Archive for the Hollywood Category

Malena

Posted in DVDs, Hollywood, Other Languages with tags , , , on May 20, 2014 by Roshan Mathew

I like re watching good movie or revisiting a favorite book or a piece of art, mostly because I consider them a yardstick of how much I have changed as a person or how my understanding and perception of something has shifted as I grow older and hopefully wiser. I found myself just as moved by it as a coming of age movie and slightly peeved and ashamed some 13 years later.

It is written and directed by Guiseppe Tornatore and has the gorgeous Monica Belucci as Malena. It is narrated by Renato(Guiseppe Sulfrano), a 12 yr old boy who lives in a small village in Sicily. Three life changing things happen to him in one day. He gets a bike, Italy goes to war and he sees the village beauty Malena and is instantly, irrevocably in love. Malena’s husband Nino Scordia, has gone off to war and every man in the village, irrespective of their age wants to “comfort” Malena, the devastaingly gorgeous, lonely, grieving wife. For Malena her beauty really is a curse. She cannot find employment as most of the men don’t want to hire her, being scared of the wrath of the women in their lives, be it be their mother or wife. Everyday as Malena makes her way to the employment agency, the whole town is a at a standstill. The men ogle, dream and sigh, while the women spew vitriol against this woman whose only crime is beauty. Renato follows the object of his wet dreams incessantly and is the only one in the whole village who knows the real Malena. Malena gets the devastating news that her husband Nino has been killed in the war. Renato is the only one who witnesses Malenas grief. He prays that God keep Malena safe from the villagers till he grows up, so that he can take care of her. The news of Nino’s death blows hope into the hearts of the men in town. After the mourning period, Malena starts seeing an officer openly and this inflames the men as they have been passed up. Malena is wrongfully sued by the town dentists wife for committing adultery with her husband. As she has no money she is forced to avail of pro bono services from Centorbi, a lawyer, who extracts payment by raping her. Centrobi wishes to marry Malena, but his plans don’t come to fruition when his mother refuses to allow it. Malens father dies and her only income dries up. War comes to the town and she is forced to go into prostitution to feed herself. The villagers watch smugly as all their rumors become reality and they see Malena selling herself to Germans. They congratulate themselves on being astute judge of character. When the American come in after the war, the villagers mets out biblical justice by stoning her in the piazza and cutting her hair. Renato is heartbroken for Malena and watches her leave town.

As Renato’s coming of age movie, it is a pleasurable, funny, astute depiction of a hormonal adolescent. Even while overcome with his boyish lust for her he is always filled with tenderness and he wants to take care of her and protect her from all the evil townsfolk. Having seen his first and deepest love being treated so badly, makes Renato a much more compassionate, understanding and respecting lover of women.

As a woman I was a little peeved and ashamed at the level of vitriol, jealousy and insecurity that the women of this village display towards Malena. And I felt that the men in this movie, even if they carry out all the objectifying and raping ,is very conveniently depicted as victims of Malena’s inhuman beauty. It’s this uncontrollable lust for this sexy siren, that the women react to with so much venom and I felt the men were absolved of any responsibility for their actions or thoughts. I realize that Tornatore meant for this to be taken as a gross exaggeration of the reaction of a few. And that it would’ve compromised the integrity of the narrative if he had a couple of the women in the village showed some compassion or a couple of men who are not in thrall of Malena’s beauty. Sadly I have to agree that his assessment of female pshyce is not too far off the mark. I hope us women would make some more effort in supporting our fellow sisters, both the beautiful ones and the not so beautiful ones.

If you are in the mood for a great adolescent boy coming of age movie your time will be more rewarded if you spend it watching Cinema Paradiso. It is more Felliniesque Italian than Malena is. Malena is definitely worth a watch. Tornatore is very good at showcasing the nuances of human behavior, especially an adolescent’s life. Both Malena and Cinema Paradiso are great in this respect.

Blue is the warmest color(La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2)

Posted in Hollywood, Other Languages on May 6, 2014 by Roshan Mathew

Blue is the warmest color is a brilliant coming of age drama which has been adapted from a graphic novel of the same name. It is written and directed by Abdellatif Kechiche and starring Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos. It won the Palme D’or at Cannes in 2013 and was the first time the honor was awarded with the stipulation that it be shared with the two leading ladies and the director. Make no mistake that this is in anyway an easy, run of the mill romance. It is one of the most intense love stories I have ever watched on film. I loved it so much that I watched it twice in 24 hrs!

