Monday, February 18, 2008

Movie notes

I saw There Will Be Blood yesterday. Finally. I liked it very, very much indeed. I know people (Alok and Falstaff – this means you!) who came away underwhelmed, and I do agree it reminded me of many other films (especially Citizen Kane minus the ‘Rosebud’ angle) but I still felt the movie held its own.

For the first twenty or so eleven minutes and thirty three seconds of the film not a word is said and yet the movie was gripping from the go, by sheer dint of the awesome barren landscapes and the complete power that Daniel Day-Lewis exudes. It’s very difficult to take you eyes off him - his face and its very role appropriate nose lends itself perfectly to Daniel Plainview’s character and his taut body at the start seems to contain the kind of force and sheer power of someone determined to make it; by the end, as a consequence, what is left is a mangled, crooked figure.

Of course, this being Day-Lewis he inhabits his character absolutely completely, beyond just the mere physical aspects. When I came out of the theatre I was trying to remember who else had been nominated for the Best Actor Oscar this year and at that moment couldn’t remember any of the other actors, which is kind of apt. Also, no wonder the man ends up acting in only four movies in a decade – it’s exhausting watching him, I wouldn’t imagine what it would be like to live a character like Daniel Plainview.

I must also mention Paul Dano who plays Eli Sunday [1], the faith healer who gets on Plainview’s wrong side. The entire time I was watching Dano in the film I had a nagging feeling that I had seen him somewhere before and late last night it hit me that he was in Little Miss Sunshine – what an awesome turn from that to There Will Be Blood. He really holds his own, which is saying a lot considering the first guy who was supposed to be playing the role got freaked out and overwhelmed by Day-Lewis and quit a week before shooting.

Anyway, I am quite keen on watching the movie again – there are some excellent scenes (with excellent background music) that have stayed with me since my viewing – and quite honestly a Daniel Day-Lewis release is enough to get me to the theatres many times [2].

[1] For people who have seen the movie, can someone clear the air about Eli and Paul Sunday? Were they one and the same person? The movie is hazy about this and while it doesn’t really matter, it’s still interesting speculation.

[2] Daniel Plainview is such a despicable brute most of the time, but half the time the camera focused on Day-Lewis I would be thinking “OMG…he is so hot!” (and also “OMG… he has such a gorgeous face!” and “What amazing bone structure!” among others). This is not so bad though, I even think Ralph Fiennes manages to be amazingly sexily evil as Voldemort. He doesn’t even have nostrils in that role! I need help!


I recently found out that one of my most favourite books (ever!) Brideshead Revisited is being made into a movie. I am all kinds of skeptical about this entire project (never mind the cast) - really, there might be a good reason why the book has never been made into a movie.

I adore, adore, adore the TV series (the boxed set is one of my most prized possessions) which is twelve hours(!) long and which I wouldn’t wish to be a minute shorter. How they will take all the material of the book and compress it into a 100 minute movie is kind of beyond me. I mean, come on, that isn’t even enough time to fully exploit the homoerotic undercurrents of the Sebastian - Charles relationship!

Of course, a lot of my skepticism stems from the fact that, apparently, in the original draft of the script they decided to leave out Aloysius, and though they’ve brought him back in now, my reaction to the whole thing is just, “Dude, WTF?!”

Coming back to the casting, for me Brideshead has always been about Sebastian and I really can not think of anyone except Anthony Andrews in that role. And though Emma Thompson as Lady Marchmain and Michael Gambon as Lord Marchmain sound interesting, how can anyone compare to Claire Bloom and Sir Laurence Olivier in those same roles? This is not even mentioning Sir John Gielgud’s amazing turn as Edward Ryder. Finally, before I finish my pointless ranting, I offer the picture to the left proof of the fact that any version of Brideshead without Jeremy Irons will just never measure up.

P.S.: Who's to say, maybe the new film will turn out OK...hopefully more people will know about the book (if they don't already, in which case they are cretins) and will go watch the original miniseries.

Saturday, February 09, 2008


Since I had my camera with me today, I was only too happy to oblige the little fellow.

(Not that I am superstitious or anything but there's no saying about photographing a black cat, right?)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Strange Times, My Dear

As you read a foreign novel, you are actually invited into other people's living rooms, into their nurseries and studies, into their bedrooms. You are invited into their secret sorrows, into their family joys, into their dreams.

Which is why I believe in literature as a bridge between peoples. I believe curiosity can be a moral quality. I believe imagining the other can be an antidote to fanaticism. Imagining the other will make you not only a better businessperson or a better lover but even a better person.

Over the past few days I have been reading Strange Times, My Dear – The Pen Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature and its no surprise then that these lines by Amos Oz have been coming back to me time and again. The importance of what Oz says can’t be overstated and these lines hold especially true when you are reading about a country that is (in general) so misrepresented, so caricaturized and to a large extent so cut off from public knowledge and imagination.

When PEN and Arcade Publishing contracted to publish this anthology, they found out that to do so could subject them to a possible fine of $1,000,000 and ten years in prison. Reason being, no writers from the “Axis of Evil” countries could publish books in America without applying for a permit by the Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). (It was this inane rule that prevented Shirin Ebadi from publishing her memoirs in the States as well.) So, Arcade went to court, the OFAC backed down and it’s our good fortune that we can now read about people in these rogue states and know that their sorrows, joys and dreams are not all that different from ours.

I am still making my way through the collection. There are many pieces I haven’t read at all and some that I have gone back to again and again. Among those that I have returned to are Ahmad Shamlu’s gorgeous poems – they have stayed with me all week, the images beautiful and heartbreaking. What strange times indeed.

In This Blind Alley

They smell your breath
lest you have said: I love you,
They smell your heart:
These are strange times, my dear.

They flog love
at the roadblock.
Let’s hide love in the larder.

In this crooked blind alley, as the chill descends,
they feed fires
with logs of song and poetry.
Hazard not a thought:
These are strange times, my dear.

The man who knocks at your door in the noon of the night
has come to kill the light.
Let’s hide light in the larder.

There, butchers
are posted in passageways
with bloody chopping blocks and cleavers:
These are strange times, my dear.

They chop smiles off lips,
and songs off the mouth:
Let’s hide joy in the larder.

Canaries barbecued
on the flames of lilies and jasmines:
These are strange times, my dear.

Satan, drunk on victory,
squats at the feast of our undoing.
Let’s hide God in the larder.

Ahmad Shamlu
Translated from the Persian by Ahmad Karimi Hakkak

Friday, February 01, 2008

Hintli nazar boncuğu

The Indian way of warding off nazar or the evil eye...
I love this picture. This was right outside a very swanky Swarovski showroom in Delhi. I love the colours (çok kırmızı!), the contrasts, the shadows and the texture of the dried up green chillies.