Posts Tagged ‘Robert de Niro’

Saw Man Bites Dog, a French ‘realistic’ cinema. Shot like a documentary, the film is about a TV crew recording the life of a ruthless killer who murders people for money. In parts hilarious and in parts gruesome, it is like Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange without the creative production design.

I’m not sure what the film talks about – whether it is society’s sure degeneration into violence and anarchy or modern society and its obsession with media, or both.  It sure is a mindfuck film. A must watch for bizzarros.

Also watched Stardust, a 2007 Matthew Vaughn film based on a graphic novel. I must admit when I sat down to watch it, I didn’t expect to like it. Sin City has spoiled me for other films in the genre. But I was pleasantly surprised. The story, a fantasy, is novel and so are the FX. Though, I have to admit, these days I am easily seduced in both these department while watching a fantasy.

These days, anything that does not ape the Lord of the Rings in the FX or the story department is good (Eragon, Narnia, Prince Caspian anyone?).

Stardust in a nutshell, is the story of a young boy, Tristan (Charlie Cox) and his search for his true love. The story is set in an imaginary English village, The Wall. The Village is so called because it is bordered on one side by a Wall, beyond which lies the kingdom of Stormhold, then undergoing a violent succession struggle.

The story begins with Tristan’s dad, Dunstan crossing over the Wall and meeting and falling in love with a beautiful girl who’s been enslaved by a witch. Ergo, nine months later, Tristan’s born. Eighteen years after that, Tristan himself crosses the Wall to catch a fallen star to present it to his one true love, Victoria (Sienna Miller), on her birthday, a week thence.

Tristan finds the fallen star which has assumed human form, Yvaine (Claire Danes). Initially bickering, the two fall in love as they journey back to the Wall in time for Victoria’s birthday. On the way, many adventures befall them as they wrestle witches, ruthless princes, lightening capturing storm pirates and more.

Though it could’ve been shorter by about 30 minutes, nevertheless, a fun film with great performances by Michelle Pfeiffer as the evil witch Lamia and Robert de Niro as the soft-as-a-pussycat-masquerading-as-fearsome cross-dressing pirate, Shakespeare.

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Why is it easier to write straight screen stories about straightforward guys? Well, for one a movie is a story told in pictures. The main ingredient in a screenplay is character (s). And you have to tell a story about this character, as much as possible, through pictures.

Dialogue is just to supplement your character and should be kept at a minimum. In any case your character is what (s)he does, not says. If a man verbally professes to respect women yet, when no one is looking, he slyly pinches a woman’s bottom, what kind of a man is he? What he does or what he says?

If you rely too much on dialogue your screenplay will be slow and plodding. That’s what the problem was with ‘Cheeni Kum’ (Amitabh Bachchan and Tabu go on and on and on…yawn) and U Me Aur Hum ( remember the unending scene on the deck with the camera panning back and forth endlessly from Ajay Devgan to Kajol?)

There are other ways to build chemistry – A look, a sudden tensing of posture when another character enters the room etc. Wherever possible you have to find a way to ‘show’ and not ‘tell’. Don’t tell me that a character loves/hates another. Let me figure that out for myself.

Actually this holds true even for novels. For example there are two ways to write the following:
“I don’t have time for this,” John said. And then John turned and started walking away.
“I don’t have time for this,” John said, turning and walking away.

Isn’t the second one more evocative, not to mention economical?

And that is why it is so difficult to adapt complex novels. Or, for that matter, write original screenplays about such characters.

In complex novels characters often have multiple and conflicting motives. They are morally ambiguous and wonderfully unpredictable. And just when the audience is staring to get a handle on the character, the character goes and does something diametrically opposite.

It’s easy to write about her motivation in a novel because it’s all happening in her head. But how the devil do you show it on screen without resorting to too much dialogue or a voice over?
A good writer can find ways of doing that, even for screen. But she usually needs the support of a deft director and a sublime cast. Just think, would Taxi Driver have been half as effective without Martin Scorcese and Robert de Niro?

And before I’m accused me of contradicting myself, let me point out that in Taxi Driver the voice over tool is not used as a convenient tool to progress the story but to show the Travis Bickle’s dissonance with the rest of the world.

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