Adele(Adèle Exarchopoulos) ,a high school student is going through her last years of high school. She is very sure of what she wants out of her future career as a kindergarten teacher. She is a typical middle class, older teen going through school, sharing gossip and possible romances, until a fateful encounter with a blue haired girl on the street. Confused about her own reaction towards this stranger, she decides to test her sexual waters with a boy, but ultimately ends up faking everything. She ultimately breaks up with him. She meets the blue haired stranger Emma(Léa Seydoux) at a gay bar and they share a conversation. There is no stopping this train from the moment they met each other on the street. The rest of the movie is about their passionate relationship’s ups and downs over the next 6-7 yrs.

The pace of the movie is something that takes a little getting used to and that is not a bad thing in anyway. The camera work is done in very closeup shots and remains focused on ordinary actions like eating for an inordinately long amount of time. But this makes us the viewer to be forced to not just be a voyeur in these two lovers life, but be very much a part of their world. The director is very taken with textures of food, skin, flesh, you name it. I found this fascinating, may be because I like art and paintings. Every flicker of the eye, every glance is captured and rendered beautifully to show us this fascinating relationship. Stick with the narrative to the end and you will be rewarded with a one of the most superbly acted scenes that is set in Emma’s apartment.

You can see that both the actors were made to pay with blood,sweat and tears(literally) to give us these brilliantly immersive performances. Adèle Exarchopoulos is completely captivating on screen. She gave a very visceral performance and Kechiche made sure her expressiveness was fully utilized. Léa Seydoux was perfect as the outwardly tough, seasoned lesbian. I know I have not addressed the scene that has been the talk of the town, so to speak. The long lesbian sex scene, that seems to be the biggest topic of conversation regarding this movie. The lesbians think it is not authentic and that it caters to a male fantasy( director’s), the labor people complain about the working conditions in which it was shot. Yes it is long, yes it is very intense and yes it is two women. Could it have been short and still conveyed the intensity, yes it could’ve been. But I can see the directors intention too. He wanted to show the total abandon with which Adele participated with Emma and the contrast with how she was with her attempt at sex with someone with whom she had no chemistry(the boyfriend). Also the length of the scene is in keeping with the pace of the rest of the movie. Just like in the rest of the movie, the camera lingers, there is no hurry, the pauses between conversations are not rushed, and in between those pauses a flickers of the eye of a shy glance an communicate volumes. Which I thought was beautiful, but I can see how the same narrative devices can seem too intimate and make it too intense in a sex scene. I found a very interesting interview with the leading ladies at the Daily Beast, which created rift between them and the director. It is a very interesting read, to see the price they both had to pay for this brilliant movie. Like the interviewer I selfishly felt the end justified the means. Easy for me to say!

Definitely a must watch. Parents send the kiddies to bed and be ready to dedicate 3 hrs of your life to do this movie justice. Excellent movie all around.

True Detective(HBO)

Posted in Hollywood with tags , , , , , , on March 10, 2014 by Roshan Mathew

Indulging in binge watching an exquisitely crafted series has turned into one of my favorite, albeit destructive passtimes.

True detective Season 1 consists of 8 episodes and the finale aired yesterday(March 09), here in the States. It is an anthology series, which would mean whole new cast and story for the next season. The story is a psychological crime solving thriller. Hart(Woody Harrelson)and Coehle(McConaughey) are Louisiana state police detective partners. They share a mutually uneasy partnership with each other, but they make a very good professional team. They pursue a ritualistic, satanic serial killer case during a time span of 17 yrs. It’s directed by Cary Fukunaga(Jane Eyre, Sin Nombre fame)and written by Nic Pizzilatto.

The cast is stellar and the story will leave your brain going in circles for days after you watch the whole thing. It flows like a 8 hr movie filled with psychological and emotional twists and turns that leave you at the edge of your seats the whole time. The scope of the series allow Pizzalato,enough time to spend on character development for his two leads. Hart and Coehle are two of the best psychologically flushed out and interesting characters I have seen on TV since Dr Weston from In Treatment( another great series, till the second season)

I started watching True Detective half heartedly as I am not a Mathew McConaughey fan, mostly because his younger roles turned out to be such a caricature of himself. Kind of like a hollywood Sharukh Khan, very linear in his portrayals. His performance in True Detective was anything but linear. He has truly transcended his previous roles to give us an amazing, completely immersive character experience. I was not very happy about his Oscar win as my imagination couldn’t stretch enough to comprehend him giving an oscar worthy performance. I know, I know I judged him on his past performances and on his over the top acceptance speech, without even seeing Dallas Buyers Club. Can you blame me after his movies like The Wedding Planner? But it is undeniable how much effort he has put into breaking free of his past and to grow as an actor while redefining his space in Hollywood. In a way his crazy Oscar speech makes sense about him striving to overtake his own better self. I take it back. That speech is still way out there. I am guessing Matthew will be adding an Emmy to his Oscar for his role in True detective. Definite must watch if you have 8 hrs to spare, especially to see McConaughey’s unusual career arc, great writing,directing and acting.