Tuesday, February 01, 2005

happy gilmore

just the other morning, i was fortunate enough to find happy gilmore playing on tv. i was about to leave for the university, but tell me, is it humanly possible to tear yourself away from adam sandler smashing a prosthetic hand with a golf club? so i stayed. the movie chronicles the unexpected rise of happy gilmore, played by adam sandler with his trademark comedic mastery, from small-time hockey player to national golf superstar. the structure of the film is entirely predictable--a bumbling but lovable outcast who, through sheer chance and a freakish golf talent, attains stardom (and gets the girl, and gives his money to his grandmother), despite the expected setbacks created by the conniving members of the establishment who wish to exploit his naivete. what makes this kind of movie throroughly enjoyable is that, since we already know the plot, we can focus on the details. at any stage we know what will happen next, but we don't quite know how it will happen.

unfortunately, though, this movie could function as right-wing propaganda at its finest. if an untrained, uncouth fellow like happy gilmore can make it in life through sheer force of will, then the bums on the street are just plain lazy. abolish welfare, abolish taxes. this is not unlike bollywood's own pavitra nari paradigm against which other women are judged (if bipasha basu could forgive her husband's infedilities in raaz, how come you can't do the same? slap!)

abbe oye!

Friday, October 08, 2004

red lights

nothing to fear, s is here. wow. i'm feeling very uninspired to write. i want to write about red lights which i saw yesterday but today is just not the day for it. i'm having a mini heartattack b/c it's 6 and i've been trying to work since 3 and i have to leave in 2 hours. i hope to write some serious pieces in the future but the point of this blog is to my understanding to both write interesting thoughts for the reader (not happening in this one) and to write about films so as not to forget any thoughts/impressions we may immediately have after watching a movie. ok i'm going to dive right into it, but i'm going to have to do this selfishly.

red lights. relationship movie--"we don't live here anymore" (excellent film), power dynamics.

ok nevermind that's bullshit. let me try again. i have to look at karna's blogs cuz he suddenly became a film critic over night. actually, not to toot my own horn, but let me toot it anyway cuz the sound is always uplifting--i did write movie reviews for the yale daily news so i'm no spring chicken at this. ok i see--a mix of conversational and contemplative.

so last night i rushed home from a futile walk with a friend to a thai restaurant--i say futile because we both had commitments in half an hour (she a meeting, I a movie), but we walked 15 minutes anyway to a thai restaurant pretending that we were going to sit down for a meal. upon arriving, i promptly took off for my movie, and last i saw, she was ordering take-out. i raced to brooklyn and ran to the theater, entering in time for the opening credits. i missed the first 10 minutes of dialouge b/c i realized as i always do at the movies that my glasses were disgustingly dirty and through a series of spitting and wiping, i finally got them from opaque to cloudy.

red lights is a french film that works as both a thriller and a sophisticated drama about the relationship between a married couple. the thriller/mystery side of the movie has been comparied to hitchcock. enough said. it's good. you should see it and decide for yourself how it works in that department.

what interested me more was the contrived nature of the cinematography and storytelling. like claude chabrol's la rupture (1970), the film took great pleasure in creating an atmosphere that was both musty and mad. the characters were living in the present and yet their dramatic expressions, the music, the uninquisitive camera were all reminiscent of a B-movie from the 70s. (karna just called. i told him i had nothing to say about red lights. i read him this paragraph for affirmation. he said it was boring. anyway let me proceed.) hmm...i should be describing this better. oh well.

red lights portrays a marriage that is mundane in its pathetic balance of power. in this case, it's the husband that indulges in a moment of excitement to write his wife a romantic email, and it's the wife that is too successful to be needy. it is not an uncommon reversal of roles. but it is uncommon in the way that it is scrutinized and still left alone by the director.

ok i'm saying nothing. i have to go.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

the universe as blanket

thumbs up to i 'heart' huckabees (2004). this chaotic existential whimsy by david o. russell stars jason schwartzman (angst-ridden environmentalist poet), jude law (corporate climber extraordinaire, but suffering deep deep inside), mark wahlberg (explosive anti-petrol activist), and naomi watts (a model who is sick of being beautiful), all as confused individuals. along come the doctors in the form of existential detectives, played by dustin hoffman (everything is connected), isabelle huppert (nothing is connected), and the ever-so-charming-at-65 lily tomlin (expert investigator). the movie is effective because relentless farce prevents the personal dilemmas from descending into self-congratulatory pseudo-psychology. russell knows not to take himself too seriously, and encourages us to do the same.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

why are we all aspiring filmmakers?

