Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Very interesting - the long prep-work they did was mostly done long-distance! But...slogged they did.
Long (55-min) interview but...fascinating, especially the talk on the 'correction' they did. Wonderful to see these blokes!
Anderson words: It begins and ends with writing.
Oh boy...found another one - Scorsese and Lewis (Gangs of New York):
Ooops...bad audio :-(
TALES FROM THE SCRIPT
Official Trailer (2.33)
Advice for Screenwriters (8.54)
The Site (also present as a book:)
Monday, April 19, 2010
Posted on Apr 19, 2010 in Featured, MM on Monday
With a good script a good director can produce a masterpiece; with the same script a mediocre director can make a passable film. But with a bad script even a good director can't possibly make a good film. For truly cinematic expression, the camera and the microphone must be able to cross both fire and water. That is what makes a real movie. The script must be something that has the power to do this.
In order to write scripts, you must first study the great novels and dramas of the world. You must consider why they are great. Where does the emotion come from that you feel as you read them? What degree of passion did the author have to have, what level of meticulousness did he have to command, in order to portray the characters and events as he did? You must read thoroughly, to the point where you can grasp all these things.
You must also see the great films. You must read the great screenplays and study the film theories of the great directors. If your goal is to become a film director, you must master screenwriting.
A good structure for a screenplay is that of the symphony, with its three or four movements and differing tempos. Or one can use the Noh play with its three-part structure: jo (introduction), ha (destruction) and kyu (haste). If you devote yourself fully to Noh and gain something good from this, it will emerge naturally in your films.
The Noh is a truly unique art form that exists nowhere else in the world. I think the Kabuki, which imitates it, is a sterile flower. But in a screenplay, I think the symphonic structure is the easiest for the people of today to understand.
Something that you should take particular notice of is the fact that the best scripts have very few explanatory passages. Adding explanation to the descriptive passages of a screenplay is the most dangerous trap you can fall into.
It's easy to explain the psychological state of a character at a particular moment, but it's very difficult to describe it through the delicate nuances of action and dialogue. Yet it is not impossible. A great deal about this can be learned from the study of the great plays, and I believe the "hard-boiled" detective novels can also be very instructive.
I began writing scripts with two other people around 1940. Up until then I wrote alone, and found that I had no difficulties. But in writing alone there is a danger that your interpretation of another human being will suffer from one-sidedness. If you write with two other people about that human being, you get at least three different viewpoints on him, and you can discuss the points on which you disagree. Also, the director has a natural tendency to nudge the hero and the plot along into a pattern that is the easiest one for him to direct. By writing with about two other people, you can avoid this danger also.
I've forgotten who it was that said creation is memory. My own experiences and the various things I have read remain in my memory and become the basis upon which I create
I write down my reactions and what particularly moves me. I have stacks and stacks of these college notebooks, and when I go off to write a script, these are what I read. Somewhere they always provide me with a point of breakthourgh. Even for single lines of dialogue I have taken hints from these notebooks. So what I want to say is, don't read books while lying down in bed.
A novel and a screenplay are entirely different things. The freedom for psychological description one has in writing a novel is particularly difficult to adapt to a screenplay without using narration.
Characters in a film have their own existence. The filmmaker has no freedom. If he insists on his authority and is allowed to manipulate his characters like puppets, the film loses its vitality.
At some point in the writing of every script I feel like giving the whole thing up. From my many experiences of writing screenplays, however, I have learned something: If I hold fast in the face of this blankness and despair, adopting the tactic of Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen sect, who glared at the wall that stood in his way until his legs became useless, a path will open up.
Those who say an assistant director's job doesn't allow him any free time for writing are just cowards. Perhaps you can write only one page a day, but if you do it every day, at the end of the year you'll have 365 pages of script. I began in this spirit, with a target of one page a day.
There was nothing I could do about the nights I had to work till dawn, but when I had time to sleep, even after crawling into bed I would turn out two or three pages. Oddly enough, when I put my mind to writing, it came more easily than I had thought it would, and I wrote quite a few scripts.
Kurosawa on Screenwriting
Monday, April 5, 2010
One of India's most promising filmmakers, Dibakar Banerjee delivers another solid tale. The fact that this guy knows how to weave a good story is proven by the fact that he works with a not-so-normal formats and absolutely fresh talent to make some interesting comments on our society and critically doing a very good job of story-telling.
