Saturday, September 20, 2003

Cléo From 5 To 7
Directed by Agnès Varda

The cinema, like most industries, is predominately a boy’s club. When you talk about French New Wave, you think of Godard, Truffaut, Chabrol or Resnais. Photojournalist by training, Agnès Varda’s debut feature, Cléo From 5 To 7, would be mentioned but hardly taken as a milestone by critics. It is considered, at most a “female perspective” of the New Wave.

In a sense, that perception is not false but to say that Cléo is “feminist” or offers simply a female perspective is to somehow discredit it. Part of the allure of many early French New Wave films are that they are works of process, whereby directors are still finding their style. In making movies, they choose often contemporary issues, and engaged with experimental camerawork and editing – the result of a resistance to "Cinéma du Papa".

The film starts with colour but would turn to black and white after we first see our female protagonist. Florence or Cleo (Corinne Marchand), who was having her tarot cards read. The psychic wasn’t able to read her future right away and had her do it a second time. Cleo insisted on having her palms being read but again, the fortune teller refused to divulge. Later, after Cleo has left, she opens a secret compartment door and reveals to (probably her husband) that her client was having cancer.

This first sequence revealed Varda’s foray into experimentation. The extra-diegetic use of Colour Vs Black and White is integrated that creates awareness unto itself. While colour film is seen as closer to reality for modern viewers, film theory claims that it is distracting to those who grew up with black and white. Varda, by using bright hue for the tarot cards (and hence implied reality for modern viewers but distraction for older audiences) but black and white for the faces (and hence constructed reality for older viewers but distraction for younger audiences) creates a paradox almost immediately questioning the validity of defined film theories. Note also, we first see the appearance of the women which focuses on their hands, are hardly opening sequences for traditional female appearances. The other paradox is that Cleo and the psychic are entirely at odds with each other. Cleo is young, beautiful, rich, successful and famous but confused and worrisome. The psychic, on the other hand, is older, wiser, and able to tell the future.

Varda separates the story into chapters titled by a character’s name and time; a similar tactic which Godard would employ in Viva Sa Vie. Critics miss the point when they point out that it is ludicrous to have a title from 5 to 630. The device not just questions the relationship between real and reel time but also reflect audience expectations and anxiety because in this case, time is a barometer for us to gauge when it would end. “Time” is a ticking clock not just for Cleo or the audience; but also its presence as Varda would later make more references to how time relates to other things in life (E.g. how Cleo bought a winter hat even though its summer; and how she was advised not to buy or carry any acquired things on a Tuesday).

Certain parts of Cleo is characterized by clumsy editing that is supposed to happen in one shot. E.g. Cleo and a stranger she talked to in a park, Antoine (Antoine Bourseiller) were supposedly running to take a bus. It is apparent that the shot is badly edited but the fact that it is so subtly done could merely be Varda’s experimentation.

Other notable editing techniques and camera work includes the sequence in which Cleo descends the stairs only to have her face appear consecutively three times. The faces that gazes at her while she walks down the streets are similarly disconcerting. The jump cuts where Cleo thinks about people she knew also disrupts the sequence.

When Cleo was rehearsing her songs with her composer, the camera shifts to and fro like a pendulum (recalling the swing she was sitting on earlier in the house). There is also the subtle use of film running speed when Cleo was on a convertible with her model friend Dorothée (Dorothée Blank) who poses nude for sculptors. After her friend gets the film stock, their car seems to move faster than when earlier. The movie also plays with the concept of showing “a film within a film”. The silent short which features Anna Karina, is funny in a Chaplinesque way and it serves two functions. It mirrors the typical happy endings of traditional Hollywood; and also indirectly the ending of Cleo, with the appearance of a male savior.

Much has been written about Cleo’s transition during the film. Critics point the use of mirrors in a hat shop to imply her various emotional facades. The removal of her wig is taken to mean her step to embracing a new life. Yet, it is apparent these so called changes are merely progression as earlier spelt out when she had her fortune told.

Michel Legrand’s score equally draws attention to itself. The strings that suddenly appears while Cleo was doing a rehearsal; though she was only accompanied by a piano; also shows her in a reflected mirror image – the inner turmoil. The music descends into melodrama mush when Cleo’s rich lover (José Luis de Villalonga) appears as if they were acting out a typical screenplay. When he leaves, Cleo, it was almost as if the lady herself becomes a different person altogether, questioning his love. As she leaves the house and pass by a kid who was tinkling with a children piano, the music continues and escalates into a full score. Legrand also writes avant garde and comic music for the film in various instances, thereby endowing the film with a more textured accompaniment based on actual visuals.

The presence of Antoine and his appearance as ‘saviour’ to damsel in distress could be construed as reinforcing traditional endings. On the other hand, their encounter are more platonic or spiritual in nature. Antoine is not sexually aggressive in wooing Cleo. Instead, he compares her to the Goddess of Summer and Spring. It also has an ambiguous ending which ends somehow leaving the audience high and dry.

Hence, as explained, to imply that Cléo From 5 To 7 offers a “female perspective” to the New Wave is to not properly credit Varda’s contribution to cinema. Cleo transcends the female perspective, like her male counterparts, in experimenting with film as a medium.

The Magdalene Sisters
Directed by Peter Mullan

Supposedly based on factual accounts of surviving members who were in the Magadalene Sisters Order, the movie drew controversies. Some reviews point out the nuns who took care of the girls were one-dimensional because they were portrayed as agents of evil and abuse while others were more concerned with the horror of the atrocities that occurred and compared it to the Taliban.

Ironically, amidst the brew storm of contradictory reviews, it was an article by Steven D. Greydanus, (Decent Films - Faith on Films) who is partial towards the Christian faith that has something more worthwhile to say about the film. Steven’s argument is that as much as these accounts are real, the fallacy of The Magdalene Sisters lies with Peter Mullan’s stereotypical, across the board portrayal of the nuns and monks as unmerciful and unkind.

If we were to review The Magadalene Sisters cinematically, it would be considered a medium work of art. Mullan adopts plenty of facial shots which allows us to study and empathise with the characters. Other than that, it basically sticks much to conventional film-making.

The movie follows three women in particular who are brought to the Order at the same time. They are Margaret (Ann-Marie Duff) who was raped by her cousin and hence becomes a shame to the family; Bernadette (Nora-Jane Noone) lived in an orphanage and her teenage banterings with the neighborhood boys are viewed as undesirable; Rose (Dorothy Duffy) who gives birth to a baby out of wedlock, is forced to give her baby up for adoption. She was sent to the sanctuary only because of meeting the wrong guy.

This Order resembles more a female prison where the women were detained with no sight of leaving. They have to get up early in the morning, follow strict orders, unable to talk to each other during work; and if they so far as disobey or raise any questions, be given bodily abused. Those who escaped would have their hair shaved. Other sinister acts committed includes verbal denigration and sexual abuse by the male pastor.

Above all misdeeds, the Sisters try to concoct desirable appearances to the outside world by filming the girls engaging in healthy games and activities. The parade is also viewed acceptable by the public.

The women are rather stunted though in certain situations, they appear rather out of character. Margaret is the kind girl who has a common shred of decency in her to accuse Rose of stealing Crispina’s Saint Christopher. It is however baffling that she did not escape despite a chance given to her at the toolshed. When she refuses to give way to the head nun after her brother comes for her, she was beaten down when the latter says she could have her institutionalised immediately again. We witness not only the power of the Church but also the horror of living in the institution.

Coming back to the point of The Magadalene Sisters, as much as we agree with Steven that these are stereotypes, we also have to acknowledge that Mullan was merely recreating and exposing the hypocrisy of the establishment.

If anything that we should take away from this movie; it is a cautionary tale that all-powerful systems such as The Magadalene should be prevented from. To give them unlimited powers without any curtail or check is to allow them to play God.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Directed by Werner Herzog

Critics doesn’t rank Woyzeck high in Herzog’s body of works but it tells well the story about human’s psychological condition.

Klaus Kinski is Johann Franz Woyzeck who has an unchristian child with Marie (Eva Mattes). Woyzeck who always runs about, appears as an obeying soldier to his captain and doctor. When he found out Marie has an affair with the Drum Major (Josef Bierbichler); his anger drives him to the adulteress.

Kinski appears psychotic in Woyzeck, even earlier in the film. He seems to be a person who doesn’t have a soul; but simply a body who obeys order. His captain (Wolfgang Reichmann) says he is a good person but has no morals. The statement which sounds contradictory, makes sense only because morality is a standard of human judgment.

If Woyzeck appears so unfeeling that it borders on psychopathy, he is the perfect soldier the army dreams of. Almost everyone in the movie appears to have some kind of characteristic flaws. The captain makes illogical remarks such as giving his reason for joining the army to reaffirm his love for life and laughs at his own rhetoric “grotesque… grotesque”.

The doctor (Willy Semmelrogge) treats Kinski like an animal. He reprimands him in front of a group of doctors while he was doing an experiment on cats. The doctor apparently lives only to conduct experiments. He threw a scare on the captain prophesizing that the officer would get a stroke and vegetate but remain an interesting experiment for him.

Andres (Paul Burian) who is Woyzeck’s mate couldn’t seem to care much. He believes Woyzeck when the man says he hears noises while they were in the forest; and hides in the bush. He went back to sleep and disregards Woyzeck’s sounds in his head that was keeping the man up. He couldn’t understand why Woyzeck was upset about Marie when they were talking about whether Marie was innocent or not of an affair.

The only sane people we see are the Drum major and Marie who indulges in their affair with passionate lust. The drum major seems to have a liking for Marie as he makes snide remarks to Woyzeck while they were in the bar. Marie, who relished the Drum Major’s attention, was also torn with guilt for her affair. She tells the story of a lonely kid who finds nothing worthwhile in life, despite having traveled to the moon, sun and stars (poetical allegories of dream lands); to a bunch of children when they pestered her. She reads the Bible and comes across a section on adultery; then wishes God would not look at her and free her of sin. She looks into a mirror; admires her lips and fantasize a life as a respectable lady.

Woyzeck is filmed basically using a static camera and the effect uncannily feels like watching a play. I suspect Woyzeck hints at the idiocrity of German militarism.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Stardust Memories (1980)
Directed by Woody Allen

Stardust Memories – a Felliniesque 8 ½ attempt of blurring the relationship between the auteur director icon, his private love life and beliefs; and the loyal fans, critics and wannabe screen actors and writers?

The film opens with a similar note to 8 1/2. Silent stills of people on a train. Woody Allen appears looking around in fear. He tries to escape from the train but the doors and windows are locked. Then, the train movies and he looks out of the window before the screen fades into a white background. Compare that to 8 1/2 in which Marcello Mastroianni as Guido Anselmi encounters a similar dream like experience of being caught in a traffic jam; finally getting out of the car he was trapped in; only to be flying but tied down like a kite.

The dischord is similar. Woody Allen as Sandy Bates; like Guido is a revered director who faces the problem for his next feature. For Sandy, it was a breakthrough he desires. He wants to make a serious movie (and not comedies anymore) but it was met with vehement objection from the studios executives (which changes so fast that Sandy could not recognize any of them when they talked about their next film). In Guido’s case, the maestro simply has no idea what he is going to do despite having to support his crew which are all now waiting for him to give the go-ahead.

Both movies use similar allegories and progression techniques. The films likens movie making to magic performance and instilling in the movie-making process a carnival like atmosphere. Flashbacks and non-linear dream like sequences are used. When Sandy Bates sees a woman and her kid as he walks out of his car to his film retrospective, the kid suddenly jets off like a superman. Guido fantasizes his women living harmoniously under one roof while he leads a life of a king.

