Posts Tagged ‘Gyandeep Pattnayak’

Well, the header is self-explanatory.

So Milords, scroll down to read Gyandeep Pattnayak‘s defense of Ridley Scott’s The Counselor, and see if it convinces you otherwise.

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‘The Counselor’, for over than a week, has been like that itch which I’ve tried really hard to ignore but can’t anymore.

And won’t.

The reactions to the film are as fascinating as the film itself. But I’m getting way ahead of myself here. Let’s wind back our clocks a little. Remember how the Internet exploded with euphoria when it was announced that Cormac McCarthy had sold his first ever screenplay, and that Ridley Scott was attached to direct it? I mean, who wouldn’t be excited, right? McCarthy – the genius that he is – writes prose that oozes blood and as a writer, he’s pretty much cemented his position as one of the literary greats. Scott, on the other hand, is a filmmaker whose greater works have (often) initially been rejected as being overtly indulgent and devoid of any real emotion. ‘The Counselor’, which boasts of such impeccable pedigree (both in front of and behind the camera) was bound to raise expectations to an all-time high. So, what went wrong?

Nothing.

The primary issue that the audiences (and critics) had with the film was that it was too talky. Agreed that the dialogs are a bit impenetrable at first but meandering and unnecessary they aren’t. Also, this is a film that warrants repeated viewings and it will only get better the next time you see it. To validate this, let’s consider the scene in which the Counselor (Michael Fassbender, as the titular character) goes to Amsterdam to purchase a diamond from a diamond dealer. They engage in a conversation related to the quality of flawed and perfect diamonds. Slowly, the conversation veers towards country, culture, God, philosophy. You are hooked, you ARE the Counselor in this moment. You don’t understand all of what the diamond merchant says but you are intrigued. The words flow like music. And then McCarthy subverts this very scene, with the merchant saying, “Enough, i see your look. No more philosophy.” You expect the conversation to stop. But what the old man says next will show how incisively sharp McCarthy’s writing really is. And this is just the beginning.

Another complaint: the plot is foggy, not enough of story to chew on. Wrong. There is a story about consequences, about what greed begets. There is always some talk about a deal, something which isn’t made clear. But we do see drugs being transported and re-transported in a truck. So we know it’s got something to do with them. And the Counselor is just asked by his friend, Javier Bardem’s Reiner, in plain and simple English, “Do you want to be a part of this?” He agrees. And this being a McCarthy/Scott film, things go spectacularly wrong. What else do you need to know?

Too little action. What the actual fuck? Dread is omnipresent, lurking around in all the frames (and we have Daniel Pemberton’s excellent, moody score to thank for, which adds to the mounting creepiness). There are at least two scenes that will scare you shitless. And then, there’s violence in those words, in between the lines, in all those phrases left unsaid and also in those which are spoken out explicitly (you’ll see what a bolito does). Like that scene in which Brad Pitt’s character Westray asks the Counselor to steer clear of the ‘deal’ while there’s still time. And then, he makes it clear that the beheadings, the mutilations are just part of the business, to keep the fear alive. It is a chilling scene, an indicator of what’s about to follow, and remarkably performed by both Pitt and Fassbender.

Scott, who is an atheist, also injects some of his own perversity into a scene where a character goes into a confession chamber and confesses (or at least tries to) to a priest about the sins that she’s committed. Initially, I thought this scene did not fit anywhere in the film. After seeing the film for a second time, I see where this one’s coming from. This character is just trying to piss off the priest. She wants to see what it feels like being in a confession chamber and she is aware that she feels no remorse, no matter how much she tries to. At one point, she even tells the priest, ‘Look, I don’t need any forgiveness. Just listen to my sins.’ It’s almost as if she’s laughing in the face of the beliefs and rules that ‘normal’ people adhere to.

I could also give you one more reason to watch the film: Cameron Diaz’s character Malkina fucks a car. Yes, you read that right. No, I didn’t mean a cartoon.

