Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Monday, March 21, 2011
bambai raat ki baahon mein . the illusionist . appleseed . nine months to freedom . angels and demons . prince of persia
theres nothing subtle about the rich vs poor polemic of this film; or the heavy handed metaphors that make eggs in a frying pan a symbol of life; or, as a matter of fact, the catalogue of the evils of the big city that starts off with slum displacements under the hands of big business and goes through alcoholism, smuggling, avarice…. the list goes on. when our reporter is about to be sold out from good but poor to rich but a lackey for the evil empire an accident shows him the path to goodness. a car chase in the climax kills the con man (who is the orphan child of the city- knowing no father mother trations), his muse- the gorgeous persis khambatta- the cabaret girl, and the girl next door who is vying for his attentions- and getting none- who has just been raped at a drunken party in an art deco building on marine drive. through this all there are some images that are indelible- the last scene where the rosie embraces the night and death, the silly and funny rape scene where the waves of the sea approximate orgasm in intercut black and white; and of course two songs filmed on persis khambatta. the first a fashion shoot in the new india assurance building on d n road with its enormous bas relief sculptures of farmers and workers. the fashion show catalogues the costumes of india under a portrait of naked and hungry farmers. i told you there was no such thing as subtlety here. the other song is the title track in which persis does the flamenco in costume in front of a set of bombay landmarks- the university, vt and a smoking chimney.
the tati film that was never made. hulot here is a french illusionist who travels to edinburgh via a small village in scotland where a young girl who thinks he can bring her magic decides to follow him to the ends of the earth- on this case edinburgh. almost completely silent, the film is beautifully drawn. like a tati film the tone is relentlessly bittersweet and poignant. its one note through the struggles that he goes through as he scrounges around looking for a job to keep the increasing demands of the girl- from a new dress to new shoes. meanwhile, she falls in love with a young neighbour in the margins.
as against a typical anime (think ‘princess mononoke’) where the battle between man and machine is always won by man’s flawed but inherent goodness ‘appleseed’ makes no such claims. it acknowledges the fact that all of us are cyborgs whose animal nature has been tamed by technologies- cultural as well as material. the future of the world after the another great war that leaves most of it looking like war torn beirut is in utopia where ‘bioroids’ – manufactured humanoids – live in peace, side by side with their human counterparts. these bioroids are the force that keep peace and happiness in the city. utopia has high rise towers and highways that reflect the sky, green parks and a couple of enormous eye like central buildings within which ‘gaia’ – earth mother sustains the balance in the world overseen by 7 old men. things are thrown into disarray when the humans begin to resent the doe eyed bioroids and when the 7 old men try to erase humanity forever.
a propoganda film that pulls no punches and much to its own detriment ‘nine months to freedom’ documents that bangladesh war in an unashamedly partisan and sensationalist mode. it lingers over mangled and rotting bodies in creeks; over newspaper photographs showing gruesome remains of rape; and has now qualms about making a good vs evil arguments portraying india as the suffering and kind hearted neighbor (endorsed by a variety of white men speaking into the camera) and pakistan as evil empire no 1.
and some hollywood- ‘angels and demons’ th follow up to ‘the da vinci code’. the esoteric symbols that were so entertaining and amusing in the first film are now reduced to statues by bernini that point to each other across rome. the tourism is nice- the film bad. ‘prince of persia’- video game in which jake gyllenhall tries unsuccessfully to overcome his brokeback mountain gay icon status but swishing some swords around him.
Sunday, March 06, 2011
watching history from the margins- just out of sight. only through allusion and words floating in the air- interrupted by bad transmission. the drama of the nationalists against the kuomintang in the first few years of the birth of taiwan- just recently freed from japanese occupation plays out through the story of a relatively apolitical family. all the action is observed from the wings as off-screen antics destroy the family unit. in this disorienting de-centeredness the story meanders through long takes of relatively plotless minutes of everyday life- the times when nothing is happening here- but always elsewhere.
as against this the first day of the israeli invasion of lebanon is only seen close up and in the sights of a gunner stuck inside a tank. fragments of the remnants of war- piles of bodies, devastated buildings, blood and flesh seen in sudden swoops as the tank plies through the city left behind after the aircrafts are done with their business. at night the tank is stranded in the middle of travel agency and the war is visited by the eiffel tower, the big ben and the twin towers. meanwhile inside the dark claustrophobic space of the tank the four men fester in their own filth.
another film that proves fully and finally that muslim sidecicks only exist to save the dynastic hindu family centerpeice. but the songs are fun- disco everything- disco competition and pathan bop or a qawaali with the most spectacular lightshow. hearts leading like arrows from the boy to the girl on the floor. i like the asha version of poocho na yaar more that the version in the competition medley; but love the 'ae kanchan' on top of the train.
for a change a film that spends time at home with her as she arranges the flowers in her apartment at delhi. she waits. when she goes off to that city of strangers and spectacle she almost falls right back in love with the ex-boyfriend. delhi is domestic bliss and bombay - the perennial city of temporary pleasures- fickle and faithless. some things have not changed. :)
bhau daji lad with its Olympic posters, dioramas, models of bombay to mumbai, artifacts from the tacky yo the sublime. and outside in other cages birds, sleepy crocodiles, elephants, deer, snakes, bear, hyena and many monkeys.