Sunday, November 19, 2006

The lyrical 'Piano"

One of the only 3 movies, directed by women to be nominated for the “Best Picture” Oscar, The Piano is a lyrical journey of a mute woman’s life in New Zealand where she is packed off and sent to along with her 9-year daughter and her beloved piano as an on-order bride. The woman, Ada (Holly Hunter) begins her story by saying that the voiceover that we hear is not hers but that of her mind for she was dumb for as long as she can remember. The movie starts by her being stranded on the beach with her daughter (Anna Paquin in a tremendous break through performance as the highly imaginative and unintentionally cunning Flora) till her husband Alistair(Sam Neill) can find the time to go and fetch her.

When he finally does, his entourage consists of George (Harvey Keitel with freakish Maori tattoos over his face and body) and other natives. Disregardful of his wife’s pleadings, he lets the piano be left behind on the beach because he doesn’t want to pay a little extra to the help for carrying it. But he can’t keep her from going back time and again until she strikes a deal with George, for the piano in return for lessons on the same.

But George isn’t interested in the lessons as much as in Ada and before long is making advances towards her. At first she resents it and acts repulsed by it, but slowly his passion overcomes her. When the affair is exposed, Ada’s existence is threatened and her choices questioned. All throughout, the piano becomes her voice and expresses her innermost desires as she is excited, enraptured and then deeply grieved by the way the affair goes. The end is both a little tragic and surprising but you should watch the movie for that.

More than anything, this is a movie about a woman’s heart torn between her duty and her passions. The ‘mute’ Ada is a metaphor for most of the women in the world whose voices are limited to the confines of their minds and hearts and who often find their wishes and opinions silenced by the bastions of male authority and societal norms. Cinematographed beautifully in the haunting wilderness of the gorgeous New Zealand, the images linger long after the movie is over. It might not be such a good idea to watch this movie with conservative crowds for it contains intensely passionate and all-clothes-barred scenes. However it is integral to the story telling and not just an excuse to parade some good bodies.

Jane Champion has superbly managed to portray the varicolored nature of a woman’s wants and elicit excellent performances from each of the characters. Hunter is in top form, communicating layers of emotions through her body and sign language, and of course the piano pieces which she has herself performed for the movie. Sam Neill is adequate as the disregardful and lousy but jealous and hopelessly possessive husband who needs to have control of Ada. Keitel, inspite of his ugly tattoos, attracts with his irrepressible charms and his passion for Ada is so scorching hot that it ignites the screen. But the most surprising package of the movie is the little Anna Paquin, who is the onscreen interpreter of her mother’s sign language, her constant companion and friend, and whose mischief leads to an unintended tragic consequence towards the end. She has played this part with an understanding, unusual for a child of her age. She is truly the discovery of this movie.

The Piano is for those who need to feel rather then see stories…it is poetic in the language of its silence and beautiful in its expression of that which is unspoken.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Craig Ferguson: Weekend Discovery

The Britney - KFed breakup is the talk of the day and there is so much mud slinging in the papers, the magazines and especially on the internet, that both the parties have come out looking like shit. Mostly, Brit has managed to walk away with the sympathies for having been manipulated by the opportunistic gold-digger KFed (who has been newly coronated as Fed Ex after his speedy delivery from the Brit camp) and the custody case is expected to raise a lot of helluva over the next few months, as the entertainment weekly chews and swallows and ruminates over this high-profile split following the Reese Witherspoon-Ryan Phillippe and the controversial Paul McCartney-Heather Mills split. Looks like the divorce season is in....and rocking....

Anyways, I wanted to get the inside scoop on what really happened in the Spederline affair so I looked up Yahoo for the details, while surfing this weekend. There I learnt that K - Fed had also added the distinction of being divorced (dumped actually) over a SMS, in his long line of dubious crowns such as worst debut album "Playing with fire", worst dad for having abandoned his two kids with model Shar Jackson and ofcourse that of a no-good husband living off his superstar wife's wealth. And the worst part is that the dumping has actually been caught on camera. It was during his shooting of a reality series on Much.Com TV that he was supposedly dumped and even though you cannot see the actual message, his reaction to one of the SMSes provides enough evidence that there was "the ONE" that must have taken the wind off his sails. He looked "down in the dumps" after that and had withdrawn to his trailer supposedly for about half an hour before making an appearance again.

Looking for the video that captured it, I came across a "Late Late night show with Craig Fergusson" clip that spoke about the split. Obviously this is such a huge opportunity (and promises to be as dirty as possible) for satire and sarcasm that it has to be the butt of the most outrageous jokes in the talk shows and stand - up comedies and Craig's show was no exception. He was pulling on major cracks at the expense of Brit and Fed, but what was infectious about that clip was Craig himself, dancing around like K-Fed, giving an impersonation of Britney and her "butter fingers in the baby department" and basically enjoying most of the jokes himself too, while he had a go at it.

This was the first time I was watching him, but I couldn't help liking him more than any talk show host I have seen before. I mean he was hilarious, classy, with a unique British-Irish accent that brought sophistication to the humor and his delightful persona was just charming. There is a spontaneity about him that is endearing and he looks like he is cracking jokes on his own, instead of having rehearsed them off some other writer's material, minus those typical, well - timed gestures and breakpoints. I went on to watch a few more clips of his, with the funny-as-hell "Dear CBS" and the rollicking "Virginity". Then there was his interview with the upcoming star Piper Perabo, small but delightful and very spontaneous. He was flirty but still very much dignified. I also noticed how he chose to pull up his chair right next to the couch on which she sat instead of having the desk between, bringing comfort and intimacy to the talk without offending the guest's private space.

