Saturday, May 31, 2008

Housekeeping, clips, and reviews (oh my)

First, you might notice something different about the blog's landscape. Now that June is nearly busting out all over, and the 2008 Tonys are rapidly approaching, we've removed our '07 Tonys tribute to Jennifer Ehle from the "News" section. *sigh* The link to the acceptance speech video goodness is now located under "Essentials" for your repeated viewing pleasure.

Next, here are some great clips (some new, some old, now in one convenient place) from Before the Rains. Number 3 is of particular interest, as you can see.

Here's the latest from the critics:

  • A not-very-nice review at Red Orbit is forgivable because of its reference to "an impressive performance by Ehle as Henry's betrayed wife."
  • There are mixed feelings at Seattle PI and The Seattle Times. The latter explains:
    [...] While the casting couldn't be much better, there are only so many ways the talented Roache can register Moores' upper-class twitness before he turns into a Monty Python doll. As Moores' suspicious wife, Jennifer Ehle is slightly more sympathetic. [...]
  • Past the Popcorn admires the beautiful cinematography and praises the technical merits of the film, if not the screenplay.
  • Here's one blogger's opinion of the cast:
    [...] The acting overall was good. Rahul Bose does a good job of being the conflicted assistant– stuck between the world of his traditional family and his English boss. Nandita Das was surprisingly effective in her minuscule role of paramour. Linus Roache was good, but the actors who played his wife (Jennifer Ehle), son and the banker, were just as good if not better. [...]
  • Another celebrity blogger from ABC 13 not only got the see Rains in Houston, but had his picture taken with Linus Roache, who was in town promoting the film. His verdict:
    [...] It's a very good film, and is beautifully shot. If you are looking for something a little more grounded in reality after Indy, you might want to check it out.

Other Rains-related tidbits:

  • Santosh Sivan compares the arts of cinematography and directing at India Journal.
  • There's a discussion of Before the Rains and colonialism in this review from The Stranger.

Finally, Edwin has alerted us to the fact that a new Region 2 DVD of The Camomile Lawn has just been released (May 19). If you don't already have a copy, now's the time!

P.S. For a slew of coincidences + a bit of CB hilarity on the side, read this article at The Daily Mail. More information can be found at Playbill.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

This week's local forecast

Reports from the rain gauge:
  • One Optimistic blogger who got to see Before the Rains declares:
    [...] This is a tragic and sad movie, but that's what it's supposed to be. With all of the movies coming out with big stars it's the lil Indie movies that stand out above the crowd, most of us just haven't realized it yet. A definite 4 on my "Go See" scale.
  • Another Serendipitous blogger adds:
    This was a beautifully photographed and well-done movie that was a bit hard to find. [...] All of the main actors did an excellent job. I was hoping for more to Jennifer Ehle's role, since her involvement was how I found the movie, but she did well with what she had to work with. I hope one of these days someone persuades her to do a main character on film again [...] Overall, if you like occasionally watching odd little movies that don't fit the Hollywood mold, this is a good one. [...]
  • Read about how "Rahul Bose almost turned down Before the Rains" at Headlines India.
  • Meanwhile, Bollywood Insight discusses the movie's wow-factor in the film festival circuit:

    [...] The film was very well received at the Tribeca Film Festival and Rahul Bose's portrayal of a servant caught between two worlds was singled out. His work in the film was also singled out in the review by the New York Times.

    . . .

    At the Houston World-Fest International Film Festival the art house film took home three of the top prizes. Rahul said, "It's a triumph for Santosh on so many levels. A film in English from India winning the awards for best film, best cinematography and best music ... it's incredible!"

    Sivan said, "To me, personally winning awards isn't such a huge issue. I've won five National Awards for cinematography and 12 in all. I'm happy Before The Rains is being recognised internationally as a non-formula and non-Bollywood product. But I'm the happiest about Mark Kilian's award for best music in Before The Rains."

    In June, the film is also scheduled for the prestigious Edinburgh Film Festival.

  • As the above article reminds us, Before the Rains will be making its way to Scotland next month, where it will be shown at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on June 19 and 20. Visit the EIFF website to purchase tickets. (Remember that the film is set to open in the UK on July 25, according to IMDb.)

In honor of the release of Holocaust on DVD yesterday, the Orlando Sentinel proclaims that the mini-series "still excels 30 years" after its initial debut:

Long before Schindler's List, Holocaust provided a staggering depiction of the Holocaust.

This miniseries might look tame next to today's more graphic films, but Holocaust was a national event when it premiered on NBC in April 1978. The production marks its 30th anniversary, debuting Tuesday on DVD.

Holocaust contrasts the stories of two fictional families from 1935 to 1945. A Jewish family, the Weiss clan struggles for survival while Erik Dorf (Michael Moriarty) gains power as a Nazi. The miniseries gave America its first good look at Meryl Streep. She excelled in the crucial role of Inga Helms Weiss, a Catholic who marries Karl Weiss (James Woods).

Holocaust collected 16 Emmy nominations and won eight statuettes, including those for limited series, actress (Streep) and actor (Moriarty).

The outstanding supporting cast includes David Warner, Rosemary Harris, Fritz Weaver, Sam Wanamaker and Tovah Feldshuh. All were Emmy nominees.

When it aired on NBC, Holocaust unfolded over four nights. On DVD, the miniseries lasts 7 1/2 hours.

The DVD is a thrilling reminder of an era when a miniseries could galvanize the public. Like Roots, which premiered in 1977, Holocaust offered an indelible experience and first-rate cast.

There's further discussion and praise (not to mention spoilers!) at Cynical Cinema.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

More precipitation

For those of you who haven't had your fill of the critics, a few more reviews have trickled in:
  • There's lots of love from Tom Long of The Detroit News, who declares that "'Rains' pours down emotion:"

    There's an exquisite pain to "Before the Rains," an anguish that feels real on so many levels -- social, personal, political, romantic -- it's both overwhelming and somehow cleansing.

