I have an elitist attitude towards mainstream Hollywood cinema. I always come out of the theater complaining that the movie was not intelligent enough; not real enough; not thought-provoking enough; not nuanced enough etc. etc.
My friends say I have a chip on my shoulder when it comes to mainstream cinema; that my views have become deeply distorted related to cinema; that anything related to sane and wholesome entertainment escapes my warped sensibilities.
They laugh that my taste in movies borders on being quixotic, surreal, distorted, kinky and torturous for them. My dossier of recent indie movies include lesbians making out in an oppressed foreign land, their passion expressed in sub-titles; a man fully masturbating in front of his mother, a sort of Oedipus complex; primitive stoning of a woman where her extreme pain and anguish is expressed in sub-titles.
Based on this premise, at most times I am a solitary figure at the movie theater devoid of any company. I am a forsaken indie film buff!
I do enjoy the stark realism of indie films. I enjoy the depiction of nuanced emotions embedded deep within the psyche–emotions that only several years of Freudian therapy can bring to the surface. I enjoy the honest portrayal of psychoses, complexes and neuroses that most of us have, but hide from even ourselves. Such psychological disorders in their stark nakedness are brought to the surface by brave indie directors. I like the lack of glamour, the chapped lips, the “bitten to the bed nails” and the bedraggled hair—all illustrating palpable realism.
Lately I have been on a spree of watching indie films. I saw the Iranian lesbian flick called Circumstance; Michal Fassbender as the deeply disturbed sex-addict in Shame; an Iranian son trying to take care of his dad with Alzheimer’s’ while going through a divorce in A Separation and Tilda Swinton playing a desperate mother to a sociopathic killer in We Need to Talk About Kevin.
I have come out of the theaters deeply depressed and melancholic. The movies leave me with a lingering despondency for several days. Of course, since the movies are well-made with intricate plots, they are hard to brush off and forget like mainstream cinema. I analyze and re-live the movies spiraling into an abyss of somber pensiveness.
Imagine the extreme sense of loneliness one would feel if at Christmas you are eating alone an over-cooked dry piece of turkey in a lonely diner with a flashing neon sign named “EAT” in the window, except the letter “E” has short fuse and does not flash.
Imagine the plight of a mother whose sociopath teenage son takes a sick delight in masturbating in front of his mother.
Imagine two young girls living an oppressed life in Iran, but find solace in each other’s arms, except that one of the girls is married to the brother of the other girl.
Imagine, a sexual addiction being so overpowering that it prevents you from ever having a meaningful relation in your entire life, I mean ever!
You get the point right? The despair, drudgery, hopelessness, agony, existential angst that is the essence of most plots of indie films.
Cinema is escapism. It is entertainment. It takes us away from our lives for a few hours and transports us to another world. However, if the make believe world of cinema not only mirrors, but magnifies the shortcomings of real life, it ceases to be escapism and at some point becomes painfully torturous. It becomes an affirmation of the misery in the world, the wretchedness of human existence.
Life is hard enough. At most times it is a struggle. Do we really need a confirmation of its trials and tribulations magnified on a 40 feet celluloid screen for a whole uninterrupted two hours?
I will always be an indie film loyalist. But for the sake of sanity, I may become a temporary Hollywood neophyte.
I have always been a big fan of filmmaker Pedro Almodovar. His films are gritty, complex and thought provoking. They are modern with elements of pop culture.
I love it when I can think of a movie days after seeing it in order to figure out the nuances, metaphors and similes.
I am not writing this blog to review the movie or provide my thoughts on the plot and screenplay. There are plenty of reviews floating on the web, some I do not agree with at all.
The movie did appeal to my sensibilities. As one reviewer said it will definitely hold the interest of the art house crowd as it has enough distortion, torture and kink! I whole heartedly agree with the reviewer. So, if your interest is piqued by the provocative, bizarre and wickedly deviant themes or you simply want to be part of the hip, eclectic, bohemian art house crowd, go see the movie!! (Ha,ha) All I can say is I am still thinking about it!
