Wednesday, August 22, 2007

the beast of yucca flats: man's inhumanity to man

In this film that marked the beginning of the abysmal oeuvre of cult filmmaker Coleman Francis, Tor Johnson, a Swedish wrestler and one of the many lucky people to star in Plan 9 From Outer Space, plays a Soviet scientist Joseph Javorsky, who has defected to the United States. Fleeing from some KGB assassins with a briefcase presumably full of Russian military secrets, he wanders into the desert (supposed to be Nevada, given that it's supposed to Yucca Flats) close to a nuclear test site; as a reward for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, he is transformed into a beast. The film then explores the familiar arc laced with victims, a hunt and the eventual death of the monster (complete with a hint that there was some good left in him by having him kiss a passing bunny before breathing his last).

As an added bonus, he also gets to be the only person in the film to have his lips seen on screen when mouthing dialogue (growls, to be precise). The film was filmed as a silent movie with all the aural attributes looped. Given that money was not really a key contributor to this film, all the scenes are filmed so that there was no problem synchronising audio to picture -- you never see someone's face when he/she is speaking, you never see firearms fire (you only hear sounds), you don't even see the tips of the guns.

Augmenting the experience of viewing this low-budget wonder are the pre-credit sequence and the terse, omniscient, redundant voice-over narration, whose script comes close to being an aural equivalent of the inter-titles in silent movies.

The film opens with a sop for those that patronised such B-movies in return for some salacious goodies: accompanied by the eerie (yet rather effective) diegetic ticking of a clock, a woman emerges from the shower. After she has treated viewers to a nip slip, the dame's subsequently strangled to death by a mysterious pair of large hands and laid to rest on her bed. Even though those hands look like Tor's, there is nothing to prove that this sequence has anything whatsoever to do with the rest of the film.

The pièce de résistance is the narration that mixes socio-philosophical commentary with irony and combines prolixity and a Hemingway-esque style to produce a collection featuring riffs on progress:

Vacation time. Man and wife. Unaware of scientific progress.

Joe Dobson. Caught in the wheels of progress.

Another man caught in the frantic race for the betterment of mankind. Progress.

Boys from the city. Not yet caught in the whirlwind of progress.

notes on cause and effect:

Touch a button. Things happen. A scientist becomes a beast.

A man runs. Somebody shoots him.

notes on social habits:

Vacation time. People travel east. West. North or south. The Radcliffs travel east, with two small boys, adventurous boys. Nothing bothers some people. Not even Flying Saucers.

There's an argument to be made for the intent of the voiceover and it's interesting to see the similarity to silent movie inner-titles, but it's hard to keep a straight face listening to short bursts of words that distract you from the surreal speechless low-budget action on the screen.

Having relished this shorter-than-an-hour challenge to science (radioactive fallout can lead to necrophilia in large heavy men) or family norms (kids are extremely stupid and annoying, can't really figure out when they're lost and don't have a clue about caves), one is keen to explore the other gems in Coleman's canon (some of which even made the grade on MST3K)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

new contribution to the song of the fortnight: aayegaa mere sapano.n kaa raajaa / Kaun? Kaise?

{previous post in thread}

At long last, another new article of mine has surfaced on the Panchammagic Song of the Fortnight page:

aayegaa mere sapano.n kaa raajaa / film: Kaun? Kaise? (1983) / lyrics: Gulshan Bawra
In the prelude, Pancham builds up harmonies around a vocal refrain (pam-param-pam) in three sections, each containing two renditions of this refrain accompanied by a IV-V chord progression. The first section has the bass (in the lower register) and the female chorus (in the higher register) playing in octaves accompanied by arpeggios from an electric guitar with a flanger. Another female chorus line enters in the second section to provide a two-part harmony with the thirds. Asha is heard in the third section adding the final line for a three-part harmony with a two note fifth/third descending part. The last segment continues as electronic percussion and the hi-hat enter. A short phrase on the bass introduces the string section. A short run on the strings, accompanied by a tap on the cymbal, closes the prelude accompanied by a IV-I progression.... [more]

[PS: The article gets a more permanent archive URL once a new post goes up; I'll update this post when that happens]

Thursday, August 09, 2007

indian ocean in atlanta: august 17, 2007

They're finally coming to Atlanta courtesy Vibha and the IIT South East Alumni Association. More details here. There are hopes of hearing tracks from their soundtrack for Shoonya. If you're a resident of the sprawl, hesitate no more. Grab yourself a ticket.

elsewhere in the past: A review of the Black Friday soundtrack.

partner: boregasmic boeotian waste of time

David Dhawan's "adaptation" of Hitch has unfortunately served only a reminder of the excruciating time I had watching the original. It even makes that piece of rejectamenta look like a masterpiece in modern romantic comedies. How hopeful I was that the manic electric hyperactive low-brow Govinda had returned to deliver the belly splits. Alas, Sanjay Chhel ain't Anees Bazmee and Salman Khan hogs most of the footage. Govinda, sadly, turns in a performance that shows with its effort and grates enough that you'd want to institute a rehabilitation programme just to remind him of how hollow a shell he has become of his former self. On the lass front, Lara Dutta turns in the most bearable performance, while the PG-rated vacuous Katrina Kaif competes with nails scratching a blackboard. Rajpal Yadav's chhoTaa Don is an unfunny appendage that competes with Uday Chopra's footage in Dhoom 2 for incongruity and induced exasperation. It would be a threat to one's blood pressure to even begin to revisit the formidable weapon of torture to the senses represented by the pipsqueak playing Lara Dutta's child. The dialogues are loaded with the kind of triple and quadruple rhymes that have inundated other successful moronic attempts at humour as Garam Masala, Kya Kool Hain Hum, Masti and No Entry.

