Sunday, July 17, 2005

flicking snatches...

[july 16/17, 2005]

Bowfinger just jumped up a couple of slots on my list of pending movies. On a good day, Steve Martin writes some of the nicest inoffensive humour on film. And this seems like the result of a fairly good week. Eddie Murphy shines as the Ramsey twins. The soundtrack is groovy, and James Brown never fit in the groove better. There are a few false notes when the tone tends to get vicious and the film threatens to turn into the kind it mocks, but you can ignore all that and get a fair share of laughs. Be sure to wait till the end for a belly-splitting preview of Bowfinger's next venture. Lovers of movies, schlock-fests, B-movies and bad dubbed action flicks will not be disappointed.

Watching A Fistful of Dollars yet again made me wish Leone had some more money to indulge in his love for spectacle, and also a good editor to curb his excesses. People unfamiliar with Leone usually approach this movie as an entry in some list of classics. Unfortunately, the attributes that make Leone such a great filmmaker (and consequently make this one a strong entry in his ouevre) are not what most viewers would associate with "classics". Leone's forte lies in his nail-biting patient handling of otherwise innocuous trivial scenes. If the word "western" gets you thinking of slam-bang action, and chases, you might be in for a disappointment. When Leone tackles the western, he turns it on its head, subverting all the expectations of people used to watching the films that (ironically, perhaps) inspired him in the first place. But if you reel out a line of patience, you'll be rewarded. And if you like good lines, the film has one for you: When a man's got money in his pocket he begins to appreciate peace.

Robert Zemeckis had something going with Contact. The film benefits most from the refusal to attempt to explain the goings-on. It's a parable of faith. Aside from Jodie Foster's sincere performance, there's the rich opening sequence to savour. And yes, it would be a waste if this large universe just had a lot of us.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom just doesn't work. It feels so DOA. I'm not too much of a fan of the franchise, really, but the first part's clearly better. And the third one had Sean Connery (and a pre-Dan Brown version of the Holy Grail). Kate Capshaw is absolutely irritating. This one was banned for a while in India thanks to the sub-plots involving kaalii (although the Thuggee lore has a grain of truth) and the presentation of the mahaaraajaa (which also meant that Spielberg and Co.'s desire to shoot in India got nixed). With the way things go as far as India is concerned in the film, I'm inclined to support the ouster. Consider that feast with a gross-out menu (bugs, eyeball soup, monkey brains?). And then consider that after crash-landing in the Himalayas, they end up (thanks to shooting restrictions) in Sri Lanka, which is supposed to pass of as North India. And then the natives blabber in Sinhalese (clearly!), and unsuspecting non-Indians get the impression that this is India. The first Indian element surfaces during the court dance (the language of the song, V tells me, was Dogarii). Roshan Seth adds some clipped sanity to the proceedings. There's a British officer from the 11th Poona Rifles. The mahaaraajaa is a blubbering embarassment. The only person who lends this sub-plot any respectability is Amrish Puri (apparently, he shaved his head for the role, and that was the last he saw of his hair! what a tragedy). A lot of the Hindi lines are familiar to viewers of countless villain-heavy revenge/action sagas, and some of them are downright ridiculous in context (mere saathiyo.n isake uupar tiir chalaao). There's an inscription at one point (meaning: follow in the footsteps of shiva) which looks like devanaagarii gobbledygook. The most hilarious moment comes right before molaa raam (Puri) falls to his death: Ford's Jones screams to him (as verbatim as possible) "tum shiivaa ke (pause) vishwasaghaatii ho"; then some more of that, a splash of "tum ghaatii" and then a chant of "vishwaasaghaatii". Worth preserving for schlock.

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