Tuesday, March 10, 2009
This is ART
Slumdog Millionaire. If you haven't seen this yet, you're silly. See it on the silver screen in all it's splendor; don't wait for the DVD. Hurry. I've always loved movies. Good ones. Ones that make me feel and think, by showing me and telling me simultaneously. Not until I took a cinema class in grad school did I realize that good cinema IS good art. A great movie is the best of all the arts rolled into one package: sound, movement, words, pictures, narrative, metaphor, meaning. You walk away somehow changed, hopefully challenged. This movie did that for me. I've been to the slums, the slums in Kenya. But slums are slums. One of the first scenes takes you on a chase. You're running with the kids through the maze of Mumbai's slum. You feel the chaos of the maze, the stops and starts, the density, the claustrophobia. I could almost smell it. The kids are darling, of course. Kids are kids. But they are survivors, and have to make difficult decisions in order to breathe. The shot above is the young Indian actor that plays the main character Jamal as a kid. What you don't see in this shot is that he is sitting in a public latrine, one that is at the end of a plank, a pier of sorts, and he is dangling his young ass over a hole in the planks that drops several feet into a communal pile of shit. And you don't see the next scene, where Jamal realizes he is locked in and has to make a decision.
The movie is ultimately a love story, so says the brilliant director Danny Boyle. But it is not that simple. It is layered, it hits on all the themes of humanity, just in an unexposed setting to many Westerners, so it feels raw and new. I bawled while the credits roled. And if you know me, you know I don't cry easily. I think I cried for the kids; for the Kenyan orphans my organization and family are trying to help. I cried for my own blinders, my own creature comforts that allow me to turn off the images of the slums. The ending of Slumdog Millionaire may be a bit Hollywood and a bit Bollywood, but it is no Cinderella story. It's rough. Go see it. Hurry.