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Batoru rowaiaru (2000)
Every teen movie you've ever seen....on acid and with a dirty great gun
Contains Spoilers! Battle Royale" is undoubtedly the most notorious and controversial of the handful of millenial Japanese films which have managed to crossover into the West- this group includes the original "Ring(u)"; "Audition"; and "The Eye", and- to a lesser extent, "Ichi the Killer"; "Dark Water"; "Suicide Circle"; and "Lily Chou Chou". The concept is as audacious as it preposterous, the best one-line pitch ever made: 40 nattily outfitted Japanese schoolkids are given a menagerie of weapons and forced to kill each other. A lot.
However, the film never really lives up to such a brutal and frankly exhilarating concept. For one thing, it's not as shocking as one would expect. You will wince two times during the film- when a girl is shot at close range in the stomach with a machine gun, after already being fatally injured by the designated psychotic (the inexplicably afroed Kiriyama); and when a boy is stabbed repeatedly in the groin with a flick-knife by the petulant Chigusa, (played by Chiaki Kuriyama, who is currently riding high as Lucy Lui's henchwoman Go-Go Yubari in Tarantino's "Kill Bill"). There is undeniably a veritable geyser of blood and gore spouting from every frame of the film: heads are severed; mouths are stuffed with grenades; collars explode against windpipes; sickles are scraped against necks and torsos; axes are thrust into heads...but the violence itself is oddly unaffecting. Or perhaps I'm just scarily desensitised.
It is also notable that the violence itself is not glorified or used to excite- it's gritty, difficult, and unchoreographed. When the black widow Mitsuko struggles with the cutesy Megumi (who is clearly doomed from the moment the former shines her flashlight onto her own pallid, pretty face, grinning like evil in pop socks), the sense of struggle and sweat is palatable. This isn't pretty, stylised, "Charlie's Angels" style girl-on-girl action, designed to titilate. It's two fifteen year old girls battling desperately and awkwardly for their very lives. And for this realism at least, the film should be commended.
One of the best things about the ingenuous concept of the film is the sense of a gameshow, of having to guess who will win and how they will do so. However, in "Battle" it is clear as soon as Shuya Nanahara, in a flashback commencing the film, drops to his knees in shock at the sight of his own father hanging from the ceiling, that Shuya is a shoe in. The actor playing him looks scarily like an anime character, as does his companion, the watery eyed, impossibly cute Noriko. By championing these two innocents, the film both tries to give a moral compass and centre to itself, and detracts from it's most fascinating element. This element? In a word: Mitsuko. The "bad girl" of the class, she steals every scene she is in. She acts like an utter beyotch throughout the span of the movie, and yet, in her death scene, director Fukasaku turns the character completely on her head and makes her the most sympathetic member of the class. In what is perhaps the best scene in the film -infinitely more disturbing than the happily sprayed blood that coats the surrounding scenes- we see Mitsuko as a child come home to an alcoholic mother who accepts money from a paedophile for some quality time with her daughter. The man takes the utterly contemptuous child Mitsuko to her room and produces a Barbie-like doll from his hands. "See this little girl!? She's called Mitsuko too! Isn't she fun!" The camera then lingers on still images of the carefully removed, tiny clothing of the doll spread on the bed. "The doll Mitsuko has taken off her clothes! Now it's time for the real Mitsuko to..." He leans in on the girl, and she screams, then pushes him down the stairs to his likely death. While this feat of strength is almost comedic in it's unfeasibility (indeed, this is a film that laughs in the face of logic- then stabs it), it makes us understand the teenage Mitsuko infinitely better. This is a girl who has always been alone, who has always had to fight to survive. When, just a few minutes later, her voice drawls "I just didn't want to be a loser anymore" over the sight of her sodden dead body, it's genuinely affecting. And herein lies the strength of "Battle Royale".
