October 31, 2009
The day began with one of the best biopics I have ever seen, China's official entry for Oscars: Mei Lanfang (Forever Enthralled), about the life of one of the most legendary Chinese opera performers of all time. It was the kind of cinematic experience you wish about, a fine blend of fact and fiction and of music, art and theatre, with a unique cultural and historical flavour to it. I thought it was going to be my movie of the day. But movies that followed have made it extremely difficult to decide: the heart-warming documentary Unmistaken Child, about the search of the reincarnation of Tibetan master Lama Konchog; the Hindustani film Muhafiz, 1994, (as part of Shashi Kapoor Retrospective) that talks about the state of Urdu in modern India through the last days of a famous Urdu poet; and The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela, about a Filipino ladyboy prostitute. All these movies told great stories about special men and each was as good as the other.
Apart from these I saw this Hungarian movie Nem Vagyok a Baratod (I Am Not Your Friend). I selected this film because I am still in awe with Hukkle, the only Hungarian film I had seen before today. And I thought another film from Hungary would be interesting to watch. After the show, I talked to Gyorgy Palfi, the director and I could not believe it when while talking to him I realised that it was he who had made Hukkle. I told him how unforgettable it was and took his autograph.
Also had the chance to meet Paprika Steen, whom I mentioned in my last post, and her director Mikael C. Rieks. When I told them that their film reminded of Kieslowski, they informed me that it has actually been nominated for some award named after the Polish master. Overall, it was a hugely rewarding day.
For the performance of today I would like to mention that of Om Puri in Muhafiz. As always, he excells as the Urdu professor, with a Hindi M.A. degree and an undying hope that Urdu poetry would survive, and through his eyes we witness the personal life of Nur Shahjehanbadi, Shashi Kapoor in an unforgettable performance. Leon Lai in a restricted and subtle portrayal of the Chinese superstar, 'the King of female roles', Mei Lanfang was amazing too.
P.S. This friend of mine, one of my partners in the discovery of world cinema, who was there with me during Pune 2008, has come to Mumbai specifically for this fest. For the next three days, he wll join me there. Looking forward to more moments to cherish...
It does not happen often that you finish watching five movies in a single day, within 12 hrs. But from today, it is going to be my case for one full week. With five great movies today, the fest begins for me. And today it belonged to the ladies.
Two of the five movies had women directors. And all but one had ladies as protagonists: Mar Nero (Black Sea), a beautiful Italian film about the old Gemma and her young Romanian caregiver; Zanan-e Bedun-e Mardan (Women Without Men), a surrealistic political Persian drama about four women and how the unrest in Iran during 1953 affects their lives; Applaus (Applause), a Danish film about the personal turmoil in the life of a famous middle-aged actress; and finally Fish Tank, an English film about the fifteen-year old tough and wiry Mia. I had a chance meeting with Mr. Lekh Tandon and the movie we saw was the disturbing and brutal sexploitation film from Greece, Kynodontas (Dogtooth), which left the audience shocked and enraged.
The best performances were those of Ilaria Occhini as Gemma in Mar Nero, for which she has already won Best Actress Silver Lion at Locarno; and of Paprika Steen as Thea in Applause. But the movie that gave me a truely cinematic experience today was Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank, the winner of Jury Prize at Cannes, 2009. The red-black silhouette of the pretty and talented Katie Jarvis dancing to the tune of California Dreamin' made my day:
All the leaves are brown
And the sky is grey,
I've been for a walk
On a winter's day...
October 29, 2009
I had waited for this day for two months. I had waited for the evening the whole day. I didn't watch any movie during the day as I had to watch this. And there I was, on my way back. The Red Carpet, the media flashes, the announcements, the music, the Security, the expensive cars, the honourable guests - it was all there. But it wasn't for me. The Mumbai Film Festival had started. And I was going back.
Let me put it clearly. I knew the Opening Ceremony was not meant for the general public. But who cares about that! I was just expecting the thousand bucks I had paid to get the delegate pass would let me in one of the four theaters - all screening the opening movie. The opening day couldn't give anything for me to cherish. Tomorrow is going to be my Day #1.
