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Posted by Player under Foreign

LagaanLagaan: The Musical Cricket Saga

Lagaan is the word given for the tax which villages in India had to pay the British colonial army, during its occupation. It is also the title of this foreign film. Let me just say, that if you have never seen or heard of India’s long standing tradition of film, you might want to make this movie your first introduction to the musical and colorful world of Indian films. Most younger Americans think of Disney when hearing the word Musical, but in fact America has a long tradition of musicals, and so if you don’t like musicals don’t watch Indian films, cause Lagaan and other Indian films are about music and dance, singing and celebrating.

The plot is pretty simple, the evil British captain dares a daring villager to play him in a game of cricket (the most boring sport of all time). If the “darkies” beat his British team, he will forgive them their lagaan for a full 3 years. Since it has not rained at all, the village is starving and cannot afford to pay the tax, so Buvan, the lead Indian villager accepts the challenge and then has to convince his village that they can win, then train them, then play the game. In between there is a love triangle between Buvan and Ghauri (the Indian hottie), and Elizabeth (the uptight but caring British hottie). They both want Buvan, but they will have to wait for the game of Cricket is all that matters now to Buvan.

The film has excellent color and very little noise in the video can be seen. The audio side is in digital surround, but this movie takes very little advantage of. The only audio track is in the native language with English or French subtitles. There is some English spoken in the movie by the British actors, so you can follow along sometimes without subtitles.

This is probably the longest movie I’ve ever watched recently. It seemed like it took 4 hours. Every time I thought it was done, they started to sing again and dance. The women have very high pitched voices, so definitely you have to get into the songs. The cricket game takes place in the second part of the movie and it is longer than most baseball games I’ve seen!

In the end I learned a lot about Indian film, native story telling, and of course why I hate cricket and most British people who play it. It is rather surprising that Ted Koppel, a native Englishman, hates baseball, but comes from a country that can play such a long and boring game as cricket.

3 out 5 stars


The Motorcycle Diaries

Posted by Player under Foreign

The Motorcycle DiariesOne of the more talked about films this year was The Motorcycle Diaries, partly because it is suppose to be based on the young Che Guevara, before he turned communist and revolutionary. Essentially any time you make a film about a controversial political figure like Che, you are bound to get some attention. But if you don’t care about the real man, or the politics that Che represented, than The Motorcycle Diaries is an interesting film.

Our story starts out with two idealists, a younger Ernesto (Che) and his friend who is almost 30, start out on an adventure to travel the whole of South America, and then to North America. They are doing this of course to have an adventure and to have something to tell their kids when they get fat and old. Alberto, is by far the more go-lucky one of the two, while Ernesto is the more honest and more shy of the two. They begin their journey on Alberto’s beat-up motorcycle and arrive at what are Ernesto’s relative’s plantation. This is their last stop of comfort, as the rest of their trip will find them along side the poor, the sick, and the homeless. Ernesto had finished pre-med schooling and is on track to become a doctor, while Alberto is a chemist and is looking for to start his career.

Along the way the two end up in some desperate situations, that make for some dramatic, but also comical moments. Between stealing a meal or two, and crashing their motorcycle, the trip proves to be a little more difficult than the two imagined. By the time they reach Peru, the film takes a bit more mature tone, as our two heroes find themselves in a leper colony, taking care of the sick. By this time Ernesto has seen the injustice of latin america, and when he talks about it politically the first and only time in the film, his audience is less than excited about it.

What follows are a bit more scene changes, and the film ends without one controversial scene. Essentially what we get out of the film is a glossing over of the change that occurs in the middle-class Ernesto. Some viewers will surely find the film rather disappointing in this respect.

Visually, many of the scenes in the film are very detailed, and you really do get a feel for the landscape and the people.

Overall The Motorcycle Diaries was interesting, but not spectacular

3 out 5 stars


The Legend of Bhagat Singh

Posted by Player under Foreign

The Legned of Bhagat SinghAfter watching Asoka a few years ago, I got interested in films from India. Most of these films are long, think more than 2 hours, and they feature a lot of singing and dancing. I would classify The Legend of Bhagat Singh, as a political historical piece much like Malcom X, but with musical dance numbers. Overall the film’s story is compelling and some may find it’s portrayal of Ghandi a bit disturbing or inaccurate, but it does manage to go over important events without killing the flow of the story.

There are many different films about Bhagat Singh, this is one of the more recent ones, and the most chronilogical. Bhagat was essentially a socialist who lived during India’s colonial period, and who ended up being imprisoned due to his socialist political actions.

As for this film some of the musical scenes were a bit weak and some of the dialogue got to be a bit redundant, especially when it started to sound overly nationalistic. The best scenes were the dramatic ones where Bhagat is in prison and when he saids goodbye to his family for the last time. The beginning childhood scenes were interesting, especially the massacre scene where the young Bhagat walks around and sees the massacre as it happened.

The DVD did not have much for extras, and there is only one default language track, which is not English, but the subtitles were easy to follow and with most Indian films, there is a lot of singing which you don’t need to follow all that closely.

In conclusion if you want to know more about the history of India’s movements, this is a good film. For an engaging dramatic film, I recommend Asoka and for action, Mission Kashmir.

3 out 5 stars


Nina’s Tragedies

Posted by Player under Foreign

Nina's TragediesIn Nina’s Tragedies, a young boy Nadav tells the story of his family and the unfortunate events surrounding his beautiful aunt Nina, which he happens to be in love with. The film revolves mostly around Nina and her pursuit of happiness that seems to not work out very well due to unlucky coincidence and bad choices. The irony of it all is that even though Nadav is in love with his aunt, he seems to be the most sensible.

The film has its moments, there is a certain kind of fragile tenderness to many of scenes, like when Nadav reconciles with his father or the many scenes in which Nina finds some semblance of happiness, only to have it go away all too quickly. Like it or not, these silly emotional moments in life happen, and this film tries to show them for what they are. Although most viewers will need to suffer through the subtitles, the film still manages to be quite enjoyable. I refrain from recommending it to everyone, since not everyone enjoys romantic drama or may think this film a bit too silly in some scenes.

3.5 out 5 stars