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The main difference between DRIVE and ONLY GOD FORGIVES is not that one is warm and the other cold, it’s not that one has relatively more mainstream appeal, it’s that not one has more traditional drama. The main difference between Nicolas Winding Refn’s last two films is that while DRIVE is a pop-anthem, something to dress up and shake your hips to while the lyrics offer a reflection on the nature of said hip-shaking; ONLY GOD FORGIVES is mood poem, something slow and deliberate and heavy, something with a build-up of abstraction until the last two lines turn it on its head. While DRIVE has a rhythm that makes you feel, ONLY GOD has a soul that is charred and broken in a unfixable way.
I don’t know how Refn cast Vithaya Pansringarm in ONLY GOD FORGIVES. I don’t know how much popularity the actor enjoys in Thailand. I have not heard his name pop up in relation to any Thai films doing the International festival rounds. But Pansringarm is the center of the film, a perfect performance of a fascinating character. As Lt. Chang he plays something of an Angel Of Death, a perhaps simplistic moniker often mentioned in the press of the film. Stoic and stone, he listens to the crimes of his people until his cheeks tremble with rage, and he has formed his judgement. His expression unmoving, he retrieves a blade from nowhere, dispensing justice as if he has from his very first breath. This man is not on a mission from God. He is not waiting for God. I want to know how Refn cast Vithaya Pansringarm in ONLY GOD FORGIVES.
I don’t know how much spoken English factors in Thai cinema. I don’t know how trained the Thai actors in the film are in the language. In what is clearly the result of several creative decisions, all of the characters in the film seem to speak in the same voice. There are no accents, the switching between Thai and English is totally smooth. Refn steers clear of any orientalism and tempting wackiness. It’s an astonishing achievement in an ambitious picture. This is a story set around an American in Thailand, it’s not about an American in Thailand. It is a film about souls stuck in purgatory, all different but equal, all awaiting their dues. If the vile THE HANGOVER II had not used it, “Bangkok has them now” would be the perfect way to describe ONLY GOD. Though I feel even Refn would find that too cheesy.
Which is to say, ONLY GOD FORGIVES is brilliant case of a Danish director making a Thai film with an American lead. Nicolas Winding Refn has list of Thai films hidden somewhere, the world needs to see it.
I weighed in on the Macfarlane fiasco over at my other blog.Ma
Zero Dark Thirty has been billed as the feminist adventure of a ‘liberated Western woman’ defeating Osama Bin Laden. It is set primarily in Pakistan, with additional scenes occurring in Kuwait, London, Poland, and Washington DC. For a movie that spends most of 150 minutes exploring the streets…
Freddie Quell’s portraits from THE MASTER
2012 was a strange year for Bollywood and it’s music. While the alternative took another huge step towards the mainstream, in terms of output it was very low key. With most of the festival indies being released in 2013 (let’s hope this is their year), it seems there were just a handful of films and albums everyone loved and talked about. Of course, this is discounting the 100 crore blockbusters that leave zero impact, then again that could just be my case.
ANTHEM OF THE YEAR : "Bharat Mata Ki Jai"- Shanghai / Vishal-Shekhar / Keerti Sagathia, Vishal Dadlani / Dibakar Bannerjee
ALBUM OF THE YEAR : Gangs Of Wasseypur (I) - Sneha Khanwalkar / Piyush Mishra, Varun Grover
BEST TRACKS OF THE YEAR
5. "Jiya Lage Na" - Talaash / Sona Mohapatra, Ravindra Upadhyay / Ram Sampath / Javed Akhtar
Soha Mohapatra’s voice elevates this song into something else. Endlessly repeatable.
4. "Pani Da Rang" - Vicky Donor / Ayushman Khurana / Ayushmann Khurrana, Rochak Kohli
This song proves that not all Punjabi pop is created equal. Ayushman Khurana is quite the surprise.
