Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Decalogue contd..

Just finished The Decalogue: Five. Based on the moral ambiguity of capital punishment, its an engrossing story that is nevertheless extremely difficult to watch because of the subject.

Spoiler Alert: the next paragraph might contain some facts about the movie which you might not want to know if you are planning to see it. Though there is no real mystery about the story, I think the movie's impact is better if you don't know anything about it.

A man almost completely devoid of morals murders another man for no reason at all and is defended in the court by a lawyer who has always been against death penalty. Most of the first two-thirds of the movie lacks much dialogue. You just see these three people (the murderer, the victim and the lawyer) going through with their lives on one day and yet the atmosphere created and the performances keep the viewer engrossed in the proceedings.

This movie made me think that one of the major reasons why these movies make such an impact is the consistently splendid performances by the actors. Its amazing to see such acting in movies that were essentialy meant to be episodes of a TV series.


Most people don't carry a lot of books with them on international flights as books are very heavy and limit the amount of other things you might want to carry for the usually long trips to your home country. However, I don't have much to carry so I have done a bit of overkill as far as packing books are concerned. For a 3-week trip in which I'll probably not get enough time to finish even 2 books, I am carrying 10! They are...

The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan

How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Lord of the Flies by William G. Golding

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Animal Farm by George Orwell

and What Does a Martian Look Like? The Science of Extraterrestrial Life by Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart

Am I crazy or what?

The Decalogue

If you have seen Krzysztof Kieslowski's last three movies (The three colours trilogy: Blue, White and Red) then you don't need anything else to realize how ridiculous it sounds to compare Sanjay Bhansali with him (at least at this stage of his career... its like saying Sehwag is next Tendulkar after his first international series!) In fact, that Sehwag-Tendulkar analogy is probably wrong as it seems to suggest that the major difference is between sustained quality over a large number of performances rather than the quality of the chosen performances themselves. Black - even though it is pretty good- is not half as good as any of those three.

However, it wasn't this trilogy that made his work famous internationally. It was The Dekalog that was first noticed the world over. Based loosely on the Ten Commandments, it was a series of ten movies - each about an hour long - that were first shown on Polish television as a ten episode series. Each episode interprets one of the commandments (in fact probably more than one in many cases.. its a matter of viewers' interpretation I guess) by weaving a story of common people facing a moral dilemma in their lives. All the stories are about people living in a huge apartment building somewhere in Poland with a different set of people being the focus in each story. I have seen the first four movies (and hope to see one or two more before leaving for India), and each one of them is great. Consider these themes...

A college professor who brings up his super-intelligent son in a highly faith-in-science and skepticism-in-religion oriented manner having to face a tragic unpredictable turn of fate.

A woman whose husband is fighting for his life in a hospital wanting his doctor to tell her if he's going to live or not because she is pregnant with someone else's child and cannot have the baby if her husband lives. But its her only chance of being a mother and she also loves the real father of the child, so she will definitely have the baby if her husband can't recover. And she has to decide within a few days.

A family man leaves his family on Christmas night to be with a former lover who seems to need his help to find her husband who seems to have vanished.

A girl finds that her mother, who died when she was born 20 years ago, left a letter for her which tells her that her real father is not who she has spent her last 20 years with. The uncertainty leads to a complication of the bond between the two leading to a night of emotional turmoil.

These one hour long movies have more content in them than most movies of more than twice as much length. They draw you in very quickly and over the ten movies involve so many different emotions that its difficult to compare them with any single movie you might've seen. I don't know if everyone would like movies like this as they might be a bit slow for some people used to hollywood's fast-food inspired movies. But they are definitely worth checking out for anyone who loves movies. And if you are like me, you'll love them (at least the first four!!).

If you still need a reason to go and rent it, Stanley Kubrick's recommendation should provide it. Kubrick is known to have said that The Dekalog is probably the only masterpiece he has seen in his life and he would've liked to make it himself. It can't be too bad, can it?

Update: finished Decalogue Five and posted about it here.

kachhuaa chhaap...

Tortoise brand, that is.... My blog has been making slow and steady progress in recent months. From about 10 pageloads a day, it has now reached an average of 25+ with some peak days of about 50! (and one inexplicable 99... No, I didn't post any porn that day!!). Also, there was a time when my "returning visitors" rarely crossed 5, now it regularly reaches 11 or 12 in a day! So, not only are more people slingshot onto my blog by google/yahoo/blogger, more and more of them are proving to be crazy enough to come back later to check if there has been ANY improvement at all in the standard of postings here. (There has been none, in case you were wondering... and no quality-improvement is intended in near future either).

Another sign of the increasing influence my blog is having on the world at large, is that some of my postings are being linked to by people who don't know me (and hence haven't been forced by me to visit this blog!). Amit Verma (of India Uncut and cricinfo fame) one of whose posts I had linked to here, actually mentioned two of my posts on his blog. First, he found out about the Sudhir Mishra Rediff Interview from this post of mine and mentioned it here and now my review of In the Mood for Love appears on his Blog Mela that happened last week! (ok... the latter was a result of me nominating that post myself for the Mela, but lets not go into the details!)

aaj mere zameen par naheen hain kadam!

actually, abhi tak to hain but sometime today they won't be. I'm flying to India today! (cue for screaming at the top of my online voice... YAAAAY!!!!!!!).

Probably the worst implication of that is that I won't be able to blog for next few weeks. Not that India doesn't have net, but I don't quite see myself going to a 10-bucks-an-hour cafe to write a blog when my sister is getting ready to get married! I'll try to compensate for this anticipated blog drought by posting more than my usual number of posts today (I have surprised myself by completing my packing about 12 hours before I have to leave for the airport!! so blogging, movie watching and sleeping will help me get through these 12 hours...)

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Taran Adarsh reports about a new project. Even though he adheres to his irritating style of writing the report insinuating towards various people involved by little hints without writing their names, if the news is true its worth a mention here.

As far as I can tell he is talking about Sanjay Bhansali, Amitabh, Abhishek, Kate Winslet and Tabu (not sure about her...). However, he only talks about these actors being approached/being considered/might be signed. I don't think that means much, at least as far as Kate Winslet is concerned, considering that they might not be able to afford her even if she has some dates to spare (which I seriously doubt, because she has at least 4 movies in the pipeline as of now).

Monday, May 16, 2005

In the Mood for Love

My respect for Chinese movie industry has grown enormously over last year or so. As I said here, most of the more popular chinese movies here in US (and in India) are either period epics or martial art movies. That is unfortunate because every time I have seen a movie that doesn't belong to those genres, I have been highly impressed. That particular posting was made after I had seen Wong Kar Wai's Chunking Express and today I am posting after watching another of WKW's movies - In the Mood for Love.

Probably the first thing that comes to your mind soon after the movie begins is that WKW surely has a style that you won't find anywhere else easily. Like Chunking Express, here too there are scenes where a song keeps playing in the background with the visuals moving in slow motion and absolutely no dialogue for longish periods. Like Chunking Express, here too the visuals are so stylish that the way the camera moves actually becomes an integral part of the story - take the camera movement out and the movie almost won't make any sense! Unlike the previous movie however, the visuals are so full of vibrant colors that the ubiquitous reds and browns and the sprinkling of greens and yellows make the movie worth watching even if you keep the TV on mute! Also, unlike Chunking, this one is actually much slower with many scenes occuring so many times that unless you are paying attention to the real story, you'd think that the movie has a lot of unnecessary repetition. It doesn't.

As the name suggests, the movie is about love. However, its a story much deeper than your average hollywood rom-coms. (In fact, I can't even imagine any movie even remotely like this one coming out of hollywood. Lost in Translation comes close. It was definitely inspired by WKW's style of movie-making. Yet it wasn't half as good as In the Mood for Love.) And the screenplay is extremely clever! The last love-based movie one could say that about, was Eternal Sunshine. Even though the cleverness here is not as gimicky - and ingenious - as ES, it is very effective in its own way. Its this clever bit that restricts me from mentioning most of the truely good things about this movie. You should find that out for yourself.

