Saturday, May 16, 2015

Movie Review: Adore

The Grandmothers, a segment appearing under the eponymous novella by Doris Lessing, has an unconventional story. Two best friends Roz and Lil are infatuated with one another's son. I have not read the novella to comment about the content. When Anne Fontaine adapts it to the screen, the shock factor and the unconventionality is pumped by many notches for multiple reasons. The age disparity raises both curiosity and eyebrows. Anne Fontaine has a cast featuring prominent names like Robin Wright and Naomi Watts. Will this be a skin fest in the guise of a drama? Will be a tragedy or a make-believe?

When you break down the movie,  you will find friendship as the core theme. Roz(Robin Wright) and Liz(Naomi Watts) live in New South Wales, and they have known each other since childhood. Even after their marriage, they have stayed as neighbors. Both of them have been there for each other in every phase of life even when their partners drift away. This dependency makes others suspect them to be lesbians. The bonding factor is not sexual attractor but a strange mix of love, trust compassion, and understanding. We are intrigued by this bond between Roz and Lil.

Anne Fontaine approaches the subject delicately. The movie can quickly disintegrate into a tale of lust with an abundant display of skin. After all, the story is set in New South Wales right next to a fantastic beach. Anne Fontaine delves into the aspect of lust and yearning, but she emphasizes on the mental compatibility and need for companionship. The sensitive handling of the subject makes this a watchable drama. The camera captures the beauty of the beach and a lot of fantastic shots of floating platform. The floating platform is sometimes set against the water using an overhead shot. At other times, it is set against the horizon. All the lead characters - Robin Wright, Naomi Watts, Xavier Samuel and James Frecheville - have beautiful bodies. They are flaunting it all the time. The way they are portrayed by the director combined with spirited performance make us overlook the factor and concentrate on the story unfolding in front of us.

The theme is hard to digest. Although it is a good drama, it is not everyone's cup of tea. Go for it if you are sure not to flinch or wince.

Language: English

Genre: Drama

Rating: ***

Monday, May 11, 2015

Movie Review: October 1

I have never seen a Nigerian movie before. Nor do I know about Nigeria a lot. The movie is primarily in English with two or more local languages. October 1st is the day in which Nigeria obtained independence from the British Empire. The story unfolds in the time span of 30 days preceding the independence day in 1960 and tries to showcase several factors associated with Nigerian psyche during the time. Was Nigeria ready for independence? Will Nigeria able to forget the scars of colonialism? Will Nigeria stay united despite having a lot of religious and tribal diversity? In order to tell this story, the director Kunle Afolayan create a miniature replica in the remote town of Akote. The town has already witnessed the murder of two young women, and the killer is on the loose. The authorities entrust Inspector Danladi Waziri to catch the killer. Danladi has a deadline of October 1 to finish his job.

Unfortunately, I have no measuring stick for Kunle Afolayan's work for this is the first movie I am seeing which is coming out of Nigeria. The plot and the screenplay are slow but keep you interested in the proceeding. The sound design is different from regular movies. When the lead characters talk, their conversation is amplified. Even when an actor in this film speaks English, their voice goes a notch up the decibel level. When this style of talking is combined with the sound design that amplifies the speech, the conversations are heavy on your ears. If you discount the factor of loud conversations by design, the movie subtly touches upon the problems that Nigeria will have to face once independent. They may still be facing some of the issues. 

I have never seen the actors in this movie before. The lead role of Danladi Waziri is played by Sadiq Daba. Sadiq plays an investigator who can be a chameleon. He can listen well. He can flatter you. He can threaten you. All these faces of Danladi is safe with Sadiq. Danladi is adamant in finding the truth. He is not a torn man but a determined one. He is ridiculed for his convictions, but he is never wrong. Sadiq is not the usual choice for the role. He is a thin, wiry man. But the part is safe with him thereby proving you don't need physique to play a role.

This movie is not anywhere near violent as most of the thrillers these days. But it still is a disturbing movie and a good watch.

Language: English

Genre: Thriller

Rating: ***

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Movie Review: Cinema Paradiso

Cinema Paradiso is one movie that you will love in the first few minutes onwards. You will constantly wonder about the central theme of the movie. The act of finding a central theme will turn out to be a taxing exercise on the viewer because there is a whole lot of underlying themes in it. There is nostalgia, love, passion, progress, regret, yearning, and the list will go on. Cinema Paradiso is the name of the cinema hall in a quiet little beach city in Italy called Giancaldo. As cinema hall undergoes a transformation, so does the life of Salvatore de Vita aka Toto changes for the better or worse depending on the phase of the movie.

First and foremost, this movie is for cinema lovers. There is a lot of footage from the old movies. Frankly, I haven't seen those movies although the faces on the footage are familiar. In a way, Cinema Paradiso shows the effect of movies on us. That is why the crowd refuses the leave the theater demanding an additional screening of a favorite movie. The movie also sadly reminds us the obsolescence of single screens in the modern age. Single screens are the big cinema halls where only one movie is screened, unlike the modern movie theater where you get to pick and choose from a plethora of movies.

