Monday, March 31, 2003

The weekend was a treat. On Friday I saw the second part of Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers. The first part, though spectacular, was a little disappointing mostly I suppose due to an unfulfilling narrative. The second part I felt to be much better—something like Kurosawa’s Shakespeare adaptations diluted with John McTiernan’s The Thirteenth Warrior. There is Shakespearean grandeur as well as adolescent thrills. I think it is not an exaggeration to say that this film pushes the medium to new limits. Jackson has to be given credit for accomplishing in this series things that many would have felt was impossible. One review of The Fellowship of the Ring went so far as to say that the battle scenes would have Welles and Kurosawa turning in their graves with envy. (No wonder I was disappointed with the film!) Viggo Mortensen’s part may well be the cinematic character whose heroism is most spectacularly documented on the silver screen.

The second film of the weekend also belonged to a trilogy. Though I am yet to see the first two instalments, I caught the last of Sergio Leone’s so-called Dollars Trilogy—the celebrated The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It is one of those films that has become an archetype; or maybe it is the definitive treatment of a particular archetype. This one too has a Kurosawa connexion—the first film of the trilogy being a remake of his Yojimbo. Clint Eastwood continues the Mifune role. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a long, rambling film, stylishly made within the confines of a genre Western, with its sometimes extreme violence spiced with moments of comedy, suspense, and surprisingly, even pathos. Add to that spectacular cinematography, and the film’s most famous asset, the instantly recognizable score by soon to be legendary Ennio Morricone. It is clear that Ramesh Sippy, who made Sholay owes a debt to Leone. And it also appears to me that Amitabh Bachchan has borrowed something of the Eastwood persona in more than one of his films. But, lest we forget, it all goes back to that samurai swaggering into an unwelcoming town, with a scratchy beard, and a mean toothpick between his teeth. To Toshiro Mifune.slfr