Tuesday, June 28, 2005

fuming around the bush

[with some persuasion from AD]

It's the turn of the other big Khan to take a stand on the cigarette smoking ban. Shah Rukh Khan steps up to voice his thoughts about the ban. But first, yours truly steps up onto a soapbox ...

Welcome to the new form of filmic entertainment. The blur. The forest of digitally pixellated shapes that represent a form of post-modern neo-cubism. And it's missing one dimension. Depth. A two-dimensional rendering of space now comes with a new twist that exposes the artifice. And all because of some individual smoking on screen. The Government of India is probably planning to enter into negotiations with George Lucas for implementing an enterprise-wide cost-efficient multipartite venture to cleanse[sic] and bowdlerise every frame that features someone having anything to do with a dhumraka.nDikaa. The proposed (and imminent) ban on smoking in films (and TV serials as well, but I could care less about them -- after all the idiot box has been inundated with more evil fare thanks to people who, like Tyler Durden, deal in soap.

The problem with a blanket action like this is that the arguments in its favour are very compelling. Simply because the intent is commendable. I'm all in favour of eradicating smoking completely. Unfortunately, here is no approach (no precise list of things to implement) that can guarantee success. So everyone tries. In the US of A, they've designated numerous areas as no-smoking zones; they've got "smoking" and "non-smoking" sections in most restaurants. All I remember as India's achievement has been the statutory warning on cigarette packs (and in the numerous ads that always made smoking look cool). So now the administrative behemoth that is the Health department decides to be progressive. And don't forget that, this is a progressive step. Except, it's more like saying the right thing at the wrong time. There are several other less controversial ways that the Government could have approached this. Since we seem to be fatally hell-bent on emulating the West, why don't we provide yet another of the few examples where we get it right, and implement bans in select public places. The statutory warning didn't seem to dissuade smokers. Why should banning smoking in movies help? Sure, a lot of logical reasoning and predictive analysis can convince you of the potential of the move. After all, we have a lot of impressionable people watching the movies. We have a lot of people who provide fodder for the "life imitates art" camp. So by completely eliminating the display of the act of smoking, we make sure they don't cultivate wrong ideas like "smoking is cool" or (at a more affective but ostensibly milder level "it's ok to smoke").

NOTE TO READER: insert arguments from the camp that refutes the "life imitates art" camp (not to be confused with the "art imitates life" camp; a critical part of their agenda has nothing to do with our issue here).

Now that we have all the arguments in favour of the ban, let's consider a parallel to an old rule in horror films: what you don't see scares you more than whatever sophisticated monster someone can conjure for you. This means that your kids who have been shielded from smoking in the movies they watch will now be a tad more curious to see people around them "smoking". And now, you can chalk out a familiar sequence of events representing their discovery, curiosity, experimentation and (sometimes) eventual surrender to the fatal habit.

The other strong argument against this comes from art and the tenets of artistic expression. Of course, art has always been rather subjective. A work of "art" always finds an audience that appreciates it, and another audience that finds it offensive or pointless. Yet, it always deserves at least chance to be presented so that it can elicit reactions. Fundamentally though, it is a form of expression. And this ban knocks off an aspect of that expression. Of course, in the good old days of the Hayes Office, censorship stifled some filmmakers but also prompted other filmmakers to discover ways to get around all the restrictions. Our censor board has received flak for its actions (and a lot of people have already written its epitaph). Perhaps this ban might spark off innovations, which might �- who knows � give us some interesting films. That's the argument in favour of the ban. But one cannot ignore the possibility that is a precedent. Of the state burgeoning into a legalised righteous mob. A preview, if you will pardon the pun, of more similar bans. Pretty soon, we might be watching movies so bland and brain-dead they'll make Baghban look like a violent action drama. Now that is a horrifying thought.

Which brings us (in a rather boring and prolonged way) to a snapshot of what some of the leading figures of mainstream Hindi cinema (arguably, the most influential of all the bodies of Indian cinema) have to say. Aamir Khan's retort has been clear and simple.

At this point yours truly gets off the sandbox, and returns to attack the SRK interview ...

Shah Rukh Khan's take on the subject, however, is unfortunately hedgy. The article is titled "Why SRK favours smoking ban", but then since this is Rediff, it doesn't necessarily (or at al) reflect a correct summary of the article. Sure enough, two readings still leave me with the feeling that SRK didn't really take a stand. His take on various aspects of the issue are the safe answers that answer everything but satisfy no one. Consider the following: I don't think smoking needs to be an integral part of any character. It's as routine as a chair in the corner of a set or a bedsheet on a bed -- It shouldn't be something around which a film is designed. I don't think any film needs to be designed around a character who smokes.
Or the little mixed bag that marks the tail of the article: I'm very careful about bad language on screen. I don't use it. I won't. The most extreme emotions can be expressed without getting abusive. I'm not comfortable with bad language. But I don't dispprove[sic] of it. I believe cinema has to have the freedom to express itself in any way it likes. I may not like talking to a particular journalist. But that doesn't mean I'd stop him or her from writing.. Honestly, I'm not sure what one should really take away from that last mouthful. The cream of the article lies in the second-to-last paragraph: "
Actually, the more liberal a society becomes, the more stringent the laws are bound to be. In the US, you can buy a gun off the shelf, and then someone starts shooting down kids in a school. So they need strict laws to make guns accessible to people. With air travel being so easy now -- you can book tickets by e-mail -- airport security is tougher. In a banana republic, nothing is allowed. In our society, everything is allowed. Therefore we need to check the flow of liberal ideas. It isn't intolerance that triggers off laws against things like smoking or buying ammunition. More rights entail more obligations.
" There's so much in there that can be used to make a strong point (although the opening seems more like an interesting observation in general than a useful point as regards the issue at hand). Everything diluted of useful content like the mainstream flicks he has been making.

I must admit that all this makes interesting reading though. It would be interesting to see the Big B's boring diplomatic take on the issue. Or get Vidhu Vinod Chopra to say something (since lately he's been brimming with a lot to say). Or Karan Johar (who seems like the person least affected by the ban). Or the Chopras. And just for some variety let's ask Daler Mehndi, Mallika Sherawat, our cultural ambassador Aishwarya Rai, Kareena Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt (oh what a loss!!) or Ajay Devgan (a catastrophe!).

a smoking SRK seems to support the smoking ban

would you accept a no-smoking vote from this man?

Monday, June 27, 2005

happy 66 pancham

R D Burman would've turned a happy(?) 66 today. His legacy survives him, and there never seems to be a dearth of people who discover how much of an under-sung over-hyped-for-the-wrong-things talented versatile composer he was ... RIP Pancham.

bridgetown grill

[june 25, 2005] {with gracious input from AD} [previous post in the Weekend Dinner Club thread]

The Weekend Food Club had two options before them on Saturday: Brazilian food, or another Mediterranean option. Preliminary investigation into the former option revealed that the pinch on the pocket was too much to ignore. And then we hit our choice for the evening. Caribbean. The location: Bridgetown Tropical Grill and Bar. Right there on Peachtree a block or so away from the Fox Theatre. HINT: Parking is an issue. Quite frustrating. Avail of public transportation and your fine pair of legs and you'll be less peeved.

