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The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Style over substance and a great cast wasted....
Just saw this, plus the prologue Hotel Chevalier, at the Venice Festival.
Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad film, it just seems like an opportunity missed. Anderson makes beautiful, intelligent films with complex characters. However, while all these elements are here, the story itself is too thin to pull it off.
The ingredients are all there - three brothers embarking on a train and, hopefully spiritual, journey in India together. Owen Wilson is consummately intelligent and kooky as ever, Adrien Brody does what he can with the material but Jason Schwartzman really comes of age as an adult actor. The cinematography is fantastic (although as any Bollywood watcher will know, it's hard NOT to film India beautifully) and there are several iconic use of images and colours, not least the fantastically retro Louis Vuitton luggage, and some nice character and family quirks tenderly observed; but the film frustrates in only touching at the obvious depth of the main characters, and hence their motives. Thus it's hard to maintain interest in their denouement.
The film is saved from superficiality mainly by use powerful scenes with local actors, participial the superb Irfan Khan, who demonstrates his skills again after his landmark turn in 'The Namesake', ironically a lesson to Anderson in the power of a great story. Amara Karan also is great support, let down only by her English accent slipping through.
Worth a watch, not just for the expected occasional great lines and the heavyweight talent on show, but one can't help but feel that Anderson needs to leave this genre behind and show the world his talents more accessibly, perhaps by using actors he hasn't grown up with.
Overall, a great idea, too lightly executed - these characters would have made a great novel, but 2 hours in a cinema doesn't do it justice.
The Hunting Party (2007)
Hollywood's political conscience continues to grow........
Just got back from the premiere at Venice, where a huge round of applause acknowledged the film's quality as well as Richard Gere's enduring star status.
As society and modern youth get serious again, so Hollywood follows the trend, as movies tackle war corruption and hypocrisy following Clooney, Gore et al's lead. Shephard manages to combine thriller with humour and quips without it becoming a cheesy Lethal Weapon type ride. That's due mainly to sterling performances from Gere, reinvigorates after The Hoax, and Howard, showing a comic side after the intensity of 'Crash' Jesse Eisenberg also looks like this role was written for him personally, and the remaining cast are appropriate. The crisp, realistic docu-direction, mainstreamed by Paul Greengrass, has exerted its influence and fits neatly into this film without looking forced.
Therefore, it works - it brings a serious issue to attention with humour, compassion and enough adrenaline to remind one of the risks some people take with their lives for their causes, when most of us take the cosy path of least resistance.