Thursday, 30 June 2011

De Vrais Mensonges - True Lies

2009 by Pierre Salvadori

Julia Roberts is known all over the world for her roles in the romantic comedies. She is a nice actress with a beautiful charming smile. I think, Audrey Tautou is a much much better actress than Mrs. Roberts. Her smile is not as charming as Julia, but as an actor she is one or two levels above. But most people who know Julia would not have even heard about Audrey. Audrey, however, is lucky to be in French movies. The artistic and aesthetic sense of French is so much high than in Hollywood that even average French movies could be considered as classics, outside Europe.  Audrey Tautou keeps on playing wonderful roles.

Emilie runs a beauty salon. Her father, is in love with a 20 year old, is seeking divroce and her mother, Maddy, is depressed. Jean, who works in her salon, sends Emilie an anonymous love letter. Emilie is least interested, but then decides to send this letter to her mother to lift her spirits. Sure, it did, but then she had to make up two more letters on her own. Maddy mistakes Jean as her writer. Emilie is in serious trouble. 

This is a brilliant romantic comedy. Mistaken identities, misunderstandings, untold love, search for love, all its there, but there is a touch of class all over too. The characters are brilliant. Emilie really wants to help her mother come out of the depression so she doesnt think twice before sending her a love letter. Only later does she realise, how difficult it is to creat one by herself, which she cannot without the help of being drunk. At the same time, Emilie is somebody who walked out of a relationship when she realised her partner was more educated than her and is a man of letters. A simple reason, why the beautiful love letter, she received, didnt touch her at all. When she finds out that Jean is an intelligent chap, her irritation with him is wonderful. In fact the series of firing and reappointment of Jean is really funny. Maddy is depressed because of her husband, but she is a literature person so is moved by the adorable love letter. The way the love letter lift her spirits is really good. But she is soon depressed as the passion is absent in the second letter. Her search for the writer and her following up for Jean, and her final realisation of the truth it is all quite wonderful. Jean is a man of letters, knowing so many languages, who took up a maintenance job in the salon only to be near Emilie. But he is kind and sensuous too. So his frustration and kind of being out of mind, after the forced kiss with Maddie was really excellent. There are also couple of other small characters, like the partner of Emilie etc, who all does their part in the story.

Except for the final moments, when Maddy realises the truth or Emilie understands Jean, the movie moves on with brilliant moments of subtle fun. How can the French be so good. Its unbelievable, how some scenes, dialogues and characters are created. It is the reactions and expressions of the characters, of course with the situations, which makes the incredibly funny moments and it is really brilliant. Almost all the scenes, involving Emilie, Jean and Maddy for the three fourths of the movie offer excellent laughs. At the same time, we are also worried about their future and are touched by the three, for how things turn up for them towards the end. A small lovely turn brings the movie to a nice end.

Adurey Tautou is brilliant and brilliant. What an actress. She is living Emilie in the screen, is quite easy to say. But there were really tough scenes here where she had to give those spontaneous reactions and she excelled in each of them. A terrific performance. Nathalie Baye was also wonderful, especially when she was doing a spirited Maddy in love. The change of spirits was so lovely. Sami Bouajila was excellent as well. Couple of his moments, especially when Emilie walks in late at night to explain him that Maddy has mistaken him, was brilliant. Some of his reactions were hilarious. So was his excellent execution with the frustration and anger, after the forced kissing scene.

I had seen Hors de Prix from Mr. Salvadori. I am not sure, which is a better movie as both have very different themes, and if I have to pick I would definitely go for DVM. Whatever, Pierre Salvadori is a wonderful movie maker. De Vrais Mensonges is a beautiful movie and all credits should go for this man. My all time favourite romantic comedy was Notting Hill. I think De Vrais Mensonges is even classy than Notting Hill. All it lacks is the marketing support of a huge company from Hollywood. A great movie, at the end of which, I wish I was a writer to really express how I felt.

Hopefully, like in the case of many other movies, within a few years, this movie would be remade in Hollywood. I can see Julia Roberts playing Emilie and the movie becoming an international hit. Fans of Hollywood will again rave about the greatness of Hollywood (like it happened with many other remakes) and these brilliant artistes behind the original would be forgotten. 

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Nootrenbadhu 180

2011 by Jayendra

There are two multiplex's in Kochi now. The ticket charges are more than double from the regular city cinemas. And when a movie release only in the multiplex, not in the regular cinemas, normally we would expect an out of the ordinary movie, as in India now many low budget, off beat, movies are released only in multiplex's. For me, with my work hours, Sundays are the only possibilities for cinema visits. The advantage with multiplex is that they have late night shows at 2245 and 2255 hrs. If I can manage to leave work some time earlier, then I can watch movies even on regular week days. But it is difficult to leave early and after all the effort, also the longer biking to reach these cinemas, which are all on the highway, spending more money, if the 'off beat' movie turns out disappointing, it is really a bad end to my day. Normally, I would never say I lost my money after watching even a really bad movie. I would rather regret the time lost. But this night, driving back home through the peaceful and empty road, I was wondering about my decision. I could have waited for a week more to see if this movie was going to release in the regular centres, than to hurry and waste this much money.

Ajay, a doctor from US, seems to be on a sabbatical in India, not worried about the past or future, but living the present. Unlike the similar ABCD's or IBCD's, he mingles with the unfortunate on the streets and even work with them and help them. Vidya, a local photo journalist, is drawn to him and Ajai flees when she propose to him.

The beginning of the movie and almos the whole of first half is actually very good. In fact, after 10 or 15 minutes, I felt sad that the theatre was half empty. The way it was picturised was brilliant. In fact, there is a song, which is brilliantly shot. If anyone watch this song in TV, I doubt if they could wait anymore to watch the movie. A wonderful sense of imagination by the director, ably assisted by the cinematographer and editor. And the moments Ajai goes through with his house owners and Vidya all look quite genuine and nice with some simple fun. But as and when Ajai's past, in the US, is flashed in pieces, we know it is just yet another one man two woman triangular tiki - taka. And finally thats what it turns out to be. The only difference is neither does the two woman meet, nor does the man pick. The reason for Ajai's problems is the same old reason which we have seen in hundreds of romantic comedies all over India and Hollywood. And towards the second half, that is exactly what the movie is. And Ajai, doesnt really seem to be doing anything at all about his problems. His characterisation is quite strange. But the whole difference is Ajai's decision at the end, which is really different for this kind of a story. Also the director hasn't gone over board with the emotions, which is a good plus.

Whatever, there are some wonderful performances here. Sidharth plays a role which he has mastered out now through so many Telugu movies. It is the gorgeous Nithya Menon, as Divya, who actually steals the lime light with her natural performance. Her expressions and reactions are mostly quite subtle. A brilliant under play. I cannot think about another actress who can under play so well. Add to that her charm, a kind that can be seen with the like of Scarlet Johanssson. I have never liked and been attracted so much by any actress, ever since I watched Shobana in Kanamarayathu, as an adolescent boy. I hope she continues like this. Priya Anand, as Renuka, I am afraid, cannot really act. She was good in some scenes, but she is just a typical Indian heroine. Veterans, Mouli and Geetha, as the house owners, did an excellent job, inspite of their small roles.

If technical aspects and lovely frames alone would make a beautiful movie, 180 is much above average. In fact, on this side it can match the best from around the world. However, as a movie, but for its different climax, it turns out pretty ordinary.



Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Sukkar Banat - Caramel

2007 by Nadine Labaki

One of the best things about the great movie, The Band's visit, was that inspite of its setting in a region filled with war and politics, it never looked into those aspects, just life. Sukkar Banat is set in Beirut, but it is a really funny movie and not once does it mention about the turmoils around. It can be easily mistaken as happening in Paris, as there is lot of French.

A simple, but funny, movie about few women. Three of them working in their beauty salon, one an aspiring model and another an older woman tailor, taking care of her older sick sister. 

I know many who think women ought to be ruled and women are much inferior to men. Similarly there are also people who would bluntly say women cannot be great behind the camera. Well, the beautiful Nadine Labaki, with her very first film, has made history. Her debutant venture is considered the most acclaimed movie from Lebanon, internationally. This charming woman, who is only 37, also plays Layale, the leading character as the Salon owner, who falls for a married man in her debut as a director. She is beautiful, charming and intelligent too. And she does something even many a man are hesitant to, acting and directing at the same time and is brilliant in both. Just one scene, when the police man who is attracted to Layale, watches her, talking to her lover, from the coffee shop across to her salon, is enough to prove her intelligence. I loved that scene. It was brilliant.

For, Sukkar Banat, allow us to have a peek at the lives of few women, their secrets, their aspirations et all and turns out as a very simple, but wonderful movie. The movie is full of simple things and it offers some simple fun. The characters are really interesting and we can easily identify with them, but still laugh at the scenes. The scene when Nisrine takes her fiancee for a family dinner is hilarious. So are some of the interludes by the sick old sister of Rosa. I think I had a smile through out, watching this movie. One scene, where the three ladies celebrate the marriage of Nisrine being fixed early was simply beautiful. In fact, I could find something, very touching, genuine and beautiful in almost all the scenes in this movie.

It is quite surprising to see how close we, India, are with Arab world in many aspects. The way the women made that celebratory (invoking) sound by moving their tongue was surprisingly shocking for me. So was the music, there is no doubt, from where we have the Ghazal music and some melodic patterns in Hindustani classical music.

For those who like extra ordinary camera works, this might be nothing, but I thought the cinematography to be wonderful as the camera was nearly like a candid partner to the 5 women. The music also was wonderful.

A very romantic movie about some women, but will be thoroughly enjoyed by men as well. And the most important male character in the movie, a beautiful police man wooing Layale, was really good too. 

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Aadaminte Makan Abu

2011 by Salim Ahmad

I cannot remember when exactly I saw a real simple,but lovely, movie from India. In fact, there are hardly any movies in India in this genre. All our movies are full of some happenings or big turns, surprises, emotions, wonders and what not. In fact even simple plots would be manipulated to make it event ful, even by art house directors. When watching international movies, especially from Eastern and Northen Europe and some times from the middle east, I always wondered when Indians would be able to watch similar handling of this art from India. Finally, here it is, that too from a first time director.

An ageing couple's travails to fulfill their lifelong dream for a pilgrimage to Mecca.  

Thats all this movie is about. A poor couple, who struggles to live by themselves, goes over board with their life long dream and tries their best to achieve it. But more than that without making it look quite evident it also takes our attention to couple of other matters: The struggle of poor old parents who have to live for themselves without any care from their beloveds, and the realisation that nature is the most important aspect of our life, understand nature, protect it and nurture it. Its also an ode to humanity that every body cares for the good, irrespective of their beliefs.  The movie inspite of looking at the hardships of this poor couple, in fact is a kind of feel good film. It mostly have only good people as its characters. Every body in the village is kind and attentive to the old couple, most of their acquaintances are even ready to offer financial help, with the  full understanding of the incapability of the couple to pay back, every body only wishes them good. I would strongly say its the best simple feel good movie in India in a really really long time.

The start of the movie, with a wonderful still image, was a bit slow, but soon it takes us into the life of Abu and his wife. Some of the scenes were brilliant and touching, like the police verification, Abu's meeting with his old neighbour, Sulaiman, the final realisation of the mistake they did to nature and so on. But never does it go over board in its emotions. Brilliant. And the climax is excellent and intelligent too. Cant think of any other climax with such a lovely message.

I am one to think that one of the most serious problems with Malayalam cinema is its casting. And that mould is broken, successfully, by a debutant director. One of the primary reasons behind the success of this movie is its cast and all kudos should go to the director, since we do not have the practise of a casting director. Salim Kumar and Zarina  Wahab looks 200% perfect as the old couple. More than their facial expressions, its of course wonderful, what striked me was their body language. What an amazing and successful effort by both these actors. Salim Kumar grabbed this opportunity with both his hands, mind and soul and lived Abu on the screen.

AMA.. is beautifully shot by the veteran Madhu Ambat, who has kept his camera simple and conventional. He had lost some of his good name with his 90's Rajashilpi. I am not sure if AMA was shot on film, as there seems to be a lot of noise on the dark regions of some frames, digital possibly. At the same time some of the low light indoor shots and some shots of outdoors, around Abu's home also were wonderful. Excellent rendition of natural colours, unlike the lab saturated greens that we get to see in most films (especially Santhosh Sivan's). More than a few frames were reminiscent of beautiful still photographs.

Salim Ahmed deserves credit to make such a simple movie. Here is one movie from India, which could compete with similar movies from Europe and middle east. It is always the wrong movies, which we promote outside India. I really beleive, if Adaminte makan Abu and Aadukalam had managed some sorts of International release, it would have made all of us proud. Two different movies, but truly Indian and real pieces of artistic  excellence.

However, the dialogues changed their dialect between North Keralan and cinematic at times, which could have been avoided. The full picturisation of one of the songs could also have been avoided. To be frank, I didnt understand the impact of the character Ustad, in the script. It connects to Abu at couple of scenes, but is almost running a parallel line. Even without Ustad, AMA, would have been the same, I think.

How much I wish, this movie is seen by the general public in the west and even some parts of India, where being Muslim is almost a sin.   

Friday, 24 June 2011

Trois Couleurs: Bleu - Three Colours: Blue

1993 by Krzysztof Keislowski

The renowned Polish director made a triology of films in French, as an international production, and based the three films on the French Tri color , Blue, White and Red. The movie Blue, hence has Liberty as its theme. The main character of Blue seeks liberty from emotions.

Julie survives an accident, but lose her husband and daughter. Julie leaves the place and rents out an apartment in Paris. She wants to keep away from everything connected to her past. However, she can't be all alone as she comes across other lives, like a kind whore and slowly she realises that her husband had a mistress who is carrying now. But she too had some affair that she cannot hate the mistress. 

This movie is visually stunning. I cant help screaming it, its stunningly brilliant. Not just for its brilliant use of blue, but the cinematography raises this movie to another level. Dialogues are kept to a minimum, but I thought the camera was very eloquent.

The script is brilliant, trying to picturise a woman who wants to escape the emotions, but the final shot of the movie shows a crying Julie. Her scene with her mother (who mistakes her as her dead sister), with the whore who works in one of those explicit sex centres in Pigalle, all were touching and brilliant. In between it also brings out the fact that Julie wrote most or parts of the music for her dead husband, who was a famous contemporary musician.The movie ends when Julie finishes her husbands uncompleted work and offers assistance for her husbands mistress. She is also happy to find some solace in sex and love.  It was also quite brilliant, in between, that the whore is picturised as the most kind person from the locality, as the only person to help the sick street musician.

In fact, music is as important as the camera in this movie. A bit of her husbands music is brilliantly used at various points in this movie. This was simply wonderful. It was stunning how the music started all on a sudden on particular moments. And some of the camera movements together with this music, like when Julie runs her fingers through the music notations, were stunningly brilliant. Music is played only for short moments in parts, but it plays such an important part that the movie is almost a musical for me.

I will have to say Juliet Binoche lives as Julie. Who else to do this part. Juliet, Music and Cinematography is the heart and spine of this movie. And salute to this wonderful director, the brain behind this movie. A movie which should have been a tragedy is made to be quite an anti-tragedy.




Thursday, 23 June 2011

He was a Quiet Man

2007 by Frank A Cappello

It is very rare that I watch a Hollywood production and at the end of the movie feels, more intrigued, with many un answered questions and keep working on them to arrive into some assumption as what the movie was intended to be. Here is an off beat film from Hollywood and to be really frank, I didnt understand the ending, but kept me thinking for long. I arrived into something solid, I could be wrong though.

Maconel is an ordinary employee in a big office and has been planning to kill some of his superiors and colleagues, for long time. One day he is ready to do it, and then finds that a certain Coleman is doing exactly what he intended to. He finds that Coleman also has shot a certain Vanessa, with whom he has fantasies, and in an attempt to save her, he shots and kills Coleman. Maconel is a hero overnight and is promoted. Vanessa is paralyzed and Maconel takes care of her. But all this doesnt seem to end Maconel's troubles, until he realises he himself is the real problem.