3. "Pareshaan" - Ishaqzaade / Shalmali Kholgade / Amit Trivedi / Kausar Munir
Shalamali Kholgade has to be the find of the year. What a range! Amit Trivedi has put together a delightful, wonderful track.
2. "Heer" - Jab Tak Hai Jaan / Harshdeep Kaur / A.R. Rahman / Gulzar ; "Phir Le Aaya Dil" - Barfi! / Shafqat Amanat Ali / Pritam / Sayeed Quadri
On one hand you have a track from a hugely disappointing album, but this one track justifies everything. On the other hand you have a song from the biggest surprise of the year; it was hard to pick one from this album. Both are amazing. Special mention to the lyrics.
1. "Kaala Rey" - Gangs Of Wasseypur II / Sneha Khanwalkar / Varun Grover
Sneha Khanwalkar’s vocals, ground-breaking composing and Varun Grover’s lyrics come together to create a perfect storm. The kind we’ve never heard before and probably will never hear again, unless Miss Khanwalkar decides to outdo herself. This one is a landmark.
BEST FILMS OF THE YEAR
4. Gangs Of Wasseypur
Anurag Kashyap combines his trademark realism with an unexpected joie de vivre in his Wasseypur duology. Relentlessly witty, bloody and foul mouthed; Kashyap pays homage to Bollywood in the queerest manner: with a film which not many will call Bollywood but one which is dripping with Masala. Starting off wobbly, the film builds up a crescendo, then builds again, and again. Life gets in the way of revenge, then revenge gets in the life. “Wasseypur” is the kind of epic Indians rarely get. A imperfect achievement, but an achievement nonetheless.
Reema Kagti creates here the best kind of thriller, one where the twist is that it was a personal drama all along. It’s that rare meditative film; dealing with grief, loss and the loneliness that can only be felt in a big city. Reema Kagti captures the seedy side of Bombay in a way few mainstream films do, with a beautiful noirish haze. “Talaash” is peppered with strong actors, including another landmark from Aamir Khan and a superb supportive performance from Rani Mukherjee. But the greatest trick the film pulls is sneaking upon the viewer a most unusual love story between two broken souls, where the only climax is closure.
Anurag Basu has sculpted the rarest of things: a gentle minded, sweet natured, big hearted story that a cynic can appreciate. He may have taken paying homage to a new extreme, but it takes real talent to blend it all into a consistent film. Furthermore, Basu deserves all credit for extracting brilliant performances from not just Ranbir Kapoor but Priyanka Chopra as well, in what is definitely the role of a lifetime. Take into account the sensitivity and lack of melodrama in its handling of the subject, and you realise that “Barfi!” is much greater than the sum of its parts.
I’m still not sure whether “Shanghai” is a satire or a drama, what I am sure of is that it is the subtlest angry film I’ve seen. Boy, does Bannerjee have a lot to say. But he manages to fits it all in the nooks and crannies of what is basically a simple story, perhaps even a cliched one. Just like its mission statement of a song, “Shanghai” is the Indian political landscape poured into a 2-hour film, done with the grace only a master filmmaker can achieve. Apart from a couple of minor aesthetic choices, Shanghai is basically perfect. Every performance, every visual fits perfectly into the director’s vision. Dibakar Bannerjee has constructed the boldest statement of a film we’ve seen in a while.
This is a dress made out of Natalie Portman… well see it for yourself
“There’s some line I read about the longing for the euphoria of forgotten childhood dreams. And [my childhood] was like a dream. Airplanes passed by slowly in the sky. Rubber toys floated on the water. Meals seemed to last five years and nap time seemed endless. And the world was so small. I can’t remember being able to see more than a couple of blocks. And those couple of blocks were huge. So all the details were blown out of proportion. Blue skies, picket fences, green grass, cherry trees. Middle America as it’s supposed to be. But on the cherry tree there’s pitch oozing out—some of it’s black, some of it’s yellow, and there are millions of red ants crawling all over it. I discovered that if one looks a little closer at the beautiful world, there’s always red ants underneath.”
Born January 20, 1946