Thursday, May 16, 2002

I have so many other things to be attending to now, but here I am blogging. Like someone said, ‘A man can do any amount of work as long as it is not the work he is supposed to be doing at the moment.’

Last weekend was a ball. You see, I’m the only person I can show love to right now. Everyone I care about are out of reach, at a distance. So all the gifts I have are showered on myself. Thus, I’m forced to enjoy myself. Quite a predicament, eh? Anyway Hrithik Roshan came down to Pune on Friday to inaugurate a multiplex named Inox, and the very next day I saw two films there—Monsters, Inc. and The Deep End.

There are four screens at Inox with about eight different films playing at different times. Tickets cost Rs 90, but the atmosphere of relaxed luxury there seems worth it. Ticket-booking is computerized; the seating, projection and sound were great. But one serious flaw: they interrupted the films for an interval, Indian style. I wish cinemas in India would show films the way they were designed to be exhibited—from beginning to end. The vast majority of Indian film-makers have the interval in mind when they film—sort of like breaking down the film into two acts; but not so the Western filmmakers. For cinephiles like me, these are serious issues.

Monsters, Inc. is a terrific animated feature from Pixar Studios, the folks behind the Toy Story series. There was a great animated short called ‘For the Birds’ preceding the actual film. The film itself dazzled with its visual panache and invention. The plot is appropriately far-fetched and wacky—about a parallel monster world fuelled by the energy they obtain from the screams of frightened children. The characters (voiced by the likes of John Goodman, Billy Crystal and Steve Buscemi) are endearing, and there is an exhilarating climax set in the midst of a zillion doors zapping around on wires in a huge factory. The outtakes at the end were hilarious.

Well, it appears I’m a great fan of animated films, because I really don’t remember having disliked any animated feature I’ve seen so far. Many of them would make my list of films I’ve truly enjoyed—times when you savour the pure magic of the medium of cinema. For me, animated films have always meant visual splendour, good-storytelling, imagination, creativity, subversion, wit. Why do live-action features suffer in comparison to animation? Is it because the former are easier to make and thus lack inspiration? Or is it because the camera is cumbersome and unwieldy compared to pencils (or pixels)?

Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s The Deep End seemed a rebuff to my aspersions on live-action cinema. It was an original, involving, riveting, stylish film about love, desperation, sacrifice and the enigma of desire. Brilliantly realized by the director-duo, their script is honest, sharp, relentless. But the most striking element of the film was the performance of the lead—an obsessed mother played by Tilda Swinton. Hers is the kind of macho performance one would only expect from the great method actors—startlingly intense, totally convincing, brutally honest. It was one of the finest in recent memory. I’m a convert. The Deep End is not to be missed.

And that was only Saturday. How did I cross Sunday’s river of ennui? Went to the cinema, of course. This time to Vijay Cinema, still my favourite, because it is the only one I know in India that shows English films without an ‘interval’.

Another animated feature, called Ice Age. Great fun. Set during the Ice Age (of course), the plot follows a woolly mammoth, a sloth and a sabre-toothed tiger on their journey to return a human child to its father. Sounds like stuff for small fry, and it is more cartoonish than, say, Monsters, Inc., with a good deal of slapstick. But it is funny, at times laugh-out-loud, slapstick. However, that does not mean that the film is less polished. Its animation style is actually quite different from the somewhat undifferentiated style of Disney, Dreamworks and the like. The prominent voice characterization, that of Sid the Sloth, is by John Leguizamo, the superb Latino actor. (I noticed him first in Carlito’s Way, turning out of nowhere to stab Al Pacino, at the end of a flamboyant climax in which director de Palma attempts impressively to top his own great railway station scene in The Untouchables. And then he played Tybalt—the Prince of Cats—in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo+Juliet, and Toulouse-Lautrec in Luhrmann’s dazzling Moulin Rouge.) Some great scenes like Sid ‘inventing’ (American) football while fighting dodos for a melon (!), and a high-speed amusement-park style ride through ice caves. And, oh yes, there’s Scrat, the jinxed squirrel.

Forthcoming films here include Michael Mann’s Ali, Mathieu Kassovitz’s French The Crimson Rivers and the Hughes Brothers’ From Hell, with Johnny Depp.slfr