What I want to share is the artistic element of metaphors and symbolisms in the film. In that sense, even though the film maybe expletive on the surface, it is laced with delicate subtleties that are symbolic. This makes it an intelligent film as it titillates and arouses the intellect of the viewer by compelling us to think, interpret and analyze it in a way we deem fit.
For starters, the skin colored suit worn by the main female character of the film symbolizes the skin on the bones. The suit fits like a beautiful glove on the body and accentuates each curve and asset. The suit is smooth and has a beautiful tone to it. But, the skin suit can be taken off and put on at any time. It is a disposal piece of spandex of no real value. I interpret it as the skin merely being a cover for the bones; an outer layer that can easily be shed like a chameleon’s and grows back again. We put a lot of importance on the outer skin, especially these days, but its value is simply of covering our entrails, the blood and the bones, that’s it. What is important is the inside that cannot be shed or replaced.
In contrast another character places so much importance on the outer layer of skin that when she does not like the sight of herself in a mirror, she kills herself. (I am not giving out the plot as it is pretty much explained in the first frame of the movie.) Her inside is valueless for her.
The home of the male character played by Antonio Banderas is a beautiful old chalet in Spain with stone walls and wooden floors. It looks like an ancient structure from outside, but the inside is modern and sterile. My interpretation is that appearances are often deceptive and not a true reflection of the soul of the person.
Another poignant scene is where Antonio Banderas is carefully binding and clipping a bonsai tree with a metal wire. It is a critical moment in the film as it sums up the essence of the film of confinement, force and constraint.
Antonio Banderas’s character goes through the movie with a stoic demeanor and his actions have a surgical precision signifying the coldness in his heart.
And last but not the least; the female character is a yogini who practices body twisting yogic postures defying all rules of bodily resistance. It is symbolic of human resilience. After a passage of time humans are capable of adapting themselves in any circumstance without resistance, no matter how horrific the circumstance.
If you do watch the movie, don’t watch it skin deep; look for what’s beneath the skin.
Potiche or Trophy Wife. Just saw the French film and enjoyed it. It is set in 1977 and has iconic stars or should I say legends such as Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu.
I like watching foreign films as it gives me an insight to the culture, food, fashion, lifestyle of a country without actually going there. Of course, if I have a choice between visiting a foreign country versus sitting in a dark theater, munching on extra-calorie pop-corn and living life vicariously via celluloid, I will definitely opt for the former.
Like I said earlier the film is set in 1977 and although a light hearted comedy portrays a sort of “coming out” of women, an emancipation if you will. It explores serious cultural issues such as embarkation of women’s journey in the corporate work place, sexual liberation of women, women in politics-strong women yet retaining their femininity.
Being a fashion fiend, I was particularly impressed by the clothes worn by the actors. They were stylish, strong and sexy while still maintaining a sense of elegance and dignity. The outfits resonated the sentiment of the era. Liberation of women without sacrificing seductive style. Women have tread a thin line when it comes to fashion, particularly working women. As a practicing attorney and a full participant of the corporate world I subject myself to the daily dilemma of presenting a no-nonsense corporate image; an image of trust and reliability; an image not so distracting that my words are not heard but without sacrificing style and staying true to my gender.
The movie was forthcoming in such a context. The outfits were form-fitted, accentuating the curves of the female body, yet maintained a virtuous decorum (wow that is one word seldom used in the context of modern fashion.)
For example a form fitted skirt was paired with a chiffon blouse tied at the collar with long sleeves; a mid-length skirt was seen worn with a thin fitted shirt, buttons open at the collar, thereby exposing the nape of the neck and leaving certain things to the imagination of the viewer. Such small measures of seductivity and provocation are so much more titillating than leaving nothing to the imagination.
