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"Shutter Island" --should be shut down quick before it escapes...

Scorcese's SHUTTER ISLAND is a P.U. production from Paramount --- a film to commit suicide over after use. But Ben Kingley and Max Van Sydow have at last found their ecological niches in cinema history --
as -- uncompromising ultimate GHOULS!

I would have ankled this piece of unmitigated water torture after thirty minutes, but I was wedged into a balcony seat at the Friedrichstadt Palast theater and couldn't extrude my body without disturbing the whole balcony, and was therefore condemned to suffer through the entire torture session. I did try to close my eyes and think of other things a few times, but it didn't help very much.
This is pure unadulterated insanity and mindfuck without a letup. The music selections by Mahler, John Adams, John Cage, and others of the Depressia Profunda School, were carefully chosen to provide the film with a certain intellectual cachet while enhancing the mood of endless misery with a No Way Out conclusion. In the film the creepy evil doctor Kingsley and his Frankenstein like syringe clutching cronie, Van Sydow, on the Evil Island where experimental Nazi type brain operations are going on, are trying to convince Govt cop Dicaprio that he has lost his mind, and finally succeed in doing so --but by this time the audience has also been driven crazy as well.
Mr. Scorcese is obviously trying to outdo Kubrick in "The Shining" -- but where the Shining had some shining moments, lots of verve, and a bit of a sense of humor, this extended piece of darkness has no redeeming moments, no verve or social value whatsoever, and goes relentlessly straight for the mental jugular. This all only goes to prove that Mr Scorcese could use a complete head transplant more than anything else. He shoulda thrown in the towel after Raging Bull, but he is apparently too much in thrall with his "great Hollywood director" image to know when it's time to quit. (He did say he was ready to quit a few films ago, but has sadly reneged on this promise). "Shutter Island" (or, The Isle of Ultimate Ghouls) was definitely one to ruin Anybody's Valentines Day. I needa drink! The location of the film is, incidentally, a Devil's Island type islet off the coast of Massachusetts which will probably not do much for tourism next summer.

Other than that it can be said that this year's Berlinale, never a festival to start off slow, has alread shot off much of its heaviest load and biggest guns in the opening three days. Among high profile premiers already screened have been the Alan Ginsberg biopic and hommage to his magnum opus "HOWL", entitled --you guesstit -- "Howl" -- good reception here, but will probably be a hard sell at the cineplexes; Under house arrest in Switzerland Roman Polanski's highly anticipated political thriller "The Ghost Writer", which has gone down very well with Berlin audiences, is a quiet thriller of classic Polanskian style, and will no doubt do well commercially. Starring Ewan Mcgregor and ex Bondsman Pierce Brosnan (in an uncharacteristically evil role) this film is also set, by an odd geographic coincidence, in the same offshore Massachusetts waters as the preceding by Scorcese -- in this case the artists colony of Martha's Vineyard. Mainly because of Brosnan's extreme popularity here the press conference for Ghostwriter was swamped and inaccessible. One Berlin paper noted that despite his enforced absence the Ghost of Polanski hovers over the festival. Well put. Polanski is in good form, ghost-like or not. See it and enjoy.

The third biggie of the first three days was the Bollywood entry "My Name is Khan" starring Shah Rukh Khan, arguably the most popular actor in the world today (though not necessarily in the West).
In the film Shahrukh (SRK) plays a moslem from India who suffers from a form of Autism, (Aspers syndrome) similar to the role underaken by Dustin Hoffman in "Rainman" some years ago. In the mood of anti-Muslim hysteria following 9/11 the protagonist Rizwan Khan, who has married a Hindu single mother (Kajol) in San Francisco, is taken for a terrorist on two different occasions because of his erratic syndrome induced behavior. Repeating his mantra "My name is Khan, but I am not a terrorist" in a salad bowl full of situations where unreasonable anti-Islamic reactions run rampant, Khan eventually undertakes a cross country trek to Washington to see president Obama in person and clear his good Moslem name.

The political statements are laid on with a heavy hand by extremely successful Bollywood masala romance director Karan Johar, and will undoubtedly be taken with a grain of salt by American audiences, although Indian and Middle-eastern auds will surely eat all this up with unbridled relish. In any case, the love story between the stricken Shahrukh and his frequent co-star Kajol is brilliantly portrayed. A dramatic climax is reached halfway through when Kajol's teenage son is killed on a soccer field by a mob of enraged anti-muslim Americans and the Hindu wife (Kajol) holds her Moslem husband responsible for the loss of her son. It is at this point that Rizwan sets out on his quest to meet the president and win back her love. Johar could use a lesson in US geography because Georgia is not on the way from SF to DC, but, nevertheles, Rizwan finds himself befriended by a black American family in rural Georgia, which is then struck by a hurricane of Katrina proportions. Rizwan heroically saves many people from drowning and becomes something of a national figure on TV. When President Obama finally receives him it is both a touching and a comic moment -- oops --I was weeping out of one side of my face and chuckling out the other --at the naive, nearly Saturday Nite live, staging of this climactic finale.

Naive or not, another very strong scene in the film is when Rizwan, a devout believer, enters an American mosque somewhere in California and encounters a rabid fundamentalist preacher firing a group of young Moslems up to "Kill for the Love of Allah". Rizwan faces the fanatic Jihadist preacher down calling him frst a Liar --for this is not what true Islam is all about -- and finally reviles him as "Satan"! --the Devil himself. The group of wannabe Jihadists are about to pounce on Rizwan but are restrained by the perplexed preacher who is not quite sure what to make of this obviously pure hearted rejector. To underline the message that not all Moslems are in favor of murderous Jihadism, Rizwan actually tries to inform the FBI of the presence of this Moslem madman in our midst, but is not taken seriously. While the politics of the film and the portrayal of anti-Muslim feeling in America is far from accurate or objective, it is still one of the few films to address itself to this issue on all-American turf. While many of the side roles in the picture are cardboard cutouts from a naive Bombayistic point of view, (Obama for Instance) the prinicpal roles by Shah Rukh Khan and stunningly beautiful Indian actress Kajol, are absolutely top drawer.

If anybody has any lingering doubts about whether Bollywood mega-stars can act when called upon to do so, let it merely be said here that Shahrukh out-Hoffmans Hoffman by a country mile, while Kajol Devgan reminds one of Joan Fontaine at her Hitchcockian peak. Shah Rukh Khan --or SRK as he is popularly known in India --is a fantastically charismatic personality and One Helluva Great Actor, and that is the bottom line for today.

Alex Deleon, Berlin
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