Dubby’s DVdiscussion : A hotel and a theatre

Dubby Bhagat


Hotel Rwanda’ brings out a mixture of horror and supe-rlatives like “powerhouse performances,” “emotionally charged” and “burningly brilliant”. For us ‘Hotel Rwanda’ which is about the terror that is conflict is revo-ltingly relevant and the pun is intended. Don Cheadle acts as a real-life hero Paul Rusesabagina who was a hotel manager in Rwanda during the conflict in 1994 that took a million lives. In a Oscar nominated role Cheadle bribes, lies and schemes to save over a thousand people by turning his hotel into a sanctuary and standing up to “hatred and insanity”. In ‘Hotel Rwanda’ human beings are reduced to being called and treated like cockroaches and it gets so bad one character in the movie says, “I can’t bear to watch”. Viewers sometimes share the feeling but screenwriter and director Terry George makes the movie riveting by moments of humor, compassion and by being what critic Glenn Kenny calls, “a non-preachy message film”. Individual bits of dialogue stand out. “The world will hear about it and be horrified and then eat their dinners.” “You are not even a nigger. You are an African and no one cares”. Through the film we watch as a UN worker played by Nick Nolte tries to help but is restricted by the role his organisation places on him. So it is up to individuals not countries or organisations or intermediaries to stop the downward spiral of a holocaust. Says Don Cheadle, “I don’t know what I expected from a holocaust survivor but Paul was a refined man who’s passionate about wine, food, family and friends. He is haunted to a degree but he’s very available. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense that he would have such a joy of life now and celebrate people.” Says writer Kelly Borgeson, “When the emotion of the often-brutal story got to him, Cheadle turned to his wife and two young daughters. ‘I would go home and grab my kids and just hug them.’ “ Sophie Okonedo who plays Cheadle’s wife was also nominated for an Oscar as was director Terry George of whom critic Jeff Shannon said, “He brings a formidable social story you won’t soon forget.” In Nepal we can’t forget because we are reminded everyday.

On a lighter note is ‘Being Julia’, a film that begs the question, “How can a Canadian production that was shot in Budapest by a Hungarian director with an American star convey a story that should be steeped in Britishness every step of the way?” Based on Somerset Maugham’s story, “Theatre”, ‘Being Julia’ is the story of an actress in the 30’s who is having a mid-life crisis and falls in love with a boy young enough to be her son. Julia played by Annette Bening is married to the character played by Jeremy Irons in a marriage where both lead separate lives but love each in a theatrical kind of way. Julia’s guiding lights are her dead mentor who we see helping her along (brilliantly played by Michael Gambon), her assistant Evie and, when he wants to, her husband. Julia’s young lover Tom acted by Shaun Evans is a predator as is his aspiring actress girlfriend. And Julia becomes their prey.

Director Istvan Szabo keeps the pace of the movie fluid and songs like “Mad About The Boy”, “I Get a Kick Out Of You” and specially “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” lend a quiet despair to the plight of a jilted woman. Annette Bening who was nominated for the Oscar for her role as Julia says, “Julia is an energetic diva who has to lose her artifice and build herself back up again.” The way she does it is to change the world into her stage and then she gets even dramatically. Said a critic, “Bening’s outstanding performance is the best reason to see ‘Being Julia’. Julia’s nothing if not a master thespian who treats life and the theatre as one big play in which she’s the perpetual star”. ‘Being Julia’ is fabulous, glamorous and is one of the first times that the stage is shown as not just an arena but a killing instrument more delightfully vicious than a gun. Despite a little wistful remorse, ‘Being Julia’ is as wickedly irreverent and amusing as backstage gossip or a bitchy society column. Both movies must be seen.