Friday, October 28, 2005

Dial M For A Perfect Murder Mystery

Hitchcock's best??

A disclaimer (and confession) before I start: Until recently, I haven't watched that many Hitchcock movies! Actually, I'm not sure, I may have watched some when I was really young, too young to realize that I was watching the master of suspense at work (Very cliched, I know!)

Anyhoo, in the past couple of years I've been here in the US, I have made up for that, a little bit at least. Let's see: I have watched The Birds, North by Northwest, Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Rear Window and of course, recently, Dial M for Murder (I told you I hadn't seen that many! That's just 6 out of 67) And for some reason, I haven't felt the inclnation to catch Psycho, especially since the shower-scene-bit has been taken down and beaten to death.

Out of these, one movie I never 'got' was Vertigo, which paradoxically seems to be the favorite Hitchcock for a lot of people. Among his movies, this one usually ends up being ranked quite high in a lot of "Top 100 movies of all time"-themed lists. That never ceases to baffle me: maybe I watched this one 20 years too late, but it never held much suspense for me and the plot seemed a trifle too far-fetched. Good movie, but not great!

Similarly Birds wasn't that awesome either. I imagine it would have been great to watch in a theater but I had it on surround-sound when I watched it at home and wasn't too thrilled or scared. Once again, not bad, just not great!

The remaining movies in the list were all outstanding, right up-until the climactic sequences! The dragged out ending in North by Northwest on the top of Mt. Rushmore almost destroyed all the suspense generated in the earlier scenes, while Doris Day singing 'Que Sera, Sera' in Too much was absolute Bollywood! In fact, other than Dial M, Rear Window is the only one that sustains its momentum right till the end and even there, the fact that the bad guy pretty much gives himself up is a bit of a downer; but that's just a minor complaint!

It is hard not too be dazzled by the sheer brilliance of DIal M. Much credit here must go the playwright for coming up with a plot of pure genious; having a man try to murder his wife whose boyfriend is a mystery writer! Astounding! The best scene in the movie is the one where the husband reveals to the 'killer' how the murder is to take place. Much like us, the would-be-murderer himself is astounded by the level to which the plan has been thought through as he listens to the husband character confidently describe what he expects to precisely happen, timestamped even! The plan DOES seem perfect and when the mystery writer later mentions that there is no such thing as "a perfect murder" you are bound to disagree with him!

Of course, things do go wrong, spectacularly so, making the fast thinking of the husband character even more ingenious. The movie is brilliantly paced by Hitchcock which adds to the tension in crucial scenes, especially right before and after the murder. The good thing about his movies is that the characters never behave as though they are in a thriller-movie, unlike in movies these days. His actors and actresses have a sense of vulnerablity about them: their reaction to being put in a situation of peril is usually an overhwhelming sense of disbelief, as if to ask, who would do such a thing to them?

Perhaps, it's a reflection of the growing cynicism of the times that in current cinema when a character is told that the villain is a near or dear one, their initial response is to cuss them soundly and then grab a gun to exact sweet revenge. In Dial M, when the killer is revealed, they all share a drink with him!


Blogger Minkey Chief said...

I remember watching Psycho and being quite disappointed... I wondered how it would have been if I hadn't known the plot. It was supposed to have been absolutely terrifying at the time, but I think it's a bit dated now - whether you know the plot or not. I still rate The Ring as the scariest movie I've ever seen. What's your all-time scary movie?

10:27 AM  
Blogger Santosh Sankar said...

Showgirls :)

But seriously, I can't think of any recent movie that has truly scared me because I haven't watched too many of them in a theater. Going back in time, I'd have to say I found 'The Omen' to be the scariest (that kid freaked me out)! And just last week, I saw "Saw" and that's pretty friggin' gruesome!

I do have a favorite scary book, though! Stephen King's "Pet Sematary"!!

10:56 AM  

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Friday, October 14, 2005

Everything is Illuminated

Not a very premium movie!

Elijah Wood in his 'Frodo' face and Eugene Lutz

Everything is Illuminated is the directorial debut of actor Liev Schreiber whom you may remember as the minor weirdo Cotton Weary in the Scream movies and more recently, as the eponymous character in The Manchurian Candidate. He also wrote the screenplay for this movie which is based on a book of the same name, a book many felt would prove extremely difficult to translate into a movie.

That feeling turned out to be correct, partly at least. Everything has all the ingredients of a good film but ends up being unfocused and unfulfilling. It tells the story of a journey made by Jonathan Safran Foer, a young Jewish American (with huge glasses), to Ukraine to discover the whereabouts of a woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis during WWII. All he has to help him is an age-old photograph of his grandfather with the woman and the name of a Ukrainian village.

