Location: New York, United States

Love, hate, comments, sunshine and daydreams about films.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Surrealistic SpaceTime

To start at the very beginning – last year at Marienbad (LYAM) is such a film that I cannot recall a single film to be in a close affinity with it; I am not talking about the generic superiority of the film (by generic I mean the commonplace plot, acting, music yada yada...) but am pointing out the exclusive uniqueness of the film. The cerebral experience of watching LYAM is unique; LYAM is puzzling, it is a challenging film to be comprehended, it leaves you dumbfounded, but at the same time anyone can realize that LYAM is an example of sheer experimentation where a human mind discovers the real meaning of truth in the form of art.

The film begins by describing a beautiful ornate chateau. The camera rolls through the long corridors, huge walls, decorated ceilings, murals, paintings & other artifacts and a low voice slowly starts talking. The voice in the tracking shot repeats the same words and unwittingly we already start feeling eerie even though it is only a few minutes. The elegant invitees in the chateau are sitting & watching theatre. We observe a person ("X") approaches one beautiful woman ("A") and asks her -"did not we meet at Marienbad last year"? The woman keeps her silence but the man continues with his elaboration a familiar experience he had with her in a similar chateau last year, where she was finally ready to leave her husband ("M"') and run away together with him. The woman replies she did not even know Mr. X but X persists with a passionate minute detailing of what had happened in the last year. Mr. X repeats his memory repeatedly over and over again, which changes minutely between each description, all against the milieu of the hallways, rooms, and garden in the chateau.

As the film progresses the characters and the narration of the film start becoming more uncertain. Resnais masterfully handled a mixture model where present, past, and possible fantasy worlds are coagulated together. The viewers sense a confused state with the flow of the sequence of events in the chateau, wondering whether "X" & "A" had really met in Marienbad. The events we finally observe are left to our comprehension. The events might be real(that is Mr. X is meeting with A), that this chateau is really in Marienbad, that X and Y had met last year, or else it can be that X is fantasizing everything.

Resnais created a perfectly mesmerizing mood and tonal balance in the film to supplement the narration. The hypnotic tableau of figures in the garden of the chateau, the almost perfectly geometrically arranged garden in the chateau makes you wonder about mathematics (truly, the narration is such brilliantly mixed with memory/present/fantasy that you might rethink if it is a work of mathematics!) around you and everything you have seen in the film. The motif becomes clearer when we notice the elite guests are passing time by playing "Niim" (a mathematical logic game; can be played with cards). Often by using a surrealistic dream like imagery or freezing all unrequited physical objects in various shots or flashing a possible fantasy/memory shot repeatedly (with different time durations) in between a single shot Resnais confirms his grasp in connecting unclear dots in a beautiful but demanding logical progression. At the end the viewers will finally rethink “was there anything to identify with” or” did time stand still for the last one&half hour?

Decades come and go, but LYAM will remain the same with all its challenging, absorbing and at the same time – stimulating original parameters. Personally I feel there is a school of films that have a direct (and sometimes indirect) obligation towards LYAM; because LYAM teaches you how to narrate a possible linear story-type film from the subjective point of views of the protagonists, where each protagonist can nullify the others view point. I have watched LYAM a few times in recent years and each time I ended up saluting Mr. Resnais for this jewel. If you still have not seen LYAM – don't continue this crime!

Année dernière à Marienbad, L'
(Last Year at Marienbad - 1961)

Directed By : Alain Resnais

Friday, March 30, 2007

Reality; Dream; Meditation

Every day, Tae Suk – a young guy in his expensive bike wanders in the different neighborhoods of Seoul. He carries some restaurant take-out menus and purposely places them on the front door lock of arbitrary houses in such a way that without tearing the menu card apart the house owner cannot enter his residence. By the next day, this homeless guy roams again in the same locality to survey which of the menus have left unobserved. This confirms a temporary absence of the homeowner; thus Tae Suk breaks in the empty house and makes him comfortable. He does not steal or creates any nuisance but cleans the respective house, waters the trees, washes clothes, cooks food, eats, sleeps and repairs any broken electrical goods. To keep the souvenir in account, he also takes snaps of himself, usually maintaining the absentee landlord's image (or, say his personality) in the background.

One day he breaks into a big lavish house which is seemingly empty but actually not. The house belongs to a powerful rich businessman; his wife (Sun-hwa) is a former print model. While continuing his usual housekeeping routines Tae suddenly realizes that he is being watched by the lady of the house, who has literally alienated herself from the world by keeping an utter silence, after a violent encounter with her abusive husband (the businessman). With time their unspoken relationship develops in a tacit but intense bond. After confronting (and hitting with golf balls) the cruel husband, Tae takes off again on his bike but this time he is accompanied by Sun hwa. Together, they continue Tae-suk's weird habit of finding and breaking new places to spend each night.

The next act of this film is the most astonishing and I surmise almost all critics will spend 90% of the reviews and discussions on the last thirty minutes or so of the film. We see Tae Suk and Sun hwa are almost forced and fated to be in a relationship; they are reluctant to speak but through the golden silence they can communicate, perhaps in some further level. Tae Suk is homeless in all meanings and for Sun hwa this hazardous but quixotic method of finding homes to stay naturally gives her the impetus of the feeling – freedom. But anyway, after a mishap while changing places to stay, the police trap the duo. Tae is sent to jail (of course Sun hwa's rich husband bribed the cops in a mainstream fashion) and the fugitive wife is back in her house.

While being in jail, Tae by practicing martial arts reaches a higher level of consciousness and thus becomes invisible to the outer world (except, Sun hwa). Others can sense his presence but cannot see him. In the end scenes, we observe Tae and Sun are united again. It is difficult to draw any plausible explanations of the end images. Firstly, the final image of the film is pretty unreal (both are standing on a weight machine where the scale reads zero) which compels the audience to think that Kim-ki Duk is composing a metaphorical unreal world. Truly, the end caption ("It's hard to tell that the world we live in is either a reality or a dream") denotes the same notion. I found this imagery has a resemblance with one scene of Solaris (the Tarkovsky one). Remember, how Kris and Hari were both flying in the space-station, holding each other? As par Tarkovsky, this is the state of being in love; the perfect weightlessness.

Secondly, from the previous ventures of Kim (such as his most renowned film- "spring, summer, fall, winter... and spring") we can draw an analogy; the protagonists of Kim belong to a supernatural place. They achieve the state of self-realization (by hardship, by rituals, by suffering, or by the old school martial arts) and thus they become free of the reality, our daily world.

3-iron is a restrained and subtle effort from Kim (unlike SSFWS). Kim maintained his world of silence and we encounter the delicate transcending journeys of his protagonists where they finally transform themselves for higher humankind. I have not seen his latest two ventures (the bow and time) but eagerly waiting to spot if Kim took some diverse methods to depict his unspoken mystic alienated world.

