September 25, 2014: Mmmm, Bearnaise…

Julie M:  Now that I am a Woman of a Certain Age, I’m finding that there is a special kind of film being marketed just to me. The heroine is an older woman (typically played by Judi Dench or Helen Mirren), the location is exotic, the woman is strong although in the beginning she is a) confused b) mean or c) standoffish, and eventually she melts and/or comes into her own through the application of a youthful character, a charming man her own age (whom she starts out hating), and/or a younger woman whom she mentors. In the end she “learns something about herself” and does things she would never have dreamed of doing at the time the film starts.

Jenny K: Hey, we’re not as old as The Dames…at least, not yet…meaning no disrespect to those lovely ladies and/or their immense talent.  But you have to hold onto those pre-retirement years with both hands, and they move faster and faster now, but I’m determined….but, I get your point, sorry, carry on.

Julie M:  Although they are all kind of the same, that doesn’t mean they aren’t entertaining. I liked The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and now, ditto The Hundred Foot Journey (2014). I was aware the whole time that I, a WOACA, was being manipulated and pandered to, but man, it was pretty fun.

In this iteration, Helen Mirren plays Madame Mallory, a perfectionist and somewhat crotchety fine-dining restaurateur in a small town in France whose nose is put out of joint by the arrival of the Kadams, who take up residence and open an earthy, noisy Indian restaurant across the street from her hoity-toity establishment. The Kadam patriarch (a glorious Om Puri) antagonizes her from day one:

 

and eventually they have a balls-out business war, which plays out hilariously.

 

Meanwhile, Hassan (a very dishy Manish Dayal), the son and chief cook, becomes infatuated with French cuisine and with Madame’s sous-chef, Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon). Hassan’s culinary talent soon becomes obvious, and Madame is simultaneously threatened and intrigued.

Jenny K: I love Om Puri in his long-suffering dad roles, he does it so well.  He steams and fumes along with the best of the dramatic comedians…or is that comedic dramatists?  Remember his films, East is East (1999) where he plays a Pakistani patriarch in Britain, and its sequel West is West (2010) where he takes some of his marriageable sons back to the mother country to find a bride…no, wait a minute, as I recall, in that second one, Om’s character, George Khan, sort of bugged the heck out of me.  Still a truly gifted actor, though.  Here he does it again, while on a sort of marvelous food travelogue!

 

Julie M: In addition to Om, the gorgeous scenes of rural France, long lingering camera pans of Hassan’s face, and multiple hits of food porn make this fairly obvious targeted to you-know-who and it would have normally made me roll my eyes. However, music by A.R. Rahman, an introductory flashback to the Kadams’ roots in India (with a nice cameo by Juhi Chawla as Mama) and the final message familiar to anyone who has seen even one old-fashioned Bollywood movie takes The Hundred Foot Journey a few steps beyond the typical middle-aged-lady-fantasy that is found in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel to something interesting, without approaching the middle-aged-lady-weeperness of, for example, Philomena. Definitely worth seeing–once, and not thinking too hard while you do–and then going, as I did, with a fun group to an Indian restaurant that, unfortunately, did not measure up to the assumed deliciousness of the food in the film.

Jenny K: When I saw Hundred Food…eh…food-ean slip there…I mean Hundred Foot Journey, I felt like I was getting a real dose of cinema comfort food. It’s the latest in enjoy-your-life-it’s-not-over-yet films by Lasse Halstrom. I just rewatched his Salmon Fishing in the Yemen where a supposedly stodgy (? Really?  Yeah, right.) Ewan MacGregor finds a new lease on life with Emily Blunt in the deserts of Yemen with a dishy sheik and lots of big fish along for the ride. Not that EMcG is exactly ready for a senior discount, but his character was similarly stuck in his ways and weighed down by duties, obligations and the fatigues of routine life. Love both films…how could you go wrong with Helen and Om? Though I’m not sure I really believed their jodi would last for any length of time. Perhaps I just loved her much more effective “senior romance” with Brian Cox as her long-lost Russian spy-boy-toy in Red (and Red 2). A much more explosive chemistry there, even discounting the automatic weaponry she sported! He comes in at the end of this clip with a twinkle in his eye and saves the day…though she probably could have done it herself.

 

Julie M: But Madame and Papa…I never saw them as becoming more than just very good friends and late-life companions. He was too attached to his dead wife and she to her restaurant. Plus, she’s still French. But, back to Salmon Fishing. I read the book and was not sufficiently impressed to see the movie, although it keeps showing up on my library’s DVD shelves so I should probably borrow it one of these weekends.

Jenny K:  Definitely a must-view, if just for the scenery…Scotland and our Sheikh Mohammed (Amr Waked), both. And Kristen Scott Thomas’ hilarious comedic turn as the PM’s Press Director.  Who knew she had that set of chops in her arsenal?

 

Julie M: What I kept thinking, of course, was what if this had been an Indian film? We would have gotten the full backstory of how Papa and Mama met, courted and married: her food ties, his absorbing of her passion (because he doesn’t seem to be from a food family, he got swept up into hers), and enough of the cute couple back and forth [SPOILER ALERT] to make her eventual death even more dramatic and shocking (it seemed beside the point here, simply to get her out of the way so the plot could continue), [END SPOILER] and then the continuation into the next generation with more of little Hassan growing up at her side and in the kitchen. The puny, abbreviated flashback via the story he told the immigration official was just not enough for me. Then there would have been more poignancy when Papa goes all out to continue the business afterwards, [SPOILER ALERT] and conveys (of course, many more times) what heaven-dwelling Mama says. And we would have seen more Juhi. [END SPOILER]   Plus, of course, more songs and even an item number, set in the old restaurant, that tells us how much a fixture it was before it burned. It would have been much more satisfying, like, um, a good meal…

Jenny K:  I’m always one for more Juhi Chawla!  Definitely would have been a plus…but would Dame Helen have shared half a film with another love interest?  Not bloomin’ likely!  She’s a very strong WOACA…and she was already sharing the screen with multiple dishes that all too frequently stole focus.

Julie M:  But as it was, didn’t that sea urchin dish look yummy?

Jenny K:  What did you say?  I was browsing Yelp….mmmm!   French or Indian???

Julie M:  I vote for both!

Part 13: Fifty Films into Bollywood Paheli

[Jenny K’s Note: Paheli means puzzle.  Also one of our films this post.]

Julie M:  Got your package!!! Thanks for the necklace! Has it really been 50 films? It arrived slightly damaged (a few beads loose in the envelope and the dangly part had detached) but I think B can repair most of it. And thanks for the films. I think this weekend the library haul will include Paheli and Umrao Jaan. I won’t request any others because I got 3 from you.

Next week I have vacation (duh, you know that) so I think I might try to see a movie in the theater, since they only show them in the afternoons. This week my Indian theater is showing Delhi Belly (Aamir!) at a very convenient 2pm show time and Double Dhamaal with your crush Arshad Warsi at a less civilized 5pm; hope it’s still there next week!

Jenny K:  Gosh, I’m sorry that the necklace was damaged. I should have wrapped it better, but I was running out of room in the box, and it wedged in rather tightly, so I thought it would be okay. Hate to give a gift that has to be fixed first, thrift store find, or no.

And yes, according to my list, whatever you see next will be your fiftieth film. If you have seen either of the last batch of freebies (I Hate Luv Stories, or Loins of Punjab Presents) then you’ve already gone past that. They do accumulate fast, don’t they? Congrats!

I think I should arm you with my favorite review site at Rediff. Their reviews seem to be evenly balance between the Mumbai point of view and the US India fan base. I usually agree with them, more or less, though the people who respond to the reviews seem to be wildly offended when any negative opinions are voiced. Judging on their responses to your two films, I’d go with Delhi Belly over Double Dhamaal, even with Arshad. As much as I like him, he seems to be picked more often for his talent for mugging than his talented feet.

Julie M:  I have not yet dipped into the freebies. I’m saving those for when the library supply has dried up and I’ve seen the ones you’ve sent in the current box!

Jenny K:  Sounds like a nice weekend. Either Paheli or Umrao Jaan would merit wearing the necklace for “atmosphere” 🙂 Though I think I like Umrao Jaan a bit better. Paheli is very atmospheric, though. Costumes and sets from Rajasthan are lovely. Plot a bit weak toward the end, but that seems to be standard, more and more. What I call SNL Syndrome. Have some good ideas, fun execution and performances, but they don’t know how to end them.

Julie M:  FYI, I tried to watch I Hate Luv Storys. Had to quit because the sound and subtitles were so bad. I’ll try again when I’m in a more charitable mood. It seemed to start out fairly cute, though.

Jenny K: Yeah, my copy of that film is like that, too. What I get for digging in the Previously Viewed bin. If you can’t get through it, dump it. Not a problem. I’m sure it will be in the library chain pretty soon. I have it in my queue at Netflix, so it’s going pretty mainstream. It is cute, but not a “must see”. Of Imraan Khan’s films I think Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na is much better, but it wasn’t in the bin 🙂

Julie M:  Saw Kandukondain Kandukondain last night. Great Rahman music! typical plot–kind of threw a lot in there from movie making/playback singing to family drama to romance–but not too heavy on the melodrama, so it was OK. Good costumes too, and Tabu was good. I liked the song set in Egypt and the medieval castle one–cool dream sequences.

I can see where Jane Austen and that ilk (Brontes, too) would inspire Indian filmmakers [Jenny K’s Note:  Kandukondain, Kandukondain is a South Indian adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.] because of the focus on traditions and cultural mores combined with dramatic moments. Did they ever do a Jane Eyre version in India? because that would be interesting to see. I saw Bride and Prejudice although technically that’s an English film by an Anglo-Indian director.

[the next day…]

Julie M:  Saw Chandni Bar last night. Really good! Would not have found that one on my own, so thank you for sending it.

This weekend my library haul is Paheli, Umrao Jaan (I caught an Umrao Jaan reference in Chandni Bar!) and Munnabhai MBBS. Don’t know what to start with…maybe Umrao Jaan to continue the dancer theme I seem to have going.

Jenny K:  Nach, ladki…. yeah, go with a theme…Glad you liked Chandni Bar. Thought you would. Tabu was great in it…and her awful lover was played by Atul Kulkarni, that guy in Rang de Basanti that was with the radical hindu party who got “converted” via the gospel according to film.

I checked into your Jane Eyre question…seems there was one very loose adaptation, Sangdil, in the fifties with Dilip Kumar, who was very famous, but I find him a very cold fish. Here’s the IMDb write up.  And here’s a bit of the film on youtube, but no subtitles.

[Jenny K’s Note: After much trial and tribulation and an overnight stranding at the US Air Phoenix hub, I have made it to Vancouver.]

Jenny K: Went to see Meenaxi at the festival last night and it was a DVD projection…sigh. Didn’t maintain the original proportions of the film either, so it was a bit “cramped” in the screen, if you know what I mean. I also keep forgetting how weak Tabu’s English is in this film. Sheesh! She’s so good in Hindi that I forget that. Hoping better for 3 Idiots.

Julie M:  I did not think Tabu was bad in The Namesake…thought it was appropriate to the character.

Anyway, I liked Umrao Jaan except that to me it ended quite suddenly. [Spoilers]  She got turned away from her family and then went back to the bordello, which had been trashed and abandoned. She looked at herself in the mirror, and…??? then what? did not feel resolved. (you mentioned that) I liked seeing a young Naseruddin Shah, too, in that film.