As fashion is circular, I have seen designers take cue from the past this year. Dresses continue to have the fun and the flirtatious element but some designers have juxtaposed tasteful accents. Gucci’s Fall/Winter 2011 selection is an example. Frida Giannini has a bow tie collar dress with full-length sleeves constructed in mounds of ravishing flowy fabrics. She has models wearing a silk tie scarf with an elegant cashmere fur-collar coat. Such outfits are demure yet suggestive.
So, the mantra to be repeated is “yes, you can assert your intellect, femininity and style without being a Potiche-Trophy Wife.”
India’s official entry for the race to the Oscars. What are the first two thoughts that enter your mind when you think of movies from India? Well, either it is a BOLLYWOOD bonanza or a documentary depicting the dire straits of the poor in India. Either the images of festivities, exotic international locales, gorgeous long lustered gamine-esque lasses dancing around trees, men with bodies sculpted as if Michelangelo himself decided to sculpt David II pop into your head, OR you see the images of a poor, hungry, emaciated woman who sells herself such that her family can eat two square meals. Yes, extremes are shown in films from the sub-continent of India.
Well, brace yourself—this movie is neither. Yes, it has a dose of stark reality depicting the very bleak, basic, glamour-free rural India. Yes, it portrays the plight of the back-bone of India, THE FARMERS. Yes, it shows the wickedness of the politicians and the exploitation by the media of these naïve farmers.
But the film is also interwoven with intelligent and realistic humor. The humor is peppered throughout the film from the extremely salty expletives used by the 90 year old crippled mother to the almost nonchalant attitude of the farmer who is on the hook to commit suicide in a mere 72 hours. From the perfectly formulated British English of the aggressive TV correspondent to the various political angles of the politicians. At times it reaches such absurdism that one is compelled to guffaw out aloud.
The basic plot is that farmers are on the brink of losing their only ancestral asset to the government due to an unpaid loan. The government has a program that if a debtor commits suicide, the loan is waived to help the surviving members of the family. A poor unsuspecting farmer becomes a pawn between the media and the various levels of the corrupt government.
It is a movie about hope and moving on. It truly depicts the resilient spirit of rural India. It portrays the essence of a true Indian; no matter how difficult the circumstances, one can find the courage to move on. A lesson to be learnt for those of us who rely on Prozac to deal with the “not so dire straits” in life.
P.S. The cherry on the cake is the excellent music by the band named Indian Ocean.
Saw the movie – The Town yesterday….no not set in one of those generic Towns that one sees in most U.S. cities, with the strip malls, perfectly manicured side-walks, Big Box stores and the obligatory generic “brand name” coffee shops, but a Town named Boston. A Town that still retains some individuality and does not seem to be sold out to corporatization (at least, it does not appear so in the movie.) A Town where you still see people walking on the streets and not driving in their cars. A Town where you still see wild flowers and over-grown grass and not perfectly planted petunias straight out of the Martha Stewart Home and Garden collection. I was floored by the European feel to The Town; very few of them left in the U.S.
I am sure by now you have guessed that since I have devoted one full paragraph to the geography of The Town, the USP of the movie is The Town where it is shot-BOSTON. Ben Affleck made The Town the central character of the movie and named it aptly.
The storyline, although narrated well is a true and tried formula for a successful heist movie. It is a concoction of Point Break and The Professional (especially the scene where Affleck ducks the Feds wearing a cop uniform.)
Affleck has good control over his facial features and of course is quite pleasing to the eye. Jeremy Renner brings a “pent up intensity waiting to explode,” to his role-possible remnants from Hurt Locker?
To appeal to the masses the required humor was added by the sentence “Go @##%%* yourself” said by thief (Affleck) to the FBI agent. Of course, the entire audience unanimously gaffawed….an insight to how low brow humor appeals to the masses.
All in all, entertaining and worth a watch on a Sunday afternoon when Fargo is not playing for the 67th time on TV.