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O hamenos ta pairnei ola (2002)
Third-rate shaggy dog story
This Greek "film mavro" (="noir") takes place in the demimonde of Athens. The protagonist, an aging hippie of no name and no fixed address, drinks too much, smokes too much, swears too much, and takes every woman he meets to bed within one minute. Then he steals the woman's jewelry or car and moves on. His total cool fails to impress the police, who beat him up as a suspected druggie/terrorist/undesirable, but it lands him a job with the owner of the local strip club. He is to deliver a drug-filled satchel to some gangsters, and bring back the money. (He is so cool that no-one is even assigned to watch over him!) So, "for the fun of it", he brings along to the rendez-vous a guitar-playing younger version of himself, and several of his most recent conquests. (One is so drunk that she throws up on the lap of another.) Fortunately, both the crooks and the cops are as incompetent as he is. Despite outnumbering him three to one, the gangsters let him beat them up. Meanwhile, the cops travel everywhere in marked cars with their flashers on, so that no-one is unaware of their presence. And they let the protagonist out of a police raid when he glares at them and says "I'm a cop; let me through." In the end, he gives away his money to the women, and prepares to shoot it out with the police (but the film expires first, perhaps out of boredom).
The plot is impenetrable and totally porous. What role does the beautiful blonde stripper play in the movie? Why does the audience see her cooperating with the police in advance of the drug sale, when no cops ever show up then? What is the backstreet between the antihero and the first of his three women? Where does the guitar player come from, and why does he appear in the dreams of the lead man, flying a kite? Why doesn't the hero bring along a fourth woman he had bedded, the teenage girlfriend of the guitarist? Why does the hero replace all the drug powder with flour or sugar since he plans to keep it all anyway? A TV news team is tipped off to the drug sale, but no one notices or cares when they are beaten up by the hero.
In short, this is a third-rate shaggy dog story, in which the lead man embodies every cliché from every tough guy film ever made, but without showing an ounce of brains or empathy. The women are cute, though, and they show a lot of skin, so I will grudgingly give the film two stars.
A prison sojourn without drama
In 1942, Basheer, a noted writer in Kerala, South India, was imprisoned by the British Government for "treason", i.e. advocating the exit of the British. Sentenced to 2-1/2 years, he was released early by an amnesty. This movie depicts his months within the prison walls.
And how lacking in incident or interest those months were! Mostly he passes the time smoking, walking about the yard, growing roses, scribbling, and talking with the other prisoners. (The politicals wear white hats, the murderers red, and all others black.) Everyone has heard of him, and he is cheerful to everyone, occasionally offering spiritual advice (like admonishing a guard for stealing his petty property). He is given small presents by the guards and other prisoners--cigarettes, tea, dried fish, writing paper. He meets an old classmate, who was whipped and shackled for petty disobedience, but this is the worst brutality he encounters. His political conversations are equally shallow, consisting mostly of gossip about "Gandhiji", and singing anthems. It is never revealed what he is writing in prison, though his guards request autographed copies of it when it is published. (Other prison writings have included Marco Polo's Travels, Don Quixote, and Mein Kampf, but nothing of that caliber appears here.) When all political prisoners except Basheer are amnestied, he goes into a bit of a funk, but perks up by having bland conversations with an unseen female prisoner beyond the wall in the women's cells. Just before he can meet her by faking illness, he is suddenly released.
Now, drama is built on conflict; but all the conflict in this film is offstage. Basheer is played by Mammootty, an immensely popular Indian actor (almost 300 films!), who has the easy charm of George Clooney, as well as his physical presence. (The latter jars when he speaks of having frequently known hunger.) Other than his old schoolmate, no other character even has a backstory beyond the name of the crime they were sent in for. Perhaps the roses were symbolic, perhaps the wall that blocked his view of the women. But I found very little mental or emotional nourishment to feed on in this movie.