Sunday, July 13, 2008

It's raining blockquotes

Before the Rains opened in select cities in Canada on Friday, resulting in a new batch of reviews and, best of all, an interview from the Times Colonist, which features great quotage from Santosh Sivan, Linus Roache, and Jennifer Ehle herself:

[...] "You may think I make films that are always on the edge, but you know, I make children's movies, too," says Sivan, smiling a slightly mischievous smile.

"Every movie will speak to people differently because sometimes I have different things to say," he says. "The Terrorist was about finding a way to kill -- and training yourself to cross that line. Before the Rains is about finding a way not to kill. This one is about making a moral choice to not cross that line -- which also takes great courage, perhaps more courage than it takes to kill."

Sivan says he didn't set out to make a statement movie when he took on Cathy Rabin and Dan Verete's screenplay about a Englishman seeking to create a spice fortune.

"I was interested in exploring this cross-cultural encounter because as a filmmaker, it's an idea that's familiar to me. Movies speak from different traditions as well," he says.

"There is Bollywood. There is Hollywood. There is a whole history of European traditions as well. In Before the Rains, I did try to incorporate different styles. I tried to reference this notion of cultural collision -- and that helped with the overall design as we move from this brand of Eden to a very different reality," says Sivan.

Because Sivan generally has everything in his head before he rolls a second of film, the actors may find themselves in a dramatic game of catch-up.

"You don't really ever have a normal conversation with Santosh," says Roache, an actor probably best known as Thomas Wayne -- Batman's father in Batman Begins -- or newly installed executive A.D.A. Michael Cutter from Law and Order.

"He's such a natural storyteller you have to trust and follow him. He's not the kind of director who's going to indulge in long conversations about motivation. He's extremely visual, so if something's not working, he lets you know. But he's not so particular that he doesn't let you explore," says Roache.

Jennifer Ehle, who plays wife to Roache in the film, says talking can be a detriment to character anyway. "Sometimes, it's not helpful talking things over with a director. You just want to feel safe and secure, which is why you're probably talking to the director in the first place because you want to make him/her happy. Santosh always made us feel comfortable, so I didn't mind the lack of chatter," she says.

"And I think it worked well because we ended up being very spontaneous. We didn't know how some scenes would unfold until we did them . . . and that can be a lot of fun. There were other scenes that were very rehearsed. Santosh seems to direct by instinct, and you learn to follow along," says Ehle, who just wrapped Gavin O'Connor's Pride and Glory alongside Colin Farrell, Edward Norton and Jon Voight.

Roache says like all dramatic endeavours, a movie comes down to energy and inspiration. "Energy breeds energy, and Santosh has nothing but energy. He's truly incredible because he's always working, even when it looks like he's not doing anything. He's working."

The director says being back in his old stomping grounds served as his central inspiration. "I had a chance to explore the history of the place I grew up in -- I learned who made the roads and why. How could you not be excited to tell such a story? In so many ways, I felt like I was given a chance to tell the stories that had yet to be told -- stories about my ancestors, about my people, about those who fight for freedom," says Sivan.

"From beginning to end, it was a privilege." [...]
Katherine Monk, the author of the above interview, also published a review of the film at The Gazette. She astutely observes:
[...] The movie doesn't feel or even look like a survival story, but it's all about survival - not just of the individual, but of an entire culture on the verge of being swallowed whole.

The palpable sense of unease and unpredictability serves the movie extremely well because it cranks up the tension and pulls us out of the image-induced trance. It also blocks any attempt to turn Before the Rains into an epic romance in the tradition of The English Patient.

Thanks to the nuanced performances from the talented - and rather attractive - ensemble, every character earns empathy and respect, despite the flaws, because they all feel authentic.
Talented and attractive, indeed!

In the same vein, Ken Eisner of offers some kind (and all too true) words about Ms. Ehle:
[...] Little here is unpredictable, but the film is full of deft touches, courtesy of director Santosh Sivan (who also made Theeviravaathi: The Terrorist). When Henry’s English wife shows up, for example, she is a fine, loving person, not the shrewish colonial you’re expecting to meet. (The fact that she’s played by the too-rarely seen Jennifer Ehle helps.) And one long scene in which T. K. is sorely tested by a tribal council offers a harrowing twist in a tale that turns out to be tougher than it looks.
If you feel so inclined, more reviews can be found at Online Athens, the Austin Chronicle, the Palm Beach Post, the Miami Herald, and the Basehor Sentinel.

At Newindpress there is an interesting article by Santosh Sivan, aptly titled "The art of light." Here is a short sample:
I have always believed that most faces are beautiful. Especially if you can focus on what is going on inside their minds. Sometimes what one sees as flaws is what is really interesting to others. When I film people and their faces, I make them feel secure so they are not conscious and they just perform.
. . .
Water plays a living, breathing character in my films. My unconscious study of nature and the colours, especially black and whites (I studied in a convent) are courtesy Kerala where you find water everywhere, in various moods, from a waterfall to a static pool.
. . .
Some say I follow the Zen way of life but that is an exaggeration. I get up and look at everything as if I’m seeing it for the first time, that’s all.
Linus Roache also discusses the film and his character, Henry Moores, in an interview at
[...] “My character becomes less likable as the story progresses, but, I think, he remains very understandable. I very consciously avoided bringing too much of a modern-day perspective to the part. I just wanted, as much as I could, to play straight that kind of British Raj arrogance: it was inbuilt and inbred. At the same time, he was kind of progressive, and definitely an ambitious guy, trying to make something big happen. In that sense, it does serve as a kind of metaphor for the British Empire, both in its energy and drive and in its ultimate demise and downfall.”
. . .
“The story is very well done when you look at it closely,” Roache avers. “Yes, you can pass judgment on what Henry does, but within that structure, what choices does he actually have? He’s a guy who has everything and thinks he’s entitled to more. Of course, once he has this affair, he’s in a situation where the two cultures collide. Events conspire, in the end, to force him to do nothing, and this is the case when nothing is a very strong action indeed.” [...]
Film Festival Alert: As part of its grand tour, Before the Rains will be featured at the Durban International Film Festival in South Africa, which will take place from July 23 to August 3. (Rains will be shown on August 1 and 2.) Visit the official DIFF website for the official press release and ticket information.

Finally, in the just for fun category, here are a few links about Rosemary Harris, courtesy of our favorite googler, Janet:

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