He also takes the challenge of telling three different stories through three different formats - camcorder, store-cam and spy-cam. Though linked with each other on the surface they work on their own as distinct stories.
What stands out the most is the cleverness to deal with such topical subjects and through different ways including reality-tv format. The whole film thanks to the real characters works on the real level. Even though you are not used to seeing such fare on the big screen.
It's an interesting choice. Feeding audience an experience on a screen, which they are not used to. And at the same time, they witness it all the time on television, internet and even on cell. The film is chiefly based on today's youth and since they are exposed to all these formats it's definitely a smart way to shake the cinema presentation.
Eventually it has to be all about the story. That's where Dibakar scores very well. He focuses on each tale with two main characters and forces them in situations that is the bane of our times. There is the powerful story of a couple falling in love and running away to marry but with tragic consequences. Then about a guy who befriends a girl in a shop with the intention of shooting a sex clip. Last is the sting operation of a man with the help of a girl to expose an exploitative singer.
The key thing what Dibakar does and which could impact the film-going experience to a big extent is dealing with topics in the way it is. You have couples getting cozy as in real life. Getting into intimacy and sex. And critically with characterization just like of real folks.
Dibakar for the third straight time focuses on Delhi where he belongs to and again does a good job in depicting the mannerisms of Delhites. However it's all about emotions and that's what he captures very well most of the times.
The first story about a couple falling in love and running away is extremely powerful which takes a dig on Bollywood and how every one reveres 'Adi Sir'. This story with enough time between the protagonists works the best. The end of the story is quite chilling.
The second story about the store manager trying to woo the salesgirl depicts the dark side of many a young Delhiites pretty well. The best part is the casting of the girl. However it's her character that somewhat has a problem as it jumps too suddenly to make the transition from a introverted girl to one making advances with too much of ease.
The third story is more fun than serious and seems a bit stretched. This is one story that tries to do too much and one wishes that it was more gripping. Yet to end it with this flavor of humor has a nice effect which resolves with the scene where all three stories got connected and ending with the title song of LSD, which is good fun.
The critical question and the most challenging thing to do - how does it work to tell stories through such formats? Especially when it tries to deliberately be off-the-mark. Many times, perhaps most times it works great even if you don't see the faces of people since emotionally the scenes have been setup well. However there are a few times when you would have liked to stay a bit more with the characters; lil' more close-ups, slower pace of cutting.
Even Oye Lucky Lucky Oye had this issue of trying to go too fast. Another solid entertaining flick with great tempo but trying to build too fast a momentum at times.
Point is - had there been less shaking and more focus on the characters it could have been better. Though staying close to his central characters help in a big way when the plots unfold with conflict and tension rises, which Dibakar manages pretty well.
When you see today's cinema under the pretext of realism delivering cliche after cliche and then you see a film like LSD that effectively captures the characteristics of our society, that too with people who nobody in Bollywood would dare to touch, you wonder what's wrong with the country, with the industry.
It seems every one is blindfolded but a few like Dibakar have insight that provides so much meaning to this rusted fraternity. If there's hope, it's only thanks to folks like him.
[Max Rating ****]
[Viewed at Fun Chembur on 31st March, 2010, 10.30 am show. Just 11 people but three Sonepat 50+ folks who were busy on the phone but seemed to enjoy the film.]
One also wonders if this should have been a big scale flick, which everyone in India ought to see, but then...this film with (apparently) its limited budget does a tremendous job of showing the story of Dada Saheb Phalke.
The best thing about the film is the focus on the sole objective of the protagonist - to make a film. There is an introduction on how he gets interested and sucked-in by the magic of the moving pictures and from then on, Phalke moves forward facing obstacles and overcoming them to do what he has willed to do - make the film.
The cast is great and Nandu Madhav as Phalke is terrific. Paresh Mokashi presents Phalke as a forward-thinking, family-oriented, obsessive man, who you cannot but love; the overall presentation is light-hearted with almost every scene constructed on humor and comical situation; the old school / generation music adds to the effect thereby creating a fun-loving feel.
