Saturday, March 18, 2006

Water, Football, Sex and Junebug

Water (written and directed by Deepa Mehta): Rating 6/10

Yet another triology is complete but just like the disappointing conclusion of the ‘Revenge’ Trilogy by Chan-wook Park, Mehta’s ‘Element’ trilogy ends on a whimper. Water tackles the subject of Sati and injustice that women have to endure in the name of laws written in scriptures ages ago. The story has all the potential for a riveting absorbing movie but the end result is a boring drab movie. Technically the movie is good with the visuals giving a good sense of the surroundings. But the real flaws are in the make shift story and the terrible acting pairing of Lisa Ray and John Abraham. Lisa Ray is completely miscast as the young Sati because she still has trouble delivering Hindi diagloues and her expressions don’t even come close to the emotional complexity such a role requires. John Abraham can’t act but he can deliver dialogues. Acting is more than just saying a few lines. When Abraham speaks his few lines, there is no emotion on his face. In fact, there is no emotion whatsoever in this movie. The only spark of emotion is shown in a brief moment by Seema Biswas when she learns the young Chuyia has been sent into prostitution. But other than that, people just speak their lines. The best performance in the movie has to be the young Sarala who is very impressive as the young girl thrust into the life of a Sati.

What was the point of having the story set in 1938? There are Sati’s who exist today (at the end the movie informs us the number is 34 million) so why not tackle the story from the present and use the past as an arc to connect the two stories? Meaning show that nothing has changed from Gandhi’s time. It was absolutely wasteful to mention Gandhi in the movie without having a better etched out story. The movie is so clean, the sets so carefully constructed and everything so well laid out that the movie seems contrived and forced in order for us to go ‘wow such an intelligent movie’. In fact, reading some of the reviews in the Western World, I think Mehta has been able to fool most people. Just because someone makes a movie about a sensitive topic does not mean we should stand up and praise them. Deepa Mehta had to endure so much hardship just in order to complete this movie (her original set in Varanasi was destroyed by fundamentalists and she was forced to move the movie to Sri Lanka). I just wish she could have made a more powerful movie as opposed to giving us a cold emotionless 2 hour waste.

The Football Factory (directed by Nick Love): Rating 5/10

Hooliganism is a nasty part of British football and it tends to undermine the importance of the on-field game. In fact, the shallow North American press hardly ever reports on soccer but they never fail to highlight cases of soccer violence. There are plenty of books out there on soccer hooligans (‘Among the Thugs’ being a good example) and even more books written by former hooligans to give their side of the story. I have not read John King’s book on which this movie is based but I can safely assume that it would be a better read than this movie. The movie focuses on the Chelsea gang (or the ‘Firm’ as it is called in some quarters) and their rivalry with the Millwall gang. The gangs from both these London based soccer teams have had their share of historic fights and the movie tries to highlight some of those aspects. But all the movie shows is a bunch of people walking about, gathering in numbers from various sides and in the end, shouting and charging at the rival gang. Punches and kicks follow with bricks, bars and knieves added to the combat arsenal. There is not much to this movie with the usual lines used to explain the violence (‘What else is there to do on a Saturday’, ‘fights equal good buzz, etc). Plenty of drinks and drugs on tap, before the weekend festivities start. Like other movies, it shows the fighting gangs live for the weekend. They drudge through their week long jobs before getting their high from the kicks and punches game on the weekend. Yeah maybe that is all there is. But one does not need to see a 90 minute movie to know that.

Lie with Me (directed by Clément Virgo): Rating 4/10

Another movie which tries to portray sex as art and even blur the line with porn! What is the point of such a movie? This time it is a Canadian effort which tries to pass off sex as a sophisticated art movie and the end result was sold out shows at the Canadian Film Festival circuit in 2005. No point in looking for a story or character development in such a movie. A young woman likes to screw for fun. She wants to know if both love and great sex (lust) can be possible with one man. She eyes a man at a party. But they don’t jump for each other right away. He has a girlfriend. And she has to play around a bit. She teases him, sucks another man, and lets herself be taken knowing full well that she is being watched by him. His girlfriend on the other hand sees him watching her, so she replicates her acts onto him. All balanced out. Eventually, as expected the two of them hook up. Plenty of sex follows. And plenty of male frontal nude shots as well. She continues to wander about, her abstract thoughts used as a background voice-over narration. Confused and un-decided, they grow apart, come together, grow apart and end up together. But for how long? I don’t care to know. I have still not seen Last Tango in Paris in its entirety but I am sure this movie tries to capture some of its essence. But there are better ways to highlight the debate between love and lust. The French movie Secret Things was brilliant but Lie with Me is well off the mark. Not that this is the only art/sex/porn movie out there. From what I have read Michael Winterbottom’s 9 songs is another such recent movie.

Junebug (directed by Phil Morrison): Rating 8/10

After three strikes, a movie finally hits the mark. Junebug is a refreshing movie which shows the complexities about family relationships and even people in general. How do two people get along? Can two completely different people ever be happy together? Why are some men always in a perpetual angst mode? How do people connect with art? What is more important, work or family? Acting wise, the movie is spot on. The women in the movie are very well portrayed and range from house wives to career driven. The tension between a mother and a daughter in-law are also shown and the frosty relationships between two brothers are also portrayed. A very good movie!

1 comment:

Pacze Moj said...

Water's been hyped here, and I've heard nothing but good things about it -- until now. From your comments, it seems like the film's yet another example of a lucklustre work praised because of its "important" (timely, politically correct, etc.) content.

Junebug: Great performance by Amy Adams!