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Slumdog Millionaire


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#161 Buckeye Jones

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 02:19 PM

Been a week or so since seeing Slumdog. I read through a chunk of the thread until getting bogged down in the "-porn" debates. I'm not wanting to rehash that debate, except to say that while Boyle et al may be guilty of exploiting their young impoverished actors, the film doesn't seem to be about titillating its audience in terms of its approach to poverty. Some of the kids end up good, some bad, all being used by the system to some degree. In the end, Jamal unwittingly uses the system against itself to find the one thing he's looking for--true love. (Or was he looking to blave?)

I'm intrigued by Boyle's use of "the real India" and love as destiny ("it is written") as the two themes threading through the movie. In particular, the scene in which the younger Salim and Jamal serve as fake tour guides to show the women washing clothes in the river while their friends rip off the rental Mercedes gives a small coherent scene of both Western fears and Eastern critiques of the tourist. The naive tourists want to see the "real" India--in search of authentic experience, by which they obviously mean, poverty in action (perhaps modelled on scenes they saw in "Ghandi" or something), they find themselves throwing money at the very kid who set them up to be robbed by the street gangs. Their chauffer, who knows better, is chastised for beating young Jamal, while the wife urges her husband to give even more money in addition to what they've already lost to the young thief. The tourist desire of the true Indian experience is ironically fulfilled in being ripped off twice by the very people purporting to show them the real India. The critique of the Westerner is seen in his buffoonery in not realizing the exploitative nature of his request while he himself is being exploited by his trusted guide. Forster explores this some in "A Passage to India" but I don't think Lean's film captured 1/8 of its nuance. At the same time, the film shows that the tourist was foolish to venture beyond the safety of his travel agency cocoon, a common Western complaint of traveling in "foreign parts". Its an interesting vignette.

That brings to mind the characterization of Jamal--always goodhearted, he is conveniently moral. He takes care to tell the truth (when appropriate) but his younger self is a scrappy streetwise theif and hustler. How did he turn into the paragon of virtue winning the gameshow for Lakita's attention? That, I think, would have been worth exploring. But Boyle's not interested in it--he needs Jamal to be honest at the time of the questioning to gain our symptathies and to buy into the "destiny" stuff. Lakita herself is not much more than a type--secretly in love with Jamal all these years, but the gangster's mistress and wrapped up in the trappings of wealth? I don't buy it. As an audience member, I don't care cause I'm wrapped up in the emotion of the story--but as I think back on it, I'm a sucker.

I liked the film, but like much candy, its oddly unsatisfying, Snickers marketing to the contrary.

I

#162 John Drew

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 03:19 PM

QUOTE (Buckeye Jones @ Jul 14 2009, 12:19 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
That brings to mind the characterization of Jamal--always goodhearted, he is conveniently moral. He takes care to tell the truth (when appropriate) but his younger self is a scrappy streetwise theif and hustler. How did he turn into the paragon of virtue winning the gameshow for Lakita's attention? That, I think, would have been worth exploring. But Boyle's not interested in it--he needs Jamal to be honest at the time of the questioning to gain our symptathies and to buy into the "destiny" stuff. Lakita herself is not much more than a type--secretly in love with Jamal all these years, but the gangster's mistress and wrapped up in the trappings of wealth? I don't buy it. As an audience member, I don't care cause I'm wrapped up in the emotion of the story--but as I think back on it, I'm a sucker.

I liked the film, but like much candy, its oddly unsatisfying, Snickers marketing to the contrary.


I watched this about a week ago myself, and came away underwhelmed. I absolutely agree with your breakdown of the characters of Jamal and Latika. This relationship just doesn't work at all for me. There just "no there there".

My other problem with the film (and it has probably already been discussed) is the complete lack of believability that the order of questions asked during the game show just happen to correspond to Jamal's life in linear fashion. I'd like to see what Alejandro Innaritu would have done with this material.

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah, 14 July 2009 - 03:21 PM.


#163 Buckeye Jones

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 08:19 AM

QUOTE (Baal_T'shuvah @ Jul 14 2009, 04:19 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
My other problem with the film (and it has probably already been discussed) is the complete lack of believability that the order of questions asked during the game show just happen to correspond to Jamal's life in linear fashion. I'd like to see what Alejandro Innaritu would have done with this material.


I thought Boyle mixed this up a little bit--so that it wasn't completely an A-B-C structure. For example, we learned why he knew what a Colt .45 was before the question, not after it. And it had nothing to do with Billy Dee Williams. But I think in general, that the questions were in mostly chronological order corresponding to Jamal's age, is a contrivance that allows the audience to follow the storyline. Not as exciting as the Limey or Memento, but still, I liked it for what it was.




#164 MattPage

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 09:13 AM

: My other problem with the film (and it has probably already been discussed) is the complete lack of
: believability that the order of questions asked during the game show just happen to correspond to
: Jamal's life in linear fashion

I think that's coherrent with the film's internal logic even though it remains wildly improbable. It happens because "it is written".

And in any case, if you want to go down the probability route, then the probabilty of someone knowing the answers to all those questions simply because every question has had an impact on their life is probably far far smaller than the probability that that particular set of questions wiill be asked in an order that is, in general, chronological.

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#165 Denny Wayman

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 09:10 PM

I never took the chronology or the probability as an important part of the story. IMHO, it is a literary/cinematic technique that allows us to walk with a young man through the chapters of his life. The game show is really inconsequential in the final analysis - he didn't even go on it to win but to be reunited with his love.

Edited by Denny Wayman, 16 July 2009 - 09:11 PM.


#166 John Drew

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 12:49 AM

QUOTE (Denny Wayman @ Jul 16 2009, 07:10 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I never took the chronology or the probability as an important part of the story. IMHO, it is a literary/cinematic technique that allows us to walk with a young man through the chapters of his life. The game show is really inconsequential in the final analysis - he didn't even go on it to win but to be reunited with his love.


Unfortunately, for me, since I never bought into the love story, the technique is all I'm left with, and it didn't elevate the story beyond a lot of well framed images. I find this the case with a lot of Boyle's films. Trainspotting, 28 days later, Millions, even Shallow Grave, have terrific literary/cinematic technique, plus characters and situations that I got involved with. At other times, the technique is there, but the involvement in character is lacking. I never got involved with any of the characters in Slumdog, which for me falls somewhere in the middle of Boyle's The Beach and A Life Less Ordinary, both of which look great, but fell far short in terms of building characters or stories that I cared about.