This is quite possibly the closest the film industry will ever come to portraying schizophrenia on celluloid, for I've never seen a film that so adroitly and quickly changes the mood of a scene, or the audience's perception of a character. It does it with Mitsuko (played wonderfully by the delectable Kou Shibasaki), and it does so with Chigusa. We first meet her when she, again inexplicably, (a word that can often be invoked when discussing this film) is training for her running in a yellow tracksuit (which is obviously the first thing one would do when thrust on an island to be killed by friends). We delve into a daydream sequence in which she imagines engaging in warm banter with her crush as she runs. The lilting music and wonderfully expressive face of Chiaki Kuriyama mean we instantly like Chigusa. However, when she sits down, muttering her crush's name longingly, another boy comes onto the scene, and out comes Chigusa: Picture of Teen Petulance. She rolls her eyes, she snakes her neck, she flicks her hair and she spits sardonic insults at the boy like a hungover snake. And the audience immediately draws itself away from Chigusa. Then, when the boy accidentally shoots her, she chases and kills him in the most savage example of brutality seen in the entire film. She screams and wails and stabs stabs stabs, and it can't even be justified as self defence. You get the feeling this Chigusa chick isn't quite all there. Then who should appear on the scene but Mitsuko, grinning like an angel, gun poised. Chigusa runs but is shot, and we see her drop down a ravine. She breathes heavily and, just as we think she will die, her crush appears. She thinks it's a dream, but it isn't, and what follows is a wonderfully accurate portrayal of teen affection, and the inadequacy teens have in articulating how they feel about each other. While I myself am a teen, I personally rarely invoke words of over three syllables when in 'the real world', with the exception of 'alcohol', 'cigarettes', and 'ketamine'. So when Chigusa trembles her last words, silently wishing (as we are told through subtitles) that she can sum up her love for this boy in one sentence, it's the funniest, most poignant use of bathos I've come across. "You're really, cool, Hiroki". Chigusa has gone from Sweetie to B!tch to Psycho to Tragic Hero in the audience's mind in barely ten minutes, and though she is hardly in the film, her role defines the madness and ultra-melodramatic twists and turns that characterise "Battle" in a way none of the other characters do. And it doesn't hurt that Kuriyama puts in the best performance of the film.
This theme of changing audience perception in an instant is carried on into what is without a doubt the best and most infamous scene in the film: the lighthouse scene. We meet a seemingly happy and optimistic group of girls hanging out in the island light-house, discussing their chances of survival and possible ways of getting off the island. However, one member of the group -the diminutive, glossily-haired Yuko- is silently unhappy. Shuya was brought in to the light-house overnight after washing up by the lighthouse, and Yuko witnessed him accidentally killing a student with his own axe- only she doesn't know it was an accident. She puts poison into Shuya's meal, and when one of her more excitable friends takes a bite from the dish, there is a delicious twenty seconds of near unbearable tension, as the girls continue conversing breezily as Yuko stares transfixed at her now doomed friend, shaking like a palm tree in the face of a hurricane. When the girl's mouth explodes in bloody vomit, what follows is a searingly brutal orgy of bullets and cries of anguish. Like Chigusa's screentime it is all over incredibly fast, and the explosions of jealousies hidden beneath the apparently cheery facade of the girl's clique are just as damaging as the bullets that pepper their bodies. It's so perfectly realised that you want to jump up and clap.
However, the rest of the film fails to live up these moments of brilliance. For one, the chosen protagonist -Nanahara- is a horribly uncharismatic, dull one. One never sympathises with Shuya's struggle to comprehend how his classmates can kill each other because there are more interesting characters to see and stories to tell. Also, the massive plot holes are too much to take- none of the kids have heard of the Battle Royale program, yet it opens in a (great) prologue of the last battle, in which the media scramble to transmit images of the latest winner -a tiny little girl, browned blood stuck stubbornly to her hair and face, still clutching a teddy bear like the tattered shreds of her innocence- to the public. Indeed, the film is clearly uninterested in how and why the Battle Royale law came about, leaving it to lazy subtitles at the beginning and a deeply unsatisfactory lecture from class teacher Kitano (played by the Japanese Tarantino, Takeshi Kitano, whose character is one note and whose screen presence is due solely to his bizarrely asymmetrical face). The ending is also not explained adequately and is deeply unsatisfactory. Also, the tagline of the film -"Could You Kill Your Best Friend?"- is never really considered, with the exception of pleasingly sparse subplot. At the beginning of the film, two girls cling to each other, wailing that they are best friends and will never harm each other. Later, when coquettish light-house girl Utsumi informs Shuya of the deaths that have occured while he has slept (as told to the students by speakers posted around the island), the camera trails solemnly over the bodies of two girls at the edge of the sea, both impaled with weapons, both clinging to a lifering. The audience is left to work out the rest.