There is a clever use of fast-speed shots in montage reflecting the films of earlier times since the frames/second speed was much less (remember Chaplin flicks.) This also adds to the momentum and makes the journey pretty smooth.
Mokashi makes a few comments on the social culture of the times like showing a husband being an equal partner but by stringently focusing on telling just one story the film works very well. It's interesting to note that since the objective is one and the driver is Phalke, his family becomes an integral part of the process since they are the ones sharing the frame; ably supporting him in his endeavor it creates a great atmosphere.
The journey is so interesting of this captivating character who is also seen as a maniac by others that you want to experience a journey that shows his inner self too, and this is an area where the film weaves on a different track.
It plays somewhat from a back-foot and showcases more on the incidents that enable him making the film. This is alright but not being close to this personality doesn't let you be with him. There are not many close-ups or moments when you need to see him weighing the obstacles.
Yes there are pauses but too short; rightly so...the protagonist takes action and keeps going on; yet...you would like to stall with him for moments and take a peek inside his character that's forever forward going.
It's an interesting way to present a film. One can realize the limitations of production and it's great to see what they have done - how they create an authentic period within their resources.
However this is the journey of a man who had tremendous passion and importantly an immensely strong will...to bring-in a change, a new aspect that would alter the social environment of a country forever...you hope you can see more of that.
This is also borne by the fact that the film somewhat ends too quickly for comfort; also as they do a commendable job of building it up and up - rising action - you expect to see an ending that would do justice by going further. It doesn't fail though a better reflection of the man would have been great.
Yes this is a personal thing, and I feel showcasing his real film, which they actually do with the British audience, needed to come-in at a much higher energy point.
In fact, this film could have even dealt with a freeze-frame. Not saying that otherwise it wouldn't work as great, but...here is a film, on a great subject, on a great man, undertaking an arduous journey, coming-up triumph, pioneering a new movement in a country...you do want to stay with this person who is willing to sacrifice every thing to make his film.
It's a great family film too. Backing the man of the house so they can see his ambition being achieved. Yup...one wonders why no one thought of this man before - to do a film on the man who made India's first ever film.
[Max Rating ****]
[Viewed on Mac at Chembur on 30th March, 2010 courtesy Ankur]
The chief reason for enjoying the films are two - the locale that provides a kind of freshness and acting. The latter is mainly due to one person - Boman Irani. Benegal relies on his usual set of actors to fill-up other characters (Rajat Kapoor, Lalit Tiwari, Ila Arun and others) to do a good job and everyone does well.
However the problem lies in the structure - there are too many angles and too many characters who come across as uni-dimensional. When the focus is to focus on the various themes, it tends to do too much.
Boman is a driver who comes to visit his village to get his daughter (Minishaa Lamba) married and decides to open a well, for which he is supposed to get government funding. As he goes through the various legalities he discovers the enormity of the problems he and others face as nothing happens without a bribe. Together with his daughter and her lover he makes an plan to con the system and uses the politics to get his work done.
Benegal tries to point out the hassles of the systems by revolving the plot around the water problem and also comments on various other themes like women reservation & daughter-seen-as-a-burden. He plays within the comedy genre and as such most of the characters end up being caricatures.
This still would have worked but for the plot to move smoothly. The challenging middle-act meanders here and there - the so-called rising complications are not just cohesive. Despite being the man driving the case, you are not necessarily sold in to this strong motivation; this seems to be the case of doing too much and not finding enough meat to chew.
Once it's established that the system sucks, then....the story tries to go on other aspects. To give the due, all the other threads do revolve around the main plot but eliciting laughter tends to be the focus, which makes the focus on the characters and their excessive antics.
I wonder if working with a talented actor like Irani tends to create its own pressure. Irani is exceptional in creating mannerisms and providing exceptional characterization; this demands that the story should flow exceedingly well else the attention is drawn to him.
The film starts pretty well in establishing the story but loses its control as it attempts to cover too much of a ground.
On minor front (or major, depending on how one's sees it) - there seem to be some continuity issues. Just before Lamba's wedding, a tragic scene unfolds - her friend 'sold' to a Sheikh in Gulf has been abandoned; her mom is understandably broken and in the very next scene she is playing the 'dholak' with gay abandon.
