Sunday, September 10, 2006

Movie Review - La Tigre e la neve

Here is a review of Roberto Benigni's latest movie, La Tigre e la Neve (In English, "The Tiger and The Snow"). What happens when you make a masterpiece? Well, you need to live upto the expectation in all your subsequent creations. This is quite difficult. Coppola was fortunate that he had the space and story to make Godfather II and III after making the masterpiece Godfather. But on the otherhand, Ramesh Sippy couldn’t make anything close to Sholay, Shyamalan despite being very creative, hasn’t been able to come any close to Sixth Sense. The same is the problem with Roberto Benigni.

After making one of the unforgettable masterpieces of world cine,a “La vita é bella” (Life is Beautiful), he hasn’t been able to repeat his brilliance. While his solitary directorial venture, “Pinocchio” was a disaster in both economic and creative terms, his acting assignments in Asterix and Obelix and Coffee and Cigarette were of little significance. Finally he fell prey to the same what most of the movie directors do, i.e. taking refuge in a formula.

He is using the formula of “La vita é bella” in “La tigre e la neve” (The Tiger and The Snow), and that becomes just too evident. The story of the movie, takes place in the modern era, in the year 2003. the central characters of the story are Attlio and Vittoria. Attlio is a poet and professor of poetry but his full time occupation is to love Vittoria. He, madly in love with Vittoria stalks her almost everywhere, but with little success. Vittoria goes to Baghdad, during the period of Gulf war to write a book, where she gets hurt and is on the verge of death. Their common friend Faud, also a poet, informs Attlio about this. Attlio, somehow reaches Baghdad and saves Vittoria’s life. Unfortunately, gets caught by US troops and gets deported, and Vittoria is unaware of his heroics. Whether, she knows that it was him who saved her, I won’t reveal.

Movie is definitely beautiful with some really nice moments and a very original story. There is a good mix of comedy and emotional scenes. However, the problem is that you just can’t stop comparing this movie with “La vita é bella”. Simply, because the director has made it too obvious that he wants to remake the same movie with a different setting. Another problem is , that Benigni’s character occupies too much of screen time and it doesn’t give enough space to other characters to develop properly. The most unfortunate is the treatment given to Jean Reno’s character. Especially its abrupt end with a suicide just doesn’t jell with the rest of the story well. Let me tell you, this is not a bad film. It’s just that I am a bit too disappointed with the fact that even a person like Benigni, could make such a mistake of adopting a ‘formula’.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Birth of Comedy

I read something wonderful in the epilogue by Labhshankar Thaker in the Gujarati translation of Charlie Chaplin's autobiography. Here are some excerpts and finally my take.

Sergei Mikhalovich Eisenstein wrote an article about Charlie Chaplin in 1946, in Sight and Sound, titled “Charlie the Kid”. He explores Chaplin’s process of perceiving the world. Well, I found a very good note about the root of smile that Chaplin generated and spread across the world.

Eisenstein describes a scene from Andre Marlaux’s novel The Condition of Human Existence. The author takes us into a poor Chinese household. The husband apparently looks drunk. He is laid down on the bed. His wife is slapping him with both his hands. Probably to wake him up. And their kids, are sitting on the floor. They are looking at the lady slapping heavily the drunk husband and they are laughing like crazy. They are completely uncontrollable and the sight of their mother, hitting the father is making them even more berserk. The image of slaps and the father’s head swinging from one side to the other is creating this frenzy.

However, the reality is that the father is not drunk. He is dead. Yes, he is dead and his wife is beating up the dead body because he left his wife and kids hungry and close to death. Small hands of the skinny wife, and the big head of the dead father and it’s swinging due to beating up; all this created laughter.

Eisenstein compares those laughing kids with Chaplin. It was pain coupled with innocent observation.

Chaplin was the mother of laughter. Laughter, which was born in the womb of pain!!