Also, the film doesn't live up to it's 'blackly comic' reputation. The only satirical or deliberately comic element of the film is the instruction video shown to the kids before they are given their weapons. In it, a ridiculously hyper Japanese cutie with a nose piercing, dyed hair and body glitter, gurns into the camera and gleefully tells the kids the rules of how they must kill each other as if she is giving them casual fashion advice. You will laugh out loud when she pulls an axe from a bag, and gives it a double take, as if she has no idea how it got into her hands. "Aaaaaaaaaah!" she cries, "This one is SUPER lucky!!!!"
It's not just Shuya who disappoints as a main character. The afore-mentioned Kiriyama is by far the most popular character among the cultish "Battle Royale" fanbase- and yet it's hard to see why. He says not one word during the entire film, which is an utter action/B movie cliche, and feels like an excuse not to have to bother with more pesky characterisation in a film of forty plus key characters. All too often the character -who is not part of the class and has apparently "signed up for fun" is used to add momentum to the story when there is no obvious way of pushing it forward. We need to get a character somewhere? Have Kiriyama chase them! Equally, the other "exchange student", Kawada, has a hugely tedious subplot concerning his previous entry into a Battle Royale.
But despite the inherent flaws of this concept -most notably occasionally shallow characterisation and a barrage of melodrama (which personally I don't feel in this case is a flaw)- "Battle Royale" is a vital film experience. Despite the dull, uninvolving angst of it's protagonist and weak ending, it's great moments are great enough to make it a must-see. However, ultimately, despite some thrilling aspects of genius, the film fails to live up to it's concept.
I'm not sure what I find harder to believe- the idea that people actually found this film funny, or the fact that it is considered controversial. This is "satire" at the level of the Carry On films- when a film uses a giant "poo monster" for supposed comedic effect, you know your time is wasted on it. I watched this expecting to chuckle, instead I came out feeling nauseated and patronised. At least half an hour of the film -AT LEAST- is spent with characters explaining the plot background and details to other characters. Can you say yawn? This is the first Kevin Smith movie I've seen and the man is the biggest overwriter I've had the displeasure of coming across. The characters just cannot shut up! This would be fine if the dialogue was witty or insightful, but instead it's lots and lots of swearing (the word "f~ck loses it's already minimal impact after the fiftieth time you hear it in one scene), and supposedly deep religious discussions that are immature and sound as if they were written by a twelve year old who just became interested in theology.
It's near impossible to see who this film appeals to- Smith shoots for pleasing all and ends up satisfying none. Those who enjoy the childish, "Dude Where's My Brain" jokes will no doubt be crushingly bored when the characters decide to sit and talk inanely about something unfunny -AGAIN, while those who like the pathetic attempts at religious satire and discussion of the Catholic Church will cringe at the afore mentioned poo monster and a succession of equally puerile kindergarten comedy.
The film is nowhere near as clever or anarchic as it thinks it is (indeed it has incredibly tame messages), and the characters are obnoxious. The protagonist -a female, distant relation of Christ- whinges so damn much you want to slap her overacting face. Indeed, pretty much every person in the film overacts- only Alanis (the only person with no lines- significant?) and Salma Hayek (who's a decent comic performer- `That's why he's The King, and you're a schmuk') come out with dignity intact. I should also say Silent Bob's expressions are pretty amusing, as are the odd one liners in Jay's rants. However, while Ben Affleck isn't as bad as he can be, he's still pretty terrible, and Matt Damon does an impressive impression of wallpaper throughout. When the film shoots for drama it's embarrassing. When the two fallen angels have an argument and one compares the other to Lucifer, we're supposed to take it seriously, but the poor writing and acting make it an utter non-moment. At one point, the protagonist, after another annoying rant (which I'm assuming is Smith's amateurish way of getting across how his characters feel, as this is an insanely whiny bunch of people) actually runs, drops on her knees in the rain, and screams up the sky `WHY, GOD!?!?!?! WHHHHHHHHHHHY!?!?!?' This was one of the only genuine laughs I got from the film, it's an utter cliché and this supposedly ironic, clever-clever film tries to use it as drama: worrying.
Again, I ask, who actually found this controversial? Bible Belt Christians? Devout Catholics? Those same groups find 'HARRY POTTER' controversial, it's hardly an achievement. The only other thing I could see as being controversial was the pushing of the pro-choice abortion movement, and while I am pro-choice, such plugging made me uneasy, as pro-lifers are demonised in the film somewhat unfairly. If Smith is going to enter the abortion debate, which is inadvisable in the first place for a film most likely to appeal to wannabe `alternative' folk gagging to prove their anti-establishment leanings, it should at least be fair and give the points of both sides. It's also obvious that the man directing is a Catholic himself, and the film comes across as just more self-loathing, rambling apologies from a liberal, middle-class, white male for the perceived wrongs his ancestors have done to the world. If there was any satire in the film, I didn't catch it- was the scene where God made all the bodies disappear satirical? Worryingly, it appears not. Besides, satirising the farcial exploits of the Catholic Church is about as hard as exhaling carbon dioxide.