Bin-jip (3-iron - 2004)
Directed By: Kim ki Duk

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

the Subtle Dangerous game..

In the opening scene of the film Pornography we observe that a polish middle aged artist (Frederic) returns to German occupied Poland after a long time. He is carrying a suitcase (which contains everything and nothing – paradoxically), sitting idle with few polish intellects, smoking and waiting listlessly for the end of the extended war. His close buddy, the writer friend Witold (who is also the narrator of the movie) was planning to visit the country firm of his friend Hippolyte and thus insists Frederic to come along for the trip. Pornography is all about Frederic's stint in the country side and his involvement in a dangerous and perhaps a sort of an inhumane deed.

Bored by the tranquil inactivity of the village life and by the dull routines of Hippolyte's family, Frederic masterminds a risky game between Henia (Hippolyte's teenage daughter) and Carol (a firm boy who also works in the stable); he plans to bring them together as lovers. He arranges every single possible meetings between them, prepares a theatrical romantic circumstance between them (informing them as it's just a rehearsal of a drama) and to make the situation more complicated he insists Henia's fiancé to watch this romance secretly, thus to create a faction between him and Henia. But as the movie unfolds, we find out Frederic's dark past and learn that all his present bizarre actions are actually the resultants of his feelings of guilt about his lost daughter.

Pornography is based on the novel of noted Polish author Witold Gombrowicz by the same title. As I found out form other sources, critics pointed out that the movie plot is pretty much digressed from the original novel. Such as, the character of Weronica, the teen-aged servant girl who evokes the memory of Frederic's lost girl is missing from the novel. Frederic manipulates the juvenile minds of Henia and Carole not only to fall in love but also to take part in a political murder. The consequent toying with the feelings of the others, the recklessness seems to be just a process of hurting himself, to nurture the evil inside Frederic who is deeply depressed and thus a method to prevent him from forgetting his own mistakes.

Kolski represented the war affected Germany occupied Poland in a very sublime way. We don't miss the horrified faces of polish people hiding underground nor we miss the political conflicts between the underground resistance and the army; but all are very subtle. The photography is in particular yellow-green colors and often follows isolated behaviors of animals and insects. Though the treatment of the objects (instincts, animals and human beings) is very soft, Pornography reveals the war-time depressions very cleverly. With repetitive comparison shots between the wartime politics, politics in corrupting naïve minds and the unexciting studies of the animal kingdom, Kolsky reinforces the anxiety of a very difficult time in mankind's history.

Pornografia (Pornography -2003)
Directed By :Jan Jakub Kolski

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Life Caught in the Frame

"People are obsessed with cancer and heart trouble. My disease is work, phone calls and appointments."

The first and only colored scene in the movie illustrates two women (Cleo and a tarot reader) sitting on opposite sides of a card table, while the tarot reader foreseeing Cleo's future. The camera concentrates on the laid cards, and the cards display a premonition of something tragic might happen. The film then slips back to black and white for the rest.

Cleo, a young pop singer waiting for her results from a cancer test (she has to call the doctor at 7 o' clock in the evening for the biopsy report) and the movie reveals her story between five to seven in the evening. The film is almost a real-time description of this two hour in her life; it is around 90 minutes long but pretty much close to the fixed time frame. This is a crucial two hours in Cleo's life and the director (Agnes Varda) meticulously and beautifully crafted the story; Cleo's wandering in the streets of modern Paris, her narcissist behavior and most prominently how she is learning about the true essence of life during this hours. The film is marked by chapters (same as many French new wave films) and emphasizes the progression of time by captions.

Agnes Varda, a prominent figure of the French new wave movement (along with coveted names like Godard, Trauffaut or Rivette) typically displayed a tendency for flat narration with amalgam of reality and clever symbols. Truly the film is very rich with symbols and there are so many thought provoking incidents in the film; capricious Cleo wearing black glasses in the restaurants and searching if people can identify her, opening her pop-singer's wig to disclose her natural self beauty during her sad ness, narrating to her friend (that Cleo might be a victim of cancer) in a dark tunnel, the collective psyche of the city life in Paris; building, staircases, art students, how the passerby observing the main protagonist (here, Cleo) such as they are suggesting to open herself to the world and how everything can be referenced back to the collective contemporary culture in a nutshell, a typical film inside a film (Godard and Anna Karina did a cameo) which critics say – served as a mechanism to pick Cleo up out of her self-obsession and move forward.

Somehow from the center of the film, you will feel a strong resemblance between the protagonists Cleo and Nana in Godard's masterpiece "my life to live". But where as, Nana drags more sympathy from the viewers through the development of the film and Cleo does not, Varda herself is much more sympathetic to Cleo than Godard was to her Nana. Personally, I feel this is again a striking dissimilarity in both the films in treating the main character. May be this is due to the dissimilarity in attitudes of the both directors towards the characters in general.

If you feel interested, also watch Vagabond by the same director. You won't be disappointed.

Cléo de 5 à 7 (Cleo from 5 to 7 -1961)
Directed By :Agnes Varda

Friday, February 09, 2007

to the Other World...

William Blake (Johny Depp) is an accountant by profession. He is traveling from his hometown Cleveland to the western city of Machine to join a steel factory. Blake’s parents are dead and he is in desperate needs of a job. Unfortunately is not aware of the fact that the job position has already been filled. Depp comes across a former prostitute beside a dingy bar in a muddy street at night. The woman, a paper flower seller insists Depp to come with her. This woman had an affair with Mr. Dickinson’s (the fowl mouth steel merchant) son and soon unhappily the night gets tinged with gunfire between all of the three. Both the merchant’s son (his name is Charles) and the woman is killed, Depp with a fatal wound escapes with Charles’s horse. Mr. Dickinson puts a hefty price on Depp’s head and hires three qualified murderer to bring him back dead/alive (firstly – he has stolen the prized horse, secondly – murderer of his son and thirdly – probable murderer of the woman). The Next morning, Depp meets an aboriginal Indian (named – Nobody) in the jungle who mistakes Depp as the original Blake (as in the poet) and from this point on, Depp’s journey begins. In other words I can put this as – the journey of one of the longest and beautiful death sequences in movie records.

Not surprisingly Dead man is a B&W film (Jarmusch’s major ventures are shot in B&W - stranger than paradise, down by law, coffee and cigarettes) but the interesting fact remains that dead man has a western charm (or, neo western) and the movie is all about Depp’s reallocation from the western planet to the other side, say the native world. Culture clash or fights between different paradigms has always been a prime motif of many westerns and Dead Man is no exception but certainly with a twist. From the very beginning we see that Depp is not appropriate in the big-picture of the movie (he is polished, sober, clean outfit, round spectacle – diametrically opposite with his fellow travelers in the train or the city of Machine residents) and by little by little how he is trying to fit in the spiritual stance of the movie. I can recall a beautiful shot in beginning: - Depp is mostly sleeping in the train and with every single crack he watches how the fellow passengers and the nature outside the window are changing. He is sober, polite, no action hero but quicker he is getting the taste of blood in his hands with sporadic killings. I think Jarmusch draws this allegory with the theme of “violence in poetry” and fascinatingly used the metaphor of William Blake.

