Thursday, January 25, 2007

Visiting Britain in 2027 and 1997

Quite a cinematic treat this week with two very different yet compelling films. First up, one of the best films out there….

Children of Men (Director, Alfonso Cuarón): Rating 10/10

Vintage! Sublime! Brilliant! Raw! Pure Cinematic genius!!! The fact that this movie is not up for a best movie award is a disgrace. Seriously, one of the best films out there! Much has been written about the three Mexican directors dishing out their acclaimed American films in 2006. If there was to be a competition between the three, then Cuarón would win the contest hands down over Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) and Iñárritu (Babel). Ofcourse, I do acknowledge that Cuarón had the benefit of working off a novel whereas Del Toro dug deep within his imagination to produce the magical world in Pan’s Labyrinth. However, I felt the political side of Del Toro’s film was weak, even though it contained quite a few raw violent scenes, scenes where the camera refused to shrink from any nastiness.

Now, it is interesting that all three Mexican directors have made a political movie. Cuarón tackles the horrific future, Del Toro takes on a bloody past and Iñárritu attempts to show an uncertain present where any single isolated event can be used by a certain country as an excuse for war. However, it is the political nature depicted in Children of Men that prevails. This is because the movie takes the current chaos and projects it into a dark, disgusting, chaotic world where violence and fear rule. Now, 2027 Britain does look like something Orwell could have dreamt of – police are treating the fugees (refugees) as threats and have divided the city into zones, keeping the immigrants at bay. Ofcourse, this is a topic also envisioned by Luc Besson in District 13. Paris in 2010 has a lot in common with Britain in 2027 as per both these films. And that is not surprising. As immigration grows in both countries, so does the fear and distrust of the incoming visitors. On top of that, it is clear that the environment will be devastated in the future because certain people won’t stop driving their SUVs and gigantic gas guzzling vehicles. In addition, garbage will continue to accumulate because humans keep consuming and destroying the planet. The key difference in Children of Men from District 13 is that in the future, women can’t conceive kids. Scientists can’t explain this condition but as a result, no new babies were born anywhere in the world for 18 years. The human race is dying and the movie has a few newspaper clippings to give us an idea when the doomsday clock will start ticking.

I love every aspect of this film. It is raw and expertly directed and shot. Each scene is carefully paced and depicted – a chase, a riot, a killing, a guerilla fun fight, are just some scenes shot in a very realistic manner thanks to the pacing and thought put behind every frame. One could even classify some scenes as documentary footage (the brilliant tank warfare vs street rebel fight) as opposed to scripted action. This is how good this movie is. And the newspaper clippings stuck on the walls at the film’s start is a brilliant touch – one can try to look carefully to see how things will start to fall apart. For example, one clipping tells that Russia annihilates Kazakhstan with a nuclear bomb (Borat would not be amused) and one clip even mentions something about Beckham’s marriage (couldn’t read the full text but what is the future without a mention about this average soccer player?). The art direction is just amazing – one can smell the garbage, swallow the fumes and be repelled by the grayish atmosphere.

I know there are some other worthy movies not nominated for best film. But what annoys me is that a movie like Little Miss Sunshine gets nominated. Even though ..Sunshine was a good film, it was still a movie about a dysfunctional family. And that is just a clichéd topic that keeps getting rehashed every year, either as drama or dark comedy. On the other hand, Children of Men is about the power of imagination and manages to combine sci-fi and politics together. It shows a bleak dark future where there are no aliens and no flying cars but just human’s lust for power, garbage and a whole lot of fear.

The Queen (Director, Stephen Frears. Writer, Peter Morgan): Rating 9/10

Helen Mirren deserves all the praise and accolades that she is getting for this movie. This was probably the most difficult acting role that anyone could have signed up for but Mirren shines in every frame. Credit must also go to Peter Morgan for coming up with such a balanced script. Morgan apparently wrote the script first and then gave a draft to a few insiders to ensure that he got it right. The film shows the inside story about what happened in the Royal Family during the tragic week in August/September 1997 when the “people’s princess” Diana was tragically killed. It was a news item that shook the world and the film shows how the Queen handled the situation. Another interesting aspect in the film is the depiction of Tony Blair’s relationship with the Queen -- Blair (played by Michael Sheen) rose to fame during this turbulent week and won the public’s support with his reaction to Diana’s death. It is interesting to see a compassionate side of Blair in the movie and reflect that at one point, he actually listened to his public. Near the film’s end, there is a scene where the Queen warns Blair that one day he will be shunned by the very people who adore him. Not sure if that line was actually said but it is true given the current situation.

No comments: