Since it’s summer rerun season, I went to the video store and rented two films the other day, the Indian, Bollywood film God Is My Witness/Khuda Gawah
, and the HK policier, Ringo Lam’s 1997 award winner Full Alert
. Some short comments (and this time I mean it) on the two films.
God Is My Witness
is a pretty good Hindi masala film, a 193 epic film starring the Indian film star Amitabh Bachchan, a combination of action film, comedy, and musical (but then again, mcbain pointed out on AIM that all Bollywood films were 3+ hour films that combined action, comedy, and musical). The plot virtually defines melodrama, the Pashtan tribesman played by Bachchan falls in love with the daughter of a rival clan, and to win her heart, he must travel to India to avenge the murder of her father; which sets off a chain of events that keep Bachchan away from his family for over 20 years, languishing in an Indian jail for crimes he didn’t commit, driving his wife insane, and causing his daughter, who he never saw, to grow up thinking she was the daughter of another man (Bachchan’s best friend). The wildly coincidental events of the film’s plot is sheer hokum, and I’m not even sure it all really hangs in together (it has three hours of plot you know), but it’s really enjoyable hokum; hell, I didn’t even know the film took place in the 1970s and then the early 1990s until halfway through the film, I thought it was a period piece. What was really interesting were the musical sequences, most of which were weighted to the first half of the film, particularly impressive was the first sequence, where Bachchan and his would-be bride, Benazir, express their feelings with music, dance, and dangerous, phallic weapons like daggers and swords; the dance sequence, during the wedding; another when Bachchan must return to India to fulfill a promise he made to the Rajput, his wife follows him from afar, wailing despondently from the cliffs above to her beloved Bachchan; and there is another dance sequence, where Bachchan, just released from prison, is confronted by his daughter, who is not only spitting image of her mother, but is also engaged to a man, who father Bachchan supposedly killed (actually, the man’s wife killed him, and Bachchan took the blame to protect her). And of course, there is the obligatory musical sequence between Bachchan and Benazir, separated, and another between Mehndi and Raja, where the scenery shifts with every cut. I love how the director and choreographer worked together to craft the film, the strange angles, the shafts of light, the fluttering saris in the wind, the use of the frame, and cuts on action, used to create interesting compositions. And I have to say, Bollywood directors can find new, and interesting ways to film a woman in close-up. It’s no Lagaan
, but it’s a pretty entertaining movie all together.
Ringo Lam’s Full Alert
is a simply awesome film, starring one of my favorite HK actors Lau Ching Wan, an actor who, despite the chubby, baby-face, cuts an imposing figure, from a tough guy to one cool motherfucker (but not the suave kind like Chow Yun-fat) usually with some intense brooding, in films such as The Big Bullet
, The Longest Nite
, and Expect the Unexpected
. Lau is Inspector Pao of the HKPD Special Crimes Bureau, who is tracking Francis Ng’s Mak Kwan, a former engineer and explosives expert, who after murdering an architect, and escaping from jail, has set out with a bunch of Taiwanese thugs to rob a racetrack. Full Alert
meticulously traces the steps in Pao’s investigations; this is the third Lam film I’ve seen, after City on Fire
and The Suspect
, and he represents, which I call, for the lack of a better term, the more realistic strand of HK genre directors, which he uses to plumb the moral depths of violence, family, and loyalty. Pao, while apparently only in his early 30s, is already a tired man, who takes stomach pills, is tired and somewhat withdrawn, yet still loving, of his young wife and child. Mak Kwan, Pao’s shadowy doppleganger, is a failure, passionately in love with his girlfriend, who is in on the plot. The film really explores the effects of violence; both Pao and Mak Kwan have killed a man, and both feel the gnawing effects of the guilt. There are actually only a few murders in the film, and all are brutal and bloody, and are not easily shrugged off. There are a few twists in the film, which leads to a harrowing ending. The final shot, a close-up of Pao crying, out of relief, exhaustion, grief, and guilt, is superimposed over a long-shot of Mak Kwan and his girlfriends body (Pao killed the girlfriend who was trying to save Mak Kwan when the two were fighting; while Mak Kwan, shot himself in the head while cradling her body in his arms), we then see Pao himself fall to his knees and collapse in the distance of the shot, before the film fades to black. Very powerful, and well worth watching.