I am also not sure if the opening scene was required. Irani is a driver in Bombay and since he arrives late (by two months,) his boss wants to fire him. But as he is going to Pune Irani tells him to hear his story and then take a call. Except for some sort of a metaphorical meaning (maybe?!) there is no use of this story.
Since this is not the main track and one has no purpose of being on the drive, this could have been cut to the scene in office itself. In fact, if one wanted, the whole office scene coud have been chucked and the story would have worked as it is.
Benegal is perhaps the most learned filmmaker in the country, who has made terrific films. To see such fare, which you want to like very much but isn't there doesn't make you feel pretty good. Maybe this was a quick-shoot, a quickly-done-with-flick but that's not justification for missing the bus.
But one can't give up the hope that he would be back with a much stronger tale. So...fingers crossed for the next one.
Max Rating ****
[Viewed at Fun Chembur, 11.15am show with Jaspal on 27th March, 2010]
The answer is evident too - it takes helluva skill to show not tell - to tell a story effectively - to let the tale evoke emotions not dialogues, not cute exchange between characters, not excessive melodrama. But...when your beliefs lie on the other side, where you are convinced that this is the best way to go, then...you play on that.
Well...even that's not too bad but when you flounder in telling the tale well, something isn't correct if you focus on creating characters that are consciously made to appease the audience.
From the other side what do you do when such a film is a success. It makes money! Well..that's the tragedy of our times.
New York is the story of a young student (Neil Nitin Mukesh) who comes to New York to study and befriends a couple - a girl (Katrina Kaif) and a boy (John Abraham). He loves the girl who loves the other guy and the two marry. He pushes off and after a gap of few years, post 9/11 he is picked up by an Indian (Irrfan Khan) working for FBI to go back into the lives of their friends and catch the man, who is a prime terror suspect.
The lost-lover refuses to believe that his friend is a terrorist but when he is excessively pressurized he goes on the mission to prove otherwise and discovers that he was wrong. In the end he tries to change his friend but the ending is tragic.
The story flows in three-acts. Neil is taken-in. He takes time to break down, then joins his pals and focuses in finding out the truth. With truth out he tries to reform the pal but it doesn't happen.
The story could have been told in much shorter time, which would have made it more crisper. The norms of masala cinema are at play - stay with lead players for long to showcase their plight, use impressive dialogues that are smile-inducing all the time, slow-mo is essential to create the bigness of the moments and show the dark side in terms of caricatures.
The themes of muslim exploitation is at the base of this. But there's an interesting twist - the villain is a terrorist but guess what - he doesn't like killing normal people - it's the FBI that he is after. Why? Since FBI are the ones who detain people with suspicion and drive them mad. They back it up with comments after the ending of the film.
This would be true to some extent, but what's interesting is that the nice villain is nice - he has an agenda, though misjudged at least he is not an evil guy. And he is willing to die for that. So...is his love.
There is a good deal if illogical stuff at play. There is betrayal at play between husband and wife. Husband thinks the wife does not know that she is a terrorist. The wife knows but hopes he would reform...on his own. It's kind of weird. Basically, contrived.
Irrfan Khan does bring in his usual powerful presence and makes the frame alive, but if the story isn't too gripping the momentum drops and you are just wondering when will this all end.
However even within given masala norms - it was an interesting story that should have been dealt better. Of course, the film-makers would feel they did a good job since they did get decent reviews and importantly, made the money!
[Max Rating ****]
[Viewed at Chembur on 26th March, 2010 courtesy Guru's VCD]
The film shines because of two folks primarily - Naseeruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi. As mama-bhanja, they are an awesome sight with their mannerisms and characterization - you could go with them on a journey for quite a while.
The movie also has that great feel of the location, which also shines due to the characters that are portrayed in this UP setting. It's a fresh look and in this new world you do enjoy being there.
The two guys are on run after conning a friend (a don) and end up taking shelter in the house of a widow (Vidya Balan); things complicate with the don catching them and giving an ultimatum, which forces them to get into kidnapping as per the widow's wishes, but things turn worse and more complicated as both fall in love with the woman.
The challenge in doing a caper film is to keep the focus on the story especially when you are trying to have a good deal of fun with the characters. It's not an easy task and this is where Ishqiya doesn't do a great job of balancing.
