Sunday, June 22, 2008

Bucolic grace and paradisiacal landscapes

Reviews thus far from the Scottish capital are as follows:

  • Dear Cinema give largely a narrative but find the film 'gripping'. As we have seen previously, the visuals are afforded the most praise:
[...] Opening with stunning shots of his Kerala locations - lush green hills, emerging from wisps of morning mist - Before the Rains is testament to Sivan’s background as cinematographer ... But the breathtaking visuals are grounded in narrative: from the sensual, fecund jungle hideaway that is the location for Moores’ and Sanjani’s love-making to the ominous torch-lit procession that enraged locals make for a climactic showdown with T.K., landscape and climate are deftly expressive of emotional mood. [...]
  • Eva Hoffman from Montage offers a short but sweet appraisal:
[...] It is a stunningly beautiful film simultaneously lush and precise. Be it the clash of two cultures, betrayal among friends, greed, cowardice, disappointment, honesty, redemption or love; like a painting it tells the greatest and smallest stories on a single canvas. [...]
  • Future Movies mention multiple positives, but always succeed them with the word 'but':
[...] Director Santosh Sivan constructs the story’s context very well; there is a great sense of place due to some gorgeous cinematography, and several good scenes effectively convey the political and social unrest of the era. But the story itself never comes alive ... There is one very good scene in which the central twist occurs, and it feels for a moment like the film is about to spring to life. But alas, it is one highlight in an otherwise ... conventional drama. [...]
Thoughts from further afield meanwhile are continuing to trickle in:

  • Frank Gabrenya of The Columbus Dispatch is not without criticism, but still says:
[...] Before the Rains is a handsome but conventional melodrama presented by the Merchant-Ivory group...Sivan provides superb cinematography of lush hillsides, sumptuous waterfalls and nature filmed in extreme close-up. [...]
  • Philip Marchand of The Star similarly says 'India has rarely looked so beautiful onscreen'. He also highly praises Sivan's work as a director:
[...] Sivan, a director who was raised in Kerala, does not stop to brood or moralize... In this well-paced movie he simply allows events to unfold according to an iron logic. That logic leads us to a conclusion that satisfies us with its sense of inevitability, something rare in current movies. [...]
  • Liz Braun of the Toronto Sun adds to the love of the visuals and sees them as a facade in front of greater depth:
[...] The film shows some of the breathtakingly beautiful countryside in the remote area of Kerala; that and the cinematography make this one a treat to look at. But Before the Rains is not some dreamy costume epic about the Raj ... Don't be deceived by pretty pictures. Before the Rains has a whiff of the thriller about it. [...]
  • Vanessa Farquharson of the National Post again praises the cinematography and papers over problems to give an optimistic outlook overall:

[...] Director Santosh Sivan and the film's editors nicely parallel the increasingly hot, stifling environment of southern India with the claustrophobic turmoil of the characters' lives ... But where the cinematography achieves bucolic grace with simple shots of a naturally stunning landscape [...]

[...] Aside from a few ... uninspiring plot developments and character tropes ... Before the Rains makes a concerted effort to offer something that feels real, and it succeeds on most levels. The road to original cinema isn't a smooth one, so Sivan at least deserves credit for avoiding as many bumps and potholes as possible. [...]

  • Indy Week's paragraph meanwhile is concise but complimentary:
[...] Director Santosh Sivan's sumptuous cinematography in the south Indian region of Kerala is a lush invitation to enter a paradisiacal landscape, and also emphasizes the gloomy plot's heavy-handed symbolism of winding roads and drenching rains. Bose and Das, both stellar Indian art film veterans, excel as individuals caught between the millstones of tradition and modernity. [...]
[...] Attendee’s responses to the forum on Friday night was positive. “I really like the selection [this year],” said Saranac Lake resident Richard Maid, who has been coming to the forum since it was founded. “It looks like a good variety. I saw ‘Before the Rains’ last night and I thought it was really excellent. It was absolutely an intimate movie.” [...]
  • From the public sector, academics Ellen and Jim think deeply about the film, beginning as follows:
[...] Before the Rains is not specifically a womens’ film, but the angle from which we see the tragedy unfold and its victim is that of two women. [...]
  • Secondly, it is a big thumbs up from the unfortunately named FilmVomit:
[...] Santosh Sivan has made an almost note-perfect entry into the ever-growing compendium of third cinema inspections of the source and subversion of imperialist power in colonial states. ... Sivan as a cinematographer is superb. ... The film is sumptuous and elegant - quite simply, utterly beautiful. [...]
In other news:

  • For those who are interested, the Toronto Sun find out where Rains star Linus Roache got his acting bug from.
  • Thank you to Janet for drawing our attention to Barbara Hoffman of the New York Post's piece on the Theatre World Awards. Her discussion on past recipients includes a particular two people:

[...] For Rosemary Harris, the giving was even sweeter. She won her award in 1952 and presented another - nearly half a century later - to her daughter, Jennifer Ehle. "All I could do was say, 'Here,' and give her a hug," says the woman best known these days as Spider-Man's Aunt Mae. [sic] "Most people get carried away, because they love it so. It's the first affirmation you receive from your peers that you're on the right track - that your parents won't ask, 'What have you got as backup?' "

All Ehle remembers was that she and her mom were both up for a Tony that year (2000), and when "the 14 millionth person in a month" asked her how that felt, she burst into tears. "So there I was, crying with my mother, and
she stood up and gave me this lovely thing." [...]

That's all for today folks. Apologies for the lateness!

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