I’m running behind on my Roundtable contribution, but in the meantime, here’s what’s been happening lately on Teleport City…
|CHINESE GHOST STORY
Chinese Ghost Story is one of the first Hong Kong films I watched, and certainly one that got me interested in the incredibly vibrant and imaginative cinema of that small island nation. I knew, at the time, basically nothing about Hong Kong or the Hong Kong film industry, but a tape containing Project A, Once Upon a Time in China, the final shoot-out from A Better Tomorrow 2, and Chinese Ghost Story launched me into a crash course on both the films and the history of what is now the former British colony of Hong Kong. Throughout the earl 1990s, I devoured Hong Kong cinema with a voracious appetite, often to the exclusion of just about any other type of cinema.
|GANGS OF WASSEYPUR
When writers tag Gangs of Wasseypur as the next big Bollywood cross-over hit, they seem to be missing the point. First, Gangs of Wasseypurwasn’t a hit in India. It made a profit purely because the budget was tiny (US$3 million; in contrast, the budget for slick, shiny Bollywood action blockbuster Dhoom 3 was US$25 million, at least $10 million of which went to buying derbies for Aamir Khan’s Sahir), but it wasn’t loved by audiences, who — perhaps by design — found it too dark, too depressing, too violent, and too willing to show filth and misery instead of dazzling them with aspirational scenes of cleanliness and wealth. But more than that, Gangs of Wasseypur isn’t a potential Bollywood cross-over hit because it isn’t a Bollywood film. If anything, it is the antithesis of a Bollywood movie.
It’s been said that in an effort to appeal to as massive a population as possible, the average Hindi film tries to cram every film genre into a single movie. Asambhav is the rare entry that maintains a relatively narrow thematic focus — this is an action film, stripped of the romantic comedy and estranged mother that appear in almost every other film, be they action or horror or whatever — but it makes up for its lack of schizophrenic genre-hopping by trying to cram every single editing and camera trick from the last fifteen years into one film, and often into one scene, and occasionally into a single shot.
|OH WHAT A LOVELY WAR
Attenborough’s film differed from Littlewood’s play in a number of notable ways — so much so that the playwright considered the film a complete ruin of her work. Firstly, it used historically accurate costumes and military uniforms. Secondly, where the play had been an absurdist comedy played out on top of harrowing statistics and battlefield photographs, the movie realistically depicted things like trench warfare and poison gas. And there is death, lots and lots of death. In the play, no one died. Littlefield wanted people to laugh at the pointlessness of war, wanted to highlight that head-shaking absurdity rather than explicitly depicting it. She was horrified when she saw that the cinematic adaptation of her play was positively caked in the filth and blood of the First World War.