Friday, August 27, 2004

bleak new york city and the indecision of youth

In the Cut [wednesday, august 25, 2004] will be remembered trivially for Meg Ryan's nude scene. I must say Meg Ryan chose the right film to make the transition from being the cute face in chick flicks to being able to tackle darker and more complex characters. I managed to read the source novel before watching the DVD (which features a more explicit director's cut) and the change in ending was a bit disappointing. But the film suffers from other problems besides that. My favourite motif in the book was Frannie's fascination for slang. And the way the book was written -- short direct cold sentences, Hemingway in glass darkly, if you will. The film manages to get some of that feeling across, and its use of colour (a claustrophobic mix of red and green) is definitely a plus. There are noticeable motifs (women running from something, for example). The film also has, in its best moments, a surreal dream-like quality just like The Piano or Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock. And the colour red is a very obvious motif (right from the blood to oblique references like Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse). The lighthouse also functions as one of several phallic references (apt in a movie like this), and also echoes in the final sequence. But I am inclined to nod towards to the camp that maintains (perhaps a tad harshly) that the film is "a mess". Wish I could put my finger on what was wrong though. And yes, does anyone know why "mayor" harvey keitel got an acknowledgement credit?

Lakshya [thursday, august 26, 2004]: At long last, I finally managed to watch Farhan Akhtar's second film. Right from the opening shots (which made me kick myself at having missed a chance to catch it in the cinema hall), this film marks a big leap from his début. Fundamentally, both films still explore youth and their times, but FA takes a different approach here. One cannot be faulted for thinking of movies like An Officer and a Gentleman and Vijeta. Pa Javed Akhtar returns on a "story, screenplay, dialogue" credit after a long time (in addition to penning the lyrics as well). As far as mainstream films go, this film scores high. If only for the excellent handling of Karan and Romila's relationship. And its excellent battle sequences put to shame Kubrick wannabes like J P Dutta who got so much adulatory press for his castle of cowdung called LOC. Lakshya eschews all need for jingoism and the only shard (unfortunate, but understandable) of mainstream patriotism that survives is the song ka.ndhon se ka.ndhe, where people burst out into song on screen (why? why?? why???). And when did a mainstream film have nicer names like Akhilesh and Saket? Hrithik lives up to his reputation as a great mover with mai.n aisaa kyo.n (noted the similar fragments from akaDaa in Indian), imaginatively choreographed by Prabhu Deva (note the bowling alley freeze and fade-out that builds up to the song). And Vaibhavi Merchant's choreography made agar mai.n kahuu.N, my favourite song on the album, a ton better. And there's even a vertigo zoom therein, right before the coda. Also noted the clip from Commando, and the unintentionally multiple references to Jurassic Park: Karan asks his brother Udesh (who is never seen or heard in the film -- a nice touch) to check for the availability of the DVD (the obvious reference), the shot of a blast shaking the Big B's cup (just like the water cup in Spielberg's flick), the fragment from John Williams's theme that appears all over the theme for this film. Indigestible were the brevity of Om Puri's role, the brevity of the Big B's role, and the Big B speaking Marathi. But then, in addition to being a love story, the film also functions as an ensemble piece, which might serve as the only explanation. Minor complaints aside, this film filled me with hope for Bollywood, which seems otherwise doomed to producing North-India friendly movies filled with Punju dances, brain-dead superficial emotions, and hamming par excellence. Here's to FA's next venture. {elsewhere: musical notes}

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