Bride and Prejudice
Well, here's a cheerful how d'you do!
Director Gurinder Chadha has made two British films with Indian themes, Bhaji on the Beach and Bend it Like Beckham. She also made the interesting Thanksgiving multi-racial film in the US, What's Cooking. Why not follow the lead of Mira Nair who has done Bollywood with Monsoon Wedding and followed it with a version of a British classic, Vanity Fair? Better still, why not combine Bollywood style with an updating of a classic novel? Jane Austen meets India.
It works very well indeed. For those who want to see Bollywood colour, costumes, décor and, of course, many songs and dances, there all here at the drop of a hat and cane. They are quite lavish. The setting is Amritsar with a holiday on the beachfront in Goa.
For those who are wondering whether Jane Austen can transcend the 19th century (well, Emma really did in Clueless), they can be reassured. Bride & Prejudice keeps very close to the original plot, even keeping some of the names, especially Mr Darcy (now a prejudiced American played by New Zealander, Martin Henderson (The Ring, Torque)) and the villain, Wickham.
The Bennets are now the Bakhshis, Mr Bakshi is still henpecked by a loud and vulgar Mrs Bakhshi but is supportive of his daughters, Lalita and Jaya (for Elizabeth and Jane). There is also the snobbish Miss Bingley and her brother, Balraj. The eccentric suitor, Mr Collins, is now Mr Kholi who has absorbed American culture at its most blatantly American.
One of the features of Bollywood films is that they are set in an unreal affluent world that gives no indication of poverty or hunger. They are truly escapist. And the characters here can also escape for visits to London and to California which will make British and American audiences just that bit more comfortable watching what might be for some an exotic confection.
The title, Triple Agent, does not sit well with the name of the director, Eric Rohmer. Rohmer made this film when he was 82-83, an accomplished work. However, Rohmer has been an academic, a critic and editor, a maker of cinema moral fables for forty years. His films are elegant, literate, beautifully designed, sometimes didactic. Those who do not care for them dismiss them as visual radio.
Rohmer fans need not fear. Triple Agent may have overtones of a Hitchcock film of the 1930s (when this film is set) and Rohmer wrote a book on Hitchcock, but it is as elegant and literary as all the rest of his films. One knows what to expect.
Rohmer himself lived through the period he depicts on screen, the late 1930s. To immerse audiences in the period, he uses newsreel footage from the time throughout the film. The situation in Paris prior to the outbreak of the war meant precarious government, possible alliances with Hitler and the Nazis or, the opposite, alliances with Stalin and the Soviet Union. Paris was filled with refugees from the Russian Revolution twenty years earlier. These White Russians stayed together, even keeping their military structures in the hope that Stalin would be overcome.
The central characters of this film, based on a true story, are an Russian military official and his loving wife, a Greek who met him when he was recuperating from battle injuries in Greece. They live a pleasantly social life, have friends and entertain, but he is always busy, making journeys to Brussels and Berlin. Where are his allegiances? To the White Russians, to France - or to counter-espionage with the Nazis, or with the Communists to defeat the Nazis? He confides part of this life and work to his wife but then becomes involved in a plot with tragic consequences.
Even though Rohmer is exploring the world of espionage, his treatment is quietly emotional and intelligent.
After the success of The Passion, some publicists rushed articles to the press about religious films being popular again and headlined Saved! Either they had not seen it or they had their tongues firmly in their cheeks.
Yes, the film is about Christianity. No, the film is light years away from The Passion except that most of the characters in Saved! would have been the first to buy tickets. It is about Born Again Christians.
Actually, the film is really Mean Girls all over again in Born Again clothing. It targets the more righteous than thou kind of Christians, parodies their behaviour and makes quite a few satiric digs at the double standards of many professing believers who justify whatever they do, (good deed or bad whim) by attributing it to Jesus. To that extent, the film can serve as a bit of an examination of conscience concerning authentic faith and charity
Jena Malone is the devout student who misinterprets what Jesus would want her to do to help her gay friend and finds herself becoming disillusioned, especially with her prom queen friend, Mandy Moore,
who is ruthlessly religious. Add devout friends, pious teachers, Martin Donovan as the cheery principle and Mary Louise Parker as Jena's mother and you have a mixture of comedy, critique and some serious questioning of what it is to be a true Christian.LONDON - 24 November 2004 - 900 words
Bride and Prejudice