing like that can be said of the awful ‘chance pe dance’. while shahid kapur and genelia try to make the best of it by being unwaveringly charming and perky the film plods along the same old same old route- delhi boy comes to bombay to make it big… and eventually through reality television does. and you know something is wrong in a dance film when you cant remember a single song. having hear raves about this film about a metal band which having had its 15 minutes of fame (by playing beside bon jovi, of all the people, in japan) in the 1980’s disappeared into nothingness; i thought it would be more than merely a rockumentary from vh1- it was not. except that it was also a reality tv show that follows the band as it scrounges together the money to record their 13th album. ‘blood’ which i just saw early morning today was a gorgeously made anime set in post-war japan. the last vampire is hired by the us to kill the shape shifting monsters. it all happens one halloween night. nothing earth shattering in terms of plot- in spite of the shallow metaphor regarding war thrown in at the end – how we kill each other in wars- but so so beautiful. to watch.
Monday, January 04, 2010
decidedly under whelmed by the pull-out-all-the-stops spectacle of avatar, i am not sure as to why some of the mega-budget did not go into writing a tighter script- or even imagining an alternate world a little more creatively. after all aren’t pandora’s strange blue people merely another version of hollywood’s neo-colonial obsession with the purity of untouched nature and those tribals who have this supposedly intimate connection with it. weirdly (and typically) this romanticism against technology is played out through a cinematic shock and awe juggernaut like you haven’t seen before. if only the imagining of the ‘other’ world went beyond the 'saawariya' blue and the floating mountains with some jurassic park creatures thrown in for thrills.
in ‘beaches of agnes’, agnes varda looks back on her life through the beaches that she knew growing up. often moving in the beginning, the film traced her history thorugh the people she knew, anecdotes about people she knew and staged installations thorugh which she wanders on the beaches. unashamedly sentimental, especially when it comes ot speaking about her late husband, some parts, i must admit made me cringe. but isn’t that going to be so when someone speaks straight ot the camera about the obsessions that have driven them so far. two images stand out from the film. the first, right at the beginning when a complex mirror game si set up on a beach; and the other at the end when she takes us to a pavilion completely made of film strips.
the build up to the tightrope walk between the two towers of the world trade center is described way too long- interspersed with stories of and from the team of madmen who planned it. thankfully in ‘man on wire’ 9/11 is not mentioned, except elliptically. the whole film is a straightforward talking heads documentary with a few staged historical shots hrown in for good measure. but everything does not seem to matter when he steps out into the sky and hangs suspended over new york, or between the towers at notre dame or from the sydney bridge. this is a strange kind of terrorism that makes beauty awe inspiring. i don’t mean to make too harebrained a parallel but was it a similar kind of feeling when we sat and looked at the wtc collapse? disbelief at the obsessions that leads ordinary men to such extremes to challenge the status quo?
the ‘return’ seemed to be an allegory. from the authoritarian father who has disappeared from the lives of the two boys and returns to teach them to be men, to the journey across the water to a deserted island where more tests of manhood are waiting, to the fear that leads to the tragedy at the end and the water beneath which everything is buried. maybe these were over-readings prompted by the few tarkovsky references thrown i at the beginning; maybe not.