There are precious pearls that might have worked in a film that didn't seem to want to try and be a respectable middle-brow affair instead of the basket of street-smart silliness that it should have been: jisakaa pyaar ho backbone to tuu kaun aur mai.n kaun, agar wo qaabil hai to tuu kaabulii chanaa hai, dhuup me.n isakaa chashmaa banuu.Ngaa baarish me.n isakaa chhaataa and there's only one thing i cannot stand it's a one night stand. Sajid-Wajid's peppy songs are the only things to survive this mess and the rest of the film is a bus ride in ennui in slow motion from one song-and-dance sequence to the next. One begins to long for the Govinda of Shola aur Shabnam, Aankhen, Coolie No. 1 and Raja Babu, when, as if on cue, Govinda's character in the film broke into a spectacular Taporii dance as sarakaaii lyo khaTiyaa began playing on the music system. It's a sad day when the best thing in a Govinda film is the sight of Govinda hanging it loose to a song from his better days. The other moment (when Salman Khan spoofs his ready-to-strip-waist-up image at airport security) is marred only by the fact that the film plays the joke several times before this point.

The narrative wears its incoherence on its sleeve as each plot point pops up as either a non sequitur or a reeking cliché. Even playing the products-and-names game (Bournvita, Pizza Hut, XBox 360, the Times Of India) gets unexciting pretty soon. The Scholarly Subtitle Staff continue to transcend new nadirs of grammatical correctness, homophonic consistency and translational liberty: journalist becomes generalist and names get mangled several times over. Govinda's character's name (Bhaskar) services several excursions into double entendre and even supports a reference to Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Anand. There's a promising dig at the special fondness for boys among priests. There's also the obligatory Sholay reference for the brains that have survived the pounding. Such sops are hardly sufficient to save this sinking ship.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The reincarnation of monty oberoi: surroor reborn

[last sneeze in this thread]

According to news items tumultuously laced for shock value, the most successful Nose of South-East Asia is all set to reprise Rishi Kapoor's role in the Satish Kaushik-helmed remake of Subhash Ghai's 1980 "adaptation" of The Reincarnation of Peter Proud, Karz (here's an old note about its "haunted" theme). After playing himself in his wildly successful début as a leading man with protection, Aap Kaa Surroor - The Moviee - The Real Luv Story, the "Michael Jackson of India" (a moniker more appropriately associated with the boneless dance-floor wiz, Prabhu Deva), He Who Shall Not Shave returns in a version of his rock star persona (Sniffle Stardust?). In a way it is an appropriate film for him to be associated with: after all, is it a coincidence that the name of his biggest hit Aashiq Banaya Aapne appears in the lyric of the Rafi song dard-e-dil? (refresher: pahale to mai.n shaayar thaa / aashiq banaayaa aap ne)

In the absence of He Who Refuses To Reveal His Hairstyle, Satish Kaushik nimbly takes over the responsibilities of generating self-aggrandising gas:

on the choice for Simi Garewal's role: It has to be [sic] lady with a great grace, poise, mystique and seductive quality living alone in this secluded mansion. I've to find someone who fits the bill fast. (try Sylvia Kristel or Georgina Spelvin)

on rumours that Ravi Verma (Raj Kiran) and Monty Oberoi (Rishi Kapoor) will be modified to a double role for He Who Was Unveiled In Ajmer: No. We'll have another actor for the first role, while Himesh will play the character reborn as a rock star. I'll try to stick to the spirit of Subhash Ghai's film as much as possible. What a film that was! Will I be able to do justice to it? (Hint: No)

on what made him qualified for the job: I think it was the way I filmed those lavish songs and dances in Roop Ki Rani Choron Ki Raja. Karz requires a lot of on-stage direction. (whatever that means)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

DOA: the national film awards for 2005

After rumours and a stay order, the National Awards for 2005 (aka the 53rd) are finally official. No changes in the roll call and the smell of stale milk is faint. The official rants about Black can begin, although, at this point, everyone has probably moved on to bigger fish. There's a PDF with the complete list for those who'd just prefer the chase and not the chaff.

The coolest entry in the list, however, is one that's likely to get missed by most. The eminently readable entertaining erudite Baradwaj Rangan wins the Award for Best Film Critic (as the citation goes "for intelligent and reader-friendly reviews of popular cinema with a depth of understanding of the form, a discernible passion for the medium bulwarked consistently by a knowledge of the trends and
touchstones of global cinema
"). Damn! He also won at the 2006 Indibloggies. Way to go, BR!

update [august 13, 2007]: Apparently, the winners haven't received official word that they've won. There's also an interesting note in that news item about a news channel declaring, some years ago, that Vishal had won an award for the screenplay of Maqbool. Alas, unlike the awards for Raveena Tandon and Anil Kapoor, this one was not to be.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

it's not the age, it's the mileage

It's good to know they still write lines like that. Step over to PFC the unveiling of the exclusive trailer for Sriram "Ek Hasina Thi" Raghavan's finally-set-for-release flick Johnny Gaddar. Lovely pulpy titles, a host of great names on the roster (Vinay Pathak, Zakir Hussain, Dharmendra), a new face (Neil Nitin Mukesh, son of Nitin Mukesh and hence grandson of the late Mukesh) and a lovely theme on the background (I'm not sure if credit is due to background music man Daniel George -- is this the Daniel B George responsible for the wonderful soundtrack for Sehar? -- or music directors Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy?). Fans of heist flicks, Quentin Tarantino, Guy Ritchie and Matthew Vaughn will feel right at home. The vibes are good and hopes are high.

If someone can figure out the name of that James Hadley Chase novel seen briefly in the clip, drop a comment on this post or drop me a line.

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