Friday, December 12, 2008

Before Sunrise & Before Sunset.

How many times have you come across a person you could instantly relate to? Felt an automatic chemistry with? And what if circumstances got in the way? What if the timing and the location played spoilsport?

Before Sunrise (directed by Richard Linklater) is a marvellous look at the beauty of human relationships. The movie follows two strangers (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) who meet on a train, get off together at Vienna, and spent just a day with each other.

Is it possible to fall in love in such a short span of time, with a stranger you've just spent a few hours with? This is one love story completely unlike any other, mostly dialogue-based, but therein lies the simplistic beauty of the film. I loved it so much because of its lack of pretension. The realism is stunning- it's hard to come across a movie where I can actually identify with the characters, but here, I did. I saw traces of myself in them. There are observations about life, love, romance- and many other things, that I personally related to.

Certain scenes like the walk by the river and the river-side poet's recital of his spontaneously written verse, the hand-reading session, and of course- the first kiss- those are scenes that left me feeling deliciously warm.

The ending is a little reminiscent of An Affair To Remember- captivating and romantic, but not in your usual "happily ever after" way. Watch this movie not because it's a love story, but because it's a masterpiece, a sheer achievement in cinema that's simple yet stunning- a movie that pulls at your heartstrings just because you can feel it's real. With wonderful acting and excellent script, Before Sunrise is one of those meaningful romances you don't easily forget, because it ends with a promise.

Before Sunset, by the same director, catches up with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy almost nine years later, in Paris, to follow up on that same promise. They're older, of course, but more importantly, they're jaded- about life, and about relationships. While Before Sunrise is about falling in love, Before Sunset explores the cynicism and the heartbreak associated with it. But that's not to say, in any way, that it's a dark movie. On the contrary, it's beautiful, and subtly challenging. There's an interplay of very powerful emotions, and an exploration of the fragility and strength of human bonds. There's a sense of having bottled up years of frustration and countless moments of thinking "What if...", and I found myself waiting for the eventual spill- the inevitable explosion of emotion.

You can tell that Jessie and Celine have grown up- they have made their share of mistakes, they have experienced unhappiness and the pang of unfulfilled love, but somehow, somewhere- lives the hope that love and passion may be reborn again. It's a wonderfully poignant sequel, and the chemistry between the actors is as good as ever, if not better. Also, Hawke and Delpy do a brilliant job of portraying two people who have not been able to truly move on, after spending just one night together.

The ending is... in a word - moving. It left me thinking. It's honest, and it's real. Special mention must be made of Delpy's song- it's beautifully written, full of meaning, and very moving.

And what is perhaps most beautiful, is the fundamental optimism, the faith- that perhaps, at the end of the day, two lovers can be reunited, and that true love can overcome all obstacles.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Devil Wears Prada.

The Devil Wears Prada is a loose screen adaptation of Lauren Weisberger's 2003 novel of the same name.

Enter Andy (Anna Hathaway) who dreams of becoming a journalist, and lands a job as the Second Assistant of Miranda Priestley (Meryl Streep), the Editor-In-Chief of the fashion magazine, Runway. It's not easy at all, as Andy soon learns, and she finds herself adapting to her new world, and making changes in her personal and professional life to deal with it.

The movie has its ups and downs. The downs- mainly Hathaway, I thought. She was hugely disappointing. Her acting seems half-hearted, you somehow can't believe in her character, on the whole, she's just wishy-washy. The ups - there are some great clothes, some really fabulous dialogue sequences (especially those of Streep's), and of course, there's Paris. Stanley Tucci puts in a minor role, and he's not bad as well. Emily Blunt is somewhat impressive as the First Assistant, who will bow to any demands her boss makes, whose job is her whole life.

And then, there's Meryl Streep herself, who gets so into the role of the bitchy boss that you find yourself wondering if she might really be like that in person. Bossy, domineering, sarcastic and hard-to-please, she's every Assistant's nightmare. But her pursed lips and "That's all!" speak volumes- I think Streep would be one of the main reasons to watch this movie.

One of the major problems I had with this movie was the way Andy's friends put her down for it, constantly made fun of her dedication and her efforts, and how her own boyfriend started shooting her down. What is wrong with trying to be good at your job? What is wrong with trying to adapt, to stick it out, when you know that many doors will open out, at the end of a year? There was tremendous shallowness of character, too much narrow-mindedness for me to enjoy the movie properly.

This movie's not that bad, but it isn't that great either. The ending's rather disappointing, it's just there, but it doesn't make you think.

Watch it for some stylish outfits, some good comic scenes, and Streep's acting. But if you're wondering if there's more- well, I thought there wasn't.

Verdict: A bit of a disappointment.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lost In Translation.

Very rarely do you come across a movie that speaks to you. That reaches out beyond the screen, and touches your feelings. That makes you think about it constantly, long after it's ended. Lost In Translation is one of those rare diamonds in the rough.

Directed by Sofia Coppola, it tells the story of an actor (Bill Murray) and a neglected wife (Scarlett Johannson), who are in Tokyo for a brief while. Even in the midst of a bustling city, there is a pervading sense of loneliness in both their lives, he because his marriage is meaningless and his wife keeps calling up to ask about wood samples, and she because her husband gives her little or no attention.

Eventually they meet, and drift into a relationship that is very casual yet friendly, simple yet deep, and short-lived yet meaningful.

Can a person be lonely even in the midst of crowds? Can one feel totally alone inspite of constant attention? Lost In Translation proves that it's possible, and that it's also possible for two complete strangers, with nothing in common, to become attached to one another.

If you're looking for high-paced action or saccharine sweetness, you won't find it here. This is a film that is profoundly simple, and simply profound- touching in its portrayal of human loneliness and human relationships.

(I'm sure there are lots of people out there who think this movie is pretentious, boring, maybe even racist in its portrayal of the Japanese- I for one think you need to watch this movie with an open mind. It's not pretentious. The lack of sex and action does not make it so. It's not boring- it progresses at its own pace, without rushing. And as for the racism- well, the whole point is that Bob and Charlotte are feeling lost in a new city, and cannot adapt to their culture- and that is what we as viewers are supposed to feel too. If we felt they were understanding the customs and the language really well, then the whole Lost In Translation concept loses its significance.)

Bill Murray's role was literally tailormade for him, and as for Scarlett Johannson- it's impossible not be taken in by her beauty, and not just her acting. Their sense of discomfort in a new city is evident- not understanding the language, and not following the customs. Also, add to that, Sofio Coppola's outstanding direction.

My favourite scene would probably be the one where they are lying in bed, he on his back, she curled up, her toes just touching his leg. They talk about marriage, life, and other such things, he reassures her that things do get better, and lightly strokes her foot.

What makes this movie is so beautiful is probably the lack of any sexual relations between the two. They don't drift into an affair, they don't jump into bed straightaway, but they understand each other- and that can go far deeper than sex itself. There is an undertone in the movie that lies unspoken- their growing attachment is slowly made clear, but never once do you hear the words, "Oh Bob, I'm so glad I met you, Tokyo was so meaningless before" or "Charlotte, I love you, you're the only one I've ever loved." For that would have spoiled the subtlety that makes up this movie.

Its tagline goes: Everyone wants to be found. Lost In Translation is beautiful in its simplicity, lovely in its languidity, and its ending makes you think about what you've watched.