Can you see....

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The despair of Revolutionary Road

Revolutionary Road is the story of every couple loving, evolving and eventually drifting in the inevitable tide of time. A melancholic tale of aspirations and dreams mauled by the mechanical routine, trampled into dust by the march of the daily workforce.  Based on a novel by Richard Yates, their trials and tribulations mirror those of people bound by the vows of holy matrimony.

Set in the nineteen fifties, Frank and April Wheeler are the residents of Revolutionary Road, Connecticut.  Frank has a marketing job at Knox Business Machines and April is the quintessential housewife who still grieves for her failed acting career. The young couple revels in their unconventionality and their ability to shun the American dream of stability and familial peace. When domestic monotony starts to build, April suggest they leave this mundane existence and move to Paris, to start a new exciting life and pursue their passions. But this never transpires. In a futile attempt to revive the romance, the two indulge in a momentary juvenile rush of passion, leading to April’s unplanned pregnancy. This new development turns into their inner demon, prodding and destroying their will to uproot their unfulfilling yet stable lives.

The ultimate paradox occurs when a maniacal outsider forces them to realize the hopeless emptiness that April and Frank have been trying to disguise with their perfect family, a perfect house and the perfect life. One is lead to believe that every time the couple reaches for the sweet taste of freedom, the luring tentacles of the domestic monster pull them back. A new day dawns and yesterday has been swept clean off the board. The recurrent nightmare continues, each day is a lie, a happy fallacy at that. The helplessness is so beautifully apparent in their eyes; their silent screams of anguish are very close to home. Torn by this despair, April tries to abort the baby herself and eventually dies in the process.

The film manages to retain the grave mood of impending, terrible vicissitudes. The visual cues of discord between the married couple are blatantly obvious, the silent barrier between them bellows thunderous.

Different lives, different despondency. The outlets of our escapism may vary, but we are all trying in vain, there is no release from the life we lead, and this despair and the greed for something better, is what makes us so pathetically human. The bitter truth is that we are all troubled by our meagre existence. The mundane life we lead is precisely the one we snickered upon as youngsters.  Humans are an unhappy race; we revel in despair, find sanctity in sadness. Maybe that was the price we paid for acquiring social intelligence. Be wary of complacency, this sweet intoxicating venom will slowly sweep through your mind, rotting it bit by bit; the lure of shallow success shall seep through your identity, eating away your dreams.

Brilliant performances by Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. This being their second film after ‘Titanic’, it is simple to acknowledge the contradictory portrayal of love in these two films. Kate so beautifully emotes her pain and entrapment that the audience vehemently wishes for an end to this lie she is living. One poignant line in the film sums it all up. “No one forgets the truth Frank, they just get better at lying”.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

White Lightnin’ strikes!

The world is a terrible place and White Lightnin’ lets you have no qualms about it. This is a disfigured tale of downfall and redemption. A life biased by personal beliefs of good and evil, concepts which are eternally transient, ever changing and flipping in duality. The film very lucidly erases the thin line between the two.
Set in the American Midwest, Jescoe White is a by product of the typical white trash cliché. An out and out rebel, this maverick spends his childhood in and out of reform homes for his recurrent drug abuse. The horrendous experiences at the reprimand homes expose his violent streak and tarnish his impressionable mind beyond any reform.
Jesse is addicted to huffing gasoline which later leads to alcohol and drug abuse. This delusional junkie lets life pass him by in a hazy hallucination. On release from a mental asylum, Jesse is met with news of the senseless death of his father. The shock of this revelation is the turning point in his life. He gives up all his vices and takes to dancing in different towns. It is pitiful to watch him grapple with a clean, sober life, but his past has scarred his mind beyond repair.  His failed attempts towards a better life push him further into the vortex of abuse. With every needle prick or a swig of alcohol he becomes increasingly delusional, filling him with hate and revenge. Disturbing and downright repulsive, the audience feels a conflict between pity and disgust.
One very vehemently anticipates the downfall of the protagonist and that is what eventually transpires. His fervent and fanatical religiousness leads to self destruction. His end is equally evangelical, where he seeks redemption by chopping off his organs and feeding on them.
The colors in the film look washed out which very aptly sets the visual tone of the film. The soundtrack and background score are the high points of the film and they contribute beautifully to create a cohesive flavour of dismay. The film is divided into short sequences akin to passages of the Bible. One is subjected to a very poignant use of passages from the Bible due to the circumstances they pertain to.
Personally, White Lightnin’ has been one of the most difficult films to watch.  The feeling of impending doom is tough to shake off. It is very convincingly depressing and grossly satirical at the same time. Finally one realizes that Jesse can be anyone, from anywhere, his life a mirror revealing our unending battle with our own personal demons.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

