Children of Heaven- A must watch

October 18, 2008 at 7:34 am (Uncategorized)

Remember watching the Bicycle Thief. How the sheer helplessness of the protagonist (and his family) kept us glued to the screen. I have been trying to find another film which binds you emotionally from start to the end. I had heard only good stuff about the Indian movie, The Blue Umbrella but I was afraid it is going to be a rip-off of the bicycle thief and could never muster enough courage to give it a shot (Unfortunately, i have very low expectations from Bollywood). But when I heard about this Iranian movie, Children of Heaven, I had this urge to explore it considering the reputation Iranian filmmakers carry with them. A French connection means that unlike Bollywood most of their movies have a story to convey.

Children movies (and by which I don’t mean Disney likes) are a rarity. Maasoom and Bridge to Terabithia are two examples which stand out.I have always been at a loss to understand that with emotional bonding that can be conveyed through the story of children, why don’t we get to see more of such stories. Aamir Khan probably could understand my point and made Taare Zameen Par( which frankly wasn’t the best movie even of 2007) but that, if anything, strengthens my point. The trick to a successful movie is attachment and empathy with the main characters and the story. Granted that sometimes, we resort to cinema to take a break from the drudgeries of life, but the stories that linger on are those which we can connect with.

With a simple story which addresses a multitude of issues and a realistic background, Children of Heaven is one of the most touching stories to have been screened. Ever. It starts as a simple story of a boy who misplaces (loses) the shoes of his sister. The sister and brother Ali, knowing that their parents can’t afford a new pair of shoes plan to stay out of trouble by sharing their shoes and keeping it a secret from everyone else. Of course this lands them in trouble time and again since both of them need to be on time from their respective schools (which have complementary timings). Of course there are twists and turns for eg. the sister discovers who has her pair of shoes but finds out that her father is blind, so lets it go. And then there is the subplot where the father who is looking for a gardening job lands up at a place inhabited by a kid and his grandfather. The kid is lonely and looking for some friends and tries to find one in Ali.

The climax is in the form of a race where the third prize is a pair of sneakers (Reminded of some old Anil kapoor movie where the product of desire, a bicycle was a runners up prize in a wrestling bout). The race, which is beautifully captured on camera and orchestrated is won by Ali and he comes home dejected to his sister. Though in a scene just before that they show their father on his way home with two new pairs of shoes. However we never get to see the joyful faces of the children getting it. Instead the director gives us a gem of an ending. As Ali faces his sister empty handed (the first prize was a 2 week vacation for him), he takes off his torn shoes and we get to see his swollen feet. He places his feet in a pool of water where (with a joyous music background) the fish come and stick to his feet, signifying ( atleast in my opinion) the end of miseries for the family.

Now where do I start praising this movie. Right from the first scene, where they show the cobbler repairing the girl’s shoes, the movie grips you and never lets go of you. The small alleys of Teheran (I presume) with small puddles of water in the middle form the backdrop for the movie. But the real stars have to be the child actors. You thought Darsheel had shone in Taare Zameen Par, wait till you see the performance of this bunch. It was almost as if the movie was being filmed secretly, and the kids could bring out the entire range of emotions -the purity, the innocence, the naivety, the maturity. Every small detail fitted them to the tee. Whether it be facial expressions, body posturing or dialogue delivery. It was hard to imagine this being a scripted movie.

The longing looks of the sister/brother pair when they see a pair of shoes in a television or a window showcase conveys it all. I was particularly impressed by the scene where the girl drops the sneaker into a flowing gutter by mistake. The helplessness on her face was so evident and it made me want to help her. Now that is what I call emotional attachment.

Another beautiful aspect of this movie is when it shows the contrast between the rich and the poor when Ali travels to the uptown part of the city or when he sees the rich kids in their bright tracksuits at the start of the race. The look on his face almost makes you feel guilty for being rich and am sure would melt the coldest of hearts. But the other side of the coin is well represented too by the longing for a companion by the rich kid, which actually leads me to the only grouse about this movie. After building up this sub plot, they eliminated it entirely from the movie. But it does keep the movie taut and crisp. I have another big problem. After seeing this particular movie, it will be hard to judge other movies by this scale (maybe I should see Singh is King once more)

But in the end, the movie is all about the extent to which a brother is willing to sacrifice for his sister and vice versa. It almost (and I emphasize the word almost, dear sis if you are reading) makes me want to stop my bickering with my sister.