    . . .

    But he [Santosh Sivan] and screenwriters Cathy Rabin and Dan Verete also breathe real life into their conflicted characters. The result is a deep, dark and rich brew of contrasts between cultures, time periods and loyalties.

    Stirring and filled with sad beauty and grandeur, "Before the Rains" offers a tale of torn tradition and perverted progress wrapped around smothered love. It hurts to watch this film. It should.

  • More praise from Popserious:

    [...] All the actors do terrific jobs, the story is compelling and the visuals stunning. Almost too stunning in a way that it works against the film at times. Directed by Santosh Sivan who got his start in the industry as a cinematographer, each shot, every frame, is carefully lit and colored. At times I wanted it to look less beautiful and in fact, rawer - to capture the ‘realness’ of the emotions, the screaming, the workers. I actually haven’t seen a movie with my buddy Rahul Bose in it, since we worked together on Chameli - so it was fun for me to see how well his career has advanced.

    Universal in its story and message, Before The Rains is a testament to the growing sophistication and creative vision of Indian filmmakers in the international sphere. And I would highly recommend watching this film while it’s in theaters now.

  • There is further reviewage at The St. Louis Post and Playback and a reference to an "underused Jennifer Ehle" at Atlanta's Creative Loafing.


  • It's raining boquets for Rahul Bose, according to Glamsham Entertainment Magazine.
  • Read about the toast-loving Linus Roache at The Houston Chronicle. Here's his response to the interviewer's inquiry about Henry in Before the Rains:

    Q: In Before the Rains, the character you play — Henry Moores, the British-born owner of a tea plantation in 1930s India — is quite complex, almost contradictory. His intentions are good, but his will is weak.

    A: And he's also a bit arrogant. But, to me, that was the whole issue — how to balance all these things. Because you can play him as a kind of villain, you can play him as a kind of weak man, whatever. I just wanted him to be a human being. He's a man who loves everything about India. And he's ambitious, he wants to achieve a lot. He loves his wife — and he loves his housekeeper. He's like a guy who wants to have his cake, and eat it. But then he gets into a situation where, well, what can he do? He has limited choices. And he can't undo what he's done. So I decided that I wasn't going to comment on the character. I just wanted to play him dead straight, with no frills. Because he's a tortured soul. I know that, in one sense, his story sort of represents the decline of the British Empire. But Before the Rains also is the story of someone literally selling out his soul. And it's painful thing to watch.

  • Apparently he made an appearance at the River Oaks Three movie theater in Houston last night, or so says Free Press Houston.

In other news, Rosemary Harris is going to be filming a new movie in Belfast next month! According to IFTN:

New Belfast production company Real Hollywood has announced its first project, ‘Yankee King’, will begin shooting in Belfast next month. Directed by Gerry Lively (Dungeons & Dragons II), the film will star Bill Campbell (The Rocketeer, Enough), Claire Forlani (Flashbacks of a Fool), Kelly Brook (Survival Island, The Italian Job) and Rosemary Harris (Spiderman). [...]

It's not IMDb-able as yet, but The Hollywood Reporter and Screen Daily report the same. (>1 source = credibility!)

Speaking of Rosemary Harris, don't forget that Holocaust will be released on DVD (Region 1) on May 27. provides the following summary:

An original TV dramatization of one of the most monstrous crimes in world history – the slaughter of 6 million Jews by the Nazis. Dramatically and definitively, the story covers an entire decade, the eventful years from 1935 to 1945. HOLOCAUST focuses on the tragedy and triumph of a single family – the Weiss family. Their story is told in counter-poise to that of another fictional family, that of Erik Dorf, who portrays a Nazi aide to Germany’s infamous Heydrich. Starring a brilliant international cast and filmed on location in Berlin and Vienna.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Family Affair

It looks like Ivanov is going to be a bit of a Bennet family reunion. According to EDP24, Lucy Briers will also be appearing in the play this fall. (Thanks muchly for the tip, Janet R). Hopefully the Donmar will soon be announcing the entire cast so we can see if any other Bennets/Darcys/Wickhams/Lucases/Collinses will be joining them. The relevant quotage is as follows:
[...] She's bright, attractive, confident and well able to make her own way in the business. But she admits that being given a leading part in one of television's big successes gave her career a very useful lift-off.

She was Mary Bennett [sic] in Pride and Prejudice - playing opposite Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle - the one with the glasses and the dodgy singing and piano playing. In fact, Briers plays flute and piano rather well and has a good soprano voice.

I'd only been out of drama school a couple of years and it was one of my first jobs. To work with people like Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle - and learning so much from them - was fantastic.

Recently, she also figured in the BBC 1980s-style detective series, Ashes to Ashes, and shortly she's off to Broadway in her own one-woman show, Some Kind of Bliss. Then it's back to the London stage to appear with Kenneth Branagh in Chekhov's great work Ivanov. [...]
It also looks like Stanford University is the happening place for Utopia fans at the moment. The Stanford News Service reports that there will be a two-day celebration comparing the Broadway and Moscow productions of The Coast of Utopia later this week. Reasons you should attend if you are in the vicinity: 1) it is free 2) Tom Stoppard is going to be there 3) Jack O'Brien is going to be there 4) there will be video clips from both productions 5) the first four reasons are reason enough!

[...] Steven Lee, a dissertation fellow at the Humanities Center who is an "American-Russian comparativist," saw both the American and Russian productions of The Coast of Utopia. Under the aegis of the Humanities Center and the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies, he has scheduled two days of events this week celebrating and comparing the Broadway and Moscow productions, with staged readings, guest speakers, presentations and panel discussions. All events, which will take place at the Humanities Center, are free and open to the public.