SHE.    FUCKS.     A.      CAR.

Got your attention, haven’t I? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. But yes, there are also two flaws that I can think of right away – 1) A woman wakes up from what she thinks is a nightmare (this scene reminded me of Raakhee from Karan Arjun. You’ll know it when you see it) and 2) the film would have been all the more edgier if not for the couple of cameos that pop up once in a while. Like my friend @drdang observed, ‘Audiences would have lapped it up in a big way had it been a foreign language film.’ I couldn’t agree with him more. To me, it constantly felt like (and I say this with no intention of belittling Scott’s craft) I was watching an Alejandro Gonsalez Inarritu film. In short, the film is anything but your typical Hollywood fare.

I can go on and on about this film because that’s how rich it is, with all those dialogues and those visuals. And honestly, I don’t expect this film to be everybody’s cup of tea because it simply isn’t. But next time, when Scott chooses to direct a tentpole summer movie like ‘Prometheus’, don’t be a dick about it. Because clearly there isn’t any appetite for restrained and intelligent cinema like this one. Towards the end of the film, one character tells another how easy it is to trade places for a loved one’s life and given the current situation, how impossible it really is. The scene closes with this particular piece of dialog – “The extinction of reality is a concept no resignation can encompass.” Even McCarthy couldn’t have put it any better. But he has.

Few years from now, people will look back at this film and wonder: this is the film we’d ridiculed back then? The year is young and there are 10 more months till we start making top 10 lists but guess what, I already know what one of my top favorites is going to be. Simply put, with this one, Messrs McCarthy and Scott have taken ruthless and cynical filmmaking to lethal heights.

Gyandeep Pattnayak

This recco post is by Gyandeep Pattnayak. You can read his previous recco posts here (Chaser), here (The Proposition) and here (Tell No One).

Are we ever satisfied with the way we define love? Ask yourself this question. Cut out the entire philosophical dialog-pedia such as, “Love is friendship” or “Love is when you don’t know you are in love”. Think deep and you will come to realize that love can not only be not defined but can also be an emotion which you know intuitively but you don’t know why you know it. The question that lurks at the core of Mark Romanek’s hauntingly beautiful Never Let Me Go is a difficult one, to begin with. It’s not difficult in the sense that it can be or can’t be answered; it is difficult because it HAS to be asked.

Based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s bestselling (and said to be unfilmable) novel of the same name, Never Let Me Go begins with a school called Hailsham where kids are told that they are special and that Hailsham is a special school. Kids here are required to swipe in their attendances with the help of a metal wrist band. Intriguing? Even more so because the year is 1978 and a title card suggests that breakthrough in medical science came when it was discovered in 1952 that human life can be extended beyond the normal 100 years. We are introduced to the three principal characters – Tommy, a lonely boy who finds it difficult to mingle with his friends; Kathy, a girl who takes a liking to Tommy because he behaves strangely; Ruth, a manipulative girl who decides to come in between Kathy and Tommy for seemingly no particular reason.

The children of Hailsham are brought up like normal children – they are given food, clothing and shelter. They are taught everything that normal kids should learn, they are taught to actively take part in arts. But, there is one exception – a rule is imposed on all of them that nobody should cross the school boundaries. The world outside is dark and violent, they are told. As any normal kid would, they believe in the stories. There is no reason for them to question these rules. Tell me, if you were taught right since your childhood that a horse is called a rabbit, you will definitely call it a rabbit – unless somebody tells you otherwise. Anyway, the kids grow up and leave Hailsham and move to a new place – ‘The Cottages’. It is here where they start questioning their choices and the reasons why they are called ‘special’. I don’t want to give out any spoilers and ruin the show for you. Let me be extra careful here — when our protagonists get into the ‘conflict’, they do not understand what to make of their existence. Slowly, Kathy makes peace with everything but Tommy is devastated. Everything he has been living for is a lie. I can’t even begin to imagine how nightmarish it would be for me if everybody around me told me tomorrow that we all are not called humans but “zodpackia”. (Don’t make too much of the word, I’m just giving you a hypothetical scenario)