Ahh, the ending is quite confusing. To be frank I didnt understand it at all. Was Vanessa a real cheat, or was Maconel really mad. It took really a long time for me to come into this assumption;may be all those happenings in the movie, from the time Maconel finds that Vanessa is shot, till he finds the 6th bullet is just under his boots, are his own hallucinations of what could have been his life, had he been a hero in the office from that shooting moment. For he has never been a hero and is actually a laughing stock for many. So no wonder his mind wanders out to a possible futuristic life. For this his mind creates Coleman, another bohred office worker who shoots some colleagues, and Maconel kills him to save Vanessa. He is a hero. He becomes the boy friend of the most beautiful woman in the office, Vanessa the lady who can light up a room with her smile, and another sexy bitch in the office wants to sleep with him. But his mind is confused, just because he takes care of Vanessa, who tries to give him some pleasure through blowjobs, as a sign of gratefulness, will she be able to forget her past masters who helped her reach her position? His mind imagines Vanessa to still do things for the boss and he cant stand all this and the mind comes back to reality when Maconel finds his 6th bullet, just under his boots.

I think all this is brilliant and the movie is quite sur realistic. Just that, it takes a lot of thinking to understand this, is the only fault (may be its because this movie is meant only for the very intelligent viewer). I am not sure if that is a good or bad quality of this movie.

Realistic or surrealistic, the beginning of the movie, Maconel's talks with his fish, some of his moments with Vanessa, all were so nicely shot, that even if one will get confused by the end, wondering what is wrong with the story or who is wrong, Vanessa or Maconel, the movie is quite engaging. In fact, it is quite insightful into both physically and mentally challenged characters. Some of the talks with the paralyzed Vanessa are extra ordinary and would make us feel for the handicapped.

An extraordinary performance by Christian Slater, as Maconel, is the real highlight of this movie. He is really a quiet man.

However, the question is still there? When a movie ends, if the viewer has to still keep thinking about the variables to understand what it really meant, can it really be called a successful movie. Should not a movie answer all questions of the viewer, or help the viewer to reach some assumptions, by the time of the end credits?

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Los Abrazos Rotos - Broken Embraces

2009 by Pedro Almodovar

Pedro Almodovar is considered among one of the best directors in the last two decades, by many. He makes incredible love stories with unusal kind of characters. In fact there are much better Spanish directors, but he some how seems to be the most popular one.

A blind, middle aged script director, who still manages sexual adventures, is assisted by his agent and her son. When a new director approaches him for a script, the story some how seems to be associated to his past. This director is connected to his best love of the life and also his loss of sight. He has to go back to his past and set things out straight. 

This is not the very best of Almodovar, but I have to say this movie is like a drama filled with lots of thrill and surprises. In the beginning, Mateo is just a blind director, but slowly the movie jumps back and forth and what unfolds is not a triangular love story, but the story of two families in fact, or the story of four lovers. There is Lena, who works as the secretary to a billionaire business man Martel, but also works as a call girl to meet her parents medical needs and finally end up as a mistress to Martel himself. There is this obsessed and possessed love of the old man, Martel, to Lena. Mateo is the young director who actually falls in love with Lena during his directorial work. There is Judit, who is Mateo's agent, but did share a love life with Mateo many years back. Out of this Judit comes into real relevance only towards the latter half, although she is omnipresent, and holds some surprises. It is how Lena follows Martel, Mateo and Lena falling for each other with Martel strictly following them to make sure he doesnt lose Lena and the incidents there upon that makes the main story. To be frank, at least one of the surprises, for eg. about Deigo, Judit's son, doesnt make a big impact. But how everything is told makes this movie nearly like a thriller. It still drags a little bit towards the end. And it also really does not touch our innner heart. It stops some where before.

It is a wonderful film, nicely shot and edited. The colour combinations are typical of Almodovar, so is how the movie goes back and forth between the past and present.

Penelope Cruz, as Lena impress for sure. I was spoiled by her brilliant performance in Vicky Christina Barcelona, so always tends to compare, unintentional though. Jose Luis Gomes, as Martel is definitely the best performer. I especially liked his shot, trying to pretend like a dead man, after sex with his mistress, just to measure how much she cared for him, and his reaction to Lena's words how she detested sleeping with him.

Not the best of Almodovar, but it is still a good love story.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Tsubaki Sanjuro

1962 by Akiro Kurosawa

Samurai movies are always nice to watch and when it is from the eternal maestro, then it is a real treat. This was my second watch of Sanjuro, but it is still fresh and great.

Nine young samurais want to act against corruption in their clan. Walks in a wandering Ronin, who over heard them, and puts some sense into their thoughts and leads them in the right path, helping them to save their Chamberlain. 

This could be one of the most light hearted movie from the maestro. There are lots of light fun spread across the movie through the inexperienced samurais, the wife and daughter of the Chamberlian and of course through the strange and ill behaved Ronin, ie Sanjuro. For many young samurai's Sanjuro is ill behaved and behaves very unlikely for an aged Samurai. And the moments between these Samurais offer quite a good time for the viewer, simple but nice. Enters the two woman and the fun takes a very different and delicate turn, quite feminine. A very nice contrast in fact, during the whole operation to rescue the Chamberlain, from the male and female view points, offers not just fun but some delightful insights too.

It is the character of the Ronin, wonderfully played by Mifune, a favourite of Kurosawa, who form the back bone and leads the movie to its brilliant climax. Sanjuro and Hanbei, his real opponent, meets in the beginning, but their duel doesnt happen until the end of the movie, and what a brilliant scene it is. They both had respects to each other and Sanjuro really wanted to avoid this fight, as he considered both of them like 'good swords which should remain in their sheaths' (one of the insightful comment from the ladies), but Hanbei insists and this fight, which is over in a second, is really brilliant. It could even be seen as the highlight of this movie.

Toshiro Mifune steals the show among the actors. Wonderful cinematography too.

May be the best entertainer from the Maestro. 

Monday, 20 June 2011

Rathinirvedam

2011 by T K Rajeev Kumar

Late P. Padmarajan, even after decades, would be considered as one of the best 5 (or best 3) writer / director Malayalam cinema ever had. Almost all his scripts and directorial ventures struck some chord with Malayaalees. In fact many of them are considered classics. Even the young movie goers of today, when they watch a Padmarajan movie from 70 or 80's cant stop admiring this writer/director. For me his Rathi nirvedam (first released in '78) was his least impressive attempt. Only Ozhivukalam could be the script which can vie with Rathinirvedam as a less impressive script from Padmarajan. But even this Rathinirvedam, with an exceptional turn in the climax, turned out to be a cult movie in '78, proves how brilliant he was. Padmarajan's family permitted Rajeev Kumar to use any of his stories or scripts to work on, as Rajeev Kumar had earlier withdrawn one of his movie projects, upon realising the similarities in the story with Jnan Gandharvan, the last movie from Padmarajan before his untimely death. I still cannot understand why Rajeev Kumar chose Rathi nirvedam of all the stories from Padmarajan.

The desires and infatuations felt by a teenager, towards an older woman, nearing 30, from the neighbourhood makes up Rathinirvedam. 

I saw Rathinirvedam, as a teenager some time around 89/92, only when it came back to the theatres (mostly for porn reasons) when Malayalam cinema was filled with D grade soft porn movies between 86 and 90's. I was impressed by Jaya bharathi, but I couldnt believe how Padmarajan could write that script, which had very little of Padmarajan, as I was a big fan of that maestro. Rathinirvedam 2011 is an even bohring movie. A major drawback is the casting and performance of Shweta menon as Rathi. Ms. Menon looks too old for that role, nor does she hold the exotic/natural charm required for the village belle, Rathi. I found only 2 improvements from the '78 movie. The setting has been changed to the backwater region, from the hills, which  definitely helps the story settings. The title frames were wonderful.

