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Visually Challenged...

I bought a DVD copy of Giuseppe Tornatore's Star Maker; though I found that the subtitles were screwed-up, I decided to go ahead with the movie. The only other non-English non-Indian non-subtitled movie I've seen was Inarittu's 'Amorres Perros', which just blew me away - stylistically & directorially. I've been introduced to Tornatore before through his 'Cinema Paradiso' - which was a good film that made good use of nostaglia & love, with a passion for cinema at the centre. 'Star Maker' is a different theme that has a common man's (and of course, a woman's) desires of becoming a star & how a con man makes life out of it. Though that passion for cinema is present here throughout, that isn't where the heart of the movie lies. In this post, I'll just ramble about what I felt about the visual aspect of this movie. Dante Spinotti is the cinematographer of this movie.

Visually, there is nothing arresting about this movie; but in tandem with the director, the way the camera moves around the characters adds depth to the story-telling. In one of the initial setting-up scenes, Tornatore employs a long shot (time wise) where the camera pans across characters, then houses and then streets. In this scene, which I'm guessing ran for 3 minutes, a young boy picks up a suit and delivers it to someone without goofing up the continuity. Whereas later in the same scene when the camera comes to focus on a group of old men chatting on the street-side, one of them waits for a signal (probably from an assistant director!!) to begin the conversation and as we see them all closer, he begins talking. But we know that this isn't the purpose of this shot. When capturing slice-of-life, even before the camera had them in their viewfinder, we should've heard them talking (in low volume) and as the camera moves near them, it should've been like the audience eavesdropping on their discussion (which was already in flow) and gradually shy away from them. A meticulous & demanding director like Stanley Kubrick would've have reshot, but Tornatore should've found it too painful to choreograph everything again & must have okayed it.

There is a scene where the hero talks to the local villagers in a diner, probably about the power of movies & how stardom could transform one's life. For most of his speech we don't see his face, but from behind his head we see the listener's reactions. This camera movement is important because it tells us that cinema was not just a past-time for these people; they were giving their undivided attention to this guy who says he knows people in a studio in Rome but has nothing to prove his credibility. In a curiously interesting scene, where this con man and a local lady have sex inside his truck, the camera starts approaching the truck from a distance, as if a by-passer heard something from the vehicle and decided to check out what it was. The feeling is less of eroticism and more of voyeurism. I call it curious because the audience have already come to expect promiscuous plays in the con man's part and a simple intra-truck shot should have sufficed. Tornatore must have his reasons. In one of the opening shots, the lone truck moves from right to left on the screen, which I felt a little counter-intuitive. A healthy chunk of the screen's real-estate is occupied by mud, road & bricks, which I guess symbolizes dryness in their hearts.

I can't write a review without understanding the dialogues. Though the story is understandable and though I know what the characters mean, the power is lost without knowing what the characters actually said. Somewhere after the first half enters the lead lady, tries madly to get the con man to accept her into his life, not because she loves him so much but because she hates her life in the present form that much. Cinema & a nomadic life promises her freedom and thrill, I suppose. He refuses to take her & later he comes back to her. But I don't know if there is any kind of redemption involved. The movie ends with a montage of some of the screen tests that he had filmed in his trips across Sicily, where the whole movie transpires. Those who've seen 'Cinema Paradiso' will remember that the famous kissing montage at it's climax brought tears because of the wonderful chemistry that was between the young boy & the projectionist. The climax here just seems like a shameless copy of Tornatore's earlier acclaimed work. Though the movie isn't emotionally fulfilling, it isn't disappointing. So, there goes my mini review.

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2 Responses to “Visually Challenged...”

  1. # Anonymous shreeja

    Amusing to read a movie review with the take home message: This movie cannot appease your visual senses; so you better don't repeat my mistake of not knowing italian, and thinking you could still somehow survive with lousy/no subtitles.  

  2. # Blogger Prasad Venkataramana

    Hahaha... that's one way of interpreting my post.

    I think such experiments are a welcome diversion for movie lovers. A few years back I would skip, say, the first 40 minutes of a movie, then watch a 10 minute clip and come up with my own story with that video clip as the centerpiece of my own movie. There are a few who start from the last scene and work their way backwards (though I've never tried that). Watching a movie like '21 Grams' itself is an experiment. So many movies, not enough time.  

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