Capsule Reviews: Solaris, Thesis and Sholay

image, Dharmendra Amitabh Bachchan sholaySolaris (Russian Солярис) It’s like this- I was really jazzed to see this movie. I had enjoyed Tarkovsky’s Andre Rublev (the story of a fekkin Icon painter fer chrissakes,) so I figured I would eat this one up. It is a science fiction classic after all and I have even enjoyed some of it’s progeny (Not Sphere though. That was one of the dumbest movies ever made.) I figured it was a no-brainer. And it was.

I guess.

Sort of.


Screw it. I’m still not sure what to think.

To call this movie slow would be a disservice to snails and drying paint. It’s.. the. sort. of. thing. they. created. the. word. glacial. for. Which isn’t to actually say it’s boring. It isn’t. Well, it’s not exactly boring. It’s just as close an approximation as an interesting movie can be. Although interesting should really be in quotes there because I’m not sure if it was actually interesting. It seemed to be, but nothing really happens so how interesting could it really have been? In that way, it’s an almost perfect film school movie. Nothing is concrete. Everything is open to interpretation and some of the more intriguing stuff is totally left unexplored (e.g. the bizarre and random two second dwarf sighting in the film’s first hour.) There is no real plot (there is a story, but it’s the stuffing of a twilight zone episode stretched out over three hours, so it seems airier story-wise than a Shannon Tweed epic,) just a long drawn out series of vignettes that just happen to have the same characters, setting and take place sequentially.

Or something.

Yeesh. Maybe I need to watch it again. Or read the book.

Recommended. Or not.

Thesis (Spanish Tesis) Now that I’ve seen this I am officially an unabashed Alejandro Amenábar fan. Not that I wasn’t before, but this seals it. At this point I’ve seen Abres Los Ojos, The Others and Thesis and I don’t think I could fill two paragraphs with things I didn’t like about the three films- combined. Thesis was especially interesting since it’s his first feature. Produced in 1996 when Amenábar was but 23 years old, it’s a straight thriller and because of that it might be the most successful of the three. Without the supernatural/ science fiction elements that aid him in his later work, Amenábar here crafts a suspenseful, gripping story that literally kept me off-guard until the very end- no mean feat when you consider the fact that there were just a handful of "real" characters in the whole film. Well crafted, creepy stuff. Check it out.

Sholay (Indian. Translates to “Embers”) I like musicals. I like action films. I like goofy hijinks. I was destined to like this movie.

This is great cinema. Not great in the way that Citizen Kane or Shichinin no samurai are great, of course, but (as some people tend to forget) movies don’t necessarily need to be like that to be great. Epic and intoxicating, Sholay is a fun blend of melodrama, romance, action and music that cruises through it’s 204 minute running time with hardly a glance at the watch. From the first action sequence through the catchy bars and goofy slapstick of the opening musical number, "Yeh Dosti," to the brutal and cathartic finale, Sholay, hits just about every note a movie can hit. It’s got great musical numbers, a classic villains to despise, awesome buddy movie camaraderie from Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan, a sweet romance between Dharmendra and Hema Malini, some pretty good action scenes and more than a touch of tragedy to keep things in perspective. From a compartmentalized, Hollywood-centric, perspective this might seem a little strange, but I can assure you it works. Actually a great bit of the charm of this film is how well this grand mélange flows together. It brings a certain joy to the experience. Highly recommended.

Originally published in March 2000 on