my friend deep has some thoughts on this too, but i think one of the reasons is that in film there is no easy way to verify talent or lack of it. your ability as a filmmaker becomes clear only after you have made a film. most of us are never going to get this opportunity, so we can comfortably go on calling ourselves aspiring filmmakers all our lives. when i am a 75 year old aspiring filmmaker and someone asks me why i never made a movie, all i have to say is, "the capitalist bastards didn't want to fund my masterpiece."

barcelona to madrid (and back and back and back again)

yesterday evening i sacrificed the vice-presidential debate between charming cheney and exasperating edwards to watch all about my mother (1999) by pedro almodovar. i have watched it before but my memory is terrible (what with being a heroine and all, you know) and i had forgotten every detail. to prevent another round of memory failure, let me first summarize the film. the next paragraph will bore you but the one following it is thrilling.

1. we start in madrid. manuela (cecilia roth) works as a nurse and is organizing a liver transplant from a patient who has just died. later that evening, she watches a movie (all about eve) with her son esteban, a mature 17-year old aspiring writer, at home. at midnight she gives her son a book for his birthday. the following day he is allowed to watch her role-playing for an organ donation video. that evening, mother and son go to the theatre to watch "a streetcar named desire" starring huma (marisa paredes) as blanche dubois and nina (candela pena) as stella. huma and nina, as we are to discover later, are tumultuous lovers in real life. after the play, manuela and esteban wait on the deserted street in the rain for huma to emerge so that esteban can get her autograph. while they wait, esteban presses manuela for information about his father who he has been told is long dead. manuela promises to reveal all later that night. huma and nina exit the theatre, rush into a taxi, and leave. esteban chases the taxi, resulting in the fatal accident. esteban's death is confirmed to manuela in the hospital. in the resulting hysteria, she is asked to make a quick decision about donating his heart. she signs the papers. a montage of scenes illustrates the transplant of the heart to a thrilled recipient in another town. three weeks later, manuela has tracked down the recipient, and hides as he and his exultant family exit the hospital. she returns to madrid and, resisting her friend's attempts to calm her, makes the sudden decision to move to barcelona to track down esteban's father. 2. in barcelona she takes a cab straight to the surreal red light district, where she finds her old friend (from argentina?), the transsexual prostitute agrado (antonia san juan). agrado is thrilled to see her after manuela fled barcelona mysteriously 18 years ago. manuela spends the first night in agrado's apartment. the next day agrado takes her to see the young nun rosa (penelope cruz). the next day rosa tries to get manuela a job as a cook for her parents. her mother rejects her because she believes manuela is a prostitute. out in the park, rosa vomits. now i'm starting to forget the sequence of events--manuela goes to streetcar (which has now moved to barcelona), barges into huma's dressing room, ends up taking huma to find nina who has rushed off to get a drug fix. rosa asks to move into manuela's apartment because she is pregnant with lola's (toni canto) child, manuela refuses because (as we know by now) lola is also esteban's father (and now a transsexual), but agrees to take rosa for a hiv test the next day. that night manuela goes to see huma in her dressing room again and accepts a job as her personal assistant. the next day, rosa goes to the hospital and learns that she needs bed rest before her pregnancy, and manuela agrees to let her stay with her. one night nina is in hospital from an overdose, so manuela is convinced to play stella (she is already familiar with the role, having played it many years ago). she is a hit. the next evening, nina and huma accuse manuela of trying to steal the role from nina. huma demands an explanation, and manuela tells her how her life is inextricably linked to a streetcar named desire. she quits the job. the next day, as manuela and rosa return from somewhere, huma is waiting outside manuela's apartment. she has come to pay manuela and ask her to come back. manuela refuses, citing rosa's (who she claims is her sister) ill health (at some point we have learnt that rosa is hiv-positive). the three of them chat, soon agrado joins, and they are laughing and joking and manuela convinces huma to hire agrado. huma thinks they are all liars but is utterly charmed. 3. a few months later, manuela calls rosa's mother to come see rosa. she comes, but is still uneasy with everything outside her plush upper-class existence (which is no bed of roses either, with a husband who has lost is memory and a career of copying paintings). rosa is taken to the hospital for her caesarian (on the way there they stop by a park where she meets her father and their dog, but the father addresses her as he would a stranger. she dies in childbirth. at rosa's funeral, manuela meets lola (anger is so pointless that all is forgiven) and tells her about esteban and the baby esteban. lola is dying of aids. miraculously, the baby is not hiv-positive. manuela brings the child back to live with rosa's parents. rosa's father is angry because he believes the child is his wife's. rosa takes esteban to lola. rosa's mother happens to see lola caressing esteban and later tells manuela that she doesn't want strange women touching her grandson. manuela informs her that the strange woman is her grandson's father. in the meantime, agrado's job is going well. one night, nina and huma are in the hospital after a particularly violent fight, so agrado entertains the audience with a bit of standup comedy (after having a flirtatious encounter in the make up room with the man who plays stanley kowalski, where each offers the other a blowjob). on a later occasion, a man brings flowers for agrado and huma, with a note from manuela apologizing for again leaving without a farewell. she and baby esteban have moved back to madrid. 4. manuela visits barcelona (with esteban) a year later. relations with rosa's mother are better. she goes to see huma and agrado. they look well and inform her that nina left huma to get married. lola is now dead.

