Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Volver - Pedro Almodavor

It has been a while since I watched a movie worth a mention. I am happy that my 2 hrs on my last weekend did not go waste on some trash. 'Volver' is already a much talked about movie and won a nomination for Penelope Cruz for best actress. It had also won many distinctions at the Cannes Film Festival, which I consider one of the best film award, despite occasional HOLLYWOOD take over.
Predominantly a female cast, the movie is is a story of women of three generation. Raimunda ( Cruz )'s life changes after an accidental murder of her husband by the hand of her daughter. Trying to cover up this and her attempt to dispose the body , and the parallel story about her parents death and the rumour of her mother's ghost appearing , the new Russian worker in her sisters house etc are all adds up to the melodrama.
Very personal and intense story and very well knit by Pedro Almodavor. Penelope Cruz stole the show with her very matured and controlled acting. A crisp and well written screen play added with the directorial brilliance of Pedro Almodavor makes this a truly enjoyable movie.

Monday, February 26, 2007

33 Strategies of War - Robert Greene

Here is another very interesting book from Robert Greene. Like his earlier books "Art of Seduction" and "48 Laws of Power", "33 Strategies of War" is well researched and well written book. If you guys are familiar with his earlier books, you can expect the same styling and method in this book too. As the name suggests, this time he take on the research on war strategies and the book is full of examples from history and quotes from literature. The methodology of example , interpretation and the key elements are as he is known to us with his earlier books.

Examples from Sun-Tzu , Japanese Samurai masters , Machiavelli, Hannibal, Caesar and Napoleon to the latest 911 , he has enough to quote from the history. This is not only a book on real warfare, but it is applicable in our corporate and personal life. Examples are from Samurai fighters, political leaders, European aristocrats , World war , New guerrilla war fare and movies.

You can dispute and debate the examples and the interpretation, but can not ignore the facts being discussed. You will have to use the appropriate strategy depending upon the time, your enemy , the social and political situation. There are many places you can attribute the situations to the current world.

One of the best non-fiction book I have read in recent times and demands a deliberate slow reading. It had taken me almost a month for me to finish this 450 pages.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Hour of the Star - Clarice Lispector

'Death is an encounter with self' says Clarice Lispector in her last novel published in the same year of her death in 1977.

A very abstract and experimental novel mostly told in a 3rd Person narrative about a north-east Brazilian girl living in Rio de Janeiro slums. Macabea, the girl from the north-east living in poverty and misfortunes. There are many like her in this world whose life does not matter to the world, their existence is a mere biological fact and nothing more. They have nothing to look forward to it and just pushes their life until death. As Macabea puts it , she should be happy that she is alive. They also have hopes and despair , to be a movie star like Marylin Monroe as she says.

Macabea lives with the small income she gets as a typist and we mishaps after mishaps affect her until her sad end under a Mercedes. Soon after her birth her parents dies and she was brought up under a bad auntie (as in case of all the stories) . She comes to Rio as every one in search of job and food and lives in the slums of the red-district area of Rio. She is ugly and virgin and share a room with few others, about whom we have no information.

She represents the lower section of the Brazilian ( for that matter all the 3rd world countries) society. She is alien to the brash metropolis and what it has to offer and become more and more away from the mainstream. Her only contact to the external world has been her short term boy-friend ( whom she looses to her workmate) and her workmate who represent the new hopes and new world.

A very sad and disturbing existential book written when Claris Lispector was diagnosed with cancer. This book written during her time of serious illness would definitely have provided her with enough personal difficulties. The 3rd person narrative ( The novel is as told by Rodrigo S M ) is her other self and it possibly is her attempt to detach herself from the story.
The beauty of this novel is that you can have multiple interpretation of each character and incidents. Some of the prominent critics call this as "existentialism of the masses".

The hour of the star
Clarice Lispector ( Brazil)
Translated by Giovanni Pontiero ( with a beautifully written 'after word'")
96 pages
USD 9.95