A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Anurag Kashyap's 2012 film “Gangs of Wasseypur” is being released in North America for the first time—its first half in theaters now, its second to be added next week—and with it the opportunity to see one of the most ambitious gangster films ever made, and quite possibly one of the best. Hyperbole is in no shortage in modern film criticism, but please put that grain of salt down. It is not necessary. “Gangs of Wasseypur” is that good, and Anurag Kashyap will forever be a major filmmaker on the sole basis of making it.
The film begins with a continuous four-minute take that starts on a television screen showing a Hindi soap opera and pulls out into the street, where armed gangs are furiously searching for a man, gunning down anyone in their path who might be his ally. They bomb his house. When the pressure becomes too much to bear, there is a cut, and with it, an exhale. But there is no loss of tension. The film powers forward, relentless, for the next five hours.
Yes, “Gangs of Wasseypur” is over five hours long, which is why it has almost always been exhibited in two parts (Lincoln Center is screening it in one part). This may, unavoidably, intimidate some. There is no other way to tell a story of this magnitude, covering eight decades of life in the town of Wasseypur in northeast India, examining the intersection of organized crime, capitalism, and civic government in as exacting detail as it does, in any less time. This is without even mentioning the scale on which Kashyap examines the futility of revenge over three whole generations, which is rendered all the more tragic by the film's sheer scale.
After the opening sequence, set in the present day, the story jumps back to 1941. With the aid of narration—voiced by a supporting character who plays a crucial role in the story over the years—the history of Wasseypur is laid forth. It is a key coal mining center in its region, and this becomes the focus of a rivalry between three parties: industrialist Ramadhir Singh, who takes control of the mines after India's independence from Britain; the Qureshi, who traditionally controlled Wasseypur; and Shahid Khan, a miner who was banished by the Qureshi for robbing trains, only to return to Wasseypur under false pretenses with the intent of stealing the mines from Singh. The lattice of interlocking conflicts and allegiances beginning with this dynamic end up lasting all the way to the 21st century, and never at any point cease to fascinate.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
A look at John Sayles' brilliant "The Brother From Another Planet."