The last time I posted anything was more than two years ago. I guess I got increasingly busy with work, travel and life and had no time at hand. Additionally, the nagging insomnia became too chronic that it subdued whatever zest remained in me. Recently I have been energised by the delayed knowledge that one of my all time favourite script-wrtiers; Guillermo Arriga, who wrote the three major films that made my another favourite, Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu, famous; had turned a director in 2008. I missed it for close to three years! I have always been curious how writers perform when they start directing. Alejandro Innaritu has been a celluloid-magician, and Arriga, the man considered to be the key reason behind that magic. The gossip was that Innaritu got too annoyed by the attention that Arriga was getting and ordered him out of the sets of Babel and his sight.
The excitement to see Arriga's film, "The Burning Plain", which hardly made into the commercial circuit in the region, was irrepressible. But where do you get a copy? Finally I managed to lay my hands on the film. My curiosity was predictable: will it go non-linear? will he fuse many storylines into a single narrative? Will he be cinematically as compelling as Alejandro? Turn the film on: it also features another of my favourites - Charlize Theron.
The narrative was definitely non-linear and the overall mood, quite intense and brooding. Different storylines, all inter-related directly, happen in different timelines and at some stage, they merge and there is redemption.
A man and woman, both married and with children, die in a fire while having sex in a trailer. Another man raising her daugther alone in Mexico gets critically injured in a plane crash and his friend is looking for his wife who abandoned both of them. A good looking woman, running a succesful restaurant in the city with a tendency to hurt herself, is indiscriminately sleeping around with men with a manic vigor. The girl of the mother, and the boy of the father, who died in the trailer are in a relationship against the displeasure of their families. Arriga weaves these storylines, which span different time periods, into a single narrative to tell a single story, which is largely about guilt, human emotions and redemption.
Apparently his directorial venture was largely inspired by the slight he faced at the hands of Innritu. Has he been succesful? Perhaps yes, but moderately. Burning Plain lacks the dynamism and depth of Innaritu's work, but its cinematic fluidity and quality is certainly striking.
I have also been able to get hold of another movie written by Arriga: The Three Burials of Melquaides Estrada (2005) This is a bit older and is directed by Tommy Lee Jones, who also appears as the lead character, besides producing this movie. Different storylines, different timelines, Mexico and America, inter-dependence of lives... the same fare. But this one leads nowhere and at some stage is quite boring. There is a nagging sense of poetic justice or levelling that happens in lives. Really looking forward to more from Arriga. His non-linearity, that made Innaritu's movies, inspired the whole world leading to copycats everywhere including the utterly pretentious and over-rated Mani Ratnam and the recent movies such as Traffic (Malayalam) and Vaanam (Tamil).