So there we were sitting inside (outside was also an option, but the muggy noisy proceedings put paid to that soon). No surprise on the menu front. Lots of aquatic articles (and to think that we had Bombay residents who didn't care much for seafood). Interesting menu items included i'm broke and i wanna eat! (Black beans, rice, two plantains and island salad) and i'm broke and i wanna drink! (PBR -- that's Pabst Blue Ribbon -- tallboy). Our server described that last item with extreme caution, noting that it was American beer that was a lot thinner and less satisfying than Bud Light (I don't guzzle beer, but I believe that's a good reason to stay away).

Liked the food the last time I was here, and I vaguely remembered the appetizer sampler. We ordered one this time and the mix of conch frittters, jerk wings and calamari marked a good introduction to the main course. Fortunately or not, most of us ordered the star entrée: their world famous (?) jerk chicken. The raspberry coulis dipping sauce marks some definite acquired taste, but if you aren't too averse to the idea of "grilled chicken and jam", you won't mind it. The other dishes on the table were an order of Mojito steak (nicely done) and the jerk chicken pasta (which diluted the impact of the jerk sauce while bridging the two gastronomic domains and would probably appeal to people on the pasta side of the fence). No desserts this time, but we walked away full and happy.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

america defines itself yet again

This country must be starved for reality. In fact, I might be inclined to believe that the majority of the populace has lost all sense of reality, and prefer to have everything manufactured and served up for sensory consumption. The latest nail in the coffin of free sane thought is The Runaway Bride (not to be confused with the sick flick featuring a wonderful song by Eric Clapton). The official report (if there are any children or impressionable adults reading this, you'd be better off asking someone for a bowdlerised summary) may be found at The Smoking Gun page dedicated to this "crime". This nation deserves a million Palahniuks.
welles the moor [june 20, 2005]

The restored remastered DVD edition of The Tragedy of Othello: the Moor of Venice only serves to reaffirm the genius of Orson Welles. The restoration makes the film look almost as new as today. Plaudits to BWE. The only quibble I have is that the DVD has no subtitles. But then, it was a good excuse to sit with a text of the original play and follow the fruits of two brilliant minds at work (Shakespeare and Welles, in case you were wondering). The story of the film's making is reasonably well documented. This was one of the projects that Welles made in bits and pieces, shooting in Italy and Morocco over a period of a few years, also managing to feature in a couple of other films while trying to get this done. The film is filled with enough great visuals and angles to make your week. Or month even. Cinematographically the labrynthine vibe echoes the brilliance of the frames in Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible, Part I. Shakespeare purists may not appreciate the liberties that Welles takes with the source material, but the staging of Roderigo's murder in a Turkish bath (necessitated by circumstance) is a stroke of genius. The soundtrack boasts a gothically creepy piano motif and an array of instruments as diverse as north african flutes and tambourines. If only Welles had received his due while he was still alive ...

A transcription of Filming Othello thanks to the awesome Wayback Engine.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

imagine the world run by stupid people [related post: the broken arrow syndrome]

Welcome back to the apartment complex from hell. Arkham would be a good name for it. Our feature for the day is the laundromat on the grounds. Rewind to about a week ago. The existing system comprised a set of washers and dryers that could be operated using a central console. This console accepted either your credit card or a specially charged card (should you worry too much about the privacy you never had) you could pick up from the leasing office. If you chose to use your credit card (clearly, the most convenient option), you were charged a minimum of $15. The system would then go through the sounds and scenes of issuing you a receipt (of course, for over a year now, we haven't seen a receipt -- they ran out of paper and ink a long time and never bothered to refuel because this wasn't an essential service: perhaps the mindset was "what self-respecting privacy-loving individualistic American resident would want to look cheap by using a community [yuck!] laundromat when he/she could buy his/her own inflatedly-priced (or superficially subsidised) edition with bells and whistles?". Back to the console. A 21 minute wash (don't ask me about the heuristics behind that number) was worth $1 as was a less-than-60-minute drying cycle. Each time you stepped up to console, you slid your card into the reader, the savvy console would present you with your balance and you had to then punch in the number of the machine you wanted to activate. Simple! Of course, the washers and dryers they had were as reliable as paper for a floor. So you could lose a lot of money trying to get things right (after all, it was only after the drying cycle was done that you might find out that the dryer didn't really "dry" your clothes). Leaving notes (as recommended by rules on a plaque affixed to a wall inside) only ensured that you had documented your frustration succinctly. Just like Microsoft's service patches, the fix would roll out at their leisure. Despite all these flaws, this system worked -- for the most part. You got used to it with all its quirks and warts.

Flash forward to the present. Over a fort-week ago you saw a printed notice in the laundromat about their moving to a new laundry system (with all the marketing jargon and exclamation marks to convince you that this was the greatest thing since the flushing crapper). Now you do your laundry every 14 days. 14 days since that notice, you step into the laundromat one fine Sunday morning. Despite summer having set in, it's cooler outside today (although that makes your apartment stuffy as a skunk's rear end). The first thing you see is that there's an slot in the wall where a dryer used to reside ("wow! some resident really had a bad time here", you think). Then you see the spanky new machines. The new console. You enter. With a good background in the best practices of software engineering, you expect the usual from this migration (since there has been no written notification sent to residents): the transition has been smooth; your current account can be used; you will be able to use the newer machines with ease. Guess what? Wrong on all counts. The first blow comes from the console. It's a new company and so you can almost kiss your balance with the last system good bye. You step up the console and try to decipher the procedure to get a new card (all those purple-green graphics and text blocks hurt the eye more than constipation!). Surprise! This damn thing doesn't take a credit card. "Well," you say, "I have some notes [US: bills] I can use". Aha! This thing will accept only a $5 note for the initial deposit. Once you have your card, you are free to charge it with $5, $10 or $15 notes. Excellent. Guess which denomination you lack in your wallet? Bingo! So now you're standing there with your clothes and detergent staring at a set of unoccupied washers, unable to use any of them. Talk about having a great opportunity! You decide to do your groceries first (part of the plan, mind you) and grab some change from the store. Yes, Murphy strikes again. They don't have change. It's early in the day, and it's Sunday. Wonderful! You return to the laundromat eventually, and run into a friend who, coincidentally, was also in the same sinking boat as you were (surprise, shock, and all that), but had chaneg! Another resident shares your dismay and discombobulation. You now have $5. The console warns you that of the initial $5 you deposit, you will only have $3 to use. This means you need to charge more (just in case). Luckily, you have notes of higher denominations for the rest of the process. You now take a deep breath, and get a fat plastic ugly card charged with money. Several minutes later, you are rewarded finally for your patience. Two washers are free. You typically need one. Alas! Gone are the days of space and washes. This new sleek contraption is a poor excuse for a washer. All silent hums and stupid instructions (more on that in a bit) aside, this thing is so small you're going to have to use both washers. How's that for progress? Your single $1-value wash has now become a more expensive proposition (two washers -- each with a $1.20 tag). The UI is appalling, as always. The initial display reads "1.20" and blinks to and from "1.50SuperCycle". The SuperCycle is an enhanced wash cycle (aside from the bells and whistles which don't make sense to you, it's also $.30 more!!). The instructions aren't clear on how to avoid a SuperCycle, but, luckily, you don't end up with a more expensive option. Unless you hold your palm tightly against the front of the washer you have no way of knowing if the damn thing actually works. "But, it's a new system. How can it fail so soon?" is the question you answer by pointing to a washer nearby with a complaint note from two days ago stuffed in the space between the door and the maw. Obviously providing a glass front to let people know that things are working would have made the system too usable.

You're waiting for the longer wash cycle (aah well! take consolation in the belief that the extra $.30 go into the extra minutes that you never asked for) to end so that you can snag two dryers (oh crap! there aren't any available!). You can see yourself sitting here till sundown (after which you still have to iron everything). You are searching online shopping sites for a wreath of thorns soaked in laxatives that you can gift the people responsible for instituting this brand new system. Somewhere, a happy bird craps on a brand new car ... Life goes on.

north by northwest ... again [june 18, 2005]

Alfred Hitchcock's masterful combination of a wild screenplay, his favourite theme of the wrong man, and a cross-country run of locales never seems to offer anything short of an interesting viewing each time I watch it. Of course, each viewing is more educational than the last. I now know that I can look at that little kid covering his ears before Eve fires at Roger Thornhill. I can relish how Hitch effectively exploited Cary Grant's star persona for the role (how many directors can manage to do that so wonderfully?). And then one of us had strong memories of the desii ripoff Inaam Dus Hazaar (distinguished for me by the RDB soundtrack).

Elsewhere, my notes on Trainspotting and my thoughts on Death Wish show up ...
muhabbat me.n nahii.n hai farq jiine aur marane kaa / usii ko dekhakar jiite hai.n jis kaafir pe dam nikale [june 18, 2005]

movie poster
Sudhir Mishra's Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi [official site | notes on the soundtrack] is easily IMO the best film of the year already. It's one of the best pieces of political cinema. It's one of the best love stories on screen. It's one of the best scripted films ever (and the best scripted film this year). It has a wonderful soundtrack that NEVER intrudes. It has the best performances ever. Sudhir Mishra and his team deserve a week-long standing ovation for restoring my faith in Hindi cinema. The under-rated, under-privileged (forced to include songs in Calcutta Mail and thus destroying what promised to be a taut film) and hyped-for-the-wrong-reasons (see: Chameli) delivers a tight slap on the faces of all his detractors. The experience of watching this movie was indescribable. I am usually multi-tasking while watching most movies regardless of how good or bad they are. With this one, I was only taking my customary notes. The film never (and I meant that; NEVER) struck a false note. I was with Siddharth, Geeta and Vikram, icons of a disllusioned generation lost in a tide of socio-political upheaval and despondent failures. Every step of the way. And once the end credits began to roll, I knew that I couldn't watch another movie (or do anything else) for the rest of the day. Amazing! I haven't felt that way about a movie in a long time. Hats off, Sudhir Mishra.

The end credits began with a dedication to the late Renu Saluja, Mishra's wife, one of India's great editors, who succumbed to cancer in 2000. That set me thinking about the autobiographical resonance of the film's central triangle. In almost Layla-esque fashion, Renu Saluja was married to Vidhu Vinod Chopra, and then later to Sudhir Mishra. I would hazard a guess that these relationships (and the associations with the FTII brat pack) afforded the film a personal angle that elevates it light years above the commonplace.

Related: Vidhu Vinod Chopra's wife (and sister of Vikram Chandra and Tanuja Chandra) writes an obit to Renu Saluja (incidentally, the movie by Blondie Singh that she refers to is Bollywood [more here], an adaptation of Shashi Tharoor's wonderful Show Business).

two restaurants

[previous post in the Friday Night Dinner Club thread]

[june 17, 2005]: Friday evening on Cheshire Bridge Road. For the not-so-comon reason. After all, this is sleaze street. This is an avenue (in the etymological sense), but the trees are various purveyors of adult entertainment. Luckily, CBR is also home to some of the city's better restaurants. There's Sundown Cafe, and then there's Thep Thai (been there, done that). The choice for tonight was Bamboo Luau's Chinatown (been there once). The order-for-two soups are deceptive, and actually serve at least another person (perhaps even 4 in all). The entrées were tasty enough, but I've had more affective schezwan elsewhere.

[june 18, 2005] Saturday was Mediterranean cuisine day. I've begun to develop an appreciation for some aspects of this genre (if you will) of food. The most recent haunt was Falafel Cafe. The other spots in the near and distant past were Ray's New York Pizza & Mediterranean Grill (5th Street; the Technology Square near Georgia Tech) and Cedar's (on Lenox Road). This time it was a bistro in Decatur called Mezza. The thing to remember about this popular place is everything is an appetizer. A tapa. If you expect a menu item to correspond to an entrée, you'll be sorely disappointed (of course asking your server helps clear things). There's a special meta-order on the menu item that I'd recommend as a first bet. We noticed it a few nanoseconds before placing our order comprising a customised list of entrées. Still, I think we broke fairly even (although some quick back-of-the-envelope calculations would reveal that we could have shaved off a couple of $ on our tab). The hummus has a nice tangy jolt of lemon; the kabaabs swung between being nicely done to a little too well done (Falafel Cafe scores on this account). The shawarma and falafel made good complements. Must remember to try the tabouleh next time.

if you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, you become something else entirely

[june 17, 2005]

I don't think I've hit the theatres here since I got back from my India trip in January. And Batman Begins was a good way to break the habit. Nolan fans expecting something as intellectually and filmically rewarding as Following or Memento are likely to be disappointed. To be fair, this is different fare. And unfortunately (yes, unfortunately), it's also a genre that thrives on the graces of large studios. Which means that trade-offs are inevitable. That Nolan and Co. managed to get most of the mythology straight and into the film is the most creditable aspect of this movie. The other mechanics (editing, action, CGI) are done well (although a lot of people used to "sleek" were disappointed by the more realistic less fancy look of the Batmobile). It's a blessing to get most of the background on the Wayne killing correct (CAVEAT: AFAIR, the Waynes were returning from a Brando movie and not -- as in a film -- an opera (although "Mephistopheles" was a nice touch). I'm sure more knowledgeable fans of the comic books will have more differences to note. The point though is that there isn't any hamming (Nicholson was a good choice for the Joker but he played the part with more overt hamming than devilish menace). A fine array of good actors fill parts previously seen (Michael Caine as Alfred, Gary Oldman as Gordon) and unseen (Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox). And welcome back Rutger Hauer. And a tip of the hat to Tom Wilkinson. The Hans Zimmer-James Newton Howard collaboration presents an interesting soundtrack (the release has all tracks named for different species of bats!) that only occasionally seems to threaten to drown the hall.
alternative poster

