Thursday, 31 March 2011

Le Corniaud - The sucker

1965 by Gerard Oury

Antoine Marechal wants to take a holiday in Italy to escape the cold weather in Paris. Within a few minutes, his car is hit by another car, damaging it completely. Saroyan, as a compensation, offers him a chance to drive a Cadillac from Naples to Bordeaux, all expenses paid, which would make a wonderful trip. Antoine cannot even beleive his luck and sets out to Italy. He is unaware that Saroyan has been looking hard to find a naive and innocent looking man to smuggle something from Italy to France. The Cadillac is actually carrying Heroine, Gold, some pearls and a very famous diamond. All these are placed secretly in different parts of the car that all they wanted was an innocent man who could drive it through the customs on Italy/French border. Saroyan's plan is to follow Antoine through out to ensure the safety of the car. Well there are somebody else too, who has some idea of these plans, who would follow both these cars. This is a crazy journey of the sweet and naive guy Antoine, in a Cadillac, from Naples to Bordeaux. He is followed by Saroyan, with two idiotic assists, and another group of criminals. The whole journey ends in the small French town Carcassone.

Classic 'Fun on the road' movie. Two criminal groups following an innocent man itself makes a great plot for a comedy. The facts like the innocent is not aware about the real value of the car and that he is followed by the same guy who offered this free trip and the innocent is losing the valuable parts one by one enroute, adds to the plot. The scene, in which Antoine uses the Cadillac's phone to call Saroyan, just to enjoy that facility and to say how much he is enjoying his trip, when Saroyan picks up the call from another car just 2 meters away, alone conveys the comic plot. The movie is full of such scenes and most of them are hilarious, especially the ones in the hotel in Rome and the camp site. The bonus is definitely the naivety of Antoine. What an excellent character. Though we laugh out loud we still feel sorry for the guy. But towards the end when he realises that he is being fooled, he turns street smart and that is quite nice.

 Louis De Funes as Saroyan is excellent and is at his usual best, but Bourvil as Antoine is the show stealer. His face is so kind and innocent and he fits perfectly for the role and with his master performance makes it a brilliant show. Bourvil is so sweet and kind and I doubt if he plays any nasty characters, would it be so convincing. I am sure he will make it great too, but this man was really special. I especially likes his naive moments like when he offers more money to the work shop man, who stole the gold in the car, and his romantic overtures with the two women he meets in this journey are really really brilliant. That is classic French I must say, a lesson in wooing and being nice and sweet to woman.

I feel sorry that both these men have left this world. How would they have felt to know that their performances are still being watched and appreciated by people from a different century. 

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Russkij Kovcheg - Russian Ark

2002 by Alexander Sokurov

The narrator, a ghost, is wandering through the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. He is able to talk to another 'European', who too is wandering around. They stroll through the different rooms and areas in the Palace, each region depicting different ages in Russian history, not in any chronological order. They are able to recognise some persons and interact with at some point, but often people do not notice them at all.

I did not really enjoy watching this movie for few reasons, its pace and my lack of knowledge in Russian history.

However, I would strongly say this is a unique idea for a movie. Here is a ghost, who can be the director himself with his camera man, being escorted by another ghost, who seems to have been to this region when he was alive, wandering through a great palace, describing the various artefacts and people they see enroute. They witness few scenes, which are actually recreated from the true history of Russia. I really enoyed some music during this stroll, and also the grand costumes of the people who came through from various eras. And finally there is a magnificient ball scene. There is a kind of grandness in many scenes, but finally without any knowledge of the history, I just couldnt enjoy it.

But I understand that the whole movie was taken on a single shot, yes a single shot, and I can only say, unbeleivable. That requires a great camera man and his lighting team, an out of the world choreographer and group of artists inlcuding actors, musicians and costume designers and finally a brilliant director. Even if I didnt understand the happenings, I do understand the idea behind, especially the effort required and I can only say , brilliant.

I salute the director, Sokurov and the whole team for this great effort. 

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

La Grande Vadrouille - The Great Stroll

1966 by Gerard Oury

In the Germany occupied Paris, in 1941, a British plane is shot down. The 3 crew members parachutes down to the city of Paris. Before jumping, they agree to meet at the Trukish Bath. All three of them land at different places and are helped by the local person they meet. Augustin a local painter and Lefort a rich and mean Operah conductor both receive one of the crew and helps them to meet their captain at the Bath. Now they have to help them further to find a way to the unoccupied south of France. There is a German Major and his team who has to find the three crew members who are after them. Movie proceeds through their dangerously interesting and funny journey to the South.

Lefort is played by Louis de Funes and Augustin by Bourvil and they make a great pair. Lefort is a mean rich upper class guy and Bourvil a kind and nice guy from the working class. Lefort has no way but to work together with this working class guy to escape the horrible job he is in, because of bad luck. Both are simply brilliant. The very fist scene of De Funes, when he is conducting a rehearsal in his opera speaks volumes about this amazing actor. He definitely is from a different world.

L G Vadrouille is very different from most classic comedies. There is a serious plot but the treatment and the characters make it a brilliantly funny movie. Till this movie, only ultra serious movies were produced in France with WWII as a theme. And Oury did make a huge jump to another stage with this one, I am sure, surprising the viewers. What better way to funnily look at some happenings during one of the most horrible periods in their history, than to create two contrasting characters like Lefort and Augustine and let them free. And it looks like giving freedom to De Funes is like warning yourself about the laugh riot that you have to follow. This is only my third movie of De Funes. But I am already finding it difficult to find words to praise this actor.

There are soooooo many beautiful and funny moments in this excellent comedy. Like some of the great Malayalam comedies of the 80's, I am sure, I will not be bored of repeatedly watching it.

There is one road scene, on the hills, where German army bikes chase a trek which carries De Funes and others. Brilliant, may I say. I wonder how they managed it in those days. 

Monday, 28 March 2011

Les Aventures de Rabbi Jacob

1973 by Gerard Oouri

Mr. Pivert, a racist, rich and mean industrialist, who is deserted after a car accident, witnesses some men trying to kill a rebel Arab leader, Slimane. Pivert really causes some trouble there and is being chased by the Arab killers. Slimane too joins him and soon takes Pivert as a hostage trying to escape. The Police too wants Pivert as they think he might have killed somebody during the hiccup with the killers. Slimane leads Pivert to the airport. Pivert's wife suspects he is trying to run away with another woman, because he is not in home as expected, also makes her way to airport to stop him, inspite of this being the wedding day of their daughter. A popular Rabbi, Jacob is coming back to France from USA, after 30 years. To evade the killers and the police, Slimane disguises himself and Pivert as the Rabbi and assistant and is soon welcomed by the Jewish family and taken to their locality where Pivert has to act as Rabbi Jacob and Slimane his assistant.

All ingredients for a classic comedy and a classic comedy it is. The movie losses its pace, slightly, towards the end though. But still this is a classic comedy. Mixed identities, mis understandings, innocent man being chased and brilliant match up of plot with slap stick, but what makes this comedy to stand out is the performance of Louis de Funes.  What an actor. His timing, his expressions and his elegance are a level above most of the best comedians I have been acuqainted with so far. I even feel sorry that this actor is not known at all in my country. I wish my fellow country men, especially the young, who are blindly mad after Hollywood, watch Louis de Funes and realise the benchmark for classic comedy may not have been set by the Hollywood.

When I saw Fawlty Towers, I was introduced into Classic British humour and ever since I always thought about John Cleese, playing Basil, as a master of elegant comedy. Louis de Funes could be his French counterpart.

Even after more than 3 decades, L A de Rabbi Jacob can embarass the best of the modern comedies. 

Friday, 25 March 2011

August 15

2011 by Shaji Kailas

The Chief Minister of Kerala had a heart attack and is slowly getting back to normalcy. A pathologist in the hospital finds that the heart attack was not normal, but it was caused by some foreign body - a poison. The news shocks the Police and decides to ask a reputed senior officer, Perumal to investigate. Perumal wants this to be a top secret only known to few top police officers. Perumal starts his investigation and feels that the killer is still around and there is real threat to the life of CM. The killer, an international professional, is paid for by few friends who leads different Mafia's of the state, who are having a real bad time because of the interference caused by the hard core Communist CM. They would not mind even any other Communusit, but not this CM. Since the first attempt is a failure, the killer is ready to give back his advance and leave but the Mafia wants him to continue and he makes new plans. Perumal continues his investigation and how he finally saves the CM from the second attempt completes this movie.