Both movies portrays the auteur trapped by audience expectations and a blinded worship resulting in pressure to conform. Sandy, in public is hounded by critics who praise his movies, screenwriters to pitch ideas, actors who wants to appear in his movies, a woman who barged into his room and demanded sex (and who got approval from her boyfriend as well). Woody Allen satirizes the industry during his film retrospective as he cracks jokes. One of them had him compared to a dancer on stage. Snippets of his movies are played to audience who laughed at the gags.

Repressed male sexuality is subverted and distilled into weird accounts. As mentioned above, Guido tries to house his women in his fantasies though in real life, he tries to repair his relationship with estranged wife Luisa Anselmi (Anouk Aimee) while he juggles his extra- marital affairs, one of them being a vixen looking already married Carla (Sandra Milo). Sandy Bates, on the other hand, is easily attracted to different women. He is attracted to a professor’s wife, Daisy (Jessica Harper) while trying to convince the married, Isobel (Marie-Christine Barrault), who's just left her husband for him to stay with him. The only problem that’s bugging him is that she has kids who makes a din when they go to restaurants. Dorrie (Charlotte Rampling), his ex who still haunts him in his dreams, appears as an ambiguous figure to massage his sexual ego.

In Stardust Memories, Wood often adopts the camera as the eyes seen through Sandy Bates. As much as it is disconcerting to audience, it magnifies the ludicrous situation that Sandy has to endure by putting the audience in Sandy’s shoes, effectively creating on screen the subversive idea of the voyeur who watches himself (because the audience sees the audience in this case as camera is surrounded by adoring audiences).

In talking about Woody’s films, jokes are equally important. Most of the one-liners or gags are silly but works e.g. Woody visits her sister and meets her female friend who was raped. She however seems to relishes the experience. His brother-in-law is on the stationary bike all day and rings the bell once in a while to simulate riding. In one of the movie snippets, Woody is a scientist who tries to merge the characteristics of two women he fancies and ends up liking the wrong body!

Stardust Memories does not rank high by critics within his canon of works and the satire does not necessarily hit on the audience at all times.

The use of canned laughter while he answers his audience during his retrospective is uncanny because it exposes the artificiality of the movie as a made-up medium. Hence, pretty much sums up Stardust Memories as an effort to balance between conventional and non-linear filmic styles; comedy and satire above film issues.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Westway To The World
Director: Don Letts

A Documentary about The Clash featuring interviews with the band members – Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon, it serves as a good intro to those who are interested in the band itself.

The interviews intercut between different members as they relate a certain point of time while The Clash existed - such as their first self-titled album recording experience; and how they, especially Mike Jones, felt the follow-up was a less desirable experience.

The good thing about the documentary is that it runs on an almost chronological sequence, which allows even the most innocent spectator or fan follow their progress. The misgiving lies with individual interviews on each topic; which seems sometimes a little short. It hardly draws upon interviews with others except in brief cameo appearances including photographer, Pennie Smith (who captured the photo that went on to become the cover of London Calling) or journalist, Tony Parsons, full of praise.

Rockumentaries, due to their niche markets, run the risk of alienation because general audience can only take in so much “nice words” that a band can talk about itself. The brief concert video footages that is spliced in between the interviews are of uneven quality; but does show The Clash in live and full force.

I suspect hardcore fans would know pretty much about what the interviews offer. This DVD is more apt for interested parties, who wants to know why The Clash were a force to be reckoned with; and how they progressed from punk to reggae, dub and soul; and finally entering American charts before its demise when Mick Jones was asked to leave.

Get On the Bus
Directed by Spike Lee

Get On The Bus is a movie of ideas and an effort to represent the different segments of thoughts on black issues in America. George (Charles S. Dutton) is the bus leader and guide of Spotted Owl, that will drive a group of black men, with different backgrounds to The Million Man March in 1995, a black power rally lead by controversial Muslim leader, Farrakhan. Along the trip, the passengers will deal with their individual fears and problems; not restricted solely divided along racial lines. That colour blindness despite its “black” issues front, is the greatest contribution of Get On The Bus, towards understanding the complexities of the community in multiracial America.