I don't blame anyone. I forgive them all. But it is true that I was feeling a mix of too many emotions at that moment. One of them was disappointment. Others, too personal for me to talk about. It is OK, I said to myself, and moved towards Landmark book store. The wonderful book on the cinema of Jean Renoir was waiting for me...
October 28, 2009
It has been a long wait. Over two months. And finally, it is over. Believe me, the last few days were real slow.
The only film festival I have attended is Pune Film Festival 2008. Had watched 17 movies in 4 days. It was an experience I could never forget. This year, I missed it. And was gearing up for the 2010 Pune fest, to be held in January. Got to know about this fest to be held in Mumbai and for the past two months I have been waiting impatiently.
Finally the wait is over. I am not going to do anything else but lose myself to this binge of movies. I never watch more than one movie a day, let it grow on myself, read about it and watch another on getting up the next morning. But from tomorrow, I am going to indulge. I hope to finish 35 movies during this week. Have already spent hours planning it out from the schedule they have released. Perhaps the planning was the most exciting part.
I'll have to leave home at 8am. And would return only at midnight, to leave again the next morning. It is going to be a hell of a ride. And although, I would miss the company of my friends who were there with me at Pune 2008, one of them is coming to Mumbai and would join me for three days. And my brother would join me for some shows as well. I can't wait any more. The stage is set just too well...
P.S. I dont know whether I'll have time. But would love to post daily reports about my experience there. Although, it seems too much to demand from myself, I'll sincerely try. C ya!!!
October 25, 2009
Those were the days when I was extremely critical about the stuff I watched, and appreciated. I was extremely choosy and for me the best form of cinema was the realist film with a purpose, a theme, a moral. But as the film opened, I was struck by its beautiful imagery and uplifting score. I don’t remember, but perhaps it was some saxophone playing. And there was this bold use of colour, or the lack of it. It was a visual I had never ever seen in my life. Or had I? This film had indeed managed to infuse life into the art of the graphic novel. For the next couple of hours or so, as I gazed transfixed at the amazing blend of beauty and disgust, I felt the makers shouting in my ears: “We would bullshit! And you would sit and watch!! And it would last as long as we want it to.”
I didn’t feel for the characters, but I admired some of them and hated others. As the film is a series of loosely-linked short stories, there was not a definite graph of emotional connect that I had for it. Instead, it was like being engrossed without being attached. Love making scenes had hardly appeared so magical. Action had hardly been so daringly ruthless. I can not forget two scenes: one that involved the death of the ‘Yellow Demon’, I don’t remember his name, if he had any; and the scene where Elijah Wood’s character gets his limbs, and eventually the whole body, chopped off, and the smile on his lips just refuses to fade away. The directors (there were three of them – Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino) succeeded in such sequences and more because they willingly ignored the realistic temperament inherently associated with film and took a sort of expressionistic approach, greatly inspired by the original graphic novel – a medium where things are indeed magically beautiful but essentially unreal, where stunts are indeed most daring. If any attempt was made to dilute this impact, it would have been just another movie, far from being an adaptation of the original, and an exceedingly disappointing one. Although, the film lacks a connection at emotional level, and those who fail to appreciate its imagery and style might choose to leave it mid-way, or even before, I feel its overtly non-sentimental approach was its style statement and its merit. For me it was a pure cinematic experience.
Having a clear cinematic vision is a rare virtue and being able to achieve that requires tireless effort and character, and most of all – honesty. Whatever seems apparently, I would call
P.S. I just found out that his name was The Yellow Bastard. I love him!
October 21, 2009
The phenomenon of cinema can be studied in three ways: economic, aesthetic and political. The economic aspect of movies is indeed important, but with respect to the economics of the world, it is hardly significant. The aesthetic aspect of cinema concerns with its study as a form of human expression. But it is the politics of films – the way it relates to the world, is something that makes it the most powerful form of art. While the socio-politics of film describes how it reflects and is integrated with human experience in general, the psycho-politics explains how we personally and specifically relate to it. So, in order to study the ‘impact’ of films, we need to study its political nature, which can be done on three levels: the Inherent nature of films, the Mimetic nature of films and the Ontological nature of films (Ontology= the metaphysics of the nature of being).
