Near the end of Decoding Deepak (at Sundance Cinemas), Gotham Chopra's fascinating documentary about his father, spiritual icon Deepak Chopra, the elder Chopra wraps up an on-location interview by offering an off-the-cuff appraisal of his on-camera performance: “I said what I needed to say, and I did it well. I’m happy.”
It’s altogether appropriate that the younger Chopra uses this clip more or less as his movie's epilogue, as it conveys both the self-deprecating humor and self-confident sangfroid of his charismatic subject.
And yes, it contains one of the best gifts a documentarian could ever receive from his or her subject: A really terrific curtain line. As the movie repeatedly demonstrates: Deepak Chopra is, in addition to many other things, a born showman.
Deepak Chopra is, in addition to many other things, a born showman.
By turns amusing and illuminating, and often both simultaneously, Decoding Deepak is a behind-the-scenes look at man widely revered (by everyone from anonymous acolytes to Lady Gaga) as a gregarious guru who dispenses easily accessible words of wisdom. At the same time, however, it’s also a bit of a detective story.
Sounding very much like countless other children of famous parents, Gotham announces early on that, despite Deepak’s international celebrity and seeming ubiquity in pop culture, his father remains in some ways a mystery to him. Partly to satisfy his curiosity — and partly, he concedes, to discover “where he ends and I begin” — he made this documentary, drawing upon archival footage and newly recorded interviews, as well as his own observations during a year of journeying with his peripatetic dad.
The result of his efforts is neither hagiography nor hatchet job, but rather an insightful and intriguing portrait of a smart, self-aware, best-selling author, spiritual counselor, pop-culture luminary, alternative-medicine savant, multimedia superstar and BFF of Oprah Winfrey — who's largely comfortable in his role as head of a veritable one-man enlightenment industry, but who admits to occasional excesses of pride and periods of troubling self doubt.
An Incredible French Duo
French filmmaker Bertrand Blier doesn’t care who knows it: He’s got a serious man-crush on his favorite film star and frequent collaborator. “I always think about Gerard Depardieu when I create a role,” he says. “Even if it’s an animal. Sometimes there´s a big piece of furniture — it´s Depardieu.”
Blier/Depardieu, a mini-retrospective tribute to the dynamic duo, unspools this weekend at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, with screenings of the brazenly non-P.C. Going Places (7 p.m. Friday), the Oscar-winning Get Out Your Handkerchiefs (7 p.m. Saturday) — and my personal favorite in the entire Blier oeuvre, Too Beautiful for You (5 p.m. Sunday).
"A man wants to live several lives," Bernard says, "But he can't. He has only one, and it's short."
In synopsis, Too Beautiful for You reads like a traditional comedy of adultery with a French accent. Bernard (Depardieu), a comfortably successful garage owner and car salesman, has an astonishingly attractive wife, Florence (Carole Bouquet), who deeply loves him and their two children. But Bernard's eye wanders over to the office next to his, and rests upon his new secretary, Colette (Josiane Balasko). Desire inspires action, and action results in chaos.
Blier takes the conventions of boulevard comedy — and stands them on end.
The wife is indeed a stunning beauty, ultra-chic and alluring in ways that would make her, in a less idiosyncratic film, the perfect mistress. The secretary is a plain, even slightly dumpy woman with a passionate appetite for romance, and the blunt determination to take what she wants. By anyone's standards but Blier's, Bernard appears to have his wires crossed: He's chasing the woman he should have married after marrying the woman he should have taken as an extra-marital lover.
But the heart has its reasons. Depardieu affectingly plays Bernard as a hopelessly confused, helplessly enraptured romantic whose extramarital lust is motivated, in equal measures, by the chill of mortality and an awestruck appreciation of all women, of all ages, shapes and sizes.
"A man wants to live several lives," Bernard says, "But he can't. He has only one, and it's short." Worse, it's not nearly enough to spend all the time he wants with those fair creatures who inspire such contradictory impulses of fear and desire.
"If we could only make them all happy," he says, wistfully. "If we could give them all flowers . . . "
Sundance and Bollywood Magic
Two other openings of note at Sundance Cinemas this weekend: Wuthering Heights, a provocatively fresh take on the Emily Bronte novel by Oscar-winning writer-director Andrea Arnold; and Pusher, Luis Prieto’s English-language remake of the 1996 Danish drug-dealer drama that generated international attention for Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn.
Over at the AMC Studio 30, newcomers include The Thieves, a South Korean crime caper that recorded the second-highest opening-day ticket sales (after The Host) in the history of Korean cinema; and Chakravyuh, a Bollywood political thriller about a police informant tied to Maoist rebels.