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Posts Tagged ‘Canadian productions’

Bollywood/Hollywood (Canada, 2002)

My rating: +0 (Liked it)
Bechdel Test:
3 out of 3
DirectorDeepa Mehta
Cast
: Rahul Khanna, Lisa Ray, Moushumi Chatterjee, Dina Pathak, Ranjit Chowdhry, Jessica Paré, Akshaye Khanna (cameo)
Plot: After the hero’s white girlfriend dies in a levitation accident, his Indian family breathes a sigh of relief and pressures him to find a nice Indian girl instead.

About the film

This is a really mad film. It’s the sort of plot that would not be out of place in some particularly crazy and over the top comedy, but that is not at all what it is. In some ways it’s the really subtle and art house tone of the film that makes this feel even crazier.

The film starts with a scene that had me laughing so hard I could barely continue watching it. It’s a deathbed scene in very melodramatic style (we’ve seen those in many a Bollywood movie), where the father imparts his wisdom to his young son, using completely ridiculous baseball references (presumably as a nod to Hollywood – Americans use baseball terminology to describe even sex after all).
Then the story starts properly. Rahul, our hero, is all grown up now. He’s lived in Canada all his life, so he’s in some bizarre cultural in-between state where he’s kind of Indian, but not entirely. The film does a beautiful job of portraying what it’s like to be a second generation emmigrant – something I can very much relate to due to my own upbringing (in my case, I grew up confused between Polish and British culture).
And so, our sort of Indian hero has a white girlfriend, which causes a lot of drama in his family (cause that’s what happens in Bollywood love stories – there is always family drama because something is always wrong with the social standing of either the hero or the heroine). When the white girlfriend is removed from the picture (due to a levitation accident), the hero is practically blackmailed by his family to find a nice Indian girlfriend ASAP.
As it happens, an Indian-looking girl approaches the hero in a bar and is willing to play the part of his girlfriend for an agreed sum of money. The hero presumes she is Spanish, but her looks are such that he knows he can pass her as Indian to his family. From then on, a bizarre version of “Pretty Woman” follows.
The film has a lot of very strange (but funny) dialogues, a lot of passionate kissing (Hollywood expressions of romance) and a few dance numbers (Bollywood expressions of romance), as well as an adorable transvestite character. It also features a cute cameo from Akshaye Khanna. He gets to say “Rahul is like a brother to me” (about the character played by his actual older brother) and does a very happy and flirty dance with Rahul’s date, just as Rahul realizes his date can speak Hindi and is therefore not in fact Spanish.
I also really love the whole “slut” theme. The hero presumes that Sue cannot possibly be Indian simply because she approaches him in a bar. Indian girls don’t do that kind of thing apparently and her general “sluttishness” poses all kinds of problems to Rahul’s Indian sensitivies. There’s something very direct about how they raise that whole double standard in the film.

Overall, this is a very interesting and funny art house film. But I think it’s also a slightly hard sell in that many of the people who are most likely to see it will either not get the Bollywood references or not enjoy something so art house.

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Sucker Punch (USA/Canada, 2011)

My rating: +1 (Enjoyed it)
Bechdel Test:
3 out of 3passes easily (interestingly enough, if you did a “reverse” Bechdel test, as in two male characters talk about something other than women, I’m not sure it would pass!)
Director
: Zack Snyder
Cast: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Oscar Isaac, Carla Gugino
Plot: There are three realities stacked on top of each other in this movie. A girl is put into a mental institution by her abusive step father (reality no. 1). She imagines the hospital is in fact a brothel (reality no. 2). When she dances for men in the brothel she is mentally transported to a completely different place where girls fight with monsters and totally kick ass (reality no. 3).

But the deleted dance scene is way cooler than the trailer.

