Monday, July 24, 2006

Gatecrashing Speed

The Lake House marks the return of the hit Speed pair of Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock after a gap of 12 years, and boy, is the chemistry intact! The movie could not have been more different than the 1994 thriller, not just in the plot structure but also in the extent to which the reader is open to suspending his disbelief.

The Lake House takes too many liberties with the plot, meandering between the past and present, since they are occupied by different people in different time zones. Kind of a rogue scientist's fantasy come true, but this one does not even touch science.

It looks at how love develops between Alex and Kate when the two can never meet in real time, since the latter lives two years ahead of the former. Yes, the plot is crazy and also, towards the end, marked by holes so gaping a non-footballer like me can easily score a goal through them.

Having said that, The Lake House scores on account of the simmering intensity of its lead cast. Both Keanu and Sandra breathe life into the anguish of two lovers who cannot meet due to a curious twist in their destinies. A recurrent theme in the movie is Jane Austen's Persuasion, which also deals with love lost and discovered again; of course, without the time warp sci-fi element involved. Thank goodness!

Of the two, Keanu has a definite edge in portraying a boyish emotional vulnerability. Watch the movie only for the scene in which he breaks down after his father's death. Move on, Heath Ledger, your final scene in Brokeback Mountain has been washed clean!

So, do go watch this movie, for its surreal plot, slow narrative pace and a quiet sadness that lingers in the eyes of Alex and Kate. And yes, also for the track This Never Happened Before, which comes along several times during the movie and takes you to another sublime realm.

On the book front, am reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which, when people used to say is a great read, would baffle me. How could a book that had pictures of fairies and spoke about math hypotheses from the point of view of a child suffering from Asperger's aspire to interest an adult?

But I was wrong. It is a great read; the narrator wins your heart by writing about a hard-to-decipher world with a special-needs child's innocence. The most beautiful bits are those that capture Christopher's relationship with his dad, who is trying his best to raise him given the circumstances (his wife's left him, Christopher isn't an easy child, and to top it all, he's killed a dog!).

Friday, July 21, 2006

'A perfectible world'

Carrie Tiffany's Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living is a poignant tale of one man's passion for science and how that passion fails him. Robert Petergree travels through the wheat fields and small towns of America in the 'Better Farming Train' to dispel scientific notions of increasing farm productivity. On this train, he meets and falls in love with Jean Finnegan, a seamstress, and together, they decide to settle in impoverished Mallee to transform its land and economy.

But like all ill-considered attempts, the experiment fails and a crushed Robert is forced to enlist for the Second World War to tide over the humiliation of his failure.

This ordinary tale becomes extraordinary in its clinical telling. Tiffany's narration is raw, and sprinkled with scientific jargon. Jean assists Robert in his experiments with soil, and a number of chapters finish with their details. What takes the book to another level, however, is the merging of scientific data with the emotional undercurrent running through the protagonists' lives. When Jean is finally departing for Mallee with Robert, her friend Mary, boarding the train, shouts to her, "Write to me with all of your results." The reader does not miss that the "results" Mary is talking of are not only the results of the scientific experiments Robert conducts, but also the outcome of Jean's marital life.

Everyman's Rules is a long tale that crisscrosses the barren landscape of countryside Australia and inter-relates it with the gradually seeping barrenness in Jean's life. The final straw comes in the form of an attack on Robert that pushes him to forsake his beloved experiment and join the Army, leaving Jean behind.

Finally, Jean decides to not leave Mallee, somewhat like Lucy in Disgrace, rather stays back in this place which (a) reeks of nothing but her husband's failed attempts (b) is the only place she can call home.

This is where the matter of her life was created, despite successes/ failures.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

A tale of contrasts

Israel has upped the offensive against the Hezbollah by destroying its leader's home in Beirut. The current conflict started after Lebanon abducted two of Israel's soldiers. Israel is also fighting Palestinian troops on the eastern front.

I mention this news piece because it contrasts starkly with India's response in the face of the terror attacks on the suburban rail network in Mumbai this past Tuesday, in which 179 people died. India has only announced that it would suspend talks with Pakistan next week.

Lashkar hand is suspected in the latest attacks, the same organisation whose name crops up with frightening regularity in the list of the suspects.

I have a bone to pick with a certain section of the media. The Hindu carried a piece today that rued the setback to the peace process. What peace process, Ma'am? How can one even conjure the notion of peace with a country that's sponsoring terror in our land? This is like crawling when asked to bend, and bent we have, several times in the past.
As intelligence reveals that more dastardly attacks are in the offing, Indians continue to wonder why the bloody hell is their state so soft on terror?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Atrocious first lines

Culture Vulture is running a contest where you ought to write the first line of a prospective crappy novel. Seriously!

This is in dedication to the writing of Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, famed for the starting lines, It was a dark and stormy night, which have invited much ridicule since time immemorial. Read about an annual fiction contest dedicated to him here.

Meanwhile, yours truly put in a few lines as part of the Guardian contest. Here they go:

He said he jonesed for jumping off the balcony so he could fall to his death in a graveyard of unaccomplished dreams where the lights of the pains he had endured would lead him to a pleasant extinction glimmering in its redemptive power.

Deciding to buy the flowers herself, Emma wondered aloud, "Am I to witness love's depredations on my body and soul even as I try conjuring times when making love made love wholesome, or is this", she paused, arranging the rose in the center of the pot, "is this another grand design to take my life to a higher, divine plane, where lighthouses shine in reflected glory and castles harbour rewards of heroism?"

Now that his father was dead, Jones was free to smoke weed all night without worrying about the effects of passive smoking on that grand old man with pulmonary asthma, but no sooner he relaxed in the thought that his inner voice chided,"You idiot!".

My personal favorite is the second one, with apologies to Virginia Woolf.

Another one, and I quite like this one as well:

As the boys on the screen hissed, "Ah..oh...ah...oh..yeah!," Alan wondered how he derived a greater solace from watching porn than simple lust would allow, and it was this thought that launched The Line of Beauty.