The name Nobody surely gives a budge; he is nobody and so can be anyone to guide Depp. Jarmusch meticulously planned this character to give a wider characteristic, to give a taste of an open world but closer to nature. That’s why the dialect of Nobody is a mixture model of various American Indian clans!

Dead man is all about a journey en route for a spiritual uplift of Depp. It is a lonely expedition of a wounded man who will be dead soon. Remember from the very beginning how Nobody (who seems to be almost a scholar) helps Depp in preparing him for the journey. Nobody is more interested in healing Depp’s western soul than his wounds. Being with Nobody, traveling through the woods, meeting and facing merciless fates Depp is a learner here. The film and Depp both gradually transit to a native terrain without any “intrusion”. His physical condition is worsening; his eyes are just open to see the fragility of the cruel world that defines the realms. There is no explicit camera trickery or motivating speech or preach yet the transition is sleek and very smooth.

In the ending we observe Blake’s solo voyage into the sea where his death is waiting, a lone ornamented boat is drifting away with him and suddenly we realize our regular so called refined world is such temporary and short-lived.

Dead Man - 1995
Directed By : Jim Jarmusch

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Alienation & the Millennium

Though the hole was made in ’98 the story narrated the last few days of the previous millennium, in Taipei. A bizarre virus has spread like epidemic (scientists coined – Taiwan fever) and the government is taking harsh steps to quarantine the suffered ones. The media is encouraging the uninfected people, who are living in the danger zones of Taipei, to evacuate their houses and to move into temporary arrangement planned by the government, till the spread of the virus is controlled. But there are a number of residents who are uninterested in moving out, so as a last resort to vacate those buildings, the government has threatened the residents to shut down the water supply and garbage disposal service from the beginning of the New Year.

The protagonist (Lee Kang-sheng) of the movie, a young man (a grocer by profession) lives in a shady apartment in the hazardous sector of the city. The other protagonist, a young lady (Yang Kuei-mei) lives just down below his apartment. Both are reluctant to move, knowing that the virus has crippled the lives of the city. One morning a plumber comes to the grocer’s apartment searching for the source of a water leak in the apartment downstairs. The grocer goes out for his job, after his return discovers that the utility worker has left a drilled circular hole in the concrete floor; the one unraveling his and the woman’s apartment below. Initially this hole becomes an apparatus for sort of peeping into a mysterious territory for the man, watching the woman piling toilet papers, mopping the floor from watering walls or eating Chinese noodles. Mutually they feel irritated by this convenient but weird method of observation; an estrangement breeds (the man uses the hole as ashtray, the lady sprays cockroach repellent through the hole replying this act) but sooner as the oppressive weather and the catastrophe continues to hit their mind and spacetime, the hole turns out to be the last standing channel for communication, the final hole for contacting another human life.

Tsai Ming-Liang is a prominent powerhouse representative of the second new wave of Taiwan film cradle (post Hou Hsiao-hsien?). And personally, I feel the hole as a very innovative and modern piece of art, a cross movie between Liang’s perennial pessimism about the “economic miracle” of Taiwan & isolation between urban lives but presented with a sci-fi odor and a savor of typical Hollywood musicals. Indeed the movie is continuously stroked by song-dance sequences (songs of 50’s Hong Kong staple Grace Chang), especially to reflect the inner mood of Yang. Liang used an innovative brush of contrasts (the slapstick song-dance epochs) to fill the ever depressing and soggy nature of the movie/Taipey, the extended silence of the outer world (except unremitting sound of rain) thus hitting the reality with the opposite style. I personally favored the song on “sneezing”. Yang is slowly catching the fever, the syndromes of the fever (unusual longing for damped weather, cockroach like crawling on the floor) are getting acute, and she is “sneezing” repeatedly, but the melodramatic unlikeness is making her believe that may be a school of guys thinking of her and vying for her attention.

The hole is a slanted reflection of the industrial urban life. The vigor of isolation between human lives is becoming terrible, forcing mankind to creep into the future. The hole remains as the metaphor, may be the bond to the unknown world, the future. The world is getting claustrophobic but inspite of the oppressive nature it still makes Yang fantasize about the anonymous person of the floor above. I feel rather this positive desire forced Liang to create a connection for our primal needs; in the last scene Lee passes a glass of water to Liang through the hole and aids the feverish woman with a pull, a pull towards the next millennium.

Tsai Ming Liang is original.

Dong (the Hole - 1998)
Directed By: Tsai Ming-Liang

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Conversation with the Dead

I was eagerly waiting for the DVD release of Herbert (directed by prolific theater person Suman Mukherjee, incidentally Herbert is his debut venture into big screen), not due to the political meddles it created while releasing in Calcutta (last year) but due to the sheer information that I was absolutely blown away by the original novel (winner of Sahitya Akademy award, circa ’97). Herbert is something which I never read before; the aboriginal dialect, layered unfolding, an implicit carnival spirit…

The protagonist Herbert is a person outside our mundane matrix. At times he is the simplest, possessing a golden heart but with a complex thought processing (similar to the story telling) leading a quixotic life. Herbert belongs to a deceasing north Calcutta family (families inheriting a babu traditions) where cultures, values and lifestyles are shattering day by day. In incessant flow of flash back & flash forward visuals we see how Herbert enjoying a lavish birthday party (why his name is Herbert? his father answers that he could have been Humphrey as in H. Bogart) and in the subsequent scene we see how Herbert is celebrating his birthday with cheap liquors and the local goons, today. Herbert is stranded in a desolated island, where his existence in the world is simply unworthy. He is orphaned, neglected and brought up in charity in his uncles debauched family. He has lost everything, everything he loved in his life is/was snatched and finally Herbert found his solace in communicating with the *dead ones*! The contact helps him elaborating the *business* (some elegant process of communicating with the dead souls) until the rationalists (mimicking the rationalist society of Bengal) threaten him for this counterfeit deed, declare him a fraud and eventually Herbert commits suicide.

Herbert’s life is centered on the small room in terrace and by flying kite. Director Mr. Mukherjee has brilliantly captured the changing faces of people with the backdrop of Calcutta; socially and politically. Herbert goes to see Battleship Potemkin with his leftist uncle (the role of his naxalite cousin is one striking role in the movie) and in the turbulent ‘70s bengal the Odessa steps resembles the steps of Presidency College. We see how dish antennas are replacing pigeon holders in the terraces, karate classes are mushrooming and replacing the evening roadside caroms; all are such minute subtle but sturdy details of the north calcuttan lifestyle, u need to be there....