I watched this movie in the Shenoys theatre in Ernakulam, one of the largest movie houses in Kerala. I think it has above 750 covers. It was 90% filled, but for such a woman oriented subject there were hardly 10 women  inside. I just would like to say how hypocritic Keralan society has turned out to be. Back in the 70's and 80's, there were many movies in Malayalam which had sex or sensuality as a theme or backdrop. Some of them, like Rathinirvedam, Avalude Raavukal, Thakara etc were also huge hits which became cult movies too. Back then, Malayaalee family audiences did not find anything wrong in watching these movies in a cinema house. My own parents have told me, how they watched Avalude Raavukal, with me and my brother as infant babies in a packed theatre. I myself have seen large family crowds (please read couples, not families with kids or teenagers) que up for a movie like Ee Noottaandile Mahaarogam (which was a real porn movie with explicit nudity, using a veil of medical advise on AIDS) in Ernakulam.

Fast forward to the 2000's and even with any hints of some cleavage show or sensuality in a movie, Keralan family audience would not venture into a movie house. {Rajeev Kumar made a brilliant movie in Kannezhuthi Pottum Thottu, which was a big flop. I hope he understood then that Keralan family audience would ignore any movie with plots having any kind of sensuality or seductions. So its quite perplexing that he still chose Rathinirvedam out of all Padmarajan movies. But this time, sure, his producer would be happy}.

I find this bloody hypocritic, especially when the same audiences are very enthusiastic to watch Bollywood flicks, which in fact have even much more cleavage shows than in movies like Rathinirvedam. There is NIL nudity in Rathinirvedam than some naval show. Actresses like Shweta Menon or for that reason, even Shakeela (who starred in lots of soft porn movies towards the end of 90's) exposes NIL, when compared to the prominent Bollywood heroines. But these unfortunate ladies are harrowed and the Bollywood ones are adored even inside the families. Some of the vulgar gesticulations in the name of dance, which even some western friends of mine considered shockingly vulgar and provocative, by these Bollywood celebrities, are enjoyed by the whole families in their living rooms. I can only take this as blatant hypocrisy.

At the same time, from the other side, it is true that the behaviour of the mass inside a movie house could be one reason why women keep away from theatre. For yesterday, the theatre was full of jovial chaos and the kind of applause Shweta Menon received, each and every time she came on the screen was unbelievable. Add to this the horrible kind of comments which were raised from every corner and the movie hall turned into some kind of hall filled with sexually malnutrition-ed and morally disoriented group of men, who didn't even mind rasing ugly comments, with a woman and husband sitting just next to them. It was really embarrassing actually. Every body thinks the biggest problem in Kerala is alcoholism. I would rather say, mis information and de orientation on matters of sex, lack of sexual choices, opportunities and sexual wisdom is more serious than the problems with alcohol.

A really bohring movie. Tornatore's Malena, showing the love of an adolescent to the  gorgeous Monica Bellucci is a 100 times better watch.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Avan Ivan

2011 by Bala

Self established directors around the world, often makes one movie which will stand out from their normal movies. It could be deliberate or just a mistake. But this has happened to many directors. Bala was a director who injected some fresh blood into Tamil main stream movies with his brand of parallel movies. He has done only a few of them in the last decade but all of them stood out and were successful too. This time, he decided to script it as well, and I guess he proves clearly he is a better director than a writer. He is more an artisan than an artist. For the first time, he makes a very light hearted movie and it is light hearted for sure and would have been brilliant, if he just kept it like that. Unfortunately, he has tried to put his stamp of intense climax into this light hearted story and the result is it ends up neither great, nor bad.

Two step brothers, Walter and Kumbideren are proud to carry on with their family tradition of petty thieving. Their common point of power is the single, local chieftain Highness, who is proud about all the land donations his family has done in the past. Then there are the two mothers and a father in an everybody knows every one kind of traditional small town. 

Highness is a brilliant character all through out. In Western and Central India, especially in Rajasthan, we have lots of such characters. Nice of Bala to create one in Tamil Nadu. He is so affectionate to the warring brothers. Walter an aspiring actor, strong but with some feminine qualities too, and Kumbideren who is an excellent thief, but not very strong, shrewd and clever though. These three characters are the back bone of this movie and they are really brilliant. With the occassional interferences from the two mothers, father and local police man, the movie carries on nicely with lot of hilarious moments. In fact the beginning of the movie is quite brilliant. But when the whole first half goes on like that, without anything serious happening, but only some fun, we know this is not typical Bala. In fact its the same with the second half too. We tend to forget about everything and laugh with these characters and then towards the fag end arrives a villain and the movie takes a climax, which has all the intensity of a tough and thrilling action scene, typical of some Bala movies. But, but, I think this is where Bala failed as a writer. Mostly his characters are quite different from the rest, but he puts them together with ordinary human beings and makes an extra ordinary movie. Here his characters are not that different, except for a wonderful Highness, and were good enough for simple fun. But he destroys that simple fun and makes it a revenge drama just for the last 15 minutes. Quite strange. Bala, the writer, failed us.

He could have made it a whole some light hearted movie, but decided to bring the fun to an end by taking the lives of one of his best characters ever, most unlikely character from Bala's school - the Highness, just to bring up some last minute thrill, I thought, this took away a lot from this movie. If he hadnt, it would have only just ended as a light movie from a great director, but instead it looks like Bala was not sure or got confused about how to end his plot. Such a pity. Also his creation of two female leads for the two thieves, wasn't a good idea. Sure they both, especially the police woman, gave some funny moments but all together doesn't contribute anything to the good for the movie. Instead make his story look even weak.

Having said that, I would still say he is an exceptional director. He is a master in drawing the best performances out of his ordinary actors. Vishal was brilliant, in fact stunningly brilliant. May be after 10 years, this movie will be remembered only for Vishal's performance as Walter. His Navarasa scene, a sqyint eyed character, was simply brilliant. That was a real made up scene, but he really took the opportunity with both his hands. Arya also was really good. After Aadukalam, G M Kumar as Highness proves once again his calibre. What a wonderful performance it was by the veteran. Except for the way the movie turns out in the end and for really not having anything serious in the plot, Bala still proves how good a director he is. Even the climax scenes, inspite of all what I said above, was beautifully shot. No doubts there. Scene by scene, he did great as a director. But failed as a writer. The performances by the two mothers, one being Ambika, were also very good.

The cinematography was excellent and so was the sound recording. Another great part was the back ground score. The Kuthu song scenes, the one in the beginning by Vishal and the one between Arya and his mother were also really excellent.

I dont know how this movie will fare in the box office. It ought to do some business at least for the good of Vishal and GM Kumar. In Kochi Multiplex, the response looked mixed. The Tamil crowd were laughing it out. Most Malayaalees weren't. I am not sure if they really understood the dialogues. For the fun, mostly, wasn't any slap stick. It was just raw and rustic dialogues between ordinary Tamil characters, the kind of ones that Malayaalees often look down upon. Or, may be, Bala didnt meet the expectations, which is true too.

Whatever, this movie will be remembered, I hope, for the performance of Vishal.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Mee Sindhutai Sapkal - I Sindhutai Sapkal

2010 by Ananth Mahadevan

India have produced only a few great biopic movies. And when it comes to living personalities it is nearly nil. Each and everytime I watch such a biopic in a foreign language, for eg movies on Ray or Malcolm X, I have wondered why our film makers are a big failure in this kind of movies. Sindhutai Sapkal is a living legend from Maharashtra, often called Mother Teresa of this state. I had only little knowledge about her, but this movie is an excellent biopic of this living legend.

12 year old Chindi has to take care of buffaloes and try hard to attend any school in between. Her father wants her to study, but her mother manges to get her married off, even before she attains puberty to a young man. Soon she is daughter of 2 boys and is carrying another. When there is a local issue between the poor villagers and the land lord, She speaks out for the villagers. To avenge this, the land lord lies to her husband that she is sleeping with the land lord. She is expelled from the husbands' home and gives birth to a girl in a  cow's barn. Even her mother is reluctant to support her. Sindhutai sings and begs to live. Soon she sets out on a fight to support orphans like herselves. 