The community’s divisiveness is echoed by different characters on the bus. George is the married black man with a family who is streetwise and rational. Along the trip, he motivates (gets the passengers to move the bus out of the ditch after a minor accident); resolves conflicts [act as mediator between Randall (Harry Lennix) and Jewish replacement driver, Rick (Richard Belzer) when they got into an argument] getting them to the March on time.

Unfortunately meeting of minds also means clashes. Gary (Roger Guenveur Smith) is a mixed – half white half black cop who is sensitive about being recognised as black. His initial encounter with rabble rouser, arrogant, loud mouth, Flip (Andre Braugher) is met with condescension because the latter don’t think he is “black” enough. Gary was defended by the oldest and probably wisest man on the bus, Jeremiah (Ossie Davis) who brings to the bus, not just a pacifying role; but also holds the roots to what it means to be black. Not only has he folk stories to tell using drums to relate them, his personal encounters of trying to lead a “white man approved” life is met with cruel irony.

The relationship problems between gay couple, Kyle (Isaiah Washington) and Randall reveals not just problems faced by black, but probably, any other gays who are insecure about their identities. When Kyle could no longer stomach Flip’s homophobic remarks, they got into a fight that ended insignificantly. Xavier (Hill Harper), is a film student who shoves a camera in everyone’s faces for his thesis while Jamal (Gabriel Casseus) is a reformed gang- banger; who is converted to Muslim because of love; and is now helping street kids get out of the lives he used to lead. Evan (Thomas Jefferson Byrd) and his son, Junior (De'aundre Bonds), are chained together because of court custody. Junior, who insists on being called “Smooth” is reluctant to go to the March because he wants to be with his “homies” (I assume he means friends). It appears that the father-son has problems with each other (though we are unsure); and only revealed later when Junior escaped and was reprehended again. As much as their tiffs highlights the generation gap; Spike also shows how some young are apolitical towards the cause (when asked by Malcolm during a video shoot if he cares about blacks, he could not offer a viable explanation; he was also unable to say why he steals)

Get On The Bus is a movie about black people for black people because it individualizes characters, hence creates variety and prevents stereotypical reading. Stereotypes reinforce the mythical value about a community; which is commonly used by colonisers to prevent the community to empower themselves.

Yet, the movie is not just about issues (black or universal); and Spike Lee is not just contented to be a director who makes films about black people. The film also contains scenes of emotional tension, whether be it the confession of Rick (who feels uncomfortable about driving them to the March; and whom because he is Jew, doesn’t see the reason why he should be persecuted) or the scenes where Evan confesses to his son about his problems. Jeremiah’s stories are equally heartfelt alongside to George’s call for plea for the brothers to do something after they go home. Not forgetting the prayers delivered in front of the statue of George Washington.
Despite it being a movie about blacks, it does not completely glorify them either. A cameo by black Lexus dealer, as Wendell (Wendell Pierce) is a caricature of the noveua rich. His obnoxiousness, masks reverse racism and world weary cynicism and his accusations levied against Farrakhan questions the man’s leadership intents despite his widespread popularity.

Get On The Bus is the kind of movie which does not “ghettosize”. It reveals Spike’s directorial ability to integrate political views with the problems of ordinary folks.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Directed by Alain Resnais

Mon Oncle D’ Amerique is translated as “Uncle in America” but the film is hardly about anyone’s uncles who went to America. The uncles are hardly mentioned and when they are, exists merely as myths.

This parallels various implied and stated myths in Mon Oncle, which includes the explicitly expressed myth of human behaviour, as well as the implicit myth of film-making.

Synopsis-wise, it hovers around the fragmented relationships of three characters.

René Ragueneau (Gérard Depardieu) is ironically a prodigal son who escapes his father’s small farm because he perceives it as being back-dated. He becomes a technical manager in a clothes factory for 20 years and resisted work changes after the company finds himself redundant.

