Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Downers and outcasts

The following review appeared on the Teen Page of Chennai Chronicle a few years ago.It's not exactly a movie review. It's the review of a book that was made into a movie several years after the book was first published. I was deeply affected by the book and with some luck, I found an opportunity to express my pathos on a public forum. Here is the review in its entirety:

There are authors who write to please you. And there are those who seem to indulge in their art for the pure rush of making you feel simultaneous bursts of agony and catharsis with every word they pen. Hubert Selby Jr happens to fall in the latter category. Hailing from a working class background, surrounded by the unmentionables of New York's underbelly, the author has honed his craft by dissecting the nature of human pain with his raw, profound and shattering take on life at the edge of what the world considers 'civilization'. Last Exit to Brooklyn was his debut novel, a work that is so riddled with anger, intensity and pathos – things that wouldn't seem too alien to a generation born almost 50 years since it was first written. 

The novel is presented in a style resembling a portmanteau film, comprising individual episodes that may at first appear unconnected. The four main protagonists never meet each other but they all live in the same industrial housing colony-like set-up on the Brooklyn waterfront. Sailors, gangsters, junkies, lowlives, hustlers and a set of characters that are a far cry from the American dream, populate this city. Selby's writing is a bravura bit of literary craftsmanship, which employs street slang and normal dialogues to altogether eliminate the 'he said' and 'she replies' that have been the cornerstones of formal English writing.
The result of such a technique is the rapid-fire progression of the novel from point A to B to Z. The speed at which the dialogues ricochet from one character to the other leaves the reader almost breathless. But beware, this is writing at its most angst ridden, you will be shocked by its bare-knuckle brutality and its unforgiving look at those who haven't quite made it in life. But then, given an option, would they even care to rescue themselves from a hellhole, the construct of which was defined by them in the first place?

Monday, November 14, 2011

One thang and one thang only

Eli Roth and Brad Pitt are in the Killing Nazi Business in Inglourious Basterds

I know it’s been a while since I’ve written anything substantial. The most recent post was a six-year old article that I had unearthed in the wake of the release of Suriya’s 7Aum Arivu. In that post, I very gloriously described how I would steer clear of watching that film only to be forced into the theatre a day after to witness the spectacle first hand in all its 70 mm glory. My incorrigible friend Kaaleyil Blood Maccha had no ulterior motive in his mind and I forgave his transgressions purely owing to the first 20 minutes of Murugadoss’ latest offering.

I wasn’t emotionally or psychologically scarred for life during the course of the screening or even after it. I lived to tell the tale – and the tale of my trysts with movies like Rockstar. I don’t know if I’ve become any more tolerant than I already was. Maybe I am more accommodating of human follies and foibles. Maybe I consider myself lucky to be able to offset the impact of one lousy movie with two exemplary ones. Or maybe, the other way round.

In fact, I had just seen a theatrical screening of The Shawshank Redemption (a lifelong dream of mine) a day before Rockstar. And before Shawshank, I also got to witness the Justin Timberlake sci-fi romp In Time. I shall be posting my experiences of both films in a short while. But for now, I’ll leave you with a sweet taste of nostalgia. The following article happens to be the very first movie review written by me that got published in a newspaper.

Michael Fassbender and Diane Kruger plot the demise of the Third Reich in Inglourious Basterds

It was during my stint at Deccan Chronicle that I had lovingly written this ode to Tarantino, shortly after watching his Inglourious Basterds at a press screening. The article which appeared in the tabloid Chennai Chronicle is something I hold close to my heart for several reasons. For one, it was my editor who we lovingly referred to as The Mothership or The Motherhen, who prompted me to start writing reviews of Hollywood films for our paper.

Had it not been for the trust she put in me, things might have been a lot different. I still can’t bring myself to comprehend the day she asked me to carry my review of the Basterds on the Hollywood page instead of the review that Manohla Dargis of The New York Times had penned. Forget the ego boost, the very thrill of seeing my name attached to a review that carried the name of QUENTIN TARANTINO just blew me away to Timbuktu.

My two inseparable buddies and partners in crime – Ms. Loondry and Ms. Hilton cheered me on and inspired me to go with it and made sure that my review was done just in time. So many events transpired before and after that. And I’m sure they’ll make for great reading. But that’s all later. For now, let me leave you in the company of this review. I hope you love it.