‘H’ can lead us to heaven or hell. The films in this post show us that it is we, not our situation, that decides.
A cast of two. Yes, only two. A virtually silent film with very little dialogue. One speaks only English, the other only Japanese. No subtitles. Only one location, an island. A battle for survival, enemies outwitting each other, only to realize that no man is an island.
These can be a film makers worst nightmare, but John Boorman delivers a dramatic masterpiece. This is a film consistently rated higher by the very few viewers who do see it, than all the established film critics out there.
Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune are an American pilot and a Japanese soldier stranded on a remote island during WWII. Despite the oft-used island concept, the film is unique in several ways. Unlike Castaway, there are no plot backgrounders or supporting cast to add a semblance of a normal film. Second and perhaps more importantly, a Japanese viewer will not understand Lee Marvin, while we will not understand Toshiro Mifune. This leads to a Rashomon-esque situation!
There is very little dialogue, hence the director has to make the camera speak and engage us all the time. The two actors have nobody else to support them, and since their language is understood neither by the other character, nor by the viewers, they have to deliver a performance that speaks a universal language. Both Marvin and Mifune, as aggressive males, handle this challenge extremely well, with facial gestures and body language that speak volumes.
This is the only American film that has cast the great Mifune such that his acting strengths are utilized at least to some extent. Amazing cinematography with a widescreen landscape of a tropical island that should appear as hell and not paradise. The soundtrack progresses from abrupt, sudden noises to baroque organ to classical over the length of the film. The DVD provides the original ending Boorman intended, which was changed in the film’s release due to studio interference.
This is not a film for everyone. If silent films, culture clashes, non-verbal communication, man vs. nature, human relationships among enemies during war, are your cup of tea, this is a masterpiece you cannot afford to miss.
An ‘important film about the genocide in Rwanda’ means a certain box-office death for any film. But just like Schindler’s List is not about the Holocaust, but about a man who had the courage to save many lives amidst it, Hotel Rwanda is not about the genocide in Rwanda, but about a man like Oskar Schindler.
Don Cheadle plays Paul, an ordinary hotel manager, who is caught in an unenviable position in the carnage. How does one maintain one’s sanity and morality when everything around you turns into chaos and horror? The film sensitively portrays this at the individual level, and that is its greatness. It is brutal only when required, it is more often inspiring and touching on a deep emotional level.
Howard’s End, Merchant-Ivory’s adaptation of E. M. Forster’s novel, often cited as their best, loved even by those who dislike Merchant-Ivory films.
Heat, a character study set within the crime genre, with Pacino and De Niro playing the cop and robber.
Holi, an off-beat film on campus unrest by Ketan Mehta, that is largely impromptu, unrehearsed and improvised. It was Aamir Khan’s first film, also starring Ashutosh Gowariker, shot at Fergusson College, Pune. I don’t know how, but it also has a New York Times review!
Hatari, good, clean, family entertainment and fun.