Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Week of June 20 to June 26

What's On At The Tropic

By Phil Mann

With India looming as a 21st century economic power, it behooves us to understand more of the country's history and culture. And what better way to learn it than from the comfort of a seat at the Tropic. Last summer the theater featured Deepa Metha's "elements" trilogy, Earth, Fire and Water, and now we have BEFORE THE RAINS. Beautifully photographed in the lush south Indian province of Kerala, and set in the waning days of colonialism (1937), the film tells the story of Henry Moores, a married white plantation owner; his servant girl Sanjani (also married) with whom he has an affair; and the Indian plantation foreman who is drawn into a cover-up of the affair. The director Santosh Sivan has spent his career mostly as a cinematographer on Indian films, including the moderately notorious Bride and Prejudice, a blend of Bollywood and BritLit. But his primary claim to fame is the fascinating 2000 film The Terrorist, which plumbs the mind of a woman suicide bomber.

Before the Rain doesn't have the political weight of that earlier film, but it has been called a "sneakily feminist film" by one critic: "Hey, Henry loves Sajani, he says, but not enough to, you know, actually risk anything for her. He loves her as long as it's
convenient for him, just as he's willing to respect the native workers building his road, and the customs of this land he has invaded, just as long as it's convenient for him. Just as long as none of it infringes upon his needs and his desires." It's worth your time to read this whole review by MaryAnn Johanson at

Also opening this week is THE FLIGHT OF THE RED BALLOON. This isn't a remake of the 1956 classic The Red Balloon, but it's inspired by the original and stars the same floating red orb, along with Juliette Binoche. The Musée d'Orsay commissioned Taiwanese director Hsiao-hsien Hou to make this film in Paris. He doesn't speak French, had never made a movie in the West, and had never seen the earlier film until he got the commission, which I suppose is what the museum wanted: a fresh take. They got "one of the most beautiful films ever….a work of art on the order of a poem by Yeats or a painting by Rothko" (Washington Post), which has both been hailed as "a movie of genius" (Village Voice) and condemned as "pointless, with endless scenes of pure nothingness" by some viewers. No one questions its charm and beauty, however.

While you're at the Tropic, look around and consider whether there might be a program or event that your favorite non-profit might want to hold there. If so, the theater has an outstanding summer proposition. The use of the theater is being offered free from now until November to non-profit organizations. They have to show a worthwhile use for the space, but otherwise the doors are open. If interested contact the Managing Director Mark Slater

Your comments welcome to
[originally published in Key West, the Newspaper:]

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