Nolan's background affords the film a respect for its proceedings. There's always a leap of faith when adapting comics to the screen, because it seems to suffer from the need for some more closer-to-life semantics than the source had. In that regard, Nolan goes the Tim Burton way (less overtly though) by keeping things adequately bleak, claustrophobic and menacing. Christian Bale makes a good Bruce Wayne -- grappling with the fine line between justice and revenge (and there's some a lot of nice dialogue devoted to this issue). The weak link on the acting front is Katie Holmes. Nary a granularity of talent. And every smile is a smirk. Besides, her character is strictly for-the-movie and is responsible for some of the most hackneyed scenes in the film. While it's nice to see Ra's Al Ghul (sadly receiving bad treatment and premature dismissal -- what about The Lazarus Pit???), Cillian Murphy scores with his take on Dr Jonathan Crane (aided in no small measure by some nice SFX).

In summation, could things have been better? Yes (I wish I didn't have to say that, though). However, Nolan has done the franchise a big favour by giving it some much-wanted smarts and the promise of a better series of films dedicated to a super hero who is closest to being real (no super powers; no foreign planet; no radioactivity). And I wish him all the best (and fewer clichés) for the future. [see also: Bryan Singer]

A concise list of things we'd like to have: interactions between people (e.g. Batman/Gordon; Alfred/Lucius); treatment of the finer aspects of revenge, retribution and justice; fewer villains per movie with more back-story and grey areas; fewer for-the-masses action and clichés (this is NP-complete methinks); a detailed introduction for Robin (if and when he shows up) -- Dick Grayson first (and then perhaps provide incentive for a movie series dedicated to Nightwing), then Jason Todd, then Timothy Drake ...

Friday, June 17, 2005

aii! unchaas huu.N mai.n

Military Raj
Yesterday, June 16 marked Mithun's 49th birthday. Can you believe this? Miles to go, really... Rock on shan.kar, raam gopaal aachaarya, johnny, avinaash, gopiinaath/gunmaster G9, truck driver suuraj, raamakrishna parmahansa...

In other news, Bappi Lahiri (one of the many pillars of the B-image of Mithunda) has recorded a rap song in Dev Anand's voice for Navketan's Mr Prime Minister [source]. Time to catch up on the /dev/anand mystique[sic] with a generous dose of Des Pardes and Censor.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

burning questions

Are Mallika Sherawat and VVC related? Or are they the same person? They must work together on some film ... MS has already worked with Anu Malik, another member of the auto-megaphone club. Who cares about the subject? We can live with the blitz. [related elsewhere: VVC flushes galore!]
mai.n MARTA jogii

Back on the bus after a few weeks of riding to work with a friend. A few changes immediately noted. In addition to the efficiency-improving TV screen, there's a new digital ticker in the top-middle of the front (facing inside, of course). This time scrolls (vertically) information about the day and time (so you can now know (a) that MARTA time is different from every other time you're used to [TV time, NTP time, the works] (b) exactly how late you're going to be). Another cute addition is a female voice that goes "stop requested" (replacing the more identifiable but perhaps less ear-friendly beep) every time someone pulls the stop-request cord. The other things remain the same: jammed windows; a refusal to turn on the air-conditioning inside so you can sweat, burn and die like a pig. And of course a refusal to improve "service" (unless these nuggets represent an improvement!). The newest thing about the train station comprised the ads for the new Atlanta wing of Ikea (I only heard about them thanks to Fight Club) opening near 17th Street.

I don't mean to give MARTA a hard time (if anything, it's the other way around): I'm sure legislation, a global lack of appreciation for the social benefits (which imply capitalistic losses) of public transit that pervades the state and national administration, and upper management (don't we always like to blame them?) are responsible in no small measure.

As smart thinkers would say: If I don't like it and can't deal with it, I should find myself a remedy (aka buy a car, kiss a chunk of my savings goodbye, die young of blood pressure) and shut TF up.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

maqbool redux

Thanks to a note from Abhishek tagged to my latest post dedicated to Anurag Kashyap (and my original post about my reactions to the film), I went back home and scrolled through the end credits for Maqbool on the DVD (sad thoughts on this elsewhere) I own. First off, I have to correct my original post about the film where I referenced Karan Johar. The only people credited in the "Special Thanks" section that starts off the scroll of end credits are (with my annotations about the reasons for the acknowledgements along with -- in some cases -- the actual reasons) [thanks in no small part to a Midday interview featuring a little box of delicious trivia]:

Farrukh Dhondy (for assistance with the screenplay?; from the Midday trivia box: Farrukh Dhondy made several suggestions that were incorporated in the final draft of the film's screenplay)

Sreekar Prasad (I wonder if Vishal elicited this award-winning editor's services on Maqbool ...)

Mani Ratnam (referenced in the film; yet, other people are also referenced, so this is a weak argument; I'd also throw in the possibility that Vishal borrowed Sreekar from Ratnam while he was working on Yuva ...; from the Midday trivia box: Mani Ratnam suggested to Bhardwaj that he include a portion in the script where the lead protagonists Maqbool and Nimmi make merry after they've killed Abbaji...Bhardwaj wanted to insert it but was apprehensive of fiddling with the screenplay while the shoot had begun.)

Laurens C. Postma (IMDB credits him as an executive producer on the film)

Vidhu Vinod Chopra (from Abbas Tyrewala for giving him breathing space from Munna Bhai MBBS to work on Maqbool?; from the Midday trivia box: Vidhu Vindod Chopra guided Bhardwaj to produce the film himself and put him in touch with NFDC...NFDC, approached to co-produce the film, wanted to lower its Rs 5 crore budget, and include a 'star' in the line-up as well.)

Anurag Kashyap (to quote Bhardwaj himself from an article about Mantra, Bhardwaj's collaboration with Shekhar Kapur: It was Anurag Kashyap who told me to watch Throne of Blood. That's when the idea of Maqbool unfolded. I placed Macbeth's characters in Mumbai's underworld; from the Midday trivia box: Anurag Kashyap had a minor role in the introduction of the film (later deleted) - an unusual killing scene in which filmmaker Kashyap's body is poured with beer, sauce and sizzlers) [yeah!! add that to the list of things defining the Kashyap mystique ...]

