Sunday, November 21, 2010

The seventh part itch -- Harry Potter

Seldom have books been translated into good movies that live up to readers' expectations. More seldom have the movies been better than the books themselves (The Godfather. Leaving out those overlong stories of Johnny Fontane, Nino Valenti, Lucy Mancini and that Doctor Jules were the best decisions made by someone adapting the novel to the screen. What makes it more creditable is that Mario Puzo was part of the writing team. If you agree to chop out massive chunks of your own material, you're either an amazingly generous writer or someone undergoing a circumcision.). But when the book itself is not the best in a series, I suspect it must become easier to make a good movie out of it and satisfy people's expectations. So it was that David Yates had a headstart while making the Deathly Hallows.

The final book of the series ended everything neatly, all ends wrapped up and no loopholes-leaving-open-the-possibility-of-a-sequel of the Super Mario Bros or "Pirates of the Caribbean : At World's End" type. And David Yates does a pretty good job of bringing that to celluloid. I didn't understand, while reading the book, why so huge a part of it had to have our intrepid trio out in the wild. Rowling had such an awful lot to throw into this one book, yet she chose to put in this 'on the road' narrative. The search for Godric Gryffindor's sword and the identity of the mysterious R.A.B and the locket that he takes from that cave could have happened in some other, less wayward manner. But whatever.

The thing is, Yates has done a good job of making that less rambling. There's a road movie feel to that segment of the movie, which is almost three-fourths of it. And it feels a lot like Jim Jarmusch's "Down by law," with the crushing silences and long fadeouts and the eerie suddenness of events. Bits of it look like "The Book of Eli" (which looked nice and tasted awful).

What's with the shaky camerawork? Why is Harry Potter suddenly the place to experiment with your cinema verite / Cloverfield / random documentary type of cinematography? Who wants realism in this fantasy world? That was what annoyed me the most about this movie (little else actually annoyed me but this one stuck out). Eduardo Serra, the camera guy, apparently did this deliberately, as he and the director "wanted to experiment." Well, go do LSD or something, stop this nonsense with handheld cameras in important scenes. There's this one where minions of the Ministry of Magic and Harry-Hermione-Ron have a battle of spells. Couldn't see a damn thing, the camera was shaking all over the place. Yeah, having the cameraman running along with actors and stunt doubles 'to capture the realism and feel of the battle' was a great idea, idiot. I'll quote from Maddox here:
"Why does every battle scene in the universe have to have a shaky cam? Just whose view point are we seeing this from anyway? Wow, the cam is shaky, I feel like I'm right in the battle, looking through the eyes of some idiot who can't fight, yet he still can't focus on an object for more than a few seconds. Hey assholes, here's an idea: how about the perspective of someone who got stabbed in the face? The camera would just sit there staring up at the blue sky as an occasional limb would come flying across, or someone would trip over his body. That would be tits."

I kept thinking about this valid point as that scene unfolded and as the idiot behind the camera shook it violently.

That apart, HP7 -- Part I is a pleasant ride. The actors are up to scratch, not being required to do much. I mean, they do a competent job (more than competent, since they're all 20 or so and not annoying. Yet.). And, joy, John Williams doesn't do the music for this one too. Fine, he's given us some iconic themes over the years but he overwhelms movies with the same generic humongous goulash of violins. You can tell when it's a John Williams score. If it's a children's movie he's composing for, watch out for the cliched music. ET, Home Alone, Harry Potter, all have this similar-sounding buildup-crescendo-deflation scheme going on. Where's the man who scored for Schindler's List? Let him out for a change. Speaking of letting things out, I didn't pee once during this 2-hour long movie. Proud of myself.

That's about it, really. It's worth a watch. I've decided to decide that some movies aren't worth a watch without even watching them. You can tell from the trailers and promo pictures and actors that they're going to be deeper piles of shit than a stack of DMK ministers in a Chilean mine. Guzaarish, any movie with Lara Dutta in it, almost all movies of Ranbir Kapoor, a Hindi movie set in a foreign city, movies with more than four words in the title (Roop ki rani choron ka raja, Jal bin machli nritya bin bijli, Ram Gopal Varma ki Aag, Sanjay Leela Bhansali ke films etc). Speaking of Bhansali, I'm reminded of a comment my friend Rishi made. "You want to see what an Alzheimer's patient really is like? Watch Mohanlal in Thanmathra. Not Amitabh Bachchan in Black, I think he had pneumonia in that. Who shakes so violently?"


wanderlust said...

aaaha, eshtoLLe post bardidira.
the 7th book has made me detest everything even remotely harry potter and the movie is no exception. i don't think i'll bother watching.
but whatafiiiine post you've written. i chuckled most of the way through.

Arjun Sharma said...

Ashtondenu fine aagi internal sarcasm detector has gone off like crazy.

:) heh, yeah, don't bother paying high sums to the theatres. Download or something.

wanderlust said...

eno gothilla... it might not be that your post is godawesome. it's possibly because i haven't read anything funny, witty and all that that's not less than 140 characters long, in an effing long time. such life has been into which your post came like breath of fresh air, yada yada yada.
the girls at the bar start getting prettier at closing time. or whatever.

Arjun Sharma said...

What and all you are saying.

Have you listened to "Ethilum ingu" from "Bharathi" ? I hadn't till yesterday. Now I can't stop listening to it. Total pullarichchification.

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