Andrew Garfield’s performance can be described in one and only one word – heartbreaking. Piece by piece, we see him disintegrate into nothing, literally. Physically delving into the role, Garfield creates one of the most endearing characters on screen in recent times. Nothing I say will be a perfect measure of what Garfield brings to his performance. He is as vulnerable and as earnest as a kid sitting next to you in the exams asking you the answer to question number 5 because if he doesn’t answer that particular thing, he’s going to fail. (Please don’t assume that I am making a lousy comparison.) Tommy is searching for answers and he is pretty confident that he has it all figured out. Just watch the scene in which Garfield lets out a wail of anguish at nothing in particular when he realizes that he has been denied something which he deserves so rightfully. It might have been a loud, uneven scene had it been in a different film or performed by a different actor. Garfield makes the pain his own.

Carey Mulligan portrays Kathy as a person who has a sensible understanding of what’s going on around her, even if she believes some of the stories which she has heard at Hailsham. “My name is Kathy H.” she says and thus begins the film. Take one look at her expression and listen to the lines as she speaks and you’ll know why she is one of the brightest talents to have emerged from British cinema. Kathy is, let’s say, too mature for her age and Mulligan nails it by going a bit further and portraying Kathy as someone who can accept defeat and still be satisfied that she ‘lived’ to accept defeat. Keira Knightley essays the role of the manipulative Ruth, who decides she must love Tommy even if she doesn’t understand why she has to love Tommy. Or anyone. Didn’t I just tell you that love is a strange emotion? Strangely, I found myself sympathizing with the Ruth character even when I knew that she had to do something with the gradual separation of Tommy and Kathy. I believe you will too. And it is to the abundantly talented actress’ credit that she doesn’t make Ruth the caricature that she could have so easily been.

One word about the child actors Charlie Rowe, Isobel Meikle-Small and Ella Purnell who portray Tommy, Kathy and Ruth respectively – that their faces resemble so much of the adult actors isn’t the only thing to be admired here. These kids actually become Tommy, Kathy and Ruth when they grow up. May be it is the other way around – because Garfield, Mulligan and Knightley definitely behave like these kids once they start playing their adult versions on screen.

The screenplay is by Alex Garland, the man behind the ingenious Sunshine, which was cruelly overlooked when it released in 2007. Garland distinctly separates the two facets upon which the premise of Ishiguro’s novel is based – love and death – and then makes us question these themes, about what really are our choices. There is a slight sci-fi bend in this love story and thankfully nothing is overdone. What I mean to say exactly is there are no futuristic machines, no jargon-spewing people and no undecipherable mess. Garland is not an ordinary writer; I never had any doubt about that. But, when he hangs up his boots (which I hope he never does), Never Let Me Go will feature prominently as one of his best works ever. This is Mark Romanek’s debut film as a director and I feel Romanek’s importance as a director has been established, given that he has an impressive number of music videos on his resume. He is a director with a vision. Going for restrained shots and a bleak setting and loads of melancholia, Romanek delivers a spectacle of a movie aided by Garland’s brave and uncompromising screenplay.

You may have seen love stories but none as profound as this, none as unsettling as this. And it is not disturbing because of some gratuitous elements; it is disturbing because you will have to answer the fundamental question posed by this movie. You know the answer. It isn’t a puzzle but sometimes, the truth isn’t meant to liberate.

Often done to death and diabetically sweet, love stories are a tricky genre. Hopefully, the times are changing. Because after 2009’s excellent (500) Days of Summer, we not only have a great love story but also something that can be hailed as one of the best films of the year gone by.

P.S. – There is a solo-violin piece in the movie called ‘We All Complete’ by Rachel Portman and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head ever since I heard it.