I also found out that he had quite a large fan following who had created videos from his edited clips with popular songs in the background. A little birdie also told me that he was an Emmy winner for the show. Well, no wonder!! The one with the ninjas is a little ridiculous but then it is ok once in a while.

Here are the links to his videos on YouTube.com

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2E2hQp-094

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5ENLm0JsQw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZsDFolnaREQ (Virginity)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aom0mcCmuXE (Dear CBS)

Watch and enjoy!!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Children of Heaven : The delight of innocence


This is a delightful story of a little kid, Ali and his younger sister, Zhara whose lives are thrown into unexpected difficulties due to the loss of the latter’s shoes. Charming in its wholesome innocence and beautiful in its portrayal of human emotions, this movie engages right from the first scene where the cobbler mends the little girl’s shoes.

The movie brings back the warmth of the childhood, when such little things mattered so much and when we were blissfully unaware of the greater problems in life. It made me wanna forget who I had become and escape to those days in the past when everything was just what it looked like – simple, uncomplicated. The children in the movie are so refreshingly natural and shorn of pretenses that it feels like you are actually watching their real life. It is wonderful to actually see children acting out their own age rather than being some kind of stand-up comedians, acting like they are grown-ups with a heightened sense of humor and urgency to display the entire plethora of emotions, while desperately trying to look ‘oh-so-cute’.

Other than the childhood vagaries, we also get a glimpse of the Iranian lifestyle, their customs, traditions and beliefs, presented in a non-judgmental fashion. Apart from the two little protagonists, the other characters have also been acted out minus any loud ‘character’ acting, powerful one-liners and so-called sizzling chemistry. I feel short of words to describe how refreshing that is - to see a movie that so closely resembles life, ordinary yet special, uneventful yet important.
Look out for these two scenes that are nicely done:

Ali and his sister Zahara, playing with bubbles while washing the shoes.
The last scene in which the red fish collect around Ali’s feet in the pond.

Give yourself a break from the extravagant Hollywood and Bollywood brouhaha and watch this low-budget, emotionally satisfying charmer…

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Dreaming Insomniac

Lying awake all night
I dream of things impossible and far away
that beckon me to come their way
and fight and struggle come what may

Sometimes a little wink that steals me for a while
Leaves me with images of broken dreams
of life filled with terror and screams
with strife ridden plains and famished realms

Once in a few moments of suspended conscious
A faint glimmer of hope shines
through the pitiful cries of the present and its untolerable whines
a reassuring voice speaks to me, almost divine

Putting me to some rest for the infinity of a moment
at peace with myself, frozen in a spell
wishing that it all goes well
as I lie, waiting, longing in my eyes...balancing between heaven and hell

A Clockwork Orange

Stanley Kubrick’s bold and theatrically dramatized version of the future perfect delinquent and maniacal “adventures of a young man whose main interests being rape, ultra-violence and Beethoven” is a revelation of the sort of bravura film-making that excites, disgusts, scares and awes at the same time. After watching this movie, I knew why Kubrick is so revered amongst directors of all ages and races and why he is amongst the greatest directors ever born. The unflinching quality of his vision and his absolute determination to keep its artistic integrity alive without any compromises or concessions to his perspective is what makes him one of the towering artistes of all times.

The story is about Alex (Malcolm McDowell in the role that got him the 100th spot on the Top100 performances of all times) who is a delinquent crime-scene regular, with absolute disregard for law and society. With his band of ‘brothers’, he commits rapes and robberies with the delight and indulgence of a little prankster doing his routine mischief. One day, the mischief goes too far and Alex is imprisoned for murder. In the prison, he is given a chance to go free if he undergoes a revolutionary new treatment for complete reformation of the criminals. After the treatment, Alex’s behavioral preferences are altered but then the questions about the morality of the treatment, its torturous after- effects and choice by coercion arise. A singular incident in the end changes things again and we are left with a bizarre dream sequence of the protagonist, considering what the probable outcome of the whole exercise could be.

Saying that the movie SHOCKS is an understatement. There are rape scenes and fights, choreographed with background scores, robberies committed while ‘Singing in the rain’ and fast forwarded orgies. Most of the women in the movie are either completely undressed or pictured topless with the director never holding back on showing us the perverse and sadistic imagination of the protagonist at any point of time in the movie. Not to mention the scores of innuendos and allusions those that are carefully hidden beneath the obvious, this is one movie that deals with underage crimes, lawlessness, politics, morality, justice and surprisingly even science-fiction with thought provoking insight.

Apart from bold subject, daring direction and tremendous controversy, the movie also holds the distinction of being one of the two X-rated movies to be nominated for the “Best Picture” Oscar. There are a lot of interesting anecdotes pre and post the release of the movie, with the X-rated version being banned in UK till as recent as 2000 and the Catholic church tagging it as “C” (Condemned) when it was released.

But what really needs to be told that this kind of cinema is liberating in many ways. It depicts the truth and the possibilities of reality in the ‘in-your-face’ kind of fashion which is very rare, not to mention quite alarming and at times sickening to audiences like me who are used to having torture and crime been shown in a ‘held-back-to-avoid-hurting’ the audience’s sensibilities way. I have to admit I was completely taken aback by the rather sensational picturization of most of the scenes but along the way realized that it was important for the message to get across as memorable and hauntingly as it did. The futuristic sets, the outrageous d├ęcor, the flashy costumes and the bizarre poetic dialogues add to the ‘retainability’ quotient of the movie quite impressively. The cast does a great job too but the one thing that leaves an indelible imprint on your mind is the sheer courage of the director for creating such a visual stunner with steadfast conviction, unmindful of the business aspect and social acceptance, but extremely fastidious about the artistic integrity of the work.
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