The movie is about two young couples that rent apartments next door to each other in a HongKong suburb. The female protagonist is called Li-Zhen, secretary in an export company whose husband has a job in a japanese company that keeps him away a lot of times due to business trips. The male protagonist is Chow, a newspaper editor with ambitions to become a martial-art comic book author. His wife is a hotel receptionist whose night shifts keep her out of his sight a lot of times. The faces of the spouses of the protagonists are never shown on-screen. In fact, they are always shown such that one could easily mistake Chow for Li-Zhen's husband and Li-Zhen for Chow's wife. This is part of the reason why many scenes where things seems to happen very slowly (literally in fact!! I'd guess 50% of the movie is actually shown in slow motion!!) still keep us captivated because we are thinking all the time - we don't know whose hand Li-Zhen is caressing, or whose shoulder she is crying on, or who is walking away from Chow. Anyway, Li-Zhen and Chow realize after some time that their spouses are cheating on them. Not just that, their spouses are actually involved with each other!!! They are hurt due to this breach of trust and become each other's support. Slowly the feelings start getting stronger which is a shock to both of them as they are innately decent people who won't want to cheat on their spouses (thereby diluting the "sin" of their spouses). The rest of the movie is about how they end up realizing the spontaneous welling of feelings in themselves and how they deal with it.

I know, this doesn't sound a terribly original idea for a story. But its not the basic story thats important here. The WKW style itself makes the movie completely different than most other movies with a similar story. But much more importantly, its the way the screenplay is set, that makes a familiar story come out on screen as a completely original movie. See it and you'll know what I mean.

Its a sensitive movie where even the costumes and the sets play a huge role in telling you about the time and the mood of the setting and the characters. That is true for most great movies in fact, so I don't think thats anything new. But, when the constumes that are appropriate for your story are as gorgeous as what Maggie Cheung wears here, one can't fail to mention it!

WKW is famous for not adhering to any script for his movies. In fact, he never has a script to adhere to. His cast and crew just assembles and waits for him to tell them what to do. And he tells them what he thinks should be done on any given day. There are times when everyone is ready and waiting for WKW to decide where he wants to take the story next. Maggie Cheung in fact said that it was very frustrating for her initially because she really didn't know her character at all. And any questions to WKW were useless as he rarely came out with anything! The amazing thing is that, this queer way of making movies is probably the reason why his movies have a sense of "free-flow", a spontaneity rarely equalled by most other movies.

To finish, here is a pic from the movie. Photo Courtesy:

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Template update...

Just updated my template. Now it shows links to some of my reviews/brief comments about movies so the most lukkha among you can click on them and save some time to do other kinds of lukkhagiri! :)
I noticed that there is some problem with the permalinks of Kill Bill-1 review and Meenaxi music review. The links don't take you to the respective posts and just dumps you on the page containing the review. So, in case you are dying to read one of these posts, just scroll down on those pages and you should be able to find them.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Maharaja Zindabad!!

Everything finalised. At the cost of 400 dollars (which threatened to be as high as 800), I have been able to reschedule my plans. I'll be reaching Mumbai at 11:30 pm on May 23 and leave for Delhi at 3:40 the same night. I don't know if that is enough for someone in Mumbai to catch hold of me. For those who crave for some more time in my exalted company, I'll be back for 2 days on my way back. I'll reach Mumbai at 8:05 am (early morning for anyone wishing to pick me up at the airport!!) on Jun 12, and leave India at 7:20 am on June 14 (even earlier morning for the lucky souls who get to accompany me to the airport that day!)

Trying to do my bit for the Maharaja! (And already started praying for my luggage's safety!!)

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Good News, Bad News...

Good News: My sister is going to get married on June 3. My father had taken an oath that he'll definitely get her married before his current vacations are over, and it seems he has succeeded.

Good News corollary: I'll be in india VERY soon. Definitely some time this month. I still have to decide the exact date, but it should be around the 3rd week of may.

