Monday, July 25, 2005

The Terrorist (Santosh Sivan)

This movie was filmed two years before our localized disaster of September 11, 2001, and its global ramifications. Apparently, this is supposed to add poignance. We expect the world's sympathy, and its art, to reflect our own current conditions. The rest of the world was dealing with terrorism-as-fact-of-life long before we had to, and it doesn't make this Indian film any better now that we can relate. It's a decent piece of action entertainment, but it thinks it's a piece of art, and it isn't. It was directed by a famed cinematographer. That's it's first strike, in my book, which is a strong personal preference, I'll readily admit. I care about directors, actors, writers, and editors. I could give a shit about cinematogaphers unless they give a shit about these other four. Beauty is a hindrance to my holy quartet. Beauty is a lie. If you spend your movie figuring out beautiful ways to shoot everything, you're creating some massively expensive wallpaper. The wallpaper is attractive, but it's not a movie. I like a lot of things about this wallpaper. The lead actress is iconic and beautiful, every shot could be framed, some scenes have an urgent sense of suspense. But once the wall has been covered, what else is left? I'm not going to be thinking about anything in this movie tomorrow, and I didn't think about anything in it while it was happening. Because it's about a terrorist cel, people think it's important, but it's just another cliched melodrama, and an Americanized one at that. It's fun, but the director/cinematographer thinks he's making a profound political statement. Maybe he is. Maybe he's illustrating how American business values have corrupted non-American storytelling. Maybe he's just an over-talented hack. Either way, he's made a good movie that's not very good.

I wrote this review in a drink-damaged state. Please forgive run-on sentences and poor sentence construction. This site is a fucking burden. Why did I decide to write about every movie I watch? All art takes a lot of time. This immediate response thing is probably worthless. Goodnight.


kristykay said...

I think its much harder to write about a good movie that isn't that great than it is to write about a great one or a crappy one, drunk or sober.

Also, you forgot to mention all the water! The lead actress takes a thousand dunks in the river or walks in the rain in this movie. I don't know if tjd reads this site, but if yes, know that Dirck would love this film. Love it.

archivaria said...

I am glad to know that Dirck would like this site, even though he is a total jerk. Ha ha. Our private joke.

And I have to ask how Mr. K. feels about Sacha Vierny, who was the cinematographer for Last Year at Marienbad (Resnais), and lots of other things, including the (and I love these) Greenaway movies. And Belle de Jour. I mean, good cinematography can add so much, can help tell the story and add distinct visual elements that help complete the storytelling. There are bad/pretentious/boring cinematographers just like there are bad writers/directors, etc. I just think that we often take the visual for granted because we take sight for granted (we "see" movies, but sometimes it doesn't occur to us to pay attention to how they look, and realizing that how they look adds to how they make us feel). I'm not saying you're wrong, but to be able to enjoy some films on a purely visual basis - like Last Year at Marienbad - it can be so moving, like seeing the world in such a different way that you can't even recognize any part of it, or maybe relate is a better word than recognize. It's beyond you, it helps create this other world that you aren't part of. Does any of this make sense? It's like an alternate reality. I admit, too, that I think I'm more visually oriented than some people, so maybe "seeing" movies is my thing, and I'm not arguing, just wanting to comment. And also, I would like to add that beauty isn't necessarily a lie, but beauty isn't always what we expect it to be.

Thank you.

Mr. Krauter said...

I was drunk when I wrote that post. Seriously, deeply drunk. So I don't actually think that beauty is a lie. I just think that manufactured beauty is. When a director or cinematographer chooses to shoot something in a heavily stylized, prettified way for no particular reason, especially when it is at odds with the material, I'm really turned off. My visual interest in film is in watching movement, action, performance, facial expressions, body language, physicality, the look of the locations, settings, and where, how, and why the camera is filming what I'm seeing. I can appreciate the visual beauty of virtuosity and stylization, but it doesn't mean much to me personally. I've got to admit, I'm not a big fan of Greenaway or Marienbad, though I respect Marienbad. Just not my cup of tea. I love Belle de Jour, though. I'm just not that interested in cinematography, probably because the technical aspects of film are the least interesting to me, and I consider most cinematographers technicians, not artists. Usually, the ones who consider themselves artists smother the film with a lot of unnecessary overstylization. There are a few I really, really love, though: Robby Muller, Ed Lachman, James Wong Howe, Thomas Mauch, and Jorg Schmidt-Reitwein.

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