Saturday, January 20, 2007

Movie run continues……

The fast pace of movie watching continues. It seems I am on a rush to make up for the lack of titles seen last December by packing January with plenty of viewings. I have easily seem more than 10 movies in the last week with possibly more titles to come in the next few days. In the meantime, notes on 3 recent films:

Inside Man (Director, Spike Lee): Rating 7.5/10

On first glance, a commercial multiplex bank robbery film does not seem like a Spike Lee movie. But if one looks carefully at a few elements, then it does appear that only Spike Lee could have done such a work. For example, the scenes with the Sikh bank employee's rough treatment by the police would not have been inserted by any other director. But it had to be put in to show how ignorance still exists and people can’t understand who Sikhs are. One can argue for such ignorance in a small town but in a major city like New York, well that defies belief. But it does happen and I am glad Spike Lee inserted this tiny segment in his film along with a few other scenes about sensitive topics (racism, debate about violence related to video games).

The strongest aspect of the movie is the acting. All the actors are sharp and deliver perfect lines. The story on the other hand drags on longer than it should and even when it ends, it has not tied everything together, probably because it does not know how to. Initially, the film keeps one guessing and slowly gives out little pieces of information. But after a while, one really wishes that the film reaches closure. I have to say that this is the most unlikely bank robbery movie recently made. The trailers seemed to highlight the fact that there is more to this bank robbery so I kept looking for an alternative plot line. In the end, I was partly right in guessing what the robbery was about but the film takes it time reaching the end.

The only unsolved mystery for me is the choice of the fabulous Dil Se song ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’ for the opening and closing credits. The song was a breath of fresh air when it was released in 1998 and the train-dance song is one of the most popular Bollywood numbers in recent years but what was it doing in this Spike Lee film? I have to admit the song seems more appropriate in the closing credits but seems out of place at the start. But hey, just like in Ghost World a foot thumping Bollywood number is not a bad way to start a film!

Touching the Void (Director, Kevin MacDonald): A very worthy watch!

I had heard so much about this film that it is a surprise that I left it this long to see it. The story is well known – two climbers survive a near-death ordeal in the Peruvian mountains. How the two survived is just an amazing fact. The film contains the survivors Joe and Simon narrating their details. Full credit must go for how this film is structured – it would have been really dull if the film was simply a ‘talking-head’ type of documentary with Joe and Simon simply telling their tale. But with the usage of re-enacted scenes with actors and real climbers, we truly get a sense of their amazing journey and the difficulty the terrain and weather posed. The glaciers look stunning and the dangers of ice/mountain climbing are very apparent. Where some people might see fear, others see adventure! It is really remarkable that the two survived to tell this tale. In an uncertain terrain like snow and ice covered mountains, there is a very fine line between survival and plunging to one’s doom. The well filmed visuals really give us a front row seat of what Joe and Simon went through.

Dolls (2002, Japan, Director Takeshi Kitano): Rating 7/10

Every now and then, Takeshi Kitano takes a break from his action/gangster films to make simple films. In 1991 he directed A Scene at the Sea and in 2002 he directed Dolls in the years between Brother (yakuza film) and 2003’s Zatoichi. Dolls is a tender and beautifully shot film centering on three separate tragic love stories. The movie starts with a Japanese puppet play before diving into the 3 stories. The strongest aspect of this film is the gorgeous cinematography with the red autumn leaves and snow symbolizing the two lover’s journey in one of the segments.

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