The story might look simple, but it takes us through a journey from '59 to the present. The life of the 12 year old Chindi especially, is so well told and many scenes during this episode of Sindhutai's life are brilliantly shot. There are so many wonderfully moments which will create an impression on any kind hearts. And the most touching is of course the elderly husband approaching a 12 year old girl in a small sari, in the first night. And thereafter as she grows up, her life until she gives birth to her third child, is detailed in a 'brief' way. I must repeat this brief here, as the script or director never goes over board with any scenes. By Indian standards, it is all shot quite subtly, never going over board even for the scenes which would have normally been shot with an over dose of emotion. There after the second half of her life, where Sindhutai is a social personality, protecting orphans and working for them is told with an advanced pace, so as to keep the movie quite short. But the message is quite clear. So a lot of applause should go for the script and director. Having said that I must say, the director has taken every care on how the characters perform and in creating the general ambience and setting for the villages in the 60 - 70's. But he hasn't cared that much to check on the minute details of this period. But that is not quite important and are pardonable.

Mr. Mahadevan deserves a lot of praise to make such a movie with the emotional content kept under check. Through this life saga, in fact many problems faced by the majority unfortunates of India, especially women are high lighted. The denial of education, the journey at a very young age to husband's home, the dis pleasure by the husband and his family when the wife seems to be learned than the husband and so on  (all this is happening, even today in India, for a big majority of women). The first speech of Sindhutai, where she denounce Lord Ram, as he didnt take care of his wife, was simply good.

Its two different actors who have performed the young  (upto around 40 years)Sindhutai and the old. The younger one, by Tejaswini Pandit, especially, has given a beautiful performance. Cinematography was excellent. In fact it was brilliant in many scenes.

The movie is told through flash backs, as Sindhutai meets a pilot, performed by Mahadevan himself, in a flight.  This was nicely done, but at least in few stages, the moments for going back to the flash back, looked quite made up. Only a small hinge though.

A very good biopic, which I wish, all fortunate women of India should watch. 

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Zuotian - QUITTING

2001 by Zhang Yang

I am not sure if I have ever seen something like this. We do get to see documentaries where real life characters enact their own life. But a whole movie?, that too enacting the whole trauma a family experienced? I do not know about any others.

Jia Hongsheng, graduated from Drama school in 89 and slowly built his acting career. He had couple of good films and during the rehearsal for a movie, he took into the practise of Marijuana and gets addicted. He quits acting and ends up in the apartment of his young sister, slowly becoming a complete introvert having hallucinations, living on his sister. His father, a peasant takes premature retirement and comes to the city with his wife to take care of their son. They really go through a terrific struggle before they will have their son back as normal. 

By 97 Jia is free of drugs and Mr. Yang made this movie using the same actor, his parents, sister and even the hospital staff. In fact it was during the rehearsal for Yang's movie that Jia first took drugs. What a great way to pay back for that small sin. Let me admit, I have seen so many movies which were all termed as movies for the family or family movie or about a family. But 200%, this is what a real family movie is.

Quitting is not shot in a typical movie format. Its beginning is quite different and we see that we are going to be taken through the lives of some people, as we are introduced to them. It really starts off as a movie with the arrival of his parents in Beijing. They know that their son is a drug addict and are shocked to see how he treats his own parents. But they have this brilliant will and are dedicated to suffer to any extent to get their son back to normality. So many scenes, honestly I must say, are difficult to bear. There is no vulgarity or blood shed or abuse or anything. But if one attaches any importance to family or your parents or your brothers or sisters, it is quite shocking and difficult to see how Jia treats his family. It is all the more difficult to bear the pain of his parents to go through the horrible treatment they receive from their son. But what comes through is the sheer love and dedication of a family, to suffer anything to get their son back to normality.

But, it is not all very painful and sad. Some of the scenes are genuinely simple and funny. Like how Jia's father wants to buy a music cassette of Beatles, for his son. But he doesnt have any idea about Beatles or Lennon, who Jia considers his idol or even his father. So many scenes carry a kind of fun, but at the same time carry a kind of sadness behind.

This movie does a brilliant service against drugs, I think. The whole family of Jia deserves applause and recognition for what they have done. For youngsters and parents alike, it must be an eye opener. It might be accused that it was easy as they really went through all this, but the performances have been brilliant. Especially Jia Hongsheng the actor and Jia Fengsen, the father.

This is a brilliant and touching movie, the best family movie. A must watch.

There is something though. A lot of scenes in this movie happens in the sisters apartment. And couple of times the camera zooms out, and we can see that its actually a set on a stage, each and every room designed on the stage. As and how the movie is told, this is not particularly relevant. But that was quite surprising, when it was done the first time. I am still not sure, what the director meant here. May be, just reminding us that its the same people acting out their real life once again, may be!


Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Gohatto - Taboo

1999 by Nagisa Oshima

It is very rarely that you watch a movie which have as the centre of plot, something that we do not like to be part of or even detest a lot, but still gets stunningly impressed by the whole movie. Homo sexuality is something that I cannot bear, though I understand and recognise that their feelings are part of nature too and I would always consider their rights to existence as important as mine. When I picked Gohatto dvd, I never thought I was going to experience some thing quite extra ordinary in cinema.

150 years ago in Japan, a recruitment for Samurais' is taking place in a Shinsengumi, a fuedal police force. Only two are chosen, Kano and Tashiro. Kano is the best warrior but he is charming and attractive and lot of samurais in the camp, including high officers fall for his beauty. There is a sea of suspicion and it is not sure who has fallen for him, who wishes to and who already have slept with him. At the same time, there are murders occuring too. 

Firstly, I never expected homo sexuality amongst a group of professional warriers, a group of men who could be termed the heights of Japaneese Machismo. Kano himself is the best warrior but when fighting against Tashiro, he is just ordinary as it is Tashiro who was the first to fall for him and who took punishment for him. There are lots of Taboos in the camp, but the intrusion of homo sexuality is left unchecked.

As one without much knowledge about Japaneese culture, this movie is not an easy movie to digest, especially since the sub titles didnt look perfect. But going after what we get to see, Gohatto is definitely a master piece. Everything is told in a subtle and restricted way that there is elegance all around. There is nothing happening in the action sense, but the whole plot is intriguing with full of surprise and suspense. We could still find ways and ways to explore more into the story and scenes.

I am still not sure if I understood the climax fully. Definitely this movie requires a second watch and I am afraid I will get too fond about this movie with each watch. There is a kind of subtle elegance written all through out the movie. And if ever we could call cinematography to be elegant, here is a prime contender. In fact the setting of the movie, the military camp, is devoid of colour. But what a work it is!! Brilliant use of lights and colours to go with the mood and in fact there is bare minimum movement from the camera. I wish Malayalam movie makers and reviewers watch this movie. It is important for all to see what exactly cinematography can do to a movie. Truly elegant work.

Still I must say, even if it is visually stunning and powerful by plot, the movie is still kind of cold. It is not going to touch us emotionally. I think that is what it is intended to be.


Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Shaitan

2011 by Bejoy Nambiar

I had watched Dileep Kumar's Devdas, in Doordarshan. So when I watched Bansali's Devdas I was disappointed. In fact the kind of promotion and reception it got had shocked me. Luckily, the brand who sponsors Cannes festival had just signed Aishwarya Rai then and hence they made Devdas an important movie in Cannes festival that year. Many people mistook it as a synonym of Indian movie, when it was only a poor Bollywood flick with high production values. The celebrity media in India raved all this as a success of Bollywood even without wondering why Devdas, after all, was screened in Cannes. Then came Dev D and I was not interested at all. But a friend who is as passionate about movies as I am, pushed me and I thought that was brilliant. I was stunned by the talent of Anurag Kashyap, the director. I , again a mistake, thought Shaitan was directed by Mr. Kashyap, for some strange reason and went. In few minutes realised, he is only a producer. In Tamil, when Shankar directs a movie, it is an out and out entertainer, but when he produces, all most all of them have turned out to be brilliant movies. In case of Mr. Kashyap it looks just opposite.

A small group of ultra rich spoiled youngsters ends up killing two bikers while having fun. The policeman who gets to them asks for a huge bribe to cover it up. The group's only choice is to kidnap one of them and find money. 