It starts by creating two captivating (buddy) characters, sends them on a journey that is looking to be exciting but as they get into the middle act, the rising complications get into confusing one with Balan's character coming in. The idea is a good one and yet...it's her character that's not a solid one - she fluctuates too much. She is supposed to have sinister purpose but...there tends to be inconsistency, which makes the going tough.
As such when they enter the last act, the climax with excessive action and less focus on the protagonists it somewhat gets messy.
Abhishek Chaubey, the young director, who shares screenplay credit on films like Omkara and Kameeney does a pretty good job on debut and is a talent to watch for in the future.
Warsi shows how good he is and Naseer shows how brilliant he is. Together they make this film quite watchable.
[Viewed on Mac at Chembur on 25th March, 2010]
Whose Story Is It?
Of media. Yes. Of various protagonists. Sure. But does it work? Anyway...they are more of players than the protagonist/s.
It's a tough one - showcasing various point of views. It's helluva task to tell a good story from one point of view and taking on a challenge of various point of views calls for supreme mastery of craft, which enables a good telling of the story.
It could be said that the story is of the media with various players yet...you go on a journey with either one or many. As such there needs to be some semblance of coherence, unless incoherence is the very purpose, which is definitely not the purpose here.
The film is not too random. You know what the story is trying to be - some good guys, some bad guys, the corruption of our world and the battle between the good and evil. The issue is in the telling and in the key answer - it's a story of many folks, which is never a good news since it's too much of an endeavor to take.
Is the story being told with all cohesiveness? This requires good integration of various elements, which not only is at backfoot considering the various point of views but the way the tools are being used. Music is excessive, which remains the case with most of Ramu's flicks and well most Bollywood flicks; it's like saying - we know we are not good to evoke emotions through the story, so...we shall utilize this medium to make you feel as you ought to.
So your senses are kind of bombarded and with other aspects too like utilization of camera. It seems that since Sarkar, Ramu has fallen in love with the close-ups (which per se may not be a bad thing) but also with overuse of angles and shot-taking. Is it helping in telling the story? Well..I can't discern much.
Example - There is conflict within some family scenes and Ramu uses hand-held to denote that bit. However...it calls too much attention to itself and it's not done too smoothly.
Ramu has also professed his love for AB's acting. He does use the silence effectively at times but it doesn't work all the time with his stressful camera-work. Of course, one needs to utilize AB's voice too and...we have long monologue, which is supposed to essay the ills of our times and highlight the plight.
Well...that's precisely what the story should have done.
[Max Rating ****]
[Viewed on Mac at Chembur on 24th March, 2010; thanks to Ankur]
The title is an important element since it lets you know that it's about '500 Days', but what you don't get till you watch the film is that the girl's name is 'Summer'. This is the story of a writer of greeting cards who studied architecture and falls in love instantly with his new colleague, who reciprocates and they get into a relationship.
She makes a pact that they shall not 'label' their relation and see how it goes. The man agrees but as their scene gets stronger he wants a committed answer. This brings-in a rift, as Summer gets distant and eventually a split. The man, shattered, now has to figure out on how to deal with his life.
The most interesting thing the film does is to play with the sequence of this relationship. The film opens with a number and like a casino slot game it rolls - forward or backward - showcasing that particular day in the life of this man.
As such the film flows with flash-forwards and flash-backs. It keeps jumping from one scene to another in a non-linear fashion. The story flows very smoothly since you visit the entire film through the man's point of view.
What makes the film a great watch is that you are immersed in the life of this normal guy and love his relationship - the two make a great pair. The pivot of the turnaround is the unsure nature of Summer; it's like in a real life - one goes around and yet feels that something is missing. Then...just switches off and ends the relationship.
This works and in a way doesn't. Deliberately you are never taken inside the mind of Summer for long; it's the man's story all the way - how he falls in love, gets her, has great fun, gets more involved, differences appear and how he reacts and responds.
The film starts with a fast momentum and as it delves more into his state of depression it slows down but the pacing keeps you in the grip. It's a romantic comedy and the humor keeps coming at you all the time, which makes the ride pretty enjoyable.
