Monday, October 14, 2002

Sunday, October 13, 2002

The Indian restaurant of choice for a lunch buffet was Kohinoor, close to Galaxy Cinema on Jimmy Carter Blvd. Interesting range, although nothing ground-breaking. The TV sets were tuned to B4U running First Love Letter (the second Manisha Koirala-Vivek Mushran film). What more can one ask for? Buffet and a B-movie to boot:).

Later in the afternoon, we attended a classical guitar recital by Peter Fletcher at the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Decatur. This time around (I had been to his recital last year) it wasn't free and there was a good overlap with the playlist last year. Still it was a pleasure to listen to staples like Sunburst and Leyenda. Of course, like some of the other members of audience, I would have loved to hear Cavatina (the theme from The Deer Hunter).

On our way back, we stopped by Urvashi, a VHS/DVD rental place that also sells CDs and tapes. This was a friend's recommendation and boy, was it a good one. Found four little rarities (predominantly RD Burman, of course) lying in their stacks:

* Bade Dilwala/Zehreela Insaan

* Ishk Ishk Ishk/Manpasand

* Chalti ka Naam Gaadi/Padosan

* Raton ka Raja/Madhosh

Back home, I caught the first half of Devata. For the remotely interested, here are the DVD details and back cover synopsis.

DVD Details: Eros Entertainment/B4U DVD-E 167 Running Time: 146 Minutes/Color. Dolby Digital 4 Channel/ NTSC Format

N. N. Sippy's DEVATA

Produced by N. B. Sippy

Directed by S. Ramanathan

Music R. D. Burman

Starring Sanjeev Kumar, Shabana Azmi, Danny Denzongpa, Rakesh Roshan, Sarika

Tony is a village orphan who finds shelter under the wings of a parish priest Fr. Fernandes, who brings him up as his own son in the way so love, truth and tolerance. But Tony has a terrible temper and he is roused by the acts of injustice. Tony enjoys the friendship of an intensely loyal friend, Police Inspector Lawrence.

Tony is in love with a native belle, Lily, whom he marries but loses her in child-birth. He now showers all his love and devotion on his child Mary, who grows up in the living image of her mother. She goes to college where she falls in love with a play boy and losses her virginity and refuses to marry her. Tony goes to the boys house to persuade him to marry his daughter but on his refusal to do so Tony forcefully asks him to marry, but boy is brought to the church, he is found dead. Tony is arrested and sentenced for life, Fr. Fernandes dies and his daughter also committed suicide. But Tony escapes from the clutches of the law and returns years later as Tarun Kumar Gupta, but Inspector suspects the identity now becomes his shadow. He finds his daughter alive and with a lovely daughter but can't address his own daughter can't hear the word "papa" from her lips, can't even fondle her in his arms in a fatherly manner.

Chapter Index

1. cc/titles

2. tony and lily

3. song 1 - chand curake laya...

4. love marriage

5. lily's death

6. song 2 - jab ek kaza...

7. homecoming

8. inspector lawrence

9. song 3 - main to taare...

10. caught red-handed

11. unwitting murder

12. song 4 - main waqt ka mujrim...

13. sorrowful parting

14. tony escapes

15. arrival of vip

16. lawrence suspects

17. song 5 - kuch aise kismat wale...

18. fatherly affection

19. tony or tarun

20. song 6 - gulmahar gar tumhara...

21. marriage alliance

22. emotional meeting

23. confusion at wedding

24. tony reveals the truth

Did that sound familiar? Try Victor Hugo's classic Les Miserables.

More about Devata later. On to the main feature of the evening ...

Last Year at Marienbad is a mindblowing 1961 film from Alain Resnais (he that also made Hiroshima mon amour). There is no human way possible to describe or critique this film completely. The film rips apart all notions of classical narrative (linear or otherwise), blurs the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality, time and space. Packed with luscious visuals encapsulating some of the best black and white framing I have seen, the film works off the rather simple premise of marital fidelity contrasting the unevenness and indecisiveness of the illicit relationship against symmetrical formal architecture, hedges set in geometrically symmetrical designs symmetrically aligning a perfect walk up to a perfect old-fashioned luxury hotel, opulent and symmetrical in every respect. Life and death are mere ideas cast into this filmic mix. Adding to this marvel of film are a game of 16 toothpicks/cards/matchsticks and theories on winning, compositions abounding in mirrors framing ambiguity to the point of despair and sequences that seem to presage movies as diverse as Reservoir Dogs. Besides, false realities are my favourite theme.

The film opened sans subtitles, which is the most irritating part about enterprises like this. The gothic organ music and the unintelligible French aural barrage seemed funereal... almost what the director must have intended. Perhaps I should watch this film without subtitles the next time. In fact, it's probably a better idea to do so...


Last Year at Marienbad: An Intertextual Meditation by Thomas Beltzer.

DVD review

Saturday, October 12, 2002

A movie...and another movie.

First up, a standard ghisa-pita (read: worn and tattered) Sanjay Dutt vehicle Sarphira from Khaitan Productions. This film has all the classic ingredients of a Bollywood B-movie: family strife, high-strung emotions, action, songs, terrible acting, deadbeat dialogue. The list is endless. As respite, here's the synopsis verbatim off the back of the DVD cover (which reminds me: this is a Baba Digital DVD, and they do a great botch job as one has come expect from them. Their runtime pan-and-scan algorithm to bring the cinemascope version of the film to the small screen deserves a patent.):

DVD Details: 150 minutes. Colour.

