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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dead Loops (2011)

I don’t consider myself to be a music critic. A film critic, yes very much but not a music critic. I choose to review Dead Loops because it has had a profound effect on me. The pent up energy instilled in me has to be let out and I will channelize it with this review.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Snakeism. I couldn’t care enough to pay attention to it and that was because listening to it without the lyrics was already very satisfying. When Dead Loops came out, I just had to check it out and I did, again without the lyrics. It wasn’t satisfying. Why? It never attempts to catch your attention; it believes it deserves your attention. I couldn’t form my verdict without giving it a fair shot and eventually I did listen to it with the lyrics. It was a depressing experience. With every song, I felt like I was being slowly lowered into a deep dark empty well. As soon as I hit the bottom, I was told to take the risk and ‘Rise Above’ by myself. Adam and the fish eyed poets kept raising similar questions that some part deep down inside me wanted to ask but didn’t seek the answers out of fear of having to deal with them. And then, it answered them too short and too quick. It was an unsatisfying answer. I was angry. I was unprepared. I felt let down. I was pushed out of my comfort zone. And those were just the artist’s intentions. I eventually got to it again with the hope that I will get the answers. The answer was to seek an answer by MYSELF, not wait for circumstances to give me one.

Two days later, I was awakened at five in the morning by ‘suicide girl’ playing in my head. It wasn’t just the song that lingered but the feeling it evoked. I could feel the character’s sense of loss. I listened to Snakeism again and this time with the lyrics. Snakeism is deep but you’re given the liberty to glide through the surface. Dead loops refuses to be taken for granted. You’ve got to work your way through it. Characters with contradictory thoughts and conflicting ideas fascinate Kishore Krishna. If the song isn’t his rant against a society that kills the individual spirit, it’s mostly the experiences of these characters silently at war with themselves. These characters, I believe, if connected the right way are part of a common world. Dead Loops’ intensity and Kishore’s self-expressive honesty are what make it a poignant work of art.

You can listen to it here-

Friday, May 20, 2011

Belle De Jour (1967)

23 year-old Severine (Catherine Deneuve) has been married to her soft, sensitive husband Pierre for a year but their sex-life is in limbo. Pierre is a doctor with compassionate looks while Severine, on the other hand has repressed her sexuality because she’s afraid of sex. Being a woman of self-defeating behaviour, she’s drowned by masochistic fantasies. Her own physical pain is mental pleasure. All her fantasies end up with her being abused and feeling worthless. The more she wants her husband to demand sex as if it were his right, the more he requests her for it, followed by an apology when declined.

When she learns that a friend of hers is a sex-worker (a profession she didn’t think still existed), she fails to understand why or how anyone would be able to have sex with a stranger (“You don’t get to pick”) and asks around but they all explain the business like it didn’t need an explanation, in brief. She still doesn’t understand it. It isn't long before these unanswered thoughts translate to action. Inquisitiveness builds and eventually overpowers her making her enroll at a whorehouse as a sex worker.

The sound design is the viewer’s map. If you want to understand the film, looking carefully isn't enough; you must listen carefully. Every sound in every scene has significance. If you perceive the film in a “what you see is what you get” way, the film will make no sense. You have to make sense out of it. In spite of that, the film has no background score. That’s because the film doesn't intend to stimulate the heart. It’s your mind that will be stimulated.

Nor does it intend to stimulate the prostate gland. Severine is elegant and attractive in an aristocratic way. You’re tempted all along to see her nude but this is no porno; the film’s focus is on the self-destructive thoughts swimming inside her head. That explains the absence of frontal nudity. The director, Luis Bunuel knows her beautiful body would serve no other purpose than being a distraction.

Catherine Deneuve delivers a perversely innate performance. Her act doesn’t communicate as much through her face muscles as it does through her eyes. It’s a subtle performance of restrained power.

Belle De Jour is art at its purest form. The biggest risk it takes is in not providing explanations. Doing that would just take away subjectivity from the film and art is subjective. The first watch raises the questions and it’s up to you to look for the answers with multiple viewings. This is precisely why it isn’t a film for everyone. You won’t be satisfied after the first watch but with repeated watches, you’ll be glad that the film raises more questions than it answers. With Belle De Jour, Luis Bunuel has taken surrealism to its pinnacle. This is no erotic thriller and I don’t recommend it to anyone who doesn’t enjoy intellectually stimulating films; because, Belle De Jour is a cerebral work out.

