(2008) dir. Danny Boyle, Loveleen Tandan
viewed: 02/22/09 at Village Cine Recoleta, Buenos Aires, Argentina
So, last day in Argentina, I’m feeling quite sick, had to check out of our hotel room and kill most of the day since the flight home wasn’t til late. So, after brief research, found out that all the American films in Argentina are still in English, but with subtitles. The big cinema features many a reasonable film, and here you go: a new experience — watching a movie in Argentina.
And if that weren’t quite enough, the film selected is Slumdog Millionaire, the eventual Oscar winner for Best Picture, the very day of the Oscars themselves. Outside of Slumdog Millionaire, the only other film up for Best Picture that I had seen was Gus Van Sant’s far superior film, Milk (2008). The Oscars are known for picking dogs.
Slumdog Millionaire is a decent film. I don’t know what I can tell you about it that you probably don’t already know. But it’s a fairly standard rags-to-riches through the ghetto story with romance. It’s a melodrama. It’s just set largely in the slums of Mumbai and realized mostly through flashbacks through a character who happens to be on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.
It’s directed by Danny Boyle, who has made some good films in his career, Shallow Grave (1994), Trainspotting (1996) and 28 Days Later… (2002) would be the highlights. But he’s also a little hyperactive, pounding with trendy music, choppy cutting, a bit of dislocating action, and stylized camera angles and color. It’s a bit busy for the subject matter. I guess the busy-ness and chaos of Mumbai is the potential reasoning behind the pacing of the edits and the character, but it’s the same damn style he uses always. Works better in a zombie movie or one about heroin addicts in Scotland, if you ask me.
But the story is charming enough. You care. You join in. It’s not a bad film. Maybe it’s more like his 2004 film Millions, in a sense. Not as soft as a family film, but one that redeems the good guys over the bad.
Actually, I thought that the amount of horror that was inflicted on the children of the slums was more akin to a Dickensonian Victorian nightmare modernized. One thing that struck me, however, (and not trying to pretend that the horrors are not true or perhaps even worse in many cases) but it did remind me, the deforming of children to be made to become more sympathetic beggars was not unlike what is done to children in Paul Leni’s The Man Who Laughs (1928), in which children are intentionally disfigured to become fodder for freak shows.
Decent film? Yes. Best Picture material? No. They so very rarely ever get it right.