Friday, June 23, 2006

Bocelli, Andrea - Amore

Hey, this ain't any kinda movie, well for a change i thought why not...
If ever you ask me who has got the most beautiful voice in the world, well the answer would be Bocelli straight away. He ranks very high among the most sought after professional opera singers, writers and music producers in the world alongside legends like that of Luciano Pavarotti and Joan Sutherland. Born on the 22nd of September, 1958, Bocelli is basically Italian, but how many languages he sings in, i never really managed to find out! Bocelli was born with congenital glaucoma, and was blinded at the age of 12 by a cerebral hemorrhage, which he suffered when hit on the head playing football.
The first time I listened to his voice was over a cheap audio casette which i played in my car, some four years back. Lemme see, it was a Grammy nominees compilation. Some nice songs were playin. Then came Sogno, and thats it - I was so stunned by the quality of his voice over all that static hiss and the traffic at Usman road, T.Nagar that i couldn't drive properly and my car went into fits, well atleast until the voice ebbed away finally - I never dared to turn it off!
His albums include
  • Romanza (1996)
  • Aria - The Opera Album (1997)
  • Hymn for the World (1997)
  • II Mare Calmo Della Sera (1998)
  • Viaggo Italiano (1998)
  • Bocelli (1998)
  • Hymn for the World 2 (1998)
  • Sogno (1999)
  • Sacred Arias (1999)
  • Verdi (2000)
  • La bohème (2000)
  • Cieli di Toscana (2001)
  • Sentimento (2002)
  • Tosca (2003)
  • Il trovatore (2004)
  • Andrea (2004)
  • Werther (2005)
His most recent album, Amore has been released and to any one who buys a copy, i can easily bet he/she would fall in love with his voice, 30 seconds into the very first song itself!
Do get hold of his CD, or if you are thrifty enough like me, get the torrent from here and download it. Its a healthy torrent, enjoy!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Zi Hudie (Chinese)

Most non-Chinese people know Zhang Ziyi from her appearances in the martial-arts movies “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Hero”, and “House of Flying Daggers”. However, Zhang Ziyi is not just an action star. In fact, she doesn’t know any martial arts; she relies on her training as a ballet dancer in order to perform martial-arts choreography. Zhang Ziyi has also appeared in serious dramatic pieces such as “The Road Home” and “Purple Butterfly”. Although she appeared in “Rush Hour 2”, Zhang’s first lead role in an English-language production was in “Memoirs of a Geisha”.

Director Lou Ye received widespread praise for “Suzhou River”, so “Purple Butterfly” was accepted as a Cannes entry. However, “Purple Butterfly” was widely despised, so its chances of getting a decent theatrical release in the U.S. were slim. In fact, even though I wanted to see it, I wasn’t even aware that the DVD had been released until I saw it on a shelf at my local Blockbuster video store. (“Purple Butterfly” is a direct translation of the movie’s Chinese title, “Zi Hudie”.)

Yes, I admit that I wanted to see “Purple Butterfly” because of Zhang Ziyi and not because of the director or what I knew of the story. However, Zhang doesn’t look like she does in her martial-arts efforts. Since martial-arts movies are fantasies, heroines always look very pretty, even after they’ve been in fights. In “Purple Butterfly”, Zhang doesn’t seem to wear any make-up, and her completely de-glamorized appearance will be a shock to viewers expecting another camera-in-love-with-the-actress’s-face fest.

The movie begins in Manchuria during the 1920s. The Chinese Ding Hui (Zhang Ziyi) dates the Japanese Itami (Toru Nakamura). During this period, the Japanese occupied much of northern China. Ding Hui’s brother doesn’t really object to her dating a Japanese man, but after a Japanese fanatic kills her brother, Ding Hui heads to Shanghai to join an anti-Japanese faction. The title refers to a purple butterfly pin on a suit jacket. A lot of reviewers call Ding Hui’s anti-Japanese group as the Purple Butterfly faction, though I don’t recall the anti-Japanese activists referring to themselves with that term.

Ding Hui and Itami run into each other in Shanghai after he is dispatched there as a spy. They use each other to achieve their objectives, though Itami hopes that Ding Hui will go to Japan with him. However, Ding Hui no longer loves Itami. The movie ends with a montage of newsreel footage that shows what the Japanese did in Shanghai and in Nanjing during World War II.

The script introduces secondary characters that are affected by Ding Hui and Itami’s activities. Szeto (Liu Ye) and his girlfriend (Li Bingbing), a telephone switchboard operator, happen to be at a train station when anti-Japanese and Japanese operatives engage in a gunfight. Szeto’s girlfriend is killed in the crossfire, which causes Szeto much emotional anguish. Since the Japanese think that Szeto is an anti-Japanese activist, he gets tortured for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, too. The movie’s focus on Szeto and his girlfriend echoes Krzysztof Kieslowski’s obsession with coincidence in “The Double Life of Veronique” and the “Three Colors” trilogy. By the movie’s climax, however, Szeto decides to take matters into his own hands rather than letting others victimize him over and over again.

In post-production, the director crafted a movie that doubles back upon itself a few times. However, despite the non-linearity of some sequences, you actually know what happens to each character. What could confuse a viewer is trying to figure out the character’s motivations. A lot of people think that Ding Hui still loves Itami when they’re in Shanghai. I, on the other hand, think that Ding Hui hates Itami after her brother’s murder. In the geopolitical scheme of things, this is really the only acceptable conclusion.

On a technical level, the movie is assembled with much care and artistry. You’ll need to adjust to the jittery camerawork and rapid editing, though the visual style is a big part of what makes the movie so satisfying to watch. In fact, the cinematography is first-rate; the image compositions and generally moody atmosphere reminded most viewers of Wong Kar-wai. Since it’s fashionable to praise Wong Kar-wai, comparisons between “Purple Butterfly” and “In the Mood for Love” tend to paint Lou Ye’s movie as inferior. Really, though, “Purple Butterfly” is as good as most of Wong’s movies.