Jean Le Gall (Roger Pierre), who is born with a silver spoon, leads a high class life; only to commit an extra-marital affair with actress, Janine Garnier (Nicole Garcia). Janine is your ideal wannabe who escapes home; only to star in a one hit wonder for a small scale theatre.

Resnais camera walks a thin line in between Truffaut and Godard in comparison with both French New Wave iconic directors. As much as the film progresses conventionally, relating the stories of our three protagonist, from youth to adulthood, and how they tried to solve their problems; Resnais keeps intercutting them with narration provided by brain scientist, Dr. Laborit to explain the characters behaviour; comparing and explaining them with footage and experiments he conducted with his lab rats. Sometimes, he goes even as far as replaying a particular scene (such as the one where Jean Le Gall leaves his wife); but this time round, satirize by giving Le Gall a mouse head. René fights his new colleague (who was to take over his position) on the office desk (similarly adorning the same head). All to great comic effect. Hilarious scenes where René tries to answer his call ahead of this new colleague is repeated and explained over and over again. These experimental editing styles approximates the counter cinema tactics of Godard while still retaining the romanticism of Truffaut as our story is still the central core of Mon Oncle D’ Amerique. Hence, in effect, the film challenges audience expectations; how film-making can be both traditional and avant-garde; and how, as much as film is about myth-making; it can be seen as scientific as well.

The scientific basis can be explained with Mon Oncle D’ Amerique first series of stills, visuals and explanations by Dr. Laborit. His narration is a general introduction in which “the reason for being” is briefly explained as self-explanatory. The starting recalls the lengthy intro of Kubrick’s 2001: Space Odyssey where a similar blank and black background covers. Resnais, unlike Kubrick, however, explains immediately with a narration and a red heart (countering the methodical and calculated nature of the progression of the film and its characters). Mon Oncle, runs like a fictional comedy with the story plot; but resembles a documentary with the narration, hence blurring and questioning within filmic studies - of what constitutes a fiction; and what, a documentary.

Despite the conflicting nature of the film (and reducing the characters to mere explanations for Dr Laborit’s experiments – as much as it is the other way around), Resnais characters are people with emotions (which the narration lacks comments). René Ragueneau, who decides to leaves his wife and children, to work in a smaller town, only knows of his wife’s pregnancy moments before being whisked off in his car. It’s a short, almost stunted scene, but sensitive spectators would pick up the distraught in René. The same man would broke into an outburst in the restaurant; upon learning the company would send someone to help in his factory (after his mismanagement). His anger progresses to hurt and dilemma when he goes back to his apartment and prays to God for forgiveness (for a final irredeemable act). These emotional scenes are hardly emphasized or explained.

It is the same with Jean Le Gall. His childhood is one in which he reads what his parents and grandfather wants him to. He however, relished the adventure stories of America , and would often hide away, to do so. Janine Garnier’s kind-heartedness is best expressed when he knows of Jean’s wife terminal illness. She reluctantly drives him away; only to find out later, that she was telling a lie. Her love for Jean almost drives her nuts; as she weeps in despair; when Jean cries for her to run multiple errands when he suffers a kidney attack. When Janine and Jean met again in the latter’s island; and took a leisurely stroll; it harks back to the older days when they were in love and together.

As much as it appears that Mon Oncle tries to explain human behaviour through brain functions; how people develop fight/ flight syndromes; how they react to situations with no perceived solutions; it also suggests, on a sublime level, of the near impossibility of that diagnosis using simply scientific methods.

The myth of the uncle in America, is a metaphor for Americanization. It poses questions on whether America exists and is able to export “cultural product” of its own (since it is a country of immigrants who wants to strike it “rich”). Jean mentions in his conversation with Janine, that he believes that the island contains treasures from his “uncle in America”; and hence his reason for digging the grounds. René also argues about having a similar uncle who is rich in America with his wife.

