Sunday, April 12, 2009

BBBaarcelonaa, Here I Come..!

The first thing that impressed me from Frame 1 of Woody Allen's latest film is the location. Is Barcelona really this, I mean THIS - this - tHiS - BeeyouuuttiiiFFFULL. The operational word here is FULL, which just about describes the film as well.

A journey in, on, at and among Love - this one is soooo NOT Woody Allen - in that its romantic to the extent of spoiling you with wine, women and this one man. It is passionate without showing too much. It is complicated - (aah! That's the Woody in the Allen aspect, right?) What a delight to catch this film on a saturday afternoon, when the house is quiet, too quiet...that I thought, for so many seconds, that my room transformed into one of the dens of the spanish painter Antonio (an exceptionally attractive AND non-attractive man, and when you see the film you will know why!).

Vicky & Cristina are best friends and similar in everything except their approach to love. On a break to Barcelona, Antonio enters their lives with a straightforward proposal of 'life is dull, why not make the most of it - some sight seeing, some wine and we (pointing to both the women) can make love!" While the romantic, always impulsive Cristina agrees readily to this adventure that is set to make her adrenalin throb, Vicky, the steady, committed one holds her own, until.... ....
And every breathing moment breaks into a spontaneous spell of screams and chatter with the un-announced arrival of Antonio's ex-better-half, Maria Elena (a truly Oscar deserving performance by Penelope Cruz - just watch her swallow the camera alive in her white dress, wine in hand...) I totally enjoyed every minute, as lines go out of control in this emotion and passion ride, steered with equal fervor by all the players. In this mix, writer Allen places the thin but clear line of real love that actually blooms but is unrequited ... No I'm not telling between who and who! Not because there is any suspense to this tale, as one would expect...but because... it is LOVE - Sigh! See what I mean, when I said this was NOT a Woody Allen film, but it IS. I mean, well, yeah...!

Rebecca Hall as Vicky and Scarlett Johansson as Cristina breathe life into their varying personalities. The reason why Allen cast a man with a face like Javier Bardem (who won the Supporting Actor (Oscar) for playing the cold blooded killer in No Country for Old Men) in a romantic tale of mutiple love, women and tender love at that, with one of the women being domineering - has to do with the fact that two different kinds of women must find him attractive and yet not so, and this being in and out thing (yes, it is almost like what it sounds!) needs a man with a face that will haunt you, tease you, linger on you and take you over, a face you wont forget, a face that spells exotic - and that is why Allen Genius has cast him in this narrative of cross-connected lovers.

The film has some soothing visuals (thanks to Cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe), some awesome tracks with a Spanish band for music (specially the soundtrack focuses on instrumental flamenco guitar) - and some of the best settings for romance in recent times.

Some die hard Allen fans may not find his trademark lines, the dark humor etc - but watch closely, and you will find it in the many turns that this ride takes you on!

Did I hear a toast to that, anyone?!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Revolutionary Road

Such an awesome space for silence! Thats the one thing that impressed me most about this film, apart from the complexity of emotions that engulf the lead pair. A total contrast to their earlier romantic flick on board the Titanic, Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslet, take you down all the way, yup, all the way down in Revolutionary Road.