The movie also shows the life of a projectionist. If you examine closer, the life of a projectionist is a monotonous one when compared to most of the other jobs. But is it possible to run a movie hall without a projectionist? In the age of single screens, the projectionist was the most important person who never gets his due. A projectionist's job is also a dangerous one because the film in the olden days was inflammable. If you are not careful, the hall will soon be under fire. Remember the climax of Inglorious Basterds. Such a mishap happens to Alfredo, the projectionist and the mentor for Toto. The accident brings both Alfredo and Toto closer, thereby giving the latter a much-needed father figure.     

The movie is about Toto, a young boy growing up in a small town in the post-World War II Italy. His mother, a young war widow, struggles to bring up two kids. Toto becomes an earning member of the family because of his love for cinema. The movie shows three phases of his life. The final stage is an older Toto coming to terms with his decisions in life. There is also an important piece on censorship in the movie.

There will be no doubt in your mind about how much Giuseppe Tornatore, the director, love movies. His directorial style is distinctively Italian. There are a lot of close up shots where the actors cover the entire frame giving them enough space to display their histrionic abilities. He captures the square and the seaside of Gaincaldo very effectively for the post-World War II era. But he fails to showcase the modern times very well. Thankfully, this quality of the overall picture overshadows these small failures.

Two of the principal roles, Alfredo, and Toto(older) are played by Philippe Noiret and Jacques Perrin. Interestingly, these are French actors. The French and the Italians have different ways of acting. Philippe Noiret has the most difficult job as he has to emulate Italian mannerisms. There is another interesting trivia about the movie. Philippe Noiret said his lines in French and later the lines were dubbed in Italian by another person. If this trivia is true, then Philippe Noiret has put in a performance worthy of mention. Jacques Perrin has an easier job because he plays a successful middle-aged man who doesn't talk much. In the scene where he watches the montage created by Alfredo, Jacques Perrin shows how good an actor he is. He sits back, locks his hand behind his head and tears run out of his eyes. With this simple and natural gesture, he shows Toto has reconciled with his past.

This movie is for cinema lovers.

Language: Italian

Genre: Drama

Rating: *****

The diversity of UK, the vast emptiness of Wales, and the grand imagination of Tolkien

Is there a law limiting the use of vowels? When the names of the various places flashed in front of me after reaching Wales, there were not enough vowels considering the length of the names? How does one pronounce it? The turmoil created by the usage of vowel settled down quickly. Like the previous mental chaos created in my life by various events, this new one too ended without a closure. My mind is an energetic nomad traveling from one place to another while exhausting my body. Wales and her language have taken me another place. Last year, I was in Scotland. The Scots have a different language. So does the fourth part of UK namely Northern Ireland. So this tiny island is indeed a concoction of different languages and cultures! As an Indian, who has always prided in our uniqueness of "Unity in diversity", the diversity of UK comes as a surprise.

While traveling through Wales, you found barren mountains covered with dried grass. In many ways, Wales is similar to Scotland. There aren't many people around. The roads are good but wide enough only for two vehicles. Although we were well into Spring, the mountains have not shed their skin to reveal greenery. The sight was beautiful. At some places, the sky appeared to be touching the mountains. At other places, the mountains wrapped a white cloak of mist around them. I remembered two people while enjoying this beautiful sight. Peter Jackson and Tolkien. Peter Jackson could have shot his movies here in Wales. Why did he go to  New Zealand instead of Wales or even Scotland? Wales is full of nothingness. He could have built his expensive sets here. I used to wonder how Tolkien could have imagined such a world in his mind before writing it down. Everything is big. The mountains, castles, and the meadows are ginormous. They appear not only vast but also empty. It would have been easy for Tolkien To imagine something of this sort if he has visited this part of the world before. After all, it takes only a stroll in the evening or a lonely car ride among this vast emptiness to jump-start your imagination.

Tags: Musings, Car, Wales, Tolkien

Saturday, May 2, 2015

10 miles in a little less than 5 hours

I wasn't crawling. Nor was I running. Nor was I walking. Even if I were running or walking, I would not have taken 5 hours to travel 10 miles. Since I was driving a car, there wasn't much I could on this Tuesday. The GPS showed a mere 10 miles to home when I was caught in the gridlock that turned out to be a nightmare on M4 Eastbound for commuters like me. Despite the constant accelerating and braking, none of us were going anywhere. The inactivity provided me with ample time to reflect on traffic.

For a person who migrated from Bengaluru, the gridlock is not an uncommon sight. We are part of such inconveniences on a daily basis. Our blood pressure mounts to an alarming height and, as a result, we constantly learn new invectives. Believe it or not. There is no gridlock in Bengaluru if you have sat like me in the car on M4 on that fateful day. The vehicles in Bengaluru moves in spite of the gridlock. It may not move at your desired pace and aggression, but it does move. I could see people getting out of the car for stretching their legs. The hours of waiting can do that to people. Getting out of the car in the middle of the road for stretching your aching body is a common sight in India. But can you imagine this happening in the civilized West? There were more sights to follow. A driver made it to the shoulder, parked his car and lit a cigarette. Obviously, he wanted to calm his nerves. Another one was jumping the fence into the trees, of course to attend the call of the nature.


