Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Oscar Feast III - The Constant Gardener (and the Fiennes smile)


The Constant Gardener (directed by Fernando Meirelles) is an artistic thriller adapted from John le Carre’s bestseller. I haven’t read any le Carre, but the film becomes a bit dark and one-man army in the end. There is a sad love story, a man who is happy with short-lived happiness, so long as he knows that his true love was true to him.

The issue is more serious and all-encompassing than Erin Brockovich’s crusade. An American drug MNC is using unsuspecting Kenyan locals for drug trials. Tessa (Rachel Weisz), wife of British official Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes), gets wind of these goings-on. With the help of a Kenyan doctor, she starts her own sleuthing, hiding the facts from even her own husband. Before long, she’s more than just knee-deep in trouble… while quiet bureaucrat hubby dear indulges in his passion for gardening (and gives the film its name).

The film goes back and forth in time, starting with a shot of an overturned vehicle… Who did it? Was it an accident? Who was in it? If I even started giving you the story, it would be like telling all, and that would spoil this thriller if you are interested. The mysteries start right from the beginning… If you're OK with the smaller puzzles being revealed and want it from a pro, you can read up Roger Ebert.

There are little bits that add to the local suspense:
1. One of the British officials is in love with Tessa, and she has no qualms promising him a night in exchange for a letter that’ll help her in her investigations.
2. There’s the Kenyan doctor, Tessa’s good friend and able comrade in her fight, and rumoured to be going around with her. He arouses her husband’s suspicions.
3. Then there are the local police, who have the essential look and feel of corruption.
4. The corporate types, with their dark money secrets.
5. And finally, the husband himself, and whether he will rise to the occasion when the time comes...

I didn’t quite think Rachel Weisz deserved her Oscar (from what little she had of Brokeback Mountain, I thought Michelle Williams was superb as Ennis' wife). But Ralph Fiennes did a great job (his smile, girls, is Out Of This World, tho the pic here is not from the film).

And then there is Africa itself, like one of Thomas Hardy’s background-protagonists (remember Egdon Heath in The Return of the Native). Looming undeniable and larger-than-life, and made possible by some excellent cinematography and aerial shots of the bleak landscape. Don’t look for the trademark flat-top Savannah trees that've come to symbolise Africa or Mma Ramotswe’s stark contentment. This is as bleak and sinister as it gets...

20 Comments:

At 6:31 PM, Anonymous maya said...

u r making me green with envy! i feel am mising ut on a lot of movies these days!

ur posts keep me updated, am blissfully unawr of wat is happening in movie field.

happy holi...and may it bring to u a lot of colours...and wish things go ur away... god bless...

 
At 6:45 PM, Blogger Patient Portnoy said...

Oh Maya, don't say that. Am sure there are loads and loads of DVD rentals/stores in Dubai.

But don't worry, I'll watch all the more so I can keep you updated.

Thanks, and Happy Holi to you and your family. Take care :-)

 
At 2:08 AM, Blogger Ghetufool said...

thanks for the continous oscar tour portnoy. good review.

 
At 2:33 PM, Blogger chumkisingh said...

which is the next one on the list? Syriana or Good Night and Good Luck?
Looking forward to your reviews.

:o)

 
At 3:11 PM, Blogger the still dancer said...

Hello,
First time here,dropped in from your comments from some blogs and I like what I see. Have you read the original book by the way? my politics is against millitant environmentalism, but I liked the book. It'd be interesting to see if someone makes a film out of state of fear

 
At 1:50 PM, Blogger Patient Portnoy said...

Ghetu: You are welcome, friend. Tho they're not exactly reviews, but light takes if I may say so

Chumki: Gosh... Bang on. It's gonna be GNGL soon.
Will try to see Syriana this weekend

StillD: Where do I return the honour? Things seem to be quite inert at Inert :-)
Sorry to disappoint you. If you read the post, you'll know that I've never read a single JleC. It's beyond militant environmentalism (as I said, this isn't just Erin Brockovich); CG is all about a sad but triumphant protest against life-saving drugs turned killers

 
At 2:44 PM, Blogger Inkblot said...

