Monday, October 06, 2003

film fest

The 2003 Latin American Film Festival kicked off in Atlanta at the High Museum on Friday, October 03, 2003 with Eduardo Mignogna's directorial début La Fuga (Breakout or as the official title goes, The Escape). The film follows several inmates who escape from the National Penitentiary in Buenos Aires in 1928. Oddball, sentimental, moving and constantly engrossing, the film reminded me of the cleverness of the plot of Kukunoor's Teen Deewarein. Constant use of flashbacks (and flashbacks within flashbacks) and soaring background music (although there's a nice calm piano motif) peppers the narrative, giving it a useful dynamic.

Come saturday, and I settled down to my favourite weekend activity: watching movies. First up, Nicholas Roeg's cult 1976 film The Man Who Fell To Earth. Roeg exploits the apparent discomfort that glam rocker David Bowie might feel in making the transition from the musical arena to the silver screen. There are snatches of Holst's "The Planets" and a lot of the trademark aspects of the 70s films (and especially Roeg): high angle track-aways, a general calm and foreboding instead of the fantasy spectacle of the current century (this is not denying the occasional sci-fi moments as Bowie's alien remembers his home away from here, but even that is mixed up with visual nostalgia and cross-cutting visions). This surreal journey of exploration, success, failure, debauchery and self-pity is slow, but worth its while (the unexpected operatic sequences of gratuitous nudity could be distracting, but thankfully they contribute to sealing off any chance of the alien getting anywhere close to accomplishing his goals).

Two sessions (Saturday-night and Sunday-morning) helped me soak in the experience that was Martin Scorsese's Bringing out the Dead. This film deserved more. A great exploration of the lives of paramedics and taking place mostly after hours, the film explores the twin feelings of being god and being compassionate on the job. Everyone in the film is great, as they swing from being normal people caught in the rut of a job that challenges your sanity to going oddball and sarcastic about the business without completely going ballistic. Scorsese embellishes this hallucinatory, darkly comic and intriguing film adaptation of Joe Connelly's book with some great songs on the soundtrack (what better use could R. E. M. 's what's the frequency, kenneth have found than here?). He continues to explore themes of religion and loss, and paints another realistic portrait of the city of New York. There are some cool visual experiments too: a series of four dissolves after Mary (Arquette) sees her father in the hospital; high-angle tracking shots of the paramedic ambulance, providing a very skewed trippy view of the NYC skyline. And then there's closure: Early on in the film, Frank (Cage) tells Mary "... something good will happen and everything will just glow". The ending echoes this sentiment and the sirens, street noise and dispatcher messages cover the credits, just as they had introduced the film. [stuck between dying and dead | early draft of Schrader's screenplay]

A trip to the Indian store ensured that I had some desi flavour to my movie-watching proceedings. Preliminary scan reports follow:

Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai? marks Hansal Mehta's third film (I loved his previous films Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar! and Chhal). This is expectedly a big studio effort and unfortunately Mehta does not work wonders this time around. Should I blame him, given that (a) this is the desi-ization of American Pie (whose braindead pandering to all things base won several fans, but gets a big egg in my book), which means minimal flexibility with script and screenplay (b) he has to deal with four morons (including a Jason Biggs lookalike) (c) lacklustre songs from Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy.

Joggers Park: Subhash Ghai should stick to funding directors and their visions instead of interfering with them. The late Anant Balani clearly had more to offer as is evident from the later portions of this film. The opening moments are irksome. The dialogue (predictably written by Ghai) reek of the immaturity and pointlessness that one would expect in the recent Dev Anand films. And the theme song sung by Usha Uthup grates. The background music borders flits between 80s pop and soft-core porn film scores. Victor Bannerjee, although a good actor, doesn't seem like one who can rise above bad material. Debutante Perizad Zorabian plays a character I would find really irritating in real life (purely based on her terrible voice -- last heard from the likes of Demi Moore and Rani Mukherjee) -- one of those "South Bombay" types. The proceedings could have benefitted from some better dialogue and flow control. The lead players do their best. What irked me once I had shifted to the next tape was that this film had a "U/A" rating, and had Perizad's character use the F-word not once but twice. Yet, the next film (see below) on my cards, despite getting an "A" rating, had bleeps. What can be worse than the F-word ??

Mumbai Matinee made my evening. Honestly. I seem to enjoy Rahul Bose's performances. He can be unrestrained and controlled, both with equal skill. Another of Anant Balani's films, this one benefits from his getting a freer reign from Pritish Nandy Communcations who also helped Jhankaar Beats). A good script, good dialogue, great background music, cool songs and a host of wonderful actors (Bose, Saurabh Shukla, Vijay Raaz, Asrani). Mention must be made of Prithvi Zutshi's cameo as a Bengali police officer, Kabir Sadanand (brother of film vamp Kunika who made a crash with Deewanapan) as Bose's colleague. And the little yoddle motif every time Monica (the cute secretary who sets everyone's heart aflutter, played by Sunila Karambelkar) crosses her legs. Although marked a débutante Anusha Dhandekar only seems to have one item song. GAFFE: In a scene where Bose pays Asrani with a credit card, Bose's character does not sign any transaction slip after Asrani swipes the card (several times!). I guess that meant he got a Rs. 5000 discount!

A little more about Anant Balani: Made three movies Gawahi (1989) with Zeenat Aman, Ashutosh Gowariker, and Shekhar Kapur; Patthar ke Phool(1991)(Salman Khan and Raveena Tandon in her debut film); Jazbaat (1995) (starring Rohit Roy and Suchitra Krishnamurthy aka Mrs Shekhar Kapur). The failure of the last film ruined him financially. He reappeared with a sudden stroke of good luck to direct 4 films: Joggers Park(Perizaad Zorabian, Victor Banerjee), Mumbai Matinee(Rahul Bose, Perizaad Zorabian), Ek Din (Rahul Bose, Nandita Das), and Chameli (Rahul Bose, Kareena Kapoor). But unfortunately he passed away before seeing the release of even one of them. He also directed TV soaps like A Mouthful Of Sky (being a failed proof-of-concept for "we are models but we can also act" with a decent title song) and Kabhi Kabhi.

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