This supposed to be Thriller, the second part of August 1, there is a script which lacks any intensity or cohesion, but have more than enough loop holes, is very badly directed by the Political thriller specialist Shaji Kailas. If only the serious scenes were kept and the rest ignored, the movie would have been more better with a duration of only around 60 or 70 minutes. Some of the scenes are absolutely lacking any common sense or logic, not to mention some of the characters.
I simply dont understand why there is always, in Malayalam movies, some absolutely stupid and comic figure amongst a Superior Police officer. The scenes of confidential meetings by investigation officers done in the presence of Doctors are a real shame. And even the group of villains, who can even plan to commit to a professional killer to assassinate a chief minister, can they consist of such foolish and loose talking guys. Would any such villains offer huge sum to a killer, even without knowing his name at least. And will there be any professional killer who will go back and give his advance money, just because the first attempt failed between the cup and the lips. There will be many more questions, while we watch the movie. Finally, it was quite unnecessary to take the scene from 'Inglorious Bastards'.

On the plus side, there isnt any heroine, so there is no love angle anywhere and luckily no songs too. Also only one fight scene. Mammootty, as Perumal, keeps his charm but his character who seem to keep his sun glasses for all the scenes, is quite strange for a Keralan officer. Mammootty seems to have changed his walking style a little bit, but overall he doesnt have anything great to do. He is quite glamorous, even at above 55 years, but his lower body is getting weak and that shows. Whatever, his charm is there and his is a great presence.

Only Nedumudi Venu as the CM and SaiKumar as the Communist party secretary, has something to act and they have been very good.

The makers of this movie definitely wanted to give a different kind of thriller, but falls far short of it.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

L'aile ou la cuisse - The wing and the thigh

1976 by Calude Zidi

Duchemin runs a universally acclaimed guide book on French cuisine. The ratings he gives for the restaurants are so crucial that it can even make or break a business. He has a son, who is more interested by playing a clown in a circus troupe, run by his friends. Duchemin runs exclusive inspections before he rates any restaurant and he considers himself a saviour of the grandeur of French classic food. Restaurateurs are quite scared about this unexpected inspections by his team. Duchemin is informed about a plan by Tri-Cartel, a fast food chain, to buy all restaurants in a French town. Jacques Tri Cartel in fact would like to buy only those restaurants which are highly rated by Duchemin's guide book that, he even tries to steal the proof of the unpublished guide book. Duchemin then plans to challenge Tri Cartel through a very popular television show and succeeds, not easy though.

This is a classic French satire+slap stick of the 70's. Just that it is an excellent comedy even now in 2011. Satire in a way how the French has always looked down at the American Fast food system, which with its junk food is going places all around the world, offering unhealthy and tasteless food for cheap prices that too as 'take away'. French are always proud about their Food and they ought to be. Fast food chains have invaded France as well and the young and the poor line up for them. I am sure this movie had an intention in this line, especially since it was released in the 70's. Even now this is a valid point and traditional food is always healthy and tasty than the fast food junky. A classic satire for sure, for both children and adults.

Many restaurant inspections of Duchemin brings out the slap stick humour, which are brilliant. Most of these scenes, (to point out one - the check-in scene of Duchamin, his son and the secretary), offer excellent laugh.

Louis de Funes who plays Duchemin definitely steals the show. What a performance. Simply brilliant. I am going to look for more movies from this brilliant actor. Even when he tries out slap stick, he is elegant. Coluche as his son is also very good. But his character is supposed to be only next to De Funes and so it is.

Watch this movie if you would like to see a simple and hilarious comedy.  The message behind is still relevant in the modern world of fast foods.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Todo El Poder

2000 by Fernando Sarinana

Gabriel lives in Mexico city, which is infamous for its crime rate. Kidnappings can happen any time and you might find a gun behind your head anytime. Gabriel is obsessed with this insecurity and tries to shoot everything he sees related to, with his small handi cam. His wife has left him and take care of his adolescent girl too. When he is fed up of kidnappings and robbery around him and on him as well, the car he borrowed from his wife is robbed, he starts following some suspects. He meets an insurance agent Sofia who, had lost her brother to the crime, is glad to assist him. Their investigation takes them directly to the corridors of power. When one of their close friend is kidnapped and when they realise that the same was ordered by a Police chief himself, they go all out to save him and finally brings a major gang to the light.

A well shot movie, which has lot of dark comedy, some peeks into the life of seperated couples with a child and majorly the part of Police in the crime. We feel the fear of the citizens who have accepted the fact that they can be on gun point any time, and we do get some light laughs and finally some thrills too. But all is told in a quite simple and interesting way that I found very nice.

I have to say that, if this film is taken in any language and shown in any corner of the world, it might look relevant. Ordinary people, every where in the world, get least help from the system and shockingly the protectors always have some links with the perpetrators.

Todo El Poder is a very good watch. I especially liked the cinematography and the performance by almost all the actors. Cecilia Suarez, who played Sofia, is very charming and beautiful.  

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Se, Jie - Lust, Caution

2007 by Ang Lee

1938, Shanghai is occupied by Japan. A group of University students in Hong Kong wants to contribute to the war for their mother land and stages a drama, which is successful. Then Kuang, the leader decide to take their support to another level, by killing Mr. Yee, a special agent for the Japan government. As per their plan, young and beautiful Wong Chia Chi will play Mrs. Mak. Mrs. Mak gets into the social circle of Mr. Yee's wife and earns their company. Very gently she does lure Mr. Yee as well. Chia Chi is successful in luring him, but is sure that Mr. Yee cant be fooled that easily. She tells her group, who are all staying in the supposed residence of Mrs. Mak, that it has reached a stage where she will have to show her bed for Mr. Yee to clear any doubts. Chia Chi, a virgin, has to reluctantly agree to share the bed with a boy in the group, who has been to a whore house,  to know something about sex. This she has to do in front of Kuang, both of them sharing some mutual likeness for each other. But all of a sudden Mr. Yee leaves to Shanghai and the plan has to be dropped. When they are ready to clear out their apartment, a subordinate of Mr. Yee turns up and the group, have no other option, but to kill him.

After three years, Chia Chi meets Kuang again in Shanghai. Kuang is now an active member of an organisation working against the Japaneese and Chia Chi too wants to do something for China. Just that, now she will not be working for a group of University students, but for a prominent organisation who are more ruthless. She reintroduces herself as Mrs. Mak and cheks in as a guest in Mr. Yee's home. Soon Mr. Yee organise to meet her in a hotel room. But here he brutally rapes her to her utter shock. She is still compelled to continue their sexual relationship. She breaks down in front of Kuang and her superior, that each and every time she has sex with Mr. Yee, she hopes for her friends to arrive and kill him, that she cannot take it anymore. Mr. Yee sends her to an Indian jeweller to select a special diamond for a ring for her. Chia Chi informs her friends about this place as a possible place to kill Mr. Yee, if she manages to take him there as he wont have much security. She takes him there and can see many of her group members, strategically located around. But, when she finally sees the exquisite diamond ring, which is ready, and when Mr. Yee insists her to wear it, she is torn between her duty and her love and in a tender moment whispers him to leave immediately. Mr. Yee understands this clue and rushes towards his car and saves himself. Soon all the group members inlcuding Chia Chi are arrested and Mr. Yee, who by now is the head of Secret Police, signs their execution order. All of them are executed in a quarry. Mr. Yee is emotionally affected, and is looking at the vacant bed in his guest room.

This movie is an Espionage thriller, but for me it is more of a love story between a man and a woman. The man have doubts on the woman , about her identity and her intentions, but is still drawn to her. The woman is in a plan to kill the man, but is reluctantly drawn to him because of their long sexual affair. In fact, it is a triangular love story, because we know that Kuang and Chia Chi liked each other during the first part of their plan, in '38 but they never did anything about it, as they were busy with their plans. When she breaks down in front of her superior about the difficulty of having sex with Mr. Yee and later Kuang tries to kiss her, she clearly tells him, he should have tried this 3 years earlier. If so, they would have been in love and may be Kuang might not have pushed her to the second part of their plan, ie in '42. Or if they were in love Chia Chi, would have still continued her physical relations in wooing Mr. Yee, but she might not have lost her mind and heart in doing so. Chia Chi falls into the University drama project quite accidentally, but she turns out to be the best actress even in the drama outside the stage. She is so successful in luring a strong and shrewd guy like Mr. Yee, quite easily. Inspite of him brutally raping her in their first meet, she still manages to seduce him and act out as if she likes him very much. Just that the repeated sexual meetings slowly draws her mind closer to Mr. Yee and she even sings a song for him, in private, in the Whore house. That scene I thought was really beautiful. This was also only the first scene where we felt the humaneness of Mr. Yee. It is here, I first felt that Mr. Yee is in love with Chia Chi and he is not seeing her as just another woman for sex. And then when he offers the diamond ring, Chia Chi might have strongly felt the same that she deceives her duty.