I read elsewhere that Mr. Nabarun Bhattacharya, the author of Herbert is fascinated by the carnival spirits of story telling; what I really appreciated is that Mr. Mukherjee also was very aware of this fact (scene – Herbert’s death procession, his mom mourns but his daddy remarks – why are you crying? Are you not watching a carnival?). The movie is shot behind the camera of his father (enlightened one will find a Brechtian connection).

The layered story telling is something little weird, but not due to the complexity of the narration, the narration is actually flawless and an amazing editing table really did a great justice to make the movie easier. An explosion takes place while Herbert with his dead bed enters the electric cremation chamber. This unbelievable occurrence hits the media as a posthumous terrorist act, and a top-level investigation is launched to expose the mystery behind. The police hunt relentlessly the connection between Herbert and any terrorist organization but finally end up in delving nothing. The complex desolated life of Herbert finally stays untouched for our everyday civilization. Charlatan or Clown? Innocent or Insidious? Terrorist or Trickster? No rationalist organization with their sheer truth seeking tongues (“Stalin is the best therapy for the ones communicates with dead”) has the final answer....

Herbert (2005)
Directed By - Suman Mukherjee

Friday, July 21, 2006

Adrift in the Cosmos

Corinne: Didn't you heard what he said? Marx says we're all brothers!
Roland: Marx didn't said that. Some other communist said that. Jesus said that.

By far, weekend is one of the meanest of all movies (Gummo as a close second :)) I ever enjoyed! It distressed me, troubled me a lot and most of the times…made me frustrated, because weekend is an amazingly arrogant and self-opinionated movie. Godard cherishes breaking the rules but in weekend through minuscule details he proved how meticulously one director can arrange a *carnival* (for the sake of a movie) to split off all possible conventions of movie making; whether it’s the narration, the slices of french history, the insane bombs of discourses on the screen, amalgam of marx and pop, the random deaths of Parisian bourgeois…you just name it!

Corinne (Mireille Darc) and Roland (Jean Yanne) is a detestable parisian couple irked with each other (both have lovers (?)) and waiting for the death of Corinne’s rich father to possess the inheritance. Both confessed plans to their respective lovers to murder the other as soon they collect the money out of Corinne’s family. They made a scheme to drive to the suburban home of Corinne’s parents to accelerate the death of Corinne’s father. Little they were aware of what mammoth bizarreness was awaiting for them in the trip.

Almost immediately after the couple begins the weekend trip on the sports car, they get into a proverbial “surreal” weirdest traffic jam…a virtually ten minute long tracking shot of a country road clogged with cars and corpses, accidents, endless honking, pastime games, class struggles, tractor killing a sporty fiancé and what not! The couple meets a French revolutionary hero Camille Saint (portrayed by my favorite Jean-Pierre Leaud) and poet Emily Bronte (whom they set on fire), listen to Mozart sonatas on a grand piano in a firm, get lectured on Marxist ideas on third world politics by a garbage man and finally pressurized to join a group of hippie radicals (who living in woods and the leader of this cannibals plays drums in middle of the jungle).

I must confess here that I could not grasp succinctly all the aspects (and all what were happening) of the film. At times I did feel that Godard is trying to pitch all his anti-bourgeois proposals with a mannerism. But with his sheer talent of movie making, whatever came to his head also became a part of his own class. I deeply regard the comment of Ray on Godard; in order to turn convention upside down, one needs a particularly firm grip on convention itself. This Godard had, thanks to years of assiduous film studying at the Cinematheque in Paris. (From – Our films their films)

For anyone interested in bit of historical anecdotes, Weekend was Godard’s farewell movie for this ordinary world (I doubt if he really had any absurd dream of hitting the box market with his earlier movies) before devoting himself in movie making with the Dziga Vertov Group (producers of low budget movies without mostly any commercial ambition). But in spite of all the bizarreness weekend does a classic cinematic adventure resembling a carnival trip. It is a fusion of partly anti-bourgeois ethics and deep leftist propaganda with a layer of bizarre surrealism. Watch it at your earliest.

Week End (1967)
Directed By : Jean-Luc Godard

Monday, March 06, 2006

Sublime Anarchism

Elephant is based on an ordinary high school in USA. The film is shot in a school in Portland, Oregon (Oregon high school) but this can be any other school in any other day. The story follows few school students (they are all amateur actors, took their actual names in the movie and choose their own wardrobe with improvised dialogues; in gist Gus Van Sant provided total independency for the casts) talking mundane stuff, a student with a drunk father, socially cool and punk couple, girls are eying “cute” football player, a photographer, a girl ashamed of changing shorts in locker-room, students discussing about visual discrepancies between straight/gay couple, a physics class etc. All these incidents are very regular and routine wise prior to an anarchism which is going to take place.

Elephant is motivated by the firing spree incident took place in Columbine high school, Colorado in 1999. The killing massacre by two school students shocked the country at large and instigated the media with a massive play (for example, Michael Moore with his Bowling for Columbine documentary). The media had their own explanations of the gory occurrence (disintegration of family values? militarism? lack of gun control?) but Van Sant did not try to provoke any of the reasons. Rather, he did not give any clarification of the fictitious anarchism fabricated in the movie. Instead he refused to tender easier clarifications for what he believes are horrifying events that are better left without solutions. Sant deliberately handled the open ended story which emerges as a profound sense of estrangement and unavoidable behavior of its loose and desperate characters.

I was wondering about the title of the movie. After little googling I found out “…In other words the problems of high school students should be as hard to ignore as an elephant in a bedroom, but they're also as easy to mistake as an elephant being examined by blind men. Therefore Van Sant believes that we never really know what we are touching in our lives, and such random acts of violence that continue to plague us in our culturally ruptured society cannot be answered simplistically as most critics readily do in order to fit their own preconceived agendas…

I was particularly captivated by the "sublime" detachment of Elephant. In the opening scene we observe a blue sky changing the shades; we observe cheerful fall colors. The last night, before the shooting fling we notice the same sky, now getting darker with cloud. This aloofness is again demonstrated by the killers. Just after playing Beethoven’s “Für Elise” they seem to be obsessed with Nazi propaganda in TV and in buying guns from the internet. The guns are actually not for practice, yet to shoot their fellow friends and faculties (they have meticulously planned the attacking). Van Sant crafted a nice minimal method to tackle these.

The cinematography is structured in loops. The camera follows the characters around the school (ah! the long corridors) in an elegant fluid path. We see many a crossroads of the characters in the trajectories of the tracking camera, the story changes its navigation from face to face and often comes back to the same character in a time slice, the camera changes it's focal point between faces, often we a similar scene (how can I forget those sudden jerks of slow motioned shots!) being shot from different angles and different person’s perspective. We observe the characters are intrinsically linked together through the long labyrinthine corridors and rooms. Unfolding of the story is really brilliant with this kind of cumulative and powerful impacts.

Elephant is a deeply disturbing, strange and uncomfortable portrait of the recitation of a modern day blood massacre. The treatment is softer which makes the whole thing (the Elephant?) more shocking.

