बावर्ची/Bawarchi

[Screenshot]I am way behind on these things, so I’m struggling to remember things. Bawarchi, then. I’ve caught Indian cinema kind of peripherally on a number of occasions, and been perplexed by it. It’s apparently the biggest film market in the world, and it makes no sense to me at all. But I figured I needed to at some point devote some time to actually trying to watch Indian cinema, instead of just sort of being exposed to it. I opted for comedy — I get the impression a lot of the classic Indian dramas are Romeo-and-Juliet-type things with seemingly inappropriate musical numbers. Bawarchi was what I got, and I have to say, in the end, I sort of dug it, but it was a bit long for what it was, all things considered. It’s a lighthearted story of a hopeless household and its capable majordomo (cook, technically, hence the film’s title), and the various sketches of his ameliorating their situation. It was extraordinarily unpretentious, and I had a feeling of a Plautus play at points with the comic patter. It worked well enough, but as I said, for such light fare, ran a bit long. Even the ubiquitous musical numbers, which I’m given to understand no Indian film can be without, were fairly few and generally pretty good (I particularly liked the ensemble song to greet the morning).

So, anyways, I don’t know if I’ll delve into the depths of Indian film any further, but I checked one out and it was not nearly as alien as feared, and was in fact a quite delightful trifle.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

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Everything is Illuminated

[Screenshot]It has been said, many times, that great books, or even good books, make bad movies, and few are the exceptions to that dictum. Certainly much of what makes a good book good, like strong narrative style, emotive writing, evocative description, and stylistic freshness translates poorly to the screen (what does translate well to the screen is a story of limited scope with flat narrative and description: bad books, in other words).

What, you might ask, does all this have to do with Everything is Illuminated? Well, it’s based on the book of the same name. And while the jury may still be out on whether Jonathan Safran Foer’s debut novel was great or even good, it definitely possesses some of the literary qualities common to good books which make bad films: an inventive literary style with idiosyncratic narrative voice, alternating and convergent storylines, and a plot which is not nearly as interesting as the narrator’s perception of it. So, one might reasonably expect this film to be terrible, which it is not. It is merely mediocre. It captures all the whimsy of the book, but nearly none of the wonder, so one is left with a hollow, unsatisfied feeling when all is said and done. The lead actors do their best with what their given, but Elijah Wood’s dead-eyed contempt for everything starts to get old after a while. It sort of works with the highly neurotic character given in the film, but the character of Jonathan as given in the book isn’t closed-off so much as in over his head. It gives the whole interpersonal relationship development a lot less warmth and a lot less room to grow, and makes the film seem unbearably static, because nobody and nothing really develops.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.