Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The non-linearity of Guillermo Arriga

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).

Monday, November 19, 2007

Intrigue and adrenalin

I have been blog morbid for close to three months. Broke my leg in an unusual fall and had to undergo surgery and the mandatory convalescence. Still a couple of more months to go, but thought of publishing what I hadn't started before experiencing the "momentariness" of life.

Of nearly a dozen movies I watched during the period, three stand out for a wide variety of reasons: Fracture, The Bourne Ultimatum, and A Mighty Heart. It is indeed heartening to note that the excessive celluloid exhaust we witness these days does indeed have some gems. Films that are great in ideas, content, drama, narrative structure, style, and perfomances.

Of the lot I mentioned above, Bourne Ultimatium is superb in terms of what action and suspense thrillers can offer. A great plot of espionage, intrigue and action traversing the world, Bourne Ultimatium, is terrific stuff.In this third part of the Bourne trilogy, an android-looking Mat Damon continues his search for his identity through a maze of high-tech gadgetry, ruthless pursuit by his earstwhile masters and superb lines. Take a close look at those razor-sharp cuts, where some frames last less than half a second, the extremely mindful use of hand-helds and steadicams, a huge variety of shots ranging from the distant voyeuristic, crazy zoom-ins to tight close-ups, and those stylish pans. It also has one of the most engaging chases I have ever seen in movies. I wouldnt want to say anytihng more. It is the cocktail of intrigue and adrenalin at its best. I don't read Robert Ludlum and the works of his genre. Perhaps this movie might compel me to take a look at Ludlum, for he is the author of the Bourne trilogy. Among the three Bourne movies, this looks the best.

In terms of style and narrative, Bourne Ultimatum is contiguous with the previous episode of the trilogy, Bourne Supremacy. No marks for guessing. It is the signature of director Paul Greengrass.

The Fracture, on the other hand is sheer drama and perfomance. Anthony Hopkins and a relatively unknow Ryan Gosling serve a fantastic drama, with hardly any outdoor shots. It is high quality drama and a cheeky thriller. Ted (Anthony Hopkins), shoots his wife over an extra-marital relationship and succesfully sets up a legally viable escape plan. Willy Beacham, an extremely succesful young attorney (Ryan Gosling)thinks he has an open-and-shut case with a written confession and circumstantial evidence. But the plans of Ted, who looks like a loveable criminal, work out. He walks out scot-free, but not before an irrepressible Willy, makes a last-minute breakthrough. The performance of Anthony Hopkins is the stealer. It is menacing, vicarious and loveable. The good punch lines, an intelligent plot and measured photography make it a worthwhile movie. "If you look close enough, everybody has a weak spot" - that is the tagline of the movie. And it does make sense. Take a look.

By the way, the director of the movie, Gregory Hoblit ("NYPD Blue" fame)had pioneered the "loose camera" look (the handheld feel), used in movies such as "Bourne Ultimatum".

I will recommend A Mighty Heart for two reasons - the trademark gonzo style of director Michael Winterbottom , reminiscent of his earlier film, The Road to Guantanamo, and the casually elegant performance by the Indian cross-over actor, Ifran Khan. He is arresting and see the contrast in the frames that he shares with Anjolina Jolie. It is about abduction and death of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter, who was investigating stories on Taliban and Al Queda post 9/11. Good fare for students of cinema. I do wonder how he pulled off such a hand-held strategy. Definitely worth your time.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Zodiac: Unusual. Does it Thrill?

When thrillers are confused for loud noises, destruction, wild chases, extra-terrestrial and super-human, here comes David Fincher who gave us Seven, The Fight Club and The Panic Room with his latest offering - Zodiac. You wait to get thrilled, gripped by panic and fear, but nothing happens till the end. You dont realise that you have watched a three hour American movie. Is it an anti-climax?

That is Zodiac for you. A really long movie on a serial killer, who called himself Zodiac, killed people for more than a decade in the Bay area of San Fransisco in the 60s and 70s and sent letters and cryptgrams to police and newspapers. A committed and curious few - two police officers and two journalists - follow the cold trail, day and night, for several years and almost lose their lives to them. As the tagline of the movie says, there is more than one way to lose your life to a killer.

By the time my post appears on the blog, the movie will be out on TV.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

London to Brighton: Riveting Raw Success

Cinema is the most fascinating art I can ever think of. A confluence of a all forms of art in time and space, explored through a highly technical medium.

Talking scenes that one arrogantly creates within the confines of a frame.

What else do I say to express my excitement and sense of cinematic fulfillment of whatching "London to Brighton"? It is not about money (a reported budget of less than a million dollars), it's not about spectacles (largely simple indoors and a bit of outdoors)and it's not even about a wide range of lenses or fancy equipment (shot in 16 mm).

"London to Brighton" is an edge of the seat suspense thriller that takes off from the word go, not through flash cuts or crane shots, but through the sheer honesty of story telling and superlative performances. A bad looking and badly bruised hooker and a 12-year old girl are on the run from some frightening situation. We don't know what or who they are running away from. As the movie unfolds, we see the rest of the plot and we move towards the edge of the seat in anxiety, fear and anticipation for the worst. I wouldn't want to say anything more lest I should reveal the essence of the film.

This film is about the confidence of a debut director, about outstanding performances, and meticulously etched characters. As the lead characters,Lorraine Stanley and Georgia Groome (by the way, who are they and where did they come from?) have delivered stunning performances and are really worth to be looked out for. Georgia Groome, at her tender age, is a dynamite on screen. Take a look at the rehearsal clip of Georgia in the special features of the DVD. She is amazing talent.

For British director Paul Andrew Williams, apparenlty, this is a modified version of his 2001 short titled "Royalty". I am already avaricious to see more from him. If anybody has any more information on him, please share in this space. Same for Lorraine and Greorgia too.

This is what the BBC has said about the movie: At last - after years in the Mockney doldrums, the British crime flick gets a double-barrelled shot in the arm. London To Brighton is a brutal and brilliantly assured debut from writer/director Paul Andrew Williams. And he's not the only new name to watch - there are terrific turns from unknowns Lorraine Stanley and Georgia Groome, respectively playing a hooker and a teenage runaway in flight from some very unsavoury characters. World-beatingly grim, it'll put you through the wringer, but you won't regret the journey.

Dont this miss this amazing sleeper.Take a look at this trailer:

Monday, July 9, 2007


Sri Lankan coast. The onset of south west monsoon
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Sunday, July 8, 2007


The old world charm of Cambodia. On display is one of the traditional skills that survived the Pol Pot purge.
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The Synchronised gaze of a billion eyes and ears: A Beijing rooftop.
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