My Before Midnight Memory

Before Midnight

I went to watch Before Midnight on Friday evening, having timed my drive to the Landmark Theater in what I thought was a spectacularly smart manner. Traffic was brisk, and I made it 15 minutes before the screening. Except the parking at the mall was full on all levels but one, and by the time I reached Level 5, there was a stream of disappointed drivers heading out because apparently the “but one” part was no longer valid. I sniffed around awhile, checking to see if anyone was leaving, but then it was 7:15 and I knew if I stayed for the 9:45 show, the evening was done. So I went back home, and read Fullmetal Alchemist until my eyes bled. You know the rest.

I went there again yesterday, and this time things were much more uncomplicated. By the time the movie began, I was done with half the first volume of Detroit Metal Cityand the theater was decently full for a Monday evening.

I won’t talk about the movie. You wait for some things for a long time, you read tidbits of meta-data here and there, do your best to avoid spoilers, and you place your trust in the makers. You are in the right frame of mind to take the movie in, you are pretty pumped about the 96 meta-score. Yes, it feels good to have your trust rewarded. The movie made me laugh, and gasp, and laugh some more. It made me hold the arms of my (very well-positioned) seat tight every now and then. I occasionally smiled to myself when a phrase here or a retort there caused some half-forgotten memory to resurface. And once it was done, the last of the credits had faded on the screen and I blinked at the lights coming on, I realized I was thinking about time and death, and love. And also about Julie Delpy’s beautiful breasts, that make a non-cameo appearance in the second half of the movie.

But my most enduring memory of Before Midnight will be this: there is a bit of dialogue in there, when Celine is telling Jesse about how predictable it is to have sex with him. “Kiss kiss kiss, tits tits tits, pussy, snore”, she says, and makes a face. But naturally, the theater is in uproar, with full-throated laughter everywhere. Especially from this really old gentleman sitting behind me, who is loudly guffawing. And then his wife, who was also choking back her laughter, turns to him and says – “You of all people should not be laughing at that!”

That makes me turn around and look at them, at which they both look at me and laugh even harder. So do I.


From IMBD: Yukihiko Tsutsumi ( Memories of Tomorrow, Black Jack) and Ryuhei Kitamura ( Versus, Azumi ) each finished their contributions to the short film anthology Jam Films (2002) in record time. As a result producer Shinya Kawai gave the two directors a proposal to each create a feature length movie with only two actors, battling in one setting and filmed entirely in one week. The undertaking was called the Duel Project. As a result, Kitamura created Aragami, a story about a samurai warrior battling and Tsutsumi 2LDK.

I chanced upon this piece of information last week, and circuits fried in my brain at the thought of a Kitamura flick that’s one long fight sequence. (Oh wait, wasn’t Versus a single extended fight? Whatever!) I didn’t have Aragami, but 2LDK had been part of a bunch of movies that a friend had given me early this year, so I watched it Saturday.

The term “2LDK” refers to the Japanese version of what we Indians call 2BHK – an apartment with two bedrooms, a hall and a kitchen. The movie, true to the conditions set on the filmmaker, takes place in a flat over a single night.The occupants are two aspiring actresses, and both have auditioned for the starring role in a production – the kind of make-or-break role that might launch one’s career and rejuvenate the other’s – and are waiting for a confirmation phonecall from their agency. A conflict had been brewing for quite sometime; when the movie begins, we see the different temperaments and motivations of the women – one meticulously writes her initials on eggs before storing them in the refrigerator, the other flies off the handle at the visible drop in the level of her bottle of Chanel No 5. And then we find out that it’s not really a good idea to stay in a flat that has katanas and sais hanging on display.

