Friday, January 25, 2008

Eastern Promises

If you've watched Eastern Promises, I'd appreciate it greatly if you'd tell me how the fight scene in the bath was. You know the one I'm talking about. The one that the world and its grandma are hailing as the new benchmark for "spectacularly deployed gore"? No, no. Don't say "Watch the film." I already have. But you see, in this fantastic country, the blood and gore's been deemed too violent and hence, edited out almost completely.

To quote the Wikipedia entry about the "pivotal fight scene":
Adam Nayman of Eye Weekly reported that director David Cronenberg said "Just don't give the plot away" and Nayman wrote "His request is understandable." Nayman said, "There is one scene – the in-depth discussion of which prompted the director's anti-spoiler request referenced at the top of this story – that should rank not only in his personal pantheon of spectacularly deployed gore but among the most exhilaratingly visceral patches of cinema, period, full stop." Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert noted Cronenberg's quote and agreed, saying "He is correct that it would be fatal, because this is not a movie of what or how, but of why. And for a long time you don't see the why coming."
And this is what the article says about the use of weapons in the film:
The script made a point of excluding guns, and Cronenberg deliberately left any sight of them out of the movie. In an interview, Cronenberg explained, that the knives used in the film's pivotal fight scene weren't "some kind of exotic Turkish knives, they’re linoleum knives. [He] felt that these guys could walk around in the streets with these knives, and if they were ever caught, they could say 'we’re linoleum cutters.' "
Where I should have been watching Cronenburg's subtlety and vision play out in a film conspicuously devoid of the mandatory gun fights, I saw one nano-second of a flash of steel from under dark coats and that was bloody all!! And in what I saw, forget "pivotal", the fight scene was hardly even worth calling a scene. Read the Critical Reception section of the wiki article. Roger Ebert and ten other people are going on and on about the fight scene and our wonderful, protective censor board has very considerately saved us from the horror by ripping the whole bloody thing out.

And I do suppose it's not worth the time and energy to rant about whether the censor board is qualified to make any such brilliant decision. But that question begs asking if the people that constitute these committees are going to emasculate movies thus. It is, I think, equally useless to lament that a movie that good and interesting ran for a mere week. If I'd been working, I highly doubt that I would have been able to watch the film, given its warm welcome in theatres, but if you can, you must watch it.

Eastern Promises is everything the critics say it is... and more. The direction's superlative, the acting precise, and the film is superb in its overall effect. The story unfolds brilliantly and might have turned out to be just another ordinary crime thriller if it was told by a lesser director. The 'why' of the plot will keep you thinking long after you've left the theatre. And if you liked A History of Violence, you'll love this one. Watch it on DVD, people. It's going to be a while till I can and I'd like very much to know whether the massacred scene is as brilliant as everyone says it is.


One last thing. I know I'm flogging a dead horse but I JUST don't get it when people behave idiotically in cinema halls AND have the audacity to get irritated at you for telling them to shut up!! I don't appreciate added, jarring sound effects in the middle of a much awaited film and incessant chattering through innumerable others. What is most galling is that guy next to you who very indignantly asks you if you're happy now that he's stopped ruining the dialogue. Or that row of cretins that catcalls back instead of shamefully shutting up. I don't get it. Not at all!


Parth said...

I haven't seen Eastern Promises, but I thought History of Violence was strictly alright. I do intend to see the former though.

Extempore said...

@Parth: Well, I think Eastern Promises is more than a few steps ahead of A History of Violence so I hope you'll like it. But ensure that you watch it - it's a stand-out movie in a year of great movies. Like a very dear friend said, Mortensen's Oscar nod is so well-deserved!

I didn't get into much of a review because I was so irritated about the cut, but check out the reviews online at Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes. :-)

Ravi said...

Hi there,

I'm just back home after watching this movie and I completely agree with u...the most amazing scene was cut by the censors in India..

However, you can check out the scene here:

Take care :o)

Ravi (random wanderer on the web)

Extempore said...

@Ravi: Thank you! Someone else I was ranting to also sent me the link - will check it out soon. Thanks for dropping by. :-)

Ravi said...

You're welcome, mam!

Take care..

Jox said...

Unfortunate that the censors in India are having a gala time atchopping off the scene.

But that is one helluva scene and probably the fight of the year, and surely Eastern Promises will stay talked about simply for that one sequence.

But then again it does not take much from a film which has been superbly mounted with fab performances.

You can check my review on the same here.

bobo said...

hello, got here from desipundit..

it's funny that you talk about Cronenberg's subtlety and vision. While he undeniably possess the latter, I'd be hard-pressed to find a mainstream director (which he is, post 2002) who is more unsubtle in his method. he's someone with an imagination who likes to leave little to the audience's imagination, especially when it comes to violence.

and i may be part of a small minority, but i thought that Eastern Promises was a pretty average film, at least in his canon (i've seen around 10 of his films). don't get me wrong, because I adore Cronenberg, but this particular film was pretty weak, at least in my opinion.

that said, the scene in question is expert in its brutality. it isn't elegant, but its certainly raw.

Extempore said...

@Jox: And that's what makes it so much more irritating - thinking about just *how much better* the film would be with that scene. Thanks very much for the link - will be along to check it out.

@Bobo: I agree, it's not only funny but silly to call his cinematic vision subtle. I was referring to the finer, thoughtful distinctions of the lack of guns and the linoleum knives when I used the word "subtlety".

I haven't watched too much of Cronenburg - a situation I plan to remedy - but judging by any standards, I don't think Eastern Promises was weak. I think it was visceral and brilliantly done. You could criticize it for the ending but I think it worked much better than a neatly tied-up one. Wonderful acting, direction, cinematography, and score - to say the least I loved it. :-)

But if this one was weak compared to the rest of his oeuvre, I'm really looking forward to watching the rest of them!

bobo said...

well, those who loved EP profess (at least over the WWW) that it's his best film. so... :)

but yes, i would criticise the ending for being anticlimatic, amongst other things that went wrong in the film. alas.

actually, thinking abt it, it's difficult for me to pick a fav out of his films, because none of them stand out per se. they're all twisted. while some of his earlier ones suffer due to an amateurish quality (Scanners), some of his latest work seems to have a staidness brought upon by going mainstream. not that i think it affects him too much. gun to my head, i'd pick Videodrome or Naked Lunch. Maybe even Spider.

Extempore said...

@Bobo: Thank you for the recommendations - now here's to finding the DVDs. Or I guess there's always P2P! :-)