Monday, April 27, 2015

Tashan mein...

I watched Tashan (again) last night. This movie is the gift that keeps on giving. I feel like it gets better each time I watch it. There are so many small, small jokes and references… like when Bachchan Pandey goes to beat up the guy in the movie theater and titles of films flash up like dishoom sound effects. KRODH!

And I forgot how much I loved all the picturizations. Bebo's swishy, swishy costumes in "Dil Haara"… the ridiculous, sarcastic "Dil Dance Maare"… the gorgeous "Falak Tak"...

And everybody just seems to be having so much fun with everything~ even if poor Bebo looks painfully thin in "Chaliya."

But Tashan is one of those films that would be utterly opaque to anybody not already swimming in Vicky Achara's meta-narrative milieu. Does a passing, pointed, plot reference to Don mean anything if nobody picks up on it?

I think I'll re-watch Dhoom 3 next, just to see if I can pick up any trends...

Thursday, April 23, 2015

魔法★男子チェリーズ Magical Boy Cherry's--Japan's Virgin Crime Fighting Super Hero Boy Band!

(From left to right: Tsukada Ryoichi, Kawai Fumito, Hashimoto Ryousuke, Totsuka Shota, and Goseki Koichi)

The concept of the low budget, late night, Japanese mini-series Magical★Boy Cherry’s (魔法★男子チェリーズ) sounds utterly ridiculous: a real life boy band, A.B.C-Z, playing a team of crime fighting, superhero virgins with superpowers taking down bad guy virgins with superpowers through the power of dance?! I went in expecting the broad wink to camera of The Ambiguously Gay Duo but, to my great surprise, the show I was watching turned out to be very Buffy-esque: a supernatural romp (with lots of character-driven humor) about just how hard it is to grow up and find your own place in life.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

God bless the Filmi Girl...

Money, you've got lots of friends

They're crowding around your door

But when you're gone and spending ends

They don't come no more

Rich relations give crusts of bread and such

You can help yourself, but don't take too much

Mama may have, Papa may have

But God bless the child that's got his own, that's got his own

Billie Holiday's "God Bless the Child."

I was thinking about this as I was reading Francine Prose's excellent review of Toni Morrison's new book God Help the Child in the New York Review of Books. (It's paywalled, sorry.)

The quote that struck me was this. Prose explains that Morrison may excel at writing relatable magical realism but her realism-realism is unbelievable:

"One reason why we may have less trouble accepting the magical elements in the book than some of the more apparently naturalistic ones is that we have learned to suspend our disbelief in the presence of something that, we feel, could never occur. But when we are shown "real" people interacting in what we assume to be the "real world", the writer--regardless of the authority of her narrative voice, or of her prodigious ability to will characters and events on to the page--is obliged to persuade us that a person might think and behave in the ways we observe her reflecting and acting."

And right there is my problem with so much of supposedly "realistic" filmmaking. I'll suspend my disbelief for a story all day long when I've been primed to with, for example, the use of an introductory hero song. Once we're clued into the magical properties of a world, we can relax and enjoy the ride. But if a film is supposed to be "realistic" then there is no way my brain will accept a story that hinges on True Love or other bullshit like that.

This is why I love Francine Prose. She is both an incredible writer and reader. I highly recommend her 2006 book Reading like a Writer if you can find it.

But then I started thinking about how "God Help the Child" came from "God Bless the Child" and if that isn't in some way also part of the problem I have with so much of contemporary nostalgia-based pop culture. "God Bless the Child" is a sly, bitter song that has been defanged and sweetened in the popular consciousness. The bite of that sarcastic "bless" has turned into a saccharine "help" and, by God, if that isn't what Farah Khan and the Nostalgia Industrial Complex have been doing to old films in the years since Om Shanti Om.

The bite, the sting, of those old films will now forever be remembered as throwaway jokes. Is it better than having old cultural products not remembered at all? Or remembered as things captured in amber, irrelevant to today? Maybe the past is just a big joke… or maybe we have to treat it that way to hold onto some feeling of "forward progress." Progress, progress, growth, growth… if we didn't laugh we'd have to cry.