The use of slow-motion cinematography coupled with mournful music has become a standard fixture in contemporary Chinese-language cinema. (See Tony Leung at the end of “Infernal Affairs”.) “Purple Butterfly” has these moments, too. This sort of moviemaking is undeniably affecting, but one has to wonder if directors should be encouraged in this direction. After all, do we really want slo-mo death accompanied by mellifluous melodies to inspire creativity?

“Purple Butterfly” is not at all the confusing mess that so many reviewers have said it is. In fact, it has a rather simple story. That being said, the storytelling methods are fanciful and atmospheric. Oddly, the movie has a Romantic (as in the art movement and not love) view of the world even though the director ultimately wants to condemn Japan’s imperialist past. This makes the movie feel elegiac for two reasons, one of them unnecessary. The first--the necessary--reason is feeling sad about characters caught in the middle of others’ violence. The second--the unnecessary--reason is feeling sad that two people can’t love each other because they’re from opposite sides in a war. Still, Zhang Ziyi’s character got it right when she realized that fighting the Japanese was more important than her personal happiness.

A Talking Picture

In A Talking Picture, 96-year-old Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira takes us on a journey through history, making us acutely aware of our heritage and, in the process, conveying an acute sense of what we have lost and what we have become. Part travelogue, part comedy, and part drama, the film lulls us into a state of blissful contentment, then hits us with a wake up call that seems culled from yesterday's headlines. On the surface, Oliveira's 36th film is simple, but its greatness lies in the subtlety of its undercurrents. As we travel on a cruise ship to visit some of the most historic landmarks on the planet, bathe in the warmth of the Mediterranean sun, and meet some interesting people along the way, Oliveira brings into sharp focus the treacherous nature of the journey in which we are embarked.

Set in July 2001, an attractive history professor from the University of Lisbon, Rosa Maria (Leonor Silveira), takes her seven-year-old daughter Maria Joana (Filipa de Almeida) on a cruise of the Mediterranean from Portugal to Bombay, India where she is planning to meet her husband, an airline pilot. The ship travels from west to east, symbolically depicting the direction in which the balance of the world is shifting. Along the way, they visit the Acropolis and the Parthenon, Mt. Vesuvius and the ruins of Pompeii, the Sphinx and the Pyramids, and the Hagia Sophia, among others. Rosa Maria, who has lectured about the sites but never visited them before, explains the various sites to her attentive and inquisitive daughter who is constantly asking questions.

The little girl asks questions such as "What is a myth?", "Was there really such a Goddess?", "What is a legend?", "What did people do here?". Her mother does her best to interpret history and myth for her daughter telling her stories about Prince Henry and the legendary Portuguese King Sebastian, the mermaids who swam alongside ships to encourage the sailors to explore the unknown, and the muse that inspired poets. She tells her about the Temple of Apollo and the statue of Athena that protected the city and the stories that accompanied the destruction of Pompeii. Like Maria Joana we are mesmerized by what we see, yet each scene is tinged with such a pervasive air of sadness that it seems to suggest we are getting one last look.

The only transition from port to port is the often-repeated view of the prow of the ship slicing through the calm waters. Along the way, the two meet solitary travelers: an old fisherman in Marseilles whose wife died and whose children moved away, a celibate Orthodox priest at the Acropolis, and an older unmarried actor in Egypt. Rosa and her daughter are the only family with children seen in the film. The second part of the film consists mainly of a dinner conversation between the ship's captain John Walesa (John Malkovich), an American of Polish background and three celebrity passengers: Delphine, a French businesswoman (Catherine Deneuve), Francesca, a former Italian model (Stefania Sandrelli) and Helena, a Greek singer (Irene Papas). In "My Dinner With John", the women discuss their personal lives as well as their views on history, art, politics, and civilization and we are treated to a lovely Greek song sung by Irene Papas.

Each talk in his or her own language yet everyone seems to understand each other perfectly. Soon the suave captain invites the professor and her daughter to join the dinner group and gives the little girl a gift of a Muslim doll with a veil over her face, making us aware of who has not been invited to the table. From here, the film veers in an unpredictable direction that seems inevitable only upon repeated viewing. The camera is static throughout and since the film is driven by ideas rather than story line or character development, the journey at times can be a bit tiresome. Yet A Talking Picture is a lovely film filled with moments of beauty and grace. Like the passage of our own life, it is the totality of the experience that is important, an experience that can only be reflected upon from a distance and weighed in the context of the events that are transforming the civilization and culture we once thought would never change.
Ever seen a movie in which you see the characters speak Portugese, French, Italian, English and Greek! I think not. On the technical side the camera never moves and rarely changes position, often creating the impression we are watching talking paintings or pictures!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Station Agent

It's a rare and wondrous thing to be surprised at the cinema these days. Where are the truly original characters? Where are the story lines that lay legitimate claim to that ubiquitous and inflated adjective "quirky"? Where is the astonishment?

Right now, it's in "The Station Agent," a wise, funny, affecting little movie that delighted audiences at the Sundance Film Festival in January and is just now making its way to theaters. It was written and directed by an actor named Tom McCarthy, who made it as a vehicle for a bunch of his friends, whom most viewers probably will not have heard of. It's the kind of film that exists outside of genre or one-line descriptions. Its twists and turns are so subtle and unexpected that easy synopsis would be unfair. The best advice to filmgoers who appreciate smart, mature, humanist movies is, simply, Go. That, and Tell Your Friends.

Peter Dinklage stars as Finbar McBride, a train buff who is happily working in lonely quietude at a model-train store as the movie opens. When the death of a friend results in Fin inheriting a tiny train depot in rural New Jersey, the quiet, vaguely misanthropic young man sets off for a new life, presumably of quiet misanthropy in rural New Jersey.

