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Friday, November 18, 2005

Hitch-hiking around a Galaxy, Saving a Planet, Observing Secret Things while killing Shadows


The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (directed by Garth Jennings): Rating 7/10



I quite enjoyed the 5 original books. So I was bit skeptical when I saw the movie trailer. Hence, I avoided the movie for a while. But having seen the movie, I am impressed -- it was not as bad as I had thought it to be. The first 20 minutes were painful to get through but after that, I didn’t mind it as much. And it does a decent job of retaining key material from the books and making it into an easy flowing movie.

Overall, I was let down by the flat acting of the main characters, like Martin Freeman (of the Brit Comedy the Office) playing Arthur Dent. In fact, the best character in the movie is not a human at all – Alan Rickman is hilarious in being the voice of Marvin, the ever so depressive robot. For example, Marvin gets depressed when he learns the spaceship’s computer does not like him.


Save the Green Planet (written and directed by Jun-hwan Jeong): Rating 6.5/10



So much potential, so many smart ideas but in the end, this 2003 Korean movie falls down under the heavy weight of its own doing. It is hard to pin down as a single genre – dark comedy, thriller, sci-fi and a torture flick like Saw all rolled into one. A man claims a chairman of a leading company is an alien. Fine, we are willing to go with his claim. So he kidnaps the chairman with the help of his girlfriend. He tortures the chairman, but we don’t see any proof of alien being. Could the narrator be insane? This is when the dark comedy starts to cross boundaries and head into darker undertones. So far so good. A side story develops when detectives try to trace the whereabouts of the chairman – arrogant useless detective vs know-it-all outcast detective. And sure enough there is a young detective from the useless group who worships the know it all. They work together and come close to solving the case. But then the know-it-all goes missing. Hmm…When the movie ventures into needless torture and drags on and on, it loses all the potential it had built up. And then the ending is not a surprise either because there were only two possible endings. We are left guessing which it might be and there are clues to trick us either way but the fact the movie takes 2 hours in reaching its conclusion, we know how it will end. I was reminded in parts of 1996’s The Arrival. However, that movie was clear in its intention.


Secret Things (written and directed by Jean-Claude Brisseau): Rating 9/10



Either you like it or you don’t. And I for one really liked this movie. The movie stars off with a naked woman on a couch. She goes on to pleasure herself. Are we the audience a voyeur into her private life? As the camera moves along, we realize that she is doing a stage show and there are other voyeurs around. Phew, we are safe to watch. For the time being atleast! The narrator, Sandrine, works behind the bar and introduces the naked woman as Nathalie. That night both women lose their jobs. Sandrine has no money and no place to stay, so Nathalie asks her to move in. The two of them become friends and based on Nathalie’s advice come up with a plan to get jobs and move up in the corporate world. The plan is to use their sexuality to manipulate the men into getting better jobs. It is a game. But what these women don’t realize is that no matter how manipulative and deceitful women can be, there is always a man who is more manipulative and corrupt than women. The two women meet their match in Christophe, a man who loves to uses his money to abuse his power. On top of that, Christophe does not blink when he crushes women or tramples on their soul. Is he the devil? Some scenes might indicate that. When the corporate game becomes complicated, I felt this was a modern version of Dangerous Liaisons with a twist ofcourse. Just a really well done movie! It was almost perfect but I felt some of the symbolism didn’t translate as well as the director might have hoped for (is the mysterious shadowy figure death? If so, then what is the reason behind some of the shot selections? Why was the shadowy figure in the stairs that night?).


Shadow Kill (written and directed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan): Rating 8/10



Who is to pay for the sins of a hanged man? The people who sent him to the gallows or the executioner who pulls the lever? In the case of this movie, unfortunately, the hangman has to bear the sins of every hanging. At the start of the movie the executioner, Kaliyappan, is miserable. He can’t shake off the fact that the last person he hung was innocent. He drinks more to ease his pain. He wants to escape from his job but it is not easy. The King has appointed him and the Maharaja grants the executioner a lot of benefits. On top of that, there is the divine benefit from his job – the rope used to hang a man is burned and the ash is used to cure the village sick. Kaliyappan’s son wants to follow in the steps of Gandhi and is against hanging (the movie timeline is early 1940’s). His daughter has just come of age and will soon be a burden on the aging old man. As the time for another execution draws near, Kaliyappan drinks more. His body is burning with fever yet has to carry on with his job. He has to stay up for the night before the hanging but he can’t seem to do so. So the policemen at the jail tell him a story. And interestingly, the story is about a young girl who was raped and murdered. This is the final straw for Kaliyappan – his past guilt combined with thoughts of his family cause him to envision the narrated story from a different perspective.

As in other movies from Kerala, the lush green and the peaceful elements are captured on film. Which make it a striking contrast to the agony going through the hangman’s mind and soul. Not a bad movie. Interesting in some of the ironic ideas shown. I hope to see some of Adoor’s earlier movies. His previous works such as Rat Trap have won quite a few awards.

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