Monday, August 07, 2006

The outlaw and the outlandish

First thoughts on two movies seen over the past weekend


An Oscar award winning South African venture, Tsotsi is the story of a young outlaw whose has to make life altering choices after being entrusted the responsibility of a child by a chance encounter. Along the way, he faces a lot of dilemmas and has to give up some relationships and initiate new ones, that influence the person that he eventually becomes.

Even though the sensibilities of the characters were deftly handled, I still felt the movie becoming too mushy at times. Also there was a sense of déjà vu as the lead character undergoes moral transformation, for I have seen similar storylines in Hindi movies. However Tsotsi manages to score in the acting and the cinematography departments, with all the performers giving life-like believable performances and the camera admirably portraying the glaring contrasts and striking differences between the downtrodden, dilapidated colonies of the poor and the snobbish, stylish complexes boasting of upper class extravaganzas. It is also notable how the sky is always shown to be some shade of red, depending on the mood of the scene without ever seeming artificial or contrived. The soundtrack is rap & hip-hop medley, the beats managing to get your feet tapping though I felt irritated when a track was played every time Tsotsi took a walk, like some kind of forced style statement.

All in all, a well made movie with talented artistes and smart camerawork but not something that will stay with me for long.


Capote, in one word is slow. Ok I will make it two. Excruciatingly slow. By the time the movie gets over, the characters have lost your sympathy, the script has lost its tautness and you have lost the ability to even say that it was ‘boring’ because you are too bored to even utter a word.

What, however cannot be ignored is the path breaking performance given by Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the flamboyant, gay, life-of-the-party American author Truman Capote, who invented the genre of non-fiction novel with his best-selling “In Cold Blood”. Based on the true story of the murder of an entire family at the hands of two seemingly sane men, this book went onto be a critical and popular success. But the process of researching and writing this book took a toll on the psychological health of its author, who could never complete another book in his lifetime, having fallen for the charm of alcohol and drugs under the spell of depression. Many contend that it was because Capote had betrayed the trust of the accused men, who bared their souls to him, and exposed their realities to the rest of the world through his book, garnering enough fame and money for a lifetime at the cost of their death sentences.

The camerawork is pretty neat. The sets and costumes are appropriate without being too elaborate. Katherine Keener, in the role of Harper Lee, Truman’s close friend is the other cast member that impresses with her subtle, restrained performance. Rest of the actors fit into their roles but other than Clifton Collins Jr., playing one of the accused Perry Smith, no one else gets enough screen time to make a mark.

Sensitive in its portrayal of each of the characters, including the criminals, this should have been a great movie if not for its lousy pace and a drama that doesn't really give the expected high. Eventually, it ends up becoming a showcase for Hoffman's unbelievable prowess to get into the character physically and mentally, but even with his Oscar winning performance, he is unable to salvage the movie from being the perpetual drag that it is.

For a brief on Truman Capote, visit

No comments: