Sunday, March 18, 2007

postheadericon The sexy older woman - is she now an endangered species in Cinema?

Seems to be my week for watching onscreen unconventional pairings.

Two days ago I saw Bollywood's "Nishabd" where a 60-year old man falls in love with an 18-year old girl and today I saw "Unfaithful" with Diane Lane and Richard Gere.

This is one those movies where an affair goes badly wrong (not sure an extra-marital affair should go any other way, but I digress). In a nutshell, Diane Lane is a suburban housewife who has a hot and steamy affair with a much younger French book dealer. Diane Lane was 36 when she made the movie and I have to say she looks great! No attempt was made to hide or cover her wrinkles and yet she looked hot! But, matching a younger man with an older woman is not regular Hollywood faire, is it? After Ann Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson in 1967's "The Graduate", I can't think of a movie with a sexy older lady paired off with a younger man that became a box office hit. Is the cougar an endangered species in Hollywood? I would think so. And yet, offscreen romances abound, with Demi Moore, Susan Sarandon, Madonna, Cameron Diaz and Barbara Hershey all landing younger men and quite effortlessly too.

Ok, let's move away from the older woman-younger man scenario for a while. How often do we get to see women over 40 playing sexy and romantic roles in Hollywood? Sure, there are exceptions...Meryl Streep in "Bridges of Madison County", Diane Keaton in "Something's Gotta Give", Helen Mirren and the ladies in "Calender Girls" but they are usually few and far between.

What keeps Hollywood (and Bollywood) from celebrating an older woman's sexuality? Surely they're not scared of wrinkles? Or does the problem lie with us viewers? Do we have trouble accepting older women in sexy roles? Are we just more comfortable with them playing frumpy mothers or aging queens? Bollywood is especially guilty I think...when was the last time a woman over 40 was caste as the female lead in a romantic role?

BTW, feel free to agree or disagree. Maybe you think the older women aren't getting such a bad deal after all, write and let me know, suggest movies, I'm open to all points of view...
Saturday, March 17, 2007

postheadericon Nishabd: A very casual review

Duration: 1:50 hrs (approx.)
Genre: Drama
Director: Ram Gopal Varma
Story, Screenplay: Kusum Punjabi
Dialogues: Amrik Gill
Music Director: Vishal Bharadwaj

Saw Nishabd yesterday and I don't know what I was expecting before I sat down to view the movie, but whatever it was, I was disappointed.

So here's a man, Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan) with an 18 year old daughter Ritu (Shraddha Arya) - he obviously had the child quite late in life because he is over 60 years old. One summer Ritu brings a friend, Jia (Jiah Khan), home for the holidays and Vijay is captivated by her youthfulness, her spontaneity and her zest for life. It doesn't help when Jia is equally captivated by him and goes so far as to tell him she loves him, which to my great horror he believes!!!!!!!!!

Ok, I am not saying an 18-year old is not capable of love, but for goodness sakes, if you have learned anything by the age of sixty, it's that love is a mutable, changeable thing. What seems like love today may change into respect or some other quality tomorrow, and the younger you are, the greater the possibility of that happening.

Anyway, so he falls crazily in love with her. Jia does perhaps remind Vijay of his youth and when he's with her he feels half his age...but is that good enough reason to throw your family over for a nymph? Or perhaps it is... when I reach 60, I will have to revisit the post to see if I still feel this way. But then again, being a woman, it is perhaps unlikely that I will feel like Vijay did. Who knows?

Is getting older really such a terrible thing? Do we have to fall down on our knees before youth all of the time? If we didn't worship youth so much, do you think we'd have fewer men wanting to have a woman half his age on his arm and will we have fewer women courting botox and other bizarre forms of cosmetic surgery?

What about in societies like India and China where the old are revered? Do the men and women there feel the same way when they reach their twilight years or are they too busy basking in the adoration of their family? Ironic question this, when you consider Vijay is an Indian man....but hey, that is Bollywood. What goes on in real life in those societies I wonder?

Nishabd has been promoted as Amitabh's "Lolita". I am now in the mood to watch Stanley Kubrik's interpretation of Vladimir Nakobov's novel Lolita, to see who really captured the essence of Lolita better. I think I already know who wins!

Oh and I know the concept of "older man-younger woman" isn't an alien concept in Indian cinema, however, no titles come to mind, can anyone suggest a few?

Finally, I have called this a casual review because I have not bothered to go into details about the acting, the script, music or cinematography - I just wanted to explore what I took away from the movie - society's obsession with youth.

However, I will say that Amitabh has excelled in his role as 60-year old Vijay. Was it deliberate or is he really looking his age in the movie?. There are more wrinkles on his face than I ever seen and noticable pouches under his eyes - I am guessing it's the makeup. Jiah is also quite convincing as the manipulative, and also misguided nymphette, but I found her high-pitched whine very irritating at times. The movie was shot in the beautiful tea plantations of Munnar, but everything seems to have been filmed through a blueish-green lens, which lent the movie a rather melancholy look. Perhaps a cineaste would appreciate it, I didn't.

Stay tuned for Stanley Kubrik's "Lolita"
Wednesday, March 14, 2007

postheadericon Sleeping with the enemy

I saw this picture in yesterday's "Globe and Mail" and the contrast between the beautiful Western-dressed bride, the Arab-veiled mother and the barbed wire, stopped me in my tracks (wish I could have got a clearer picture for you).

