Quite like the posters. It is directed by Karthik Subbaraj (of Pizza fame) and stars Siddharth and Lakshmi Menon.
I continue my obsession with this film and director’s works…
Johnnie To is currently the only ‘action auteur’ working in cinema anywhere in the world. And Sparrow is To’s exercise with the ‘lyrical’. It is essentially a caper-comedy playing out like a musical. And it hearkens back to French capers (To definitely has Melville on his mind in many of the film’s exquisite set-pieces).
A gang of pickpockets led by Simon Yam is beguiled by a mysterious lady on the run (Kelly Lin), and their schemes start to fall apart. As often with To, the conception of the film is slim, but the execution is rich. There are the games and competitions, the symmetries and repetitions, the offhand motifs (here, cigarettes, cigars, and pipes), the geometrical and arithmetical plot mechanics. To has become perhaps the world’s most unpretentiously, unapologetically formalist director.
It’s a procession of twists and set-pieces. There are the funny one-off shots, like the two grifters with symmetrically broken legs and the gang flashing the razor blades they hide in their mouths.
Some sequences are unpredictable miniatures, like the scenes that show how many camera angles you can find in an elevator car, even with a fishtank squeezed in. There’s also a delirious bit with a lipstick-stained cigarette.
Other set-pieces unfold more majestically. There’s a sweeping crane shot of the gang vacuuming up wallets of passersby, and an elaborate theft of a pendant during massage therapy.
The film climaxes with a showdown between two master pickpockets, Kei (the suave Simon Yam) and Mr. Fu (Lo Hoi-pang), and their gangs in the drizzling Hong Kong night.
The objective: Whoever ends up with the passport of the lovely Chun-lei (Kelly Lin) decides her fate. Mr. Fu wants to own her; Kei wants to set her free, much like the bird of the title (“sparrow” is also Cantonese slang for a pickpocket).
The bravura, slow-motion centerpiece sequence would seem more at home in an MGM musical than in a Hong Kong action flick. Armed with umbrellas and well-tailored suits and backed by an infectious musical score, gleaming neon lights and a downpour worthy of Gene Kelly, the pickpockets go “slingin’ in the rain”. You can watch this breathtaking sequence below-
The Sparrow is at once a loving tribute to old Hong Kong island (Simon’s hobby is black-and-white photography), an unpredictable genre piece (or a genre-bender), and an exercise in light-fingered filmmaking. It is also a lesson to the hollywood directors who think that ‘action’ is all about ‘frenzy’ and ‘mayhem’.
–Sound can bypass the conscious mind, working directly on our most visceral impulses such as ‘fight or flight’!
I have long believed that Johnnie To’s formal technique and his mastery in sound and visuals is second to none in contemporary world cinema. So I have decided to walk through a scene from his utterly masterful minimalist crime-thriller, Sparrow. Here is a sort of walk-through of that sequence-
The elusive Chun Lei (Kelly Lin) has gulled a quartet of pickpockets, and they pursue her to a rooftop. As the men explore it, we hear traffic and a distant plane, which evokes Chun Lei’s plan to flee Hong Kong.
They spot her on the roof. The suggestion that she might jump is underscored by distant traffic horns.
As the men approach Chun Lei, we hear distant sirens and a soft wind.
An extreme long-shot of the gang provides a still broader sound canvas, with traffic sounds predominating.
In a much tighter shot, as the actors come closer to the camera, the ambiance thins and softens. Now here To smartly times the traffic to underline the dialogue.” Chun Lei leans forward to kiss Bo (Lam Ka-Tung), trying to provoke the leader Kei (Simon Yam) to jealousy. We hear echoes of a passing truck, almost as a warning.
This is Vidhu Chopra’s next directorial project and his début Hollywood venture. The cast includes Vincent D’Onofrio, Anton Yelchin, Chris Marquette, Maria Velverde, Sean Patrick Flanery and Thomas Jane. The screenplay for the film has been written by Chopra and Abhijat Joshi (of 3 Idiots and Lage Raho Munna Bhai fame).
Rest of the crew includes Oscar nominated Tom Stern (The Hunger Games, Changeling, Million Dollar Baby) as Director of Photography, Toby Corbett (Crossing Over, Bad Lieutenant) as Production Designer and Emmy nominated Mary Vogt (Men In Black 3, Batman Returns) as Costume Designer.
Plot- Set in the shadows of the US-Mexico border gang wars, Broken Horses is an epic thriller about the bonds of brotherhood, the laws of loyalty and the futility of violence.