The character of Mr. Yee looks so one diamensional for most of the movie, but by the restaurant scene it changes and he grows further. I also felt a lot of pity for Kuang who has to see his love, at this point he is definitely thinking about Chia chi as his future love, taking another group member to her bed, and later has to listen to the painful description of Chia Chi about serving her body for Mr. Yee.

The movie has a pace which is slightly slow, I am afraid. The script takes its own time in getting into the characters and the plot, but boldy, it sticks to this pace until the end. And this has helped in going into a lot of detailing which is of course nice. But this would deter at least a few from appreciating this movie (length and pace). And this detailing nature goes even into the relationship between Mr. Yee and Chia Chi. May it be their conversations or their sex. In fact, the first rape scene was a shock and horrifying. I simply didnt understand why Mr. Yee was so sadistic in their first meet, especially since he is not the same thereafter. In the later sex scenes, which are detailed too, he is just a normal man. There were scenes in this movie which I thought could have been shortened, but I must say, I didnt think so about the sex scenes and it was important as it was lust which slowly paved way for their love. Good sex will always strengthen a relation. To see that Chia Chi was pushed into a kind of learning about sex, to have sex with Mr. Yee is the strange but shocking point. And I am sure there was strong love between Mr. Yee and Chia Chi, by the time she tries the new diamond ring.

Great performances by Tony Leung, Mr. Yee, and Tang Wei as Chia Chi. I especially liked the way she subtly lured and seduced Mr. Yee with a very light smile, but with a bigger invitation in the eyes. Some people might consider Mr. Yee has the same expression through out, but I think there is much more in his eyes. And at that final moment, when she ask her to leave now immediately, his face was brilliant.

Three major factors, for this movie being what it is, are music, Cinematography and of course the director. I would rate this even better than Crouching Tiger.. from Ang Lee.

A Brilliant movie but hard, must watch may I say. 

Monday, 21 March 2011

Christian Brothers

2011 by Joshi

Here is yet another Super star Masala from Malayalam, but it is a multi star masala too.

Since the story and script is filled not with loop holes, but with caves and ponds, I don't want to brief on that.  Each and every ingredient for a Multi star Malayalam Masala movie is there.

A great actor turned Super star plus two more super stars plus a super star from Tamil , all in very relaxed mood that they know they really dont have anything to worry about their acting.

A rich family, of course with contacts with big big people in religion and systems. Home minister, Home secretaries and other superior police officers, for sure the most stupid Personal assistant and a cook a minister can keep. And the brave Police officer who would not mind questioning his own minister.

Super star has two excellent assistants plus have another star as his friend in need

And of course some beautiful actresses, one each for three stars and as always an actress who looks less than half the age of the super hero

Songs, of course, shot in London, and in family home. Just enough walking scenes, getting in and out of car scenes, all in slow motion

Fights, long dialogues, twists and turns and the eternal big brother ready to sacrifice his life for the younger ones et all.

Plus the Group photo line up, but surprisingly there is no court scene at all. New development.

Also the two super stars who havent got any beatings in their movies, in the recent past, since they are fighting each other manages to receive few blows from the other.

And an important point, The villain family is from a Hindu back ground.

It is a pity to watch a veteran director like Joshy, who gave some excellent movies in the 80's, stoop this low. And the all literate, boastingly intelligent Malayaalee crowd is more than happy with this kind of an entertainer. It is not just the Malayalam industry, but even our viewers are still in the 90's, I am afraid.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

La Pianiste

2001 by Michael Haneke

Erika is Piano Professor, living with her dominating mother. Erika is in her forties, but she looks frustrated and disinterested, and seems to have never had any sex. She is very cold and does not date anybody and lies to her mother, who doesnt like her relationships, about a non existant boy friend, but visits Sex stores and watch porn in private cabins. She is indifferent even to her students. She and her mother considers herself to be the best, when it comes to the music of Schubert and Schumann. When she tells her mother that one of her student, Anna, is good in Schubert, even her mother seems to be jealous. Erika meets, Walter Kremmel, a young Engineering student during a private concert at his family residence. Walter is so impressed by her performance, but he is kept at a distance by Erika who acts very cold with all his attempts to get close to her. Walter did play a short item on Piano and Erika tries her best to pretend that she is not moved. Walter then tries to get enrolled for her music lesson and inspite of his excellent performance, which impresses all the other faculty, she does try to not pass him. He does eventually and even in the class Erika keeps the coldness and distance with him.

Anna has an important rehearsal which makes her very nervous, that even the singer gets nervous looking at her. Walter talks to her and seems to have relaxed her and she starts playing rather well. Erika, while Anna is playing, moves out of the auditorium and puts some glass sharpnels in her Jacket pocket. Anna injures her right hand, all important, fingers badly. Erika leaves the scene saying she cant stand blood. Walter, seeing this, realises that Erika is after all human and follows her into the Toilet. Here he opens out his love for her and kiss her. Erika, surprisingly, acts cool and even touches him and help him to get sexually aroused. And then she denies to continue, shocking Walter. She arouses him completely using her hand and even does some oral work, but would not let him continue/finish it off, either himself or by herself. She acts so weird and finally tells him that if he wants to have a relation with her, she will write to him or talk to him later about some conditions and only then will they proceed. Poor Walter can only agree. Later Walter follows her to her flat and wants to make love with her but Erika insists on him reading her letter. He doesnt understand this at all, but is forced to read the letter, a heavy one in fact. He is shocked by the contents of it though. It is all about how Erika wants their sex life to be, which is sadistic fetish or voyeuristic and perverted. He is shocked and leaves the room. Erika is disappointed to have been let alone by the only man who has shown some interest in her so approaches him again and confesses she will do it the way he wants. But in between, she pukes which is so disgusting for Walter. We then see Walter coming back to her flat, locks her mother in the room, and attacks Erika in the way she had described in the letter. He slaps her and kiss her, like she wrote, and shouts loud this is how you wanted. Erika by then realises the pain and want to stop but Walter rapes her while she lies down like a dead body.

Since Anna cannot perform, Erika has agreed to play the Piano. She is carrying a knife in her hand bag and is at the reception of the music hall. Everybody greets her, before going into the auditorium, telling how eager and excited they are to watch her perform. Erika is obviously waiting for Walter and when he arrives, he just pass over like anybody with a hypocritic indifference. Erica stabs herself on the chest and walks out of the hall. A terrific revenge.

This movie is based on a novel by the Nobel laureate, Elfriede Jellineke.

An out of the world charecterisation, that is the first thing that come to my mind. Erika is an intelligent woman, but she is cold, indifferent, angry, jealous, naive, proud, irritating, cruel and sadist and holds an expression less face in general. It is quite clear that she is like that because of her mother, herself being a strange character. I dont think I will be able to find a mother in Europe who will not want her daughter to have a relationship, even at 40 years. Erika is clearly attracted by sex and has to lie to her mother to even spend her time at porn stores. But it is quite normal that no man is attracted to her. And when finally there is one, she at first is shockingly negative. There are even scenes in the first half of this movie where I thought, oh what a woman she is. And I didnt see it coming at all. Her fantasy for a kind of sadistic and masochistic fetishes might be the reason behind her initial coldness to Walter. May be she just wanted to be sure that Walter is so drawn to her and will be ready to do anything to her before she can reveal her sexual fantasies. May be this is the reason for her behaviour in the Toilet scene. She does everything to a man, that she must not, when she knows that she will not complete the sexual action. She really takes him to the verge of being mad for sexual completion and then leaves him and tells on his face he must fulfill her conditions to have sex in future. And when Walter accepts it, she is sure that she has her man. But what Erica doesnt realise is that, whatever fantasies a man might have, of course normally a man can have more sadistic fantasies than women, when there is an initial attraction or love and especially if its the first union of a man and woman, it is impossible for any man, or even woman normally, to go for fantasies than for the first experience of 'making love' with his partner. When she makes Walter, who is out there perfectly ready to make love with her, read her letter and insists their union has to be on that ways, Walter normally feels she is sick and needs treatment. Poor Erika, here shows her utter ignorance about men. This is one point which assured my thought that Erika could be a virgin. I could be wrong though. The scene, where she uses the blade and mirror in the bath tub, first suggested this thought. After Walter leaves, we see a disappointed and crying Erika and it is sure that Erika was perfectly ready for sex while Walter was reading the letter. May be she hoped, Walter would read the letter and help her achieve one of her fantasies right away. Poor Erika, I repeat poor Erika, by then we feel sympathy for her. She even goes straight to her mother's bed and tries to kiss her, shocking the old woman. May be she realises by then that her only friend could be her mother. In spite of all her strange nature we start feeling for Erika. So when she pukes out after, while trying to please Walter, our sympathy for her is growing. By the time Walter is back to complete her wishes, Erika is really into us that I think any women watching might cry in that rape scene. And her revenge is brilliant. We do not know how hard she stabbed on herself, and if she bleeds to death or if she walked straight to a hospital. But what we know for sure is that there are hundreds of people waiting for her performance in that auditorium, Walter being one of them. And for sure Walter simply loves her performance.

