Looper

Looper is in some ways what Inception is not. And one of those ways is that it never becomes a complete big studio movie package experience. Looper shows the courage to make some dark choices. The central characters and their actions are not dictated by audience approval. And that makes it a little more unpredictable. The movie does not tie up everything in a pretty bow for you to go home hollow.

If you go in expecting an action film you will be disappointed. It doesn’t have elaborate and expensive set pieces winding down endlessly to pumping music. And I felt that the visual aesthetics are a little raw. May be intentional. And we feel an emotional disconnect with the central characters except with that of Emily Blunt.

Rian Johnson again brings in some refreshing originality after Brick and Brothers Bloom. I am quite sure that there will be as many people hating Looper as much as who love it. But for a 30 million dollar investment, it is a movie made with some guts.

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Killing them softly

Where does experimentation ends being art and start becoming a mind numbing bore? This fine line between brilliance and obscurity scares me as a scriptwriter. In a film, the margin for error is even narrower than we think.

Take Killing them softly. It does cultivate the atmosphere well. I loved those two half witted characters who rob the mafia. I loved the fact that in this film, among all the characters, the lead character deserved the least of our sympathies. I loved the fact that the action whenever it happens is not contrived or artificially complicated to feed our need for thrill.

Despite being smart, Killing them Softly clearly lacks something. It fails to make me care for anything happening on screen. It fails on the basics of story telling. I understand that the dialogue oriented scenes (where most of the action is revealed through tangent conversations) is the style of the book that was adapted into this film. But after Tarantino films, it is tough the shake off the feeling of familiarity when you see lot of smart irrelevant dialogue in an crime thriller. And the allusions to American economy at various points becomes just plain irritating (‘Okay, I get it. Please don’t play another speech by Obama in the backdrop, please.’)

And sometimes the play with visuals and sound (like the flashes and sounds a character experience after a fix, the scene of Brad pitt killing a character at a traffic signal) are innovative but not really enjoyable.

Yeah, I guess that is the problem in a nut shell. You can be clever as much as you want. But art is about making a connection. It is about taking you along. Any amount of visceral brilliance may still fall short on that.

Ek tha tiger

Once upon a time, there was a tiger. His boss’s complain is, wherever he goes folks get killed. What did you expect from a tiger? Anyway finally he gets domesticated by a Kat. The owners of the Kat and tiger are infuriated. You know, how can this Tiger and Kat be together? Then the Kat and tiger chase begin. And then… Kat and tiger chase continues… Rinse and repeat… till the end.

My real fear is, the way it ends, it may not really end in one installment. 

The dark knight rises

Despite the high standards set by Nolan for himself after ‘The dark knight,’ TDKR is a decent finale to the trilogy. Nolan’s persistent obsession to cram more and more into his plots doesn’t work out as smoothly as in ‘TDK,’ but still it holds together, at least in the second half. There is a marked improvement in the direction of action scenes. This time, he gets all most all of them right.

Yeah, characters still talk more about ideological issues than pass on actual information. But anyway, that comes with the ‘Nolan brand.’ It is part of the fun. You are always more emotionally invested if thematic conundrums are presented through the characters. But despite being a Nolan fan, with each movie, his narrative tricks are becoming a little (disappointingly) familiar for me.

(Spoilers) The moment Alfred talked about the ‘wish’ he had in Florence, I could guess what the last scene of this movie would be. The initial attention and time Nolan gave to the Wayne/Selina Kyle chemistry somehow gave away ‘the anonymous trigger-man.’ Because Nolan always likes to tie up the loose ends. And sometimes Nolan uses the same plot trick a little too often. His favourite is making Batman/Wayne disappear for a little too long and then making his return a big emotional event for Gotham and the audience. He does it in Batman begins and he does it twice in TDKR.

But what is making me more worried is that I am seeing more fissures in the logical fabric of the whole Batman universe. Sometimes the manipulation of the writer to make a point becomes a little too apparent. That is most obvious with the Gotham public’s attitude and reactions especially towards Batman. It shifts and turns according to the needs in the story.  Bane’s decision to punish Gotham for 4-5 months with the revolution before detonating the bomb was also a little sketchy. It was understandably a plot device to give Batman enough time to heal himself and come back. But the issue is, was it a real punishment for Gotham where 99% is anyway supposed to be poor? They were actually having a blast by looting and prosecuting the 1% rich till Batman returned. Another thing is that Nolan comes up with all these convenient philosophical tidbits as per requirement. In the pit, Wayne tells the doctor’,I don’t fear death.’ The doctor tells him that he should fear death to do better. Now Wayne is able to clear the jump without a rope because it helps him to have fear. So the question is, if Wayne was not really afraid of death in the first place, how would the presence or absence of rope really matter?

