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Some recent films

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Short comments on some films seen recently (meaning two weeks ago).

The Da Vinci Code: I initially had reservations about Tom Hanks essaying the role of Robert Langdon, but I needn’t have worried. Hanks is a master performer and I thought he played the role to perfection. Unfortunately, that’s the only postive thing I have to say about the film. The biggest let-downs were Tatou’s and Jean Reno’s role. Both are great actors – but were constrained by some wooden and often cringe-worthy, cliched dialogues.

So I have little to add to what others have already said, other than the fact that I feel I was wrong about the book being easy to adapt into a film. The book was bad, really bad from the literary standpoint, even after conceding the pulp thriller genre. Forsyth, Ludlum et al wrote in the same genre, but their prose was much superior and more readable. But at least TDVC read like a screenplay – so a good film was expected. But while watching the film, it struck me where I went wrong in my conjecture. There are scenes and actions that during reading – we are willing to accept – just by the manner in which the author communicates. But the exact same action is not always believable when seen on the screen. For example, the first scene with the curator being shot and leaving clues all around him – when I read it in the book, I was willing to believe that a dying man, shot through his chest could think with such clarity and run around writing with his own blood. On screen, just because we were seeing the action, it stuck me as more absurd. (The alternate explanation is that I was absolutely brain-dead while reading the book. This could be true since the book was actually my ‘leisure’, non-brainy diversion while I was writing my thesis).

The Break-Up: Although critics have mostly panned the film, I found it enjoyable. Not rib-tickingly funny – but chuckles all around. Some of the issues of living together seemed to hit home 😉 I quite like Vince Vaughn and his fast talking style. The ending, however, was a bit stretched and overly sentimental. It was almost as if the film wanted to be taken itself a bit seriously and not remembered as a goofy comedy.

The Irony of Fate: or Enjoy your Bath: This delectable mid-70s Russian comedy was recommended by a Russian colleague and is apparently a staple feature of New Year’s day TV line-up in that country (much like The Christmas Story is in the US on the 24th of December). The spirit of the film is quite similar and will remind you of the 70-80s Hrishikesh Mukherjee made warm and tender romantic comedies.

The story is about a usually shy and reserved middle aged man Zenya, who on New Year’s eve, gathers enough courage to finally propose to his girlfriend. He plans to spend that evening with her to formalize the proposal. However, during a traditional New Year’s eve meeting of friends at a Moscow public bathhouse, they all get stoned drunk on vodka and beer. Consequently, when his friends mistakenly put him on a plane to Leningrad (a different person in the group was actually supposed to fly), little does Zenya realise that he has woken up (still drunk) in the airport of a different city. Now here is the fun (and a slightly suspended disbelief) part: when he gives his address to a cab driver, he is taken to a building in Leningrad that is on the same street name and number and an exact replica of his apartment building in Moscow (a dig at the sameness of the Soviet communist-era mass produced buildings and town planning) ! So he ends up falling asleep, in the apartment (even his keys work!) of Nadya, a slightly past-prime but still very beautiful lady who is herself waiting to be proposed by a steady, if not particularly exciting or adventurous man. What follows is a regular comedy of errors as the mix-up gets sorted out and a predictable, but tenderly developed, blossoming of love between Zenya and Nadya.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: There is probably something wrong with me. I simply could not finish watching this film. Now, I will confess that I am not really a fan of Rowling and the Harry Potter series. Yes that is sacriledge to a great number of people – but there it is. I have nothing against HP and wish well the people who go crazy over the books and the characters – it is just that the series has never excited me. There is still so much sci-fi fantasy literature out there that I have not covered (Gaiman and Pratchett are the two that immediately come to mind) and presently I have limited reading time.

But then, I usually do enjoy the Potter films. This one, I thought, started off very well. The special effects were well done and not too noticable The story was quite gripping as well till the end of the first competition. Then I started dozing off around the middle bit. Perhaps some other day when I am less tired, I shall finish it. Also, I take it that the original book had many sub-plots that could not be covered in the span of the film – perhaps if I was more familiar with the book, I would have appreciated the movie better.

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Written by BongoP'o'ndit

June 23, 2006 at 7:46 am

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