The bride, Arwad Shahin, was being given a send off as she prepared to leave for her bridegroom's house. But this was no ordinary send off because although Arwad and her husband-to-be were both Syrians from Druze families (the Druze are a breakaway Islamic sect following al-Hakim, an Ismaili caliph, as the embodiment of God), they live on opposite sides of the border, with Arwad living in one of the villages of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Harb (the bridegroom) living in Syria. Once Arwad crosses the border into Syria, she relinquishes her residency and any right to return. Infact, from now on, the Israelis will consider her a "foreigner from an enemy state."

THis also means she will never be able to meet with her family again as she will never be allowed back into Israel and nor will her family be allowed into Syria.

Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights and parts of Palestine has separated 100's of families. Not being able to see your family must be the hardest thing for anyone to endure. No doubt it happens in other parts of the world too, I am reminded here of the 100's of Indian families that were separated when India was divided into India and Pakistan and also, families from North Korea and South Korea. Still, some of those countries have come around and now special dispensation is given for visits between family members...why isn't this happening on the Israel-Syrian border as well?
Friday, March 09, 2007

postheadericon Before Sunset (2004)

Before Sunset

Directed by
Richard Linklater

Written by
Linklater, Kim Krizan, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke

Delpy and Hawke.

Imagine this: You're a young, single man or woman and you're travelling through Europe as many young people are want to do. You meet this really wonderful man (or woman) on the train and have a wonderful time conversing together. When you realize you have a common destination (Vienna) you decide to spend the day together taking in the sights of the city. You find, as you walk and talk, you have even more in common than you dared hope, and at the end of the day you do what only seems natural - you make wild, passionate love in a park to this person you have enjoyed the day with. Obviously, you want to meet her or him again, but in typical youthful impulsiveness you decide not to exhcange addresses or phone #'s, but instead, you both plan to meet 6 months from now on the same train platform in Vienna that you disembarked from.

However, 6 months later, you find you are unable to make it to Vienna because of certain commitments. You torment yourself for a while, for not being able to make it, you curse the fact that you never exchanged addresses, but such is life. Nine years go by, you have never forgotten this person, but life goes on.

Have you ever had that happen to you? Have you ever clicked so wonderfully with someone for an hour or two and wondered what life might have been like if you had more time with them?

Anyway, I digress...the story I was having you imagine is the story
of Jesse and Celine (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) from "Before Sunset". In the years that go by Ethan Hawke becomes a writer and recreates that day in Vienna with Celine as a theme for his first bestselling book. A chance meeting in Paris (where Jesse has gone to attend a book signing) brings the couple together after 9 years. Hawke has only an hour before his flight takes off and they spend the hour reminisicing, first in a beautiful Parisian cafe and then on a stroll in a Paris park and suburbs...they even manage to squeeze in a quick boat ride.

This movie takes place all in a span of 60 mins and I found its main characters are not Jesse and Celine, but the conversations that take place between them. If you ever want to watch a movie with impressive dialogue, this is the one for you! Their conversations provide such keen insights and understanding to the human nature: our wants, our needs and what we are able to sacrifice to achieve them. Their chats touch on human relationships,religion, the environment, love lost and found and the tenacity of bonds that develop between people that are truly connected to each other. However, you also realize how often we choose to live our lives by default, content to let things happen to us rather than to go and make it happen for us. You learn that no man is an island and sometimes, we will be with someone we don't love only because we can't bear to be alone. But, as wonderful as the conversations are, what is equally wonderful is what is not said but merely suggested by the very talented actors' expressions and body language. If you have 1hr and 20mins to spare before your day ends, go rent the movie, you will enjoy the experience!

Technically, "Before Sunset" would be considered a sequel to "Before Sunrise" (which is a movie about the couple's day spent in Vienna), but it is also a stand alone movie.
Saturday, March 03, 2007

postheadericon Anwar and what I learned from the movie

I saw "Anwar" the other night. When I rented the DVD I had no idea what it was about, but I was determined to see it because I loved the songs.

In a nutshell, most of the movie takes place on Valentine's Day with a ton of flashbacks. Anwar (Siddharth Koirala) is a depressed young man (he has lost several people near and dear to him, in horrific suicides and murders) and in his disturbed state, takes refuge in a ruined temple (although a Muslim he is fascinated with temple art). Someone discovers his drawings at the site and news spreads of a Muslim terrorist hiding in the temple. Soon the police, politicians and hoardes of RSS men gather at the site asking Anwar to surrender, but he does not.

In flashbacks we learn that Anwar loved a girl Mehru (Nauheed Cyrusi) but she was in love with his Hindu best friend Udit. Understanding that their parents would not approve of a inter-religious marriage, Mehru and Udit elope. Mehru's mother with the help of all her relatives begins her search for the eloping couple and Anwar provides the information for where they could be found. We are not exactly sure why he let his friends down, but one can assume it was due to jealousy. The couple is caught, Udit is murdered and Mehru hangs herself after a couple of days leaving behind a very distraught and guilty Anwar.

On the surface of things the movie, set in Lucknow, appears to be about the age old Hindu-Muslim rivalry, but really, Anwar is a love story. What I took away from the movie is this: everyone, whether that person is a criminal, a Lord, a servant, a law enforcer, a media darling or just an ordinary person like you and me, is somebody's love and at the same time, someone's fool. No matter who we are or where we are placed in the social heirarchy, we love someone enough to be their complete fool and someone (not necessarily the same person) loves us too. So the next time someone gets on your nerves try to see him as the love of someone's life and hopefully you'll be able to feel more charitable towards him/her.

But coming back to the movie, the acting was mediocre, the storyline a little tedious and there is nothing to recommed it except for the music which was created by Mithoon and Pankaj Awasthi. I beseech you to listen to the songs, especially the Sufi- inspired "Javeda Zindagi", Maula Mere Maula and Dilbar Mera. Songs available for download here