Sam Mendes (married to Kate Winslet in real life) has given his wife a gift of her lifetime, in her role of April - the creative, spontaneous yet cranky and hysterical, impulsive woman, who so loves her husband that she goes all the way to hate him! Though I'm yet to see Reader, for which she won her Oscar, this one too is a masterful stroke of a deft artiste. Kate proves that her picnic in Titanic was just that - a small, outing by the sea. Whereas, in RR, she pulls you along as she drowns, dives, resurfaces for short breaths and then, almost abruptly sinks. And, no, its not the tear at the end of the last eye-lash kind of movie. It is smouldering, heavy discontent that rips up your heart, leaving no room for piddley tears.
Leonardo di Caprio has the more complex character actually, caught up in making a life for his family like a good, responsible man of the house. He is yet to find out what he wants to do with his life. Yet to find the time away from nosy colleagues, attractive stenos, demanding bosses...and a rigid work life that even keeps the social life in clock work schedule. But as he struggles so does he come to terms with it. A small suggestion to move to Paris, that tiny little paradigm shift in thought itself seems to be enough of a catalyst for Frank (di Caprio truly excels) to bring that extra 'zing' to his routine life. He, like all ordinary mortals is happy to live in his dreams, and reckon with his reality (read compromise).
April (an amazingly animalistic portrayal - watch her and then tell me you disagree!) on the other hand sees the futility of their programmed life and puts her plan of moving to Paris (used as an utopian concept here - brilliant!) in action - the disappointment of not actually doing so, has disastrous effects on the couple.
Mendes almost travels through the Sydney Pollock terrain - a little bit of drama, suspense, well etched characters but minimal in number, great tension in place of romance and mush, very adult points of view (the presence of the 2 kids makes no difference to the proceedings), a rather abrupt and impulsive ending. Mendes has made a film that actually made me think - am I really doing what I really wanna do in life? Am I living or simply existing?

Well...aint we all answering that one with every waking moment of our lives?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dev D

Life. Love. And DevD.
That could just simply sum up the experience of watching this film.

How the &**# can you make my throat dry when you drink?
Why the &**# are you pulling me into the seedy Delhi streets, where body and soul have distinct lines of control? Do I have the guts to take the ride - You taunt me endlessly through this!
How dare you make me empathise with people I hardly know, with people who act as if they don’t need my empathy at all, with people who exist despite my support? Why do you make me want to retch it all out of me…and still somewhere make me feel satisfied...clean?

Sigh. There, I’ve tried to sum up DevD. Tried.

Usually a good film is one that (as they say) leaves a lump in your throat. Or makes you shed that odd tear. DevD made me do neither.
Yet, this has become my favorite film, the most comprehensive, wholesome film I’ve loved in my adult years.

I was moved - To despair. To lust. To ego. To intoxication. To love. To life.
To hope despite all odds - Self inflicted ones at that.

The bloody pain of love wrought with ego. The glorification of the self – be it in pain or pleasure. The brash women whose words hurt – sting… who are more mature than this boy-man Dev. The love sans the usual frills. The passion that arrives with just a thought…

Such splendid unapologetic sex…! It just comes onto you from unexpected quarters – like a tiger leaping on an unassuming prey…tearing at your insides again and again and again…

DevD is all about the above. Yet it is also a film that makes me feel all of the above. And therein lies Anurag Kashyap’s victory.

This is a film for all of us who have loved a dream. Lost it. And still live on chasing it, as it appears before us, taking on different forms. In Dev’s case, it was Paro & Chanda (Mahi Gill & Kalki – excel) – and briefly so, Rasika.

This is a film where I do not identify with any of the characters but this is a film where the characters do all the things that I might have done. And therein lies Anurag Kashyap’s mastery over story-telling. Over visual narration.

And what a masterful stroke it is to have Chanda watch Maar Daala on TV, before she decides on her pseudonym or to swiftly move from a SRK’s Devdas poster to Abhay Deol (a wonder of a performance. Titles credit him with the concept of the film).

Song and dance is used in an ingenius manner, as they weave in and out of the frames and my senses, as much as Dev, Paro and Chanda languish in their emotions, largely fraught with passion and ego. The humor is left to the rest of them who have to deal with the trio. The lead characters just act out their stuff. The supporting characters react to their actions. How simple indeed?! And how novel!

More than appreciating the film’s craft, pointing to the nuances – be it in scene setup or dialogues or just that one pause here n there, I am shaken up by this film, because it has made me look inside it, and watch on...helplessly, as Dev sways between life & death; and makes me smile in relief, clap in joy, when finally Dev chooses Life. There is redemption. There is hope. See how cleverly the makers of this film have made me write something so emotional about something which is after all, a film?!

This film is personal.

Just how the &**// can you come up with something like Emotional Hatyachaar…?

If DevD be the food of love …. Play it on! And on…and on!
Who’s gonna say No to a chance to walk two feet above the ground…!