At 7 p.m. Thursday, May 22, students from the Drama Department will produce and perform a staged reading of one scene from The Coast of Utopia. After the reading, Alexei Borodin and Tony Award-winner Jack O'Brien, the directors of Utopia in Moscow and New York, respectively, will compare several video clips—selected by Stoppard himself—from the two productions. Carey Perloff, artistic director of the American Conservatory Theater, will lead a comparative discussion of featured scenes.

On Friday, May 23, an all-day symposium at the Stanford Humanities Center will comprise four sessions. The first will introduce the trilogy through images and video of the productions, as well as overviews of public and critical responses. The second will put the Stoppard script in the context of Russian history post-socialism and the many other depictions of Herzen and his cohort. The third, featuring talks by the two directors, will examine the formal aspects of the play and its productions. The final session will juxtapose the New York and Moscow productions to consider visions of utopia and post-utopia today. [...]

See SiCa Stanford for the schedule of events.

Back to the Rains:
  • First, check out these fantastic fan reviews of Before the Rains at the Chat extension and the Forum.
  • There are also nine "Readers' Reviews" of the movie at the The New York Times. Here is a (somewhat selective) sampling of those:

    ~A visually beautiful, well written, acted and directed film. I saw the film at its TFF premiere. It's a great addition to the Merchant Ivory repertoire. Linus Roache always does great work with complex characters. Jennifer Ehle still does the best British accent (by an American). The Indian actors were really good as well. No stereotypes here. The symbolism in the story is not overwrought, the locales are breathtaking. Definitely worth seeing.- ilona81

    ~Before the Rains. As noted by others, this is a remarkably beautiful film, by a major cinematographer. Nandita Das was enormously compelling, beautiful, conveyed an uncommon realism in her portrayal of the servant.- offthemap0

    ~a visually dense film. i enjoyed it. not commercial in the american sense--the cinema was mostly empty. the actors were sterling. sometimes j. ehle;s accent would slip but it hardly mattered. the queerest thing about the film is that it is a sad story that doesn't leave you sad but hopeful. i am not sure the film is really about colonialism although the parallels between sexual exploitation and resource exploitation of india during the raj are there to be seen. this film is its own dreamworld--that's its attraction.- cinnie7

  • The Hollywood Reporter crunches some numbers for us:
    The distributor's [Roadside Attractions] drama "Before the Rains" expanded to 28 locations from a previous eight and grossed $105,308, or an acceptable $3,761 per site, with a cume of $174,015.
  • Read about the "enlightened" Linus Roache at The Washington Post, where he says:
    [...] [Before the Rains] is not just about his [Henry's] soul being dead. I represent the British Empire -- that arrogance and decline. . . . And the movie's got a lot of hope for the future, and it's a rich cultural tapestry of that time. It's very multilayered.
  • Finally, visit Mumbai Mirror for news of Santosh Sivan and John Malkovich.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Talented Ms. Ehle

First, thank you to Ann for drawing our attention to this aww-inspiring picture of three Theatre World Award winners!

Next, visit MSN Movies to see a short clip from Before the Rains (labeled "I need your help").

The critics are still chatting about Before the Rains - prepare yourself for another wave of reviews, starting with the "yays."
  • Pop Syndicate calls the film "poignant and stirring," and says it has been "directed with great sensitivity." Furthermore:
    [...] Merchant Ivory has always delivered to their fans films that possess great beauty and intelligence coupled with smart casting. Before the Rains is no exception with the addition of an exotic locale, southern India. [...]
    Their final advice: "For those of you who like [your] history stirred with romance and stunning vistas, Before the Rains should be placed high on your go-to list."
  • World Sikh News explains:
    [...] [Before the Rains] unfolds along expected lines — the classic Merchant Ivory costume movie from which we expect exotic scene-setting and just as exotic love affairs, only to wind up in much deeper waters. Touching and thought- provoking, “Before the Rains” doesn’t set out to change our conception of how conscience came to grief as British imperial glory died, but it achieves even more. It makes us reflect on how we ourselves will feel when the dispossessed of the world rise to ask us for dignity, freedom, and love without past taints of condescension and guilt.
  • Pegasus News describes it as "a beautiful, sad, thoughtful film about the waning days of British colonialism in India." Regarding a certain character:
    [...] When wife Laura (Jennifer Ehle) and son Peter (Leopold Benedict) return to the plantation, Sajani has an increasingly difficult time playing second romantic fiddle. For his part, Henry experiences a sudden difficulty in expressing his physical affections to his lovely wife, going so far as to intentionally overturn a vase from the bedside table when Laura attempts to saddle up. D'oh! [...]
    An interesting observation re the four elements (ie the landscape):
    [...] Whether director Sivan intended to or not, he's woven into the story a quadrant of elemental themes: water cleanses, fire transports, air presages change (in the form of monsoon rains) and earth abides, while the road laboriously scraped from the hillside reverts slowly to its native state.
  • Gapers Block heartily enjoyed the film:
    [...] As you can probably surmise, Before the Rains is loaded with juicy melodrama, which I usually loathe, but here it's handled beautifully. Perhaps this is part of the reason the film has been released under the Merchant-Ivory banner (although the team had nothing to do with the film's production). I love seeing Roache play a leading role for once, even if his character is a bit of a coward as he dismisses his loving words to his mistress the second his wife arrives on the scene. But the real discoveries here are Bose and Das, both of whom are major stars in India, and I'd love to see more of in Western productions. The film has passion, rebellion and a terrific sense of time and place. For those of you looking for a little escapism without giving up your need for human drama, Before the Rains is the one for you. [...]
  • has a short, but sweet review, which asserts that the film is “beautifully made” and is “a deeper, richer, movie going experience.”
  • Here are some nice words from Pioneer Local:
    It centers on illicit love, but "Before the Rains," directed by Santosh Sivan . . . is not a story of scorching passion. It's a tale told coolly, with stylized restraint that transforms it into a beautifully crafted metaphor for the decline and fall of the British Raj. . . "Before the Rains" may veer too often into visual travelogue mode. But after all, it is that enigmatic, dramatic country that's the heart of this tale.

