Sunday, January 14, 2007


A brilliantly scripted, politically conscious film. The ardh satya of compromising one's ethics (and, in the process, siding with those very elements that the man had sought to destroy) and being able to do some good is to the fore in a striking, blatant manner - and how often it is that the need to compromise (and the wish) grows as one's power grows, as one's sphere of influence grows, as one becomes increasingly a public figure. The life of mask begins! You exhort fans and innocent supporters to shout "Fist, Fist, Fist," and yet the guilt, the void, the blackness of your best friend dead, to which you remained a mute spectator, is all the time inside you. You always wished the good of workers, and yet you know that if the same people for whom you are here come to know about some of the methods and practices you resorted to for doing their good, would boo you, would disown you, would hurl stones you, and verily you would become an untouchable.

Sylvester Stallone handles the role with aplomb, complete with his immigrant accent, decisive movements of the body, and tough still honest looking face. He amazes you even more with the later part of the film - when he is shown to have grown middle-aged. It is then that the film really acquires a relevance unthought of at first, when the viewer is just getting along with young Stallone's struggle to build up a union. But now, when the union is in good shape, the hunger for more power surfaces in Stallone - and that's when the film really gets interesting. He finally gets the girl whom he always loved, but on the same day his friend leaves him for his uncompromisable ethics - and, probably from that day on, the last really good influence in an active form also went away from Stallone's life. Now, he was an easy prey to his own ambition, greed for power, and tactics of his new-found associates. Ironically, while Stallone always used them as pawns to build his and the union's power, it emerges at the end that it is he actually who always was the pawn - primarily because he cannot ever be like them, try as much he may - he will always have that bit of the young man who never cared for his life fighting for a nonexistent union.

The film is scripted really well, and the screenplay (Stallone again) and direction are at a real good and suitable tempo. The strike scenes in the initial part of the film, the work conditions, the odd-man outism of Stallone everywhere (and yet his mastery in rousing the rabble) - all take the film to a logical whole. Sexual harassment - such a small scene, when the overseer insuinates that Stallone's girlfriend is short of day's requirements; the never-say-die spirit of the real politician - Stallone, even when leaving the courtroom at the climax of the film in a huff and with grief gnawing within him over the news of his only friend and mate's death (and the revelations that his friend had made from his past life to the prosecutor), rousing the rabble with cries of "Fist, Fist, Fist"; the senator - Rod Steiger as the wily, shrewd, masked democrat; the leaden sky color of most part of the film (especially, the initial part). An excellent story and film, and a must for a Sylvester Stallone fan.

Ffolkes / One Two Three - The Taking of Pelham / Juggernaut

You will usually see only the fringe players in such films - character actors, actors who promise to become stars one day and never become, and some who just keep getting in and out of the film world itself. And yet, they somehow grip you. The dialogues are few, the music is impeccably paced, there's always a material image which looms larger than any of the characters (an oil rig, a train, a ship), there are always some, very brief snippets of the inactive characters in the film (I mean the passengers of the ship, of the train, the crew of the rig), and underlying everything is the tension, the all-pervading, sweaty tension. Someone is silently making ransom calls, someone is receiving them frantically, silently the calls are tapped and silently the heat and tension grows. The simplest solution - give the ransom. And yet, there's that thing of giving in to terror - and so, against time, plots are planned with mathematical precision, crazy experts are called for (whom nobody, even those who are seeking their help, likes), and the film is mounted onto a slow boil.
The amazing thing is that there's not any usual suspense in the film. Nobody wants to know who the person demanding ransom is and why is he or she doing it, nobody wants to know who will die and who will not, and yet there's a grip - although we all know that the ship or train with hundreds of people or the oil rig with crores of rupees will be saved at the end and we even know the general outline of the film in advance, somehow we remain in thrall of how exactly does this go now. The crispness and the dry satire of the dialogues in such film helps, and if the location is Britain, then be assured to get some vintage Britishness.
And, such films never do really well at the box office. People like dashers who can jump from speeding yachts and trains with nonchalance and lay stylish women at the same time in bed, and not the actual, efficient, superskilled and genius experts.