About the film

My Oscar Isaac phase has introduced me to this really bizarre film, which (perhaps unsurprisingly considering how weird the plot is) has people completely baffled and writing lengthy texts about what it all means. People don’t seem to be able to agree on things as basic as:

  • Who the protagonist is. It would seem it’s Babydoll (Emily Browning), but the ending kind of flips it so that it’s suddenly implied that actually we were watching Sweat Pea’s (Abbie Cornish) story all along.
  • Whether the film is very feminist or very sexist. One camp says this is a film about how women are used and how they fight back, the other camp says it’s pure fetishism and uses women’s bodies to titillate in a way far worse than a regular Hollywood movie.
  • What actually happens at the end or even generally what happens
  • Whether the film is a masterpiece or a total piece of crap

For me it was a collection of interesting ideas and a few very strong scenes that didn’t make a particularly great whole.
I think my main issue with it is that I found all the fight sequences much too long and rather boring. They unfortunately take up quite a lot of the movie. The mental institution and brothel plots on the other hand were fascinating to me, though indeed both those plots were very fetishistic.

All the female characters had a lot of skin show in this (though no nudity) and there’s quite a bit of violence (both sexual and otherwise) against women in the film. But then this is also a film about women fighting back against oppression and how can you make a film about that without showing the oppression?
Men are very much on the sidelines in this film. So much so that this is the first film I’ve watched in a long while that wouldn’t pass a “reversed Bechdel test” I think. There are hardly any conversations between men in the film. The only ones I remember are Babydoll’s stepfather bribing Blue (the man running the mental hospital) to make sure Babydoll doesn’t tell anybody about the abuse she suffered. That and men during the fighting sequences exchanging some words about fighting the girls. Both of those conversations are about women.
And as much as it’s the girls getting all the skin show (which is the main reason some feel this film is sexist), it’s worth noting the men are also put in some rather fetishistic clothing. Blue (Oscar Isaac) appears for the whole film with make up almost as heavy as the girls – lots of eyeliner and even some very visible blush in there.

Sucker Punch has some pretty well-developed female characters and mostly undeveloped male ones. I didn’t care that much for Babydoll (Emily Browning) to be honest, but Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) really grew on me. There’s something about Abbie Cornish that really moves me every time I see her – a kind of beautiful vulnerability. I really love watching her. She’s awesome in the ending sequence (which I must not spoil).
The relationship between Sweet Pea and Rocket (Jena Malone) is also really nicely fleshed out. But my favourite female character is Dr Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino) – the main psychiatrist and burdelmama. That’s just a really bizarre combination, but it works! And Carla Gugino is really fun to watch in that.
I obviously enjoyed Oscar Isaac in this a lot – to me it was an opportunity to see him in some very fetishistic attire with lots of over the top dominating behaviour. He gets some pretty emotionally twisted scenes, which he’s really good that, so that’s another win as far as I’m concerned.

Probably the most fascinating part of the film is the ending sequence. It’s hard to write about properly because it’s obviously a spoiler, but I shall try! The ending is the part of the film that gets the most discussion and lots of elaborate interpretations. It also happens to have been heavily cut. The uncut version is floating about on youtube and I totally get why Hollywood couldn’t handle it in uncut form – it’s perverse :] And the perversity of it is nothing to do with sexual acts – it’s the whole idea of it, the idea that that is the only way Babydoll can attain her freedom. Even with the cut that was made, it’s still a very uncomfortable sequence.
In fact, at one point in the sequence I gasped out aloud. I was surprised it hit me so hard – it’s the bit when Blue leans over to kiss a certain other character and it was just so, so disturbing… I think previously my personal winner for most disturbing kissing scene would be Closet Land (1991), but Sucker Punch is now my new winner in this prestigious category.
That said, the ending sequence isn’t just uncomfortable and disturbing, there’s also a really, really beautiful bit to it too. Both the message and the visual beauty of it is stunning and it’s going to stay with me just as long as what precedes it.

Overall, this is definitely not a film for everyone, but if something weird like that sounds interesting to you, maybe it’s a good film for you? Personally, I’m really curious what the whole uncut version of the film is like – it’s been released on bluray I think, so I may just buy it when I finally get a bluray player.

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