Moving onto the mixed reviews:

  • Beth Wood of the Union-Tribune says that although the movie is predictable, "it is saved by its beauty and well-etched performances." She adds that "the talented Jennifer Ehle does a lot with the little she has to work with as Henry's wife and mother of their son." However, she can't help but noting, "For a movie that decries the subjugation of women, its relegation of the female leads to such secondary roles is baffling."
  • Similarly, the Bitter Critic praises the "arresting visuals" and the performances, but claims they are not enough to make up for the poor screenplay. She specifically applauds Ms Ehle, if not her role:
    [...] Before the Rains boasts a first-rate cast. Jennifer Ehle, who here plays Moores’s wife Laura, is just always a pleasure to watch no matter which thankless role she’s stuck in. [...]
  • Jessica Reaves at The Chicago Tribune finds the movie somewhat disappointing and is not impressed with either Jennifer Ehle's wig or the role of Laura:
    [...] Meanwhile, Jennifer Ehle, her hair the color and texture of straw, is stuck in the unfortunate role of Moores' unfailingly supportive and accommodating wife. [...]
  • The San Francisco Chronicle reiterates that Laura is a lackluster role, though Jennifer Ehle makes the most of it:
    [...] [Roache] is ably supported by Bose, as his loyal assistant, Das as his lover and Ehle as his wife - a lackluster smiling role, until the scene when she finally stops smiling. [...]
  • Roger Ebert enjoyed many aspects of the film, but finds he can't quite recommend it:
    [...] "Before the Rains" is lushly photographed, as we would expect, by Sivan himself. It's told sincerely and with energy. It enjoys its period settings and costumes, and even its conventions. In a movie with plenty of room for it, there isn't a trace of cynicism. I am growing weary (temporarily, I think) of films that are cynical about themselves. Having seen several films recently whose characters have as many realities as shape-shifters, I found it refreshing to see a one-level story told with passion and romanticism.
    But I can't quite recommend it. In a plot depending on concealment and secrecy, Henry and T.K. make all the wrong decisions, including a cover up that almost seem designed to fail. [...]

There are more mixed feelings at The Philadelphia Inquirer and City Paper.

For those of you who are interested, the "nay" reviews can be found at: The Contra Costa Times, A.V.Club, The Bolingbrook Sun, The Washington Post, The Mercury News, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and The Star Tribune. Read at your own risk; some of them are quite harsh (though none have anything negative to say about Jennifer Ehle, of course).

On a more cheerful note, two bloggers saw Before the Rains and loved it. The World is my Oyster gives it two thumbs up, and Movie News and Views writes, "Do check this film out and try to see it on the big screen. It is a real beauty."

Please do check it out if it is playing near you! If you have seen the movie, we would love to hear your thoughts about it. Please feel free to share your opinions with us at the Chat Extension or the Forum.

P.S. Apologies for the one-day post delay.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Rosemary Harris: Costume designer extraordinaire + Another deluge of reviews

It is official, there is nothing that Rosemary Harris cannot do. According to an interview in the Boston Herald, Jennifer Ehle's costumes in Before the Rains were based on a sketch drawn by her very own mother. Que fabulous!
[...] Ehle, who plays a betrayed colonial wife, had a special connection to the country. “What intrigued me was that my grandmother was in India just before this time. My grandfather was in the RAF (the Royal Air Force) and my mother actually spent her first six years in India.”
. . .
Ehle, 38, had been given costume sketches that looked like proper dress for London ladies, not colonial wives in a steamy climate. So Ehle asked her mother what her grandmother wore then.

Harris drew “A little picture of the dresses that used to be made by Indian tailors for the British women there. These were dresses that had to laundered.”

One picture stood out. Her mother described the fabric in detail, then Ehle photographed it and e-mailed the sketch to her producer.

“When I arrived there were these three dresses that were made of the exact fabric that my grandmother’s dresses used to be made from. It’s still the fabric that they would use. So those are the dresses that I wear in the film.”

Don't forget that Rains is opening in select cities across the US on Friday, May 16. To find out if it is coming to a theater near you, visit the film's official site and click on "Buy Tickets" for a comprehensive list of participating cities and theaters.