Khaitan Productions Sarphira with English subtitles (which, to borrow a phrase, constitute 'a hoot and a holler')

A mother's love is more valuable and sweeter than anything else in this world - but too much of it can completely ruin your child's life.

SARPHIRA - is the story of one such family. The father is a judge and following his footsteps is one son who becomes a lawyer and another son becomes a police investigator. But the son who is loved and pampered by the mother grows up to be a criminal. People call him SARPHIRA - But is he really so?

The movie for the night was Woody Allen's black-and-white ode to New York, Jazz, Jewish humour and sex jokes Manhattan. Don't get me wrong. The use of a diegetic neon sign for the title is very good (and something non-Allen-esque, since the credits of all Woody Allen films are presented the same way: the same white font against a stark black background with jazz music to accompany them). There are some good jokes too, but overall it's just a typical Woody Allen film without any of the bizarre strokes that he employed in Annie Hall.

Friday, October 11, 2002

A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all Heaven in a rage.

Significant lines from our post-dinner movie for the week: The second version of Thomas Harris' chilling novel Red Dragon, this time retaining the name of the source novel. The last time they adapted this novel, Michael Mann was forced to retitle his flick Manhunter, thanks to producer Dino de Laurentiis' superstitious aversion for the word "dragon" after Year of the Dragon flopped. The original adaptation merely used the novel as a seed for a designer thriller. Trivia mongers will note that the exterior of Hannibal Lektor's (yes, that's how they spelt his name in that film) prison is the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia. So on to the 2002 version. First off, it's technically a prequel, so all brickbats meant for prequels may apply here, except the source novels were always in sequence.

While Hannibal Lector rose in importance as the trilogy progressed, the focus of the novels also changed. We have three principals: Hannibal (H), the Investigator (I) being Will Graham or Clarice Starling and the psychopath (K) being William Dolarhyde or Jame Gumm. In this respect, here's how the relations of importance stand (a > b: means a is more important than b)

red dragon: K > I > H
the silence of the lambs: I > H > K
hannibal: H {Clearly no one else but Italy had any business being in this suck-up fest for Hannibal Lecter that also warped completely the character we knew as Clarice Starling. Character development is one thing, but desperate inexplicable character switches are a different ballgame}.

Back to Red Dragon. First off, let me say I wasn't as disappointed as I was prepared to be. The movie is entertaining. As a keen reader of the trilogy and a fan of the original (with all its overt designer chic and flaws), I did have some reservations. Then there were some other complaints that are purely those of a film goer: for instance, what in the name of all that is sacred was Harvey Keitel doing there? It's one of the worst written and helplessly rendered performances I have seen from an actor as established as Mr. Keitel. Although the dialogue (directly) derives its meat from the source novel, the talented[sic] director of such powerful works of film as the Rush Hour series and The Family Man, Brett Ratner makes evident his inability to mature beyond the standard mindless thriller action flick. It's quite painful to see Keitel struggle with inept dialogue and characterisation. It's also sickening to watch Edward Norton perform so ably on screen, yet fail to capture the Will Graham of the book -- a profiler struggling to control a very horrifying gift -- he can empathize with the fiends he is profiling. In the book, Graham's thoughts are easily presented in the print medium as he walks through the crime scenes. In the film, he mutters and mumbles (a la Sly Stallone) into a pocket recorder. Sorry, I refuse to buy this. IMHO, it adds an element of cockiness to the character of Graham, which was absent in the book.

There are the obvious liberties that the film takes in adapting the book to the screen. The dead body in Dolarhyde's destroyed house is that of Ralph Mandy, the man who threatens his only healthy relationship in this life, that with Reba McClane. In the book, he's just an off-screen (or off-print) minor character -- a gas station attendant. Also glossed over is the tension in the married life of the Grahams when Graham is forced to return to his job as profiler. The makers also add a pre-credit sequence based on material hinted at in the books detailing Hannibal's capture by Agent Graham. It's a little interesting to see Hopkins with a ponytail, but that is but a brief moment. Hopkins chews as much scenery as he is afforded (which thankfully isn't overly too much, but more than in the book), while Ralph Fiennes gets to chew a Blake painting. Fiennes comes out with the best performance in the film (which is something I would expect. Dolarhyde is the focus of the novel, making this an author-backed role). Everything with him in it has an edgy menace that is unsettling. Anything Hannibal says now is like the one-liners that Bond muttered through the late pale entries in the Bond saga -- expected, humourous yet vacuous. Danny Elfman's music echoes all his work with Tim Burton.

Technically, the film is a joy: The well-lit interiors and compositions of Dolarhyde's house, the opening credits (which although not groundbreaking are adequate), the sound. All in all, recommended for a once-view. Not the movie event it's made out to be, although like Hannibal, it's ruling the box office right now.

The previews included one for the second LOTR film, a reminder of how strange the choice of Peter Jackson (who made the wonderful Bad Taste and Braindead) was for the first film (which went on to rock the Box Office and the Oscars).

Personal note: Need to watch LOTR I on DVD and catch The Two Towers when it comes out ... a visual spectacle is guaranteed for all.

Related: Red Dragon rocks the UK box office

No comments:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.