A more than brilliant performance by Isabelle Huppert as Erika. If I was into giving points or stars, I would say its a five star plus performance. I am sure she have gone through great pains to complete this movie. This is no ordinary role to do.There were some subtle expressions on her face, for eg: when she listens to Walters performance, she make us understand that she is impressed with slight shiver on her face, which surprised me. I wonder how she must have felt after finishing the shooting of the toilet scene or the puking scene or even the letter reading scene or the rape scene. As a woman, she must have been affected horribly. I really feel proud and lucky that I was able to watch this performance by Isabelle Huppert. I salute you Maam.

Benoit Magimel as the young Walter does a brilliant job as well. He is charming and it is quite shocking for single, 40 plus, European woman to be negative to the advances from this boy. Excellent casting. He more than impresses us in the toilet scene, the letter reading scene and during the final rape scene. His eccentrics to cool down his arousal, in the toilet scene, is really good and funny.

And a big thumbs up to Annie Girardot as Erika's mother. She has much less scenes but she is present through out in the whole movie. The scene where she is surprised to receive a man with her daughter, who walks cool to her room and locks it from inside, and is eager to know what is happening inside, that was brilliant. Even when she is locked up, for the rape scene, her voice alone is enough to give us her presence in a big way, and to take that scene to a different level. Brilliant performer.

And finally full credits to Heneke for beautifully creating this movie. Especially since, he doesnt show any skin at all. Sex is there as a major factor in this movie but he doesnt let the camera go below waste level even in the toilet scene. He wants his actors to show everything with their face. A great challenge and he has been more than successfull. This is beautiful work let me say. There are no words to praise, I must confess.

And there is lot of beautiful music too.

I wish, I could write. For this is a kind of movie, a kind of aberration of sorts even amongst art house movies, about which I want to talk and talk. But I am unable to.

I feel lucky to have watched this classic. If there is anything called a "poetry of cinema, but on your face", La Pianiste is one.  If you havent watched this yet, please do. You will not regret it. May be you might not like it, but you will realise that you have seen something very different.

Let me just quote Haneke " My films are polemical statements against the American 'taking -by-surprise-before-one-can-think' cinema and its disempowerment of the spectator. It is an appeal for a cinema of insistent questioning in place of 'false-because-too-quick-answers', for clarifying distance in place of violating nearness. I want the spectator to think". 

Friday, 18 March 2011

El Laberinto del Fauna - The Labyrinth of the Faun

2006 by Guillermo del Toro

1944. Spain is ruled by the fascit monarch Franco and there are guerilla groups fighting him in different parts. Ofelia, a 10 year old girl, is moving to the country side with her pregnant mother Carmen, to meet her new step father, Captain Vidal who is fighting the gueriall forces in the hills. Captain Vidal is the ideal follower for Franco that he cares not for Carmen or Ofelia. All he wants is a son. Apart from that he is a monster and will go to any extent to fight the guerrillas. He has a house keeper, Mercedes, who is actually supporting the guerriala's and have her own brother and lover in the group. A doctor at the camp also is supporting Mercedes.

Enroute their journey, Ofelia sees an old stone carving and a dragon fly which comes out of the stone is following her. Ofelia is a girl who is immersed in fairy tale stories and she believes the fly is a fairy. On arrival at Vidal's quarters, Ofelia is lead to a labyrinth by the fly. Here she meets a faun, an ancient strange looking creature, who informs her she was a princess who has lost herself in the human world. Her parents, the King and Queen, have ever since been looking for her and this labyrinth is the last portal they had built in search of her. The faun is sure Ofelia is the princess but wants her to complete a test before she can be taken to her parents, in the fairy world. There are three tests, she has to complete before the full moon, as detailed in a book which he gives her and this has to be a secret too.

Ofelia completes the first two tasks, then she finds that her mother is in a dangerous situation. Faun is angry with her but offers her some magic help to cure her mother. Vidal's doctor is surprised by the rate of recovery, but Vidal is only concerned about the safety of his son. Even the doctor wonders how he can be so sure that it is a boy.

Mercedes, who is friendly with Ofelia, in the mean time continues her assistance for the Guerrilas. Vidal does have some doubts on her. There is an encounter between the army and the Guerrilas and one of them is taken prisoner and Vidal tortures him. The doctor injects poison to this prisoner and when Vidal realises this, he kills the doctor too. Carmen gives birth to a boy and then dies. Mercedes and Ofelia tries to escape but falls directly into the trap of Vidal. He tortures Mercedes well, but she attacks him back and escapes to the guerriala's who arrive at the right time.

The third task of Ofelia is to bring her baby brother to the labyrinth. She manages to bring the child, Vidal does follow her, but when she realise that the Faun wants some blood from an innocent to make her back into a princess, she refuses to give the baby. Vidal, who cannot see the Faun, takes the baby from Ofelia and shoots Ofelia, who falls dead. Her own blood has filled the pit where the Faun wanted the innocent blood to be spilled.

Vidal gets out of the labyrinth, with the baby, and finds the guerrilas and Mercedes waiting for him. He is sure of his death and gives the baby to Mercedes and asks her to inform the baby about his time of death. Mercedes replies never, and the moment when he realise that his son will be bought up as a guerrilla, he is shot dead. Mercedes fast approach Ofelia, but she is dead.

But we can see Ofelia, dressed as a princess in the fairy world, where the Faun tells her she passed the third test by giving her own blood and her mother asks her to be seated near her father.

Normally I dont like movies in which Computer or visual effects, however brilliant it may be by itself, plays a major part. In El Laberinto.. there are these effects, but still I have to say it is a very good movie. The movie has two streams, one of brutal reality in which we are horrified by the cruelty of Captain Vidal and will wish for his end and the other which is the fanatsy world of Ofelia. The success of the movie is in bringing together both these world together so nicely. Two contrasting worlds, the innocent fairy world as dreamt by a 10 year old girl and the  brutal world of a Captain who is a staunch follower of a monarch, but we tend to forget about the other world when we are in one of these worlds. Mercedes and the Captain are two strong characters that we are immersed into their battle. Ofelia is so innocent that we want her to succeed. I am not sure what the director really meant at the end, if the fairy world was for real or if it was just her own dreamy world. But the narrator does end the story saying Ofelia lived her rest as a princess, seen by only those who look for her.

The performance of Sergi Lopez as Captain Vidal is definitely a major plus in this movie. He has put more than cent percent into this role, that even his subtle body movements are brilliant. An excellent villain. Ofelia and Mercedes too have been really good.

There are special effects and animatronics, just enough for the fairy world only, and they do not go over board any time. In a big way, this is a director's movie, I would say. He has been brilliant, if not, this movie would have ended as quite ordinary. Some of the scenes like the one where Mercedes attacks Vidal and later when she is saved by the guerrilla's, the torture scenes, Ofelia's first meeting with the Faun, all these are brilliantly shot.

Del Toro, when asked about his idea on the climax said - "The tyrant's reign ends with his death, but the martyr's reign starts with his death. I think that is the essence of the movie, its about living forever by choosing how you die".

Thursday, 17 March 2011

El Viaje de Carol - Journey of Carol

2002 by Imanol Uribe

Aurora had left Spain for America with her American boy friend Robert, when she was pregnant. She had done this against the wishes of her family who wanted her to marry Alfonso, who in turn marries Aurora's sister, Dolores. It is civil war in Spain, between the leftist Republicans and Franco who later becomes Spain's monarch. Robert is a fighter pilot, who is fighting for the Republicans against Franco.

