Review: Confessions (告白)

What I thought was going to be a whole plot, turned out to only be the set up for Tetsuya Nakashima’s Confessions (告白). The way the trailer seemed to me, and my quick skim over the Wikipedia page, I was expected the mystery of student A and student B to be revealed slowly over the 106 minutes running time, and the revenge was the milk spiked HIV-infect blood. That turned out to be barely the first 20 minutes.

What follows are the confessions of the four people caught up in the revenge story of Yuko Moriguchi: herself, Mizuki – one of her sympathetic pupils, the mother of student B, and student A. As Yuko’s long-winded revenge plan unfolds, you get to see everyone’s motives, or why things happened like they did. Nakashima quite successfully plays with his audience, making your sympathies change with different characters as more and more is revealed. It is quite possible his intentions are for different people to feel for different characters at each point.

The boy who plays student A, Yukito Nishii is very impressive, almost worringly, and the mother of student B, Yoshino Kimura, is also very good. She’s probably the most emotionally stable characters so when she reacts to stuff, its much more emotional and real. Takako Matsu, who plays Yuki, is good in that when she says something died inside her when her daughter died, you can believe it, but there isn’t much shown of her before the incident to be able to compare it to. Her character being wooden is believable, but given the language barrier, its difficult to say whether it was just bad acting.

As revenge films go, Confessions is very subtle. There is a lot going on, a lot of drama, so at times you can forget the revenge is still unfolding, but the final sting hits quite hard, particularly if you’re sympathies now lie with a certain character, and it’ll stay with you for quite some time. 

Bollywood Review: 7 Khoon Maaf

When you know pretty much the whole plot of a movie before it even starts, there’s always a chance it could become a little tedious as it plays out, even more so when the film is made up off 6 similar, chapters. The only real twist in this film comes in the seventh segment, by which point I’m sure a lot of people would no longer care. But not me, I cared.

Like in Priyanka Chopra’s own ‘What’s Your Raashee?’ with its 12 parts, the segments start feeling a little repetitive. The difference is Ashutosh Gowariker didn’t do anything about it, letting it all play out in its own sweet time, whereas Vishal Bhardwaj tries. By husband number 5, the wedding and funeral happen all in one shot. Though odd, it saves time, avoids boring less patient audiences, and is also a good example of how 7 Khoon Maaf really is a dark twisted comedy.

Priyanka Chopra is of course excellent. It’s a brave move for a Bollywood actress to do a movie where majority of the time she looks old. Talking of which, the ageing make-up wasn’t exactly consistent. Her skin tone varies throughout the film, and wrinkles and blemishes appear and disappear. Thankfully, her performance is good enough to look past it.

Apart from PC, the film completely belongs to Vivaan Shah. The film is narrated by Shah’s character, Arun, but even if you weren’t constantly reminded of his presence by the voice over, he would still be the man in Susanna’s life you remember the most. He does extremely well, considering it’s his first film, and he has to match Priyanka’s screen presence.

The husbands come and go as you expect them to, and each of them is good in their parts, and each storyline keeps you at least somewhat intrigued. Neil Nitin Mukesh, Irrfan Khan, Naseeruddin Shah were all good. John Abraham was alright, as he always is. The role didn’t really require much of him in terms of his acting abilities. Annu Kapoor and Aleksandr Dyachenko were the two that stood out, story wise, and performance-wise. Dyachenko who plays the Russian husband, Nicolai Vronsky, is very good compared to other foreign actors that we get in Bollywood movies. It wasn’t cringeworthy when he tries to speak Hindi. In fact it is almost believable that Susannah falls for him.

The problem with 7KM is that even with seven husbands, the story still lacks something. Had there been one husband with whom she had a proper love story, a husband that she truly loved, who then wronged her in whatever way, it all may have pieced together a little better. It should have been her first husband, but there’s a slight feeling that John Abraham’s character was meant to be that, which could have worked, but there is very little focus on them as a couple, and more on Jimmy the rockstar. The way the story is, it is more that she was just unlucky with men, and she also happened to have a murderous streak.