Myriad reviews have come out in anticipation of Friday's opening:
  • First, a lukewarm review at Metro Active is rendered positive via its praise for Jennifer Ehle:
    [...] One very good decision Sivan makes is his casting of the superb Jennifer Ehle as Laura, Henry's betrayed wife. While Sivan's conception of the role is anachronistic—Laura is a modern woman somehow living in 1937—Ehle doesn't give the audience the sense that her husband chose a hot-blooded native woman over a frigid Briton; her blood seems quite warm. [...]
  • Rex Reed at The New York Observer mentions the "elegiac Jennifer Ehle" and finds the movie to be a welcome respite from modern society:
    Grateful for small favors, I applaud Before the Rains, a lovely, lyrical film with perfect timing that is a welcome relief from BlackBerrys, iPods, gas taxes, punk rock, the failing economy and the boredom of cutthroat election campaigns. [...]
    He adds:
    [...] A sweeping film filled with lush scenery and breath-tightening suspense, Before the Rains has the look of a fine, erotically charged period epic (think The Painted Veil) driven by emotion, but as it binds its characters tighter within their self-made moral dilemmas, it shifts into the gears of a good film noir. [...]
  • Brandon Root of The Rake calls Before the Rains "a surprisingly effective, accessible, and beautiful riff on familiar themes" and concludes:
    [...] The success of the film is rooted in its simplicity. The photography, characters,and events fit perfectly into a concrete theme that is repeated throughout. Clocking in at 98 minutes, it feels streamlined and well edited, sustaining a well constructed level of tension until its satisfying conclusion. [...]
    He further praises the film's treatment of the groups on both sides of the cultural divide.
    [...] Despite the two-cultural-groups-that-just-don't-understand-each-other formula, which you can find in the "Oscar-pandering" section of your local video store, I was surprised with how even-handedly the film was written. I've always been a bit bothered by the ease at which Hollywood films of this type may be distilled down to misunderstood-saints-clad-in-brilliant-sterling-silver versus the incorrigibly wrong/frustrating adjacent cultural group. Before the Rains, by contrast, does an exceptional job of humanizing both sides. Sivan certainly injects his own ideas, but leaves plenty of room for viewers to draw their own conclusions. [...]
  • There are some nice comments from Monsters and Critics, who recommend DVDing the movie if it doesn't make it to your local theater:
    [...] There’s a lot going on in this film: you have the obvious theme of the detrimental effects of colonialism, and there is the struggle between classes and the sexes. The symbolism is a dense as the forest the workers have to cut through to make Moore’s road. Luckily we have a well-written script by the late Cathy Rabin as well as a cast of excellent actors and a focused director to make things clear. The camera work (also done by the director) is lush and sensual. BEFORE THE RAINS is an engaging, intelligent film. If you’re local independent theater doesn’t have it forthcoming add it to your DVD queue.
  • Hollywood Chicago mentions the film noir-ness of the movie and applauds the screenplay, director, and actors:
    [...] It is expertly played out in the screenplay by Cathy Rabin and Dan Verete while director Santosh Sivan creates the anxious mood of a noir thriller. These are top-notch performances. The Brits are cast so effectively and proper, in fact, as to have stepped right out of “Mary Poppins”. The Indian actors (especially the characters of T.K. and Sanjani) honor their ancestors with inherent portrayals by conjuring the empathy of being second-class citizens in their own land. [...]
    (At least I assume the Mary Poppins comment is meant to be a compliment!)
  • There is a fairly lengthy review at East Bay Express, which begins:
    The story is an ancient one: While a rich man's wife and child are away from home, the master falls in love with his beautiful young housemaid. When the lady of the house returns, tragedy befalls. That's the outline of filmmaker Santosh Sivan's lavishly produced costumed melodrama, Before the Rains, but director Sivan and the late screenwriter Cathy Rabin take care to stir in plot elements that raise the narrative from the domestic to the political to the universal, all while keeping its relatively tight focus on a British colonial family and its tea plantation in restive Southern India in the 1930s. [...]
    (Warning: the rest of the review contains a number of spoilers.)

  • Finally, Philadelphia Weekly has mixed feelings about the film, and Green Cine Daily didn't care for it. (Definitely in the minority.)

In addition to the reviews:

  • There is quite a lot of audio interviewage from the Tribeca Film Festival at Mosaec. However, a very significant member of the acting quartet is MIA. Still worth listening to, of course.
  • Rahul Bose discusses his role in Before the Rains, among other things, in an interesting interview at Rediff News.
  • And, Cinematical informs us that Rains took in $6,019 per screen at eight locations last weekend at the box office. (Note: not enough to beat Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead!)

Other tidbits:

  • We haven't forgotten about Pride and Glory. The Los Angeles Times discusses the importance of finding the perfect title for a movie.

    When they met last year with executives at New Line Cinema, marketing consultants Seth Lockhart and Jamil Barrie pitched their 10 favorite alternative titles for "Pride and Glory," a police drama starring Edward Norton and Colin Farrell. Then they passed around a report with dozens of others that didn't make their cut.

    "One of Our Own" caught the eye of Russell Schwartz, New Line's marketing chief at the time, who asked, "What's wrong with this one?"

    That's when Lockhart, who hated "One of Our Own" because it sounded to him like a tag line, gave a kick under the table to Barrie -- who thought it perfectly suited the tale of cops betrayed by a corrupt colleague. When even the partners who call their consulting firm TitleDoctors disagree, it's clear the business of naming movies can be tricky. [...]

  • Lookie - according to Playbill, a Utopian is going to be playing Mr. Darcy at the Geva Theatre Center.
  • For those of you who haven't heard, the Tony nominations were announced yesterday morning (see Playbill for a complete list of nominees), and Martha Plimpton has once again been nominated for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play. We’re free to cheer her on this year! Repeat nominations for other Utopians include David Pittu, Catherine Zuber, Scott Pask, Natasha Katz, and some dude named Tom Stoppard. Speaking of Sir Tom, we are still waiting for an official announcement that Jennifer Ehle has been cast in the Donmar’s Ivanov. We'll keep you posted!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

When it Rains, it pours!

So many exciting things to post about! First, it looks like Jennifer Ehle will be returning to Russia, figuratively speaking. She will be appearing alongside Kenneth Branagh in the Donmar West End production of Ivanov later this year! This is no ordinary Ivanov, but a new version of the Chekhov play written by none other than Tom Stoppard. Yes, this is the real thing: Jennifer Ehle in a Donmar production of a Stoppard play/adaptation! Mark your calendars for 12 September - 29 November 2008. Wunderbar, no?! Here is how the Donmar West End website describes the new Ivanov:

His marriage is in crisis, and his evenings are spent negotiating loans, avoiding love affairs and fighting to resist the small town jealousies and intrigues which threaten to engulf his life.

Kenneth Branagh plays the title role in Chekhov’s explosive portrait of a man plagued with self-doubt and despair which vividly captures the electrifying atmosphere of Russia on the brink of change.

There is a caveat, however. We can't find any "googlable" (Tez's word) confirmation that Jennifer Ehle has been cast in the play. But, the news came straight from the horse's mouth: listen to the Leonard Lopate interview at Ms Ehle appeared on Lopate's radio show on Thursday in order to discuss Before the Rains. The interview is about 17 minutes long and can be downloaded in MP3 format - a very interesting listen! Flickr has kindly posted this photo if you would like an image to go along with the audio. Note - if you haven’t already done so, you can listen to last year’s Leonard Lopate interview with Jennifer Ehle and her fellow Coast of Utopia castmates at

The other exciting news is that Before the Rains was released in New York and Los Angeles yesterday. The Rains naturally brought in a flood of reviews:
  • Newsday concludes: "The film is well-acted, a broad colonial allegory, and again, visually gorgeous."

