Sanjay Leela Bhansali fan and Time film critic Richard Corliss just named Black to his top ten movies of 2005. Here’s the catch: like that famous Aishwarya Rai cover, the list is only for Time Asia. The same spot on the U.S. list is occupied by CachÃ©.
This is an unofficial remake of the 1962 U.S. film The Miracle Worker, about the deaf-blind child Helen Keller and her teacher Annie Sullivan… This is an unusual film for India: no songs, a running time under 2 hrs. and most of the dialogue in English… Amitabh… harnesses gravity and humor to his magisterial machismo in what may be his greatest role… In so many Indian films the deepest searches are for romantic ecstasy and for reconciliation with the father figure. By addressing both these needs, Black is more than a noble weepie; it is the ultimate Bollywood love story. [Link]
p>Heh, ‘unofficial remake’ Corliss may still be smarting over the collective global yawn over Devdas:
I wished Devdas had been in the competition for the Palme d’Or; it bested the Festival winner, Roman Polanski’s The Pianist, in verve, visual acuity and the hero’s sanctified suffering… it could also be the most visually intoxicating film ever[Devdas] could also be the most visually intoxicating film ever…
My devotion to Devdas was a minority opinion at Cannes. The pack of international critics is usually a tolerant one; I might say they share some of the Devdas hero’s self-flagellating tendencies, since each May they sit obediently through dozens of mopey minimalist movies. (This year’s prime example: The Brown Bunny, the notoriously painful American indie that only a handful of scribes walked out on.) Yet in 2002… exactly one critic — and by now you’ve figured out who — was there at the end… for TIME’s International editions, I went further, really too far, and named it the film of the year…
But you never heard of Devdas. That’s because no review appeared in the major New York or L.A. newspapers, or in most others, when the film opened last July. [Link]
p>The Brown Bunny: cinema veritÃ© meets cinema fellatio, a blowjob beats Bollywood. The NYT has since made up for its oversight by self-consciously reviewing every crap Hindi flick that shows up at the Loews in Times Square. As for Black, I found it novel and a leap forward for Bollywood, and Rani Mukherjee subsumed herself so completely she was unrecognizable. But the movie was also irritatingly hammy and overacted — blame Aby baby.
p>Corliss riffs on why Hong Kong cinema sells better in the U.S. than does Bollywood:
In American cult culture, could brown be the new yellow? Specifically, could Bollywood films win over the trend-setters in video stores and on the Internet who for years had championed Hong Kong films? The two national cinemas have so much in common. They developed in regions long administered by the British but with their unique national twists. They are extreme forms of popular movies; they stretch, to the limit and beyond, narrative strategies developed in Hollywood. Like Hollywood films, they rely on a star system. Again as in Hollywood, these are commercial products, financed not by the state but by investors who expect a return on investment. Often, in both cinemas, those capitalists are gangsters. And often, the movies they finance are terrific.
Now here’s why Bollywood will not be the new Hong Kong. Because the average Indian film is nearly twice as long as the average Hong Kong film. [Link]
Because Bollywood films imitate an unfashionable genre (the romantic melodrama) while Hong Kong movies imitate and apotheosize the American action film. Because Bollywood films are usually about reconciling family tensions — their deepest connections are domestically vertical rather than horizontal — whereas Hong Kong and contemporary Hollywood movies are about friends, enemies and lovers; the heroes in these might as well be orphans. Because Bollywood is essentially a feminine genre, while Hong Kong is macho; and guys rule! And because, in Bollywood movies, people sing and dance like they mean it; and nothing can turn off a young male like a sentiment put to music. To young American trend-setters, Bollywood brown is the new white … bread.
But… that’s a cramped, myopic view of a faaaaaaaabulous cinema — one that deserves an intelligent viewer’s loyalty, fealty. Fever. [Link]