Instead, Fin discovers that he has neighbors, whose lives have a persistent way of intersecting with his. Joe (Bobby Cannavale), a hot dog vendor who parks his truck in front of Fin's depot every morning, is determined that he and Fin will be best friends; Olivia (Patricia Clarkson), a clumsy, preoccupied painter, almost runs the newcomer over -- twice -- and arrives on his doorstep apologetically bearing a bottle of bourbon. As this oddball threesome coalesces into something akin to a friendship, it's never clear whether Fin will entirely break through his carapace of hurt and mistrust, or whether he will retreat into his hermetic world of train schedule, pocket watch and comfortable, lonely silence.

It should be noted that Fin comes by his isolation honestly: He happens to be a dwarf, measuring 41/2 feet tall, and early in the movie the audience is shown the indignities that he suffers every day. Children make cruel jokes about Snow White as he walks by; a salesgirl doesn't see him over the cash register; the manager of a convenience store takes his picture while he's buying toilet paper. Fin, a handsome man with searching eyes and a sensuous, bow-shaped mouth, has learned over a lifetime that people will see him as exotic, even though, he explains, he's actually "just a simple, boring person."

McCarthy achieves a wonderful balance whereby Fin's height is simultaneously taken for granted and yet always at the problematic center of things. He's helped enormously by a strong, unsentimental performance by Dinklage, whose soft baritone and dark-eyed glower are both forbidding and seductive. Clarkson and Cannavale deliver equally accomplished performances as Fin's ragtag clique: Clarkson, with her porcelain delicacy and tinkling, musical voice, is at once heartbreaking and sharply funny, and Cannavale, who serves as the comic relief, also manages to serve as the movie's big, open-hearted moral catalyst. (Raven Goodwin, the Prince George's County native who was so lovely and amazing in "Lovely & Amazing," and Michelle Williams, from "Dawson's Creek," round out a terrific ensemble cast.)

With Clarkson and Dinklage, McCarthy has cast two of the contemporary screen's great faces, and he films them accordingly. His cinematographer used grainy 16mm film to photograph "The Station Agent," which results in a gauzy, unfocused look that fits the movie's gentle tone (in certain still, nighttime moments, Clarkson looks as if she's been painted by Gerhard Richter).

As a testament to vagrant, evanescent human connection, "The Station Agent" conveys a melancholy sort of joy that is rarely seen in conventional movies these days. Indeed, its emotions are probably too complicated for the nuance-free conventions of the major motion picture. In the cinema, as in all things, we can thank heaven for small miracles.

Breakfast on Pluto

Damn and blast the bleeding boring old real world with its prejudices and its sadness and its violence and its dreary old clothes... Neil Jordan’s latest is the wild and wilfully fictional memoir of an introspective, romantic tranvestite who calls himself ‘Kitten’ (Cillian Murphy). Sweeping us from Ireland to London, from rural backwater to the big smoke, Jordan presents this fast-flowing autobiography of a cross-dressing Dick Whittington in brief chapters that speed easily past the eye and are bolstered by a terrific soundtrack that skips from Cole Porter to T.Rex to Slade to ‘The Wombling Song’. It’s breathless stuff – a whirlwind of colour, wit and imagination that is driven by a tender, nuanced central performance of charisma, wit and intelligence from Cillian Murphy. Abandoned at birth in late ’50s smalltown Ireland, Kitten – real name Patrick – loves to dress in women’s clothes and flounce about the house as a girl, much to the obvious dismay of his foster family. He barely cares what anyone else thinks and employs his own internal monologue of random thoughts and crazy dreams as a wall between him and the silly, ‘serious’ world about him, with its IRA bombs, guns and murders. He’s a bizarre, intoxicating creation and, in turns, a very seductive narrator. His childhood over, Kitten is soon on the road with a touring glam-rock band, playing Bonnie to the lead-singer’s Clyde and appearing onstage in local community centres, in full drag, as ‘the squaw’ to his new lover’s chief. Always on the move, he crosses the Irish Sea in search of his mother and – once in London – encounters a panto cast of characters. There’s the man (Brendan Gleeson) who dresses up as Womble Uncle Bulgaria to entertain kids; a suave would-be murderer (Bryan Ferry) who lurks in a Jag on a dark side-street and tries to strangle Kitten with a silk neck-tie; a lonely hang-dog magician (Stephen Rea) who falls head-over-heels for him; and a policeman (Ian Hart) who accuses him of terrorism but later delivers him to the relative safe-house of a Soho peep-show parlour. Is any of this real? Is it hell? And what a very dull question, Kitten might add. ‘Breakfast on Pluto’ is a delightful fairytale that uses the very real world and its hardships – a long-lost mother, terrorism, abuse – as the theatre for much camp playfulness and wish-fulfilment. Jordan – drawing on Patrick McCabe’s novel – gives us a memoir so eventful, so rapid, so brimming over with flights of fancy that we are entranced by Kitten. Everything – and everyone – else is peripheral. Surprisingly – and much to the credit of both Jordan and Murphy – Kitten emerges as more than a fascinating caricature. He’s a splash of vibrant colour within a monochrome world, an antidote to (and reflection on) the Catholicism and conservatism of ’60s and ’70s Ireland and, on a more personal level, a credible reaction to his own abandonment and search for identity. The film’s interests in cross-dressing, performance, the sex industry, our capital’s back alleys, the Troubles, messy childhoods and the journey from Ireland to London will be familiar to those who know ‘Mona Lisa’, ‘The Butcher Boy’, ‘The Crying Game’ and other Jordan films. ‘Breakfast on Pluto’ is a wild, imaginative and daring project that could equally be dismissed as chaotic and indulgent or as wild, imaginative and daring. I’d say it’s all these things – and it’s a hell of a ride for it. If you have to see one gay movie this year, FORGET Brokeback Mountain! Breakfast on Pluto is totally funny, uplighting and by far more interesting. It earns your emotions without pandering for them and makes no excuses for its subject matter and thankfully doesn't have that drooling-for-an-Oscar quality like so many films...It's a story of many stories, not entirely linear, but circular- just like life. And, it's about the life of Kitten. And 'she' is WONDERFUL! See the damn the movie.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Le Père Goriot

