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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Mistress of Spices DVD

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I have seen the worst DVD of the season. Drum-roll please…’Mistress of Spices.’ Its release was at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival, had a short run in NYC, and has made its DVD debut as a Blockbuster store exclusive.

    Please refrain from renting it from their shelves or online database because you will have wasted $5 and/or a queue space.

    I’ll give you three reasons why I decided to take a chance on it: Dylan McDermott, the director/writer responsible for ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ and ‘Bride and Prejudice,’ and the former film’s actress Aishwarya Rai. These spices could have been really good, but instead left a bad taste.

    Tilo, meaning sesame, came from India to San Francisco to continue the tradition of helping people with spices matched for an occasion or emotion, similar to ‘Chocolat’ (2001).

    For example, cinnamon was to bring a bullied teenage boy a group of good friends and another for a woman trying to find love. As a mistress of the spices, Tilo must give up her own desires and not touch the skin of another person, especially a man, or else the spices will punish her and those she tried to help.

    However, Doug crashed his motorcycle outside her Spices Bazaar shop and needed to be taken care of. He immediately is captivated by her and keeps coming back. Tilo tries to deny him but does eventually let him hold her hands and she wishes she can have both the spices and Doug.

    For a very long hour she is constantly reconsidering whether or not to follow her desires. It is emotional torture, and not the good kind, to watch the invisible see-saw. And after all this, the ending was completely predictable.

    Dylan McDermott was properly cast as the mature but lost soul architect who doesn’t understand he is tempting a woman away from her life’s devotion. Aishwarya Rai was properly cast as the beautiful isolated dutiful woman who must decide between two futures.

    The duo’s appearances were right for their respective characters. But when they speak, the dialogue is empty and their voices are without passion. They are too quiet.

    Although I am not familiar with the tradition which this story is based on, I have seen and enjoyed some recent Indian films that mix tradition with Western themes. In this case though, I may appreciate Bollywood Hollywood more because its story progressed at a better pace. The love story between Tilo and Doug was supposed to simmer in a pot or pan, not a Dutch oven.

    There have been an abundance of films that center around food in different cultures and contexts: ‘Fatso,’ ‘Like Water For Chocolate,’ ‘Chocolat,’ ‘Simply Irresistible,’ ‘Mostly Martha’ and its remake ‘What’s Cooking?,’ ‘When Do We Eat?,’ ‘Tampopo,’ ‘Big Night,’ and many more.

    Despite all of these, ‘Mistress of Spices’ differs in that no one eats! The spices are spoken about and in the frame but the meals meant to be made with them are not shown.

    However, instead of most of the cinematography focused on the spices, it focuses on Tilo’s eyes. The only symbolized spice is the red chili, but its meaning is not clearly explained, except red for danger.

    The greatest, by far, quality of the film is the soundtrack. This music is so fun and lively that it is great to dance to or hum.

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