Besides, in concurrent with the myth of the brain, the metaphor of the “uncle in America” is also a statement about the French film making industry. Various French New Wave directors are highly influenced by “auteurs” in Hollywood (America) who managed to made stylized films despite the studio system. It is this implying that Hollywood as “uncles” serving as inspirations (of which partly created the French New Wave) that Resnais was trying to tell us – that as much as filmic circles agree upon that as a truth; this is equally, a myth (in terms of how much of that influence is in French New Wave).

By the 80s, some of the French New Wave directors, were famous and have surpassed Hollywood in film-making.

Directed by David McNally

Lest I be accused of not reviewing Hollywood funfare, Kangaroo Jack is your typical dumpdown that I tried avoiding after having seen such movies for years in my childhood, teens and young adult life.

Louis Booker (Anthony Anderson) saves Charlie Carbone’s (Jerry O'Connell) life once from drowning when they were kids; and since then, the latter has felt a responsibility to agree to do what Louis asks for.

Unfortunately, Louis is your typical loser; who is so happy go lucky, he thinks his lucky jacket brings him good luck; though the reverse is true. After a failed delivery for the local mafiaso, headed by Sal Maggio (Christopher Walken), also Charlie’s stepfather, they were given one last chance to “save their asses” by delivering a package to a guy called Mr Smith in outback Australia. Simple as it may sounds, these guys (or Louis) did it again by misplacing the package on a kangaroo which they knocked over while on the road.

Enough said about special effects in which Hollywood loves plenty of. The kangaroo, which took off with the package looked so real that when it started to look like a cartoon character, I begin to wonder what is real and what is not. I mean are kangaroos really that flexible with their arms (the scene where it drinks water from a pond). Not forgetting Charlie’s dream scenes where the kangaroos starts to talk and act like real humans. Funny ?

Don’t get me wrong. I love animals. But to cartoonize them into caricatures like that? That’s a bit too far for me.

Directed by Tom Shadyac

The idea of playing God is tempting and Bruce Almighty makes a politically correct statement to explain why it is so– stating the obvious – that we do not possess his vision, magnanimity and kindness; at the same time – explaining why sometimes he doesn’t seem to answer our prayers – and the reason given was simply because we need to create these miracles ourselves.

Morgan Freeman as God is aimed at poking fun (black man as god?) as much as it spoofs serious news reporting (which is probably Carey’s way of implying serious film makers are hardly worth the effort). Towards the end of the show, he attains enlightenment, that he is best suited to be a comedy news presenter; rather than trying to become a news anchorage.

The synopsis is hardly worth mentioning. Jim Carrey is Bruce Nolan who hates his current job as a news presenter, covering what he perceives as minuscule events in Buffalo town. He wants to be taken seriously. In his preoccupation, he neglects his long time girlfriend, Grace Connelly (Jennifer Aniston).

After losing his job; using expletives at the Niagara Falls, while on a job, he curses and swears at God, bemoaning the quintessential question, “Why me!”. God as Morgan Freeman appeared and gave him similar God like powers though it comes with 2 conditions. Firstly, he cannot tell others he is God (because it could result in disastrous results). Secondly, he cannot play with people’s free will.

After blessed with God’s power, Bruce took matters into his own hands and settled some scores with his previous company. He made his hated colleague look stupid by making him speak babble tongue and raised his stakes as a presenter by being suddenly appearing and covering important ground breaking events. Then, as a matter of goodwill, he agreed to all requests (in the form of emails) to all prayers. And yes, it is a disaster!

Jim Carrey returns to form in his previous roles such as Ace Ventura or Liar Liar with his plastic face and zany behaviour; which some audience might find funny. Or otherwise tasteless. Jennifer Aniston has hardly any acting role in it and is given the role of the “sacrificing women behind every successful man”. It is not too difficult to predict the ending either, given a Hollywood treatment. Happy ending. Feel good ending. Bruce Nolan realises and understands his role in society after a dismal shake-up and returns to what he did best. It’s a classic case of new age therapy must see for people who have questions about life. Bruce Almighty is about maintaining the status quo. No need for any unnecessary shake-up...

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