  • The New York Times explains:
    Fatal culture clash, imperialist entitlement, forbidden passion between master and servant: the ingredients of the Indian director Santosh Sivan’s period piece “Before the Rains” may be awfully familiar, but the film lends them the force of tragedy. [...]
  • The Village Voice mentions the "wonderfully headstrong Jennifer Ehle" and claims:
    [...] Director Santosh Sivan imparts a vastness and a sense of wonder to the film, qualities reminiscent of a Thomas Cole painting: They remind you why the Brits thought conquering India was a good idea in the first place.
  • There is more praise at New York Magazine:
    [...] But the screenplay, by Cathy Rabin and Dan Verete, builds nicely, and the cinematographer turned director, Santosh Sivan, likes to break up the verdant images with bits of encroaching nature: a frog, some bees, the flies on a cow’s eye. Before the Rains is more engrossing as the focus shifts from Henry, who’s not a bad man, just a spineless one, to Sajani, who thinks her English lover will give her a freedom she has never had—and finally to T.K., who gets stuck cleaning up his sahib’s mess. Rahul Bose has a winning presence—eager with a touch of wariness or wary with a touch of eagerness, and never entirely at home. He keeps the movie from seeming too comfy—a good thing.
  • MaryAnn Johanson at Flick Filosopher is completely taken with the film:
    [...] We don’t know who seduced whom: we’re the ones who get seduced by Before the Rains from the get-go. Renowned Indian director and cinematographer Santosh Sivan (Bride & Prejudice), in his first English-language movie, introduces us to Henry and Sajani as lovers in a scene that may be one of the most erotic things I’ve ever seen on film. There’s absolutely no nudity, it’s not graphic in the least, but it is smokin’ hot. Ouch. [...] This is a movie made up of shivery delicious moments, beautiful little artistic ahas! that make you remember why you fell in love with movies in the first place. [...]
  • There are some interesting comments at TV Guide:
    [...] A resolutely old fashioned story of personal tribulations played out against a backdrop of political turmoil, Sivan's film is well acted, beautifully photographed and oddly reassuring. It comes perilously close to suggesting that the injustices of colonial rule were the product of morally weak and misguided individuals rather than a system that empowered and enriched foreign interests at the expense of locals. Though based on an original screenplay by Cathy Rabin, it feels like a handsomely mounted literary adaptation [...]
  • is chock full of positive quotage:
    Before the Rains fascinates, enveloping you in its gripping story and lush locations. One of the most ravishing and breathtakingly beautiful films to come around in a long time.
    On the acting:
    Law and Order star Linus Roache returns to his comfort zone in English art-house cinema in past movies like Priest, capturing just the right balance between an ambitious man looking for upward mobility professionally and satisfaction personally against a turbulent backdrop of emerging nationalism in India. Love scenes with the gorgeous Nandita Das are sensual and believable--the stuff of classically tragic movie romance. Das is a real find. Not only does the camera love her, she acts with great poignancy as a woman trapped in traditions her heart will not let her follow. The other big female role goes to Jennifer Ehle, a fine actress stuck with a rather thankless role as “the wife.” Along with Das, the other standout in the cast is Indian superstar Rahul Bose, who makes his “right hand man” conflicted and convincing as a man smack in the middle of two worlds with only one way out, caught up in events drifting out of his control.
    On the direction:
    Often foreign directors taking on their first English language projects flounder as something gets lost in the translation and they stray too far from roots they are comfortable with. For Indian director Santosh Sivan, the choice of this fascinating, if somewhat soapy story, is perfect. Based on an Israeli short film Red Roofs, the setting, characters and time period have been changed but its universal truths remain, with Sivan working in a new language while shooting in his native land. He successfully walks the fine line between a starkly realistic approach and melodrama, landing somewhere in the middle. Perhaps key to his triumph over the language barriers is the international feel of the whole enterprise and the choice of Indian actors who are able to make the leap themselves. But without question the key ingredient to Sivan’s vision is his own stunning, jaw-droppingly gorgeous cinematography. When director and cameraman are the same, the results, at least in this case, are really something to watch.
  • There are also a handful of not-so-good reviews, including those at The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and Time Out New York. Pfft. To each his own.

In other Rains news, the film was shown at the Asian American Film Festival yesterday, and it will continue to make its way around the world by appearing at the Edinburgh International Film Festival at the end of June. This photo is from the Q&A session at Tribeca, courtesy of Flickr.

P.S. Here is more evidence that Jack O'Brien is made of awesome, in case you needed any.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Pit Stop

Greetings all!

Firstly, can I just second the thanks for the Blog's birthday wishes, and thank you again to the phenomenal T!

Rains-wise today:

[...] “Before the Rains,” which will also be screened on June 12 at the Palace Theater, is set in 1937 in a picturesque hill station in the south of India. Director Santosh Sivan, who also did the sublime cinematography, creates an increasingly tense atmosphere as his leading character, an English plantation owner played by Linus Roache, begins an affair with an Indian house maid. [...]

The Forum's website adds that 'Paul Hardart, one of the film's producers and the president of Adirondack Pictures, will host this screening.'

  • There are more tidbits on the three Houston wins (Film, Cinematography and Music). See Galatta and IndiaFM.
  • One Rediff reporter was happy with the film, although 'tut tut' to the mistake:
[...] In the early hours of the New York morning, Sivan's film transported me back to pre-independence Kerala. Sivan's stunning camerawork and Rahul Bose's quiet and moving performance made up for the lapses in the film's script. ... Two days later, I was at the Soho the Meatpacking district of Manhattan for the press day of Before The Rains. Bose and Nandita Das were there along with the two British stars of the film -- Linus Roache and Jennifer Ehle. [...]