Just some rambling thoughts for a Wednesday morning. Sorry, friends. I'm still not quite myself although my illness is slowly healing. But it's two steps forward, one step back… ah, well. Hopefully I'll be back to seeing new movies soon.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Dil Dhadakne Do trailer is here… but forget love, why isn't anybody worried about getting the shits?!

Well, the Dil Dhadakne Do trailer is here and all I have to say is… "Yawn."

A cruise? I mean, come on!! DON'T PEOPLE READ THE NEWS!!! The amount of literal shit-filled cruises in the news right now, I don't know who is crazy enough to go on one. Forget multiple man-children Understanding What Love Is and Priyanka having affairs and whatever, I would think the biggest crisis going on would be POTENTIAL VIRAL OUTBREAK AND ALSO BODY FLUIDS.

Anyways, to be fair, the trailer may conceal a film with some universality hidden inside the portrait of That Class of people, like the brilliant Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. But if the trailer is accurate then this is the exactly the kind of film I have no interest in English, in Hindi, in whatever language. This is just my personal preference, of course, but I find movies delving into the interpersonal (especially romantic) relationships of various wealthy people with no worries beyond boredom and what the neighbors think, extremely tedious. I'll believe True Love and Romance in a fantasy film, in a masala film, in a mythological film… I don't buy it in what passes for real life in Hollywood (and "Hollywood-style" films.)

But I will say that the tip of the hat to Bollywood--in the form of the song picturizations hinted at--is rather interesting. I think out of all the new "Hindie" directors working that Zoya (and Reema) understand the comfort to be found in synced song-dances. Anurag Kashyap hit it in Dev.D, Dibakar Banerjee had his cake and ate it in Shanghai, but somehow I get the impression both of those men (and even Farhan) feel like songs are "selling out" in a way that Zoya-Reema don't. Like, those guys will do songs to appease the money men but deep down they truly believe that "real" movies, "serious" movies are the type of thing that wins awards at Sundance and Cannes. Not from Filmfare.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Pisasu: A Haunted House Story

Pisasu (or Pissasu, I’ve seen it transliterated both ways) was an odd, little film but I enjoyed every second of it. Much like the earlier (and also excellent) Tamil horror hit Pizza, Mysskin’s Pisasu isn’t so much a “horror” film as it is a suspense film with a few chills thrown in. To that end, I’ll repeat my warning from my Pizza review and say that if you are intrigued by the idea of a moody Tamil horror film starring a moody, floppy fringed newcomer then peace out now and make sure you don’t read a single thing about it before you see it because most of the plot details are given away in the imdb synopsis and as well as most of the reviews and I’m going to give away the ending. Nobody can keep a secret these days. Well, almost nobody… you have been warned.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Indru Netru Naalai First Look!

So, this looks promising: time travel, Vishnu Vishal, weird future shit…

I like it.

Proving once again that the most creative films being made right now are coming out of South India.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Anegan… beneath the tree where I died

By sheer coincidence, just a few days before I saw Anegan I happened to watch the X-Files episode titled “The Field Where I Died.” In the episode, Agents Mulder and Scully try to stop a doomsday cult from committing mass suicide while Mulder is confronted with evidence that he and one of the cult members may have known each other in a past life. What I enjoyed about this episode--and in many of the best X-Files episodes--is that the viewer is left to draw her own conclusions. Was it two souls meeting again in a different life or does Mulder just believe every crazy idea that wanders in his direction? The evidence goes both ways, depending on how you look at it.

K.V. Anand pulls off that delicious X-Files-ian sense of unresolved mystery with aplomb in Anegan, the third film of his I’ve seen so far. Anand has a knack for melding masala and mystery with deeper issues. These aren’t just mindless entertainers. Ko tackled political corruption while, also, featuring some really great song sequences. Maattrraan was about the dangers of genetic engineering and Surya’s amazing--and more touching than it had any right to be--performance as conjoined twins. Now, we have my favorite Dhanush in a film that melds mystery, drama, filmi nostalgia, and… complex thoughts on the nature of our fantasies.