such drama! i liked the movie very much. my thoughts are muddled and will remain so because i don't have much time. lush, intricate plot with so many intersecting lives, yet entirely dialogue-driven. all four actresses were excellent. true, the story was contrived, but it was a contrivance so rooted in a particular geographic, cultural, and psychological context that it nevertheless seemed truthful.

rarely do we get to watch a movie with woman as protagonist. movies along the lines of woman-is-better-than-man, woman-doesn't-need-man-to-be-happy, woman-is-goddess, etc. don't count as having female protagonists. even if, on the surface, the main character is a woman, the underlying driver of the plot is male because when a movie is made in opposition to men it can't help but succumb to a male-centric view of the world. all about my mother transcends this problem altogether.

loved the garish colours, the extreme close-ups, the godard-school cuts that shoot across space and time and leave you briefly suspended in confusion every so often (it takes us a few seconds to realize that the nurse in the hospital is the same single mother making sandwiches in her kitchen, that we have gone from rosa's bedside to her funeral, etc). even the streets often look like sets, which is fitting for a movie that is so theatrical in itself and is littered with so many references to theatre. early in the movie, when esteban secretly observes his mother standing in front of a giant poster of huma roja, he has an idea for a short story about her. could this movie be the story?

abbe oye!

Sunday, October 03, 2004

che guevara's road trip

a couple of nights ago i watched the motorcycle diaries, directed by the brazilian filmmaker walter salles. it stars gael garcia bernal and rodrigo de la serna (as ernesto che guevara and his friend alberto granada respectively) as they travel across south america on a dying motorcycle.

the motorcycle reminded me of my grandfather's 1971 premier padmini, which in the early 1990s was possibly the slowest car in all of delhi.

the interesting thing about the original book is that it was written by che at a time when he himself had no inkling of the life he was to lead. his observations on the countryside, the women, and the poverty of latin america all reflect his phenomenal intelligence, his unexpected romanticism, and most of all, his naivete. it is not a coming-of-age document because he was yet to come of age.

however the movie forces a much quicker, and less effective, transition. at the beginning che is a charming young upper-middle class fellow in buenos aires. two hours later he is a christ-like figure hugging lepers in venezuela, eyes gleaming with revolutionary zeal. where is the anguish over his halitosis, the astonishment at those who wipe their bottoms with their clothes, the ecstacy on a moonlit night? the cinematographer eric gautier tries valiantly to infuse the film with dramatic tension (low camera angles, shaky closeups) but this is hard to do when the actual tension should come from us, the audience, knowing things about the protagonist's future that he does not.

but by the way, i did enjoy the movie. the two main characters were well cast and the landscapes were shot beautifully. despite the saccharine simplicity, salles' love for che guevara was evident throughout. and finally, it is reassuring that a film that glorifies a communist and accuses the CIA of murder can still pass the censor board and be screened at boston's most commercial movie theatre.

abbe oye!

Friday, October 01, 2004


for those who know me, it should come as no surprise that my favourite movie of all time is "hindustan ki kasam." it was, after all, veeru devgan's dream. this strangely prescient flick is packed with gems--ajay devgan's devastating double role, the idyllic depictions of indian army life, the drive to srinagar (and yet paradoxically away from it), and the dramatic opening scenes in which a man uses the indian flag to hold a samosa.

some other directors i like--woody allen, satyajit ray, rituparno ghosh, jean luc godard, wong kar-wai, errol morris, tod solondz, shyam benegal, richard linklater, mira nair, p. t. anderson, pedro almodovar, vittorio de sica, and many more. i hope you, dear reader, and i, dear writer, can have many fruitful discussions on cinema in the weeks to come.

abbe oye!