Eugene de Rastignac, a young man pursuing studies by the right resulting from an aristocratic, ingenuous family provincial “gone up” in Paris, arrives at the Vauquer mansion. He binds friendship with the Father Goriot, ex-merchant of vermiculation who grew fabulously rich during the Revolution, and who is plugged by the love that he holds in his daughters, Anastasie and Delphine. Married above their condition, they waste the fortune of their father. Rastignac undertakes to allure Delphine, married with the rich banker Nucingen, who lives in the gilded districts of finance and becomes its lover. Behind this varnished glow, the young man quickly discovers the selfishness of the daughters and his own financial difficulties, and tries despite everything, in vain, to bring them closer their father. But the adored daughters come back once again only to overpower the old man, who does not have any more any means of leading his own simple, pathetic life, let alone settling their debts. All he has left are his shoes, some clothes, and some silver spoons. He still sells what he can to try and see his daughters smiling and happy.. The landlady of the boarding house wherein Goriot lives in the attic takes pity on him and lets him stay. Meanwhile, the other members of the boarding house provide some comic relief. One is a convicted criminal living there under disguise, some students, a couple and then there is Rastignac. The criminal tries to use the young man's rapport with Goriot's daughters to marry and cheat them. Eventually, he gets handed over to the police.
Goriot's health worsens as his old age takes its toll. His daughters still never care for their father. The story finally ends with the miserable burial of the old man. One where the two students and Rastignac are the only mourners and they do not have money to pay to the undertaker..

Charles Aznavour (Goriot)
Tchéky Karyo (Vautrin)
Malik Zidi (Rastignac)
Nadia Barentin (Mrs. Vauquer)
Maruschka Detmers (Viscountess de Beauséant)
Florence Darel (Delphine de Nugingen)
Rosemarie Vaullée (Anastasie de Restaud)
Pierre Sliding gauge (Poiret)
Anca-Ioana Androne (Victorine Taillefer)
Raluca Penu (Mrs. Couture)
Mihai Calin (Blanchon)
Vladimir Ivanov (Gondureau)
Luana Stoica (Sylvie)
Eugen Cristea (the baron de Nucingen)
Lamia Beligan (Thérèse)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Magnolia (1999)

In order to get a sense of where Magnolia is going, it is necessary to introduce the various characters. At the center of events is Earl Partridge (Jason Robards), a television producer who, stricken by cancer, lies on his deathbed. His young wife, Linda (Julianne Moore), is desolate with grief and guilt, and has trouble coping with her impending loss. His estranged son, Frank Mackey (Tom Cruise), the charismatic guru of the "Seduce and Destroy" lifestyle, has worked hard to sever all connections with Earl. His nurse, Phil Parma (Philip Seymour Hoffman), seeks to fulfill his employer's dying wish and reunite him with Frank. Meanwhile, Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall), who is the host of Earl's most popular TV show, the long-running "What Do Kids Know?", also has terminal cancer. Like Earl and Frank, a rift exists between him and his child. When he attempts a reconciliation with Claudia (Melora Walters), she rebuffs him. Later, she embarks on a strange relationship with a gentle but ineffectual police officer, Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly). And Jimmy must explain to his wife, Rose (Melinda Dillon), why Claudia hates him so intensely. At the same time, Stanley Spector (Jeremy Blackman), a child genius on Jimmy's show, finds that the only way to get his father's attention is to win money. And, as Stanley continues to answer questions right, a former quiz show star, Donnie Smith (William H. Macy), watches the remains of his life go up in smoke. Together, these characters make up the leaves and branches of this tree. In essence, Magnolia deals with the effects of physical and spiritual cancer on individuals and families. Earl and Jimmy, who are in many ways mirror images of each other, are afflicted with both forms of the malady. And, while their bodies have previously been untouched, they have been emotionally diseased for years. Like a reverse Midas touch, this malaise has spread to everyone close to them. Claudia is a drug abuser with no self-confidence. Frank hides behinds a misogynist image he has created. Linda is suicidal. Even the ex-quiz kid and current contestant on "What Do Kids Know?" have deep-rooted problems. The only exemptions to this pervasive ailment of the soul are Jim Kurring and Phil Parma, who do not have lasting connections to any of the other characters. Three hours is a long time to keep an audience involved, and Anderson almost pulls it off. There is a bit of a lag during the early part of the third hour, but a surprising incident of almost Biblical proportions re-invigorates the proceedings. This will undoubtedly be the most hotly debated aspect of the film. For some, it will ruin an otherwise keenly observed study of human behavior and interaction. However, for those who share my opinion, it will elevate the movie to a new level. Nothing prepared me for Magnolia's conclusion, and for that I am grateful. One of the reasons the movie's energy level remains high is because of the way Anderson and cinematographer Robert Elswit (who collaborated on Hard Eight and Boogie Nights) vary Magnolia's visual style. Aside from the usual variety of quick cuts and close-ups, there are an unusually large number of long, unbroken takes. One is a tracking shot that follows different characters through the behind-the-scenes halls of the quiz show. Another keeps the camera in a room while two characters drift in and out. There are also some oddball moments, such as when characters sing along with a song on the soundtrack. In fact, music in general plays an important part in Anderson's approach. Not only are Aimee Mann's songs carefully woven into the movie's fabric, but the score, by Jon Brion, is almost omnipresent. During Magnolia's first two hours, nearly every scene has background music. Only during the third hour are there a significant number of traditionally scored sequences. Although Magnolia's ending will generate most of the film's buzz, the movie begins with an enjoyably offbeat prologue that is set across three time periods: 1911 (with the hanging of three criminals), 1958 (with the homicide of a man attempting to commit suicide), and the early 1980s (with the inadvertent death of a man in a fire fighting operation). These three disconnected segments are meant to illustrate that some events, regardless of how strange or hard-to-swallow they may be, occur simply as a matter of chance. In a universe of infinite possibilities, all things, no matter how improbable, can happen. In addition to being interesting in their own right, these pre-title sequences help prepare the audience for what will occur 150 minutes later. In a film of many strengths, nothing ranks higher in Magnolia than the quality of acting. From top to bottom, there isn't a weak link in the cast. However, when it comes to Oscar nominations, the movie will likely have a problem. Because this is an ensemble piece, with nearly everyone getting equal time, there are no leads, and everyone can't be nominated in the supporting categories. Regardless of what the Academy decides, that doesn't negate the fact that there are several deserving performers. Leading the list is Tom Cruise, who gives one of the best performances of his career (if not the best). Those disappointed by the actor's work in the recent Kubrick film will have their eyes opened wide by his effort here. He plays Frank with the fervor of an evangelist, and it's a riveting portrayal. Equally effective are Jason Robards and Melora Walters, and the rest of the acting troupe isn't far behind. For Magnolia, Anderson has brought on board a number of repeat contributors. A significant portion of the cast of Boogie Nights has been re-united, including Julianne Moore, Melora Walters, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy, Philip Baker Hall, Luis Guzman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Alfred Molina. Of those, four - Walters, Reilly, Hoffman, and Hall - also appeared in Hard Eight. It's a testimony to the director's craft and dedication that so many fine actors have sought additional opportunities to work with him. Not since Robert Altman's Short Cuts have we seen such a finely-tuned ensemble piece. Yet a direct comparison between the two films would be somewhat misleading. Thematically, at least when considering the role played by chance, there are similarities, but Altman used a different, more languid style than Anderson does. Magnolia is a kinetic picture that doesn't stop moving and rarely stays with one story for more than a couple of minutes before moving to the next. This approach allows us to get to know the principals quickly, and keeps us engaged by all of the storylines. (The tendency in this sort of movie is for the viewer to focus on one or two characters, and, in the process, lose interest in the rest.) Magnolia is admittedly not for everyone, but those who "get" the film are in for something that ranks as more of a cinematic experience than a mere movie. I really don't understand how this masterpiece has evaded the mainstream press publicity so long at least as far as Indian press is concerned. Tommy told me that it's got Cruise in it. Maybe its another of his macho stuff, i thought. Got themovie through a torrent, and a very healthy one too.. The OST is equally good.

