Monday, December 08, 2003

the cold, the sun, and the flickering picture {aka running out of snazzy titles for posts about movies}

Aside from seeing Piedmont Park in the dark, and consuming 3 cups of tea from 3 different places, I managed to stack up on movies Indian and foreign. The tough/easy part is now watching them all.

M Butterfly is my first film from the Cronenberg archives since I caught Crash on LD (I was lucky to catch his last film Spider in the theatre). The film (as did the play forming its source) uses Puccini's Madame Butterfly (see also: Fatal Attraction). This is perhaps the only piece of evidence in all that Cronenberg has done so far that can point to his restrained bloodless work in Spider. The comparisons to/with Neil Jordan's The Crying Game are inevitable, and unfortunately, the latter ends up being a little more satisfying than this effort. The look of the film is just not enough to support a thin narrative thread. Cronenberg does not pursue the sinking mental web of Rene Gallimard (Jeremy Irons) and the film does not provide enough open ended ideas to help us think of a good answer to the question: How can Gallimard have lived with, and made love to, this person for eighteen years, yet not recognized that Liling is actually a man?

Although my viewing of Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, before embarking on a retro-voyage with the TV series is appropriate from a narrative P. O. V. (the film is a prequel to the "uncanny" events that unfold in the TV series), I missed any chance of going "aah ... that would explain ...". Still this is welcome Lynch -- another example of what a painter could do if he/she had to make a movie. Lynch's reluctance to discuss the thematic content and fabric of his films and the fact that he often presents us with dreams and leaves the explanations to us is often frustrating for most viewers. I welcome the ability to sink into a delicious whirlpool of visions, ideas, faces, names, words, and colours that congeal into an exploration of the dark underside of a pastoral paradise (see also: Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive). There's a dwarf of course, and the ultimate "nowhere" -- the Red Room. My favourite moment: the disco scene from hell, where the conversations barely audible are augmented by subtitles. Bring on the TV show, I say. Should I add also that I am reading Lynch on Lynch, which is a good step forward in getting Lynch to open up (once again, there are no easy answers)

Adhikar is an 80s flick starring the aging Rajesh Khanna and ever untalented Tina Munim battling with the desi-ized Kramer vs Kramer script handed to them. Bappi Lahiri gives us the songs that don't go well with aged romance, but are hummable nevertheless. Cameos by Danny and Tanuja as lawyers in courtroom scenes that continue to defy all legal procedure don't help much. The only redeeming factor would be the narrative structure: the film opens with Kaka's character having kidnapped his little kid (6 months old) from his mother's home and then proceeding to raise him, while working as a trainer at the stables of his former employer (Kaka has been a crack jockey before this plunge into being both a father and a mother to his kid). The flashbacks later on provide us insight into what might have transpired.

I got Ram Tere Kitne Naam for the Pancham songs. Needless to say, Rekha in the 80s and Sanjeev Kumar in the 80s didn't really make a very romantic couple, and Sachin (in a "special appearance") bouncing about in tennis shorts on Southern streets and even paying homage to Sanam Teri Kasam don't really help the soundtrack much. As the film progressed I realized that (a) I had seen this film a long time ago on DD (b) I had even seen the South Indian flick that this one was clearly a remake of: an epileptic village simpleton falls in love with the cruel avaricious landlord's daughter and vows to make it big and get back enough moolah to be able to marry her. He goes to the big city (Bombay in our case) and becomes a movie star. This is where self-referencing glee takes over. What we see are excerpts from Sanjeev Kumar classics (Khilona, Trishul, Devata) and even footage of his winning the Filmfare award at Shanmukhananda Hall. Of course there's the anachronism that the age of the Sanjeev Kumar in some of these films is way less than the age of the actor that Sanjeev Kumar is playing. Bollywood licence of course. The film then proceeds into the melodrama characterised also by Devata -- SK's character becomes the towering good samaritan, who, aided by a lot of coincidences (Vinod Mehra, playing Rekha's husband, ends up being the driver of the school bus that takes their daughter, now adopted by SK, to and from school. He also materializes later as the taxi driver in the climactic moments, conveniently for a neat family reunion). And SK is earnest, but the dialogue stinks. It's a pity SK didn't get meatier, more challenging roles. A great talent wasted. {ISB posts: ma.nzil thii kahii.n, machal machal jaataa hai dil}

And in other news, added Zach Everson (who was kind enough to send a note about my Turkey rant) to the sidebar.

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