Sunday, April 8, 2007

Grindhouse - An Instant Classic

What it is about

Having just watched Grindhouse, as I was walking alone - my wife decided to stay home and watch "Look Who's Talking 3" instead - into the dark and desolate movie parking lot around 3AM - I almost felt vindicated. Since I can remember, people have tried to "talk me out" of my quite "diverse" movie watching (and reading) habits. As someone who feels equally comfortable watching Ray and Porn; or Truffaut (same date of birth as mine!) and David Dhawan, and having the honesty to accept to like the David Dhawan more - at times, I have constantly been flagged by my friends and acquaintances. It was almost a cardinal sin to come out of the "closet" in early 90s and declare that you truly like to watch those cheaply-made Tarzan movies in Hindi; those murders happening in the backdrop of mandatory Jai Santoshi Ma songs; Shetty's innocently portrayal of villain; Madan Puri's over the top crookedness; Biswajeet driving a speedboat to save his life - and his wig from flying out; white shoes with pink socks; cheap disco beats made cheaper by Bappida; the quintessential Bombay Mill movies (not only "Nimak Haram", but "Resham Ki Dori" too!); Hope 86 and Sonam; the zillions of almost copy of "Sholay", and almost copy of "Mazdoor" too. Someone said imitation is the biggest form of flattery. Nothing could underline the saying more than the fact that you can have about five and half plots and about 900 movies made around it in India per year.

Remember the 70s in Bollywood? Remember any of the movies out of - "Bond 303"(Parveen Babi-Jeetendra-Helen), "Suraksha" (Mithun) , "Nagin"(with everyone who was alive then), "Jaani Dushman" (Sanjeev Kumar)? In that same period, a movement of B-grade "exploitation films" (exploit the animals, sex, females, lesbian vampires, nazi nymphomaniac prison warden etc) were running the pop sub-layer of Euro-American films. Remember "Cannibal Holocaust" or "I spit on your graves"? Movies that came in at least 5 years late to India and caused a lot of that last bench whispers among people like us? In US, those movies were shown, often back to back or in a series of 3 to 4 together in a night, in slightly seedy, cheap downtown movie theaters called "Grindhouse". Try to imagine "Society" in Central Calcutta in early 90s if you want to have an idea of a real grindhouse!

Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez grew up on a spew of grindhouse movies. Most of QT's work is nothing but a solid grindhouse movie packed with much better dialogue, superb acting, state of the art action sequences and a unique rubber stamp of his direction on all frames that screams "guy movie with class". In fact, his Kill Bill is almost a straight liftoff from a grindhouse film "Five Deadly Venoms". RR - who started his career with so-called "burrito westerns" - moved from one genre to another (action, horror, humor, sci-fi) in his short but interesting career. To prime for Grindhouse, I watched two RR movies yesterday noon in DVD. One made with $7000 in 1992. The sequel made with $70 million in 1995. I would not have known that just by watching "El Mariachi" and "Desperado"!

Grindhouse is basically two movies back to back with some "fake" grindhouse type trailers (about four of it) and even some fake ads thrown in between. The first movie - "Planet Terror" - is directed by Rodriguez. Because of some military experiment gone wrong, a whole bunch of people turned into flesh eating zombies. Main characters - a hot blonde lesbian mother of a six-year old; a standup comedian wannabe go-go dancer who loses her leg but then was fitted with a machine gun to fight zombies; scantily clad teenage babysitter twin sisters; a leather jacket wearing dude called "El Wray" with attitude who 'never misses' a shot and will invariably show some tricks whenever he holds a gun - even if he only has a split second to shot and save himself. Oh! There's also our own Naveen Andrews as the madcap scientist who cuts and collects - in a glass bottle - balls of people who defy him. You get the idea. Don't you? Intentional grainy footage, go-go dancer with a shade of tears as she's stripping, lots of bike action, forced bad acting, a kid who seems too smart but is so stupid, mimicking and / or respecting the traditional grindhouse "too filmy moments" and a very strong almost surreal brand of humor just as much as the gore are the footprints(pun intended) of the movie.

