Utpal Borpujari

May 26, 2009

Vengeance: A farcical revenge drama

By Utpal Borpujari in Cannes

Hong Kong filmmaker Johnnie To’s “Vengeance”, screened as part of the  Competition section of the 62nd Cannes Film Festival, left the audiences confounded with a question: what the organizers saw in it to select it for the showcase event.

Though shot stylistically as most of To’s films have been, the film’s almost-laughable content made it an unintended joke played on the audiences despite it being a revenge drama.

Made with partial French investment and starring French rock icon Johnny Hallyday as a father who is seeking revenge for the massacre of his daughter’s family, the film is just another potboiler, the likes of which Bollywood makes dime a dozen, many of them perhaps much better than it.

At the media screening of the film Sunday morning, prior to the main festival screening, critics from all over the world found it more hilarious than a philosophical journey on why mankind seeks revenge against others, as it was seemingly intended to be.

The film begins in a way that leaves the impression that it would be an interesting and violent take on relationships and the human mind with a philosophical tinge. But as it progressed, it turned unintentionally farcical. So much so that the jampacked Grand Theatre Lumiere, the main festival venue, started to echo with derisive laughter.

Many critics were later heard commenting that French investment and Hallyday’s presence could have been the only reason why the film is part of the festival, and that too in the most-prestigious Competition section.

Compared against Jane Campion’s poetic “Bright Star” on the tragic love affair between poet John Keats and his girlfriend Fanny Brawne, of French auteur Jacques Audiard’s “A Prophet” or even Ang Lee’s “Taking Woodstock” that is unlike his earlier powerful dramas, this film is unlikely stand any chance before the jury headed by legendary French actress Isabelle Huppert.

In fact, as the festival begins its home run this week, the biggest attractions in the Competition will get screened, including Ken Loach’s “Looking for Eric”, Lars von Trier’s “Antichrist”, Alain Resnais’ “Les Herbs Folles”, Pedro Almodovar’s “Broken Embraces” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds”.

Amidst such a line up, To’s film looks like a B-grade potboiler in front of which even Charles Bronson’s “Deathwish” series looks like a masterpiece.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 18-05-2009)




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