Thus a killer aptly utters before the massacre - the most important thing is to have fun!

Strictly recommended.

Elephant (2003)
Directed By : Gus Van Sant

Monday, January 30, 2006

Stranger than Fiction

Discovering Jim Jarmusch is always much fun. This might be due to the stock of black humors, the obscure angle to the society and most profoundly his sense of minimalist to the core that he possesses inside every reel. Well Stranger than Paradise is much above all these points, perhaps that’s why delving into the movie was more enjoying.

Eva flies from Hungary to meet her cousin and to stay few days before she is shifting her base to Cleveland. Her cousin Willie is a self styled New York hipster by attitude and throws quite an undesirable welcome to Eva. But then, from an epoch of hostility and initial indifference a strange affection grows between the cousins. They both exchange gifts before saying a good bye to Eva (though she did not like the NYC-trendy dress). After a year Willie and his mate Eddie (one more hipster with an interest into Eva) following a hefty win in a card game decide to come over their boredom and to travel Cleveland to visit Willie’s old aunt Lottie and of course Eva (who is then working in a food chain). While coming back from the wasteland and snow clad Cleveland both guys decide to travel the paradise on earth that is sunny Florida. They take Eva with them and move on the journey to follow stranger incidents.

The perspective of the film is reflected from the three protagonists of the movie. Eva in one hand is expecting a sense of adventure and variation in every day life; from the starting gun we see her walking in the streets of NYC with playing a tape of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I've Got a Spell On You”! We see her relentless trying in coming out of the monotony of life (whether suggesting many a times “"It's Screamin' Jay Hawkins and he's a wild man, so bug off" or doing at least some activity within the dark and odd lifestyle of Willie by doing vacuum cleaning!). Willie in the other hand lives an epitome of utter loneliness. He does want the change, but not conscious about how to win it! We see repeated shots of smoking many Chesterfields, watching television, eating American diner (perhaps best explained in his comment “You got your meat, you got your potatoes, you got your vegetables, you got your dessert and you don't have to wash the dishes - this is how we eat in America!”) playing solitaire, visiting Aunt Lottie and doing repeatedly everything same. Jarmusch implicitly asked the audience, is he representing the life style of the whole generation? The third guy, Eddie is again a personification of detail world-weariness of an average American. He has never been to anywhere (say Cleveland or Florida) but makes reasonable comments; is he also looking for changes as we all?

Jarmusch shot the film in black and white, with a certain time gap between all scenes. The dullness of the nature or driving long tedious snowy road is all symbols to express the same as the standpoint of the characters. The best shot from my perception is when all three try to visit the Lake Erie in Cleveland. They have to visit the same, as this is only one famous thing in Cleveland was known to them (to bring changes?) but being winter, there is nothing to see but a great expanse of snow and ice extending to the fatal gray horizon. This is such a tragic shot which expresses how human being are bound to find changes but nothing works in the backdrop of our gray life; though shot in an alter image of comic, this explains Jarmusch’s great command in making. Also one more shot to remember, when Willie buys three sunglasses the time they reach Florida; Jarmusch is brilliant in depicting that how such an insignificant bustle is important in the story line to illustrate changes in life.

See the ending of the movie for the stranger events; this is a minimal solid effort from Jarmusch. This is highly cited as one of the most deadpan comedies ever made! Stranger than Paradise is a highly recommended black and white gem.

Stranger than Paradise ( 1984)
Directed by : Jim Jarmusch

Thursday, December 29, 2005

A Close-Up Comedy?

A woman is a woman is a sandwich venture of Godard between his breathtaking debut in A bout de soufflé (Breathless) and the tragic classic Vivra Se Vie (My life to live) and I still wonder how all these three are different in all aspects. Godard was always uninhibited, lighthearted, and purposefully slapdash in style (as Ray commented once) but was a true experimental mind. He mastered the true sense of being wild in movie, and his intellects, playfulness with the audience and the characters are always worth mentioning.

I wont keep A woman is a woman in the league of Vivra Se Vie, A bout de soufflé, Masculine Feminine, Weekend or probably not in the group of Alphaville or Two or Three Things I Know About Her. But still it’s a must watch for his analytical views on being childish in one hand and imitating Hollywood musicals in the other. He created a perfect crescendo of conflicts between reality and the musical world (that is the fantasy world) which, sometimes feel as undistinguishable. After the movie finishes, I was wondering is it a comedy or a premonition of a tragic beginning? But, whatever, as critics and fans comment, this was the last time Godard was having fun!

Anna Karina was then Godard’s wife and without any squabble this movie belongs to her. It is a fascinating thing to watch how Godard used her in portraying two different roles, here and in Vivra Se Vie. I can’t comment on her acting talents but surely she mesmerizes you in showcasing characters and with her screen presence. I love watching her walking into the coffee shop, passing the traffic, from the drab looking outside, ordering coffee, and leaving at the same moment. She is the face simply mimicking a vagabond, dancing with music or her malfunctioned cooking (she flips an egg, goes other room and comes back in time to catch the same on the pan) and suddenly she is urging to be a mother, the music stops, reality bites and so on.

The womanhood is also bit capricious here, as Godard depicted. Michel Legrand's orchestral score bloats time to time and disappears when Anna Karina actually sings, and the scene where the actress wishes she were in a Gene Kelly movie only marks the hurting gulf between real life and celluloid fantasy. Well, Godard was always weaned from Hollywood, no wonder. There are lots of references to other movies, for example, Jeanne Moreau wanders through in a bar and Belmondo asks her how Jules and Jim is coming!

Godard once commented he wanted to prove that comedy also can be created from close-up shots. The mercurial face of Anna Karina, her occasional slinky winks or the commitment-phobo behavior of Brialy or the hapless Belmondo illustrate a tremendous youngness and showcase the 60s French New Wave culture. Overall it is a lighter work, unlike Godard’s later outputs, but it's a narration that could well have been tragic.

Godard knew how to punch people even after forty years of his creations; well he did a lot to me.

Une femme est une femme(A Woman is a Woman - 1961)
Directed By: Jean-Luc Godard

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Tale of Two Worlds; and a Cherry

I was introduced to the film cradle of Iran almost five years ago. Most of the movies had a common thread, minimalist show off, no luxury with any kind of tricks, offbeat stories and very elegant narration. I was fascinated by their styles; saw a bunch of movies by Makhmalbaf, Etemadi, Mehrzui, Majidi, Panahi, Karimi and Mahranfar. They are very acclaimed and highly recommended film-makers across the globe by their sheer talents, but I personally have my deepest reverence and admiration to the master Abbas Kiarostami, I must say he is the director’s director.