An overturned cement mixer caused the gridlock. By any standards, it took an awful lot of time to get it cleared. I reached back home around midnight. How could this happen in a civilized world? Aren't these things to cleared up as soon as possible? There was also a planned maintenance on M4 and hence lane closures in the section where the accident happened. On a normal day, you could expect delays. That day was not normal. The particular section of road was closed, and all the traffic was diverted to another road. Unfortunately, there was already maintenance work on the diverted route where there were many lane mergers and closures. Reading is an interesting city. You can neither get in nor get out gracefully. There aren't any wide roads leading into or out of the city. When will they have better roads to get out of this city?

In a gridlock, there isn't much to do. You wait. The authorities have to clear up the mess. Until, then listen to the radio if it doesn't eat your head. In India, there are street hawkers peddling their wares in our face. Their tireless calls for mercies will drive us mad and also make us feel guilty. But they also serve a good connection to the outside world when we are sitting on the man-made island of comfort and loneliness. Over here, there are only tailgates to stare.



Tags: Musings, M4, Traffic

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Evolution of checks in airports

Airports are playing a major role in my life in the few months. Of all the journeys I have taken in the past few months, most are related to work while a few have been for personal reasons. Right from the day when I boarded the first plane tugging my mother, the air travel has changed. The check-in process was a nightmare. The security personnel at the old Cochin airport (timeshare with the Navy) ravaged the carefully packed suitcases. The experience was unnerving. As a result of this traumatic experience, I was shocked during my first flight as an adult when no-one asked me to open my suitcases for creating a similar mess of the orderliness in the name of security. The big scanners have made life easier.

There was still a major issue. You spent a great deal of time in front of the check-in queue with a physical ticket. Now, the physical ticket is on its last leg. E-ticket or a printout is fast replacing the old physical ticket. This replacement has made it easier for us to buy a ticket eliminating the delay of postal services. In addition, we can defer the decision to buy a little longer. After the e-Ticket, the check-in process evolved. With the introduction of Web check-in, we do not have to hurry to the airport. There are separate counters for Web check-in that are shorter and faster. Have you been to London Heathrow airport? I regularly use this airport. Most of the time, I have only a laptop and a carry-on bag. As I have completed the Web check-in from home, I don't even have to go to any of the airline counters. I walk straight to the security gate, present my boarding pass stored on my mobile to the scanner installed at the gate and wait for my facial scan. There is no human interaction. Even though the whole process seems like a dream so far, there are many things which needs improvement.

There are instances when you are not travelling light. Hence you need to approach the check-in counter to drop your bags. There is always one counter dedicated to baggage drop related to Web check-in. In the old days, one counter was sufficient. There were not many who were performing web check-in and hence this could double up for taking care of other types of passengers during rush hours. These days, everyone is doing a Web check-in and hence one counter can become a bottleneck. When there is a bottleneck for the traditional check-in counters, the airport officials quickly address it by opening up the first class and privilege member counters to handle the traffic. This method is not adopted for Web check-in.

Have you compared how two operations namely check-in and security check has evolved over time? While the former is becoming easier and less time consuming, the security check have become intrusive and tedious process. Every time I am traveling, I fear they are going to ask me to strip before going through the metal detector. Now, we not only empty our wallets but also remove our shoes, belts and jackets. In a way, this serves as a reminder reeking of irony and sarcasm. No matter the progress we make, there are tons left for improvement.

Tags: Musings, Airport, Checks

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Movie Review: Un Beau Dimanche

Why do French movies end up with an uninteresting name in the international market? For instance, "Un Beau Dimanche" is titled as "Going Away". Even if you do not know French, you can still use Google Translate and wonder why the translation ended like chalk and cheese. But if you are wondering after seeing this movie directed by Nicole Garcia, both of the titles are apt. But "Un Beau Dimache" which translates to a beautiful Sunday is a fitting as the major event in the movie happens on a sunny Sunday, which is also a Whitsun.

The movie is about a nomadic teacher Baptiste(Pierre Rochefort) who picks up contractual teaching job all over France for a few months and then moves on. When Baptiste meets Sandra(Louise Bourgoin), divorced mother of one of his students, he is attracted to her who is also a nomad like him. Very soon, Baptiste returns reluctantly to his roots. Although he has been fleeing his past and family, he has to go back to them for Sandra and her son.

At the core, the movie is about dysfunctional families and how one hates to break the claustrophobic expectations set by one's family. Dysfunctional family is a favorite theme for a drama. We have seen this theme playing out in different variations. As a result, "Un Beau Dimanche" has nothing new to offer. As with French movies, the emphasis is on performance and not on extravagant settings.

Though the movie gives you a sense of deja vu, this is recommended for a stress-free viewing. You know what you are getting. The movie may not surprise you. But it will keep you engaged.

Language: French

Genre: Drama

Rating: ***

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