Thursday, November 27, 2014

Hunger Games 2012

This film draws you in and keeps you hooked for a good 2 1/2 hours. What accounts for the success of the film and what does that speak of us and those who made it? It is a well told story with an unusual plot. The viewers of the online life and death drama are brutish and dull, They watch it with perverse and exaggerated relish. The dialog has a bizarre humor, like Tarantino. I can imagine squeals of laughter and delight in the cinema theater, as one character after another appear, like a circus or a zoo. The violence is not really graphic,so the watchers can stay in a relaxed comfort zone as they consume their pop corn. The power of the film derives from its central character, Catniss, the hunted huntress, seamlessly combining male and female qualities.

From Shakespeare onward, story tellers have understood that people love to watch blood shed. The Greeks had gladiators. We have wars, gangsters, genocides, bull fights. The game gets ever deadlier.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Macbeth 1971

This is a magnificent rending of the play, which enhances its macabre grandeur by putting into play the full powers of a great director. The story has been translated into the idiom of cinema, with the beautiful setting of the Scottish highlands replacing the more customary claustrophobic interiors. Polanski is the right man to tell this gory tale, having been a victim of the holocaust. His gut wrenching Pianist which depicts his native Poland in the Nazi era is difficult to confront a second time. In Macbeth he spares no punches. This is indeed an unforgettable trans-creation, true to the essence.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Interstellar 2014

This is escapist fare, aimed at the box-office, a fairy tale based on science. The science behind it (black holes, worm holes , relativity) is professionally certified for correctness. It could be gleaned from Stephen Hawkings popular but difficult book. The story therefore has a fig leaf of plausibility, implausible as it is: a daughter ages past her parent, and inter galatial worm-hole travel. The movie itself, its scientific kite string notwithstanding, is a far fetched yarn designed to accompany a tub of pop corn, and keep the mind in tether for nearly three hours. Its a film without soul, purpose, or artistic merit; it could well be contrasted with Kubrick and Tarkovsky's ventures into the genre. The best part is the beginning on Earth itself, as environmental disaster closes in and a food crisis hits the race, necessitating immigration into space. From then onward it is more on the lines of Marvel Comics. The house was unusually full, and there was a round of applause from the audience! So obviously it is going down well with a section of people. It does have an educational aspect in terms of environmental concern and cutting edge scientific theory. I can imagine many an animated discussion taking place about it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hamlet (Kozintsev) 1964

This is the Soviet version of Hamlet and surprisingly, the best of all. It is in pristine b/w and instead of the usual claustrophobic settings, we have a magnificent medieval stone castle ringed by lapping sea waves, and the repeated image of a bird disappearing into the horizon, like destiny and time, like the brevity of life. The director has broken the shackles of stage and given us pure cinema, without losing the sublimity. The speech is restrained, far from loud rhetoric. Much of the dialog, including the greatest soliloquy happens in the characters mind. It gives the best of Ophelia's, done with conviction dignity and poise, truly haunting as a wraith like apparition . To present insanity is difficult, since it often turns comical. The gravedigger scene, a watershed in the story, mixes profound truth with levity. There is too much here to praise, the musical score not the least. The film has the Slavic stamp with its brooding beauty. Many other versions of Hamlet seem juvenile in comparison. I'm sure this would have delighted the bard himself. Kozintsev has come close to the heart of Hamlet. I look forward to his Lear.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Jobs 2013

This is a fairly good biopic about Steve jobs. With the right inborn mix of talent, imagination and drive, he was able to leave his imprint in the world. We also see the workings of thebusiness world in the top storeys. A mixture of stereotypes and the inspiratioal, this is a watchable film, if for no other reason than its contemporariness.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Maqbool 2003

This older film of Vishal Bhardwaj has patches of brilliance and gives clear evidence of his power as an artist and film-maker. Though cloaked in a vestigial plot of Macbeth, this is actually a movie about  Mumbai and its people. Its strength lies in its capture of the spirit of this great city. It borrows freely from other films, like Godfather and even the ink swallowing scene of The Last Emperor. The central figure turns out to be not the assassin Maqbool, but the assassinated Godfather, Abbaji, a charismatic tour de force by Pankaj Kapoor. This is what I could never forget since I saw it first a decade ago. Tabu also gives a solid portrayal as the seductive counterpart of Lady Macbeth. The film is brilliant in the first half, but falters from the assassination onward, which is past the middle. A qualified success, but unmissable for the parts that are good, which are really good. Mumbai is the true heroine, and Pankaj, as the Don, claims her for his mehbooba.

Monday, November 3, 2014


This is my third view. This happens to come close on the heels of Haider, the Indian Hamlet, which is a beautiful and powerful version, Bollywood in style. Haider barely qualifies as Hamlet, though it starkly projects many plot elements. The RSC was disappointing. Though it is a pleasure to re-encounter the exquisite use of language as well as the intellectual depth, the acting of most lead characters was distressingly inadequate. The en action of insanity of both Hamlet and Ophelia becomes almost clownish, if not puerile. Though Hamlet elocutes well, his facial expressions are almost juvenile. Claudius and Gertrude are redeeming features. This is very different from my earlier takes of the RSC film, but that is how it felt this time. Haider, for all its faults, is the work of a great director, and was a breeze of fresh air, all the more for the beauty and familiarity of its setting.