For more on the film follow the LINK
Anurag Kashyap is also one of the co-producers of the film. It premiers at Cannes this year and it seems to be another feather in Kashyap’s cap. Since Waltz With Bashir is one of the finest and profoundest animation films to have ever been made anywhere this one too seems to be a compulsive watch. This part-animation, part live-action film is based on Stanisław Lem’s novel, The Futurological Congress, from 1971
Robin Wright (Robin Wright) receives an offer from Miramount to be scanned. In this way, her alias can be freely exploited in all films the Hollywood major decides to produce, even the most downmarket ones, the ones she has turned down until now. For 20 years she disappears to return as guest of honor at the Miramount-Nagasaki Convention in a transformed world of fantastical appearances.
In a crucial scene in Vikram Bhatt’s Ghulam quite a few characters participate in a local meeting to discuss the violence in the neighbourhood. There is Fatima (Mita Vashisht), the Muslim lawyer who plays an important role in the protagonist Sidhu’s (Aamir Khan) life. Then we have a Tamilian vegetable seller, and a crippled Muslim man from Uttar Pradesh. And of course Sidhu himself is presented at the meeting as a Maharashtrian identified by his last name Marathe. Taking the context of Bombay’s linguistic and cultural hybridity amidst a compressed landscape of architectural chaos, Ghulam presents the urban crowd not as an abstract force but as a multicultural presence. The presence of the crowd and urban chaos are relationally structured around the Marxist idea of ‘empty space’. By contrasting ‘real’ space (the space of the crowd, the street, and the home) with fetishized ‘empty space’, Ghulam creates a conflictual movement between the ‘everyday’ present and the ‘traumatized’ past. This is most vividly imagined in the scenes on the river-bank (‘ghaat’).
MIDWAY through Manmohan Desai’s classic 1977 film about three brothers separated at birth, a man in a top hat and a Saturday Night Fever suit leaps out of a giant Easter egg to inform the assemblage, ‘My name is Anthony Gonsalves.’
The significance of the announcement was lost under the impact of Amitabh Bachchan’s sartorial exuberance. But decades later, the memory of that moment still sends shivers down the spines of scores of ageing men scattered across Bombay and Goa. By invoking the name of his violin teacher in that tune in Amar Akbar Anthony, the composer Pyarelal had finally validated the lives of scores of Goan Catholic musicians whose working years had been illuminated by the flicker of images dancing across white screens in airless sound studios, even as acknowledgement of their talent whizzed by in the flash of small-type credit titles.
The arc of their stories – determined by the intersection of passion and pragmatism, of empire and exigency – originated in church-run schools in Portuguese Goa and darted through royal courts in Rajasthan, jazz clubs in Calcutta and army cantonments in Muree. Those lines eventually converged on Bombay’s film studios, where the Goan Catholic arrangers worked with Hindu music composers and Muslim lyricists in an era of intense creativity that would soon come to be recognised as the golden age of Hindi film song.
The Nehruvian dream could not have found a more appropriate harmonic expression.
A few months back, a friend called to tell me about a new character he’d discovered in a story published by Delhi-based Raj Comics: Anthony Gonsalves. On the page (and accessible only if you read Hindi), Anthony Gonsalves is part of the great Undead, the tribe doomed to live between the worlds. It wasn’t always like this. In his prime, Anthony Gonsalves was a mild-mannered guitar player who had devised a magical new sound known as ‘crownmusic’. But his jealous rivals tortured him to death so that they could steal his work. Now, the magnificently muscled superhero emerges from the grave each night to prevent the desperate from committing suicide and to rid the world of evil, informed of imminent misfortune by his pet crow….
(Apex left it as a comment here but I thought it deserved a separate post)
Don’t get me wrong, this is certainly a good film, but nothing kills a good product than overhype and overpraise. Overheard some folks today who were praising this to the skies, making it appear like some bonafide modern cult classic, which it surely is not!!Now what makes this film appear better to some than it really is? (in my humble opinion)
This plot device of integrating ball-room dancing and semi-serious/seriocomic elements of ‘traditional’ romcoms with dark topics of addiction & neuroses gets people thinking just to tickle them into believing they are seeing something novel and ‘thought-provoking’ (but not enough to really make them ‘disturbed’!). The females (at least the ones I heard anecdotally) loved Cooper pursuing his ex-wife even after being jailed, even after catching her in the shower with another guy and even to the point of becoming a stalker ‘technically’. Because hey, its ok to be a stalker as long as you are desirable and good-looking ahem. For the guys there was enough to latch on. The oldies seem to love this whole ‘family thing’ and the whole obsession and betting angle of deNiro and who can forget his crying!! And last but not the least, a widower trying to sort out her vacuum in life by sleeping around and claiming proudly that she has ‘slept with everyone at her workplace’!! Now this gets brownie points in the Oscars old guys club—this sort of meterial is a sign of ‘emoting talent’!!
