Sunday, September 18, 2005

European, Asian and North American flicks

1) A Very Long Engagement (directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet) : Rating 9/10

Three years after Amélie, Jeunet is back with another movie and once again, Audrey Tautou is the charming lead. This beautifully shot movie tells Mathilde’s search for her fiancée who disappeared with 4 other prisoners in the trenches of WW1. Even though the setting is different, the movie oozes with the charm and wit of Amélie. This means that there are smart subplots and corny characters that are just a pleasure to watch. I am not sure if all these subplots were part of the original novel by Sébastien Japrisot or were added by the mind of Jeuent and his screenwriter Guillaume Laurant? The final result is a visual and narrative delight. Although I have to admit I felt the movie dragged on a bit near the end, but it is worth watching.

2) The Stranger (written and directed by Satyajit Ray): Rating 10/10

Vintage! Absolutely brilliant! That is how much I loved this movie. The last movie from Satyajit Ray is one of the best out there. One day a wife receives a letter that her long lost uncle is planning to pay a visit to her in Calcutta. She has not seen the uncle in 35 years and he was presumed to be missing. The husband is immediately suspicious of the uncle’s motives and asks his wife to be cautious. However, the extremely well traveled and intelligent uncle has stories to tell about his mysterious life. Utpal Dutt is brilliant as the long lost uncle and I have to admit, this is the first non-Hindi movie I have seen of his. One of the best movies I have ever seen! Wanderlust!!

3) The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick (1972 movie directed by Wim Winders): Rating 7/10

The title is not properly translated in English. The goalie is not anxious or fearful of the penalty kick in this movie. In fact, he is indifferent. The movie starts and ends on a soccer field. At the start of the movie, a goalie is not in his net when the other team scores from a penalty kick. He does not seem worried or concerned. After the game, he wanders the streets of Vienna aimlessly. He picks up a movie theatre cashier. After spending the night with her, he causally proceeds to strangle her. But he is not in a hurry to get away. In fact, he heads to a small town and calmly reads the daily newspapers where he learns of the police’s investigation of the theatre girl’s murder. The police may be closing in on him but he spends time watching a local soccer game. And this is where the movie ends! I am hoping reading Peter Handke’s original novel might give me a better understanding of the story.

4) Chaos (original title Kaosu, 1999 movie directed by Hideo Nakata): Rating 6.5/10

In Between the two Ringu movies, Nakata directed this mystery thriller. A husband and wife have dinner at an expensive restaurant. When the husband is busy paying the bill, the wife walks out and disappears. The husband believes she has gone home but later that day, he receives a call from a man claiming to have kidnapped his wife. A few scenes later, we learn that the wife staged her own kidnapping to get money from her husband. And a few scenes later, as the story unfolds, we learn something else completely. Twists, turns and more twists. By the end, I just didn’t care anymore. And yes unlike Nakata’s other movies, this is not a scary movie. Just a slow paced thriller which takes its time to get to the truth.

5) When Will I Be Loved (written and directed by James Toback): Rating 8/10

Interesting! A movie that got slammed by critics turned out to be that bad. Neve Campbell plays Vera, a woman who lives an easy going life in New York. The movie starts off with her talking a shower and eventually jerking off with the shower handle. The next scenes are spliced equally of Vera and Ford (Fred Weller) who in their own ways are going about their day differently. Vera has a fling with a woman, has an interview for a university assistant position, while Ford has a foursome in Central Park and is trying to come up with a string of new projects to make money. This is the first stage of the movie. The second stage features Ford trying to convince his girlfriend Vera to sleep with a Count for money. Shades of Indecent Proposal. Vera agrees and goes onto have an interesting dialogue with the Count about money and relationships. She sleeps with him and in turn gets one million dollars. But she tells Ford that she didn’t get any money. Ford faces up with the Count, and through a strange Noirish twist, the movie ends. That would be the third stage. The movie clocks in under 80 minutes and there really is no un-necessary baggage in this flick. The dialogues are interesting enough and the last scene in the movie clearly conveys Vera’s attention.

So what do I really think of this movie? One thing is clear. Vera is not as dumb as we might think. Her angle is to constantly act in certain ways to understand the true nature of men. She clearly does not think much of men and is more happy in her dealings with women. Ford is clearly a hussler who would do anything to become rich.

6) Wicker Park (directed by Paul McGuigan): Rating 6/10

I have not seen the original French movie L’Appartement this movie is based on, but I can be sure that version would be far more interesting considering it starred Vincent Cassel and Monica Belluci. The biggest problem I had with Wicker Park was the pacing. It was too slow for the complexity of the story it wanted to convey. Before leaving overseas for a business trip, a man is in a restaurant meeting his clients and to-be-wife. He believes he sees a woman from his past. So he misses his overseas flight and tries to find this woman. Why did this woman (whom he loved tremendously) mysteriously disappear two years ago? Slowly the movie reveals the truth. Unfortunately the movie trailers give away this information, so I sort of knew what to expect. But since this movie is not a thriller like Single White Female (I was reminded of this movie in a few scenes of Wicker Park), it takes its time in arriving at the conclusion. The problem is I could not care when everything was said and done.

7) High Art (1998 movie written and directed by Lisa Cholodenko): Rating 7/10

Syd (Radha Mitchell), an assistant editor in a photography mag, has a problem with water leaking from the apartment above hers. So she decides to have a talk with her neighbour, Lucy (Ally Sheedy) about fixing the leak. It turns out that Lucy is a famous photographer who stopped working 10 years ago. Syd is enchanted by Lucy’s work and wants to help Lucy get work again. So she sets up a meeting with her bosses and Lucy. With time, Syd falls in love with Lucy and is drawn into Lucy’s lifestyle.

The story is not as simple as I just mentioned above. I neglected to mention Lucy’s circle of drug addict friends and her relationship with Greta, a German actresses who used to act in Fassbinder movies. The movie has an art house feel to it.

1 comment:

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