There are times when you feel the film is being stretched a bit, when you feel the film tries to get extra cute but with a romantic couple that looks very good together and other lovable characters you have a good time at this one.
[Max Rating ****]
[Viewed on Mac at Chembur on 18th March, 2010]
Expectantly you go and watch the film - you see the great picture, you hear great music, you sense the great feel but...there is nothing great about the flick.
It also tries to play at various levels - part-real, part-fantasy, part-random, part-meaningful. Well...if that itself is an issue remains to be dug into, but as an experience the story of a truck owner / driver who wants to reach his destination with something precious meets folks on the way, goes through an adventure isn't a great deal.
The beautiful imagery of Rajasthan is captured exceptionally well and the music is a great addititive. The characters are interesting too. There are situations of conflict. So...what's the hassle?
It's like ever - in the telling. The story focuses more on the interplay of characters than in telling a story even if part random and fantasy. The intention is to bring-in in the laughs. In between it is supposed to make comments on many a things.
Water is the key driver, a character that builds in the story. The barren landscape too is strong element. And the various sub-characters who showcase the corruption of the world.
The film is kinda avant-garde, that's what it's trying to do. It perhaps would have succeeded had it not focused too much on characters interplay trying to play cute but if trying to build a better connection.
The kid is confident but he isn't used greatly. Deol is alright, but it's Satish Kaushik whose presence enlivens the screen; another performance that shows how good he is.
Alas, the same can't be said about a film that loses it's pace and tries to feel good in its prettiness.
[Max Rating ****]
[Viewed at Cinemax Dahisar with Mrudul, Debo & Manoj on 6th March, 11pm show when Chembur got flooded :-( ]
The protagonist, (played superbly by Clooney) says in the end on a fight - I am from here. These words could equally apply to Reitman since he has dabbled in relatively small flicks that have had big, big impact.
It's the story of Ryan who thrives in the fast-paced life, having casual relationships and deliberately staying away from his family - his sisters. When this life gets a block in terms of a new recruit joining-in who is backed by the big boss to initiate firing through Internet, his existence takes on a new meaning courtesy the situations he gets into.
The story smartly puts Ryan and his opponent, Natalie together under the orders of his boss to show the 'ropes' of the real firing world. What happens is a special bonding being created over the trips between the two; the eager, confident Natalie sees the brutal reality of the world, and Ryan who lives in isolation is forced to deal with a young girl who believes in love and family and...speaks her mind.
During the trip Ryan builds a stronger relationship with his casual friend Alex, which is build-up strongly as something very positive. This relationship is the hinge through which Ryan's door of love starts to open. All thanks to Natalie who detests his way of living and tells him so. It's his relationship with Natalie, where he becomes a sort of a mentor that starts to change him.
This change - getting more humane is reflected eventually in his relationship with his sisters and in his desire for companionship, him falling in love with Alex. The film is like a love story, a family story, a mentor story and more.
At the background are the firing of all sorts of people. The opening and closing image of the film are of them and so are many scenes where Ryan and Natalie go about firing people.
The story is about the irony of life. As Ryan, who also specializes as a speaker, a coach, tells his sister - I tell people to avoid commitment.
The film is about loneliness, reflected in different sorts of people. It is about the lonely times of recession where you are left on your own to fend for your survival. It's about relationships - how they help you round yourself. Everyone needs to be somewhere rather than being up in the air all by oneself.
The narrative focuses on the story of Ryan but the feel - a light-hearted one adds to the quality of the journey that you take; one couldn't have asked for a better companion than the suave Clooney - the uptight dude who loves to belong in the high-profile environment all the time and Natalie, the young, lovable kid, who couldn't care much for any of that.
It's a fantastic relationship that not only lets you enjoy their trip but also since they both are humane in their own way their interaction makes comments effectively on the current times. There are also beautifully photographed scenes with great music that add to the environment.
Ryan-Alex relationship is one of the most charming ones you can see on screen. These two people who are driven by materialistic need build up a unique bond, which ends up not being what it was meant to be. As such leaving Ryan a changed man with no rewards except for returning to his family.
The film is great - a comment on how critical it is, in the times when people like to be up in the air, to be grounded.
[Max Rating ***]
[Viewed on Mac in Feb, 2010 at Chembur]