In 1938 Aurora is back to Spain with her 12 year old daughter, Carol, who is introduced to her grand father and her aunt Dolores and Alfonso. Aurora meets her old time teacher and best friend, Maruja, to whom she confess that she is dying. Carol, initially has some problems with some village boys, but get friendly with them slowly and is really attracted to Tomiche. Tomiche had lost his father, who was killed by Franco's soldiers. Interestingly, except for Carol and her mother, rest of the family are all wishing for a take over of Madrid by Franco.  Carol shares some nice time with Tomiche who is there with her for everything. Aurora dies soon. Carol doesnt want to live with Dolores and Alfonso, she is friendly with their daughter though, and convinces her Grand father to stay with her, in their family home. Carol also doesnt want her grand father to inform Robert about Aurora's death. She is afraid, it will be too much of a hard news for her father in the battle field. She even makes Maruja to write a letter to Robert, pretending to be Aurora.

Carol celebrates her birthday, where she also invites Tomiche and the boys who actually are from poorer classes to attend such a function. A fighter plane flies low in the village at this time and Carol is sure its her father, who does throw out a present for her. In the enclosed letter Robert also informs Carol about his knowledge of Aurora's death. Soon Franco is the monarch. Robert is now somebody who is wanted by Franco's regime. He does manage to visit Carol and there are soldiers after him. Tomiche tries to find an escape route for Robert, but is shot dead in the attempt. Carol returns back to her grand parents in America, knowing that her father is only a prisoner of war and can join her back very soon.

A simple and nice story told through the eyes of a 12 year old girl (its based on a novel). This is not a children's movie, nor is it a war movie. Basically it is about a clever little girl coming back to her mothers village and meeting a boy whom she likes. But war is there in the back ground, which is an influence on everything happening around and is instrumental. In that way, this movie should have been complex, but it is so nicely told that we want to forget about the war and just concentrate on the girl. We even feel nostalgic about our child hood. The pre adolescent love between Carol and Tomiche is so beautifully told that we are in for a real shock at the end. I simply did not understand why the boy had to be killed.

Clara Lago who plays Carol is more than brilliant that she carries the whole movie. Carol, who likes to be in a sailor suite kind of dress always, is clever, bold, independant, curious, kind and lovable. I could not believe her expressions in some scenes. She is so beautiful and charming and we feel relaxed watching her smiling. May it be her scenes with her mother or grand father or Tomiche, all capturing different emotions, she is brilliant and unbelievable. Her beautiful smile and her charm still keeps playing in my mind, long after the movie. I really would like to know where she is now. I hope she is an actor. She will be a great actress.

There are many beautiful shots, especially of the lush village out doors, that we always feel we are in a beautiful village. Some of the indoor shots, surprisingly, do not have the same levels.

While watching Carol and Tomiche together, I was wondering, had this move been shot in India, would India's Fanatic religions and the moral Police groups had allowed some of those scenes to be shot or shown? Similar pre adolescent love occurs among Indian children too, but to show it in movies, I am sure, that would have caused a furore here.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Matando Cabos - Killing Cabos

2004 by Alejandro Losano

Mr. Cabos is a rich business man, but very cruel. When his childhood friend came to meet him after so many years, he just offered him a menial job to clean his office and always have ill treated him. His son wants to take a revenge for this and has planned to kidnap Cabos with the help of a so called professional. Cabos had given a beating to Jacque, his own employee, for having sex with his daughter in his home. Jacque wants to talk this out and goes to Cabos' office. Cabos is going to beat him again with the Golf cub, but trips and fells unconscious. Jacque gets the help of his friend Mudo and because of the circumstances they plan to take him out in their car. When Jacque had gone to get Mudo, Cabos's friend turned house keeper had arrived, finding an unconscious Cabos, uses his dresses and ornaments on himself. He also took his car keys and enjoys walking out to the car as a rich man, without knowing that his own son is waiting to kidnap Cabos. They mistake him for Cabos and kidnaps him, inside a plastic bag. Jacque and Mudo too takes Cabos outside in a plastic bag. Mudo further calls in Ruben Macharito, a six foot plus hugely built ex wrestler, for help. Macharito further calls up Tony, his body guard, who is only 3/4th his own size. So there are two teams who are supposedly kidnapping the same Cabos. One team has not planned any kidnapping but just wants to get out of the situation. One member of the team is a boy friend of Cabos' own daughter and she even is part of some actions. The second team has planned it, but has mistakenly taken one's own father. One member's girl friend is very friendly with Cabos' daughter and wife too.  It is a very funny plot and it is difficult to explain the events completely.

It is the way in which this movie is told, with the help of an excellent script, that makes it an excellent watch. There is not even a small character, may it be the maid in Cabos home or the two street boys who are after Jacque or the neighbour's bird, who does not leave an impression. Especially Macharito and his body guard they are brilliant, more so Macharito. I thought he is the most important character in this movie and he is simply brilliant. What a role. One of the best roles in the recent times, for me. And his body guard Tony, not sure if he had any dialogue at all, but his presence is right there. Even Jacque's neighbour's bird, who keeps on crying only when somebody else is in the flat, creates enough laugh.

All credit to the whole team behind this movie, making it an excellent comedy. Some would call it a dark comedy. But for me there is a very good script which is made even more beautiful by the director. It is not like  it offers you a laugh riot, but it offers good laugh through out. Neither is it a slap stick or a pretending comedy. The plot is built, and thats were we get impressed first of all, and then it is the characters who takes it forward.

I am sure I would have enjoyed it even more if I knew some Spanish. 

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Apo tin akri tis polis - From the edge of the city

1998 by Constantine Giannaris

Many Greeks lived in the Southern Soviet Union and at the end of the USSR most of them returned back to Greece. This immigration was allright for the parents who spoke Greek. But the youngsters spoke a mix of Greek and Russian and they really had some identity crisis. They tried menial jobs. They offered themselves to men seeking boys for petty money and in turn spend this money on prostitutes. Drugs were there too. This movie looks at one such teenager, Sasha, who tries to make money for himself with one lady, a Russian girl whose all aim is to earn a Greek identity by getting involved with some Greek, who was already been sold by another guy. They are chased out and Sasha ends up killing the guy who sold his lady and behind the bars.

The movie unfolds as Sasha answers the interrogator.

The movie looks at a very serious issue, the marginalisation of the immigrant community in Greece, whose young boys are being abused and they too do their part in perpetrating abuse on others and finally ends up as criminals.

This movie could be for Greece, what the 'City of God' was for Brazil or 'Le Clan' for France. However it is not as classy as the others. This was my first Greek movie. I am also afraid, may be I haven't really understood some points here and there as Greek culture is quite new for me.

Whatever, I have to say that some of the boys in this movie had excellent physique. Most boys have been selected from the street itself, like in Salaam Bombay. 

Monday, 14 March 2011

Aadu Puli

2011 by Vijay Prakash

Typical Tamil mainstream masala, ends up as a below average entertainer.

One hero, heroine, happy family, heroine's father as villain, few songs and fights and final happiness.

Aadhi has an extremely charming physique and in 'Mirugam', he did prove that he can act too. He could be a real asset but with movies like Aadu Puli, I am afraid, he is going backwards. Its true, he has to do everything, but he could chose his entertainers carefully, I wish.  

Singam Puli

2011 by Sai Ramani

2 brothers in a typical Tamil middle class family. One was a school drop out and works in a fish market against the wishes of family and the younger is a womaniser and criminal, but pretends to be a saint in the family. How the truth is revealed makes the movie.

Could have been a good dramatic thriller, but ends up as an ordinary Tamil mainstream movie with songs and dances and sentiments and unbearable comedy scenes.

Jeeva, inspite of the horrible script and all, is quite impressive playing both the brothers, is the only plus. It is a pity that he hasn't got many good roles after 'Ram', 'Dishyum' and 'Kakkruthu Tamil', for here is an actor who can really act.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

La Reine Margot - Queen Margot

1994 by Patrice Chereau

16th Century France is torn between the Catholics and Protestants. King Charles is a puppet, behaves like a semi lunatic, between the power struggles of Queen Catherine, a Catholic, and Coligny, a protestant, who is increasing his control over the king. Queen believes a political marriage between Margaret - Margot, her daughter and King Henri of Navarre (protestant) would bridge the divides. The marriage is done with, against the wishes of Margot who is well known for her sexual adventures, which will prompt her even to the streets of Paris looking for extra ordinary men. Even after the wedding, Margot tells him this wedding does not compel her to sleep with him. During the feast Margot is still searching for other men amongst the guests whereas Henry is attracted to another girl in the family. There are issues even in the feast because of the religous sects. Margot sends off Henry from her suite, and the secret invitee to her suite is not happy about her converstation with Henry and walks out. She is without any man for the night, so queen Margot goes out to the street and meets a charming man La Mole.