The film begins in Burma just before the expulsion of the Tamil population in 1962. Dhanush is Murugappa, a poor Tamil laborer who saves the peppy, wealthy, Sadhana-fringed Samudhra (Amyra Dastur) from certain death. Samudhra is smitten with her swarthy rescuer and, quite understandably, pursues him with all her might. The two fall in love over a very nice travelogue song but all is not well in Rangoon. The military seizes power; the Tamils are expelled; and Murugappa and Samudhra are forcibly parted, to tragic effect.

Or are they? Burma fades away to reveal a psychiatrist’s office. Samudrha is really Madhu, a peppy, wealthy, modern girl who works in the upper echelons of an IT company. The previous 40 minutes were all in her mind. A past life! With romantic dreams of Burma still filling her mind, Madhu latches onto Ashwin, one of the computer tech drones in her building, who happens to look just like her Murugappa.

The next section all takes place in the modern era. Ashwin is alternately annoyed at Madhu’s fantasies and attracted by her openheartedness. He finds himself falling for her almost despite himself. But a tragic accident once again sends the film careening into the past--this time Chennai in the 1980s.

Dhanush is Kaali, a 1980s hero with 1980s hair, and he’s introduced to us in a big, old-fashioned hero introduction song. There’s violence, gangsters, kiln-fired gods, and a beautiful, beatific, peace-loving heroine, Kalyani (Amyra). Again the lovers are forcibly separated, to tragic effect. But this time the consequences spill into the present. Madhu instinctively knows where to find two bodies buried under a tree. How? Why? And what does the scar-faced Inspector Gopinath (Ashish Vidyarthi) know about it?

Anand gives us four settings--mythological film, modern Chennai-set trendy film, 1960s style film, and a 1980s mass film. Each setting is treated exactly like the films of the time, down to plotting, characters, costuming. Anand does it all straight. I don’t know enough about older Tamil films to pick up specific references but having seen quite a few Hindi films of the 1960s and 1980s, I can recognize the determined, powerful 1960s heroine; the macho, forceful 1980s hero. Each was done to perfection. Amyra was delightful as the plucky 1960s protagonist, her eyes aglow with mischief and Dhanush was divine as the swaggering 1980s Kaali. And Anand picks the best of each era for the song picturizations. A 1980s hero introduction, a 1960s falling-in-love-with-flowers, a mythological sequence in nature, and a cheeky, modern club song featuring the droll lyric “YOLO,” as in “you only live once.” Ahem.

But at the heart of Anegan is this idea of fantasy. The fact that Madhu and Ashwin work for a video game company selling prefab ideas to us, that Madhu’s visions of past lives all take the form of films we’ve seen before, what does it say about us? Are we content to sit and gobble up what’s served, dwelling inside our own heads, or should we be out interacting with the world? As Madhu gets more stuck up in her own fantasies, the less appealing she becomes. It’s the Madhu who is kind to and engaged with people that is the Madhu we like. But, on the other hand, Ashwin’s complete dismissal of Madhu’s visions is also extremely unappealing. To be frank, he’s kind of a dick until he starts to see things her way… at least a little bit. Without the idealism, the peaceful “fantasy” of 1980s Kalyani to temper the 1980s Kaali, he’s nothing but a swaggering, 1980s dick. Without the romance, the emotional “fantasy” of 1960s Samudrha, the 1960s Murugappa would be just be nothing but a manual laborer. And without the spiritual element, the dreamy “fantasy” of 2010s Madhu, 2010s Ashwin has nothing but his graphics card to come home to. We can’t let fantasy dictate our lives but we can’t live without it either.

(And I couldn’t find her name but a huge shoutout to the actress playing Dhanush’s very practical younger sister. She was hilarious.)

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl