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February 1, 2005 / jnolen

SB Film Fest: Day 3

Films for last night: Hari Om and Chan-wook Park's Oldboy.

Reviews after the jump….

Hari Om

Hari Om (SBIFF synopsis here) was a lovely movie. Confidently scripted and filmed by a first-time writer/director Ganapathy Bharat this is a film that could have cross-over appeal if it gets distribution, and if people can accept the unconventional looks of the male lead.

The film has a kind of Merchant-Ivory/E. M. Forster Passage to India feel to it, but without any of the tragedy or challenging social commentary. But it is essentially a romance, so perhaps it is not the place for that kind of thing.

Despite the fact that this movie was made by Indians, I felt that it had a very western sensibility and traditional western plot-structure. But I don’t have any real experience with other Bollywood productions, so perhaps this isn’t unusual. But the film was very well received by the audience and I would recommend seeing it if you have the opportunity.


Oldboy (SBIFF synopsis here) is a strange, strange movie. It’s very stylish and impressively shot. The premise is strong. The script is good. The ending is just really bizarre.

As I left the theater I told my friend that “I just don’t understand Asia.” And I really don’t. Unfortunately, I can’t talk about what I don’t understand without spoiling the movie.

Oldboy has apparently won quite a few awards, and I think it largely deserves them. I was expecting a bloody, violent action movie, but it turned out to be fairly tame. There is only one extended fight scene. And that vast majority of the blood and pain and death happen slightly offscreen. As a matter of fact, the only scene that had the audience really squirming was in the sushi restaurant.

It’s a deliberately-paced psychological exploration of punishment and revenge. And while it has a very strong script and an intricate plot, unfortunately I predicted the big twist 20 minutes into the film.

By comparison, Mike Hodges’ I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, which I saw last year at the film fest, was probably a stronger movie overall, since it focused completely on character development and paid no attention to action. Neither did it depend on elaborate plot twists to achieve it’s emotional effect.

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