Monday, June 05, 2006


If there ever was a movie that shocked me more than this, I guess i'll swoon from blood pressure!
Ever imagined what life actually means to a suicide bomber? Yes, we might say they are severely psyched up people, driven by psychological tauntings, nothing more to life, et cetera... Well, a life is a life, humans as we all are, bomber or no, especially when your co-partner in death is your closest friend since your childhood...

The first Palestinian film to be nominated for an Academy Award.

Hani Abu Assad's Paradise Now won the AGICOA’s Blue Angel Award for the best European film at the Berlinale last week.

Paradise Now is the story of two Palestinian childhood friends who have been recruited for a major operation in Tel Aviv. It centers on what is presumably their final day on earth. They cannot utter a word of their plans to their families. The following day, the two are sent to the border. The bombs have been attached to their bodies in such a way as to make them completely hidden from view. However, the operation does not go according to plan and the two friends lose sight of each other, leaving each one up to their own fate, while struggling with their convictions.

In the tag team of two young Palestinian men, Said and Khaled, Dutch-based Palestinian director Hani Abu-Assad brings an intensely gripping tale of suicide bombing to the Berlin Film Festival. Paradise Now was written by Abu-Assad, Bero Beyer and Pierre Hodgson, and produced by Palestinian, Dutch, French, German and Israeli producers. The story was shot almost entirely in Nablus. The crew had to interrupt work because of shooting or missile attacks.

The last 24 hours of the two childhood friends, played by actors Kais Nashif and Ali Suliman, who are recruited for "a major operation" in Tel Aviv, brings to the fore many of core issues in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The film gives voice to the Palestinian condemnation of violence while offering insight into the individuals behind such acts.

The film shows the seeming deception that goes into recruiting a suicide bomber and the emotional trauma that goes with it. The movie also includes the filming of the traditional video in which the would-be "martyrs" explain why they are sacrificing themselves in the armed struggle against occupation, and a scene in which the men are wired up as human bombs. It portrays confused recruits struggling with the justification of armed resistance, and the difference between an Israeli and a Palestinian city.

The operation does not go according to plan and the two friends are forced to reconsider their stances after a woman comes into the picture. She provides the voice of reason about the futility of armed resistance. It is at the point of operation in Israel that Khaled, all along the more enthusiastic of the two, backs down. Said, who had earlier refrained from detonating a bomb inside a bus because a baby girl was inside, is left to go the whole hog. His new target has more soldiers on board.

The film has already taken the first step towards screening in Israel. In Berlin, the Israeli Film Fund announced that it would offer the controversial film the same distribution support typically given to other domestically-produced product when it debuts in Israel.

