Thursday, January 10, 2008

Who Put the Goat In There?

I can already tell that Netflix is going to change my life for the better. I am one of those people who hardly ever sees movies in the theater; I like documentaries, foreign and independent films, and I've got a long list of things I've seen reviewed which I'd like to watch.... but since Rhinebeck is really too far a drive now, and the Indianapolis arts theater is expensive, and I'm spacy and forget to check what they've got on... I miss stuff. One of the things I missed, way back in the day, was Earth, the second film in Deepa Mehta's Elements trilogy. I saw Fire when it first came out, when Upyernoz and I were still doing our near-weekly trips to the Music Box to catch whatever cool foreign flicks were on offer. I thought it was fantastic, hands down, and made up my mind to catch the other two films which were (we thought) to follow shortly. Earth did come out in 1998, the year I left Chicago, and no opportunity to see it arose, and it didn't show up at my local rental place, and I forgot about it. The third movie met with difficulties--the first two were not popular in the areas of India where Mehta was doing her filming, and as I understand it, a lot of her equipment was destroyed, workers threatened, etc. So the production ground to a halt, and the film was eventually finished in Sri Lanka and released in 2005. I caught Water at its Indianapolis premiere in 2006, and my review of it is here. But the whole point of this is--I did HAVE a point--that shortly after signing up for Netflix I realized I could finally see Earth and complete the trifecta. GOOOOOO ME!

Earth was very, very good. It's a story of what happened in Lahore in 1947, as the British were pulling up the stakes and saying "see you later, and oh by the way, this is now Pakistan and that's India, have a nice day!" The resultant rapid and gruesome explosion of Lahore's formerly closely knit community of Hindus, Sikhs, Moslems and Parsees forms the backbone of the film. I thought it was better than Water, personally; and like all of the trilogy, it was wrenchingly painful, beautiful, and funny all at the same time. It was not as visually lush as the other two films, I didn't feel overwhelmed by the visuals. Both Earth and Water are told through the eyes of children who don't really grasp the significance of what is going on around them, and I think this is why the latter two lack the intimate feel of Fire. But at any rate, I highly recommend all three films.

So I also like Indian cinema--and by Indian cinema here I don't mean Deepa Mehta. I am an unashamed fan of Bollywood musicals, and they are the sort of thing where you either think they are fantastic and amazingly hilarious, or you think they are bizarre and annoying. There is very little middle ground. So if you are in the second category, I strongly recommend that you NOT watch This You Tube Video. I found this link via Jane, literally minutes after finishing watching Earth, and I laughed so hard I cried. One thing to note, if you've never encountered this genre of films before, is that while Bollywood musicals are generally subtitled, and the dialogue is usually in Hindi, the musical numbers are almost NEVER subtitled, and the lyrics are frequently in another language like Urdu. So you--the average American viewer--will NEVER know what the FUCK they are singing about, and frankly this video pretty accurately simulates what my brain is filling in when I am watching one of these films. I love it.