Crank’s News: When reviewers swap places

A critique of Karagattakaran and a templated-view of The Godfather

Film reviews in publications, these days, strictly fall into two categories: 1.Un-understandable. 2.Unreadable.

In the first, to comprehend the review of say, Goripalayam   —- as run-of-the-mill as a film as they come  — you need to be a post-doctoral expert in, say, Federico Fellini and T S Eliot. Because in a bid to decode Goripalayam, which is a nondescript nook in Madurai, reviewers are wont to imaginatively invoke Fellini’s Italy and Eliot’s The Waste Land.

To figure what the reviewer has dished out you must have seen the film at least once. After reading the review, you will, of course, lose whatever you had figured out of the movie in the first place. Actually, such writings are not reviews, but James Joycesque stream of consciousness offerings, generally known as ramblings.

The second type of review is basically a boilerplate, in that the reviewer does not write them. The reviews write themselves. You can understand these reviews even without having to read them.

But what happens when the two writers swap the type of films they so typically review.

Here is a high-falutin critique of Karagattakaran and an almost auto-generated apprisal of The Godfather

Karagattakaran: As one exits the movie hall, carelessly crunching underfoot the spilled popcorn that had long lost their spicy redolence, the mind itself is strangely savouring the saucy Satine, the heroine of Moulin Rouge!, who endured a peculiar predicament, but one not so different from that of Karagattakaran’s Kamakshi (played by Kanaka with dainty demureness).

If Satine had to contend with the evil lasciviousness of Duke of Monroth, here Kamakshi is up against the preposterously prurient Pannaiar, the archetypical rapscallion who needs to exist not just in film plots but in our every-day living too, because it’s in contradistinction to him that we understand the value of right and rectitude. It’s in his darkness, others stand highlighted.

But what sets apart the Russian high-cheeked Kamakshi (as it happens, wearing makeup whiter and thicker than the scrappy snow on the Caucasus) from her fictional cousin from the French Riviera is her fortissimotic fortitude. It is almost as if the Mediterranean Cabaret, of which the sonsie Satine is deemed an expert, made her soft and vulnerable, while the arcadian Karakattam seems to have instilled sinews of steel in the otherwise comely Kamakshi.

But Karagattakaran is no Moulin Rouge! because Muthian (a rustic Ramarajan as a pared-down performer of Karagattam) has no pretensions to be the chivalrous Christian, the writer of Bohemian culture in Montmartre district of Paris. Instead, Muthian comes across as a person in Madurai district who humbly accepts the lines of life written by a Bohemian fate.

The parts of Muthian and Kamakshi pining for each other are actually a throwback to Shanmugasundaram and Mohanamba (of the eponymous Thillana Mohanambal), but without the warm wistfulness of the latter.

But if that Shanmugasundaram got a musical ode through the royal riffs of Marainthirundhu…set to, ahem, ragam Shanmugapriya, here Muthian is paid an interesting tribute through the soothing and surprising notes of ragam Sindhubhairavi in Maanguyile, Poonguyile.

Yet, for me, the song Paattaalae Buddhi Sonnaar… is the one that came across as a blow to the solar plexus, as it is delightfully self-referencing and decidedly apt for the sturdy strains that Ilayaraja conjures up unfailingly for films of this nature.

After so many years of film-watching, I can vouch that the banana shtick of Thangavelu and Nadas (a cussing Goundamani and a coarse Senthil) is the last place that I would have hoped to encounter something resembling the Russell’s paradox. As they say, life’s paradoxes are more dumbfounding than anything discovered by any scientist.

Probably these priceless moments of pleasant surprise are small compensation for us reviewers, who can otherwise find the weekly quota of movies (to watch and write about) a burden seemingly without much purpose, not unlike the one any Karagattakaran balances on his head.

The Godfather: Any film with Marlorn Brando, Al Pacino and Robert Duvall in the leads, is bound to provide a high-octane, non-stop-action ride for the viewers. The Godfather, directed adroitly by Francis Ford Coppola, does not belie the expectations.

The story, which keeps moving around New York, Sicily, Nevada and Las Vegas, is about the rivalry between the family of Don Vito Corleone and the drug lords Virgil Sollozzo and Bruno Tattaglia.

The film begins with Vito Corleone, the quintessential Godfather, and ends with the rise and rise of Michael Corleone as the new Don.

It’s a convoluted but compelling tale of mafia, film business, family ties and betrayal.

The film’s strength lies in the smart casting with Marlorn Brando as the ageing Don, setting a high benchmark. Though he has very few dialogues, he manages to convey the soul of his character through his remarkable expressions. Rober Duvall, as his adopted son Tom Hagen, fits the role to a T.

But The Godfather would be inconceivable without the towering presence of Al Pacino, first as a dutiful son, and then as the new-found Don. Underplaying subtly, he conveys the many moods in a brilliant manner. His run-ins with his brother-in-law, and his mixed emotions for his dad, provide the film an electric pulse and sustains the tempo to a large manner.

Sterling Hayden as Captain McCluskey, a corrupt police official, is adequate while Diana Keaton and Simonetta Stefanelli bring up the glamour quotient.

Cinematography by Gordorn Willis is easy on the eye, and mention must be made of the gritty visuals he has come up with of New York.

The music, credited to Nino Rota, Carmine Coppola and Carlo Savina, is for most parts pleasant. But on occasions, especially when the ageing Don dies, it becomes loud and jarring. The editing is crisp and sharp.

Coppola deserves plaudits for the way he has shaped up the screenplay, keeping it racy and interesting. He has brought the best out of his star cast.

On the downside, the film lags a bit in the second half as the director seems to have run out of ideas after the original Don dies. Also, there is very little by way of comedy or lighter moments. The Censors must have gone to sleep when a few four-lettered words are tossed around.

Overall, adapting a book to celluloid is always difficult, but Coppola by sticking to Mario Puzo’s original for most part, has pulled off a smart job.

The producer Albert S Ruddy needs to be congratulated for backing such a risky venture.

Verdict: Commercial Cocktail

 (Disclaimer: For once, I will be serious: This piece is extreme spoof, not intended to hurt anyone. I understand the constraints of reviewers in our parts. It’s difficult to come up with reviews that are any different from the two styles mentioned here. But one thing I will say: Personally I prefer the former, even if slightly heavily-written, pieces, because most of those who pen such types are honest, and are actually brilliant).