Queen Catherine has ordered for a secret killing of Coligny to gain back her influence on her son, the King. She and her two younger sons force the King to order a war on the Protestants, fearing a backlash from Protestants because of the assassination attempt on Coligny. That  night about 6000 protestants are killed in the streets of Paris, Coligny too. La Mole, should have been killed but is saved by Margot.

Henri is like in a house arrest but with the help of La Mole, Margot tries to help him escape. In the first attempt, during a royal hunt, instead of escaping, Henri saves the king from a wild Boar attack. The King who had only just signed an order to kill Henri, before setting out for the Hunt, realises that even his brothers, who just watched him being attacked by the Boar only seeks his death, and he has a true friend in Henri. Back in the castle, he saves Henri from the assassination plan and even introduces him to his mistress. Margot also saves Henri from yet another murder attempt by the Queen and her brothers. Margot is now seen more as a traitor by the Queen and her brothers. There is yet another plan to poison Henri, but it is the King who is poisoned instead. King Charles is sure about his slow death, and helps Henri to escape but does not want Margot to leave with him.

Back in Navarre, Henri plans to bring back Margot and appoints La Mole for the mission. However La Mole is caught and his execution is ordered. Margot realises that the only way to save La Mole is to plead to the king, who inspite of being in deadly pain, right in front of death, doesnt help her and have his last breath. Margot collects the head of La Mole from the executioner and escapes to Navarre.

The movie is based on the 1845 novel by Alexandre Dumas. I am not sure I well explained the plot above. The movie has many sub plots like the love between Margot and La Mole, the enemity between La Mole and one Catholic killer in the night of the massacre, both ending up seriously injured and are being taken care of by the Palace executioner who helps La Mole to escape Paris, but on his return their enmity turns to a strong friendship, the terrific political dramas involving King Charles, Queen Catherine and his brothers, the special hate-love married life between Henri and Margot and so on.

This is really an epic of a movie. So much passion, so much intensity, its difficult to explain. I felt like watching the movie once again immediately when it was over. Each and every kind of human emotions and expressions, whatever it may be, is out there in its best. I have to say this movie has everything, but it is still not a popular entertainer. This movie is a great piece of dramatic art. I was so moved and touched by the movie that I really want to meet Patrice Chereau, the director. He is an extra ordinary genius to have planned and conceived this movie. May it be the wedding scene in the beginning, that shocking wedding feast, the massacre, the relationships of Margot with Henry and La Mole, the hunting scenes, the drama between Queen and the King on the death bed, or that final scene in the castle where Margot is just about to be raped by her brothers and cousins, he has brilliantly managed to keep us on the edge of the seat.

Cinematography is more than brilliant or beautiful. There is a particular shot, where Margot and La Mole makes love in the outskirts of Paris, I cannot think about any better frame of a love making scene. There are so many scenes that I could talk about, but this one really stood out for its novelty. So are all the technical aspects in this movie and especially the costumes. All the actors have been brilliant, but we will be haunted by Margot (Isabelle Adjani), La Mole (Vincent Perez), Henri (Danielle Auteuil), King Charles (Jean Hughes Anglade) and Queen Catherine (Virna Lisi). Even amidst all this tense drama Danielle Auteuil will make us laugh in that scene where he eats with the King, at his mistress' place, by his brilliant expressions.

I feel like talking and talking about this, also because I understood many things about the royalty in those days. Even Lunatics can be King, even brothers would rape sisters or have relations with them that even a mother would not mind just watching the same. Death is everywhere. Anything can happen to anybody if there is a wrong idea in the minds of a supreme royal member. Was really surprised to see this scene when the royal astrologer predicts to the queen,  the future of her sons, by opening and examining the brain of a dead. Royalty means no privacy, nothing like  morality or humanity or common sense and there is a sword above your head that you can be killed anytime.

I have to appreciate the sincerity of the French in being able to look back at one of the darkest periods in their history. They were part of the swathing violence perpetrated in the name of God and they are able to look back at it and bring out movies like this. In India, this is impossible. Either the movie will not be allowed to be made, or it will be badly censored or they will make sure nobody will see such movies, like in the case of the very few brave movies about the Gujarat pogrom. And the case with Hollywood is even funny, they wouldn't make any movies at all opposing the general thoughts and beliefs of their government or majority or the powerful.

La Reine Margot is an excitingly brilliant account of History which is a must watch, if you like movies.

Saturday, 12 March 2011


2010 by Prabhu Solomon, watching third time, for wife

Suruli lives with his father and step mother in a remote village in the western ghats of Tamil Nadu. He stopped school, at an early age to work and earn something. He protects Mynaa and her mother and will die for her. They are in deep love but her mother would not like an illiterate Suruli to marry her girl. When her mother tells him about her plans, he cannot beleive it and gets violent with her. She goes to the police station in the nearby town and complains. Suruli is remanded in the town jail for 15 days. It is the 14 th day. The jailor, Bhaskar, is a young officer, who is newly married, and his wife wants to celebrate their first Diwali (first one after marriage) as part of which has planned for a family shopping (with her parents, brothers and their spouses) in the city. Bhaskar has an important function in the jail this day, part of Diwali (Diwali is the next day, when it is a public holiday)celebration, after which he promises to take her to the city. Her parents are already on the way and his wife is not happy that they are late. To make things worse, she doesnt heed his request to go by herself and keeps on waiting for him.
         A boy from the village, a friend of Suruli visits him in the jail and tell him that Mynaa's mother has planned a marriage with a man working in the middle east and the marriage can happen on the morning of Diwali. Suruli cant wait and he escapes. Only when the celebrations are over does Bhaskar and his colleagues realise that Suruli is missing. He telephones his superior about the situation but requests him to not report this for the moment, as it will affect all his staff. In turn, he promises his officer to get back Suruli in 24 hours. Since next day is Diwali, the officer can with held his report without any hassle. Bhaskar with one of his assistants, Ramaih, goes to Suruli's village. They arrive in right time, morning of Diwali day, when Suruli has managed to stop the supposed marriage. Mynaa's mother turns violent and could have even hurt Suruli and Mynaa if not for Bhaskar and Ramaih. The four, Suruli, Mynaa, Bhaskar and Ramaih sets out to the town. Well things dont go as planned and they finally end up in Munnar in Kerala, the boarder state. They take a bus to their Tamil Nadu town. Movie is more of a thriller from here and I dont want to write the rest.

Mynaa is an excellent movie offering lot of romance, thrill, drama and a brilliant but shocking climax. There are certain time wasting scenes and dialogues, here and there which are pardonable. I can only think about 2 other movies in Tamil, Kalloori and Paruthiveeran, which can compete with Mynaa for its heart touching and shocking climax. After my first watch, I found that most people leaving the theatre, were having a heavy face. It was so hard to accept, that you wonder why the story had to end so, but life is mostly like that. Happy endings are quite rare in life so.

A lot of credit for the director for this excellent movie. He could have done better without a few scenes, dialogues and one or two songs. Movie has a good camera work, some good low light works, but I felt generally it could have been much better. Especially if they could have managed some soft lighting for some scenes. Money could have been the constraint, may be. A big applause also for the casting. Suruli, Bhaskar, his wife, and Mynaa will talk and fight in our minds for long time even after the movie. There are certain scenes where even the small characters like Suruli's father and Mynaas mother were more than excellent.

I must repeat, Tamil cinema has gone much ahead of other movie industries from India. They seem to be the only industry in India, who have recognised the importance of casting. If it was shot in Bollywood we would have seen a 'chocolate' boy and girl with more western features for the hero and heroine, and for the other characters too. I also credit Tamil industry for finding stories and themes from their own villages and cultures. The movies turn out very Indian in the end. Thankfully, Tamil people seem to recognise these efforts and most of these kind of movies are successful in the box office.

