Saturday, February 21, 2009

Films Seen Recently

Body of Lies (Ridley Scott, 2008): A technically proficient film (but somewhat overly so, observe the sudden shifts to sepia, and the extravagance of helicopter mounted cameras) but carrying a less-than-average narrative, with no insights. Makes a fetish of its violence and the surveillance machinery (not unlike The Bourne Ultimatum (Paul Greengrass, 2007)), which is its undoing for mature audiences. And needless to say, the story and contrivances are implausible to a fault.

Changing Lanes (Roger Michell, 2002): Now this is a film which got 4 stars from Roger Ebert. A good exercise is to see why (which is easy), and then argue against it (which is easier). Why are films about multiculturalism so inane in general? Rife with unbelievable coincidences and contrived stroylines, films like Crash, Babel and this film can make one more understanding of human diversity only at the expense of one's common sense. If you want to watch some good films on how people from different cultures come together (or drift apart), may I recommend Lone Star (John Sayles, 1996), and Code Unknown (Michael Haneke, 2000).

Dev.D (Anurag Kashyap, 2009): This is my second AK film (the first, No Smoking, I have to watch again to say something definitive). With a superlative score, this film is one of the very few to try ultra-realism in the sentimental genre. Sentiments work with simple archetypes, and this film seeks to destroy them by depicting its characters with a bravura dose of complexity. The editing is a little too impatient for my tastes at times (e.g. the needlessly sharply intercut scenes of Delhi streets), but the film more than makes up for it in the (at times masterfully) surreal breakdown of the protagonist. The scene that got a Wow! from me was the breaking of the second vodka glass on the wall, and the immediately following descent into hell. Breathtaking. The ending is a cop-out. Has whetted my appetite for the original Devdas. I am not sure if Abhay Deo's dialogue delivery is intentionally monotonic (in keeping with his impotent persona) or if it is just bad. To read a good review, go here. It is a joy to see experimental Indian cinema coming to the multiplexes.

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