Then comes some gory but totally funny and incredibly cool trailers. Watch the trailers to get re-charged because things will be a bit slower afterwards. The second movie - "Death Proof" - is directed by QT and the first half of it lacks much dynamics in an obvious intention to bore you a bit with "safety instructions" before a bad turbulence hits the plane. You may even get bored and start drooping to hear all the talks between the four 'usual' girls in bar. Then they meet "Stuntman Mike" who takes the pulse and his car racing to three digits within a few seconds. He has a totally cool 1971 Chevy Nova that he uses to kill people - specially uber-talkative chicks with attitude! The last part of Death Proof has QT stamped over it as some tough leather clad females literally kick male ass, especially that of guys who hate and abuse them. Together both movies, with trailers, run for about 3 hours 10 minutes. I did not even peek at my watch except for the window when women were randomly talking about guys, drinks, jobs, pick up lines etc in the bar. But then it was QT's idea of creating an intentional vacuum before filling it up with hot high pressure hurricane!

When should I watch it

Right now! Please watch it in the theater and ensure more such movies are made!!

If you are outside US, both the movies would probably not be packaged together as "Grindhouse". Probably they would be released separately as two different movies. That would be totally defeating the whole idea of movie made from movies. Standing alone, or even together, the movies are not even a 5/10. Unless you watch it together with the same perspective the directors want you to, and it's not very difficult to do here, you would probably yawn in the theater and think where you parked the car. If you follow the directors, you will smirk, smile, laugh, applaud and feel satiated at the end. Yet, you will feel hungry within moments after ending to grab more of it!

To me, movies are of four types, generally.
  • Movies made from books
  • Movies made from reality
  • Movies made from surreal stuff. Movies to "feel", not "understand"
  • Movies made from other movies.
Grindhouse is not only a movie made from other movies, it is a bent-knee homage to all B-grade movies ever made anywhere. That's why I told you I felt almost vindicated after watching it. QT and RR made a movie exactly for people like us.

Like they take old stuff and repackage it in today's format and call it "remix" in Bollywood and everywhere else -- I wish they could take today's stuff and repackage it in yesteryear's format. We may call it "Premix". There was a remix song a few years back that tried to do the same with the hero sporting a Rishi Kapoor in 70s style of hairstyle, wearing white bell bottoms and colorful oversize sweaters, playing his guitar while dancing on a stage that looks like a giant rotating LP record, riding a Rajdoot with his won-over girlfriend in white and both smiling at us next to the "The Beginning" message shown at the end! It was a deja vu all over again.

In the bollywood context, I am so tired of watching movie after movie made in the same high-gloss, shot in Manhattan, without any obvious stupid moment -- I badly miss those lackadaisical 70's and 80's movie where a villain had to be bald and had to make a lot of mean faces to express his badness. I badly miss the usual 12 minutes of "dhishum dhusum" at the end of the movie - typically near a naked Pune hill. I badly miss the Ranjeets trying to smuggle 1 crore of Diamonds (so cute! Ain't it?) using a Ranjeeta without a trace of accent in her English. I sorely miss the 6 minute song picturization with no more than 2 changes of clothes and no more than 3 long takes. I sorely miss Dal Lake and a certain Saira Banu with her bouffant who even feels cheated in love there just because his lover did not show up in her birthday party back in Bombay! This is in despite the fact that she hasn't even been pecked once by the local Kashmiri houseboat hunk! Will someone make a Grindhouse for me in India, please?


This movie is so full of trivia that it needs a book, not the postscript of a lame blog to talk about it! Still I liked when they laughed about "Angelina Jolie's Gone in 60 seconds" and talked about the "real" 1974 one. That was one more Nirvana moment for me.


Thanks to Quentin and Rodriguez. Really. Also thank you so MUCH to my dear wife. I love you! I know how difficult it is for you to even try to understand why I almost toss and turn whole night- and run to pee umpteenth time - before release of certain movies even though it does not have Hrithik Roshan or has a "bride" or "princess" word in the title. When I asked if you wanted to watch this movie, and you did not want -- you just let me without saying "You could watch this without ME!!!" I would never understand how meaningful could a few roses be to you on certain evenings, but I guess it's pretty much how I felt last night after "Grindhouse". Thank you again! Thank you for not making me feel like this guy!

1 comment:

Dipta Chaudhuri said...

I think you and I use the word 'classic' in our own way!

An Indian remake of this film would probably have a Tarzan and Ramsay movie made back to back.