Friday, June 02, 2006


So much has been the hype of this movie, and for no small reason too, i guess. Frankly I've never seen this movie at all, why not even a single clip of it! Came to know about it only a few weeks before Cannes came along. I thought that perhaps this nice review written by Allan Hunter from Cannes itself will give us some insight into this top-of-my-hot-list movie. And oh, music in this one is composed by Santaolalla. This gentleman from Argentina has established himself in the top for good. I guess the film authorities in India are too busy with their da vinci protests and sucking up to our bollywood (and every other somethingwood, wonder how many there actually are!) nonsense, to even consider screening such works of creativity here in these parts. I guess i'll find a dvd, or get help from my faithful torrent community.
A single gun shot reverberates around the world in Babel, unexpectedly uniting disparate lives in Morocco, Mexico and Japan. The third collaboration between director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga initially seems to lack the bravura edge of Cannes discovery Amores Perros or the soulful intensity of 21 Grams but it matures into a melancholy meditation on the way in which humanity is one species divided by misunderstanding, prejudice and fear. In its best moments, this fatalistic, multi-story narrative is reminiscent of Kieslowski's Three Colours Trilogy although the film's over-ambitious reach sometimes exceeds its grasp. Critical acclaim, the drawing power of the cast and the Inarritu/Arriaga track record should combine to make this a surefire attraction for upscale arthouse audiences. The random consequences of one foolish action underpin the jigsaw puzzle structure of Babel which places less emphasis on juggling time and chronology than previous collaborations. In a remote area of the Moroccan desert, two young brothers compete to show their prowess with a newly acquired rifle. The younger brother fires at a bus inadvertently wounding American tourist Susan (Cate Blanchett). Her subsquent ordeal means that back home in American, her nanny Amelia (Adriana Barraza) is left with responsibility for Susan's two children on the very day of her own son's wedding in Mexico. She decides to take the children with her driving across the border with her nephew Santiago (Gael Garcia Bernal). Meanwhile in Tokyo, deaf, mute girl Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi) is to discover that she is also connected to an escalating tragedy that the world's media rushes to report as an act of terrorism. Working on many different levels, Babel is a film about the sense of loneliness and isolation that can exist anywhere in the world from a distant desert village to the middle of a teeming modern city. It is about the difficulty we have in expressing who we are and what we want. It is about the fear of other cultures, the suspicion of the unknown, the power that the haves exert over the have-nots, the legacy of imperialist assumptions, the bonds between parents and children, the kindness of strangers and the selfishness of those who refuse to see beyond their own needs. It is only one film and its wide-ranging dissection of the human condition threatens to become overwhelming. Unusually for these two collaborators, their promiscuous curiosity also creates problems within the film's structure. We become completely involved in the moment only to have the focus shift elsewhere. When Susan's husband Richard (Brad Pitt) struggles to find her help we want to stay with them and discover what happens rather than returning to Mexico or Tokyo. When Amelia and Santiago are confronted by hostile border patrol guards we need to follow that path. We never do learn what happens to Santiago and the Tokyo story feels the most tenuous. Using a range of film stocks, cinematographer Roderigo Prieto has created a film of great visual beauty that underlines the separate cultures of each setting. The sleek city lights and oppressive crowds in Tokyo are contrasted with the vibrancy of Mexico where the young Mike (Nathan Gamble) watches in horror as Santiago rips a head from a live chicken in preparation for the wedding feast. The local children don't bat an eye. The varied score from Oscar-winning Brokeback Mountain composer Gustavo Santaolalla also helps differentiate the moods of each locale and proves a unifying force in the emotional impact of the film as all the global connections are made and the film becomes increasingly bittersweet and rueful. 21 Grams earned Oscar nominations for Naomi Watts and Benicio Del Toro and there are some equally noteworthy performances in Babel, especially from Cate Blanchett who brings raw emotion to a character already deeply wounded before the gunshot is even fired, and from Adriana Barraza as a woman whose road to hell is paved with good intentions. Faced with a more demanding role than the pretty boy nonchalance required for a Mr & Mrs Smith or an Ocean's Eleven caper, a grey-haired, bearded Brad Pitt doesn't disappoint in a convincing performance fuelled by a barely suppressed anger and frustration that are unleashed in a heated flare-up with a fellow tourist and a tender telephone scene with his distant son. It is those kind of emotional depths in Babel that should unite viewers to its cause.

Director/Producer: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Screenplay: Guillermo Arriaga

Producers: Jon Kilik Steve Golin

Music: Gustavo Santaolalla

Main cast:
Brad Pitt

Cate Blanchett

Gael Garcia Bernal

Koji Yakusho
Adriana Barraza
Rinko Kikuchi

Elle Fanning

further reviews:,,14936-2194146,00.html

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Subway (1985)

Few romantic caper films are quite as unusually stylized as Subway, a film that is very distinctly a Luc Besson project in its whole look and feel. While largely flawed by the fact that it's never sure which story to tell, Subway is still an engaging and creative film that wins a lot of points just for those traits alone. Romance can be a tricky thing; either too sappy for most or not enough for others. Subway bypasses those problems by making the romantic aspect here almost surrealistic in nature. We have no comparison to judge it by because few romantic films are quite as chaotic and skewed. Set primarily in the Paris Metro, Subway introduces us to Fred (Christopher ) and Helena (Isabelle Adjani), as strange a couple as there ever was. Fred,having recently just robbed Helena's home, is hiding out in the subways to avoid the police as well as the private security team that Helena's wealthy husband controls. Fred could earnestly care less about money, but he ransoms the valuable information he's obtained from Helena's safe just so he can keep seeing her. Unable to leave the subway, though, Fred finds himself in an unusual subterranean world inhabited by all sorts of unusual people. In the depths of the Metro, he finds a society of thieves, musicians, and other sorts, all hiding from something or another, but still finding themselves blissfully free of many of society's problems. Helena, anxious to rid herself of Fred, decides to pursue him into the depths of the subway and, along the way, discovers that maybe this unusual world is more to her taste than the high-class society she's used to. In the process, a whirlwind relationship of sorts begins between her and Fred, set amongst the chaos of living inside a subway station with a variety of mysterious personalities. Although much about Subway seems directly descended from the French "new wave" filmmaking style, it's anything but pretentious. Instead, Besson mixes his trademark, bold, widescreen visuals with a plot that in many ways makes very little sense and almost mocks itself. Subway could have been some kind of film-noir or taut thriller if it wanted to be, but instead, it's a comedy of errors, filled with human characters all the more charming because of their offbeat attitudes. Subway's central problem is that it often frustrates the viewer by abandoning certain subplots. While enjoyable on the whole, Besson really should have focused the story on either the romance between Fred and Helena, or the story of Fred's life amongst the Subway people. Covering both so equally leads to a feeling of uncertainty about just what is happening. The romance aspect, though cute, is also pretty vague and paced extremely fast. Given that it's supposed to be a bit weird, this fits, but still throws many people off the concept. Story flaws aside, the cast is primarily the reason for the success of the film; Christopher Lambert and Isabelle Adjani taking most of the film on their shoulders very well. Familiar Besson film faces are also present: Jean Reno as the unknown drummer in Fred's weird underground band (literally), Jean-Hughes Anglade as the thieving Roller, Jean Bouise (Le DernierCombat) is the station master, and even composer Eric Serra makes an appearance as the bass guitarist in Fred's band. I think any fan of other offbeat, intensely stylish Besson films like The Big Blue or Nikita will find themselves at home here. It isn't perfect, but the willingness of the cast and crew to do something so fresh and interesting makes it a unique vision, much like a good deal of the director's work.

