Monday, December 04, 2006

Solaris/Les Diaboliques

IFFI ends quietly in Goa with Babel. A Chinese film, The Old Barber, won the Golden Peacock.

Solaris, a film by Tarkovsky, is a slow-moving but excellent science fiction film. Space-psychologist Kris Kelvin is entrusted with the task of deciding if the exploration of the sea of Solaris has to end or be kept alive. On board the space station close to Solaris, he finds that each astronaut has a guest formed from his own memory (or is it conscience?). Kris's own wife, who died 10 years ago, soon accompanies him. And no matter what Kris does, she won't die or leave him alone. Tarkovsky, who is a great hit with serious film buffs in India, sets out on an exploration of love, death and limits of knowledge using this intriguing and exasperating plot as an excuse. Like 2001, this movie too is about the human spirit rather than technological wizardry evident in recent science fiction movies. Belongs up there with Blade Runner and 2001. Was remade by Steven Sodenberg with George Clooney in the lead in 2002. The remake features a dreamy dance sequence in space not fully realised in the original.

Clouzot's Les Diaboliques (The Devils) was made in 1955 and is thought to have been an influence on Hitchcock's Psycho. Michel Dellassalle, the principal of an elite boarding school, is killed by his wife and his mistress. His sick wife owns the school in which the mistress is a teacher. After the elaborately planned murder, the body is dumped in the pool of the school. But next morning it disappears. Michel's suit returns from the dry cleaner's and later a schoolboy claims he saw the principal. In the background of a newly shot school photo, the principal's face may be visible. The two women freak out and start blaming each other. Who's guilty of murder? The movie is like the basic template of the murder mystery film. The title sequence music sounds familiar, no doubt because it was repeated in many Tamil films. The acting is quaint, but if you can get over that, the movie is really interesting. Not the arty farty kinds, but one with both feet on the ground.