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Movie Review: The Mystic Masseur

Story: The 35 year partnership of director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant has been fruitful and I am a BIG fan. This time out Merchant has taken the director's hat in hand. As with most of their films you have to sit back and let the story wash over you. If you are in a hurry or are looking for some screen action, save your money - stay home.

Based on Nobel Prize winning author V.S. Naipaul's 1957 novel the story takes place in Trinidad of the 1940s. During this time the Indian expatriate community, who came to the Island to work on the sugar plantations after slavery was abolished, were beginning to get the stirrings for political power while the Island was still a part of the diminishing British Empire.

Our protagonist's story is told as a fable, via a narrator (grrr)! over the course of about 15 years. His journey from frustrated schoolteacher to budding author, to masseur, healer, sage, politico and eventual discouragement runs the course of the film. Along the way we meet colorful, rich, multilayered characters who add to the films enjoyment. If you want a nice escape to another time and are Merchant - Ivory fans, check out this film.

Acting: Aasif Mandvi, is delightful as Ganesh, our evolving protagonist. Om Puri, who should be a national treasure in India (maybe he is) is wonderful, too. Ayesha Dharker, Zohra Sehgal and James Fox are also wonderful.

Critters: Goats and oxen.

Food: Some wonderful dipping food with delicious looking bread...and much talk of canned salmon.

Visual Art: Small simple etchings.

Blatant Product Placement: Coca Cola (but used in a comical way).

Soundtrack: Appropriate without being overbearing.

Theater Audience: A handful of Merchant Ivory fans.

Quirky Meter: 2

Predictability Level: I had no idea what was going to happen.

Oscar Worthy: No

Nit Picking: The main character needed more development and the ending comes too quickly.

Big Screen or Rental: I always enjoy their films on the big screen but here are some of my other favorite Merchant/Ivory films that you can rent: THE BOSTONIANS, A ROOM WITH A VIEW, MAURICE, MR. and MRS. BRIDGE, HOWARDS END, THE REMAINS OF THE DAY, IN CUSTODY, JEFFERSON IN PARIS (with Nick Note), SURVIVING PICASSO, THE GOLDEN BOWL (with Nick Note).

Length: Two Hours