Vipère au poing

Based on Hervé Bazin's memoir, Phillippe de Broca's final film is excessively melodramatic but entertainingly so. Jean Rezeau and his brother's idyllic life in the French countryside is disturbed when their grandmother's death brings their parents back from Indochina. Their mother, a heinous bitch right out of a Grimm tale, rules the household with an iron hand while their father is apparently too intimidated to intervene. Jean won't have it, though, and a war begins between his mom and him, driven by mutual hatred and misused Catholicism. The brothers are joined by a third who had been born in Indochina. Of the three, Jean becomes the most rebellious, and for good reason too. He drives his brothers also against her christening her "Folcoche" (mad cow). They go to extremeties as to even try and kill her by aggravating her mysterious illness. But she recovers again. After a particular incident where the mother cuts down his tree house, his last and only memoirs of his early childhood days and last resort of privacy, he decides that this woman here is not doing all this out of some kind of compulsion. He runs away from home and seeks out the mother's parents in the aristocracy of Paris. He finds that his granfather is a senator, his grandmother an even more horrible version than his own mother, chocked with all the wealth they squander. He learns more about his mother's background and everything about her childhood life. Folcoche had had such a lonely childhood, devoid of parents as they were too occupied for her. She had grown up with servants, maids and chauffeurs all around, with not even a bedroom of her own. The monster is not the mother, its the grandparents who are the monsters. He comes back home, only to find himself isolated and quarrantined from his brothers. He is finally sent to boarding school by his mother. She still maintains the same hateful attitude, but now he knows why and does not rebel. Catherine Frot makes a memorable villainess and little Jules Sitruk holds his own surprisingly well. The film opens and closes in the present day Jean Rezeau's home where his mother dies a peaceful death. "Mother, you suffered so much to make me suffer!", he sadly says as she dies. I saw this movie and I liked it instantly. I can see why some people won't but I know that I liked it. Nice movie with a creepy subject so don't let your kids watch it.

TSOTSI (Afrikaans)

Based on South African playwright Athol Fugard's only novel, TSOTSI is a thrilling, provocative look at life in the ghettos outside present-day Johannesburg. Presley Chweneyagae stars as the title character, a teenager with a killer stare who lives alone in a ramshackle room in a poor shantytown, where he pulls off petty crimes with the help of three compatriots--Boston (Mothusi Magano), Butcher (Zenzo Ngqobe), and Aap (Kenneth Nkosi). But after they stab a man to death on the subway and Tsotsi (which means "thug" or "gangster") beats up Boston for trying to find out about his past, Tsotsi runs off to a wealthy section of the city, shoots a woman, and steals her car. Only later does he discover that there is a baby in the back seat--and decides to keep it for himself. As Tsotsi finally does look back at his own childhood, he tries to take care of the infant, carrying it around in a paper bag and forcing a young mother, Miriam (Terry Pheto), to breastfeed it at gunpoint. At this point, writer-director Gavin Hood could have opted for trite sentimentality, but instead he delves deeper into Tsotsi's psyche, as the young man might have already gone too far to turn back now. TSOTSI is a pulsating, electrifying film propelled by Chweneyagae's powerful, mesmerizing performance. The pounding soundtrack features popular local Kwaito music by Zola, who also plays crimelord Fela in the film. Winner of the 2006 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, TSOTSI "will rank as one of the best films ever to come out of South Africa," as Fugard himself said.

Chweneyagae's powerful performance carries this simple yet searing tale of a shantytown teenager's redemption.

Sophie Scholl: The Last Days

A film that begs the audience to reflect upon their own courage and strength of character in light of this young heroine's daring story.

The true story of Germany's most famous anti-Nazi heroine is brought to thrilling life in the multi-award winning drama SOPHIE SCHOLL-THE FINAL DAYS. Germany's official Foreign Language Film selection for the 2005 Academy Awards, SOPHIE SCHOLL stars Julia Jentsch (THE EDUKATORS) in a luminous performance as the young coed-turned-fearless activist. Armed with long-buried historical records of her incarceration, director Marc Rothemund expertly re-creates the last six days of Sophie Scholl's life: a heart-stopping journey from arrest to interrogation, trial and sentence.

In 1943, as Hitler continues to wage war across Europe, a group of college students mount an underground resistance movement in Munich. Dedicated expressly to the downfall of the monolithic Third Reich war machine, they call themselves the White Rose. Its sole female member, Sophie Scholl is captured during a dangerous mission to distribute pamphlets on campus with her brother Hans. Unwavering in her convictions and loyalty to the White Rose, her cross-examination by the Gestapo quickly escalates into a searing test of wills as Scholl delivers a passionate call to freedom and personal responsibility that is both haunting and timeless.

