Monday, December 22, 2008

'Slumdog Millionaire': The hero is the city

I saw Slumdog Millionaire yesterday. Everything about this movie -- acting, direction, cinematography, music -- is extraordinarily good.

Like any good work of art, it can be viewed/read on several levels. From one angle, it's a combination of picaresque tale and love story. But more is going on. Just as London is the central character in a novel like Dickens' Little Dorrit or in some of Iris Murdoch's novels, so in this film the central character, and the real hero, is Bombay/Mumbai. As depicted here, the city produces stark inequalities and injustices but also pulses with an astonishingly vital, Dickensian human energy. The same energy drives the movie itself. See it.

p.s. Others have no doubt referred to the movie as Dickensian: Frank Rich, for example. With all respect, I think Rich might want to go back and actually read some Dickens. His novels are not mainly feel-good fables, and neither, at its most interesting, is this movie.

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