Taste of Cherry is a sublime mixture model of a fairy tale told in the simplest spirit but surrounds a complicated tug-of-war between the concepts of life and death. The way this film handles brilliantly the complex conflicts between suicide and life after, is I believe extraterrestrial to both western and eastern civilized worlds. A man, Badii (Homayoun Ershadi) is driving through the city of Tehran and traversing a winding dart road for an unknown destination. Often, desperately he pauses in the road, asks the common men to help him out form something. The story takes a while before revealing. The camera always focuses on Badii, we see his tensed frantic expression, and we surmise that he is time-bound by some distressed task. Often we see the barren lands; the dust of the roads has eaten up the greens, we are sporadically interrupted by squadrons of military troops marching up the hill performing drills.

In this strange journey Badii meets with different people on road (for detail check out IMDB), someone is from a construction site, a young soldier (who outwardly intimidated by Badii’s inquiries and reveals his apprehension that he is talking to a psycho), a safety-guard in a cement-making site, a seminarist, a Turk who works in the natural science museum as a taxidermist and so on. Badii persistently explains his predicament and seeks help from them. He is a desperate man who is actually bent on committing suicide and looking for someone to ensure at next day dawn that he is buried, dead and not alive. He is earnestly pleading for a compassionate person who will come back at six in the next morning near an isolated spot in the infertile land (a little off the road and a hole down a slope) and will throw twenty shovelfuls of dirt over his body, which will be lying in that hole! Then the person can take a hefty amount of money (which will be left at the site) and can go away.

Master auteur Kiarostami gripped this commotion perfectly. Any normal individual will behave exactly similar against Badii, as the movie portrays. Still we see there are few fundamental differences in the outlook of diversed age group. We see when Badii accosting the young soldier, he is increasingly suspicious about Badii, judging him as a madman. But the elder taxidermist or the seminarist take a different angle, they try to comprehend and sympathized to the situation more deeply and remind Badii about the Koran prohibitions, the embargo that one must not kill himself. The taxidermist also alerts Badii about his personal experience, once he was decided to commit suicide but being in a mulberry orchard, he tasted one, and the taste propounded his wish to live. He evaluated the taste of cherry with the metaphor of constructive surface of life.

In the closing stages of the movie we see at late night (or early morning) in a thunderstorm; Dabii leaves his home for his burial place. However, we don’t see actually what Badii did at his home (we see from a distance through the window that he did something, we surmise that he has taken his sleeping pill, as mentioned earlier in the movie). He drives his Rover to the hill, near the hole down the slope. Interrupted by frequent lightning we see Badii’s face, his eyes are open. They progressively go half-close, then open and close. We hear intermittent thunder sound, rainfall; occasional blacks on the screen, Badii’s face and then the screen go permanently black.

and the movie is still not over...

Well, next comes the most absorbing or intricate part of the film. We see the landscape in natural light; we see the actual shooting is taking place. We see Kiarostami, his crew and Badii too, in a different dress beside the hilly area offering a cigarette to the director. The cameraman appears, Kiarostami directs with his walkie-talkie to a distant military troop. The military take a rest beside a cherry tree. The film is now over.

No matter, how many times I swear by Taste of Cherry, I am still uncertain and hesitant about the ending. What I discover from the movie that Kiarostami addressed two vital issues here, a) is regarding the concept of suicide and b) about the dissimilar worlds of death and life after. From the side of Badii we witness Badii’s point, he is unhappy and want to be free from pain. Though Koran forbids the dictionary term “suicide” but Badii tries to clarify that being unhappy is much sinner because it also hurts those near him! So, God should have a proper reason, to free Badii from the pain. This is a very complex message. Kiarostami gives high respect to the viewers and may be that’s why he is unspoken and leaves the judgment (whether Badii is right or wrong) to us. About, the last few minutes my clues are pretty less I must say. Kiarostami demonstrated two different countenances of our worlds, one, with Badii’s death and other with the present tense. The man, Badii is still living and dissimilar as we see him in the movie. We see the squadron beside the cherry tree, Kiarostami suggested that with a single suicide or not (well, we are not sure if Badii actually died or not!), there is really no change in the society (often we see in the movie, there is an implicit hookups with the political currents of Iran).

Kiarostami never dictates the audience (though many a great directors do!) with his political curvatures or with shining glow of social messages. His films bear the utmost admiration to the individuals, to the verdict of us. That’s why his films are always haunting, more haunting in the end scenes (remember through the olive trees or the wind will carry us) as they tickle with the viewers, the viewers have to take the decisions with their individuality. Kiarostami proposes a resemblance of a rebirth through the ending of Taste of Cherry. A distinct western trumpet sound, the soldiers have stopped drilling. The audiences have to rise up from their sits (like Badii woke up from the hole of distress and now with his rebirth among us) and explain for the movie.

Ta'm e guilass (Taste of Cherry - 1997)
Directed By: Abbas Kiarostami

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Beyond the screen; a Theatrical Montage

There’s nothing left to reckon with Rashomon. Already a billion reviews have said a lot. I just try to surmise how striking the movie might have be for them who watched in the 50s for the first time! I have nothing much to review here (remembering how a deadhead once evaluated American Beauty – the flagship studio venture of the Greatful Dead, saying just in a sentence that this is the best album of all times. period.), to cut it short here is an addendum.

The woodcutter's journey through the forest, shot with a relentless tracking camera from an incredible variety of angles-high, low, back and front-and cut with axe-edge precision; the bandit's first sight of the woman as she rides by, her veil lifted momentarily by a breeze, while he loos in the shade of a tree, slapping away at mosquitoes; the striking formality of the court scene with the judge never seen at all; the scene of witchcraft with the medium whirling in a trance, and the wind blowing from two opposite directions at the same time...

This excerpt is from the book Our Films Their Films by Satyajit Ray. When the master thought so, do I need to say more?

Rashomon haunts me like it does to a million souls. Above all, I have been haunted by the theatrical narration and techniques of the staging. It is an electric movie and a dazzling proof of a director’s command on every aspects of film making. The movie has so many folds within and the way virtuoso Kurosawa brings out all the layers of the film with its aural and visual richness; no doubt Rashomon has to be listed in any film buffs recipe book.

In my dream I write a silent rendition of Rashomon in my mother tongue.

Rashomon (1950)
Directed By : Akira Kurosawa

A Divine Redemption

The protagonist of Au Hasard Balthazar is essentially a donkey. It is a trained donkey and passes through all the mistreated mundane possible episodes in a donkey’s life. It is noble and ignorable, changes hands repeatedly, sometimes well treated sometimes abused and without attentions, carrying loads in rural France or used for trespassing with illegal goods. With these so called a beast of burdens Bresson creates a sublime metaphor for the human condition. There is Maria (Anne Wiazemsky), a peasant girl who also goes through a series of sufferings, a gloomy friendless childhood and a silent witness to mankind's vices and injustices. In they end, however they achieve spiritual redemption.

Some critics cited that Bresson was inspired by Dostoevyski’s The Idiot. With his religious background he created an uplifting fusion between both. The donkey is a symbol of a moron and sometimes a symbol of the uplifted soul (in Bible there are numerous occurrences where the donkey is used as an enlighten one).

