Monday, May 31, 2004

a passage to india

David Lean (responsible for the magical brevity of Brief Encounter and the ponderous bombast of Lawrence of Arabia) returned to direction after 14 years to make THIS piece of crap?? I haven't read Forster's source novel, so an exploration of the translation of that opus to the screen is out of the question. Based solely on the performances and the goings-on, and a narrative thinner than a paper dosa, I have to say this is another fat [as opposed to Lean, get it?] disappoinment. Victor Bannerjee is capable of more than playing such a sorry sop. And getting Alec Guinness to play Gokhale? Yes, his talent with dry wit is useful, but you always know there's something wrong: I mean, he DOESN'T LOOK like a Gokhale, for crying out loud!!! Saeed Jaffrey has precious little to do, Dina Pathak barely registers, and Roshan Seth does the best with his brief role: he chews up everything in sight, just as one would do for a cameo in a mainstream Hindi film. And then we have Art Malik. His performance grates, and the peak (or nadir, if you will) comes when he rushes out of the courtroom, and delivers a people rouser that culminates in "Mrs Moore Mrs Moore" chant. If it weren't for his turn in True Lies, I would have written him off completely. The only person who manages to rise above the surface of this stinking swamp of mediocrity is Dame Peggy Ashcroft as Mrs Moore (Mrs Moore, Mrs Moore). What Lean ends up making is a song-less, lifeless pale image of maudlin Bollywood product, complete with leaps of faith in the melodrama and believability department. Unless you are a Lean fan (or an AFI Top 100 person), give this a wide berth, and get high on decaffeinated low-fat mineral water instead.

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