Yes, I loved the film-the cinematography in particular and the red theme which sort of resonates with blood given the drugs and death subjects. great performances too!

Meanwhile, any thoughts on V for vendetta?

 
At 6:18 PM, Blogger the still dancer said...

that's because I now dance elsewhere :D
Mailing you the URL- I've kind of gone underground, as in the blog's not public, so please don't link to it. :D

 
At 8:39 PM, Blogger Malinee said...

Hi PP,;)

I dont know when this will get released here-- hopefully soon..I have read the book and hopefully from your reviews, it seems the movie will not be disappointing...

I have finally managed to put up Syriana on blogspot..

Next on the list is GNGL, which both I and CS are wawaiting ur views...

BTW RG/SR is still on...:DDD

:D

 
At 7:49 AM, Blogger Rimi said...

Hey PP, lovely blog you have here! :-) BUT, no fair! How do you get to see Brokeback Mountain and The Constant Gardener before the rest of us do? Last checked, the films hadn't come anywhere CLOSE to being released in Cal. Damn. Vile cultural treachery afoot, I tell you :P

And re: the Fiennes smile, he fairly killed me in The Red Dragon . Which, come to think of it, is rather disturbing...

 
At 7:55 AM, Blogger Rimi said...

Also, can you manage a Good Night, and Good Luck review anytime soon? That'll probably the closest I'll come to watching it, the way my attention span is dropping these days.

And, is there a more addressable name we could use? PP is a cool blog-handle, but names are...names. Y'know?

 
At 12:37 PM, Blogger chumkisingh said...

PP, I know i am getting very demanding - but if u've watched Transamerica, please post the review. That's the only movie I haven't watched yet - and am getting mixed reviews about it. So wanted a review from a reliable source.

Rimi, if you stay in Cal, try this DVD library called Cinema Paradiso in Elgin Road. Heard that they have very good collection. Might just get the latest movies there.

 
At 5:41 PM, Blogger Patient Portnoy said...

Inkblot: Welcome, poet :-)
Will post on "V" when I get my hands on it, and will give u a knock.
Would like ur opinion on some poetry I tried my hand at. It's called TIME, two posts down.

Still D: My, my, my... Now bloggers too going underground. See you there

Malinee: Thanks for taking "Syriana" off my hands :-)
Can't wait to see your review. As promised, GNGL is up now

Rimi: What an eye! Is it your own?
Your wish is my command, and GNGL is up now :-)
The name's Krishna Mukherjee, am from Kolkata, started out as journo in Delhi for 4 years, now working in Bangalore (love the city). And tired of people here (bless all Airtel, courier, pizza delivery guys) calling and asking for Mr. Krishna :-)

Chumki: Will try to see "Transamerica" in weekend.
Thanks for the kind words :-)

 
At 10:51 AM, Blogger eve's lungs said...

hi Krishna - am soon going to take my broom to you - we still havent seen any traces of the films and I would like to see both - no DVDs either and what happened to your "trunk" (cf - your comment on my post! )

 
At 10:54 AM, Blogger eve's lungs said...

btw - read read read Le Carre ; run right away to a bookshop and grab at least 3or 4 of his novels so that you're spoilt for choice -u could start with TCG and graduate to The Tailor of Panama and so on and so forth up the ages ( as distinct from down the ages !)

 
At 9:50 PM, Blogger Patient Portnoy said...

Eve: hee hee broom :-)
Sigh, sigh... trunk. Yes will come up with something
OK, am now hot in the pursuit of LeCa. Will get back to you

 
At 2:30 AM, Blogger Nautilus said...

Uggh! Too late to post a comment on this one, but I'll do it anyway. Loved the book...mixed reaction to the movie. They fast forwarded the story quite a bit, not letting any characters develop, so every one looked a bit half-baked. And I absolutely don't understand why Rachel Weisz deserved the Oscar over Michelle Williams...oh well!

Ralph Fiennes...I sat through the gawdawful Maid In Manhattan because of him and love him as Lord Voldemort too! :-)

 
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