Wednesday, October 20, 2010

the women . pitfall . the big sleep .max payne . dong

an all woman cast in new york high society calls for a bunch of stars playing type with glee. suffering divorcee, strong independent woman and husband stealing bitch by joan crawford. and the thing that they all discuss the most is men- how to please them, how to keep them, how to ditch them.

the pitfall in the insurance man’s suburban boredom with wife and child happens when in search for adventure he has a one night stand with the girlfriend of convict. turns out that the real bad man here is the ex-cop who now scans potential insurance beneficiaries who also lusts after the same woman. ‘stay in the suburbs!’ the film screams out- american men don’t have the intelligence to understand the complexities of the city.

then there was howards hawks fantastic version of the raymond chandler 'the big sleep'. lauren bacall plays the sexy seductress to humphrey bogart's philp marlowe. she is smarter one of the two daughters of a rich biollionaire being blackmailed. The twists go on forever and so do the one-liners.

another noir, but recent, takes off from a self conscious noir graphic novel- whose central character is a snarling detective with dead wife looking for revenge. a banned drug makes victims see black bird fly through the sky before they tear your body to pieces. this one is very forgettable.

jia zhang ke’s documentary ‘dong’ made parallel with the gorgeous ‘still life’ pales in comparison. the staged long pans over the ruins of cities in the three gorges valley are intercut with a narrative of a neorealist painter trying to paint laborers in the landscape. this is the first half which ends with a cringe inducing sequence when the painter goes with photographs and toys for the wife and children of the laborers he has painted in the their distant home town. the second half follows the painter as he goes up and down bangkok’s various transportation systems and tries to paint an array of women who are probably sex workers.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

laura .. a single man . an education . paranoid park . the day the earth stood still .10 things i hate about you .

on the noir trip that i am on, otto premingers ‘laura’. a mysterious murder of a top advertising executive leads to suspicions flying all round, including her fiance and her much older mentor. most of the action takes place in the apartment of the dead woman and the central character is a snarling detective complete with crush on said victim. really not that mysterious but fun to watch.

it is apparent that a fashion designer was behind the very stylish visuals of the gorgeously shot ‘a single man’. carefully recreating the chirstopher isherwood novel the film follows a day in the life of an english professor in los angeles as he reminisces about the lover he lost a few years back. as he contemplates suicide the world reaches out to him to love and cherish in precise detail, colour and texture.

a romance with an older man offers a bored exceptionally bright girl in britain a chance to really experience life- as defined by restaurants, concerts and a trip to paris. too bad that it turns out that he is married. a straightforward coming of age period drama. straightforwardly and smartly made.

but ‘paranoid park’ is something else. below a bridge young men ride skateboards rolling, swaying, swinging- freedom on the edge. they all seem to be escaping from something. our hero- young wide eyed innocent – from a family that is breaking up and a girlfriend he does not care for, and his own shyness. an accident where he kills a security guard forms the basic plotline of the film- but really that does not matter too much. the long slow motion skateboarding scenes, the muddled complex soundscape, and the gentle boys who are playing at being men, all reminded me so much of gus van sants earlier american suburbs and violence epic- ‘elephant’. loved that too.

i am supposed ot like ‘the day the earth stood still’ a sci fi special effects extravaganza where aliens invade the earth yet again- and destroy it- yet again- all because the human race is incapable to keeping the greenhouse gases under control. so keanu reeves arrives with a single expression on his face accompanied by a gigantic cyclops like figure in the middle of central park (where else?) the films tries to get all profound and philosophical and fails spectacularly. if only they had embraced more wholeheartedly the silly hollywood fluff it could have been.

a run of the mill prom king / queen high school comedy in ’10 things i hate about you’. the only real highlight is heath ledger and julia stiles as the guy and girl that everyone is afraid of in the school. the rest is bubblegum.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

vixen . cradle 2 the grave . how to murder your wife . suspicion . fury . gilda . the conformist . the name of a river

tongue in cheek almost porn from russ meyer. vixen, the big busted heroine sleeps with absolutely everyone on screen- and that is the story- until a ridiculously silly discussion regarding racism and marx on a flight kidnapped to cuba from canada.

i feel sorry for jet li in every american film. the man is so out of sorts. he scowls one dimensionally and kicks butt like a robot. surrounding him in this flat crime drama are generic black types involved in some caper involving black diamonds.

jack lemmons apartment in 'how to murder your wife' is transformed from designer bachelor pad to girly kitsch when he marries a hot italian woman who jumps out of a cake. his misogynistic butler threatens to leave him over the woman and guess whose side lemmon takes. very sexist, fairly funny.

the hitchcock mystery 'suspicion' wasnt very suspenseful. a wife suspects her dandy of a husband of a possible murder- and that is the only thing that is scary. cary grant is smooth as the husband though.