Almost all Indians looks up towards the west, just like most countries who were under colonial rule. The biggest achievement , for Bollywood, seems to be making movies that looks exactly like Hollywood. The result is there are fewer and fewer movies coming out of Bollywood which are genuinely Indian.

A good majority of Indians, even those of middle class from small towns might not understand the dialogues and actions of the young group in the early half of this movie. For the script seems to have taken up ideas from lots and lots of movies from abroad and created a plot line to begin with. To be frank, at this point the movie definitely looks different by Bollywood standards. My point that a good majority of Indians would wonder what is happening, still standing though.

But from the moment the kidnapping happens, it turns just ordinary and routine, a kind of kidnapping saga that has been explored by movie makers across the world, even from India. The only respite being the production values and the pace of the script.

The makers have created a traumatic past for one of the characters, who, by killing one of her mates gets out of her trauma. This trauma is picturised in a way to fool viewers into thinking that this is a classy production. Thats all. Also for a majority of Indians, the kind of life style and the actions by this spoiled youth group is something that most can't even dream about. So it might still look different, for some if they wish so. The way they have picturised some songs actually matches the pace of the movie that we may not even notice that a song has come and gone. But it is a real pity that this modern brand of movie makers, cant even make their own new songs and have to remix the old songs. I think there were two old songs remixed in this one.

Shaitan, might be promoted as a different movie by regular Bollywood goers, but it is only a slightly different average movie, which can only give a feeling of a wine made of grapes from prominent wine yards across the world. Those who know about wine will know, wine from mixed grapes are of poor quality.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Leader

2010 by Shekar Kammula

In India, we have seen lot of political movies. In fact, from around the end of 80's Malayalam movies got a procession of movies with political overtones, in which 99% happened to be quite on the same lines with the same kind of stuff. Some of them still were good entertainers. The best definitely was Panchavadippalam, by K G George relased some time in the mid of 80's. That was a sarcastic, but brilliant take on politics on the ground level. Recently Prakash Jha made Raajneeti, which I thought was just average normally, but it was above average stuff compared to the normal ones from Bollywood. So most North Indian media took it as a huge political movie. I just saw Leader, a Telugu movie and I found it miles ahead of Raajneeti, but no one outside the states of South India (barring Kerala) seems to know about it.

A corrupt Chief minister is killed and his young son, who was working in the US, arrives and takes charge. How he evolves into a leader of the masses is caught quite nicely in this excellent movie. 

This is not a very serious movie, it is actually an entertainer, but it is a great entertainer. Its story can be read almost every day in news papers in India, in parts. In fact everything that is happening in this movie is actually happening in India, not just as a single plot though. And it is only at the end, where a leader of the masses evolves, it turns cinematic, but not going over board.

For people worried about India, its corrupt system and politicians and the majority poor this is definitely an excellent movie. For, it is a feel good movie on contemporary politics.

It would be brilliant, if this movie will be released all over India, in Hindi or English, when we are seeing many, good and fake, fighting to find the black money outside India. The movie actually talks about black money which is stuffed in India itself.

The movie still has a few songs, but we may not even really notice how these songs come and go. It just melts down with the movie. Only in the second half, when there is a love angle, does the movie drags a little bit, bit it falls back into the track very soon. Even as an entertainer, I would say the direction was brilliant. It is an excellent movie under the technical categories too. Even the back ground score and songs are nice.

And Rana  Daggupati as the young Chief Minister was excellent. He has a wonderful charm and I am very impressed.

I really wish, this movie is shown all over India. 

Shankaranum Mohananum

2011 by T V Chandran

There have been so many movies which worked on the life after death and how some souls tried to interact with the living, after their death, some serious, some entertaining, some funny and some awful movies. As a plot for a whole movie, I think Shankaranum Mohananum is a new one in Malayalam, but its awfully flawed movie.

An elder brother, Shankaran dies the day after his marriage, from snake bite. The younger brother, Mohanan starts seeing him.

The script is horrible for many reasons and actually towards the second half of the movie, Mohanan starts seeing not just his brother but most dead souls around him. Even in a funny movie like Ghost Town (2008), it clearly established a simple reason why the protagonist was able to see the dead souls. Here there isnt any and towards the end, more souls are visible, without any reason which makes it even terrible. Forget this particular aspect, but even otherwise this movie doesnt interest us, I am afraid. It is not able to touch us in any ways, even light heartedly. Instead, sometimes we feel laughing out loud at the kind of fancy dress that is presented to us, for reasons what soever.

In spite of that, one aspect which was mentioned was quite interesting, I thought. That, the 9 months after death, when a soul is preparing for its next birth, its difficult to forget the events from the previous birth, this was quite interesting, but even when this is told, we really do not get moved, is definitely a fault of the director.  And the background music, I am afraid, is quite horrible.

The only good aspect, was the cinematography. It is not great, but that is one aspect which made the movie look good, at least, compared to the other movies from TV Chandran, an award winning director. Often his movies lack any kind of technical brilliance, barring one or two mentions like Pondanmaada.


Saturday, 11 June 2011

Badrinath

2011 by VV Vinayak

I watched Passion of Christ with an American friend. He doubted the real intention behind the release of the movie, the timing of its release especially. He thought the timing was meant to gather a lot of conservative votes in favour of Mr. Bush. I found it quite strange, how could a movie like that help a presidential election. In India I never saw a movie which would help garner more interest in a particular political party or ideology. For the first time I watch a movie and felt, there is something wrong with this movie. It tends to exaggerate a kind of campaign from a section of religious fanatics. May be it is not. But there is something basically wrong and foolish looking in the plot for this Telugu production. May be Allu Arjun wanted to make a movie which would surpass Magadheera in its grandeur. The way the movie was promoted, I thought so and all campaigns seemed to talk about a sure block buster movie. The first ever Telugu movie to be released in Malayalam simultaneously with the original. But..

If there is a competition for the worst movie ever, from South India, I am sure Badrinath can be a serious contender.

Except for Killadi, Allu Arjun never did any kind of semi serious or even different kind of movie. All his movies were simple or hard core entertainers and that is what his fans like him for. But it is unbelievable how he committed, performed and promoted this kind of a horribly stupid and terrible movie. I think once a couple of movies are successful and a film personality gains recognition, it is difficult or nearly impossible for them to stick to their basic common sense or feel or think like a common being. Either they get carried away and believe blindly in their fans or they have lost that thread between a new plot and common sense. I cannot fathom how in the world they thought about this kind of a plot. Even a hard core Hindu fanatic would find this movie stupid.

In spite of all the chaos in the movie house, Allu Arjun still got a lot of applause for some of his dance steps, is the only positive aspect of this movie. 

Italienesk for Begyndere - Italian for Beginners

2000 by Lone Scherfig

Many years back some University students from Denmark, who after watching a couple of Indian movies with me, which included Lagaan, had told me that they get some very good movies in Danish. It took me long to watch one. I never expected there movies would be like this. If my memory is not outdated, this is my first movie from Denmark and what an experience it has been.

There are a few characters in a region. A Priest who has just lost his wife and is actually filling in for the permanent priest who is on suspension, A hair dresser woman, whose mother is sick and interrupts her work quite often, A very clumsy woman at a bakery, who has an old father who is quite dominant and difficult to manage, A rude manager at a restaurant in a Football stadium, A man who is afraid he is impotent and works in a hotel and a young girl working in the stadium restaurant. All these guys are somewhere around in the nearby streets where we have the Chapel, the hotel, the restaurant, the bakery and a muncipal hall where an Italian language class for beginners is organised by the local council. 

Some pretty ordinary characters in even ordinary circumstances live their routine life in front of the camera for us. The only unique point about all of them are they are loners in some ways. Thats how this movie start, a very slow and uninteresting start though. To be frank, it is quite difficult to pass through those first 10 or 15 minutes. Without any kind of cinematic help the movie jumps on to one of these characters right from the first frame and jumps to all others. It can take us by surprise, in the first few minutes, that what we are seeing is just ordinary life. But slowly but nicely this movie takes us through a great experience. By the end we are sure that we have seen one of the best feel good movies.