Another blogger is equally complimentary, calling the film 'visually breathtaking'. She adds:

[...] As the wife of the English planter, Jennifer Ehle gives an amazing performance. When she realizes what has happened between her husband and the servant girl, I thought her glare alone would kill her husband. [...]
  • The critics are ushering lots of love in the direction of Mr Bose (see India FM for a taster). Also, ION Cinema speak to the actor, while Movie Web have a video chat about the film and Mr Bose's other passion, professional rugby. Elsewhere, Linus Roache tells Daily News about working in India.

Rains info from the first of those is as follows:

[...] Before The Rains releases in America on May 9. It's going to play in New York and 10 other cities. Not in the NRI theatres, but it's definitely an art house release. So director Santosh Sivan and I hope to make an impact beyond the song-and-dance formula with this one," says Rahul from Los Angeles. [The film] goes to the UK in summer. [It] has just won three major awards at the Houston Film Festival. "It's a triumph for Santosh on so many levels. A film in English from India winning the awards for Best Film, Best Cinematography and Best Music… it's incredible!" says Rahul, who plays the male lead in Santosh's cross-cultural colonial love story.

Rahul is in LA for the screening of Before The Rains before he moves to Houston for a gala screening. "There'll be an auctioning of the film for me by the NGO Pratham. My sympathies with the people who'll have to lunch with me," jokes Rahul. About the film, Rahul says, "It's a film-noire about an illicit love relationship and how I get caught. It's definitely an art house product with an element of the whodunit." [...]

  • Rukus Avenue have a picture of the-man-behind-the-music, Mark Kilian, in action at the IFFLA. (Second photo down). They consider 'walking out of Santosh Sivan’s Before the Rains screening and finding the film’s composer...performing selections from the soundtrack' to have been one of the most memorable moments of the Rhythm Village Festival.

In other news:

  • Playbill note that Time magazine have listed Tom Stoppard as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. The page on Sir Tom was written by a certain Mr Hawke. Here is a snippet:
[...] I remember when I was younger being intimidated by the intellect, scope and verbiage of his plays; they were impressive but written for some elite group to which I had not been given membership. But I came to find that more often than not, the audience left the theater impressed with themselves. He'd challenged them, and they'd answered. [...]
[...] If you haven't read any of Ehle's novels about Western North Carolina, you are missing one of the greats. His novels clearly show he is a man who wrote ahead of his time. [...]
  • TimesOnline chat to Peter Hall as he uncovers another new star, and he re-tells the story of how he discovered someone else 17 years ago:
[...] “I always write on my audition notes something that will help me remember them afterwards,” he recalls. “This extraordinary girl came in and read, and was remarkable. And I wrote on my sheet of paper ‘voice like Rosemary Harris’. And, of course, it was her daughter, Jennifer Ehle, whom I didn’t know.” [...]
  • Lastly, one lovely blogger gives an insight into the many and varied ways the world enjoys Pride and Prejudice:
[...] I ironed a ridiculously wrinkled pair of pants while watching part of the BBC (Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle) version of Pride and Prejudice. [...]

Well, why not?! Being mentally in Meryton certainly makes household chores more bearable!

Saturday, May 03, 2008


Before the Rains' New York premiere at Tribeca has brought a ton of articles, interviews and other goodies, presented here in classic Jerryblog chaotic listage. Enjoy!

  • CW11 Morning News has video of a brief interview with Jennifer Ehle talking about Before the Rains, travelling to India with Rosemary Harris and the family, and (almost) spending the night with a certain Mr Clooney.
  • Santosh Sivan speaks to the Times of India about composer Mark Killian winning the music award at the Houston International Film Fest and also gives some good news about upcoming release internationally:
    "I’ve got 12 National Awards in all, so winning awards is not a big deal for me," admits the shy cinematographer-filmmaker. "This is a non-formula, non-Bollywood film and Hollywood’s Mark Kilian (Rendition, The Bird Can’t Fly) is the first non-Indian composer to be honoured internationally for an Indian film."