Ever wanted to see something that shall linger on in your heart for ever. Go rent this DVD now

Genre :Drama

Rating: It doesn’t get any better than this

Go watch it with: Anyone

Go watch it for : Everything

Children of Heaven

Children of Heaven

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Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (A tribute to Paul Newman)

October 6, 2008 at 7:48 pm (Uncategorized)

I have been MIA for quite some time now. This is not a reflection on my extent of movie watching (I’d have watched atleast 20 in the corresponding period) but after the flak I received for Rock On (I still stick by it, the movie sucked balls) I have decided to review only those movies which evoke extreme emotions only. No bland movies ( so no more Rock On, ok I have to stop this rant.)

Paul Newman was one of the greatest on the silver screen I have ever come across. And not just as an actor but as a director, entrepreneur and God knows what else. The Sting remains one of my all time favorites ( I will always hold a grudge against Hustle for having ruined the plot for me). His performance in Cool Hand Luke is unparalleled. BCASK was one of the movies I always wanted to see. And after his death, I couldn’t think of a better way to pay homage to this legend.

It starts as a neo-noirish Western but then it shows its beautiful face. A comic western (well not quite Blazing saddles) with the kind of humor which Paul Newman (later along with Robert Redford who as the Sundance kid gives a dazzling performance) became famous for . Sample this -” Why did you close down th e bank. It was beautiful” ” Well people just kept on robbing it” “Beautiful indeed”

Butch fights off a leadership tussle within his own gang ( in which he bets against himself, talk about hedging risks, if only the Wall St. smart kids would have taken this lesson) and then robs a train. He plans to rob the train on its way back (the ingenuity supplied by his rival ironically) as well. The ferocity and the fear evoked by Butch is shown as the marshal is unable to gather a posse to go after the gang.

The love interest of Sundance is pursued by Butch as well setting up a love triangle subplot (which incidentally turns out to be one of the weak points of the movie). The real tale begins when a posse hunts them after their second robbery attempt gone wrong. The chase showcases the picturesque scenery of the West without which the genre of western movies would be reduced to the an’n’als of RockOnites (sorry sorry this is the last time I mention Rock on Ever)

Well the story moves on to Bolivia where the three are involved in some of the most hilarious robbery scenes you will ever see on the 70 mm screen without being reduced to buffoonery. Their attempts to lead a straight life are thwarted by destiny which apparently wants them to stick to things they do best. And all this climaxes in the ever eternal scene where the scene is framed but you can still hear the sounds of the bullets whizzing around.

Paul Newman and Robert Redford are there in almost every single shot of the movie. Initially there had been some controversy over the title of the movie. Actors couldn’t agree on which character should get the more prominent role and this led to multiple changes in the cast. Even though Sundance Kid is in the latter part of the title, Redford brings the role alive on his own. The movie would also catapult him to the stage of stardom. Redford, Newman and director George Roy Hill would later regroup for another classic – “The Sting”.

George deserves special mention for breaking the mould and trying to be innovative. The 2nd robbery scene (where the excess of dynamite blows up the entire carriage) is masterfully done. The allusion to lack of money somehow reminded of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The journey from US to Bolivia is an exquisite masterpiece. Hill uses a montage of pictures with the background music reflecting the mood to represent this journey. The mere use of this instrument was a high point for me in the movie. Wonder why it is not used more often. It has a strong lingering after taste (oops the wine sessions have got to me). There is a dialogue free scene in which the song “Raindrops keep falling on my head” plays in the background. All you Bollywood aficionados would relate to this instantly but it was something of  a refreshing change in a Western. On another note, I have been hearing this song everywhere now. On the Simpsons, on Arrested Development. See extreme emotions indeed.

The humor is never over the top and seems to fit in seamlessly. But the movie meanders in the middle and the chase sequences begin to look repetitive. The tame end to the love triangle doesn’t help matters. But the movie more than redeems itself in the end. Tell you what. Just listen to the last dialogue in the movie and you will know how uber cool this movie was.

Newman, Just show this to St. Peters and your entrance to heaven is guaranteed. You deserve a place there.

Genre: Western, Humor

Rating: Gem

Watch it with: Your friends

Watch it for: A Jolly good time

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

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