The film, though, isn't a total waste of time. There are some nice points- the boredom of church-going is articulated adroitly, for example, and there are one or two funny moments. The conceit of the relative of Christ not being able to have children and thus losing faith in God is actually a great idea, but it's poorly executed in the extreme. The dialogue/writing is terrible for the most part (the characters talk too much about the story and/or themselves, and do too little), the acting equally dire, and -most criminally- it's simply not funny. `Dogma' commits the ultimate sin: for a movie packed with such dumb jokes, it sure takes itself seriously. If you want to watch a comedy, a satire, or even a discussion of religion or theology, there is surely better stuff than this.
Wo hu cang long (2000)
Excellently executed escapist fantasy
I'm not at all familiar with the sub genre of Chinese storytelling that this film is associated with/belongs to, so for all I know it might be a very poor example from an area of entertainment with a lot more to offer. But if that's true, then this is a truly stellar genre, as I adore this film!
Yes, it's slow-burning. Yes, the plot could be taken on the surface as paper thin. But this is cinematic escapism at it's very best. It makes me cringe when people criticise the film because the fight scenes are ridiculously unrealistic. Some people just don't get it. It helps to think of the battles as dances, balletic visual poetry (indeed Michelle Yeoh's background is in dance, not martial arts). "Crouching Tiger" contains some of the most equisite set pieces I've seen on film -the first fight scene between the two female leads, the bar brawl, and the lyrical final scene in the mountain- come immediately to mind. However, I found the treetop chase to be lacking somewhat in execution- it's a concept with good potential, but it translates clumsily onto screen.
The visual genius on display is supported by a beautifully subtle performance from Michelle Yeoh, contrasted by the starkly vital presence of Zhang Zi (I know I've spelt that wrong, oh well :S). They both eat up the screen with their charisma- you genuinely cannot take your eyes away from them. Yeoh is all slight quivers beneath deliberate control, eyes fixed in enigmatic amusement, potential tears always seeming only a moment away. Zi uses her incredible, manga-like eyes to convey likeable innocence when she playing at being the aristocrat, mischief when she is quipping like the all-American action heros so popular in the films made the other side of the Pacific, and an incredible anger when in the fight scenes. Zi is supported excellently by her eminently likeable, equally charismatic love interest, the ragged desert-dwelling thief. However Yeoh is, unfortunately, not matched by her male counterpart Chow Yun Fat, who turns in an oddly dispassionate, uninvolving performance. However, it's possible that he was good in the film, but the sizeable talent surrounding him merely suffocated any possibility of him coming across as anything more than mediocre.
And now onto the plot- often accused of being far too simple and "high-concept" for such a critically acclaimed film. I would disagree. Certainly, this isn't an exercise in senseless "the-plot-rules-all" film making promoted by many a summer movie. The plot not only serves the characters, but IS the characters, their interactions and relationships. The restrained dynamic between Yun Fat and Yeoh is played against the sparky, lusty affair between Zi the aristo and her lowly bit of criminal scruff (the latter being standard escapist, fairy tale fluff, executed perfectly). The final scene between Yeoh and Yun Fat's characters is infinitely more interesting than lesser film makers would make it, as there is no tragic final kiss, merely tears and regret. Perhaps the most interesting character dynamic is between the aging female outlaw Jade Fox, and her supposed muse, Zi.
The rave reviews this film recieved seems to have led to a lot of bitterness from viewers who were dissapointed by it. If you are accustomed to frenetically edited and paced action movies (and don't get me wrong, I love those movies when they're well done), or bone crunchingly realistic/gory fight scenes, this may not be for you. The film is often ponderous, concentrating on the characters and/or lush scenery as opposed to plot twists on every page. The fight scenes aren't about violence, but the beauty of two bodies communicating, an acrobatic, high speed dance of wills.
All in all: great performances, great cinematography, great direction, great scenery, great ending, great music, great set pieces, great characters. Great film.
"Scream"'s opening, with Drew Barrymore being toyed then destroyed by the masked killer, is surely now legendary, and indeed the only scary part of the film. The best realised part is Drew being dragged away from her torturously close parents, trying to scream out to them, but not able to. It's actually quite touching. But it all goes downhill from there.