Regarding the Bane vs Joker question, I think Nolan took a clever decision. The Riddler would be too similar to Joker. With a villain who doesn’t even have a face, there is not much scope for comparison or repetition. Joker is one of those divine ideas that fall into your lap. It won’t happen every day, even for Nolan. When it happens, you make the most of it and move on- rather than artificially trying to make it happen again and fail miserably.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: The book and the film

Should you read the book or see the adapted film first? Well here is the problem. If you see the film first, there is not enough incentive to get into the trouble of spending 5-6 hours on a book where you know every beat, just with more beating around the bush. Unless the language of the writer absolutely captivates you. I can imagine seeing a film based on ‘Catcher on the rye’ or ‘Pedro Paramo’ and still enjoying the book afterwards. But with most plot oriented books, after watching the film it is going to be difficult to enjoy the book because there are so many details coming your way without the hook of ‘what happens next.’

And this time around, I tried it the other way. I read the book first. And what do I think? I think after reading the book, it is really tough not to be disappointed with the movie as you naturally build an allegiance with the book. So much of details, back story, nuances etc are lost on the chopping table.

Anyway, this was an interesting experience. It gave me an insight into how different the priorities of a novelist and a scriptwriter are. After I read the book, before I watched the film, I tried to make a note of all those aspects that I would pay attention to, if I am adapting this book.

 (Minor spoilers ahead)

-I thought I would take out the whole track of  Jim Prideaux working as the teacher (lot of pages are devoted to it in the novel) because it doesn’t add much to the actual story.

  • In the film even though it has not been completely taken out, it has been kept to a bare minimum.

-I thought I will resist the temptation to start the film in the middle of the action (which is the fashion nowadays). Continue reading

Gangs of Wasseypur- why the length doesn’t bother me

It is easy to understand a consistent concern that ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ is too long and distracted with itself.  But I have a feeling that if the script had been streamlined more and more into a ‘revenge drama’ with lesser digressions, it would have lost some of its charm. What makes it more than a ‘Raktacharitra’ is its quirkiness,  investment in the secondary characters and creation of an entire authentic universe where all these people inhabit. It gives a true ‘epic’ feel to it.

After a point, the film(s) are not about who exacts revenge against whom. It doesn’t even matter whether it is really going anywhere. Kyu ki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi. In the eternal cycle, every one changes the role of being the offender and being offended against. And that ‘worldly’ sense comes from moral ambiguity and the personal dramas of all these major and minor characters (establishing which requires time).

Also this obsession about fitting every film into 2 hours is a new one for us. Before, Indian films didn’t bother about economy and obsessed more about giving a panorama of life in 2.5 to 3 hours. Then Hollywood came along. And commercial interest of fitting in more shows within a single day also played its role.

Definitely telling a story in 2 hours requires discipline and clarity of purpose. But we also lose out a lot if we insist on that for every film. The kind of subjects that would get made into a film would be much more unipolar and monotonous. What about having all kinds of films in terms of length, subject, span and ambition? Wouldn’t it be better to live in a future world where a film maker has the courage to imagine something like a ‘100 years of solitude’ or ‘War and peace’ not as a novel, but as a film?

Vicky donor

This is again one of those films that thrive on the talent of the writer, but not essentially on the ability of the writer to spin a story. The key here is quirky characters and quirky dialogue.

You can guess all the plot turns miles ahead. But at some point, this familiarity and predictability becomes a strength because it makes all the situations credible.  When you go for all those fancy twists, some times the universe of the story gets pushed into another realm which is not relatable any more. This film demonstrates that, if you choose your subject appropriately and can write great scenes, you can get away with being predictable.

And don’t misunderstand me. Vicky donor is not a great film. But it does have some interesting characters and entertaining conversations. You won’t squirm in your seat for the ordeal to end.