Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog MillionaireSlumdog Millionaire

Danny Boyle :: UK, India :: 2008 :: 2h

Jamal (played by the British actor Dev Patel) grows up in the slums of Mumbai, scavenging the dumps till a wave of religious violence turns him into an orphan. Together with his ruthless brother Salim and the equally orphaned little Latika (the acting debut for the beautiful Feida Pinto), they are swept along by a Dickens whirlwind of poverty and crime. Jamal and Latika loose sight of one another with Jamal launching himself into everything he can think of to find her back.

Jamal’s character is the only one who is somewhat worked out, curiously enough, for a 2 hour movie. He dominates the story, driven by his determination to find Latika, but in the face of the ugly world, takes on a permanent detachment, a stoic unaffectedness by the events around him. His detachment helps him protect himself, and his sanity. Living on the fringe of the criminal world, he plays at times the petty criminal and at times the victim. As an audience, you want him to get out of this miserable circle he finds himself in, but Jamal is too busy just surviving too occupy himself with some kind of exit strategy.

The cruel world in which the characters find themselves is no surprise coming from director Danny Boyle. He has made a name for himself with violence in film, having started his big screen career with the morbid Shallow Grave and the exceptional cult classic Trainspotting. In both films, the violence serves the dark humour, with the latter film taking on memorably surrealist dimensions. Slumdog Millionaire could certainly have used more dark (or other) humour to ease the tension away from the violent reality in which the characters are placed, to lighten up the whole adventure.

None the less, Slumdog Millionaire is clearly intended as a feel-good movie, in the tradition of British romantic comedies: with love portrayed as a matter of destiny (rather than, for instance, as something that is developed) against all odds. These odds, are uncharacteristically the bath of violence  and cruelty which keeps the youngsters apart. There is no mistaking the ‘blockbuster’ signature with plenty of reminders (recap images) for an audience supposedly not paying attention. I half-heartedly recommend the movie for having been set in Mumbai and for putting Dickens into the 21st century, but equally regret that the movie could not provide a little more. Mumbai changes around the characters but unfortunately the formula films, like this one, change too little.


La Vallée des Fleurs

Valley of Flowers

Nalin Pan :: France, Germany, India :: 2004 :: 2h

A mystic love story which originates high in the Himalayas amongst the 19 century silk routes. When Jalan (played by the beautiful and enigmatic Mylène Jampanoï) lays her eyes on a bandit leader Ushna, who is working through a personal vendetta against the world, she falls crazy in love. Her determination to win over the renegade Ushna, who is still rough along the edges, pays off. Their love story takes on epic proportions as they are lunged through a Buddhist inspired reality.

If you are expecting a tale like the director’s previous film Samsara, then think again. Where the first movie traced buddhism in the real world, as you might expect from a cosmopolitan director sharing his life’s time between France and India, this second tale is completely anchored in mythology. It deviates from the rational norm to explore with a poetic license and beauty.

The Valley of Flowers in the movie is presented as the Nirvana they aspire to reach through their love, but their progress through space and time works out differently to their expectations. A rebellious recklessness and denial of the temporal mortal life leads them into a pain and suffering for their love. The movie becomes too cryptic for my Western eyes, unfortunately, but that did not dispel the pleasure of implication in their ordeal.

It is curious and uncustomary to watch a tale which seems fit for an epic poem. The temptation to interpret the film alternates with just enjoying the sheer stunning beauty of the film. There are ‘imperfections’ scattered around which could have been worked away with a little more editing, but never mind that. Do not hesitate to enroll in this escapade if you have a chance, it is worth it.

NB Book in advance – playing in too few cinema’s in Paris to match the public demand.