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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb depiction of Indian life
This interesting and impressive and ultimately moving film is set in the Indian state of Goa and uses the talents of street kids who play its stars. It follows the lives of Venkatesh, an 18-year-old and his 11-year-old friend Janghir (the actors use their actual names. Both live a hand-to-mouth existence cleaning hotel rooms and restaurants and scrounging what they can...
Published 12 months ago by Alan A. Elsner

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2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The brave heart will take the bride...but this movie will remain a bachelor.
The Pool (Chris Smith, 2007)

What's up with American directors shipping off to parts unknown to make foreign-language films these days? When you think about it, it's long overdue; Hollywood has been importing, and destroying, foreign directors for years. Maybe the American directors figured that heading out of country would improve their stuff? Needless to say,...
Published 18 months ago by Robert Beveridge


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb depiction of Indian life, June 23, 2013
This review is from: The Pool (DVD)
This interesting and impressive and ultimately moving film is set in the Indian state of Goa and uses the talents of street kids who play its stars. It follows the lives of Venkatesh, an 18-year-old and his 11-year-old friend Janghir (the actors use their actual names. Both live a hand-to-mouth existence cleaning hotel rooms and restaurants and scrounging what they can selling plastic bags.

Venkatesh becomes fascinated by a villa on a hill with a pristine swimming pool he longs to swim in. He eventually inserts himself into the lives of the father and teenage daughter living there - neither of whom ever breaks the perfect blue water of the pool. The father, played with grave dignity by Indian film star Nana Patekar, takes an interest in the illiterate Venkatesh, who is smart but has no schooling. Venkatesh, for his part, is sexually drawn to the sultry and bored Ayesha -- who is interested in Venkatesh and Janghir -- but clearly the class divisions between them are too wide the bridge.

The DVD contains a fascinating feature on the making of this movie which was adapted from a short story set in Iowa. The director and crew went to India not knowing who would be in the movie or where it would be shot or what the script would be. Despite this seat-of-the-pants method, they have come up with a script of real delicacy and subtlety with key revelations slipped into the story in a completely naturalistic way and with a couple of surprises that give the end of the movie some real emotional heft.

The biggest virtue of this film, however, comes from the tremendous performances of the leads who are natural and charming and utterly convincing. Their lives are not easy but they live them with real conviction and spunk and dignity.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful movie about India, June 26, 2013
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This review is from: The Pool (DVD)
Beautiful movie! The story, the images and the dialogues are poetical. I enjoyed the slow space of the movie and the beauty of the pictures.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Darjeeling Limited and Slumdog Millionaire, October 18, 2013
By 
M. Horne (Houston, TX USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Pool (DVD)
In 2007/2008, three western directors (none of them mainstream) made films based in India. Wes Anderson made The Darjeeling Limited. If you find Anderson's view of the world quirky and funny, this is a delightful movie. But like New York in The Royal Tennenbaums, his India does seems so artificial, so fictional. Danny Boyle on the other hand puts you in the stink and filth of the slums of Mumbai in Slumdog Millionaire. Fast cuts, non-stop action, and the grittiness of the movie never let you forget you are in a big budget movie. And then the great Bollywood dance ending!

Though I enjoyed both of these movies, The Pool is the best "small" movie of the year (either 2007 when it was released or 2013 when the DVD was released). Directed by Chris Smith (American Movie, Home Movie) in Goa, India, it stars street kids along with a big name Bollywood actor (Nana Patekar). Not much happens on the surface at least for Hollywood (or Bollywood), but underneath the film is a sad and complicated story. And if you are patient, the movie delivers a satisfying end.

When American Movie came out, there was some question if it really was a documentary (some people thought it was a mockumentary--the dialogue often seems too good to be real--certainly more quotable than this film). Smith just barely leaves the world of documentary for his first feature film. A lot of the scenes have Venkatesh (the 18 year old "star") cleaning bathrooms, cleaning hotel rooms, walking around the town. The dialogue is in Hindi and is reminiscent of The Bicycle Thief. That being said, the acting is very good. And the music is great.