    He decided to use Kilian in Before The Rains because he didn’t want a ‘typical’ soundtrack with strings, harmonies and ragas denoting the green stretches of Munnar. “I wanted an element of the unexpected in the music. I think Kilian’s work gave my film an extra dimension. And I shot the greenery in a non-typical manner,” says Santosh. He has yet to release the film in India. “It’s not easy to do that with an English-language Indian film in mainstream theatres,” he complains. But Before The Rains is opening commercially in New York and then goes to the prestigious Edinburgh Film Festival in June, where it will open at the posh Metrodome. “It then goes for release to the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Russia. I suppose the film has now acquired a life of its own beyond the country of its origin,” laughs Santosh.
  • Metrodome lists the release date as Friday June 27th 2008.
  • The Before the Rains official site has been updated since I last saw it and includes a note from Deepak Chopra. You can also listen to the gorgeous soundtrack there.
    [...] In America, we've enjoyed a spate of films that read like nuanced short stories ("In the Bedroom", "Little Children", "The Savages"), and now it's a delight to find such layered sophistication coming from India. "Before the Rains" fully deserves to stand in that company. It unfolds along expected lines -- the classic Merchant Ivory costume movie from which we expect exotic scene-setting and just as exotic love affairs, only to wind up in much deeper waters. Touching and thought-provoking, "Before the Rains" doesn't set out to change our conception of how conscience came to grief as British imperial glory died, but it achieves even more. It makes us reflect on how we ourselves will feel when the dispossessed of the world rise to ask us for dignity, freedom, and love without past taints of condescension and guilt.
  • Terrible questions and entertaining answers in an audio interview with Jennifer Ehle, Rahul Bose and Linus Roache .
  • Reuters' Frank Scheck reviews Rains and gives a so-so verdict; "minor entry in the Merchant Ivory canon", he calls it.
  • Darrell Hartman of the NY Sun has quotage from Mssrs Sivan and Bose as well as Nandita Das. Here's Mr Bose:
    [...] "['Before the Rains'] is really the best example of a collaborative effort between East and West: the rigor and stringency of American writing, the almost anal attention to detail by the producers — India is a more savoir faire kind of a place. You have actors from both sides. You have a production designer who's won awards in India, and he'll be collaborating with a guy in Los Angeles who's been doing Indian music." [...]
  • Video interview with Mr Bose at IBN.
    Rahul Bose says, "What's the personal issue? A friend on one hand, and on the other hand loyalty to your village. Loyalty to Moore or customs of his village. So TK's character has at one point in time to choose between the two."
  • Rains is being claimed for Mother Britain at Cineuropa.
    In this beautifully shot film, an English spice baron, played with appropriate class privilege mixed with angst by Linus Roche, is the very model of an English ex-patriot, with a wife and young son in tow. [...] The impossibly handsome Indian actor Rahul Bose gives a startling performance as a man torn between modernism and tradition, a metaphor for his entire country.
  • Report about Mark Killian's live performance of the soundtrack, from Rhythm Village:
    Mark Killian’s performance followed later in the evening, after a screening of Santosh Sivan’s film Before the Rains, which features an original score by Mr. Kilian. He performed pieces from the soundtrack, accompanied by a bansuri flutist as people left the screening, which beautifully represented a defining feature of Rhythm Village -the ability to extend the film going experience beyond the theater.
  • Rains makes E. Nina Rothe's top five films of the week:
    Another film opening that same weekend will be Santosh Sivan’s “Before the Rains”. Once again, this is a visually stunning film, superbly acted by Indian multiplex hottie Rahul Bose as well as Linus Roache, Jennifer Ehle and Nandita Das. A character study into the depths of fear, loyalty and love, the ending will leave you breathless. It is a Merchant and Ivory production, which should give you some insight into the incredible quality of cinematography and acting at work here.
  • Filmiholic has a couple of shots from the Rains press conference at the Indian Consulate, including one with Ms Ehle. Wireimage has 14 more and Getty Images has a few from the film's Tribeca premiere. Further pics of Ms Das, Mr Bose and Mr Sivan at Rediff.

  • 3.5 stars from Notes from the Jaman Lounge:
    [...] Beautifully played by Bollywood mainstay Bose and by Roche, with an effective portrayal of East-West tensions, “Before the Rains” is a worthy addition to the Merchant-Ivory catalog, and an impressive cross-cultural achievement for director-cinematographer Sivan.
  • A full 5 stars on the other hand from Lisa Martini of Time Out NY.
    This love story is set against civil unrest in India in 1937. Henry, a charismatic Brit, and Sajani, his sultry love interest, try to forge a romance but are caught up in a constant downpour of loss and despair. T.K., the other primary character, is a youth trapped in a class struggle, who feels conflicting loyalties to both his Indian family and his British employer. You become quite fond of T.K. as he navigates his way between two vastly different worlds—his family's simple village and the British upper-class society. As the frenetic story moves to its conclusion, these worlds converge, with T.K. the better for it. It's a brisk film that keeps you engaged until the end.
  • Peter Martin on Twitch reviews the flick at the Indian Film Festival of LA:
    [...] The film presents historical scenes of peaceful civil disobedience, road building through the forest, and village life, but too often it feels like the pages of a pretty pictorial are being turned. Sivan, who also served as cinematographer, fills every frame with beautiful visuals; if only he was able to bring more life to the proceedings, the film as a whole might have been more galvanizing.
  • Video interviews with producer Doug Mankoff and Linus Roache at the AFI Dallas fest.
  • Iefilmi recaps some of the film's press notes and critical response to it.
  • Snip from New York Cool's Frank Avella, in an overview of Tribeca:
    The Spotlight section focuses on films that have already acquired U.S. distribution but have yet to be released including work by such esteemed directors as: Oscar nominee Julian Schnabel; Guy Maddin and Tom Kalin. This section includes the powerful feature, Before the Rains, which is most impressive for four potent performances by Linus Roach, Rahul Bose, Nandita Das and Jennifer Ehle.
  • Robert Levin at UWire:
    Indian director Satosh Sivan makes his English language debut with this picturesque melodrama that's filled with strong, stark emotions and symbolic, painterly visuals. Fast-paced and rife with characterizations, it stars Linus Roache as Henry Moores, a British man sponsoring the construction of a road in South India as the independence movement flairs around him. The narrative follows the local fallout from the discovery of the married Moores' affair with Sajani (Nandita Das), his housekeeper from the local village. There's not much in the way of cinematographic subtlety, but the movie looks great and maintains old-fashioned dramatic appeal.
  • 3/4 stars at Screen Comment blog:
    After one look at this visually stunning new picture by the team of Merchant Ivory you might think, well, this isn't fair, director Santosh Sivan has had the benefit of a terrific cast in the persons of Linus Roache, Jennifer Ehle and Rahul Bose. Place them in the lush surroundings of 1930s India and other filmmakers might be at a sharp disadvantage. But Sivan triumphs with this historical epic set against the mounting nationalist uprisings of 1930s India and earns his stripes among today's top filmmakers. (***/4)
Today marks the 3rd anniversary of this here blog! Have some cake for us. For a blast from the distant past, have a peek at Internet Archive to see what the Ghost of Blog Past looked like. However, this last year has belonged to Team Kate & Abi (currently caught up in academics) so will leave it to them to review their first year helming el blog. Guys, thanks for the hard work, the endless linkies, the wit...and the occasional sly leg-yank (Pine Terrace!). I could not be prouder or more grateful. Here's to the next three years!