Firstly, "Scream" isn't scary. It actually works a lot better as a comedy than it does a horror film, as writer Kevin Williamson has a much better affinity with one liners and comedic rants than he does actual horror- but it was right to pitch this film as genuine horror, as otherwise it would have been farcial. Essentially, there are only two death scenes- the opening and the stretched out finale- and so through the rest of the film we are left to concentrate on the characters. This is always risky for a horror film. Luckily, though, the protagonist is generally interesting, and played by a capable actress- Neve Campbell. Her character Sydney faces an interesting and indeed scarier inner conflict than a frankly clumsy killer in a cheesy mask: what if her dead mother, enshrined in her memory, was in fact not the person Sydney would like to pretend she was?
With this sort of pseudo-hip flick, cast is everything. Luckily it's not too bad. Courteney Cox is impressive and genuinely funny (in a very non-Monica way) as Satan in lime green heels, Gail Weathers. Rose McGowan plays Sydney's spunky best friend, and while personally I don't seem to enjoy her as an actress or as totty, she shines in this role(particularly in the exchange between her and Sydney just befoe the party, when McGowan's character is in the awkward position of trying to break something painful to a close friend- Sydney's mom was "maybe a very unhappy woman"). And at least she's a more interesting choice than some bland Sarah Michelle Hewitt flavour of the week.
Skeet Ulrich is a little over the top in this, and is frankly just bad at the climax. When he screams the line "Movies don't create psychos- they just make them more inventive" you squirm, because he's not the sort of actor who can pull of incandescent. I was surprised to find I enjoyed Mathew Liliard's performance, as normally I can't stand him. He still has this mind numbingly irritating habit of sticking out his tongue like some inane drunken snake from time to time, but his manic, over the top persona suits the role perfectly, and gives personality to the most underwritten of "the kids". Jamie Kennedy is excellent as the comedic heart of the film, and gets one of the most sympathetic characters, while David Arquette, as Deputy Dewey, is annoying for any time over a minute, but funny in small doses ("Hello?...").
The plot? Well, while usually in Hollywood teen fodder plot is minimal, there's lots of plot in this- it just doesn't make sense. At all. Why does Liliard's character pretend to kill Ulrich's? It's ridiculous to think the pair would wait a whole year between killings if they're this het up. And so on and so on. But hey, it's a popcorn horror film, no one cares.
As for the idea of it being taboo busting or groundbreaking in any sense- I think not. It proclaims that it breaks the horror rules, but it never does. Sydney might technically loose her virginity, but she does so with integrity, love and trust shining in her heart. Figuratively, she's still "The Virgin" of the piece, so her survival, despite having had sex, isn't groundbreaking at all, and is utterly predictable. Indeed, "Scream" is a lot more conservative than most horror. All the bland/sympathetic characters survive. Cox plays a bitch, but we see her sweet side, so she lives. McGowan's character was too spunky, cynical, and self assured to be guaranteed a sequel card. Keeping HER alive and killing off Randy or Dewey (or both) would have been truly original, but oh well.
As for the famed pop culture references- I personally find them jarring. In other pieces of entertainment- for example "Buffy"- they work, because they used for comedy and not mere name dropping for the sake of it. When Sydney says that her town under curfew is like some other horror film, it's unnecessary and takes you out of the film. Some of the references are witty, though- the Tori Spelling line even got paid off in the sequel (which also has a frightening opening followed by an hour and a half of nothingness).
Overall, a good cast, lots of good (and some bad- the constant use of pop-psychology is lazy and grating, and cheapens the only interesting issues) dialogue, and an intruiging protagonist, leads to a so-so film that doesn't entirely work (as either a comedy or horror), but is fairly enjoyable.
Chandni Bar (2001)
Contains Spoilers! When I saw this on late night television as part of a "Bollywood Season", it was certainly not what I was expecting. This certainly isn't the upbeat, rabble rousing fluff of stereotype. But it IS unspeakably beautiful.
We follow the life of Mumtaz, beginning with her as a teenage orphan forced to leave her small town for the big city after a devastating riot, and finishing with her as an exhausted looking mother of two. The echoes and pointed repetition -both visual and story wise- between Mumtaz's life as a young girl forced to work in a squalid, seedy Beer Bar, and her life as a struggling widow, are very profound (a subtle example being the different way the Beer Bar girls dance- the "2000" ones are certainly presented differently than those of Mumtaz's era, but ultimately, nothing has changed- nothing changing being perhaps the main theme of the film). The film, covering as it does almost twenty years, is epic in both scope and screen time, but I found myself captivated by every moment.
