Saturday, June 30, 2007

cinema talk - the wind that shakes the barley

Director:Ken Loach
Writer:Paul Laverty
Release Date:23 June 2006 (Ireland
Winner of the PALME D'OR at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.
Cast: Cillian Murphy, Padraic Delaney & Liam Cunningham

Film starts with the hockey match with the beautiful irish countryside, which you are so used to see in the serenading holiday package for ireland. But what follows later, takes you straight to recent patriotic indian films like "The legend of Bhagat Singh" and you soon start looking for the bhagat among the lined up Irishmen who can hardly speak "english" but only gaelic.

But before i force you to get the CD of bhagat singh, the filmmaker of "the wind that shakes the barley" needs special mention. No doubt, he must have got the ire of the british media and right wingers after this film was released in britain. Loach has explicitly connected his film with Iraq, and drawn parallels with resistance to imperialist occupation there. There will be parallel in every armed resistance all over the world, it will never change and we have to wait to see, what Loach actually means, as the US forces are moving out of Iraq in the near future, as it is the country is like a car bomb 24 hours a day.

But talking about the film, it is sad that after being accused of being one sided or one eyed or probably praised for making such a bold movie, the real credit is mis directed and mis judged. The reason for which this film should be remembered is about the personal memories and inner contradictions in the main charactersm this film portrays rather than the political statement which floats overboard.

Central to the drama are two brothers who begin as partners in revolution and end disastrously on different sides of the conflict.. At no point do you lose the sense of them as brothers, or of the story as a personal tragedy; but at the same time they are representative of the almost mythic larger issues in play in any such uprising that evolves to civil war. The older brother, Teddy, is a man of action and a pragmatist for whom ends justify means, and who will seize his opportunities where he finds them. The younger Damien is an intellectual who initially wants no part of the fight: a medical student and natural conciliator, he is drawn in by an incident of brutality that literally prevents him from getting on the train to London to continue his studies.
"A healer turns a killer", a man drawn into the struggle and find himself difficult to get out of.

The prison sequences are beautifully drawn and manages to boil up your blood, when I see most of well crafted indian patriotic films most recently being "Rang De Basanti"

Loach has used natural lighting, it would seem almost exclusively even in the dark interiors, and the entire palette is a brooding green, umber and storm grey.Performances, especially Cillian Murphy in the role of Damien and Liam Cunningham in the role of his friend Dan, are outstanding. Cinematography is stunning; they have made the land itself, and the sky, speak to the bleakness of this story. "The Wind That Shakes The Barley" is a demanding experience, but worth every moment of your attention.

My Rating: 7/10

Cinema Talk - Where the truth lies?


Director:Atom Egoyan
Writers:Rupert Holmes (novel)
Atom Egoyan (screenplay)
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Colin Firth, Alison Lohman & Rachel Blanchard
Release Date:7 October 2005

"In 1950s America, Lanny Morris (Kevin Bacon) and Vince Collins (Colin Firth) are superstar entertainers, an odd couple comedy act. The night a beautiful naked corpse is found in the bath of their hotel suite, the duo breaks up and they never speak again ... until 15 years later they are somehow brought together by ambitious young writer, Karen O'Connor (Alison Lohman) who is desperately trying to write the Vince Collins biography - complete with details surrounding the mystery death - but competing with Lanny's own plans to publish his life story. Her book would be a million dollar deal for Collins, but her hero worship of the duo gets a bucketing as she gets more and more involved with both men - and more disillusioned about them. The mystery of the dead Maureen (Rachel Blanchard) remains tantalisingly elusive"one thing i definitely did, after watchin the first 10 minutes of the film, as checking the cover of DVD, to check whether David Lynch has got anything to do with the movie. My first initial reaction sense of feeling very unsafe, unsafe of a proper closure, may be after all the hullaboo and what might turn out to be a sick minds misadventure. But surely towards the climax of the film, you really want to know - 'where the truth lies'

Filled with rauchy greed, ambition, manipulative, enticing interiors, and drugged sex, the film is complex and narrative is bizarre but very well put together. Starring Kevin Bacon, Colin Firth and Matchstick Men 'baby girl' Alison Lohman. Lohman looked lacklustre infront of the gaints of her co-starts, but Kevin Bacon shined in the film. When you hear him speaking, reciting his own story, it becomes very difficult to not to believe in the truth he is cofiding to himself.

Egoyan (whose screenplay is an adaptation of Rupert Holmes' novel) is an evocative director, here creating film-noir-style scenes set in 1957 and 1972 that are almost perfectly constructed. The 1957 scenes are intercut with segments set in 1972, where Karen does the narrating and fills the role that, in an earlier era, would have been a tough-talking private detective. The Telethon night is visited time after time, each time with new revelations and you start piecing the film together again, but fail everytime until the last 15 mins of the film, when the truth is finally revealed.

I think Alison Lohman did a fairly good job but if fails to reach the level of her other co-actors who are brilliant from the word go. I found the narrative structure absoulutely intriguing, and Egoyan is masterful in crafting this.