I’ve watched it thrice and all three interpretations of mine are considerably different. It isn’t one of those films with simply ambiguous binary endings- answer A or answer B? It’s not just open-ended, it’s open all the way. It’s a maze; you start somewhere and you always think you’ve made your way out but its path is one that you choose.

After you watch the film, you’re going to ask two questions-

1) What is real?

2) What is fantasy?

It’s whatever you want it to be.

Rating – 10/10, added to Great Movies.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

All Good Things (2010)

All Good Things is based on the true story of a real estate mogul accused of three murders but let off the hook. David Marks (Ryan Gosling) watched his mother jump off the roof and “crack her skull like a walnut.” He hid under a table for a week. When he came out, it was as if it never happened. In spite of therapy, the feeling associated with the memory doesn’t change and the issue remains unresolved. Adding fuel to the fire is his overbearing father (Frank Langella) who needles at his conscience for not being as involved as he’s expected to be in the family affairs and often reminds him of his scrounger status. Ultimately, David falls prey to the manipulation and joins his father’s real estate firm. I can’t go on in this direction because this is where the mystery starts.

What I will tell you is that this is a first-rate murder mystery. I understand why most critics panned the film though. They wanted a satisfactory explanation. But there isn’t one. The film’s director Andrew Jarecki has simply taken all the facts from the case and presented them in just that manner. The film is based on facts, facts that are inconclusive. No one really knows what happened which is why David wasn’t convicted. Based on what Jarecki’s heard on the characters involved, he tells the story and lets you decide whether David is guilty or innocent.

The obvious characterization is excusable because this isn’t a character drama it’s a thriller. Kirsten Dunst excels as Katie Marks, David’s love interest. Nevertheless, the film stays on David and his struggle with the voices screaming in his head. You don’t hear them but you see the conflict on the actor’s face in every frame. Gosling is ticking dynamite. It’s a performance of repressed intensity. Each and every time he makes an appearance, you hold your breath expecting him to explode. You never know when, but you know it will happen. However, it isn’t just the actor who brings forth the character. The cinematography and the score have nakedly exposed the character’s mind- his fears, his urges, his angst. Its synergy is what makes All Good Things a triumph of ambience.

Rating – 8/10

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Notebook (2005)

Ryan Gosling is probably the best actor of his generation- The Believer, Half Nelson, Lars and the real girl, Stay and Blue Valentine. Seriously, what a brilliant character actor! There was no way I wasn’t going to check out The Notebook.

The Notebook opens with a senile woman looking out of a window with a dazed expression in her eyes. The window of a nursing home that keeps the place alive by allowing old men to read out to old women. One old man reads out to an old woman a love story between a Noah and an Allie. If you want to know anything about the story, you’ll have to watch the film. Wait a minute. Did I just say that? No, don’t watch the film. It’s a dreamy, sugary chick flick that is so down and out that even the luminous performances of Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams don’t elevate it. Despite the characters being shallow caricatures, the actors manage to breathe life into them. I don’t know you and I don’t know what you do but whatever it is, Nick Cassavetes’ The Notebook is a big waste of your time.

Rating – 4/10

Monday, May 2, 2011

Madrasapattinam (2010)

A.L. Vijay has no imagination of his own. He’s taken ideas from Lagaan, Titanic, Apocalypto and Shanghai Knights. In trying to infuse cinematic realism, he’s spent a lot of money on the production design. Madrasapattinam looks like a world of its own; I’ll give it that. Art direction, cinematography, costume design, make up and editing have provided it that. It looks real, but it doesn’t feel real. The film lacks substance. The characters do little that you can possibly believe. You’re not rooting for Arya’s character because he’s a character you feel for. You root for him because every other character is a moron. His screen presence being felt is attributed to comic foils. The film tries to have everything in it- comedy, realism, heroism, patriotism, romance and irony. It takes on more than it can handle and every saccharine cliché is soporific. Madrasapattinam is nice to look at; that’s just about it.

Rating – 5/10

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