SOPHIE SCHOLL received three Lolas (German Oscars) including the Audience Award and Best Actress Award to Jentsch for her brilliant characterization of the title role. The film also won two Silver Bears for Best Director and Best Actress at the 2005 Berlin International Film Festival.

Les Inséparables

Simon (Michel Boujenah) and Antoine (Charles Berling) have known themselves for twenty years. They did not know the same professional course, nor did they live the same emotions, but, at the dawn of forty, they undergo the same test: their respective wives, Jeanne (Isabelle Gélinas) and Aline (Marie Bunel) leave them! Simon therefore arrives at Antoine's. Thus begins Inséparables, comedy - in two parts - signed Corinne Atlas and realized by Elisabeth Rappeneau. Thus funny of common life starts, between these two buddies, two fathers of the generation of the “baby-boom” who will face together with large worries and the small daily concern…

Antoine is a self proclaimed computer geek, Simon - aThe opening scene shows Simon arriving at Antoine's with nothing but a fishbowl in his hand. Such is the state of depression that he mumbles incoherently with his goldfish! photographer by profession. Simon comes along and hearing Antoine's wife complain, leaves behind a letter saying sorry. Antoine, who already is in an affair with one of his senior employer who had promised to reveal their relationship to Jeanne, panicks when he sees his wife wit Simone's letter and blurts out everything. So leaves Jeanne. Add to that, Antoine gets wild and curses his employer in front of her and the directors. Thus goes the job too. Antoine becomes a shattered man overnight. His wife, his kid now his job too.. he still does not blame Simone for all this. They both try and run the house which provides the comical part of the movie. Add to this, both their kids get fed up of their respective mothers, and come here to live with their fathers. Naturally, both the daddies end up quarreling over trifles regarding who does what and so on for the household.
Things get a turn when Simon chances upon one Reina who was a very good friend of both these men in their prime ages. Now she's a successful artist. Both instantaneously fall in love with her, and jealousy creeps in. But things end abruptly when she realises what these both are up to and so she avoids them. Sick at heart and wise now, both these men realise the only way out is to put aside their ego and bring back their wives....

French drama at its best! Worth seeing dozens of times.


Stomy - a rising boxing champion - and Isabelle, a couple without history, is seen suspected of ill-treatment on their two children, a teenaged daughter and Sun, 5 years old and suffering a brain disease. Sun was born from their union contrary to the daughter, born from a first marriage. All goes well until the couple come to know that their son is being kept in hospital merely to siphon off their money. Stomy gets angry and brings home his son without the doctor's permission. The unwanted publicity of this act, courtesy the paparazzi, brings about the anger of the entire locality on the couple. The charge of ill-treatment rests on the ill will of neighbors and the very personal appreciation of a doctor. The press people interfere. They interview the daughter who makes some comments which are successfully manipulated by the press bringing about the inculpation of the couple. In front of the judge, she reconsiders her remarks and the couple is thus released. But the evil is done. The rumour is spread, “no smoke without fire”. The public opinion condemns the couple with no option but to leave their neighbourhood.

Parenthèse interdite

Sebastien, baby of Sophie and Christian Moreau, has got a severe immunization defect which forces him to live in a bubble. To be close with him, Christian travels several times a week by the Briançon-Marseilles route, to the hospital of Timone. As a teacher he takes leave for sometime. Sophie calls upon on the other hand all the possible pretexts not to see her sick child. She defers all her attention on her daughter, Louise - six years old, and on her work. Like six other babies, Sebastien must enter a medical protocol - since this is something new they are attempting to cure - which seems an ultimate hope for Christian. Feeling rejected by his wife, the young father spends all his time to the hospital, where he becomes acquainted with Virginia Seymour a divorcee, whose baby Noémie, suffers from a serious orphan disease. All the frustration and pain he feels surrounded by slowly ease with Virginia's prescence and help. Soon a romance blossoms, but subsequently, Noémie's condition worsens (Christian's own baby is reacting positively) and this time it's Christian's chance to help her, rejoicing for his baby and also sharing her sorrowful knowledge that her daughter is slowly dying...
Nathalie Blaster
Camille Japy
Julien Boisselier

Very moody and light on the script. Can do good for a one time viewing for
Boisselier's acting.

Les Grands Ducs (1996)

Three old French jamons attempt to make a comeback by working in a road-show production of Scoubidou in this hilarious French fare. Also on the tour are the bustling leading actress Carla Milo, whom the three hams manage to convince after a lot of begging, and a murderous producer, Shapiron, who knows the show is a stinker and tries to convince Carla to feign an illness so they can collect the show's insurance money. Unfortunately, Carla would never dream of letting down her "fans" and so refuses. The three hams, meanwhile do not get along at all. Victor suffers great swings, he is either terrified of the crowd or grossly overacting while evil-tempered Georges is only in it for the money. Then there's Eddie, who thinks of himself as a Casanova and adores the notion of a little behind-the-scenes romance. When the desperate Shapiron decides to use physical force to get Carla to quit, the three has-beens rally 'round to protect her. In fact, Shapiron takes a gun right into the theatre and starts a blind volley in the penultimate scene! This happening during a performance, actually turns into the delight of the audience, who actually think its all part of the script! Soon the show becomes a huge success and is slated to play on Broadway where the silliness intensifies because none of the actors can really speak English.

Jean-Pierre Marielle - Georges Cox
Philippe Noiret - Victor Vialat

Jean Rochefort - Eddie Carpentier

Catherine Jacob - Carla Milo
Jean-Marie Galey
Michel Blanc - Shapiron
Pierre-Arnaud Juin

This one here is possibly one of the best I've seen in french. Though ridiculous, you just can't help at the skill of
Jean-Pierre Marielle. Angry though he is all the time, his character gets so loveable as the movie culminates into the great big melee mentioned earlier.