So this was a big knitting and veg-out weekend for me! This is what I watched:
The Emperor and the Assassin – I’ve seen Farewell My Concubine, but somehow I missed seeing this movie which takes place in the third century before China was unified during the warring states period. Lady Zhao (Gong Li) and the King of Qin plot an excuse to go to war against the kingdom of Han. Lady Zhao will convince the Prince of Han to send an assassin kill the King, thus giving the King a perfect excuse to invade Han. As you would expect, this is a gorgeous epic, and you see the effects of power change the relationships between characters, causing loyalties to shift.
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai – My little sister suggested that I see this. I think the only other Bollywood movie I’ve seen is Lagaan, Bride and Prejudice is probably more Bollywood-lite than anything else. The first part of the film introduces Rahul, a widower, and his daughter Anjali. Although his wife (Tina) died shortly after she gave birth she managed to write 8 letters to her baby before she died, and her daughter is able to read a new letter on each birthday. In the eighth and final letter Anjali learns that when her father was in college his best friend was a tomboyish girl named Anjali, who loved her father. Tina, Rahul and Anjali were all friends although Rahul was of course oblivious to Anjali’s feelings and feel in love with Tina.
The first part of the movie is an extended flashback to college in the 80s, it had a bit of a Grease feel, except with more neon and the occasional fanny pack. The second half of the movie deals with little Anjali’s determination to find the perfect wife for her father. It ends up being a little like the Parent Trap, except without twins. I don’t really have a feel for the whole Bollywood aesthetic, because I get the sense that Lagaan might have toned down some of the usual excess. I’m guessing that Kuch Kuch Hota Hai might be a little more typical, the acting style sometimes reminded me of silent movies because it is very broad and there is so much emphasis on expressing emotions wordlessly. I guess if you don’t have a tolerence for extreme cheesiness and musical numbers, this type of movie is not for you. I don’t really mind cheese or singing and dancing, so I did enjoy this movie. I’m starting to think that more western movies should have a massive choreographed song and dance routine where people get pelted with floweres whenever anyone gets engaged or married. It just seems like the thing to do!!!!!
After Life – This was my favorite movie out of the three that I watched this weekend. I’d seen Kore-Eda’s Marboroshi years ago, but I didn’t manage to catch After Life when it was showing in movie theaters. In after life a group of people arrive at an ordinary building. They are assigned counsellors, who tell them that they can pick only one memory to take into the afterlife. Their chosen memory will be recreated, and after they relive their memory, they will forget everything else and move on into the afterlife. Kore-Eda’s movies have a slow-paced meditative style. The camera will frequently linger on elements like a chair and desk, an ordinary flower pot, the moon, or a room right after a character has left it. The plot develops slowly as you listen to people talk about their past lives in an attempt to pick their one defining memory. How is personality constructed by one’s experiences, and how are memories shaped? Revelations gradually unfold as the counsellors also share details of their lives with the people they are interviewing.