06 February 2009

Films on my mind this week: Slumdog Millionaire, Milk, Come Back to Sudan

People talk about how colorful Slumdog Millionaire is, and I couldn't help thinking how realistic it seemed, having spent my own intense and surreal week in Calcutta. Watching Slumdog I had been gearing up to complain that the only thing you couldn't do was smell India when the latrine scene arrived. That's when I knew I was in good hands and relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the ride, as I had in Danny Boyle's magical Millions (it's starting to appear Boyle has a thing about big money -- he keeps naming his films after it). For the single achievement of including the omnipresent element of shit in his Indian tale, Boyle deserves the directing Oscar (I'll have to research whether that scene is in the book from which the film was adapted). But there were so many other good and bad things about India that the director grasped and packed into his picture that I feel he would deserve it on many counts.

I haven't seen all the top films -- I seldom have. I'm just not enough of a completist to make myself see everything every year. Revolutionary Road gets this year's I'd-Rather-Have-My-Fingernails-Dragged-Across-A-Chalkboard-Than-Watch-This-Film Award at My Own Private Oscars. I know it's not fair to say that without even seeing it, but the previews made it look like no more fun than the worst of the cautionary reels we used to sit through in junior-high health classes.

In Slumdog, Boyle took risks in all the things he tried to grasp about India with one big hand. Many more risks, in fact, than did Van Sant in his careful hagiography of Harvey Milk. As much as I loved watching Milk, gorgeous as it was, lit by Penn's boyish joie de vivre, seeing it felt in retrospect more static, like visiting a museum and admiring a diorama, than the celebration of the many layers of reality, the lush confusion of modern life that moved me in Slumdog.

Moving, with all its geographical and emotional meanings, is a theme in the film Come Back to Sudan. The men known as the "Lost Boys of Sudan" fled to the United States years ago and are now adults and US citizens(?). A childless Boulder woman "adopts" them and when peace comes to the Sudan they go to Africa, home. The film asks so many great questions: What does it mean to call a place home? What happens when you don't recognize the people or the landscape? What happens when you do? Bring a couple of hankies for this one. You'll be glad you did. (I'll be introducing this film and School of Thought, and conducting Q & A sessions following each film, at BIFF on Saturday Feb. 14 at the Boulder Public Library Main Branch theater at 4:15 -- come on by!)

No comments: