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Sunday, 22 July 2012 15:57

Melodramatic 'Trishna' unfolds slowly; 'Bill W.' seeks to inspire
Written by Diane Carson
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  • Director: Michael Winterbottom, Dan Carracino and Kevin Hanlon
  • Dates: July 26, 2012 and opens July 27, 2012

Reinterpreting classic novels proves irresistible to filmmakers, and British director Michael Winterbottom has taken the bait with Trishna. This version of English novelist Thomas Hardy’s melodramatic Tess of the d’Urbervilles moves Hardy’s 1891 story to contemporary India where class and gender inequities rule and defeat the beautiful Trishna and the callous Jay.

As a result of an accident telegraphed well before it happens, Trishna must accept a hotel job with sufficient pay to sustain her family. Her wealthy boss and soon her lover, Jay embodies Buddhism’s second noble truth: trishna, that is desire or thirst which leads to suffering and perhaps enlightenment. The particulars develop in a slowly paced moral tale.

As the character Trishna, the lovely Freida Pinto, of Slumdog Millionaire fame, poses nicely but communicates little depth or conflict. The same is true for Roshan Seth as Jay, a carelessly self-indulgent, controlling young man. Still his hedonism and Trishna’s victimization come across as much too listless, failing to energize a climactic scene.

While beautifully photographed, the episodic story is repeatedly punctuated with shots of the beach, Mumbai, the resort, and various surroundings. But rather than adding depth, these interruptions distract from the focus. Winterbottom knows his way around a set, having directed the amusing The Trip with Steve Coogan, the intense Welcome to Sarajevo, A Mighty Heart based on the Daniel Pearl tragedy and two other films based on Hardy novels. Trishna, however, lacks the energy and complexity needed to bring this hardy adaptation to vivid life, to make the unjust social structure and the insensitivity on display infuriating and profound. It provides only a leisurely indulgence. In English and Hindi with English subtitles. At a Landmark Theatre.

On Thursday, July 26th only the documentary Bill W. will screen at the Tivoli at 7:00 p.m. Though I did not get to preview it, the film tells the life story of Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous in the mid-30s and listed as one of the 100 most important persons of the 20th century by Time magazine. Directed by Dan Carracino and Kevin Hanlon, Bill W. includes archival footage of Wilson himself and Dr. Bob plus recreations of events, interviews and testimonials of recovering alcoholics, and description of the A.A. Twelve Step program. Bill W. notes Wilson’s amazing legacy forged from his own hopeless alcoholism. At the Tivoli.

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