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cinema

Rebecca (2020)

As the swivel chair spins #14

The second Mrs. De Winter sighs as Mr De Winter arranges granules of sand on her back and says something to the effect that if memories are life perfume, it could be saved within a bottle and the mere smell of it could be used to recapture the moment. 

Mr De Winter, played by Armie Hammer, however wishes to forget his past. If only the unnamed second Mrs De Winter had known before being whisked away to Manderley. 

Fortunately, I had no problems remembering or forgetting here, I had not read the Daphne Du Maurier novel nor seen the Oscar winning Selznick production, famously the only time a Hitchcock film won Best Picture at the Oscars. So let’s say I could watch the new film without the weight of the past, a state that Mr. De Winter would kill to be in. 

Heroes who could never move into the present because of their past weightage is a story that is of special personal interest, it is also at the core of another Hitchcock film, Vertigo’ but I was also thinking a lot about Uyarndha Manidhan, in which Sivaji Ganesan lives a suffocated life due to a burning incident in his past. 

Yes, the new Netflix production is designed to be dull and hence over the two hours I thought about other story strains that could have been inspired by Rebecca. It’s not spooky nor it is creepy, but what it is, abrupt, but mostly it is a shame, because I love creepy mansions and the ghosts that inhabit them. 

Which brought me to Manichitrathazhu, yes, the similarities were striking, both have mansions that hide more than they show, whole wings that are out of bounds, repressed feelings, alienation and bookish heroines recreating a classical painting (literally) . Hmm that’s more similarities that I thought.

Rebecca of course doesn’t have a Sunny Joseph or  Brad Lee’s disciple Saravanan to guide us through it. Although the Netflix film does have Kristin Scott Thomas in the supposedly scene stealing role of Mrs. Danvers. 

The parallels between the two movies are an interesting rabbit hole to pursue, considering the claims that Manichitrathazhu’s origins lie firmly in the royal family histories of Travancore and not a 1930s novel by Du Maurier. It’s even more interesting when I realize that today is Durgashtami, coincidental? Is this a sign from above?

Durgashtami or not, any day is a good day to watch Manichitrathazhu. 

Rebecca is now streaming on Netflix

Manichitrathazhu is now streamin on Amazon Prime Video

The fact that Sivaji was denied Best Actor at the National Awards for Uyarndha Manithan is a reminder that best work is often unrecognized. So yeah that’s there.

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cinema:tamil Parking Lot Notes

Parking Lot Notes: Psycho (2020)

Mysskin’s Thupparivaalan sowed in me the fears that the director is not really interested in genre but more interested in using the genre to speak about larger themes, something I should have feared even earlier, when he released his reimagining of a ghost story in”Pisasu”. Sometimes I am late to these insightful fears and that hurts when I am sitting inside a theatre watching the movie unfold. 

Psycho is a continuation, it is really a different take on the serial killer or slasher sub genre, to the extent that it is devoid of any suspense and does not evoke any fear ( apart from my fear of this not being a true genre film). It does not even pierce into the psyche of the psycho and it is nowhere close to being a serious police investigation film. 

It paints a generic picture,oversells humanity. So now you see how far Mysskin has come away from the genre.There are still instruments from his flourish box- the calmness in the dark, the rustling of the trees (oh I wish there were more of this) but very little more. 

To understand my pain,then let’s start at the beginning. There is a serial killer on the loose in Coimbatore, he stalks, kidnaps and before our characters could enter, has killed 13 women.Our characters are introduced via a radio show discussing the recent spate of murders-one is Dahini played by Aditi Rao Hydari who somehow has the knack of finding herself in angelic roles in boring films, the other is of course Gautham played by Udhayanidhi Stalin who is introduced as her blind stalker but goes on to become the detective who solves this case. After a point, the movie becomes less and less about solving the murder and more about hero finding the heroine. 

In his efforts to paint a hyper unreal love story- Mysskin just drops the aforementioned 13 murders of women-just like that- it leaves a bad taste when the serial killer is almost portrayed as a saint by the end of the film. (breathe in deeply, hold, breathe out) 

I always return to my musings on genre, because that is what constitutes overwhelmingly to how I receive a film (also the mood) and I am amazed how uniquely Mysskin manages to make my favourite type of films dull and completely devoid of excitement. 

He did it to the detective thriller before with Thupparivalan, but Mysskin was not like this, he used to understand how important a thread is, a line of thought is, what is it to uncover a clue and how one thing leads to another- for that I should have just stayed home and watched Yuddham Sei. 

That film too had an underlying social message, but the movie by itself worked because of the right push given to these genre elements including one of Tamil cinema’s best portrayal of the obsessive detective (by Cheran). 

But am I really doing a disservice to Psycho by comparing it with other films and pushing it down by my own expectations of genre elements? Maybe I do not have the maturity to accept “subversion” in genre. 

Maybe I have begun to realize that I watch movies from the experience of watching other movies.

(Pause for reflection). 

True. There could be many reasons why the movie did not work for me at all, maybe that’s why I waited with ‘this’ languishing in the drafts for 15 days before putting out a Parking Lot Note (usually these are quick, I mean relatively). 

Honestly, I felt nothing really happens on the screen and with great difficulty I tried to keep my attention on the screen- even the later attempts at a horror thriller did not evoke my required response and I was asking myself again and again, why is it important for this director to sell this concept of “humanity” again at the cost of the story itself? So boring. 

That’s when I try to disassociate myself from the character and look for breaks in the story thread or logical holes. I couldn’t help myself but. 

But what really worked me up was that this thrill-less movie begins with the lines that they say that it is a tribute to Alfred Hitchcock, it was like dedicating a movie without dialogues to Visu.  

Fin.