- Inherently, its intense communicative nature makes it strongly political. It is a widely popular phenomenon. It represents reality more powerfully and convincingly than any other art form. In fact, the ‘dream function’ of the film is a major reason behind its success and acceptance. Film is plural, rather than unique, that is, it is infinitely reproducible. It is available at regular basis to a large number of people and unlike other traditional arts, it meets the observers on their home grounds. It has also enabled the observer to participate directly in the logic of the film. In fact, this art form has exceeded from being a relation between the artist and the art. It has involved the observer as well, and the relationship between the artist, the art and an active observer is the power of cinema.
- Mimetic: There is this traditional film debate on Realism versus Expressionism on how to use the medium. Realism celebrates the raw material of films: the realistic plot, characters and issues. Expressionism gives more power into the hands of the filmmaker. It allows them to re-create or modify reality. While the earliest films of Shyam Benegal easily qualifies as an expression of realism, the films of V. Shantaram is the finest example of good quality expressionist film making in
. Whichever be the case, film either reflects or re-creates reality and does it so well that has indeed developed into an essay in which we can work out the patterns of a new and better social structure. India
- Ontological: Film tends to deconstruct the traditional values of culture. While on the one hand, its depiction of sex and violence does disturb the moral norms of the society, its ruthless exposure of the ills of the society is definitely a desirable virtue. Films have historically mirrored the cultural and moral values of our culture and, to a lesser extent but definitely, have helped in modifying them. Cinema today is not only an illustration to sociology, it is an important tool of sociological change.
It seems appropriate to mention that the basis of cinema is indeed an illusion. What we see on screen is a series of stills that give us the perception of ‘motion picture’. The process is extremely painstaking and clinical and even ‘boring’ for the common man. But what cinema has done is to achieve an amazing confluence of the best of all art forms: fiction, theater, dance, music, architecture and fine arts, not to mention costume design and jewelry design as well, and has emerged as so strong a force that has the ability to move hundreds of people at a time, deeply affecting their emotions, thoughts, belief and value-system. Cinema is an illusion, and what a grand illusion it is!
The article is a part of my personal notes from the study of James Monaco’s brilliant book How To Read A Film.
October 18, 2009
Chapter 1: Basterds
At Fame, Inorbit last week, I had the fortune of watching a Tarantino film in theater for the first time. And since during this period between his last film and this I had covered his complete filmography, it was indeed eagerly awaited. For the first time I was eager to experience a fresh film of a foreign film maker with whose works I was completely acquainted and in love. The certificate by CBFC, India kickstarted this unforgettable experience. But there was an error. It read 'Inglorious Basterds.' A female voice from behind me announced - "Spelling mistake!" I forgave her. Perhaps she was not aware of this famous 'mistake' in the title of the movie she had come to watch. That when it is Tarantino, 'bastards' can very well be spelt 'basterds'. I forgave her; she was wrong because she was ignorant.
Chapter 2: Inglourious
But then it hit me hard. The movie is called 'Inglourious Basterds', an extra U in its first word apart from the E replacing A in the second. And the CBFC certificate showed 'Inglorious'. May be the lady behind me knows about Tarantino and the movie indeed! May be she is not ignorant at all. And that means she is damn correct about the 'error'. So, this time I forgive CBFC. The point is - however hard you try to know and predict Quentin Tarantino, he still manages to surprise you. You felt you have done it right when you wrote 'Basterds' instead of the literal English-language word. But you still missed a U. You still missed a Tarantino trademark, a beautiful detail.
Chapter 3: Glorious Basterds
After an utterly forgettable 'Grindhouse', Tarantino is back in style. And it was a pleasure to see how he celebrates his love for cinema in this film, and leads us to an unforgettable climax that challenges the history known to man. They say he is getting repetative. I don't care. As long as he does his stuff the way he does his stuff, we're gonna love him. After all, really, we havent seen a lot of things, until we see them through the eyes of QT.