I rewrite my response to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel from scratch but keep the draft of April 30 as a tail below, the tail to be discarded once the new draft can stand alone.
One thing I like about the movie begins insinuating itself before you enter the theater, before you take the DVD in your hand to slip into the player. A miniature of the meaning, of the impact, is contained in the title alone: the drama begins working on you the first moment you hear of it:
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
That is, it isn’t good English. It isn’t standard, the word order is wrong. It’s English from what the English call “a wog”: an alien, a non-native speaker. The grammar, the order, the sequence has an accent!
Right off the bat the movie introduces us to seven Brits, retirement age but without adequate retirement income. They’re responding to an on-line ad for a hotel in Jaipur, India: in the best advertising bombast: lies, falsehoods, PhotoShopped images … I don’t know that the British Empire, for all its arrogance, first invented used-car rhetoric, used-car morals, but the ad comes back up on these English and bites them in the nose. Thing is, the author of these falsehoods, proves charming, lovable: and our English wind up bailing him out of his over-extensions.
Not only is the film making its points from the first instant you hear (or read) the title, other instantiations of the same pathology open the film’s sound track. The imge is subdued, the autio is clear. An exquisite female voice, perfectly English, those royal vowels, intones, “Your call is important to us …” Someone will be with you shortly. Please stay on the line. Someone will be with you shortly.
It ain’t a wog; it’s a robot! It’s a recording. There’s no person there! Something automated is disrespecting your time.
In this case, as the image brightens, draws back, resolves, it’s Judy Dench! Looking fabulous! like Judy Dench!
Then a human does come on the line, but though it’s female, and speaking English, she’s “Indian”! a wog. a roboticized wog. And she doesn’t listen to a thing Judy Dench is saying.
Later, when we meet the author of the The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel bombast, his girl friend, also Jaipur Indian, works in a telemarketing scam: all lies, bombast, deceits. And Judy Dench winds up teaching them English! So the time sharks can become more effectively pathological!
There. For the moment I like this summary better. I’ll refit the original another time.
I talk about movies, we all love movies (some movies some of us hate), but when we talk about movies, as with any metaphor, perhaps any symbol, we’re really (or, we’re also) talking about other things: sometimes lots of other things.
And when I talk about movies I’m also talking about Jan: we watch our DVDs together: for three and a half years now and counting, mostly in her home entertainment center: that is, sitting on the floor, our backs to her bed, and looking up at her TV: which switches among cable, DVD, video … Last night though we watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in my home theater: a love seat she just bought me, pushed up near the monitor for my Mac mini. Her friend urged her to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. We started off watching movies I wanted her to know, my favorite classics, tons of foreign films, old films, silents, but for some time now we’ve been mixing in costume dramas, Jane Austen … some chick-flix … BBC chick-pabluum …
I instantly like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel but was also distracted, was piling up things to say, reasons to like, reasons to object, tangents to notice out-loud … Meantime, we’re being introduced to seven characters: in England, the seven then traveling, then ensconced in Jaipur … I was reminded of my original reading of War & Peace: I had to restart after 100 pages to begin to be sure of who was who, everyone having three or four names, and a nickname, all in Russian …
Then, sometimes during a movie, sometimes after, I have to go online, look up this or that actor, this or that author, this or that director, production team, producer … this or that historical event …
ugh, gotta restructure
What I didn’t expect with Marigold Hotel was to think something in depth that grew from something I’d thought in the first place, just from the title: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel:
Oh, the characters are all English, they make a thing of it, Maggie Smith doesn’t want black doctors touching her, won’t eat what she wasn’t drilled to accept as a child, rejects one Afro black, gets an Indian “black” instead … Delicious, watching this great actress squirm.
It’s not English, the language is tortured, a bad fit, alien; not at all comfy old slippers.
i’ll smooth this next visit.
Like slaves in America, having no choice but to speak somebody’s else’s language, uncomfortably, never naturally, the perversions of the natives are stentorian. The word order is ghastly: and English is a positional languague (a positional language misrepresented by moron teachers as an umlaut language, grammatical word-endings). The torture is uniform acorss scale, like chaos physics. Listen to every word the hotel manager utters. Someone’s else’s used-car sales lingo, mapped onto not a used-car salesman, but a shoeshine boy. But it isn’t just the hotel manager, a fool who wins our hearts: it pervades the economy: everyone is a shoeshine boy used car salesman, broadcasting bombast, bullshit rhetoric: photoshopped speech by telephone.
What product should be honest, sane or healthful in a kleptocratic marketplace?
What I didn’t expect was to see how the non-Englishness of the title is an essential characteristic of the movie: the tortured phrase is the concoction of a freak: an Indian ne’er-do-well, a descendant of British colonialism and its infinite impositions, the sins of generations of fathers being visited onto generations of wogs, world wide, for centuries. So delicious that the recent kleptocracy of British colonialism so victimed the long established kleptocrats of Aryan imperialism: the rajs were rajs before the Brits made them Brit rajs.
But that’s not all: the “Indians” in this movie, mostly Hindu, breed in a bedlam of cultural contradictions: the phones don’t work, but several are employed in telemarkets scams! They even hire Judy Dench to train their interrupt-you-at-home-with-lies commission slaves to be more believable, slightly less robotic! Where did these telephone scams come from? Did the Indians get it from the Brits? Did the Brits get it from the Americans? Or did we all get it from the Japanese, the Chinese, the Indians …?
(Hey, why not blame the Jews?)
Utterly delicious, I now see, the movie was directed by John Madden: Shakespeare in Love. Now there was an intelligent movie! So: don’t assume anything smart or good here is an accident, at least not entirely.
PS If you like cinema versions of telephone scams make sure you see The Last Seduction.
Oh, and appreciate how tolerant, how liberal, how accepting of homosexuality, for example, the movie is! The queer is the most honest character, without knowing it!