Cinema Junkie by Beth Accomando
Friday, May 16, 2008
Before the Rains (Roadside Attractions)
Ismail Merchant may have died three years ago but the brand that he and fellow filmmaker James Ivory established with their canon of films lives on. The Merchant Ivory label isn't one that stands for bold innovation or wild excitement but it does assure you of a high level of craftsmanship; literate, intelligent storytelling; and usually themes of culture and class. The latest film to be presented under the Merchant-Ivory banner is Santosh Sivan's Before the Rains (opening May 16 at Landmark's La Jolla Village Theaters), a tale set in India as British rule is facing decline. [JUST ADDED: You can now listen to the Film Club of the Air discussion of Before the Rains with Tom Fudge, Scott Marks and myself.]
The inspiration for Before the Rains comes from an unexpected source -- the Israeli film by Dany Verete, The Desert Trilogy: Yellow Asphalt , and specifically the segment called Red Roofs. The story involves an Israeli farmer who has an illicit affair with his housemaid and then makes his Bedouin assistant deal with the fallout. Film producers Amotz Zakai, Doug Mankoff and Andrew Spaulding decided to transplant Verete's story to colonial India, which would then afford them the opportunity of working with cinematographer-turned-filmmaker Santosh Sivan.
May 16, 2008 at 08:20 PM
I saw the preview to this and I agree with your review here. Sajani was not presented well at all and the men weren't that interesting to follow. Despite the beautiful scenery I thought the movie failed to deliver. It does make me want to see the Israeli movie, though. For a similar theme, I'd recommend the better movie, Besieged, by Bertolucci.
Beth Accomando from San Diego
May 16, 2008 at 09:01 PM
Yes, Sajani definitely gets shortchanged. Thanks for the reminder about Beseiged.