Every slumdog has his day
THE POOL Directed by Chris Smith. Starring Venkatesh Chavan, Jhangir Badshah, Ayesha Mohan, Nana Patekar Club, IFI, Dublin, 98 mins Venkatesh is an uneducated 18-year-old scrabbling a living on the streets of Panjim, Goa. He hopes someday to work in a chocolate factory but for the moment he cleans hotel rooms and sells plastic bags on the street with Jhangir, a savvy, orphaned 10-year-old.
Between shifts and hardearned snack foods, Venkatesh obsesses over a shimmering swimming pool on the more salubrious side of town. He comes to stalk the sad, mysterious family who live there, watching them from a nearby mango tree. Finally, he befriends the man and his teenage daughter and discovers their tragic secret.
Shot using mostly non-professional actors by a director who could neither speak nor understand Hindi, at its best, The Pool looks and feels like a rougher hewn, softer-edged Satyajit Ray fable. Chris the Easter Bunny and so forth – to frustrate the evil plans of the boogeyman. It looks very nice and the voices are all very good, but the film doesn’t really make sense of its premise. Since when has the Sandman been a good guy? Don’t we need the evil legends too? Never mind; it hardly matters. G cert, gen release, 97 min SAMSARA Directed by Ron Fricke Staggeringly beautiful, occasionally disturbing “chill- out” documentary featuring shots of the world’s most astonishing sights scored to a fine ethereal soundtrack. Fricke & co deserve credit simply for locating so many peculiar structures, landscapes and people. Who knew the world concealed all this eccentric, undiscovered loveliness? The ecological Smith’s handheld camera is bright and exotic. The tone is buoyant and adventurous. Bollywood veterans such as Nana Patekar complement the young, inexperienced cast members.
The film itself is a fluke. A rare feature from the documentarian behind The Yes Men, it was almost abandoned entirely when Smith struggled to find a bungalow with a pool in the relevant locale.
Its European release is belated, to say the least. The Pool was an award-winner way back at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. It graced several critics’ top 10 lists in the US in 2008 yet failed to materialise on this side of the Atlantic.
A cynic might complain that the film exoticises poverty; certainly there are few deviations into the grubbier end of social realism. Kitchen sink, to be fair, is never part of Smith’s remit.
At any rate, we’re glad to finally catch it in cinemas. The Pool is a small production but one worth waiting for. grandstanding is occasionally oppressive, but the startling images – chanting monks, enormous gorges, chickens being processed – are impossible to resist. 12A cert, Light House, Dublin, 102 min SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS Directed by Martin McDonagh. Starring Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish, Gabourey Sidibe You have to worry a little when a movie looks to be making postmodern excuses for itself. Martin McDonagh’s hectic, very funny follow-up to In Bruges concerns a Hollywood scriptwriter (granted all the boozy clichés) who is failing to compose a screenplay named, yes, Seven Psychopaths. The script notes certain failings in itself, but fails to point out that the denouement runs badly out of steam. Still, Walken and Rockwell are super as eccentric sidekicks. 16 cert, gen release, 110 min
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK Directed by David O Russell. Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro Russell’s follow-up to The Fighter is a mix of integrity and fatal compromise. Cooper is strong and Lawrence excellent as a pair of bi-polar malcontents who get together in a grey, grittily rendered Philadelphia. Much of the dialogue is sharp. About halfway through, however, the film takes a regrettable turn towards the mundane when the pair enter a potentially lifechanging dance competition. What started out as a brave comedy ends up feeling like a sentimental con. 15A cert, gen release, 121 min SKYFALL Directed by Sam Mendes Starring Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Judi Dench The latest Bond adventure is certainly a great improvement on the muddled, compromised Quantum of Solace. Mendes brings real sweep and momentum to the action. The relationship between Craig’s classless 007 and Dench’s flinty M is very nicely played. But, like every Bond flick of the past 30 years, Skyfall feels more than a little compromised: attempts to update the gruesome “Bond girl” paradigm are laughably perfunctory; the product placement is disgusting. A fine thriller, but no masterpiece. 12A cert, gen release, 143 min NEW RELEASE SMASHED Club, IFI, Dublin, 80 min See review, page 10 SO UNDERCOVER Directed by Tom Vaughn. Starring Miley Cyrus, Jeremy Piven, Kelly Osbourne A biker chick and part-time paparazzo (Cyrus) helps her dad – a discredited cop with a heap of gambling debts – catch various love rats on the gumshoe beat. She’s so not interested when an FBI agent (Piven) offers 50 grand to infiltrate a snooty college sorority and cosy up to the daughter of the Georgian mafia’s accountant. But then dad comes back from the track with a sad face. Bring on the FBI fashionistas (no, really, they’re here): it’s time for a girlie makeover. 12A cert, gen release, 94 min TINKERBELL AND THE SECRET OF THE WINGS 3D Directed by Bobs Gannaway and Peggy Holmes. Voices of Mae Whitman, Anjelica Huston, Lucy Hale, Lucy Liu, Timothy Dalton It's all kicking off in Tinkers’ Nook, where the proletariat fairies are frantically producing the snowflake baskets for export to the Winter Woods. Undeterred by the ruling capitalist order, Tinker “Che” Bell (Whitman), stows away with a border-crossing snow owl. She uncovers a second, colder world of producers and passive wee folk owners – and her own doppelganger. G cert, gen release, 75 min
TURN ME ON, GODAMMIT! Directed by Jannicke Systad Jacobsen. Starring Helene Bergsholm Hell is boys and lipgloss. In a sleepy Norwegian borough, 15-year-old Alma grapples with omnivorous hormones and polysexual daydreams. Everyone Alma meets – really, everyone – is fodder for sexual fantasies, none more so than Artur, the tall, monosyllabic boy from down the street. When Artur exposes himself to Alma, however, her friends are not inclined to believe her account of events. Alma’s subsequent unpopularity forms the spine of this tart coming-ofage tale. Club, Light House, Dublin, 76 min THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN – PART 2 Directed by Bill Condon. Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Michael Sheen The franchise is finally placed in its tomb (for now) with an epic adventure that finds the vampire lovers organising an assault against their camp Volturi enemies. As ever, the picture strikes a few bum notes (the Irish vampires are hilarious). But Breaking Dawn 2 offers an efficient, mildly touching, morally unimpeachable conclusion to a chronicle that has left an indelible impact on contemporary popular culture. The leads are as charismatic as ever. 12A cert, gen release, 115 min