7 Khoon Maaf is a good film, and it has the Vishal Bhardwaj touch to it, but it’s not amazing like a VB film should be, and it doesn’t quite match his last, Kaminey. Priyanka Chopra’s performance saves the film, and if your sense of humour leans towards the dark side, the comedy could also work for you. 

Review: Hereafter

Oh, Clint, how you disappoint me. I’d read a lot of bad reviews for Hereafter, yet I still went to see it with a little bit of hope that people were being a little too cynical. But they were right. Not only is it disappointing coming from Clint Eastwood (and executively produced by Steven Spielberg), it is also pretty bad. 

The film starts with French reporter Marie (Cécile de France) in Thailand, when the tsunami happens, and she has a near death experience. As an opening to a film, it’s not bad. The acting isn’t great, and I wasn’t too convinced by the French dialogue, and the effects of the tsunami weren’t very good, and given what people are used to in this day and age, its not really acceptable. But I was willing to forgive all that, if the remainder could make up for it. The problem is, it doesn’t think it needs to. We then have an awful cut to ‘Port of San Francisco’ (I’ll come back to the editing later) where we are introduced to real deal psychic George, played by Matt Damon. For a pyschic who is adamant on not doing any more readings, he gives in quite easily three times.

Matt Damon is good as George, but I think its more a case of a good actor doing the best he can with bad writing and directing. He’s the one good thing about Hereafter. 

The last story is about a boy, Marcus, in London whose twin brother gets hit by a car and dies, and then his already druggie mother gets worse, goes into rehab, so he has to go into foster care. This part of the film is quite sad, but the kid’s acting is terrible, so you don’t really feel sorry for him. And I tried really hard to. I guess they didn’t have many choices in terms of twin actors. Maybe its the accents, but everyone in the London part of the story was painful to watch. I’m sure no one talks like that in British films. Surely they could have found a better British actress to play the role of the mother. Someone better known. If they got Bryce Dallas Howard to do two scenes, they could have got someone better than Lyndsey Marshall to do three. 

The movie could have easily come under two hours (over nine minutes shorter) if the editors (Joel Cox, Gary D. Roach) had worked a little harder. Shots are too long by seconds, things you don’t need to see. And some are unnecessary. Matt Damon running home? The running wasn’t necessary, and if he was in his apartment, we’d understand he got there like a normal human, and not teleporting. And him in the shower? Either do it properly, and show something for the women and the gays or don’t bother. And oh dear lord, the accident scene. The car actually hitting the twin brother takes a good few seconds. There is no impact of it being a sudden thing. He runs into the road, looks at the van, then does his scared face. Then you see the driver go into his scare face, and there is still seconds till he is hit. It should have been snappier. I hate editing, but I wanted to take the film, and just cut it down a bit. The length actually wasn’t a problem. If there was more to fit into the 129 minutes, it would have still been fine, but time actually is wasted. 

Part of the problem is the three story lines are forced together. There isn’t really a connection at all. The ending [MAJOR SPOILERS MAJOR SPOILERS] with the out of the blue love story with George and Marie, has nothing at all to do with the film. Just because she had visions, and wrote a book means George can hold her hand without making a connection with her dead relatives? And he really wrote a four page love letter in the lobby of her hotel? And while George and Marcus meeting works for Marcus’ story, it feels more like a spin-off where Matt Damon makes a cameo. George’s story has been going nowhere for a while by this point. [SPOILER OVER]  

Without the whole character of Marie and story around her, the film could have worked better. Firstly, being the first film to deal with the 2004 tsunami, it moves on very quickly. I don’t expect them to have made the whole film about it, but for something that big, they just lightly brush the topic. Also, bits of her story are just odd. Like discussing the afterlife on a staircase in a restaurant. Wait till you get to the table. That’s both terrible writing and terrible direction. It feels so unrealistic. I’m not saying no one has ever done that, but in a film, it’s just wrong. 

At some point, churning out a film a year was going to result in a bad one. I mean, look at Woody Allen’s track record. Its such a shame that the bad one had to be this though. The idea is very good, and with reworking the script, changing some actors, removing plot lines, it could have been magnificent. Instead, it is a nice idea that is executed badly.