Life as it ain't

"I'm not really from outer space. I'm just mentally divergent."

Archive for January, 2011

It’s got ideas and shit!

Posted by Ronak M Soni on January 22, 2011

Originally published at PassionforCinema.

Perfect Balance

I didn’t watch Jab We Met for three years simply in my scepticism about the existence of a good Bollywood romantic movie, these days when most Hindi movies seem to me like ugly mashups of Bollywood and clichéd Hollywood aesthetics (Mr. Ali thankfully stays away from Hollywood style editing and scriptwriting)..

While Jab We Met is not a great or even a good movie, it sure as hell is not a slight movie.

It could have been great, if it had ended around an hour earlier. The guy’s left the girl with her boyfriend and is crafting himself a successful life of his own.He’s entering a boardroom and suddenly the girl’s next to him (“Naa hai yeh paana… na khona bhi hai… Tera naa hona… jaane… kyun hano hi hai“; “This is neither being with you nor is it losing you; your absence, I feel, is as your presence”). He takes her hand as she leads him into the room and they dance in front of the board members, and the ending of the dance fades into their applause: he’s learned something, he used to be stuck-up and sad and about to kill himself (by jumping in front of what Ali shows to be a toy train, as if the stakes were somehow low) and then he met a woman,  uninhibited and irresponsible and ultimately beautiful, and he’s learned from her and now he has achieved perfect balance, that thing that is so rare when two opposing yet neither untrue worldviews come into contact.

After this, how can the fact that he eventually gets the girl be anything but incidental?

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“Religion is deemed by the masses as true, by the wise as false… and by the rulers as necessary.”

Posted by Ronak M Soni on January 19, 2011

Originally published at PassionforCinema.

Franklyn, directed and written by Gerald McMorrow, starring Eva Green, Ryan Philippe, Bernard Hill, Sam Riley and William Faulkner (not the writer)

The Fall, written by Dan Golroy, Nico Soultanakis and Tarsem, directed by Tarsem, starring Catinca Untaru and Lee Pace

Many spoilers be here, for there is nothing to be said about these movies without discussing their endings, and I don’t see that they spoil the movies.

Milo: I heard this story once when I was a kid, or read it. It was about a storyteller who was so good at telling stories that everything he made up became real. So the storyteller creates a world for himself where he’s the king of the castle, has a beautiful princess on his arm. And then, one day, he wakes up. He looks around. He kisses her on the cheek and… legs it.

Dan: Why?
Milo: I don’t know. Even though his life was perfect, absolutely perfect, he had the feeling he should be somewhere else. With someone else.

From The Fall; this is a typical example of the respect that Tarsem has for the laws of optics

Promotional image for Franklyn; from left to right, Sam Riley as bereft lover, Ryan Philippe as masked man, Meanwhile City and Eva Green as disrubed art student

Now, finally, is the time I have to admit that I’ve never been quite comfortable with the classification of art into “great” and “not great.” Yes, I’ve myself indulged in it; but only in cases when I’ve been utterly certain. The reason that it is now that is the time is that I’m going to write about two utterly amazing fantastical movies which I cannot in honesty call great but which I don’t think I’ll ever be forgetting.

Franklyn is about four people: a masked man in Meanwhile City (the other three are in London) – a steampunk city in which it is the law to belong to religion, whether it be deep or based on washing machine instructions and in which the masked man is the only religionless man – trying to kill the head of a murderous religion (called, in a fit of inspiration, The Individual), an art student who enjoys attempting suicide, a bereft lover whose fiancé has just left him, and a father whose son escaped from the mental asylum on the eve of his home visit. Well, technically there’s also the guy who insists that your actions’ consequences are felt by people you haven’t met.

The Fall is about a five-year-old Latina girl Alexandria who’s broken her arm and by accident meets a stuntman with broken legs, Roy, in the hospital. Roy starts telling her a story about five bandits who have sworn to kill the terrible Governor Odious. Roy, however, has a death wish and… what he does about it, he invites my profoundest contempt (till the end, anyway, but I’ll come to that shortly).

The first thing in common between these two (apart from the fact that I watched them both this weekend) is that they are about the power of storytelling. The second thing in common is that I proudly admit that I don’t really understand them, though I have an emotional sympathy for them.

First, Franklyn. How can I describe the formidability of Mr. McMorrow’s vision without going on for a thousand words about the plot? Simple: the fifth guy disappears. Ka-boom, we feel as the camera slowly zooms in on an unmanned mop.

For those (everyone, I expect) for whom the last was too vague, here’s the deal: masked man is the “alter-ego” of the son of fourth guy (Meanwhile City exists only in his head), head of the religion is fourth guy and fifth guy… in Meanwhile City he’s the mayor. In London, he is the pastor at some church, a janitor at the hospital in which the art student is a regular who says that you action affects the people you’ve met and a guy in a mental institution who shares the bereft lover’s hallucination of his childhood sweetheart; he’s nothing either more or less than some sort of overseer of stories. And in the end, he disappears, right after some tricks with character placement subtly suggest that all four protagonists exist within each other’s heads, much like this.

Yes, like much good fantasy, Franklyn is about the power of stories. I just don’t know how. Franklyn is the more formidable in terms of vision, but The Fall is the one which stumps me more deeply.

It’s scary. Roy almost kills Alexandria in his attempt to get enough morphine to kill himself and then concludes his story in a way that scares me will traumatise her for life, and yet I’m with him. This is how the story deserves to end, some sort of balance: the real guy doesn’t die, so the people in the story have to. It makes no sense to me, but I’m emotionally completely taken up.

Posted in McMorrow, Gerald, Movie Reviews, Movies, Tarsem, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Waiting for Godot

Posted by Ronak M Soni on January 18, 2011


Click to look inside

Is there anything I can say about Waiting for Godot without sounding either contrived or clichéd? I can think of five:

1.       It’s hilarious. Uproariously funny, even on paper.

2.       It features that rare representation of a gay couple/pair isomorphic to gay couple in which neither could be replaced by a woman without changing the dynamics.

3.       It’s about the stories we tell ourselves. I could write a long essay defending this sentence, but I don’t care enough.

4.       It’s not very existentialist: there’s much hope in the face of the understanding that Godot is a story as much as any of the side characters’ shifting identities are.

5.       It’s not that great: it provided me neither with enough fun nor with enough freshness of insight to justify its reputation.

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Living through life

Posted by Ronak M Soni on January 18, 2011

Movie: Almost Famous (2000), 122 min

Writer/director: Cameron Crowe

Actors: Patrick Fugit, Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson

Story: A high-school boy is given the chance to write a story for Rolling Stone Magazine about an up-and-coming rock band as he accompanies it on their concert tour.

Watching Almost Famous is akin to the experience of living through a whole life.

Okay, it’s not. When all is said and done, it’s only a ninety-minute movie. But that doesn’t change the fact that the one thing I remember about the movie – Keats’ tuneless melody – is a feeling of–– I don’t know how to describe it; suffice it to say that it’s wrong to say that we don’t feel that we’ve lived through a whole life.

There are all these people, and I don’t like or dislike them, I don’t get the slightest inkling of what drives them or what they aspire to, but I’m glad to have met them, and feel as if I know them; much as in real life.

I don’t know whether there’s any more worth saying about this movie, except that I don’t really understand why I like it as much as I do.

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