In other news, Chatri Chor [aka Chhatri Chor] (with Pankaj Kapur in the title role), Vishal's adaptation of Ruskin Bond's The Blue Umbrella is slated to hit theatres next month. Does anyone know about an associated soundtrack release, if any?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

anagram(3421, sith) is anagram(1423, sith) my lord(*)

The best thing about Revenge of the Sith, the final nail from George Lucas in the over-hyped skiffy saga showcasing some of the finest achievements in nonsense-to-be-viewed-with-a-serious-face-lest-you-incur-the-wrath-of-fans, is Anthony lane's review (The general opinion of "Revenge of the Sith" seems to be that it marks a distinct improvement on the last two episodes, "The Phantom Menace" and "Attack of the Clones". True, but only in the same way that dying from natural causes is preferable to crucifixion). Quietly hidden away in the review is a description of a plot point that seems like another portent: What can you say about a civilization where people zip from one solar system to the next as if they were changing their socks but where a woman fails to register for an ultrasound, and thus to realize that she is carrying twins until she is about to give birth? Mind you, how Padmé got pregnant is anybody's guess. Aah! Could this be the second coming? Jesus reborn. As Twins. And in the true spirit of gender PC, one boy and one girl. Satisfies everyone, doesn't it? [well, almost].

(*) [in case you were wondering!] the first argument to anagram(...) represents the new sequence described in terms of the current positions of the characters in the word. In a gross mainstream violation of CS/IT practices, I have chosen to use a 1-based index.

Monday, June 13, 2005

give in to me/just beat it

People say I'm not okay
'Cause I love such elementary things...
[Childhood, from the HIStory album]

The verdict is out. Web servers have crashed. TV news[sic] shows get high ratings. The media are happy. Some fools are weeping outside the courtroom. We can be smug about it. Oh yeah! We knew. We always knew. (Kobe Bryant). The legal system is such a wonderful framework of detail, you can't expect justice in moral terms. Everything needs to be clearly defined, re-defined, undefined, and reiterated. (OJ). We can't handle the truth. And we'll never know the truth. We'll always know, but never from the horse's mouth. We'll only have a feeling in our gut. So strong we can't deny it. (oww!!). We never followed much of the trial. We knew that mountains of $$ from the taxpayer were being pumped into this fresh staple for entertainment. Keep 'em glued to the TV sets. (Bill Clinton). Conjecture. Predict. Speculate. Criticise. Rant. Condemn. Rationalise. Condone. It doesn't matter. This is a reality show. Without the show. Just reality. And yet it seems pre-ordained. It was all meant to be. To escape the world I've got to enjoy that simple dance / And it seemed that everything was on my side . Another Priapean triumph, what my droogs?
veni vidi cui bono? {in which Vidhu Vinod Chopra shoots his mouth off}

VVC and Anu Malik deserve each other. Although the latter clocks a higher sin count for his shameless plagiarism, both love shining spotlights on themselves and dis'ing the rest of the world. In a recent interview with Rediff (titled, peremptorily, Judge me by the highest standards) to coincide with the release of Parineeta. Although rediff's bowdlerisation isn't perfect (must we make our own educated[sic] guesses about what the stars stand for in statements like I have the ****s to create this music??), we get a fine example of a man whose obsession I just cannot understand. This is the man who made fine films like Sazaye Maut and Khamosh (has anyone seen Satyakatha, a film revolving around "a law that states that the police are not to be concerned with people who may be injured and alive, that their duty is only to shift the dead bodies" [source] ??). He then began his gradual descent into the murk of commercial cinema with Parinda (where RDB provided some wonderful yet unnecessary tunes, the mainstream screamed about Jackie Shroff's acting prowess, and a lot of us accepted it despite its flaws for meritorious flourishes like Renu Saluja's editing and an above-average screenplay). 1942: ALS was proof that VVC had gone the way of the lemming instead of stepping back from the edge of the cliff. Turning producer after a couple of movies (and having reportedly come to the point of assaulting Khalid Mohamed for his negative take on Kareeb), VVC gave us the disgusting tripe-laden unsatisfying (except for Arshad Warsi) Munna Bhai MBBS (dude, just because your film becomes a hit and Hollywood decides to make an adaptation doesn't mean it was a film of substance -- it got lucky at pandering to the baser instincts of a multitude). The film's success gave us an ego larger than Godzilla (Why would Amitabh Bachchan send me an SMS? ... dude! Because he can!). All we can do is mourn the loss to cinema. Add Kundan Shah to the list of defaulters, btw.
the broken arrow paradigm

This is a short post about an apartment complex (which shall remain unnamed for indemnification). It's a gated community (which means it raises the sense of security for the residents while dropping the chances of break-ins and the like). That last parenthesised note should be enough indication that things (just as in the software world) don't always work right. The card-controlled gates have had issues (they've occasionally been open for anyone to waltz in through; they've been jammed shut so no one could get in [which is cool, perhaps] and no one could get out [ouch!]). The security alarms are sensitive enough to be heard regularly (e.g. if you happen to just so much as nudge the computer in the business centre, you've done the needful). There's a cute feature about the second gate for walking in and out: you have to assume a kung-fu pose so that you can tap the switch to deactivate the magnet and at the same time kick the gate open (this is a new version: the previous version would deactivate the magnet for a short interval giving you enough time to walk to and through it). But we digress. The coolest thing (or the scariest, if you will) is the number of break-ins (rather high given the fact that it's a gated community). What's really scary is that they seem to know that these things happen so often that they actually have a template for the letter they jam into your doors every time a break-in occurs. They skimp on the details (which, honestly, would be important -- after all, you wouldn't want to be living in a "break-in prone" section would you?). What they customise is the number of break-ins and then tack on a standard HOW-TO for living a secure (aka scared) life in the complex (the list includes a mix of duh-level and useful tips). This reminds me of Broken Arrow and my favourite quote there-from (I don't know what's scarier, losing a nuclear weapon or that it happens so often ther's actually a term for it.), which I could paraphrase for the letter's template.
wrong turn aka detour

You have to watch Martin Scorsese talk about Edgar G Ulmer's Detour. And then you can give yourself a pat on the back for actually watching it. Wonderfully downbeat with lots of wipes, great dialogue, and a nice narrative (the traditional flashback, the voiceovers, the deaths, the confrontations, the ill coincidences, the works). A couple of other interesting bits: dialogue indicates that they were still on the British spelling (when did the nation shift to the abbreviated word list?); a reference to Emily Post; a fragment of dialogue ("...there was a greater distance between Sue and me ...") shows that people were more conscientious about their language back then ...