Bresson has a unique way to capture the characters. His deep aversion to actors or any camera tricks, shooting “ears” or “hands” or “back of legs” than a human face or the whole human body, creating a meddle between Schubert’s piano sonatas and Balthazar’s braying, are just few hypnotic trances in the movie. There are so many poetic juggleries in the movie that it is difficult to pen down all. From my memory I cannot forget the most morbid but beautiful scene where Maria in a nocturnal reunion with Balthazar, caressing the flower-crowned head of him, before an ill-fated meeting with the thug Gerard. Maria is paying some kind of obligations to Balthazar with most of her spirit, as she knows the donkey is finally the icon who will be crucified.

Critics have commented a lot about the last shot of the film. It is an austere aesthetic and blessed scene. We see a long-suffering wounded Balthazar is crippling in pain and wrinkles to death among a herd of sheep. In accord with the beginning, we remember how the baby Balthazar was born and baptized in an utopian world with a belled sheep grazing in the background. Endlessly we see the donkey is crumpling in pain and sooner the accumulated pains of life releases with his dying. Balthazar carries our sins as a burden and discharges them in a most divine shot of movie history.

Au hazard Balthazar is cited as one of the greatest movie experiences of 21th century. No wonder why Godard called this masterpiece as Bresson’s “most complete” effort. The movie is a search of purity, a trip to sainthood; it leads to a greater meaning of our existence on planet earth.

Au Hasard Balthazar ( 1966)
Directed By : Robert Bresson

Friday, November 18, 2005

the Morning Comforts

La Notte is the sophomore effort of the proverbial
trilogy (L’ Avventura, La Notte and L’ Eclisse) crafted by Antonioni. Though the trilogy essentially not having a pet name resembling the memorable “Apu-trilogy” or so, but all three are connected in a same string of troubled relationship set in the lyrically stunning architectural backgrounds, whether beautiful immense nature or pleasant glamorized 60’s urban Italy.

La Notte has a little plot to speak of. Antonioni follows Lidia (Jeanne Moreau, more celebrated in portraying the role of Catherina in Truffaut’s surrealistic masterpiece Jules et Jim) and her husband, the renowned author Giovanni (Mastroianni) in a course of a single day and night. They visit their friend Tommaso who is dying in the hospital. They wander the busy streets of Milan, attend promotional party of Giovanni’s latest book, visit clubs and attend one more party organized by a rich millionaire in night and finally they confront the cold apathy that has expanded among them. Both rebuff any sexual advances of the unknown, but they perform so only out of obligatory respects. In the next day, at dawn Lidia and Giovanni separate themselves from the crowd of barmy party-goers and make their way down a large empty field of a golf course.

They discuss their marriage in equal doses of resentment, and denial, but finally admit that their love has atrophied. Lydia accuses Giovanni for the emaciated affection but he becomes emotional, perhaps the confrontation forces him to suddenly feel a tinge fondness towards her, somehow. In a fit of passion he lunges toward her while she whispers in the screen that she wants to hear that he does not love her. Antonioni frames the vast emptiness of the field and leaves the audience in with little hope for comfort to predict their future.

The minimalist usage of symbols in Antonioni’s ventures is too commendable. From the very beginning he captures vast architectural buildings of Milan, the high rise, the chemistry of geometrical figures. This is much different from L’ Avventura yet we find a similarity in capturing large architectures as backgrounds. Antonioni repeatedly composes Lidia from different angles and communicates with the viewer. She is leaning toward walls with her vacuous interaction with life; she is walking no-direction-home or stares out from the hospital window to watch a sudden glimpse of a helicopter thus alienating her composition from her surroundings. With a microscopic detailing we see Lidia stands alone wherever and throughout the remainder of the film.

Few shots I should point out before I pause. After the millionaire throws the offer to Giovanni for a permanent job in his organization we follow the raucous party guests with a short spell framing an aviary and a bird. We recall the whole setup of the evening party and we see that numerous instances of creating patterns of vertical strong lines or series of horizontal blocks with shadows. Antonioni counter balances his compositions with these hurdles between withered relations in the premonition of a new industrial Italy.

La Notte is another aesthetically complex but critically stimulating movie.

La Notte (The Night -1961)
Directed By: Michelangelo Antonioni

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Long Strange Trip...

Earnestly single Don Johnston (portrayed by Bill Murray) is dumped by his latest girlfriend (three color famed Julie Delphi) and receives a weird pink letter from his unknown son, same time. The letter addresses that his child (!) is looking for him and on an assignment to find him. Distressed by the letter (but not showing outwardly) Don seeks help from his neighbor Winston, an upcoming amateur sleuth. Rather than following the “move on” motto of life, Don tries to simulate a cross-country inspection on his old flames to resolve the anonymity of the nameless mail, to discover the origin of the letter and if he actually possesses a son or not.

Broken Flowers does not talk about relationship or bondages, though the name might imitates it. It is a brilliant adventure in a protagonist’s past to check the mile posts in the nostalgic trip. Bill Murray rules the screen superbly; he is uninterested in face about this weird situation but diligent inside to find someone who wrote the mail. The panoramas where Bill is sitting unaccompanied in his room in a dark evening and listening music are profoundly quest about his perpetual bachelorhood. Or it asks about any single man or woman in the world about their times. Don is ignorant of all the actuality, yet he is meticulously following Winston’s advices in carrying the itinerary, the same CD or following the norm of meeting his previous girl friends with a bouquet of pink flowers.

This movie must have been planned with Bill Murray in mind. I am still a novice to Jarmusch (Coffee & Cigarettes and Ghost Dog: the Way of the Samurai) but his signature usage of split humors or dramatic urgency are very much present here. The experience of Bill while revisiting his past is sometimes good and sometimes bitter & hostile but it is finally in search of something more eternal and true. Jarmusch wants Murray's Don to be a quiet observer to his misspent life suspended in front of him, but almost unable to fundamentally communicate to them. Murray is typically incredible here, quiet yet delicately expressive, and surrounded by an impressive collection of leading ladies to play off of. Jarmusch’s minimal use of Don’s expression is unparallel. Dejected by the recent ventures, but Don already started believing in the existence of his son. Murray perfectly portrayed the confusion or in search of happiness while believing in the existence of the unknown.

The movie does not offer you sorta happy-ending to cherish in your bag pack and to put under your pillow for a sweet lullaby, but perhaps that’s very much true with many a life stories.

Sometimes life offers you just some broken flowers.

Broken Flowers (2005)
Directed By - Jim Jarmusch

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Marx and Coke

We control our thoughts which mean nothing, and not our emotions which mean everything.

