-A window ajar is a prelude in building to the joy of being limitless! That uneasiness of being familiar somehow, sometime, somewhere.......

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Popcorn papers: Recent Reels

A few thoughts on -

1. Volver:
I think after the first few movies one grows out of Almodavar. To me this happened sometime during the year before last when we did a complete series of his works over a weekend. It was plain evident how limited he was, both in terms of craftsmanship and the personal need to tell a story.

Yet I watched Volver in transit time mainly because of the women-hype-women-act-
Brouhaha- a la Cannes. And simply put it is painfully linear.

But first we shall utilise this opportunity to highlight Mr Almodavar’s colour sense. Or the lack of it. The common technique he often employs is to complement his unrealistic fantastic stories [excluding the first few] with his weirdest and perhaps childhood traumatic colour sense. Anyone who has seen any of his movies would swear they saw many rainbows over the darkness of the theatre.
His world would make any Eastman proud, ooh la la pants, skirts, even suits, in your face distemper settings, multivariegated super-shimmering-technicolor cardboard art with flashy migraine inducing saffron and a nauseous pink not to leave behind- here i am green and hey how about me purple walls and ceilings. Even an Austin Power would be ashamed for the lack of his own colourful imagination. One gets a feeling of a silent spectator to a giant Spanish carnival in a distant alien galaxy. I had always wondered how he would ever handle a funeral scene and in Volver he expectedly remains discreet.
So naturally this sense of drama often spills over to his characters , who always turn out to have stereotypical (hence very predictable) emotional core and nothing else in all the possible dimensions of their personalities throughout the movie, naturally they become wafer shallow and the audience start looking for a fresh chewing gum. So then the only way to hold any interest would be to make the audience emotionally curious by surrounding the story with predictable sellers veiled as sensitive story telling, which is a plain disgrace to the art of cinema*.

Coming to Volver: It is linear , unremarkable and directionless. The story is pastiched with too many themes: old age , sibling jealousy, family as system with a burlee dose of ill handled childhood sexual abuse. The world is focussed into a few streets without any actual demand from the story as such thus narrowing the people into roles. The much spoken of Cannes female cast was average. Acting was okay, not outstanding and definitely not in the bracket of an standing ovation at Cannes. The positives are Penelope Cruz has done a decent job, but I guess any actress with her experience would have. I must mention she looked totally in the skin during the song scene-volver. Except that sequence, its plain predictable when not boring. And about celebrating the great spirit of womanhood , well would say another marketing spin than anything else. There was a zoom shot of Penelope Cruz washing dishes from top sneaked in between without any real need of its presence in the narration. Well spirit of womanhood alright.
If you really want to experience some real family cinema better off with one of Mike Leigh’s , Secrets and Lies would be a damn good start. And if you want to watch the true great big daddy movie of all childhood sexual abuse family just watch that superbly done dogme gift : Tom Vinterberg’s Festen. The fact that the DVD costs around 70 quid even after 12 years of its release speaks reels about it.

*In my thought-school of cinema Almodavar takes the exact inverse or mirror position to that of Orson Welles. The supposed feminist spirit is captured wonderfully in roughly five minutes between Kane and his second wife( Susan is it?) in the picnic scne of Citizen Kane.

Also Almodavar's colours reminds me of Shantaram's Navrang which was made in response to a criticism -- that his movies were colourless and insipid. And what a damn neat craft of a response it was.

2.Little Miss Sunshine:

Watched it because of friends and also Dustin Hoffman raving it as the best from the America last year. Was okay, Nothing special. Would have to say lacking in great creativity but I reckon the husband wife duo who made the movie wanted to tell a simple story than anything else. Surely I would not be tentative to recommend it, certainly worth a watch. Mainly because it portrays a simple believable family in an American town and NOT like what Hollywood would want to construe it to be to the market. Also, it is a pleasure to watch any American movie which is a non-war, non-world-saving-from-disaster, non-political-us-versus-them, non-Adam Sandler storyline.Such is the state of American Cinema. I hope Little Miss Sunshine encourages more stories we want to know about- regular lives in Virginia or Idaho or Denver. Any such thing would be welcome with mercy.


Is plain waste of time. Watched it for Binoche who is aging by the minute. Haneke expects to get away with a hollow storyline without any centre veiling it as some abstract question about moral dilemmas pertaining to past guilts. I would suggest him to buy a good copy (with french susbtitles) of Dogville.
When the movie was done , I was baffled if I had missed out anything, because I felt pretty stupid but a later interview with Haneke confirmed he was just messing about. He has no devotion to give a decent narrative product.
The story is of a suburban French family who start to get mysterious messages and videos and how this impacts on the dynamics of relationships in the family i.e. husband - wife , Parent-Child etc. You must find the subject line interesting at least. Sure. If there is only a core for the story and the plot. To save the suspense there isn’t. The husband, as a six year old boy had apparently contrived and lied to throw out an assumedly orphaned Algerian boy adopted by his parents. And now we are asked to speculate (not confirmed in the movie) that algerian man or his son wants to take revenge by sending some benign drawings and videos repeatedly. No claims or ransoms. And this vicariously results in cracks in the family! Huh! Jeez. Around this a few hots of career , family and socilaization are edited togther to call it a movie. To add more fun, Haneke makes their teenage son accuse his mother of adultery in one completely misinserted scene and leaves it at that. Choose from your own menu. Haneke style!

And throughout, to keep attention levels from dipping, shamelessly he engages the viewer in subtle shock tactics , capped by one blatantly irresponsible scene. One wonders if one is watching a guerrilla warfare documentary except that soon it becomes apparent that Haneke is fighting himself to make up his mind about the storyline.

Positives: Congruous pacing and mysterious last shot which would make a worthy post-movie dinner conversation if you watch it along a few guests. Otherwise, I would not mind leaving it out. Plain tomfoolery.
During the interview, Haneke rambled on unconvincingly between foolish laughs, how he had left so many loose ends making the viewer to ask many questions around childhood guilt to be faced in adulthood. And FIY, Monsieur Haneke conscience develops after ten. One can only feel sorry or bad for actions before that, but never guilty.

1 comment:

WillOTheWisp said...

And FIY, Monsieur Haneke conscience develops after ten. One can only feel sorry or bad for actions before that, but never guilty.

Interesting point you make here. A friend and I were discussing the same when we finished watching it and she said the same thing. However, to be speaking from first-hand experience - you can feel especially guilty for things you did before ten.

What does that indicate? An early conscience? Or a pathologically disturbed childhood?

Search Blog