This is disc two in the five-DVD set that I'm ravishing right now [elsewhere: two other movies from the pack].

welcome to the jaT age [june 12, 2005] {notes on the soundtrack}

Rahul Rawail, the man responsible for much better (not in retrospect, but in general) flicks like Arjun and Dacait (does anyone remember other movies like Jurrat, which ripped off The Untouchables) joins forces with Sunny Deol, the star he introduced to Bollywood via Betaab to bring us Jo Bole So Nihaal, yet another paean to jaT-land and the North Indian belt responsible for the success of such mind-numbing entertainers[sic] as Gadar. This time Sunny bhaiyaa is Nihaal Singh, a cop from a village near Amritsar, who ends up being the only one to know what Romeo (Kamaal Khan making an inauspicious acting[sic] début) looks like. Now, Romeo is this dreaded terrorist, whose deeds have affected Europe, the USA and some parts of South Asia. He has one quirk though: he needs to confess. And after his confession, he ends up kicking the priest's bucket as it were. Of course he seems to experience inarticulate remorse on that front: Rosie ... if only I ... but I would .... You would think that people might have a record for the dude. But as he says meraa ek hii ##record## hai, ki meraa kahii.n ko_ii ##record## nahii.n hai. Good for him. Of course, after one such expedition in our land Punjab, he runs into grass-roots cop Nihaal Singh (played by our very own Sunny paajii). Playing a jaT is a cakewalk for Sunny, and he plays it to the hilt for the gallery. Romeo manages to use the good old emotional heartstring-tugging approach to give Nihaal the slip (not literally, of course!), and Nihaal ends up being punished for negligence and such. Now, of course, some people from the FBI (##america## kii khuufiyaa pulis or as Sunny masterfully describes them later on in the context of 9/11 as ##fully## bewakuuf inasaan) arrive at the village. They need to find Romeo (what happened to all that "no record exists" nonsense?) and Nihaal's the only guy who has seen him. Nihaal manages to use this to get himself flown to NYC, where a howlarious hunt begins. Shilpi Sharma exudes max-dumb-factor as Satinder "Suzanne" Kaur, the FBI official who is assigned to guide Nihaal, and Nupur Mehta goes through the motions of skin and asset display as Romeo's girl Li(s/z)a.
what Nihaal might really want

Aside from the obligatory Sholay reference (chakkii piisi.ng ##and## piisi.ng), we have dialogue that makes your jaw decide to stick with the "dropped" position: kyaa dekh rahii ho? (nihaal) / tumhaarii aa.Nkho.n me.n jo dil hai vo dekh rahii huu.N (suzanne), teraa vishwaas dekhakar mujhe puuraa aatma\-vishwaas hai, the good old ##whore##/hor kii haal hai?, and stupid conclusions like tumhaare piichhe pa.Daa hai, mere saale ke piichhe pa.Daa hai; mujhe lagataa hai vo ##terrorist## nahii.n ##homosexual## hai. There are enough outrageous scenes to whet the appetite of B-mongers: Nihaal Singh's numerous excursions in English (e.g. mai.n ##middle class pass## huu.N); the bad comedy involving Nihaal's cousin who says 'S' for 'F' married to a doctor who says 'F' for 'S' (which means you get lines like amriikaa me.n ko_ii kaam karane se pahale ##sex (fax)## karanaa zaruurii hai); Rahul Rawail's cheesy cameo as the Bahamas ganglord, Nihaal's mother getting the fits every time Nihaal passes out; The wonderful double delivery of the line meraa ##romeo## terrorist (the first as a surprised question, the second as a surprised exclamation); the strange scene where Lisa dresses up as a dominatrix and whips Romeo for his atonement (when he can't make it to a church on Sunday); the cold logic of anonymity-by-denial described by Nihaal Singh (if Nihaal Singh denies that he is Nihaal Singh, how can anyone claim otherwise?).

We also have two important technical developments in this film. The first is a restating of a classic axiom by Romeo:jis la.Dakii kii shaadii nahii.n hotii vo yaa to KudaKushii karatii hai yaa koThe par jaatii hai. The second is evidence of one of the oldest challenge-response protocols practised in India. If you are a true jaT, you will respond to the challenge "jo bole so nihaal" with an emphatic "sat srii akaal". In object-oriented terms, this would be like implementing the JoBoleSoNihaal interface. And this is how Nihaal manages to crack Romeo's disguise as Tony Singh.

Disappointingly, both mai.n yaar pa.njaabii jaT [more here] and raat kuchh aur thii get shoddy treatment on-screen. Relish the aural goodies, and try and forget what you saw.

In conclusion, may I paraphrase Nihaal Singh: oy! ##No if, no but, only## jaT.

a double dose of noir [june 11, 2005]

While the weather decided to take a dip from humid, sticky, bright and cloudy to grey, wet, windy, with thin sheets of raindrops, I settled down to catch the delights on a five-disc set called "Film Noir Killer Classics" (so much for subtle marketing! -- aha! some irony there!) I had picked up from the Public Library (Oh! life would be so miserable without you!). Although the jacket proclaims the existence of a sixth disc chockfull of special features and trailers, I don't see it! Pity.

Killer Bait (aka Too Late for Tears) is the tale of a wife funnelled down the fatalistic chute of the genre, driven to murder, deception and death by her unflinching greed. A bag of money is tossed into the car of the Palmers leading to a conflict of morals. While the husband is all for informing the police (although his footing is clearly unsteady and he is easily swayed), the wife is all for spending it as their own. Toss into the mix some strange visitors and a sister, and while the screw begins to turn, things begin spiralling out of control (predictably so, given the genre). This is a decent film to watch, if only for the complete lack of spectacle. If you love noir as I do, you won't be too disappointed (but make sure your notions of noir are not as rigid as mainstream descriptions define them to be -- try Paul Schrader's classic essay on the subject for a much better view of the genre). My favourite bit of dialogue occurs between the mysterious Don Blake and the vixen Jane Palmer:

Don : looking for something?
Jane: my lipstick.
Don : Colt or Smith and Wesson?

Scarlet Street is something more special -- if only because it's a Fritz Lang film. The film is based on the novel and play La Chiene, previously adapted by Renoir into a film of the same name. The rich narrative affords the film more than its genre showpieces. Lang is a master at atmosphere and pace and Christopher Cross (the pun "criss cross" is definitely intentional) is one of the more fascinating protagonists in such films of spiralling doom. Christopher (Edward G Robinson turning in another study in wretched despair) is a simple cashier with J J Hogwarth and is married to a noisy crude woman called Adele who doesn't regard him as much for snuff. In short, his life is boring, defeatist and average. After a late party with the rest of the executive office, and a gift for his honesty and diligence (both of which will obviously be put to the test later) from JJ, Christopher, saves a young girl from being beaten up by a mugger and ends up falling for her. In a Blue Angel-esque way, chain of events ensues that culminates in a strange form of justice. Remember the "knife" scene in Blackmail)? There's a similar example of the use of diegetic sound to underscore the unsaid and unseen: the record player gets stuck on the phrase "in love" at two points in the movie (once when Johnny reads Chris's letter to Kitty and the second time at the studio that Katherine rents with Chris's money). Then there's the starkness (no music, no flashy editing) of the murder scene. Note also the lighting and staging for the montage of witness testimonies. And then there's the last time we see Johnny, as he is taken to the electric chair: the camera watches the door from a distance (long shot?), we see him struggling, we hear him screaming his innocence in protest, and then the door is shut, denying us (and the camera) any further viewership. Looks like it's time to attempt a Fritz Lang revue.

a tale of two restaurants

[june 10, 2005] My last (and only) visit to Cha Gio on 10th Street was a few years ago. They didn't have the Wild Curry suffix then (now it's gone beyond being just a Vietnamese restaurant and includes Thai selections too). The artsy look of the inside (another big change from the dining hall setup I remember) seems often like a cover-up for the floor that has seen a lot of pedal battles. The food got no ill votes from most of us, and so it was a good beginning to a new mission to try out more eating places beyond the standard few familiar options and the now-boring and vastly inferior Indian restaurants peppering the Atlanta cityscape. WARNING: Be mindful of the signs for parking near the place. There's an adjacent lot for paid parking for a neighbouring establishment, and if you don't park correctly, be prepared for a boot. Our host at Cha Gio was gracious (and sensible too, IMHO) to enquire about where we had parked (Redundant really, since I had already made sure we did the right thing thanks to my memory of a recent incident where the people at Cha Gio had neglected to provide this note of caution resulting in a boot and more grief and dead presidents (respectively) for friends and the local administration).