For those who want to watch real Indian, main stream, movies, watch Mynaa.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Da Bing Xiao Jiang - Little Big Soldier

2010 by Sheng Ding

Before the unification of China by the Qin dynasty, smaller states and warloads engaged in frequent battles. States of Liang and Wei are on war and in the battle ground there are only two alive. A middle aged soldier (Liang), just because he pretended to be dead and a young general (Wei) who is wounded. The soldier, who actually loves nature and farming, is on the field only because its compulsory to serve the military. He is aware about a reward by his king, by which, if he captures a Wei general he can have some land for farming and can evade the military service. He makes the young general his captive and sets out on a journey to his home land. He always sings a song which is all about being back in home and doing some farming. There are some others, another young prince and his warrior teacher assisted by many soldiers, who are also searching for the general. The general is also aware that there was something going on behind his back, leading to his present state. There are also other tribal groups and warlords on the road making their journey difficult. Our poor soldier and general are from two ends of the world but they reluctantly have to form a team. But through the hardships there is a strong, out of the world friendship between these two men, one a farmer who loves everything about nature, and the other a very young soldier, whom we later find out is a Prince, who dreams about a unified China devoid of any battles. The movie take us through their journey, facing many obstacles, until they finally reach Liang.

I am really not sure if I must complete the story. Not because there are lot of surprises but it would be nice to watch this movie without knowing its end (if ever anybody feels like watching after reading this), I found the end really touching and beautiful.

The story is by Jackie Chan himself, who wanted to do this movie long back and he had thought about playing the role of the young general then. 20 years have past and his age now suits the character of the soldier and he have done it so well. In the 80's when video cassettes of Jackie Chan movies were big hit in India, I watched almost all of his movies. Those were not techinically brilliant or aesthetically beautiful or great movies. But they had lot of fun and exciting action, the only action hero who did most of his stunts by himself. Once Jackie Chan went into Hollywood, such movies were not there anymore and it has been quite long, more than a decade may be, since I found our Old Jackie Chan. He is here again at his witty best and also does some of his trademark fast action bits. But he is not a super hero at all. He is a simple farmer, who manages to be alive just because he had some gadgets with him to make him look dead. He loves birds and trees and sings simple songs and is always funny. He does not understand the complicated reasons for states to war among themselves. Jackie Chan is excellent as this Soldier. I cant remember any other movie in which he had to play such a deep and warm character.

The movie is brilliantly shot and edited. It can embarrass any Hollywood flicks in all the technical departments. It is not a war movie, nor is it a comedy or drama. For me it was more like the story of two men on a journey discovering each other.

I know many Indians who consider everything from Hollywood as great. Some consider only the art house movies from East are good and the popular ones are ignorable. I wish they will watch this movie and understand Asia is up there with Hollywood in the techinical aspects. There are so many beautiful frames and scenes in this movie, backed up with some excellent background scores and sound recordings.

Just like ' Internal Affairs' was remade into a world famous movie 'The Departed' (I know so many Hollywood fans who still do not know about this adaptation), I hope once Da Bing Xiao Jiang will be remade in the west. At least then some more people will realise that there are excellent movies from the East too.

I understood, even for Jackie Chan who is like an institution, he had to wait 20 long years to make a movie from his heart. But Jackie Chan must be proud about this movie, a gem. 

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Love in the time of Cholera

2007 by Mike Newell based on the novel by Gabrile Garcia Marquez

In 19th century Colombia, young Florentino Ariza easily falls in love with Fermina Daza. Her father is against this love and shifts her to a family home. When she meets him again after a long gap, for some reason she doesnt like him anymore. She later marries Dr. Urbino and have a normal family life. Florentino however is really affected but carries his love for Fermina with him. He does have adventures with other woman, as he finds sex to be a good medicine for his pain, of which he keeps a list on, and he is considered quite brilliant in winning women. After 52 years, when Dr. Urbino dies, Florentino comes back to Fermina and declares his love for Fermina. It takes some time to convince her, but he eventually wins her love and makes love with her, at the very old age though. Before this, he managed to sleep with 622 women.

I am told this was a very touching and successful novel, but as a movie it did not really affect me. May be Spanish characters speaking English sounded weird or the director has failed in making this an eternal love story.

Watch this movie for the excellent performance from the Spanish actor Javier Bardem. I loved him in Vicky Christina Barcelona and here he is excellent again. 

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Nelly et Monsieur Arnaud

1995 by Claude Sautet

Nelly leaves with her husband who have decided not to work and is finding it difficult to pay off all their debts. She is introduced to Arnaud, an old business man who is very rich, by a friend, who offers her financial support. She rejects his offer at first, but then decides to leave his husband and moves out to a new studio apartment. She starts working for Arnaud, typing his book. Here she also meets another man, the editor who will publish Arnaud's book, with whom she could think about a serious relationship. Arnaud knows about this relationship and is quite jealous but he behaves in a way which is quite doubtful. Nelly decides against the editor and is more attracted to Arnaud. But then Arnaud's wife is back and they decide to go on a long trip.

A typical French realistic movie, where there is a normal life going on but with some turns here are there in the life of some characters. Knowing something about French way of life is a must to understand this movie. Knowledge of French would be even better. I was sure the subtitles werent really good. May  be is the reason why I wasnt able to laugh out on many dialogues of Arnaud, which are packed with cynicism of a typical rich French man. Movie progresses mostly through the scenes between Nelly and Arnaud and Aranaud's comments with an expression-less face, I thought, is a highlight of this movie. I wasnt sure if I felt pity for Nelly at the end. She left her husband, she decided against a man, ideal for her age, and finally the old man goes with his wife.

I chose this movie for Emmanuelle Beart and Claude Sautet. For Emmanuelle it looks a pretty ordinary role and for Claude Sautet this is not a great movie either.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

1492 - Conquest of Paradise

1992 by Ridley Scott

Christopher Colombus thinks differently from the rest and is sure that he can find a new route to Asia. It takes lot of hard work for him to convince his queen to set out on this expedition and finally reach the West Indies and is glad to meet the new tribes and the abundant nature in the islands. He returns back to Spain and goes back to the Indies, but with more men and power. But this time he also has to manage some noble men who follows the powerful men in the Kingdom. These noble men have different ways to deal the native tribals which soon make the new paradise land a chaotic land. Columbus is replaced by another Viceroy and is jailed in Spain. By this time another Italian have already discovered the continent of Americas. Columbus still feels he has only been proved right, even if somebody else reached the continent first.

All the drama behind these expeditions has been nicely shot. So are the friction between the aboriginals and the invaders. The movie will definitely make us feel bad about all the terror which was done by Christianity in the historic days, may it be upon people who thought differently or upon the aboriginals of the invading islands or countries.

This movie, I would say has one of the best cinematography I have seen. Its not about landscapes or panoramic shots. The lighting is brilliant, subdued for a good majority of shots and the camera is brilliantly placed and absorbs the emotions and moods wonderfully. It is a pity that this movie never got its due attention. May be because of its slow pace through out. But I cannot imagine this one in any different way.

An excellent performance from Gerrard Depardieux as Columbus. So does Sigourney Weaver as the Queen of Spain, who only have few scenes, but she is all out there as the queen in those scenes.

I am still wondering why this movie is never mentioned when people discuss about the best historic movies. May be the west do not want to look at nearly realistic portrayals of how badly they have treated indigenous people.

Also it would have been better had this been taken in Spanish language. Mr. Scott wisely cast Depardieux for the role of Columbus as he wanted somebody from Europe, but had the language too been Spanish may be the movie would have been different. 

Monday, 7 March 2011

Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se

2010 by Ashutosh Gowariker

A group of youngsters plan an uprising against the mighty British in small  town Chittagong, now in Bangladesh, about an year after 1930. Their plan is to capture the Telegraph office, the Police lines, the European club and the Cantonment all within a short span of time, the same night. A group of teenagers who are angry with the British as they lost their football ground to set up an army camp, joins the revolutionaries. On the planned day, all looks fine, except that the revolutionaries didn't think at all that their chosen day was Good Friday. A major part within the plan was to raid the European Club where the English officers were supposed to be for dinner, so that they could arrest all of them in one raid. Being Good Friday they found the Club empty. From there all went wrong and the British strike back and within a short period they search and arrest some of the revoloutionaries and the rest are killed.

A true story and the movie is inspired by a book. However it is a terrible attempt as a movie. If not for the patriotic factor, I would have stopped watching it within the first 30 minutes.

Performance of leading actors were sub standard. These stars are dressed like in the 30's. But the fact that their body language is from 2010's, is enough to describe how serious they were about their job. Most of these actors are only good for doing their routine song and dance numbers and soulless characters. They are not able to do characters which require intelligent understanding and reactions. In fact, some of the teenagers , I thought, could embarass the superstars in moments of brilliance. Of course, its also about casting and the director. Director doesn't seem to have cared to even change the hair styles of most revolutionaries.