A must watch not for the sleaze and sex but for the truth.

my rating: 8/10

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Cinema Talk - Scarface (1983)

Directed By: Brian De Palma

Written By: Oliver Stone

Armitage Trail (novel) uncredited

Howard Hawks (1932 screenplay) uncredited

Starring: Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Robert Loggia

Tony Montana appears to be crude, raw and unforgiving from the time he appears in the film. You assume, may be he will sober down with money and power, and mature like Robert De Niro in his endless Martin Scorcese blockbusters. But till the last bullet he receives, Tony remains how he starts - a dirt filled with cocaine and you feel no pity for him. He marries Frank's icy mistress Elvira ( Michelle Pfeiffer), you feel may be she will change him into a more responsible probable father, fathering a legacy of respectable gangster. But the world depicted by Brian De Palma is like a the cuban immigrants make shift home under the bridge. Disorder, Ruthlessness and Bad mouthed character are the trademarks of all the characters that appear in the film.

As most critic argue about the film, Tony's relationship with his mother and his sister (in her bizarre hairstyle) was hardly touched upon and you are left with something incomplete. Al Panino gives a stellar performance, his accent and body language and his lines “This town’s like a great big pussy just waiting to get fucked!”, “Say hello my little friend!”

The first taste of violence is hitting with the chainsaw scene, the miami beach peace is shattered with automatic guns and pierced bodies. From Cocaine to organised terrorist attack, Tony does it all, and does it in bulk. The amount of cocaine he sniffs in the film would cost every narcotics officer his job. Scarface is long and linear, the narrative is predictable and by the time we reach the crescendo, Tony is neck deep in cocaine shit. Tony's histrionics comes to the top at the last scene of the film. A bullet shredded body and the way, his palace is compeletely shattered reminds again of the stereotypical end of a gangster. He remains defaint and unrepenting till the end, halfway realising his mistakes over the dead body of his sister.

It is evident that Brian De Palma loves stylizing his film from the way the film starts with the documentary footage to straight to the introduction of Tony, says a lot about how the film is going to turn out. "This city is waiting to be fucked", Tony keeps saying to his friend in the beginning of the film.

A scarce performace, a film way ahead of its time, and that raw violence seems so simple to create, but without a star performance, no director can create such magic without Al Pacina.
A gangster film in its true essense. Watch it.
Rating: 7/10

Cinema talk - Rough Magic (1997)

Cast: Bridget Fonda, Russell Crowe, Jim Broadbent, D.W. Moffett, Paul Rodriguez, Euva Anderson, Kenneth Mars
Director: Clare Peploe
Producers: Declan Baldwin, Laurie Parker
Screenplay: William Brookfield, Robert Mundi, and Clare Peploe based on the novel Miss Shumway Waves a Wand by James Hadley
Cinematography: John J. Campbell
Music: Richard Hartley
U.S. Distributor: The Samuel Goldwyn Company

Romantism, Mysticism can be summed up in the way the last scene of the film unfolds. "Cry...and get your soul back" says Ivan, handing over a handkership which turns blue as Myra opens it. She walks up to her apartment, the camera floats behind her tilts down to the ground revealing a red and later a yellow hankership lying in the ground and the stairs leading to Alex Ross waiting for Myra.

Rough Magic, which takes place sometime in the early 1950s, we meet a magician's innocent assistant, Myra Shumway (Bridget Fonda), who becomes engaged to the savvy, smarmy senator, Cliff Wyatt (D.W. Moffett). Each sees advantages in the match -- Myra wants Cliff's money and he, in turn, observes that if "I marry a beautiful, virginal orphan... my approval rating soars 17 points." Unfortunately, there's trouble when Cliff accidentally kills Myra's magician mentor (Kenneth Mars). Armed with a photograph of the senator committing the dastardly deed, Myra goes on the run in Mexico, where she encounters an eccentric quack, Dr. Ansell (Jim Broadbent), who wants her to use her magical talents to defraud an old witch-woman out of her recipe for a special tonic. Myra gets away from the doctor as soon as she can, and ends up taking a long car ride with a cynical, ruggedly handsome newspaper reporter named Alex Ross (Russell Crowe). As their journey takes them deep into Mexico, the story gradually veers into the mysticism of absurdity.

Rough Magic works at different levels, halfway the film you will keep guessing, what kind of genre does this belongs to. It lifts the film from a mundane runaway road movie to sprituality and romantic comedy. Russel Crowe was a wrong choice for the film, as I think a more mellow actor could have done a better job. Moreover, by the time the chemistry builds up between him and Bridget, the film is already over.

The real flaw in Rough Magic's approach isn't that it has so much fun playing around with our expectations, but that it tries to make a serious point about spirituality. On the pretext of revealing more about magic and secret science of mysticism, the film plays on your expectations, and the scene where the man turns into a sausage and soon enough the dog starts speaking shakes the viewer out of the trance of a serious film. Soon the viewer realises that, now anything and everything is possible in the film, and the film shakes off seriousness, and it surely disappoints you.

The high part of the film is the comedy elements and Bridget Fonda. Her performance is mysterious and it definitely adds on to the magic woven by the film. You can see her interview on her opinion on the film, and clippings from the film at the end of this review. The scene where Ross (Crowe) comes to profess his love for Myra(Bridget), and they kiss for the first time in the film, some of the lines taken straight out from romantic novels are well complemented by the way the camera moves from the static tripod into a fluid movement, and they soon actually lift up from the bed and starts flying. Ross says " I have never felt like this before, it feels like I am flying"

Watch the movie, and surprise yourself with what the film claims or doesn't claim to offer.

Rating: 6/10 video clips:

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