In a film like this, it’s difficult to create backstory without the characters breaking into lengthy exposition. Tsutsumi does not fall into this trap, however – he uses voice-overs to convey the characters’ thoughts, making for some interesting dialogue overlaps when the women say the opposite of what they are thinking. Cellphone conversations and text messages make for part of the storytelling, the camera lingers on the flatmate’s actions, telling the viewer volumes about the inner workings of their mind. All of this makes for some very rounded characterisation, allowing us to sympathise with both the women in turn, and make our own judgements about their flaws. And then the violence begins, and things just keep getting better. The ending was a little too predictable, but hey, I can live with that!

And now that I have Aragami – I know I just said I didn’t have that movie, but that was on Saturday, dude – I am going to watch it tonight, hoo ah!

Why on earth did Disney have to make a movie called Sky High? It screws up my search results for Kitamura’s movie, the one about the afterlife and serial killers. Faugh!

Sha Po Lang was another film I saw Saturday. Stars Donnie Yen, Simon Yam ( the guy from Election ), and Sammo Hung. Perfect mix of cop drama and martial arts, and brilliant pacing.


“My heart knows the pain of disco”

Cliched as it may sound, Om Shanti Om redefines the term “masala film” for our generation. Ok, so it’s a love story. It’s a reincarnation theme. It’s also a spoof of Bollywood in the seventies and of the present-day star-son/guest-appearance syndrome. At parts, it becomes a horror movie, or at least tries to. It makes over-acting an integral part of the script. Yes, and lest you say “there was no script”, I beg to disagree. Loved every minute of it, and bunked office on Tuesday to go check out the IMAX version. Current count: 3.

The film is a complete exercise in over-the-top chutzpah – the icing on the cake would have been if FK had gotten Karan Johar to speak to the camera during the award ceremony, and say – “Om Kapoor and I are just friends.” The self-inflated star cameos were BRILLIANT – it was almost like the actors took the personalities one would associate with them and turned them all the way up to 11. Part of this unabashed attitude is reflected in the song lyrics – I hardly ever notice words to songs unless they are Gulzar’s lines tuned by Vishal Bharadwaj – but rhyming “pichhle mahiney ki chhabbisko” with “dil mein mere hai dard-e-disco” is hardcore, man. Respect, Javed Akhtar. And the composer duo Vishal-Shekhar, in particular Vishal Dadlani manages to floor me everytime – he’s the lead singer of Pentagram the band, who blew me away the day I heard him sing Bjork’s ‘Army of Me’ on stage. He is at home composing a cheesy Bollywood number like ‘Dil Dooba’ ( Khakee), goes on to sing the catchy ‘Kiss of Love’ in Jhoom Baraabar Jhoom and now, apart from composing the songs in OSO, writes the lyrics to ‘Ajab Si’ – man, the line “dil ko banaade jo patang, saansey teri woh hawaaye hai” just kills me. Also, the man makes a guest appearance as the microphone-twirling director of Mohabbat-man, bwahahahaha.

And the references. Right from the seventies billboards of Schweppes and Exide batteries – to the small details (a poster of ‘Baali Umar Ko Salaam’ hangs on the wall, the debut film of our heroince Shantipriya, referenced in a throwaway line somewhere in the first half). Manoj Kumar’s driving license, Subhash Ghai getting into the directorial groove, Mohabbat-man, the making of Apahij Pyaar, Tiger fights – I could go on, you know that? This kind of self-referential, in-joke-laden storytelling gets to you most of the times, but not in Om Shanti Om. This is the kind of film that begs you to grab a bucket of popcorn, sink into a chair and laugh along with it. And then when the film is over, you need to go back and figure out how many of the jokes you missed the first time around. Inspired lunacy does that to you.

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I also saw Mahesh Bhatt’s Dhokha this week. Nice plot, about a Muslim police officer whose life falls apart when he learns his wife is a suicide bomber. In true-blue Vishesh Films’ fashion, the overblown script-writing and the non-existent acting proceeds to drive the plot towards a predictable conclusion. Pathetic execution.

