I liked the subtext of the movie until I read Shane Carruth’s interpretation of it in an interview. My reading of it was a bit more profound and complex than what he intended it to be. I was a bit disappointed. Then I understood what Derrida meant when he said that the author is dead. The author better stay dead. Otherwise he can be a nuisance and a disconcerting presence between the reader and the text. We all read into things what we want to see. We see our own vulnerabilities and preoccupations mirrored into every piece of art and that’s when we love it. As someone said, you cannot be moved by an idea unless you already agree to it subconsciously. So my advice to writers and film makers is- never talk about your work. Never talk about what you intended or what you are trying to convey. Make it. And just get out of the way.
No contesting that gravity is a breathtaking accomplishment in terms of technology in cinema- the initial relentless looping around of the viewing angle really steals your breath. And yes, the film maker really does a great job in capturing the eeriness and precariousness of the zero gravity world while the Earth looms behind as an ever present nostalgic anchor. But my gripe is that despite some striking visual symbols, the movie keeps its foot firm in the traditional Hollywood tropes in terms of storytelling. It has more in common with an ‘Avatar’ than a ‘Solaris’ or ‘Space Odyssey.’ ‘The dead kid’ back story, the rookie- veteran angle, ‘healing the past through current crisis’ theme, the ‘all is lost-no- not yet’ moments- everything tastes too familiar. The ‘obstacles’ are just temporary setbacks which you know for sure would never defeat the protagonist. The bottom line is that when you get out of the theatre, all you are left with are some great visuals. Only if some innovation had spilled into developing a theme that is a bit more original and profound…
What is that makes The Lunchbox special? The restrain; the control over the medium. There are no characters here retching out their deepest emotions in a verbal diarrhoea. The background score doesn’t hit you with a hammer in case you miss what is happening on screen. The actors don’t go into convulsions trying to act. Every scene has a certain effortless charm. Indeed this is a director’s film.
In terms of the basic premise, the movie reminded me of the National award winning Malayalam film ‘Mathilukal’ (The Walls) by Adoor Gopalakrishnan. Instead of a lunchbox, the story device there is a prison wall separating male and female sections. And we never see the female character.
The Lunchbox is perfect except for its last 10 minutes. I personally feel that the movie should have ended with that beautiful voiceover in the coffee shop. After that, it appeared that the writer director is trying hard to be unpredictable (or ‘artsy’ if that is what you would like to call it). But sometimes predictability is better than clumsiness.
Last minute jitters and runaway bride (grooms) have been preoccupations of Hollywood romantic comedies for a while. Now Jaideep Sahni gives an authentic Indian spin to the much idealised ‘commitment phobitis.’ The movie has sparkling dialogue, quirky characters, circumvented cliches, great performances. But eventually you get exasperated because of the forced cleverness- the characters never feel really real because they all are hell bend on not reacting genuinely to the situations they are in. After every heart break, the characters picks up the pieces and move on so easily that you really doubt whether there was any ‘romance’ in the first place, let alone ‘Shudh.’ These characters are too smart, and also too phony. When second half steers into familiar triangle territory, I couldn’t help imagining Jaideep Sahni in golden shackles with a Yash Chopra stamp on a heart shaped padlock.
First review of ‘The Search’ is here.
Major spoilers ahead
-Limitless point of view
If the central character is not the eye of the audience into the world, it is difficult to maintain the intrigue. Here Surjan learns about anything important at least 5 minutes after audience knows about it. Be it the involvement of Sasi or Tehmur in the plot or what happens to Tehmur with the money bag, we are always ahead of Surjan. And we are forced to patiently wait while he figures out what has happened.
-Ineffectual central character
When I think about it, this thriller doesn’t even require Surjan for it to happen. He just happens to be in the middle of it, effectless. The decisions or fates of Sasi or Tehmur or Armaan Kapur’s friend don’t appear to be influenced by Surjan in any way that really matters.
-Confusing your tone
Well, I know there are movies that has done the ‘genre jump’ well. But my problem is not that it starts off as a investigative thriller and ends as a supernatural thriller, but that it takes the emotional angle little too seriously without being able to really pull it off well. As a result, the movie has two centers of gravity which pull at each other. One the crime thriller and the other the father-son-wife angle.
The investigator with an unresolved conflict going into a investigation and coming out sorted out is the oldest trick in the book. The marriage in ruins- check. The all knowing, seductive femme fatale- check. The accommodating, convenient right hand man- check.
In the current age, we have seen all kinds of tricks to pull a twist. A single reveal is not enough. You have to be ready with a second one. The twist in this one can be seen coming from miles ahead. As Tony Gilroy rightly said, audience now are very good in second guessing the writer. You can’t rely on a single twist. After the reveal, I just hoped that something else is coming- because the reveal was so obvious and derivative I wrongly assumed that writers are aware how obvious it is.
-Sticking around after the final kill
Once you have pulled out your last trick, get out of there as fast as possible. Elaborate epilogues happen when the writer underestimates the audience or when he confuses the objectives he has with the story. This movie could have ended at least 4-5 minutes earlier I guess. And the longer the movie is after the reveal, the more diluted the impact of the final reveal.
It is always with a feeling of impending doom that I watch an adapted film where I have already read the book. It is very difficult for an adapted movie to satisfy a book lover.
In that sense, Ang Lee deserves credit for pulling it off. Instead of being an re-interpretation or reiteration of the book the film becomes the completion of the book. May be it also reflects on the personality of Ang Lee he doesn’t feel the need to forcefully change something to establish his authority over his work. The visuals and imagery of the film were what the book was lacking. My only gripe is that the spiritual discourse and Pi’s tryst with religions in the beginning was a little bit too much on the face. Because of that hammering, it is now difficult for the movie to transcend the author/ film maker dictated meanings and symbolism.
Regardless of nitpicking, Life of Pi is one of those poetic masterpieces that you know you are going to love even before the title credits are over. One of those stimulating reminders that cinema can enrich us rather than just provide some mind numbing cacophony.