This is an unspeakably bleak film. One of the most obvious themes is that of sexual betrayal. A young Mumtaz is raped by her lazy uncle. Deepa -one of the most sympathetically portrayed and appealing supporting characters, and played by a great actress- Mumtaz's guide in the world of the Beer Bar, is repeatedly forced to have abortions when she becomes pregnant, always told that the next will be the one she can keep. Mumtaz's newly adolescent son is raped by two men barely older than he in the latter part of the film. There is a feeling that no matter what Mumtaz does, fate has something against her. All those she cares about are taken away. Her parents are burned alive, her husband is shot, her best friend is killed by her overbearing husband....when Mumtaz, gazing numbly at Deepa's body, says that she knows she will miss Deepa, but she has suffered so much that she finds it hard to gather real grief anymore, it's perhaps the saddest single moment of the film. And, at the film's closing, when her clearly intelligent son throws away all hope of a bright future -the holy grail of Mumtaz's existence, the only concept keeping her alive- all because of sexual betrayal and the revenge he feels compelled to reap because of it, you despair with Mumtaz, now a broken woman, all she has worked for reduced to nothing, in a worse postion she was in when she first came into the city.
However, it's not all doom and gloom. Certainly, in the first portion of the film, when Mumtaz finds herself inducted in the apparently raucous sorority of the Beer Bar girls, the ensemble of cackling, cynical harpies can't help but make you smile along with them. Most notable is Shabbo, a spitfire of a young girl, thrown out by her parents due to shame, sexually predatory and gleefully foul mouthed. Deepa teaching Mumtaz to dance is one of the most purely enjoyable scenes, in almost a Hollywood sense. The apparent joy of these scarlet women is made poignant by one scene that immediately follows Mumtaz being raped. The girls sit around comforting her, but Deepa tells the girl to get a grip on herself. She then reels off a horrid soap opera of every one of the Bar girl's lives, each one a victim with a dark past as they cry and rock themselves. We hear them laugh later in the film, and it's infinitely more poignant, as sad as Mumtaz's howling sounds of grief at the closing.
This film hates men. Or at least, the stark, omnipotent power men hold over women in Indian society. Frequently, male characters are spat the insult of "pimp" by the Beer Bar girls. When Mumtaz actually calls one this to his face (when this is clearly an accurate description), he is inutterably offended. Another key theme of the film is that the only power women hold over men is their sexuality. When Mumtaz is "bought" for the night by a man who will later be her husband, he kisses her neck and torso desperately, as she lies there like a shop dummy. He pulls away, frustrated and bewildered, almost unable to look at her. For one of the only moments in the film, Mumtaz has real power over someone. When Mumtaz needs to get her son out of jail -and quick- the only way she can feasibly make the money is to prostitute herself once more. But her age means she doesn't make enough- until her very young daughter (who Mumtaz has constantly told to get a good education and concentrate on her studies, so she doesn't have to live like her mother) out of the blue- presents her with the cash, having prostituted herself for the first time so as to make the money to save her brother. It's an epic moment, and the look on Mumtaz's face, and the face of her pseudo-pimp, says it all. History repeats itself in the most horrid of ways. The only power women have over men, is also one that is frequently used to hold them in a subservient position, the film says. Indeed, it isn't a power at all, as it merely traps and defines them- they can never transcend it. The Beer Bar girls seem happy and liberated on the surface, but scratch only a little bit below, and one always finds a man forcing them to work in a way they hate more than anything.
One of the best thing about the film is it's performance from it's star. This is a hard character to pull off- she ages twenty years, but never changes because the system won't let her. She is clearly weak, but also strong in her determination that her children will be different. Two underworld lords, on separate occasions, try and coaxe her into submitting her son to an induction of organised crime, and her daughter into work as a Beer Bar girl, with even a bar named after her. Mumtaz tactfully, but firmly, refuses. The aging process is always hard to pull off, but by focusing on the eye area- the "old" Mumtaz has the same complexion, but is carrying hefty luggage beneath her eyes- the make up emphasises the numbing horror of never being allowed to grow or change or better yourself, an exhausting, harrowing existence for an exhausting, harrowing, brilliant film. Definitely see it if you can. Oh, and can someone put this out on DVD please?!?!