Foer is played by Elijah ‘Frodo’ Wood in a performance of stupefying rigidity! His youthful face, marred by the aforementioned glasses, almost registers no expression throughout the movie and gives away no motives as to his actions. His character is also an obsessive collector who picks up various oddities in clean plastic bags and pins them up in a wall in his room. No light is thrown on why he does that and in fact, this behavior evoked laughter most of the time, while it was certainly meant to be poignant.

Frodo, and pretty much everyone and everything in the movie, is upstaged by the wonderfully weird English spoken by Eugene Hutz as Alex (A conversation between Alex and Yoda would certainly have linguists across the world running to the hills!) Alex, who admits his English “is not very premium”, serves as Foer’s Ukrainian translator and tour guide, as they are driven across the countryside by Alex’s supposedly blind grandfather who is thankfully assisted by his “Officious Seeing Eye Bitch”!

The first three quarters or so of the movie is dominated by this clash of cultures as the Foer character tries to come to grips with his fear of dogs, his vegetarianism in a meat-loving country (“He doesn’t eat meat? What is wrong with him?” one character asks in disbelief), the grandfather’s hilariously vicious anti-Semtism and most importantly, Alex’s vocabulary! Which is kinda sad because when the story finally moves along in the last act it leads to some pretty startling revelations and powerful moments.

The prevalent feeling as I walked out of the theater was one of frustration as I realized how much more could have been done with this movie if the director had trusted his story enough to let it take center-stage, instead of the comedic elements, which though brilliant for a while, grow tiresome and repetitive. Almost every joke is recycled once or twice and there are also inexplicable displays of emotion by the characters which are never fully explained. Maybe it turned out this way because it was a first-timer’s effort. Or maybe it really was a difficult book!


Blogger sumant said...

saw flight plan today da.I loved the movie!Did you watch it?,btw why are all reviewers degrading it,Even though there were loopholes,it was a good plot.

10:29 AM  
Blogger Santosh Sankar said...

I haven't seen it but my friend said that the plot was too far-fetched and required a lot of things to go just right for it too work. Plus the fact that no one had seen the little girl.

11:01 AM  

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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Pics from Pitt

Here are some snaps from my trip to Pittsburg where I was visiting a friend in Carnegie Mellon University. Unfortunately, cold weather and general laziness meant that I didn't get around as much as I'd have liked but overall, I did visit some pretty scenic places (as can be seen).

A view from Mt. Washington

Later, that evening...

Later, that night...

The Cathedral Of Learning: A spectacular building belonging to
U of Pitt. Classes are actually held in here!!!

And finally, yours truly and aforementioned chum, on top of guessed it, Mt. W!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

kalaku da..looks like u have put on some weight.Ghajini I had seen first day night show da,decently made normal masala movie,not at all a ripoff from memento except for the short term memory loss part.

7:21 AM  
Blogger Santosh Sankar said...

they are showing ghajini in Indy on Friday but I won't be able to make it :(

Must search for 'thiruttu' download...

And weight? 20 pounds since I set foot in India in December :)

8:57 AM  
Blogger Anantha said...

Very nice pics. And with zero shake under very little light. Moi impressivo !

5:03 PM  
Blogger Santosh Sankar said...

I cheated! I used a tripod :)
Still don't know how you do it! I found it impossible!

5:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

20 ...what did u eat..??let me know the secret,I have lost 12 pounds since december

8:29 PM  
Blogger Santosh Sankar said...

I just eat a lot :)

10:41 PM  

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Road Trip

Hey y'all! Was off on a road trip last week to Pittsburg, PA, for Fall break (Yes, we have a break for every season!) That's the reason why I haven't posted in a while! Anyway, expect things to happen in this space shortly, including snaps from the trip and a short review of the flick, "Everything is Illuminated".


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Sunday, October 02, 2005

For the love of the game

And the game in question is poker or at least the online version of it!!! And that’s one of the reasons I haven’t posted anything is a while! That and the fact that I haven’t been seeing too many movies lately, in theaters or at home! Work has occupied the time I usually assign to them!

And probably, the only movie I’ll see in the theater in the next few months is GOB. Nothing else looks that interesting, at least to go all the way to a theater to see. A few nice, slow movies to see in DVD when they come out, maybe! Man, things HAVE been slow…

Anyway, back to poker for me…


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