[june 11, 2005]Bali Indah was the choice for dinner. We headed out towards Cheshire Bridge Road (the interesting road lined with a mix of eating places and fonts of adult entertainment of all forms). After what seemed like a binary search for the place, we found the establishment at the listed address. The only difference was that it was a restaurant called Thep Thai that offered Thai cuisine. We agreed that this was an option work checking out, since, in all likelihood the place had gone through a makeover (this was confirmed by our server, who noted that it had happened only a few months ago). The food was good too, also service hit a slowdown, despite the place being mostly empty. That said, I need to explore a few more Thai restaurants across town, before I can begin to compare them, though. In the meantime, eat and make merry.

Friday, June 10, 2005

kashyap zi.ndaabaad {mega-ack to JR for pointing me to this}

Anurag Kashyap reviews [NOTE: life-threatening registration required; point another browser tab to BugMeNot.com for redemption] his guilty movie-watching pleasures in Outlook India's Issue on Indian Cinema. While the contents of the issue seem very Bollywood-centric (as always), Kashyap's take covers a wider gamut of movies. My respect and appreciation for Anurag Kashyap grows even more despite not having seen even one movie he has made [Paanch might never be released, Black Friday {music notes} is doing the film festival circuit, so there's hope]. The only impression I have of his work is the dialogue that contributed significantly to the positive impact of Yuva.

He uses an un-attributed quote to open his article (Knowledge breeds taste...And taste kills pleasure), and it's one of the best ways to sum up a movie-watching experience. But it's not tough to counter the effects of taste. You can always balance Bergman and B. Subhash (Hell! I do!). And I can think of people like Martin Scorsese whose taste fuels almost childish fascination for the motion picture and filmmaking in general (check out Terry Gross on NPR interviewing Thelma Schoonmaker, the editor for most of Scorsese's movies)

Elsewhere, Jerry Pinto, after exploring the "defanged love story" (more registration nonsense, so pay BugMeNot.com another visit) ends with a thought that resonates so much with my POV it's scary: it takes an Onir (My Brother Nikhil) and Anurag Kashyap (Paanch and Black Friday) and a Ruchi Narain (Kal-Yesterday and Tomorrow) and a Sanjay Jha (Pran Jaaye Par Shaan Na Jaaye) and Shashanka Ghosh (Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part II) and Tigmanshu Dhulia (Haasil) or even that old warhorse Sudhir Mishra (Hazaaron Khwaahishein Aisi) to make me want to go back to a cinema.. Touché

Thursday, June 09, 2005

follow the money

Now that one of the most well-kept secrets of the 20th century has been shattered, the sales of prints and merchandise associated with All the President's Men and Deep Throat should soar. And while the media gets dumbly busy polarising W. Mark Felt's motivations for singing (you have only two options: "patriot" or "traitor"), Hal Holbrook, who played DT in the Pakula film, has a much better (IMHO) take on the subject [sign-your-life-away NYTimes URL]. More realistic even. From a filmmaking perspective, there's an important lesson to be taken when he notes: "We were better off when we didn't know who this was, [...] because it was possible to create some illusions about it."

book tag

[with a strong sense of déjà vu]

I have to thank Gaurav for this re-direct. I also owe him some murderous looks and grimaces for cheating on the outbound list and restricting my options greatly.

Total Number of Books I Own: Despite my frugality in the matter of purchasing books in the US of A, my bookshelf and allied boxes contain something shy of 150 books. The bulk comprises books on film: technique, theory, and machinery (duh!). If I chose to include my collection back home in Pune, I'd clock something in the lower 400s.

Last book I bought: I haven't bought any books since I got back from my trip to Pune/India, so I'll clock up the book at the top of the stack from Pathfinder: Collected Plays by Mahesh Dattani.

Five Books That Mean a Lot to Me: This is like invoking a random number generator that produces truly random numbers (or, if you want a trite analogy, it's like a box of chocolates). My answers are likely to fluctuate between an empty list and a list that overlaps in part or whole with this list: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, ( the nihilistic cynicism reflects perfectly; and the goal of Project Mayhem resonates strongly with me), The Adventures of Dennis by Victor Dragunsky (this was something I received in High School as a prize for General Proficiency; I've read it so many times since then that it hurts to count; I wish I could be more articulate on why this one's important), The Great Indian Novel (got me hooked on Shashi Tharoor's writing, and I've found a lot of delight from watching one fragment of rich articulate thought follow another), The Sherlock Holmes canon by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the binding that exists right now is home-grown; I wore the original out through repeated reading), A Kiss Before Dying (not only does Ira Levin's writing reveal a mastery of the form of the entertaining novel, but also this novel contains the only instance I know of a twist that is simply unfilmable).

Tag five people and have them do this on their blogs: Gaurav took more, I'll take 5. Sudarshan (here's another yummy opportunity), Samrat (the salacious[sic] angle of the BCQC),Hirak,Aditya (in return for all the interesting reading recommendations I've received),Godya.
the book meme baton finally edges forward ...

Finally, days (months!) after JR was kind enough to toss a wishbone my way, I've managed a unique synergy of time, space, focus and propriety to come up with my answers [elsewhere: JR's responses; Sudarshan's responses]

1. You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451! Which book do you want to be?

Simple. Fahrenheit 451. But that was an honest answer. Look at it this way: this way I preserve a record of the appalling practice of burning books and a record of the ingenious solution to the problem. Of course, cheap Matrix interpretations aside, this does bring up issues of self-awareness and recursion (which seems to subsume the first issue).

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

I have a feeling that I have. However, thanks to an increasingly everything-proof veneer of nihilistic cynicism that has built up over the years, all the roads leading back to the dark inner halls of my long-term memory are blocked. Simply put, I can't remember. I could think of a few examples from movies, but since this is a book meme, I'm sticking to the passion of the page.

