TIFF ’13 – Day 2: The Best Lunch Is Always Someone Else’s

The Lunchbox.
The Lunchbox, or You’ve Got Mail, analog version.

After a less than auspicious beginning, a couple of minor masterpieces made their way to the TIFF screens. Luckily, all have distribution in Canada and will reach Saskatchewan sooner or later.

The Lunchbox (India): For a while now, India has been moving away from the Bollywood model (song, dance, melodrama) and towards a more contemporary kind of movies. Considering the size of the industry and all the talent involved, get ready to see films from the East Asian peninsual in our screens more regularly. Heralding the way is The Lunchbox, a beautiful romance reminiscent of An Affair to Remember and You’ve Got Mail minus the excessive cuteness.

Saajan (Irrfan Khan, Life of Pi) is a cranky widower with little to look forward to besides retirement. As in a cop movie, those final days at the job turn out to be the most action-packed of his career. First Saajan gets a tenaciously eager apprentice who won’t take a no for an answer. Around the same time, Saajan starts receiving the wrong lunchbox from a delivery service. The food is far superior and is made with extreme care. The cook is Ila, a mistreated housewife who hopes to win back her husband through his stomach. The pair starts exchanging notes through the lunchbox and soon they become part of each other lives.

The brilliant setup unwittingly paints the movie into a corner. The rushed resolution is by far the most unsatisfactory aspect of the film, up to that point nuanced and deliberate. The film also brushes delicately over the many social issues the growing nation is dealing with (the absurdly long commute is a major plot point). The Lunchbox is the most perfect date movie I’ve seen in a while. Four prairie dogs looking longingly at the horizon.

Jodorowsky’s Dune (USA): Before David Lynch and Dino de Laurentis ruined Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic “Dune”, Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky had the rights to the novel and was planning to blow 2001 off the water. In 1974, the last great surrealist, Jodorowsky (El TopoSanta Sangre) put together a veritable dream team to bring his adaptation to fruition: Moebius, David Carradine Dan O’Bannon and H.G. Giger (both of Alien fame) were all heavily committed. Orson Wells and Salvador Dalí were expected to be the warring emperor. It was going to be wonderful.

Predictably, Hollywood didn’t get it and refused to pony up the rest of the budget (15 million dollars). A defeated Jodorowsky took years to rise again and never to the heights of El Topo. All that remains of the project is a stunning book filled with designs and detailed storyboards by the most avant-garde artists of the ’70s. Jodorowsky’s Dune benefits of a passionate and entertaining interviewee and sketches of what could have been. Jodorowsky’s ferocious speech towards the end about money and art is a showstopper, as well as his appreciation of Lynch’s version. A must see. Four and a half prairie dogs melted in a puddle.

Side notes:

* I don’t attend press conferences. With any luck I may be able to squeeze a question or two, and the rest of the time tolerate the less than poignant questions of the media present, such as “what are you wearing?” or “you made a movie about WikiLeaks. Are you any good with computers?” They are all available at TIFF.net. Pay attention to the actors’ fleeting annoyance.

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Author: Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Journalist, film critic, documentary filmmaker, and sometimes nice guy. Member of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Like horror flicks, long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Allergic to cats.