And I bought the newly-released two-disc edition of Chak De India on Friday, and then watched the film a couple of times on Sunday. The deleted scenes, in this case, are scenes which have been editted out from the final cut, with a lot of subplots and incidents missing. One of the hockey girls, in particular, gets the short end of the stick, with her story being a prominent subplot that gets excised. And my DVD player refused to go beyond the interval, which I think was because of the layer transition in the DVD. I had to finish it on my PC instead.

Other things of note: Downloaded Samurai Wolf and Samurai Wolf 2. And am FINALLY getting the Female Prisoner Scorpion boxed set, woo hoo!!

And also, for the first time ever, ALL my books are back with me, from various parts of the world.


Coming soon, “Mammoth Book” anthologies of Crime comics, horror comics, and new manga.

I was reading the Kaiju Shakedown blog right now, Grady Hendrix’s neat blog on Asian movies ( which I found thanks to adgy‘s recommendation), and I found news about the US release of Yoji Yamada’s Love and Honor.

The first Yoji Yamada movie I saw was Twilight Samurai, and it’s brilliant, kind of an antithesis to the swordplay-heavy, heroic-samurai flicks that one is normally familiar with. It’s more of a look at the Japanese society, which had its own caste system during the late Edo period, primarily divided into the high-born, arrogant Samurai class and the lower, poverty-ridden peasants . Tasogare Seibei, the “twilight samurai” in the film deals with his everyday life as a grain-store clerk in the employ of the clan-head, deflecting sarcasm from his fellow samurai because of his poverty and his lack of interest in socializing. The only link he has to his status is the katana he owns and the *knowledge* of the fact that he is a samurai. He has to bear the responsibility of rearing two children provide medicine for his senile mother, a herculean task considering his 50-koku salary. The re-appearance of his childhood friend Tomoe who’s been recently divorced from her abusive but rich husband foresees a change in his life, but Seibei’s sense of honour and responsibility is put to the test by the series of events that follow.

After finishing Twilight Samurai, I tried very hard to find out more of Yoji Yamada’s movies. Apparently Twlight Samurai is the first of a thematic trilogy dealing with Samurai life, the second being The Hidden Blade and the third Love and Honor. Saw the latter in my flight to San Francisco from Singapore. Haven’t found The Hidden Blade yet. According to the Kaiju Shakedown blog, Love and Honor is being released in only ONE THEATER in the US, the ImaginAsian in NY City. Sasi, I think you will miss it, but if you are still coming to India, you can borrow the DVD from me. Please, please watch it. It’s a fantastic piece of work and is more of a love story set in a samurai setting. And while you’re at it, add the Kaiju Shakedown blog to your feeds.

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Another thing that came to mind today was a snippet of an interview I caught with Govinda, just before Partner was being released sometime in the middle of this year. We were playing the Maahi-Sona- game on TV – you switch channels and place bets on which channel you will come across a Yash Chopra-Karan Johan blockbuster song, eight times out of ten, it would turn out to be the Zoom channel that would be playing Where’s the Party tonight or Rock and Roll Soniye or That’s the way Maahi ve at any given point of time in the day. But this one time, there was an interview going on. Salman Khan was interviewing Govinda, both of them being co-stars in the then-to-be-released Partner, and there was much back-slapping and bonhomie being radiated from the screen. Apparently the two actors got along famously, and the interview was more of a conversation and an mutual ass-kissing experience at the same time.

And then it started getting interesting.

Salman Khan asked Govinda, “Ok, tell me, who’s your favourite Khan in the industry?” No prizes for guessing who he thought the answer would be.

Govinda: “My favourite Khan would have to be Yusuf Khan.”

“Yusuf Khan? You mean Dilip Kumar?”

“Yes, the greatest actor this industry has ever known. The best actor I’ve seen on screen.”

“Ok, who’s your second-most favourite Khan?”

“That would be Mehboob Khan, Mother India is  a landmark film in Indian history, and his contribution to films cannot be ignored by any director.”

“Right. Your third favourite Khan?”