I also watched Paheli. SO CUTE! Rani was adorable (she’s looks adorable even when she cries), SRK was fun and sexy. The jewelry was amazing–I want all of it!! Of course I have nowhere to wear it, but it’s still stunning.

Munnabhai MBBS…some cute scenes, overall merely 2 stars. Liked seeing Sunil and Sanjay Dutt act together. Trying to understand your crush on Arshad Warsi. Confused as to how Munna could get married and live happily ever after in MBBS and also in the sequel but to a different woman.

Jenny K:  I wasn’t complaining about her delivery in The Namesake, but just her line readings in “Prague” in Meenaxi. I guess, now that I think of it, since Namesake didn’t bother me and it came afterwards, perhaps she noticed how she came across and worked on it after Meenaxi.

I’m not sure just why Arshad hits me, but he often does. If you like Nasseruddin Shah, and who doesn’t, then see if you find Ishqiya in your library. Might be right up your alley. Nasserji and Arshad in a buddy flick, conmen on the lam from other gangsters who hide out with the widow of another old friend. She’s Vidya Balan, the DJ from Lage Raho Munnabhai. It has funny bits, but I don’t think of it as a comedy.

Julie M: My library has Golmaal Returns and Golmaal 3 but not the original Golmaal. Is it worth tracking it down?

Jenny K: Stay away from the Golmaal films, COMPLETELY, you’ll hate them. Very, very slapstick, and despite the cast, it should be atrocious. I haven’t been able to bring myself to see them.

Julie M:  Speaking of which: this weekend’s haul is Tashan (fun with Akshay), Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (arty) and Om Shanti Om (SRK).

Jenny K:  I’ve only seen OSO of the ones you have listed for this weekend. Let me know what you think, and maybe I’ll pick a few up. I think I bought OSO just for the scene where SRK is pretending to be a South Indian film star to impress the girl. Crazy cowboy outfit and huge mustache is a real hoot and, alarmingly, not that much of an exaggeration. Well, you’ve seen Rajni, so you know 🙂

I liked the one I saw last night at the festival, West is West. Almost all in English. I liked it better than it’s predecessor, East is East, which was funny but ultimately depressing, because the father was such a negative character in it. He has sort of seen the light in the ten years since the first film…a bit…he’s still a bit of a pretentious jack***. but I love Om Puri. He is one of the best character actors they have. In Maqbool, he and Naseeruddin play the “witches” in the Macbeth plot, commenting on everything, playing two corrupt cops with the ugliest collective wardrobes I’ve ever seen. Wonderful…wah, wah, wah, as the saying goes.

Julie M:  Just finished watching Tashan. Action/comedy with a little romance (not too much or too gushy) and kind of a road story as well. Saif Ali Khan is a cool-dude call center worker in Mumbai who moonlights as an English teacher, and he gets mixed up with Anil Kapoor, a don, through Kareena Kapoor, Anil’s employee. Through his infatuation with Kareena he ends up stealing tons of money from Anil, only to have Kareena steal it from him and vanish. Anil calls in Akshay Khanna [Kumar], a petty thug/enforcer in Kanpur, to rough up Saif and then take him to track Kareena and the money down. And the fun goes on from there.

Some flashbacks and back stories, everyone narrates the story at some point and Saif speaks to the camera all the time, for no real reason. But overall it was not bad–I like good action films and the gangster element was more comedic than serious, until the end, which was quite bloody. Probably too much Akshay for you, but I enjoyed it. B caught most of the 2nd half with me and he kind of liked it too. Anil is hilarious as the don who loves to speak English–but he does it all wrong and with a heavy Sean Connery impression. Made me laugh out loud. The musical numbers are forgettable.

I’ll give you a report on the others after I see them.

Jenny K:  Thanks for the update. I’ll remember it when I’m stuck…maybe it’s on Netflix, most of Akshay’s films are. I do think Anil’s a funny guy, even when he’s not trying to be. You should have seen him on the Martha Stewart show when he was plugging Slumdog.

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