Reviews

Bride & Prejudice (2004)

Cynthia Fuchs

Lalita is daring independent whose education involves coming to terms with both her constraining heritage and her desire to fit in.


Bride & Prejudice

Director: Gurinder Chadha
Cast: Aishwarya Rai, Martin Henderson, Daniel Gillies, Naveen Andrews, Namrata Shirodkar, Indira Varma, Nadira Babbar, Anupam Kher
Distributor: Buena Vista
MPAA rating: PG-13
Studio: Miramax
First date: 2004
US DVD Release Date: 2005-07-05
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India's the place for me.
India sets you free.
-- Ashanti, "My Lips Are Waiting (a.k.a. Goa Groove)"

For us, part of the pleasure of this movie was that if you were a Jane Austen fan, you could recognize how we kept going back to the novel.
-- Gurinder Chadha, commentary, Bride & Prejudice

"I feel the more we talk about our characters, about the storyline, it tends to dilute what the film is all about, and kind of tends to create preconceived ideas," says Aishwarya Rai. "And so I always leave this open to the audience to come forth and see it, but I think the fact that you're given an idea that his is Lizzie from Pride and Prejudice, this is a fairly broad giveaway on who the character is in the given storyline."

Rai makes her comments quickly (literally, she speaks rapidly) and her voice is rather musical. She's arranged here for a "conversation" (more of a monologue) for the new DVD release of Bride & Prejudice, Rai is backed by flowers and print pillows, her recollections of the production focused on the demanding schedule and occasional difficulties with elements (running through the fountains was cold!). And to be fair, director Gurinder Chadha makes the same point in her commentary track, with co-writer Paul Mayeda Berges: "This film was a really hard film to make. It took us two years, and now we're going to relive the whole thing." Still, for Rai, most beautiful woman in the world (according to Julia Roberts) and popular Bollywood star, the most significant point about the shoot is that is was great fun and the time flew. Chadha was clever, the production numbers were grand, and her costars were wonderful.

Such enthusiasm is immediately visible in this lively Bollywoodification of Jane Austen's novel (and indeed, throughout the DVD extras, including six deleted scenes, four extended songs, a making-of documentary, and a featurette on Ashanti's performance). Rai plays Lalita, self-confident and headstrong, opposed in principle to her mother's culture-bound notion that she take a husband selected for her. At the same time, because she is the oldest daughter of four, Lalita is also beginning to worry that she'll be left behind in the wedding sweepstakes that her household has become.

Lalita is at once the skeptic and the convert-to-be, the daring independent whose education involves coming to terms with both her constraining heritage and her desire to fit in. In this sense, she rather embodies the problem of the movie, which simultaneously resists convention and wholly subscribes to it. The scripted tensions are both regular (generational and class-based) and updated (national and raced), but all lead to the same place: Lalita's capitulation to romance. Here, that means she finds love and marriage with stiff, Caucasian British hotel magnate Will Darcy (Martin Henderson, in his DVD "conversation," notes that Western films are not so "light" as Indian movies).

Darcy first appears during a wildly colorful, mightily choreographed party scene, this one, the first of many, occasioned by a friend's upcoming nuptials. As Chadha notes during this introduction to characters, "If this was a complete, full Bollywood movie, the [first] shot of Aishwarya would be in slow motion." Instead, the camera closes on her gracefully, and moves the film along as well. While her sister Jaya (Namrata Shirodkar) spots a hometown boy turned London-based barrister Balraj (Naveen Andrews) across the dance floor, Lalita sees Darcy, who not only wears head-to-toe white, but he also looks dour and awkward. When he's asked to dance, he looks sheepish and says he has to work, scuttling off screen as if he might catch something from all this overt display and commotion (the dancers sing outright of their desires to be hitched and the problems of courtship).

Darcy is at once imperialist and capitalist: Lalita informs him that buying up hotels and hiring Indian wait-staff is less good-hearted than exploitative. When he complains about the hotel where he's staying (the internet connects are unstable), Lalita takes it as judgment of her culture, where the $5000 he wants to pay (and charge) for a hotel room is more than most folks make in a year. He tries again: "People who can afford it, they want the best. There's nothing wrong with having standards, is there?" Close up on Lalita, as she schools him, "No, as long as you don't impose them on others." He's got nothing.

The film complicates Austen by reframing Darcy-Lalita relationship through a number of filters, that is, beyond class, they also face national and cultural differences. As the movie trots them around the globe -- from India to England to the U.S., it seems to have almost too much to do. Much is accomplished through frenetic pacing, so that "important" plot points -- Darcy's arrogance, Lalita's resistance, her mother's insistence, the nefarious intervention of Darcy's childhood friend Wickham (Daniel Gillies), here something of a beach bum, dashing and devious -- are quickly established and essentially abandoned (though the mother's interventions do come to feel overstated).

As Chadha says, "That's really the thing about this movie, is that every single element of it is a balance, of how Eastern or Western to go." Sometimes this balance seems lost, only to be recovered by a bit of imbalance in the next scene. It is, as Rai notes, a "clever" way to lace through all the possibilities, though it can also leave you breathless. It careens from crowded city streets where Indian drag queens advise Lalita on effective girlishness, to the appearance of yet another male suitor, the too-hip-for-himself California-transplant Kholi (Nitin Chandra Ganatra). He has returned home to find an appropriately "Indian" wife, the American girls being too self-absorbed and intimidating for his gauche insecurity.

The East-West dance mash-ups set the sisters against a series of backgrounds, both geographical and cultural. They sing "No Life Without Wife," making fun of Kholi's frankly obnoxious declaration; Darcy and Lalita musical-montage their way across Los Angeles, landing on a Santa Monica beach where they are serenaded by a fantastic blue-robed gospel choir, whose rendition of "Take Me To Love" echoes the rhythms of previously heard Indian melodies. This is globalization before it was so called, less tacky and onerous, more generous and potential, the vibrant intersections and cross-feedings of musical forms.

The other version of this culture-crashing idea comes embodied in Ashanti, who sings at yet another party scene, something approximating a rave -- young pretty people smiling and swaying on a beach. (This is a phenomenal scene, and, as Chadha and Berges observe, it combines all kinds of magical moments, evoking other movies as well as the romance at hand.) Though she has nothing to do with the film's romantic machinations, Ashanti appears on a stage to swish her fabulous hips and sing "My Lips Are Waiting (a.k.a. Goa Groove)."

It strikes you as you're watching the predictable reaction-shot inserts (Lalita is flirting with Wickham, so they look happy, Darcy scowls) that no one but this oddly in-betweener pop star could look so perfectly out of place and at ease at the same time, simultaneously appropriating and disconnected from her own performance. And that's the way Bride & Prejudice works, partly exultant and seductive in its discoveries of so many coincidences of culture, partly sinuous in its intertwinings.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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