The "Making of" documentary is a must see! The story of how this was filmed is almost as interesting as the film itself.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Pool, September 23, 2013
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This review is from: The Pool (DVD)
I liked The Pool when I first saw it on the Sundance channel while channel surfing. It was an escape film for me, took me to India and what felt like was the 'real' India and it's culture. The story was compelling and well acted in my opinion.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Poignant movie, June 25, 2014
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This review is from: The Pool (DVD)
With minimal dialogue, this movie still managed to move me. I also thought the cinematography was good for a relatively low budget movie. It gives a good look into Indian life and highlights the disparity between rich and poor. The story itself is kind of mysterious and the entire time I just wanted the main character to jump in the pool! There are a couple of lessons that can be taken from this movie. Fairly simple plot, but I liked it. Good movie to watch with your girlfriend on a Friday night and discuss afterwards.
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2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The brave heart will take the bride...but this movie will remain a bachelor., January 6, 2013
This review is from: The Pool (DVD)
The Pool (Chris Smith, 2007)

What's up with American directors shipping off to parts unknown to make foreign-language films these days? When you think about it, it's long overdue; Hollywood has been importing, and destroying, foreign directors for years. Maybe the American directors figured that heading out of country would improve their stuff? Needless to say, the ones who are willing to try it are already good--Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre) and Joshua Marston (Maria Full of Grace) are recent examples. Here we have another. Chris Smith was the co-director of one of 1999's best and quirkiest documentaries, American Movie. While in America, Smith has stayed in the documentary world, turning out the same kind of quirky, funny docos. And those I've seen are all well worth your time. But put the guy on a plane to Goa and you end up with this gentle (sometimes too gentle) comedy-drama about the Indian caste system and one teen's attempt to break out of it--all in order to get a swim. Of course, there ends up being a great deal more to it than that, but that's your basic gist.

Venkatesh (Venkatesh Chavan) is eighteen and working in a hotel in Goa, not at all content with his lot in life. All we know of his life outside the world of the hotel is that he has a much younger friend named Jhangir (Jhangir Badshah)--at one point Venkatesh claims to be eighteen and Jhangar eleven (though Jhangar states that Venkatesh doesn't know his actual birthday, and thus doesn't know how old he is)--and that Venkatesh is obsessed with the idea of swimming in a pool at a summer house in one of Goa's nicer districts. He goes and stares longingly at the pool every day, and life goes on, until one day the family who owns the house shows up. Or part of it, anyway. Dad (Ghost House's Nana Patekar, the only actor here with prior experience), a gruff-but-tender sort, notices Venkatesh, and hires him to do odd jobs around the grounds. There's also a daughter, Ayesha (Ayesha Mohan). Who is, of course, hot, and thus Venkatesh's pool obsession gets transferred. Kind of.

There comes a point in some movies where you ask yourself, "okay, so the main point is resolved, what's next?". I've always seen this as a major drawback, because everything else in the movie feels tacked on. The Pool hits that point after about thirty minutes; one more screenplay revision could probably have fixed it. That said, I have fought revising the rating for this movie up a star for the now-well-worn trope of using amateurs for movies aimed at the art-house set (a la Cidade de Deus, which brought the trope back into the popular consciousness); I enjoyed the acting here, and the rational part of my brain knows it doesn't matter how much prior experience the actors had. But the other part says "that's pretty cool", you know? (I know it's all manipulation, but at least that allows me to choose whether I succumb to it.) There were also some other Bollywood touches that were missing. I could be wrong, but it seemed to me that Smith was looking to make a Bollywood-style film here, and I'm all for Western directors heading over to India and learning Bollywood methods of moviemaking, if for no other reason because we might start seeing the return of the three-hour American film. But The Pool is staunchly American, from the ninety-eight minute running time (in Bollywood, that's a short!) to the lack of cast-of-thousands song-and-dance numbers to the indie feel of the whole thing. I'm not necessarily saying this is a bad thing; those who are used to Bollywood films, however, might get a sense of disjunct.

The biggest problem with the movie, though, I alluded to in my opening paragraph. It is too gentle. This may be why I got that "tacked-on" feeling for the last hour; the setup for the romantic subplot becoming the main plot of the movie was there, obviously, but it wasn't there enough, if you get my meaning. The movie almost seems paralyzed by the boldness of its subject matter at times. This is understandable (after all, the underlying meaning of the caste system has always been "let's keep those lower-class thugs away from our nubile daughters"), but it seems to me an outsider--an American film director, say--would be more inclined to be bold about his subject, not less. There's a fine line to be drawn there, and I am certainly one who would advocate erring on the side of caution. I should give Smith points for not turning this into a morass of message. But he could have trod a lot closer to the line. (Seeing Venkatesh have a Mark Borchardt-style explosion? That woulda made this movie.) ** ˝
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The Pool
The Pool by Chris Smith (DVD - 2013)
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