Thursday, February 15, 2007

Black Friday, Pickpocket and the Swamp

Black Friday (2005, Director Anurag Kashyap):

Well Anurag Kashyap's film is finally officially released after spending more than a year banned by the Indian censors. The film's crime: depicting the inside story about the terrorists behind the multiple Bombings in 1993. The Indian courts felt that the movie might sway the jurors in passing judgement so the film was banned until the courts passed their sentence to the men implicated. Now that the court proceedings are done, the film can be finally be watched. And the verdict? This is film-making of the highest order!

However, can this movie be watched in isolation to the real life crime committed? That is the same question that comes up while watching United 93. While these films deal with events regarding terrorist strikes, the two films are set in different time contexts -- Black Friday starts when Bombay is rocked by the multiple bombs and examines events after that bombing, and only goes into the past via flashbacks. On the other hand, United 93 takes place mostly on the morning of the terror attacks and ends when the crime is finished. Both films are gripping in their own right but at the end of day Black Friday feels like an absorbing crime film, especially one that has graduated from a Ram Gopal Varma academy. That is not a surprize as Kashyap has written dialogues for previous RGV films, especially the intense Satya. If one took Black Friday to be an underworld crime film, then it would be considered a sheer genius work of art. The film breathes realism in every scene, more than that of regular RGV films. However, this is a movie based on real incidents and that puts it under a different spotlight -- One can't shake the feeling that Anurag Kashyup is treading a fine line between showing events objectively and trying to let subjective feelings about the criminals filter from behind the lens. Can a writer ever accurately portray the actual dialogues criminals talked during their criminal planning? No. This is where a screenplay has to be careful in that it does not go overboard with feelings of jingoism. I do believe that Kashyup achieves a fine balance here in that the dialogues are both angry yet restrained and never feel too melodramatic.

There is a sequence in the movie which goes into long extended details about a terrorist's ordeals in trying to escape India. This character hardly has a presence in the movie so it makes no sense to spend so much footage on him. With the exception of these long un-necessary scenes, the rest of the movie stays focussed to the task at hand which is about depicting the interrogation of the criminals and the odd background info about their motives. Since so many movies have been made in the last decade about Mumbai's underworld & outside terrorist support, some parts of the movie feel like recycled material. That being said, I loved the entire film from the opening shots to the closing credits -- dark, grim and harsh. Real? Not completely but seems to contain some truth to it. But a worthy film? No doubt about it!!!

Pickpocket (1959, Director Robert Bresson)

The best films are the simplest ones. And such is this case with this old classic. True to the title, the movie is about a pickpocket. The films starts with Michel's confession in how he got into stealing upto how he refined his slight of hand tricks. The precise camera-work lets us focus on only the essential details; not a single shot in the film is wasted. Martin LaSalle's cold emotionless expressions are perfect for depicting Michel and Marika Green demonstrates plenty of charm with only a few expressions as Michel's love interest. A quick and breazy film under 80 minutes.

La Cienaga (2001, Director Lucrecia Martel)

There are some films that require a person to be in the right mood. Safe to say, I was not in the mood to watch this depiction of upper middle class life in a small Argentine town. The film is well shot and is leisurely paced. In fact, the few sudden tragedies in the movie occur in such a matter of fact manner that if one blinks, they might miss the accident. Sure, few images stayed with me long after the film was over but overall, I was not drawn into this family saga. Lucrecia Martel got a Sundance award for this film's script which is not a surprizing fact. It seems such movies are tailor made to win awards at Sundance -- take a family movie, and just focus a camera here or there, show some off-beat characters and then sit back and watch the critics go crazy.

No comments: