Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Gardener, books and a missed chance

When you have a chance to fulfill a dream but you can't because you have other obligations, then how do you feel? Gutted in my case. I have just given up my Arsenal tickets because of other things. I was so close to getting a chance to see my fav. team play in their final year in the legendary Highbury stadium. Heck, even a beautiful flick like the Constant Gardener can't make up for that loss. No good book will help either.


The Constant Gardener (directed by Fernando Meirelles): Rating 9/10

A beautiful movie yet I can't consider it perfect. I have not read the original book by John Le Carre but this story feels more like a Graham Greene story. No other director could have taken Kenya and incorporated such a beautiful visual feel to it. Ofcourse Meirelles has his DOP from City of God, Cesar Charlone, to help him. And it shows. There are some scenes which look straight out of City of God (and in fact have no place in this movie, but that is a minor complain). And what is the story? A Love story wrapped around a political unveiling of the evils that western drug companies perform in Africa! A british diplomat working for the High Commision is in Kenya with his wife. The wife is an activist who wants to expose the evil of the drug companies there. The husband wants to stay away from all this mess and simply wants to look after his garden. To each his own. And when a tragedy results, the husband is forced to look at the ugly truth. He undergoes a change and understands what his wife wanted.

Acting wise, Ralph Fiennes does a good job as usual but Rachel Weisz is amazing. Her best role yet? Probably! Some of the other supporting roles have done a good job as well. Directing wise, I don't agree with all of Meirelles shot selections. His locale shots are perfect but his use of close-ups with handheld camera is what I had problems with. In some scenes, the close up didn't add anything. And the jerky handheld feel didn't give any more taste of reality to the movie either. In one scene, he drips the scene in too much dramatic background score for no reason. The chefs are busy cooking in the kitchen. Cue loud fast drums. The waiter takes a try of wine glasses out. End fast music. What was the point of that sudden loud scene in the movie? Nothing. Reminded me of City of God's opening scene. There are scenes of trains arriving with drum music which work in the movie but not that restaurant scene. Am I being too picky with a movie I really liked? Yes.

This is one of my favourite movies of the year yet I can't give it a 10!


Some books on last month's reading list:

1) Collected Prose: essays, autobiographical writings, true stories by Paul Auster.
In the last few months Auster has emerged as one of my favourite writers. He is guy who writes with talent and does not feel like a hack looking to make a quick book. His Book of Illusions, New York Trilogy were wonderful. So it was fun to read some of his essays about he got into writing, his struggles and just some true stories that he gathered.

2) Simon Winchester's Calcutta: Why is the title Simon Winchester's Calcutta?
Simon and his son have written 2 essays about what they feel about the complex city that is Calcutta. Other than that, the book contains essays and writings about the city from a collection of well knows writers (Tagore is there, ofcourse). I didn't finish all the collected writings but the father and son have a good job of outlining this city's interesting history.

3) Supercargo: A journey among ports
Thorton McCamish writes about his interesting trip around the world's mystic port cities. Read most of it and it is a good read. Another lonely planet publication like the Calcutta book above.

4) Companero: The life and death of Che Guevera
by Jorge G. Castaneda

A very well researched book about the myth that is Che. Not even close to finishing it, but I found myself spending time reading the chapters that are the most contradicting episodes in his life. Che's youth is well documented but his time in Congo and Bolivia are the shadowy sections.

5) Rio De Janeiro: Carnival under Fire
by Ruy Castro

Ah Rio! So much to talk about. Unfortunately, I ran out of time dealing with this one. Maybe some other month?

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