It has always been a curiosity of mine whether this so-called ‘sex addiction’ is actually technically a ‘psychiatric disorder’ or just someone not keeping control of his/her mental (& physical discipline!). In other words, is it a psychological issue or a disciplinary/law and order issue. Any psychiatrist(s) reading this are welcome to answer this please. The one really original point I thought came out of this film was the concept of shared treatment of neuroses by ‘intermingling of the sufferers’ and letting the rough edges rub off each other. Perhaps one dysfunctional person empathises with another and this interface leads to therapeutic effects?
Now pasting some random thoughts I posted earlier elsewhere –
If there was a recent film for psychiatrists and their ‘clients’, this is one of them. Cooper plays a bipolar who returns to his parents and tries to win back his estranged wife. And to help him, he takes the help of (listen to this!) a recently widowed sexual addiction patient Jen Lawrence. To mix it up (and keep the target audience happy, Jen Law agrees to help him in return of a favour –hold on, not what you think—but to partner her in a dancing competition. Now doesn’t this ‘twist’ remind one of the convenient Bollywood screenplays. But hey, the Oscars seem to have found the same thing inventive and ‘original’. Cooper and Jen share their neuroses and that helps them ‘cope’ with it better. No, it doesn’t end there. His dad De Niro aint ‘normal’ either. He has OCD and has gambling/ superstition addictive tendencies. Dig deeper and remember reading somewhere that even the director has a history of psychos in his family. And apparently this is based on a novel and the writer was himself an ex-depressed !
Jen Law can act but she didn’t deserve the award. My views are unchanged. Theres something about the role and her ‘character’ (or the lack of it) that won the Oscar oldies over, it seems. Also theres something about these explosive screeching acts that people find impressive. A parallel closer Bollywood is something like karisma and even Kajol have been indulging in and getting away with awards sometimes. Also to add, Jen Law seems fine but I do not find her attractive from any angle, dunno why. Brad Cooper is better than his usual self and conveys some vulnerability and intensity. But it’s a bit like Saif-no matter how many ‘langda tyagis’ he does, I will love him more in his trademark urbane salaam namastes, Love aaj kals and Cocktails. Just like cooper was ace in Hangover and the Wedding crasher (and should stay in that world!!). Robert De Niro brings back some ‘dignity’ and ’class’ to this setup inspite of having a smallish role. Anupam Kher does well, I think, as the indian psychiatrist.
Triggers–That was an interesting concept and seemingly well depicted especially the relation to music. The depiction of bipolars, OCDs seemed reasonable though would need a psychiatrists opinion. Also the way all this ‘serious stuff’ is intermingled into this romance and ballroom dancing is creditable for Hollywood (though would have been an easy task for the likes of kjo, Aditya). Spoilers ( don’t matter though)—All this business of ‘good luck charms’ and ‘reading/interpreting the signs’ reminded me of DTPH!!
The other issues I have
‘Love heals all’-well, it is a good thing in principle. But does it mean or intend to show all the psychos around to stop taking their pills and fall into love. That would be a dangerous proposition, isn’t it? Having said that, there is perhaps an un/intended ‘hook’ there. Perhaps I wasn’t paying enough attention but Cooper stopped taking his meds in between. (but beyond a point, one stops caring)
Using bipolars as a plot device does seem somewhat unethical. But its not new and it appears that Oscars have a weakness for anything portraying deranged minds and disability. Also there may be a ‘genetic’ link to the mental problems shared around here that the film may have delved further into.
The ‘Shame’ Connection
I don’t think this has been mentioned before but did strike me while viewing it. I am also unsure whether this ‘sex addiction’ condition is being over represented by Hollywood recently for its own fetishistic ends. Note the association with McQueens Shame wherein Fassbenders sex addiction takes ‘centrestage’. The issue with Fassbender was his problems with ‘intimacy’ where he suddenly stopped ‘functioning’. While ‘Shame’ is a complex slightly dark analysis of addiction and mental issues, SLP intends to take a similar theme(s) and makes it more ‘playful’ and ‘audience friendly’ by adding in ballroom dancing and the romance angle. Though the lead cast act through their skins (relatively speaking) and deliver ‘their’ best performance to date, perhaps the lack of genuine acting skills and sheer charisma showed through (to me!)
& yes to add an afterthought…
For anyone who care for spoilers, there is another one ahead—there is a ‘happy’ ending (for those who couldn’t spot it from the first poster itself!) It didn’t deserve an oscar (under any category) but it did deserve a sequel—only to figure out if Jen Laws sexual addiction ‘neuroses’ did resolve after the so-called happy ending! One can already sense the guys nodding in agreement and handing out another Oscar to Jen Law for that …
For someone like me this is akin to a ‘perfect fanboy’s wetdream’. Can’t wait
An online film journal for Indian Cinema
Opinionated Indians discuss Pop-Culture across the shores
Opinionated Indians discuss Pop-Culture across the shores
Opinionated Indians discuss Pop-Culture across the shores