“Kader Khan, without whom ninety percent of the films of the eighties wouldn’t have such magnificent dialogues. And I cannot even start counting how many actors owe their career to Kader Khan’s dialogues, including myself.”

At this point, I was feeling very warm and fuzzy. I could hug Govinda, regardless of whether he had deliberately made up the answers on the spot just to show his knowledge of film history or something. Hmmm, why did I remember this today, of all days? And why am I writing about it? Hmmm.


Weekend update

Been a long while since I did one of these.

  • Udatta-da landed up in Hyderabad on Thursday and stayed over at my place Friday night, chilling out ( I think! ) to pseudo-Assamese food, BT’s This Binary Universe and Craig Thompson’s Blankets. Try and make it here a little more frequently, U.
  • Watched Sekhar Kammula’s Godavari on Sunday afternoon. I did not enjoy Anand, his earlier film all that much. It was pretty tackily editted ( Kammula himself admits that) and the storyline did not feel complete in some way. Godavari on the other hand is much more well-developed in terms of production values and scriptwriting. The cribs – a slightly zonked-out narrative towards the end, where the director ( who’s also the writer, btw ) while trying to have a proper ending to the story, introduces a lot of subplots and does not end up resolving them properly.
  • I also watched Mahesh Babu’s Atithi in the middle of the week. What a mess of a movie! It’s almost as if somebody made a parody of a Mahesh Babu film starring Mahesh Babu. Methinks the guy needs to rethink his image-oriented approach to his films, which even the director admits was part of his approach to making Atithi.
  • Played the first two chapters of this old, old, OLD game called The Longest Journey. Now while I suck at adventure games, I was eager to play this one because I had played the demo when in college. Repeated attempts to find this had resulted in failure, until The Serious One passed me a copy of his original box-set ( apparently, he had picked it up at a sale, of all places). Now the aforementioned copy had steadfastly refused to play when I did a full install, but this weekend, I tried a partial install and whaddyaknow, it worked! Really enjoyable game, this, and is more like reading a fantasy novel than playing a game. The only grouse I have ( and this is against all adventure games, in general) is, why the eff can’t I solve the puzzles? Gah!
  • Also finished the first volume of Spirou yesterday. Very very entertaining stuff. There are four stories in all in the first volume, each with a different bent. Starts off with ‘The Robot Blueprint’, which is standard fare, with Spirou and Fantasio pursuing and being pursued by a bunch of crooks who are after a blueprint of a deadly weapon developed by Professor Samovar. Some hilarious Herge-ian moments ensue in course of a car chase, where Spirou’s car runs into a bullock cart carrying a bale of hay. Just when I thought that the other stories would also be about capers and foil-a-wicked-plan-type story, there’s Spirou in the ring, where our intrepid hero has to tackle a boxing challenge from Big Bert, the neighbourhood bully. ( I found out that the names of the supporting characters have been changed in the translation. Poildur is the name of the bully in the French version.) ‘Spirou Rides a Horse’ is a short, howlarious story of, well, Spirou riding a spirited horse, one that takes lessons in jumping from a frog. The last of the lot ‘Spirou meets the Pygmies’ is much longer tale, that starts with a stray leopard taking up lodgings with our hero, which leads to a trip to the island of Rungapunga, a place where two pygmy tribes have a war going on. The resolution to this particular war is something that’s completely bowled me over! can’t wait to start on the Count of Cul-de-Sac, the next volume in the series.
  • A friend offered to sell me his copies of Jordi Bernet’s Torpedo reprints at cost price. Considering that Catalan Communications, the company that reprinted part of the Torpedo series is now bankrupt, with the books long out of print, this offer makes me want to do a war-dance. Woo hoo!
  • Once can hardly thank Moser-Baer enough for coming up with The Complete Mind Your Language and selling DVDs for 99 Rs each. Am glad I didn’t put in too much effort into buying MYL after the first set I got off National Market refused to work…