Bad News: A LOT of work to do before the conference in June, and this thing means that I now have about 3 weeks less to do that work in.

Bad News 2: This quick trip for the wedding means that all my dreams of meeting a lot of friends etc will just remain dreams. Haven't been to India since leaving for US almost 3 years ago, and now it will just have to be this quick little trip. Needless to say, the July trip is cancelled.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Winter Madness Begins....

May-July and November-December are the two periods when Hollywood unleashes its absolutely best (and in some cases, ridiculously overhyped), high-budget, heavily-promoted would-be blockbusters. What also works very well for the studios is that they can start the promotion of their winter monsters by releasing the teasers and trailers with their summer blockbusters and vice versa.

so.. summer is upon us (with Kingdom of Heaven being the official summer opener), and so are our first looks of the most highly anticipated movies of the winter. If we limit ourselves to the blockbuster targeting movies (and not the best picture-best director-best actor award targeting movies that also come around october-december), then definitely the three most anticipated movies are King Kong, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and The Chronicles of Narnia : The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. (in order of decreasing anticipation for me). We are still to know when we'll get to see the teaser of King Kong (even though after watching all the production diaries at the video blog it seems as if I've already seen quite a few trailers) but the other two have rolled out their online trailers today!

This teaser of Goblet of Fire gave me mixed feelings about the movie. Ron has started to look more and more stupid with each movie. All the boys have hairs that are threatening to completely distort the images of these characters in my mind's eye. They couldn't find a Fleur who would look the part as a half-veela. And the dragon in the trailer looks SO bad!! But more than anything else, I am worried about the story itself. I have always thought that Books 2 and 3 are the best of the series so far. And Book 5 had at least some progress as far as the big picture (of the war with Voldemort) is concerned. Goblet of Fire, however, is probably the weakest book. Most of the book is concerned with the Quidditch World Cup and the Triwizard Tournament - two events that have absolutely nothing to do with the main story. The main story progresses a little, thanks to 2 or 3 really relevant chapters but chances are that in an effort to condense a monster book into a 2 and half hour movie, they will concentrate more on the irrelevant but an-action-adventure-movie worthy chapters. Emma said on the ABC today that this movie is just one adventure after another.. BAM-BAM stuff all the way through.. I am afraid that might not be a good thing after all... lets wait and see how it comes out.

The first online trailer for Chronicles of Narnia is not really as great as I had expected because of all the hype. Newline is promoting this movie as their follow-up to LOTR trilogy. But if the trailer is anything to go by, it is laughable to think of it in the same league. LOTR had great special effects, but that was only a small part of why those movies worked. I think those movies had a soul. You cared for the characters (probably the reason why the first movie was so very important. Once you felt connected, the other two were bound to be successful), you cared for the story. And everything from the screenplay to the casting and performances to the music had something to do with it. Narnia, however, seems to be just a special effects festival. I hope I am wrong. But I am not dying to see it. And that's a failure as far as the trailer is concerned.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Look Who's Back!

I am... but more importantly Harry Potter is.. The book is coming in 70 days and the movie in about 6 months. And Warner has decided to swamp us with initial publicity for the movie. The first teaser trailer will show up on Apple this weekend, and some enthusiastic fans have already got hold of a teaser to this upcoming teaser! And there is this sneak peak from a TV channel showing, among other things, Harry dancing with a properly desi-style dressed Parvati Patil. Then there are some really cool high-resolution pics that have been released. This one shows that the special effects team has worked hard, and things shouldn't be as tacky as they were in the first two movies. Then this and this show that Emma is still the best thing about these movies. VKB says she belongs to BHMB category (explaination will be available though email to anyone interested*) and I agree wholeheartedly. She is so pretty that the half-veela Fleur, who should be an order of magnitude more attractive according to the book, is about ten orders of magnitude less attractive.... Pity she is still only 15... Oh well, I guess I can wait another three years before making her pic my permanent desktop wallpaper.

For the female HP fans among you, here are the pics of Krum and Cedric. pretty good casting, I'd say.

* - conditions apply