KABHI KHUSHI KABHIE GHAM. Karan Johar, 2001. 210min.
From the director of the Bollywood hit Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) comes this star-studded story of a family divided by love. The most expensive Indian film released up until that point, K3G unfortunately suffers from an overly-long buildup in the first half, somewhat lacking in good songs or choreography, which threatens to bog down the film. Fortunately, things pick up after the intermission. The songs are catchier, the dance numbers improved (even if they could appear to be Color Me Badd videos at certain points), the plot thickens, and a few choice lines of dialogue adds an interesting cultural conflict to the proceedings. While it pays off slogging through the first half, it might be better in the long run to fast forward to the intermission saving yourself an hour and a half, so long as you get the basic gist of the story. Shahrukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan play roles similar to the ones they had played in Mohabbatein (Aditya Chopra, 2000), to greater effect, proving "It's all about loving your parents." 9.28.03
KEKEXILI. Chuan Lu, 2004. 85min.
A surprisingly unsentimental film about a true-life volunteer mountain patrol pledged to protect the endangered Tibetan antelope from poachers, Kekexili follows the plight of its leader, a man with an Ahab-like drive to capture the head of a syndicate responsible for killing thousands of animals for its fur. Shot on location in Kekexili, the film captures the magestic sweep of the Tibetan landscape even as it unflinchingly portrays the harsh living conditions. As the film progresses, the mountain patrol drives further and further into the Tibetan landscape, and the hunt becomes more and more desperate. The characters are well-defined for the number the film follows, and you care for the plight of each of them. The morality of the film becomes more complex the more you learn about the leader of the patrol, as his drive to save the antelope seems to justify all costs. The closing credits offer a window into the eventual outcome of his efforts as titles reveal the ultimate results of the patrol's actions. One side note, the Tibetan antelope was one of this year's Olympic mascots. 10.08
KILL BILL, VOLUME ONE. Quentin Tarantino, 2003. 110min.
In the past, Tarantino has shown how he has managed to shape his many influences into a new, inventive, whole. With Kill Bill, he offers a collage which proves far less than the sum of its many parts. While there are beautiful scenes, clever juxtapositions, and well-choreographed and shot fight sequences, the flimsy narrative that ties the pieces together is so far a rather straightforward and dull revenge plot (which suggests something more sinister, but did we need two hours of bloodshed to "heighten" the suspense? It seems almost beside the point). Still, for all the flash Tarantion puts on the screen, Kurosawa was able to convey more skill in one minute than in the battle between Lui and Thurman that serves as the very long climax of the film; and Jackie Chan proved much more resourceful and resilient during the extended fight that concluded Drunken Master 2 (directed by the choreographer of Kill Bill, Woo-ping Yuen, 1978). The decision to extend the film into two parts underscores all that is wrong about the film. It would be better if it were shorter and tighter. As it stands Kill Bill plays as a drawn-out version of Game of Death (Robert Clouse and Sammo Hung, 1978), a filmed performance of a video-game champ putting the moves on Mortal Kombat, or a kung-fu porn film (as Poshi put it). Fun for a while, but I'd rather fast forward to the good parts. 10.13.03
A KNIGHT'S TALE. Brian Helgeland, 2001. 132min.
An energetically anachronistic opening roars out of the canister to set the stage for this rock and roll mideval tale, which unfortunately ends up crawling to the eventual showdown over the course of an overly long (and almost unbelievable running time of) 132 minutes. A punchy 85 minutes could have made this a much more enjoyable ancient precursor to professional wrestling, but as the film stands, its unclear where all the film really goes. The rather simple story somehow attempts to become a bloated epic when all it wants to be is an entertaining whammy. It's one saving grace is a deliciously over the top Paul Bettany performing as a herald who happens to be Geoffrey Chaucer, slumming for a story after a year with the pilgrims.
KUNDUN. Martin Scorcese, 1997. 128min.
Had Scorcese jettisoned the plot and made the abstract film this project seems so badly to want to have become, it could have been a great film. Unfortunately, the plot gets in the way, hindering some spectacular scenery and cinematography and forcing another retelling of the life of the current Dalai Lama. That said, the soundtrack by Philip Glass is wonderful, and there are some brilliant sequences. It's just a shame that those two couldn't have been left to stand alone as a testament to the beauty of the country and the plight of the Dalai Lama. What we get seems compromised. 03.14.01