I cannot remember a different film which proceeds through so many ordinary characters without any kind of main plot at all. For some time I did think Short Cuts was the closest, but of course not. This is a very different attempt. Even the major catalyst of this movie, the Italian class for beginners is thrown in a very subtle way and it is only with time we see all characters merging in there. In between there are these two very touching moments of an Euthanasia and of two characters realising that they are sisters. I would say those scenes depicts the heights of capturing emotional subtlety in movie making.

This is a really unique movie, a unique way of making a romantic comedy in fact.  May be the most brilliant attempt in celluloid to capture the romance among the most ordinary and imperfect people during our times. I think that's the best way to explain this movie.

I cannot imagine, how they scripted or conceived this idea at all. May be all started from the end just like how the Tamil movie Kalluri was made and built a history for the characters. That is the most probably possibility.

Brilliant movie. 

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Fighter

I saw Raging Bull some years ago and was convinced that would be the best boxing movie, or even the best movie on any sports stars ever. I am yet to see anything even closer to it actually. Fighter, which too is a true story, is not anything like the above master piece, but it is still a very good movie about boxers.

Dickie, from a working class town, rose to great heights in Welterweight boxing, but fell just short of being the best, is still a living legend in the town. His younger brother Mickie trains under him and adores him like anything. But when Dickie is unable to get him the best opportunities, Mickie has to find his own way out to reach the top. 

Three aspects of this movie are brilliant.

The beginning when we are introduced to the brothers through the eyes of an HBO docu team. In this period, it was so realistic, as if the characters were out of a Mike Leigh movie and I really suspect the director is a fan of Leigh movies.

The performance by Christian Bale as Dickie. At the end of the movie, this is what we really treasure. I am sure he has taken great pains to do this character and it tells. Brilliant performance

The depiction of the family of these brothers lead by the mother and some sisters. It is so rare that we get to see such picturisations of a unorthodox family in Hollywood. We have similar cases in Tamil movies a lot actually but I cant remember seeing something like that from Hollywood in the recent past.

 The Editing, especially, is excellent in this movie. I am still not very convinced about the boxing scenes though. It rather looks like Mickie decides to punch back and win, just because the script demanded it. Even the final fight in Rocky I, though so many decades older, is much much better.

And glad to see Amy Adams in a very different role than from Julia and Julia.




Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Wong Fei Hung - Once upon a time in China

1991 by Hark Tsui

Sometime in the mid 80's when VCR's started appearing in Keralan homes, thanks to those working in the middle east, one of the first heroes who came with it was Jackie Chan. All video libraries tried to stock each and every Jackie Chan movie which became terrific hits, even in villages. For us Chan movies were the first international movies we were exposed to as school students. Of course, there were movies like Gandhi and Beautiful people, which were international movies too, but those were more of educational ones for us. I remember watching Jackie Chan movies with all the neighbour hood in our family home, mostly containing boys and men who were amazed by the powers of the martial art star (Apparently there were bigger crowds only when the '86 world cup was shown live by Doordarshan and Maradona lit the scene). As news came in that Jackie Chan performed his own stunts and gets operated at least once during each of his film shoot, his fan base increased. We used to watch those movies again and again and again. Watching them now, for eg a movie like Drunken master or Protector, I still admire and appreciate him as an ultimate action star. But the comic scenes of those movies looks a bit oldy now. But I still like to watch those earlier movies of Chan than his modern flicks with Hollywood. Wong Fei Hung or the movie famous as Once upon a time in China, came highly reccommended, but while watching it I thought this movie was still in the early 80's.

Wong Fei Hung, a martial arts maestro has to set up a local militia to protect his town from the increasing number of foreign invaders including the Americans and the French. He faces opposition also from another local gang and a brutal martial art master. 

The movie starts quite slowly and its pace varies, sadly though, many times until it enters the final third. Therein, it is excellent. There is something wrong with the basic script and especially how it is edited, I thought, was the reason for its varying pace. Also as in the case of the earlier Jackie Chan movies, its comic scenes are a bit oldy for now. May be if I had watched it in 90's I would have felt different. And technically too, it is only slightly better than the Chan movies of 80's.

Whatever, the fight scenes are brilliant and that is all what matters finally. Wong Fei Hung was a legendary martial art hero. There should be hundreds of movies made upon this man and every Chinese must be proud about this legend. What a life it must have been for this hero. Even a century later, he is a hero not just in his country, but through cinema, his stories are flying high to the nook and corner of this world.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Dead Poets Society

1989 by Peter Weir

Some years back there was a movie in Malayalam from Fazil, Life is Beautiful. I liked it then, as it was a different attempt from all the stupid ones that were coming out in that time. Also it was one attempt by Mohanlal to perform a role which didnt had any of his routing song/fights/walking scenes. The movie still looked up at his character was one of the reasons it didnt turn out as great. Also the private life of Mohanlal's character was portrayed in a way, the 'hypocritic' Keralan family audiences thought was not fit for a family watch. Neither the fans nor the family approved of the movie and it was a big flop. It was a better movie from Fazil after a couple of horrible attempts since his master piece Manichitrathaazhu. Thanks to my friend Jijo, I watch Dead Poets Society and it is quite embarassing that Fazil infact destroyed an excellent movie of the 80's through his terrible adaptation. I dont know why Fazil decided to run a parallel story in the teachers school life, in the form of his personal life involving his wife and sister in law. That, now I can see, was a weird decision.

In a famous boarding school, a new English teacher arrives and urges his students to look at literature and life in a different way. 'Carpe diem' - he says, ie to Seize the day, as everybody is going to be food for worms very soon. So enjoy life. He instills confidence in the students to go for things what they really like. However, parents and the school itself is not impressed as one of the students kills himself when his parents are against his wishes. 

The best part of this movie is definitely the performance by Robin Williams, as Mr. Keating the teacher who wants the students to be free thinkers. A sublime performance, I must say, never going over board even during some scenes where a bit of overdoing would have been pardonable. From the character, Mr. Williams could have made Mr. Keatings a very theatrical person, but he isnt. A wonderful performance indeed.

The climax, when most of the children stands on top of the desk, just to be against the school's conformity, as a recognition to their teacher or a kind of see off for him, or a way of apologising was very beautiful. A single shot shows that the other students who didn't get up, where leaning towards the front desk as a sign of being embarassed or guilty to not supporting Mr. Keatings, was really nice. Even in these scenes, the movie never goes over board is a real credit for the director.

At the same time, the drama performed by the students by which one of them is applauded by one and all, I thought looked a bit mediocre. Nothing extra ordinary was shown for all those around to look at him as a star.

I am sure there would be at least a few parents who would have decided to not forbid their wards from seeking their wishes. If there were, I am sure this movie is a great success.  In fact, it would not be a bad idea for every parents to watch this movie. Some serious points are told in a simple way.

By the way, Dead Poets Society, is a stunning title.

In my 16 years of work experience, I have had the luck to meet people from all over the world. Especially during a 9 year stint in a cultural centre, I met people even from the remote parts of the world and made friends with nationalities (people used to stay for a long period, even upto an year or so sometimes) from every where. One thing I realised during all these period was that, Indians are more adept in meeting the hard ships of life. Of course we (this is not true for the new Indian generation of the affluent class, I agree) learn life a hard way and Indians seems to show more common sense, this in spite of not being literate or as educated as in the west. It is quite strange then that our movie makers always wants to go overboard or explain too much to illustrate things in their movie. Do they really take their own people as illiterate fools. I simply dont get this.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Vaanam

2011 by Krish

I learnt a lesson yesterday. It might be always better to look to find some information about a movie before attempting to watch. I had just watched Train and was disappointed and then thought, ok at least go for a no brainer movie and relax. So I just went in for Vaanam. I cannot believe how all this happen on the same day. I watched Train, and was thinking, Jayaraj should have watched Vedam, may be. The movie starts with a song and then there is a scene and I was like perplexed, what the hell is this, isnt this a scene from a movie I watched not long ago, even the actress, Anushka, is the same. And in a minute I realised, this movie Vaanam is a remake of the Telugu movie Vedam, and what its done by the same director too. And except for a few characters, even the actors are the same mostly, in both version.