'fury' was fritz langs noir. for a change the city was the place of civilization and sanity. spencer tracy plays a good guy suspected of being a kidnapper by a bunch of idiot villagers looking for a fight. when, in a mindless rage the burn down the jail they think tracy is dead- but tracy is still alive and looking for revenge. good film, i thought.

in 'gilda' rita hayworth is all glam in the lead role. her big boned all american-ness is foil for the complicated seductress she plays. she is in a complex love-hate relationship with her husbands right hand man - set in argentina. both the men in her life work in a casino that's a front for smuggling tungsten. (?)

in 'the conformist' bertolucci's film on italian fascism and its politics (and aesthetics) of order and fear, the reason for the lead characters self-effacement and lack of courage seems to be placed on an incident that occurred when the man was merely a child. a chauffeur almost seduces the boy and is believed to be killed by him. is this the scar that leaves him with a perpetual fear making him conform to all the unreasonable violence of the party. he follows his orders even when he is asked to betray his teacher and the woman he probably loves. but really, the film is really about the way it is staged. elaborate and cold styling in italy- the offices of the bureaucracy, or the streets of paris- all blue and cold with only the light from the shops selling the latest fashion giving warmth or the brilliant assassination sequence in the forest.

and last night we saw 'the name of a river' a tribute to ghatak that name-checked so many films and incidents in his life. the images were stunning- calcutta from the river and the sky, rivers and boats, the airfield from suvarnarekha; and osme of the music. but finally at the end of it the relentless inside references, the perpetual, very bengali, angst was a little too much to take.

Thursday, October 07, 2010


the film is beyond brilliant. expecting a rollercoaster star vehicle like sivaji, i was taken in by the first half's mad over the top jokiness. so you can imagine how stunned i was by the dark oedipal drama of the second half.

rajni the scientist ignores his lover in the quest for making a machine in his image- his child, born from him, and carrying in his metallic body all of whom rajni wants to be. except that 'one thing'- 'feelings' is what we are told but really we all know it is the phallus. this inability for a robot to reproduce is mirrored in a sequence when danny's rival robot humps the ground in a useless gesture of failure and ends up shooting the groin of an outline of a man used as a target.

the girlfriend of the scientist adores this harmless de-masculinised version of her lover who follows her every wish and saves her from being raped. these infantile antics are mistaken for much more by the robot when he develops human emotions as love. the father and the son fall for the same woman. a competiton between them leads ot the father destroying the son in an act of spectacular violence.

all this while we believe that the film is, like so many other science fiction films, a love hate relationship with technology and its possibilities and dangers- the danger of super rationality and the irrationality of our desires. and this is a theme through the film- in many a dialogue and scene. man against machine. the power of man's mind and the fear of uncontrollable technology.

in the second half the robot reappears in a violent form- corrupted by danny's jealousy. danny is now a foster father. faced with his own extinction the robot begins to reproduce. multiple versions of himself form an army of him- without that one missing part- feelings / phallus. the girl is kidnapped and kept in a sexless imprisonment until she agrees to make robosapiens with the villain- more sexless reproduction. the only difference between machine and man is sexuality.

in a superb climactic fight, the multiple robots come together, merge all their identities to become one overpowering machine.. they form and reform into spheres and walls, snakes and screws, joined together by one brain in multiple centers- a rhizome that can only be destroyed through a virus that penetrates through all defences. it is only apt that this sequence is filmed in the disconnected half built mind-spaces of chennai and mumbai. here glass clad building overlook these mad machines escaped from the call cnters on desolate streets with half built infrastructure everywhere, buildings under construction and flyovers leading into the sky. the internal sequences are in lab like antiseptic chrome and glass.

so well done- and so much darker than i had thought it would be. even the music seems to come out of some strange fusion of machine and man. the song sequences and dances are cyborg dreams. there is no real happy ending here. even at the end when the son dismantles himself to save his father, he is still in love with his mother.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

long overdue photopost

oberoi mall in the rain
juhu gally high rise
sanaa and me

oberoi mall under renovation

mill land / phoenix
dadar dadar dadar

farewell to neelima, dipti, aditya and rewathi
bandra skywalk
edward theater and the cinema city screenings
billboards in the rain
sndt, juhu

joanna's birthday
ganpati at home
ruin at opera house

gulshan sonal hussaina
bharat nagar biryani party in college (in celebration of id and the registration of the society)
workers at avon

moms birthday at prego

bharat nagar community meeting

choudhary farms, umargaon- family party

usha maushis factory at umargaon