ΚΥΝΟΔΟΝΤΑΣ, a twisted tale

ΚΥΝΟΔΟΝΤΑΣ (Dogtooth) tells the tale of three siblings and their parents living in acute seclusion. The three teenagers lead a dysfunctional life in a twisted world created by the parents. Their daily routine is scrupulously planned and expected to be meticulously followed. Disobedience has brutal and violent consequences.  Their actions are governed by reward and punishment, forever imprinted in their minds as the golden truth. The concept of “Give and Take” is abused and exploited, pushed to the limits in disturbing ways.
The parents seemingly are the sole creators of this dystopia.  Words take on new implications as the parents deem appropriate. Hence, “Zombies” are little yellow flowers, the “Sea” is a huge armchair, the harmless cat a bloodthirsty predator and Frank Sinatra is the family’s grandfather. The force fed beliefs are terribly repulsive, more so for the blind acceptance of this perverse reality by the kids. 
This film holds no bars in tackling taboo topics of incest and violent rage. In scenes of a sexual intercourse between the siblings, it is probably not the visual which repels rather the nature of their relationship and their utter lack of understanding social norms. The family interaction seems primal, animalistic and grotesquely comical.
This extreme desolation may have been caused by some atrocity incurred by the mother, forcing them to shun the outside world turning them into fanatically protective dangerous maniacs.
Another oddity the parents inflict is a “Dogtooth”.  When the teenagers question this seclusion and express the need to go outside, the parents fabricate this tale about the canine being a “Dogtooth”, their freedom bound to the falling of this particular tooth. Naturally, this never happens, sealing the poor prisoner’s fate of being caged in forever. The most haunting situation occurs when the elder sister deliberately knocks her tooth off in despair and tries to escape, bleeding gleefully.
The film very convincingly takes ideas and effortlessly flips them into contradictions.  Dogtooth gathers all societal norms and contentiously destroys them to bits. Packed with robust performances, bizarre behaviour and a whimsical plot, ΚΥΝΟΔΟΝΤΑΣ is an eye opener.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Balmy as Barcelona!

Vicky Cristina Barcelona is set in vibrant Spain. The locale is warm, balmy and throbbing with a fervor which resonates perfectly with the characters and the narrative. The two protagonists are best friends, poles apart in their opinion of love and desire. Maybe we all have these polar opposites within us, inkling us to examine our transient desires.
Here the two friends meet the Juan Antonio Gonzalo, a brazen artist whose multifaceted personality appeals to both women. What follows is a pandemonium of relationships, the good, the bad and the ugly, and everything in between.

Woody Allen beautifully packages the kook inside all artists, their utter lack of inhibitions and nonconformist living. Penelope Cruz as Maria Elena is the artistic genius with passion pulsating in her veins. She is convincing as a zealot who lives her life on her terms notwithstanding its detrimental tempestuousness. Scarlett Johansson exhibits the birdlike fluttering nervousness typical of Woody Allen. I like this film better than any other Woody Allen production, maybe because it appealed to me for its radical, rebellious artistic mavericks and the passionate lives they lead.
Moral of the story, it is essentially human nature to be unsatisfied and be haunted by “what ifs...” The search for “something else” is a harsh reality some admit, others mask in normalcy and routine.
Juan Antonio very ironically says “Only unfulfilled love can be romantic................”

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Obsessing on a Swine obsession!

Sure, we have snickered at them, snorted at their eccentricities and ridiculed their compulsive disorders. Remember Jack Nicholson as Melvin Udall in ‘As Good as it Gets’? This dogmatist absolutely refuses to use the same bar of soap twice. He abhorrently carries his own plastic cutlery to diners which seemingly and very justifiably infuriates the staff. Most of us may shun these traits of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but with the current pandemic scenario do we dismiss them as whimsical and eccentric?

Image copyright of TriStar Pictures.

Another lovable victim of the OCD is Adrian Monk, played by Tony Shalhoub in the TV series aptly titled ‘Monk’. Apart from having germophobia, this ex-cop has three hundred and twelve fears, from milk, ladybugs, harmonicas, heights, risk and imperfections. One sees Monk grossly refraining from pressing lift buttons, staircase railings. With his assuring and endless stock of tissues, this detective goes about his business in the most immaculate manner.

Image copyright of USA Network & NBC Universal.

Interestingly, with contagious diseases raging rampant, Udall and Monk's ridiculed pathological germophobia give them an edge! Aren’t precautionary measures for Swine Flu obsessively ringing a bell?

So the next time you see an OCD victim, remind yourself, this victim of the boon might end up living longer than you!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dream a dream – Part II

Every idea has two aspects, the humane and the evil. What happens if the only sanctuary known to man is evaded, exploited and commercialized?

Paprika explores the possibility of watching someone else’s dream, participating in this highly individualistic, personal activity. The conflict arises when DC Mini, the device that allows therapists to enter a patient’s dreams is stolen. All hell breaks loose, people jump off buildings, talking gibberish, possessed by some diabolical whim.

The beauty of such concepts is the freedom of expression they offer. Nothing is better than being able to see a person’s thoughts. And that’s exactly what you can expect from the film. Bizarre visuals, disconnected frames blatantly justified by their existence as a dream. The medium of animation lends itself beautifully to the narrative, allowing bizarre depictions of characters and plot.

Sigmund Freud would have been gleefully proud of this visual dichotomy of mind and body. Watch it, and you will never dream the same again...

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