By Vijay Kumar
July 5, 2010
Browsing through NetFlix’s online streaming collection is not unlike those late Friday nights spent browsing through the movie maze in your local video store. The search for that perfect movie is often tricky. Sometimes you have to deal with a fuming partner and/or a melting tub of ice-cream in the car. The pressure is compounded by a listless, unhelpful store clerk in some cases. This column aims to be that clerk for NetFlix Instant Watch – maybe just a little less listless and little more helpful. This is what I waded through recently – at NetFlix.
Went Looking For… Believe it or not, I sometimes do have a predetermined playlist while browsing for movie titles. Generally, there is a week between my adding them to the playlist and actually watching them. The movies under “Went Looking For…” are typically the movies that I had slotted as “Ended up with…” the previous week.
I picked quite a few lemons this week, saved only by a French movie that I did not give much credit to begin with.
The first few scenes in this French movie (with English subtitles) establish that M. Pignon (Daniel Auteuil) is a loser of the highest order. There is really no hidden charm that one can come to expect of such characterizations. He is pushed out of a company photograph as a precursor to getting pushed out of the company itself. The simple reason is that he is too bland and won’t be missed. A stray cat leads to an introduction to a resourceful neighbor and things start turning around for Pignon. He fakes his sexual preference, which arouses the interest of just about everyone in his circle. He continues to be the dullard that he is throughout all this change channeled towards him. Even when he wears a condom cap in a gay pride parade he looks remarkably dull. However, this captures the attention of even his estranged teenage son.
Other people are forced to reinvent themselves based on Poignon’s deviation. Some take the easy route of continuing to be irritated with Pignon. The perennially indignant co-worker is borderline comical. Others react differently. A Marseilles-born bigot, played by the omnipresent (as far as French films go) Gerard Depardieu, changes from being a content, thickheaded bully to a confused wooer of sorts of Pignon. In another development, curiosity gets the better of Pignon’s prim and proper boss. She tries to seduce him in the off-hand chance that his gayness is a straight lie. Just when I expected a character to play out to a stereotype, they turn around doing something funny and against type, leading to a delightful movie watching experience.
Director Nolan has a taste for the macabre. This makes him a perfect fit for Batman. He seems to have honed his skills in developing the quirky and weird characters of Gotham city in movies such as this. There is not a single positive character in this movie, which is rightly rendered in black and white. The main protagonist is a serial stalker. He is not the vicious kind, but a rather harmless writer of sorts who is addicted to stalking people. One of his subjects turns out to be a person with an equally spooky vocation. The "harmless" aspect is thrown out of the window when the two deviants join hands. A game of cat and mouse ensues with a body count triggered along the way. The stalker soon gets more than he bargained for. The movie traces his awakening to his partner’s crimes.
The pace slows down considerably towards the end, but the non-linear narrative maintains some intrigue. Like I said, this is a movie where Nolan hones his skills rather than displays them fully.