Movie Reviews, Commentary & More

Mini Reviews

Hazaaron Khwashein Aisi
The title means 'a thousand such dreams' and it comes in a song along with the line 'the mind has gone insane'. This is a movie about the political/caste tumult in the 70s which made the young blood to want to change the world. Two guys from college branch out - one becomes a fixer for politians and the other goes to Bihar to revolutionize the social system. Before long, they both know that they're unhappy with the way they conduct their lives and realize that they have to pay for their wishful thinking. Sudhir Mishra's fluent direction and a scintillating performance by the debutante Chitrangda Singh are the dazzling jewels of this crown.

A classic story where the big brother sets up a pawn piece and the pawn comes back resoundingly to teach a lesson. Swagger, a retired sniper is asked by the FBI to do a job which involves an assasination plan and after the execution, he is promptly set up. When he is chased, he outruns them, get behind them and kills them. The novel by Stephen Hunter (one of the two film critics to win a Pulitzer) is a well-above-average thriller and this movie upon which it is based is a just-above-average thriller. Mark Wahlberg is quite solid at the top and the music holds the movie.

Pulp Fiction
There are interesting things to discover on repeated viewings of any great movie, like this one. But more than the joy of such discoveries, it is the sheer pleasure of listening to those dialogues that keeps offering invitations to the audience. Circular screenplay dealing with seemingly separate stories intersecting at interesting points have been tried many times after this movie, but this is the one they talk about. The restaurant robbery at the beginning and the end is one of the many statements on executing with style. The confrontation between the mobster Wallace and the boxer Butch is a cool way to twist things around.

Honey I Shrunk the Kids
Seeing this movie after more than a dozen years of my first viewing made me realize that this is a proper kids' movie - meaning that adults can smirk at the thought of how kids will enjoy this movie forgiving some of the bad acting and poor script. A scientist invents a machine that can shrink objects to abnormal levels; his kids and his neighbours' kids fall under the focus of that machine and they're shrunk and forbidden to the backyard. A chronicle of their journey back to the house and the travails of their parents looking for them with a few sprinkles of family values and love - you have a safe Disney movie.

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Pan's Labyrinth - One Minute Review

Spain. 1944. Second World War. Guerillas against Fascist regime. This is the setting against which Guillermo Del Toro has based his story which fuses gritty reality and absolute fantasy.  I didn't get the catch, if there are any hidden messages meant for the audience.  This is how it goes: Vidal is a military captain who has his base somewhere in the mountains, determined to wipe out the guerillas.  He marries a widow who already has a daughter Ofelia.  Now, Ofelia's world is two-fold - the world which everyone sees, and hates but continues to live; and the under-world, a fairy place where she is a princess.

The screenplay strongly commits to the effects of fairies on real-life that it's quite impossible to dismiss the fantasy part as a mere figment of Ofelia's imagination. There are scenes - in both the worlds that are great, but seeing them together, one after the another, some how distorts the movie effect and reduces the punch. Either it should have been a complete reality, or a complete fantasy. In tying the knot and in searching meanings, I was lost. One striking aspect of the movie is its photography, which creates a magnificent atmosphere, that you almost buy the fantasy scenes. One question lingers at the end of the movie: Why is it called Pan's Labyrinth?

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Wild Strawberries - Movie Review

The reputation precedes the man. Ingmar Bergman, the Swedish director who recently passed away, was celebrated during his time and is still a source of inspiration to many great cinema artistes. Cinema intellectuals experience orgasmic shivers in dissecting his metaphors and ascribing meaning to seemingly ununderstandable sequences. Woody Allen said something like this: for any director to have made any one of Bergman's movies would have been a career highpoint. 'Wild Strawberries' is the movie that's supposed to have catapulted Bergman to the fore of world cinema, expanding his fan base which was previously only within Europe.

The movie is primarily about Isak Borg, a retired professor of medicine who has had a fruitful life in the world's view. The screenplay which takes the form of a road trip is a semi-metaphor to Borg traveling down the memory lane and reflecting upon his past. Borg is an admirable man to the society. But within his family, he's not liked that much. It's because of his bad parenting that his son Evald refuses to have a child and already feels dead inside. Borg's coldness clouds his judgment when it comes to financially helping even his own son. The movie sums up the transformation (though not a radical one) of the professor through interactions with fellow human beings, his dreams and distorted-reality sequences - all of which happen on his journey from Stockholm to Lund where he would receive his honorary doctorate.

In one of the first few scenes, we see Borg taking the audience through one of his dreams which involves a coffin with Borg's body falling off a horse-drawn carriage; when the coffin is opened, he emerges with a tragicomic face. At this point, Bergman cuts back to reality and shows a horror struck Borg. This allusion to fear of death will come to back to haunt Borg in another dream sequence where he would be shown the door and a young child will be taken inside the house. We see a handless watch and at a later point Borg's mom talks of how quickly time travels - a reference to the futility in appreciating life in terms of time. In one of his dreams, Borg sits for an examination of human understanding, interactions and psychology and fails the test. Such metaphors about life and how it applies to Borg are plenty; only that they don't have any power.

The film is technically adept. Shot in black & white by Gunnar Fischer, the varying shades of greyness are beautifully handled to evoke fear, pain, indifference and sympathy. Erik Nordgren's score is just about perfect. In a film that runs for 91 minutes, he has composed music for less than 10 minutes - announcing itself if and only if needed. But the highlight of the movie belongs to two actors: Victor Sjostrom and Ingrid Thulin. Victor, a veteran actor and director magnificently plays the lead role - evoking sympathy, trying to understand his circle and finally transformed. Ingrid, playing Marianne brilliantly portrays a mature woman who is caught somewhere between liking and hating her father-in-law.

When I was in college, I tried watching one of Bergman's movies and fell asleep midway. It's been a while since I started viewing movies with a serious eye and the good news is that I didn't fall asleep through 'Wild Strawberries'. In fact I saw it two times, the second time with a commentary by film scholar Peter Cowie. Bergman's dialogues are brillaint, but the story is watered down and meanders aimlessly. The screenplay has too many diversions; frequent switches between reality and surreality is heavily distracting. Since scholars around the world hail this movie as an achievement, I'm tempted to say that I'm not mature enough to understand the themes; however, in my present state, I'm afraid that I may not come to like such movies at all. Personally, 'Schindler's List' remains a landmark movie in my roster that profoundly affected my view of humanity. I felt such an indifference towards the characters of the movie; I'm quite sure you feel the same way about this review because it's them behind this piece of writing.

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