Reviews written by registered user
|4 reviews in total|
Is a beautifully and articulately cinematographed formalist piece of drama
that does the Indian tradition of melodramatic film proud. It is a film of
mirrors ..where the strict defined roles hold up a mirror to undefined,
imperfect humanity with no answers...and no questions.Where formal Indian
dance(kathakali) holds up a mirror to classics so perfect that humans define
themselves in the melodramatic masks of epics. and formalist concepts of
art, such as truth, nobility and beauty defines themselves into the drama in
such a way that what is left for humans that wear the masks is only
weakness, bewilderment ...duty and weariness.
The film is structured as a set of pure cinema (and minimal and melodramatic) events intercut with Kathakali dance performances that reflect the basic emotional drama underlying the scene. The director makes sure that we understand that this is no mere narrative device. the characters in the film don and disturb the masks and makeup of characters in the play...and in myth easily as if they have a very blurred line between present time and fictional reality.
Wwe end up looking for the truth in reflected, broken mirror fragments, reflecting it off one another- one side colored with formal myth, the other with minimalist melodrama. The failing of the film is in its certainity that objective truth can be found in art (it is by no means certain...we are all,IMO, and to quote newton , just children playing in the sands of time amusing ourselves with the discovery of a colorful shell here and there...). The tension with this film is that it succeedes as the formalist art that it critiques , thus, holding a mirror unto itself.
For some reason, this film reminded me of a laxative/ regularity
for seniors. Unsurprising and quiet in its plotting/characterization, it
nevertheless felt very good, specially in face of the concentratedly
opinionated bull that's been populating the theaters these days(kill
Lost in translation, Human stain etc).
That's not to say that The Station Agent is not opinionated, it is, in a way that simultaneously puts things in perspective. It's like the film says " I do have opinions, but they don't matter any more than anybody else's" and that if people don't agree with them, the film is only an irrelevance about a dwarf and a hot dog owning latino becoming friends with an old gal in New Jersey.
Most virtues of the film are in the negative. It's not propaganda, not a glorification of small town ness or smallness or tolerance or perfection (or imperfection). It's not a movie with a plot. It's not a film with ambitions. So it's not a bad movie.
Is it a good film? I still don't know. It's virtues are dubious, and because it has few shortcomings, one is not unfavorably disposed toward it. Maybe this is the future of the indi film- films with little virtue and few shortcomings.(that would be a depressing reality if it came about).
The style of film making pioneered in cassavete's shadows was called
guerrilla film making, where people worked without a script,written dialog
or (sometimes) without an idea of how a film would turn out. This concept
relied on the idea that the honesty of the camera worked to tell stories
much better than any cinematic translation of scripts.
The Human stain tries to make a guerrilla movie out of a Phillip Roth novel...and falls on its face. Working with talent (Anthony Hopkins, ed harris..who's terrific by the way, Gary sinese and Nicole kidman) that's more used to the conventional(read boring) styles of acting and dramatic presentation, the film tries to make up for their stilted formal ness by spacey editing and jerky narration. (I don't blame the lack of dialog or the abruptness of transitions to the style of filming, it's probably because of reedits and re scripts by micromanaged writers/ editors).
The actors carry out their briefs very professionally(sometimes well) but the movie adds up into an abomination of an uninteresting variety. You could say that the film tries to counter spin some of sirk's films, fifty years too late.
You wonder, after the film (though you watch it very raptly...inspite of its shortcomings) why this car wreck really came to be. It stays with you like a hangover after a bad night of drinking moonshine , as a bunch of reinforced stereotypes and a cinematic world where you capitulate to evil because good is by its very nature cowardly.
If this movie were an ibsen play (like enemy of the people was) it would be a one act play. Its power comes from the firm pencil stokes of the sketch that is the film. And it is a film about the tiniest of all characters in it- the (suitable) girl that's fresh as a yellow mountain flower.
Satyajit ray uses the elements as symbolism in his films. He does so quietly here. The gentle sound montages (sply the raspy and raucous sound in a supposedly genteel holiday resort ) are used to draw attention to elements and turns in the smooth plot. And the mountain ranges are used as powerful visual metaphor.
The last day of the family's stay at the resort has come, the ranges of snowcapped Himalayas are still obscured by clouds. The view is reputedly spectacular and nobody knows if a glimpse of the Kanchenjungha peak is possible before they leave. The Suitable boy has not yet proposed to the youngest daughter of a patriarch moneybags , and everyone is hoping he will today. Her sister, who married unhappily and has continued an affair she started before her wedding must decide what to do about it. The brothers of the patriarch chase after birds of different kinds, while an old tutor seeks to get his nephew a Job with the patriarch..
Complexly created simple tale of everyday life.