Simian Substitute Site For September 2014: Fast Monkeys
Mo' Blogger Blues

MOSTLY FILM: Holydays In The Sun

The panorama function on my phone camera probably wasn't intended to be used vertically. But here we are.That picture over on the left is easily the most stupidly shaped one I've ever published on this site. But I'm quite pleased with it, so it stays.

If you've been paying attention recently - specifically, to this page - then you'll know that the day after I got back from this year's Edinburgh Festival, I was off again to the slightly more warm and less alcoholic environment of Dubai. It was another one of my semi-regular work visits to the United Arab Emirates - I seem to manage roughly one a year nowadays. After work, there's not much else to do apart from cruise the gigantic shopping centres, like the Dubai Mall pictured here (located just down the road from the Burj Khalifa). Even if you're not in the mood for expensive luxury goods, there are plenty of other things you'll find there. Like restaurants. And cinemas.

All this is leading up to the inevitable revelation that while I was in Dubai, I saw a couple of movies, which I've reviewed for Mostly Film in a piece called Holydays In The Sun, the (gulp) fifteenth instalment in my ongoing Monoglot Movie Club series. And as is usually the case, you'll get some backup material here relating to other aspects of the trip, right after the jump.

Hmmm. That jump's a long way away, isn't it?

It's been less than a year since my previous visit to Dubai, as covered here. Like last time, I flew with Emirates and stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Dubai Internet City, so I won't go into detail about those aspects of the stay. Except that there was an interesting discovery on the outbound flight, as the Emirates entertainment system included two films I'd reviewed in previous Monoglot Movie Club pieces, available for the first time with English subtitles. It's not very often I get to compare my guesses at a movie's content against actual hard evidence, so I jumped at the chance.

The two films in question were the Egyptian Qalb Al Assad (as seen on that previous Dubai visit) and the Swedish Tommy (seen in Stockholm earlier this year). It turns out that my interpretation of the first film was a lot more accurate than that of the second: but that wasn't the most amusing thing about the experience. You see, Emirates do a bit of trimming of their films to protect the sensitivities of their passengers, particularly when it comes to sexual content. In the case of Qalb Al Assad, this meant the loss of a scene where the heroine is tormented with neck-licking: in Tommy, the opening sequence involving the torture and murder of a naked man was cut. But they took things even further with Tommy, blurring out the ruder English subtitles and replacing them with ostensibly cleaner versions crudely superimposed on top. So at one point, Lykke Li's character is chastised for her promiscuity with the phrase "you need to stop thinking with your bottom." I can guess how that line originally went, and I think the replacement might actually be ruder.

On previous visits, I've hung out in the Dubai Mall and the Ibn Battuta Mall: this time round, I spent a couple of evenings investigating the delights of the Mall Of The Emirates. In certain ways, it's almost indistinguishable from the other two: they all have the same mixture of luxury outlets, brands you thought were long-dead (ooh, Virgin Megastores!) and tatty Western food chains trying to pass themselves off as exotic. Everything's in a constant state of flux - several of the big names are hiding behind hoardings claiming they're 'working to enhance your customer experience', which appears to be the standard euphemism for 'closed' in these places.

Still, there are a couple of things Mall Of The Emirates has which nobody else does. An indoor ski resort, for example. Outside the building, it's forty degrees and rising: but inside, there's a glass-walled area called Ski Dubai where the temperature is kept at a steady four below freezing. It feels like one of those concepts where someone had the idea first, but then couldn't work out what else to do with it: so they're putting on a bewildering variety of activities like simulated skydiving, a penguin show, disco nights and aerobics sessions. If the sheer surrealism of encountering all this in the middle of a desert city isn't enough, after seeing the name Ski Dubai written down a few times you find it impossible to stop singing it to the Scatman John tune.

Mall Of The Emirates has several more traditional ways to distract you, though. The Vox multiplex (where I saw both the films I reviewed) is a perfectly serviceable cinema complex, and was pretty much full to bursting both times I was there. The food court round the side of the cinemas has a few good options, and the Iranian restaurant Pars fed me a decent fish kebab on my visit. But it's worth heading downstairs to where the classier joints are, including a branch of the splendid Indian restaurant Asha's. (Previously mentioned in these pages when we visited the Birmingham one.)

Staying with the Indian theme, let's finish off with another film trailer from that country that was on show during my visits to the Vox: I didn't mention it in the Mostly Film piece, because it doesn't quite fit in with my musings on Bollywood cinema. Mardaani - which has already been released, and may still be visible at a desi-friendly moviehouse near you if you hurry - is a much darker proposition than most of the Indian films we get to see, a thriller about a female police chief (Rani Mukerji) chasing down a child sex trafficker. I caught up with it last weekend: it would be a bold piece of work coming from any other country, but it's an extraordinary one coming from India. It reminded me of the Swedish movie Call Girl in its unflinching look at how far upwards corruption can spiral: but the sheer crowd-pleasing ferocity of its final confrontation is pure Bollywood. Catch the film if you can, catch the trailer below if you can't.


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