I havent read the book. But the script is a pity. I thought, the whole thing could have been intelligently told within about 90 minutes, but the movie runs over 150 minutes, with two (or three) completely unnecessary songs. And scenes after the uprising, are comparatively better than the uprising itself or its build up.

Cinematography too was terrible. Mr. Gowariker who gave us movies like Lagaan and Swadesh have taken many steps backwards with this movie. His selection of subject was good. But it all went wrong, from scripting and casting onwards.

The best plus, for me, was a track which played during the titles and also for some part during the beginning. It looked very new, genuine and very Indian and to the theme.

Also if not for this movie, I would have remained ignorant about this small chapter from the Indian Independence struggle.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Drive Angry - 3D

2011 by Patrick Lussier

Ridiculous, Horrible, Stupid movie. Nicolas Cage escapes from HELL to save his grand daughter from the bloody killers who had killed his daughter too.

The only plus of this movie is the performance of William Fichtner who is the Accountant from Hell, chasing Cage.
Dont even understand why this had to be shot in 3D.

Friday, 4 March 2011


2009 by  Rajamouli , watching for the third time for my wife

In the 1600's, Udaigarh kingdom is about to be attacked by the invading forces of Sher Khan. Udaigarh is loyally protected by Kaala Bhairava who belongs to a warrior clan in which men are so brave and will not die without killing at least 100 enemy men and mostly they die before 30 years fighting for their homeland. Young princess Mitrananda devi adores Kaala Bhairava, but Ranadeb Billa her cousin is dying to marry her. He forces a competition out for deciding who can marry the princess and inspite of his wickedness it is Kaala Bhairava who emerges winner and Billa has to leave Udaigarh. The King likes Bhairava but is sure that his daughter will be a widow sooner if she marries him and hence request Kaala Bhairava to forget his love, which he sadly accepts. A special prayer is to be offered at an auspicious moment in a sacred Shiva shrine, which itself has a fearsome location, in some part of Udaigarh. Kaala Bhairava escorts princess to the shrine, where she asks him to proclaim his love for her. At this moment Sher Khan's army arrives at the shrine. Billa had turned a traitor and had attacked the palace with Sher Khan, killing the king. Sher Khan had heard a lot about the bravery of Bhairava and challenges him to prove it. Kaala Bhairava single handedly faces about 100 warriors of Sher Khan and kills them all while Sher Khan can only just count the number of dead and towards the end he is in awe of the bravery of Bhairava and proclaims himself a slave to Bhairava as a mark of respect. But Billa interferes, as he was promised help to marry the princess, and fights with Bhairava and is killed, but manages to seriously wound the princess before his death. Mithrananda only wants to know if Bhairava loves him but dies before he speaks out. Bhairava jumps down from the peak after the princess. Four hundred years later Bhairava, princess, Billa and Sher Khan are back in human form as Harsha, Indu, Raghu veer and Solomon. Harsha, when he accidently touches the finger tip of Indu, has a kind of shock which makes him crave for her love. Raghu Veer and Indu are still cousins and Raghu veer desperately needs to marry her. Solomon is a fisherman who is ready to help Harsha in anyways to help him have his love. How Harsha manages to win the love of Indu, how he finally realises their past and how he manages to convey this to Indu and to unite finally, only after the death of Raghu Veer, makes the full movie.

There are many many things that I would like to talk about on this movie, but dont know where to start etc.
A kind of fairy tale story, which we would have loved to hear as a child for all the heroism and thrill it offered, or as a teenager for all the romance. But it has been beautifully penned into a modern day script which effortlessly shuttles us between the 1600's and 2000's. The movie starts in 1600's with the titles, comes back to the life of Harsha and gives us glimpses of his past as he is after Indu and with an accident, takes us back to the 1600's with the whole story and then again completes it in the 2000's. I liked a lot how this has been structured. The movie keeps its excellent pace through out and offers a lot of thrilling moments through out, which has all been beautifully shot. May it be the moment were Harsha recognises his Indu - the scene in which he follows her bus atop a horse, or the scene when Bhairava is saved by his horse , whatever there is a lot of heroism here which I am sure even a staunch feminist would enjoy. All those lighter moments between Harsha and Indu will really make us relax down. And the stunts have been excellent too.

Except for Enthiran, which was a later production and seems to have spend much more money, I havent seen any Indian movie doing this kind of an excellent job with special effects and computer graphics. The difference is we do not worry about the special effects or graphics at all while watching this movie. You are gripped into the story and all what you see are only just part of the story and unless you really care for all such things happening behind and away from camera you will not think about all this special effects at all. There is a particular camera movement, when the camera follows the horse racers entering the kingdom and camera just pans upwards, very fast, by the two towers, I cant describe it, thats simply brilliant. Great great imagination. Technically as well, on all aspects may it be Camera , editing, sound engineering, costumes and sets or whatever this movie is amazing.

Magadheera, for me, is a perfect entertainer. It has every thing we would wish for from an entertainer. A simple and nice story, good thrills, good music, charming actors and wonderful frames. Though it is pretty ordinary for some time in the beginning following Harsh, which I think was important for the box office results, it is wonderfully done. Had the director known that people would accept this movie even without that masala item, I am sure the director would not have compromised for those scenes and couple of other songs. Having said that all those songs are nice to listen to and well shot.

I have to say that Ram charan Teja and Kajal Agarwal has a beautiful charm and they have a movie for their lifetime. So is Rajamouli. This movie could be his hall mark.

Finally, at the end as the credits rolls there is a song which actually introduces all the people behind the camera. Well this is not quite new for Indian cinema now. But in Magadheera this is just very different that the song is picturised with only a few steps and in a very funny way. I cant explain it. I have watched this song alone for more than 20 times. Its really really good.

I was not an admirer of main stream Telugu movies, but Magadheera changed all that. I did watch a few more Telugu movies after my first Magadheera show.

If this movie was made by Hollywood with white actors, I am sure, the movie would have still looked the same but it would have gained universal acclaim. Unfortunately it is from an Indian regional language and its a pity that even many people in South India havent heard about this movie.

One of the best entertainers of all time from India.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Le clan

2004 by Gael Morel

In a small French town quite away from any major city, three brothers are finding it difficult, just after the death of their mother, with a quite weak father. There are not many opportunities for the youth from the poor backgrounds and with out the help of strong parents, it is very easy for them to take the wrong path. Marc is macho figure and involves in some petty drug sales and when he is beaten up and his pet dog is killed wants to take revenge but ends up being paralyzed. The eldest brother Christophe is out of the prison and seems to have learned a lot and is happy to do a menial job in a Pork factory. But he is sincere in his job and soon takes up his boss's place and finds a girl friend too. The youngest Olivier, is in love with a boy of Algerian origin Hischam.

There are many good points in this movie, but still I it was not an easy watch. The movie intends to bring forth the difficulties faced by young men from poor backgrounds in small towns of France. These boys walk a tight rope that they can easily fall down to the dark side from where they might never be able to get back to normal life. At the same time it also shows a lot of hope in the way one of the brother gets back in to normal life after a stint in the prison. There is subtle machoism in this movie and there is extravagant homo sexuality as well. The movie is told through the eyes of Hischam, who actually is connected to all three brothers and is gay, might be the reason why the camera is always panning through the male body. Marc, especially has an excellent physique and great skin which definitely can evoke wow from most woman. There is this shot where the father is looking at the nude entangled brothers, which was shocking for me, but I didnt understand what that was meant for. Like wise there were many excellent frames, which I must say, is so typical of French movies from what I have seen.

Performances by all the actors has been really good and the scene where Marc is attending his physiotherapy was so well done. You could feel the pain. I also loved the Capoeira dance (a slave dance from Brazil) scenes, though short, as performed by Hischam and two brothers.

This movie is not for everybody, if you love heavy abstract stuff and want to think seriously and find out what all is about, this is the movie. I wont be able to watch this again.

There are no female characters at all, until when the girl friend of Christopher arrives for a family meal, and I found it difficult to digest, there are no female in sight at all. Even when the brothers are paying for sex, they are doing it with a trans sexual, not a woman.  Strange. 

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

True Grit

2010 by Coen brothers

An old fashioned Wild wild west kind of movie, the end product is quite ordinary Hollywood, except for some nice moments between the 14 year old and the old Rooster, disappointed actually.

I simply dont understand why so much hype around this movie, except for the performance by the young Hailee, I didnt find it amusing.