3. The last book you bought is:

Bought a bunch at my first visit to the Pathfinder in Pune (which was also the last bookstore I visited during my recent trip to Pune). For sheer effect, I will choose to remember the top three on the stack: raat pashmiine kii and raavii paar (both by Gulzar and in Hindi) and Collected Plays by Mahesh Dattani. No, I rarely (very!) buy books in the US of A. The capitalistically bloated price is a big chunk of the reason (Hence, all my purchases have been from discount stores or the public library). The other reason stems from a revived (masochistic and infeasible, really) desire to read more Indian writing after having set foot on American tar. And if you think going back to Pune was the cure for this, you're mistaken. What I saw was a bunch of chains run by cerebrally dehydrated loons (Crossword, for example) that cater to superficial mainstream taste[sic]. What we need instead are stores like The International Book Service, Manney's and Pathfinder and/or perhaps a side-effect of the supply/demand phenomenon that pervades the US of A.

4. The last book you read

Selected stories of Philip K Dick, The complete war of the worlds, The King's English: a guide to modern usage by Kingsley Amis, The great American tax dodge and Nothing that meets the eye : the uncollected stories of Patricia Highsmith.

5. What are you currently reading?

If they move ... kill 'em: the life and films of Sam Peckinpah by David Weddle, Come along with me (a collection of short fiction, essays and an unfinished novel by Shirley Jackson), Neil Gaiman's wonderful Sandman series (technically graphic novels, but chock-full of a host of influences ranging from Norse mythology to William Shakespeare).

6. Five books you would take to a deserted island:

The complete Sherlock Holmes canon by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the trilogy in five parts with the bonus tail-ender by Douglas Adams, Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, the collected short stories of Philip K Dick (I'm cheating here: it's technically a 3-volume set, but I'm sure someone would do the needful for me), All the Monty Python scripts.

7. Who are you going to pass this stick to and why?

[pedantic smartass: That's whom not who!]. An unfortunate consequence of the distributed baton passing scheme, I have very few people in my immediate e-sphere to toss the bone to. Here's my mix of victims: Harish (the immediate BCQC cohort),Samrat (the salacious[sic] angle of the BCQC),Hirak,Aditya (in return for all the interesting reading recommendations I've received),Godya.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

a retrospective of november rain ... and a small shower from september

Some more posts (mostly reviews) that have long languished as drafts have finally (trumpets, tympani, bass) made it for the hungry impatient readers of this little nook in cyberspace:

* A recent non-movie post dedicated to trashing some local Indian restaurants ...

* thoughts about Monty Python and the Holy Grail

* thoughts about Roman Polanski's The Ninth Gate

* thoughts about Norman Jewison's Rollerball

* all thumbs for Session 9 and Bubba Ho-Tep.

* notes on Jeepers Creepers II

* vitriol dedicated to Pankaj Parashar's Inteqam

* musings about Blade 2 and an old Frank Sinatra starrer called The Naked Runner

* in which we mourn The Last of the Mohicans, jubilate over Stray Dog, and relish two minor fantasy flicks called Invaders from Mars and Target Earth

* and then in September, we find time to rant about Kyun...! Ho Gaya Na, find some merit in Chot and laugh at the putrid rehash that is Rakht.

Monday, June 06, 2005

All men are guilty. They're born innocent, but it doesn't last [june 04, 2005]

Having missed out on catching Le Cercle Rouge (The Red Circle), Jean Pierre-Melville's heist film during its re-mastered one-week only run in Atlanta a couple of years ago, I jumped at the chance at making amends when it popped up as part of the Thieves Are Us series at the High Museum. The film contains a lot of the attributes I've taken for granted as being typical of French films (based solely on the ones I've seen): any attempt at spectacle is eschewed, there is a very patient sense of the deliberate (which a lot of audiences can read as "slow, plodding"), a sense of detail (that is often tossed in the American counterparts of such films), and a strange blend of humour. All this and much more abound in this story of a heist that, in the tradition of the genre, falls apart. The film opens with an explanation of the title: a quote from Rama Krishna (Parmahansa I believe) (who in turn quotes the Buddha) about a red circle and how people who are destined to meet will all converge into the red circle. The significance is evident in the final moments of the film, but doesn't do much more for the proceedings. There's an impeccable sense of framing and composition (those frames that feel like watercolours, the interior of Jensen's house, the jewellery store, the sequences in the woods). There's an excruciating level of detail in the actions which almost verges on being maddeningly Kubrickian. Wipes and dissolves abound as transition devices while the editing rears its head occasionally for nice mini-montages (the "lights" sequence where we see the security guard turn off the lights in the store one by one, and then turns the night light on, only to be taken by a cut to Jensen's house where he lights his cigarette). Nice touches abound: Jensen's introductory sequence (which features a hallucination that leaves you in a mix of shock, fear, distaste and all that with a touch of humour; little actions like the passing of the bag of jewels near the end of the film. For more variations on humour check out the first time Corey and Vogel meet. The soundscape is very very understated. The only music you hear prominently is the live jazz for the dances at Santi's.

Given that John Woo is in the process of remaking this film, you shouldn't be surprised to see the "John Woo presents" at the beginning of the film. However, that last bit of news has left me puzzled - while there is a possibility that Woo might present an interesting interpretation of the material, his recent oeuvre (especially since he moved to the hills of Hollywood) makes that a very slim one. But I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and wait till I hear more.

Another forthcoming film that has my attention is Richard Linklater's adaptation of Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly. Linklater's reuses of his trippy animation (see also: Waking Life) (at least the trailer uses it) seems like just the thing for PKD's nightmarishly surreal vision of the future. This definitely looks promising on the front of interpretation.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

target of an assassin [june 01, 2005]

This little Peter Collinson-directed thriller is part of a 10-movie set innocently lying on a shelf in Best Buy surrounded by other more familiar bestsellers and shtick flicks. And what a combination of features. A South-African action thriller. Based on a novel called Running Straight by Jon Burmeister. Starring Anthony Quinn. As a male nurse from Louisiana. He's in charge of the "Tiger of Gamba", a high-ranking South African head of state who's been the favourite target for a few assassination attempts. Quinn finds out that his own days are numbered thanks to a medical condition and so, in a bid to make life better for his adopted daughter, manages to abduct the said premiere. Coincidentally, this makes things rather hairy for an assassin hired by the premiere's second-in-command. Somewhere along the way there's a lot of dialogue devoted to the captive and the captor evaluating their own situation, and also discussing hatred and racism. Despite the average quality of the DVD, the film itself isn't so bad. A modest effort, this. Watch out for Louis L'Amour's River's West and Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows.

A surprise bonus on this DVD comprises several previews: Experiment in Terror, A Kiss before Dying (starring Robert Wagner), Angels with Dirty Faces, High Sierra, White Heat, The Postman Always Rings Twice. The most interesting one though was the one for Anatomy of a Murder. This one involved key players on the cast roster taking oaths (in keeping with the film being a legal thriller), then there's Duke Ellington (who composed the soundtrack and also had a small cameo [is there anything like a large cameo?]) doing the same, then there's Otto Preminger discussing the adaptation with the author of the source novel. After all that, we are treated to the standard compendium of shots from the film.

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