India, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and U.A.E (still to visit later today) -- 8 countries, 14 cities, 29 days. No I was not in the amazing race but essentially I spent a month away from work and movies. In between the 5-6 movies seen out of a dazzling collection of 120 on my 2 Emirates flights out of London (Dec 1) and Dubai (Dec 2) and the 3 commerical films seen in the last week in Bangkok, KL & Delhi, I had gone almost 19 days without having seen a single minute of any movie. And you know, I didn't miss it one bit. Normally, movie withdrawl would have set in. But when one is awake at 5:20 am in the morning standing in front of the imposing Angkor Wat temples which are still shrouded in darkness, the thought of seeing a film does not register really. And a movie is the farthest thing from one'e mind while carefully trying to navigate through Saigon's poetic motorcyle packed streets.
Ok, I admit I realized the pure beauty of Jia Zhang Ke's Still Life while wandering through South East Asia. I now rate that film even higher that I had originally done. But other than a few such reflections, the lack of movies was not a problem. Ofcourse, good food, challenging venues and excellent local Asian literature kept me occupied. But as I made my way near the end of the trip, the metropolitan cities of Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and New Delhi offered plenty of films to choose from and that too in interesting theatrical venues. The Paragon theatre at Bangkok has to be the best theatre I have ever sat in my life and how I wished that theatre was the venue for the countless festival movies I have seen over the past 3 years. Watching the commerical sugar-coated The Holiday was not the greatest choice but that was the only reasonable selection given my time restrictions -- I had to select a movie which didn't end after the last trains because I was in no mood to bargain my way back to the hotel with the tuk-tuk's or taxis.
The visually stunning but disappointing The Curse of the Golden Flower was once again the only choice available at KLCC theatre located on the same buildings as the stylish Petronas Towers. It was amusing to watch such a beautiful failure of a film, a movie that had tons of style but zero substance. And finally, a Bollywood movie had to been seen in New Delhi. But once again, there was only one option available in Priyadarshan's Bhagam Bhag which was hugely disappointing. Not really worth the price of a ticket but still I had to pick one movie eand this was the only one which I knew I could sit through till the end.
Now, hopefully I can get to finish the year in style with a few more selections from the jam packed Emirates on-flight library (yes it is available for us working folk sitting in Economy class) which has a mix of Indie, classics, Hollywood, Bollywood, Arab cinema, Japanese, Chinese and some South East Asian films as well.
I also plan to come up with a best of the year selection list. But unlike other years, I didn't get to see a comprehensive list of 2006 films. I spent a lot more time previewing and selection movie titles for 2 film festivals this year and quite a few of selections were films made in 2005 and which were still available for the festival circuit. So technically, these films don't count as 2006.
Anyway, I was quite fortunate to sample a few tasty international cinematic delicacies this year. And the added flavour of the Asian trip was a fitting way to end the year. 11 months of constant film watching followed by one month of rest, relaxation and contemplation....What a year!