Some characters from different walks of life ends up in a hospital,which is being targeted by a terrorist group.

I was cursing my selves like anything. I had watched Vedam, yes in the same theatre sometime in 2010, and was actually thinking about Vedam, when I was looking at Train unfolded painstakingly on the screen. I thought in Vedam, the characters were better and all their life leading to the hospital was much much more authentic than in Train. So the movie was still good in my memory and this happens to me. A really bad day, especially because I thought the Telugu version looked better.

What a day. 

Anyways, Vaanam, is still a much better watch than Train. 




The Train

2011 by Jairaj

It is beyond any explanations that directors who proved their mettle in the last two decades are climbing down their career graphs in Malayalam cinema. This is true for almost all the Malayalam veteran directors. Jayaraj, a proven director, recently came up with a nice movie, could have been even more beautiful if he had not tried with some horrible songs and comic scenes, in Loud Speaker and gave some hope that there is still hope with some veterans. That movie, though it took (not sure if this was intended) the age old theme of Zorba the Greek, people from two ends of life finding friendship, but did have some nice moments and was a kind of refresher. His new movie, The Train, immediately got widespread negative reviews and  I was sure to not watch.  But then a cousin of mine pulled me in.

Life unfolding for few characters in the city of Mumbai, before they lost it in the serial bomb blasts of July 2006. 

Last year, there was a telegu movie, Vedam, which was dubbed as Killadi in Malayalam. Since the star cast included Allu Arjun, the young charming star most people expected it to be a no brainer in the entertainment category, but it was a pretty decent film on some terrorists taking a hospital, where again different characters from many walks of life are affected. No doubt the stars fans were disappointed. I wish, at least Jayaraj had watched that movie, before he went about making his own Train.

Train fails miserably, because of its terrible script and the soul less characters in it. Except for a couple of scenes and minutes, the film is really disappointing.

How can a director who made movies like Vidyarambham, Kaliyaattam and Makalkku not realise the emptiness in this script. 

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Red Cliff 2

2009 by John Woo

Rafeeq managed to find the part 2 and thanks to him I was able to watch it yesterday itself.

Based on the Battle of the red cliffs in 208 - 209 AD, at the end of the Han dynasty, with the emperor on one side and two local war lord who have formed an alliance, not against the empire actually, but against his war mongering chancellor. Part two is the final part of this war at the red cliff.

I have nothing more to say from what I did yesterday. As an out and out war movie, this is brilliant. I cannot remember a single movie in which the war strategy is so much detailed and executed with lots of details for the viewers.

And it is brilliant. Each and every aspect is brilliant. It is just a bit disappointing that the music is slightly western influenced. The same too, if it was purely Chinese, it would have been even better.

The end of the movie claims there are no winners. How true. Nobody wins at the end of a war.  And most wars are unnecessary. Here too, it is frightening to know that all this was actually for a woman.

John Woo should be a proud man. He must have taken a bit of fictionalised history for the script, but still.
I had rather measure it on what I get to see and how it is told. There are moments which can only be told poetic. This is an epic war movie in all its sense and am sure many directors must be jealous of him.


Friday, 3 June 2011

Red Cliff

2008 by John Woo

A friend who runs a small cd shop, in the same building where my office is, sometimes takes a lot of pain to get me the dvd's I ask for. He says normally people only ask for hollywood blockbusters and some people just pick cd's based on the pictures on the cover - of war or explosions or guns etc. It is not feasible for him to buy just a couple of copies of a non English movie, but he still does it for me. He says whenever he comes across such CD's he just picks them for me. There are also a couple of other guys who occassionally turn up in his shop for European or movies from other regions than Hollywood. I am very grateful to this guy for giving me dvd's for a small price, keeping only a bare minimum profit for himself. I do understand, Rafeeq has only some basic education and all, but he is immensly helpful. Well he called me yesterday to say about this new Chineese movie and I liked it immediately when I saw the cover design.

A movie about a real war at the end of the Han dynasty in the 208 - 209 AD.

It is such a brilliant movie, BRILLIANT I must emphasize, and is so detailed in its description of war and its preparations, chequered with some wonderful imagery. When a part of this amazing war was over and we are looking for that final , the screen says - to be continued..... -- I really got mad. I looked the cover again and there is no sign at all about this dvd being a part 1. Except for the name Red Cliff, everything was in chineese. It was so disappointing. Even if it meant the second pat was another 2 hours, I would have continued watching it, even if it was 0130 in the morning. Oh what a pity.

I spoke to Rafeeq and he has promised me to get the second part, if its available in Kochi. So eagerly waiting for this part.

In fact, the part I show was released by itself and still went to break all box office records in East Asia. The second part was released a few months later and that too was a historic success.

Once again let me say, this movie is bloody brilliant. It is all about this epic war, but goes into details as to its preparations and strategies, through some characters. It can match or overrun any of the best epic war movies from the west in its production and all other values and is even better as to some ways it details some war techniques and some interspersed imagery, which makes this movie to tilt it to the artistic side of scale. As a whole movie, I might still consider Mongol - the rise of Chengiz khan slightly above, but as an out and out war movie, this is brilliant.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Blood Work

2002 by Clint Eastwood.

I always liked Mr. Eastwood for many reasons and it was Million Dollar Baby, which made me admire this wonderful talent. That was a movie, a real brilliant movie. Blood Work was may be his training ground, before he set out for that master piece.

Terry McCaleb is a retired FBI agent, who has just undergone a heart transplant. He is approached by a woman, Graciella Rivers, to help find her sister's murderer. It was her sisters heart which is ticking on Terry and he owes it to her. And then it is the investigation by this retired agent.

The start of the movie is really good I thought, and it is allright almost till the middle and but then it continues as ordinary. It is full of typical Hollywood cliches is what is most disappointing. I dont know at what age an FBI agent retires. Whatever, Mr. Eastwood is too old, for a relationship with the 30 some Graciella. And there is hardly anything that brings them close too.

Anyways, investigation wise it is excellent till the mid point, but looses its compactness and some silly errors would help most people guess the killer. May be some fast editing on a couple of scenes, for eg. the shot where Terry pins up the cheque for his buddy, would have made it for difficult guessing.

It is not a bad movie, nor is it really good. Just a one time watch.

Admire Mr. Eastwood though, still. 

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Thoonganagaram

2011 by Gaurav

A lots of debutant directors are coming up in Tamil language, most of them really young. It is good that a considerable percentage among them do make a mark. This is a very interesting factor that is doing wonders for Tamil cinema in the new millennium. It is even more appreciable that they make movies with a real Tamil flavour, with stories and characters which are routed in Tamil culture, may it be urban or rustic. However, a good percentage of these stories are based on rustic characters is the biggest credit to Tamil movie makers. At least in one state in India, there are artists who haven't forgotton the fact that, India lives in its villages and a good majority are still suffering.

Four callous youth are all struggling for their livelihoods in the sleepless city of Madurai. When they come across a situation when some body takes shoots videos of girls in a trail room (in a textile show room) black mailing her, one of them goes out and bashes out these bad guys. It turned out that one of them was the son of a prominent local bad guy, who is now wanting revenge. This guy makes this strange plan, by which three of the friends have to save their families by killing their friend, who was responsible for the bashing. 

In some aspects, Thoonganagaram is even better than Subramaniapuram, the predecessor in the Madurai youth based movies. Yes its brilliant in patches. But it turns out quite ordinary at some places and those places really takes the charm out of this movie making it just an average entertainer, which could have been an excellent movie. It is certain scenes in the script, unnecessarily detailing certain incidents and elaborating few cliches, which fails this could have been brilliant movie.

But the debutant director has been excellent, who also plays a part as one of the friends. May be it is this double duty which made him ignore the details. But still credit to him, because if this movie was made in Malayalam, I am sure the Malayaali viewers might have appreciated it even more as there are not even good average movies coming up in Malayalam. All the more, there have been a lot of Madurai youth based movies now in Tamil, most are still different in some ways, though.

Once again, the Cinematography is brilliant.