The central character Paul just returned from military service, disillusioned and trying to take a profession in either writing or doing something significant. He meets the “wanna be” pop singer Madeleine in a coffee shop and the film rolls on. Masculin/Feminin is an absorbing essay digest on the 60’s French young people dealing with value judgment, political views and daily existences. The unfolding is flamboyant, often with ingredients of documentary attributes, deliberately created by Godard. This film adds factors to the implicit commotion between political biasness and emerging pop culture (!) among young French guys in 60’s. Actually, this film can be showcased as Godard’s early approaches towards political movies or as a surface premonition of his later day’s anti-bourgeois contents.

The narration is elegant; there are few moments of long chat scenes, in which Godard can be regarded as a mastermind. He focuses on the protagonist’s off-dialogues; sometimes he fashions the audience as a part of the discussion by changing the focal points from person to person and suddenly spotlighting only one person for long. The discourses are also pretty cerebral, though I have grumble towards the DVD subtitles here, sometimes I felt the English captions are not coagulating properly (“deliver us from liberty?”).

There are few master strokes in the long interview shots, individuals are been interviewed throughout the movie, sometimes with repeated queries. Questions on politics, or suddenly jumping to topics of Pepsi or Vietnam War (Dylan in quoted as a Vietnik (Vietnam + Beatnik). Godard as always dismantles the predictive form of film narrating, by suitably inserting captions, titles, iconoclastic images (the death scene of liberty in the guillotine), bucketing dilemmas and insecure self-identification of French people caught in the middle of pop and Bach.

Is Godard sexist? Perhaps his remark on “masculin” word (“there is a mask in the word”) and “feminin” (“the word feminin has nothing...”) may protract this argument. Also, in the end Madeleine comments that she knows nothing, there is a big stress on the word “nothing”. Is this nothing has to do anything with Godard’s hesitant attitude towards pop culture and bourgeois?

Perhaps, the turbulence of 60’s can be best described in a slogan of the movie. The movie can be re titled as “the children of Marx and Coca-Cola”!

Children of a lesser god?

Masculin, féminin: 15 faits précis
( Masculin/Feminin -1966)

Directed By: Jean-Luc Godard

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Living the life...

My life to live is an unnatural cinematic experience. This is a movie not only about style and intelligent film making; it is more about the ongoing commotions of delving into values of life and pathos. Godard, one of the most cerebral movie makers of all time (perhaps, his contributions can be summed by a single critical comment, that his worst movie is also so stylish and revolutionary, can be seen many a times and beat hands down other celebrated movies) is at his zenith, for my personal opinion just for my live to live, he can be remembered through space-time.

The main protagonist Nana, (portrayed by the amazing Anna Karina) is a stunning naïve young woman, who is in the search of joy and meaning of happiness and freedom in life. She has left her family and tries to take an acting profession but ends up in being a prostitute. The film starts in a coffee shop, Nana and her boy friend Paul having an uneasy conversation. Godard’s proverbial camerawork follows the scene from uncanny and uncomfortable angles depicting the turmoil of their affiliation and the emotional distance between them. From this shot, we follow the beautiful narration of the movie by seeing numerous times the dismayed and suffered face of Nana. Godard splits the movie into twelve tableaux, with very significant sub-headings. This unformulated adaptation of creating different sections for the movie been used to show different layers of Nana’s different personas, uncomprehending agony and run for freedom. The camera follows her face from various angles, stunning long shots showing the turbulent, lost and desperate countenance of Nana. She is a sensitive person, emotionally breaks down while watching Maria Falconetti in “Passion of Joan of Arc” (a classic from Dreyer). She sees herself in Joan of Arc’s role, tries to come out from the sordid mundane lifestyle of her, to achieve something more bigly.

Godard personally has put up few questions with this using of mazes in the film. We see a photographer takes a little interest in Nana to give her a chance to enter into film world. Soon we see Nana meets a pimp who imitates the photographer. Are both professions replicas of each other?

I cannot forget the mesmerizing scene of Nana’s free flow dance while playing the juke box. Relentlessly, she moves and dances beside the pool tables, just as a weightless cloud. It is a very short fleeting glimpse of happiness and joy in her life, she has ever known. Such a brief but fresh air brought by the scene! You will feel deeply how truly she is desperate to find out bits and bytes of cheerfulness from the banality of life.

In the end wee see a petite scene while Nana consorting with a guy, just after her degraded and discarded experience. This guy reads a story of Poe which ends with the death of the artist’s love. Similarly, Nana’s life is also judged by mankind and experience a sudden tragic end, resembling the character of Joan of Arc.

Godard was the part of French New Wave of filmmaking, and this is one of the finest austere moments of movie history. He creates layers of layers of Nana’s vacuous and empty lifestyle and brings a shocking unexpected conclusion. Perhaps, there was nothing left to articulate her pains. This is one finest instance in films to fashion perfect characters, no matter how much you taint her, but you will always memorize the mournful but hopeful expressions of her. It is a remarkable film, a ballad of the director’s own doubts on today’s world blended with desolations and sufferings of human life.

My life to live is an astonishing fable of an existing tragedy.

Vivre sa vie: Film en douze tableaux
(My Life to Live -1962)

Directed By: Jean Luc-Godard

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Fatal Obsession

I favor Buñuel for countless motivations. Not only his surrealistic politics and instant unfolding of storyline haunts me or the surface layers of sardonic satires taunts me a large, I adore his practice of symbols and signs. They are so implicit yet spectacular that a viewer always left with choices to delve much into the usage of the icons or not. Unlike Fellini or Tarkovsky, where these masters fashion an image “out of the world” to savor, for example, the usage of a man flying as a kite (in 8 ½ of Fellini) or the baffling representations of post-wars (in Mirror of Tarkovsky) Buñuel is always too unspoken and crafts lucid imagery of mundane objects to represent the dialects of his movies.

Well, “that obscure object of desire”, the last endeavor of Buñuel is also belongs to the same school of master filmmaking. His undying portraying of the puzzles of sexual politics and turbulence is the chief facet of the movie. Buñuel deposits a labyrinth of Mathieu’s (Fernando Rey) perplexities and desires with his relationship with Conchita (Carole Bouquet and Angela Molina). The affiliation is perennially thwarted by continuous break-ups and re-associations. Buñuel masterly created two countenances of Conchita as in two sides of the same coin. The protagonist Mathieu is deeply confused and threaten by abrupt, disordered and erratic behaviors of Conchita, the viewers are mystified as there are two actresses continuously interchanging the role of Conchita! With one Conchita we constantly see some kind of dilemmas and troublesome incidents, like terrorist activities, car bombing or explosions. In one word, continuous hazards from the outer world, but the hypnotized Mathieu does not noticed this that the world around him falling apart. The other Conchita is always having some clarifications of her inconsistent behaviors and there is some type of flavor of reconcilement. Both Conchita are used to convey different emotions, and the requirement of any Conchita is governed by the narration. This usage of two actresses for a leading role brings out the intricacy of Conchita, makes Mathieu so spellbound that he is unaware of the dissimilarity between these two women. He does not comprehend the character, so his all ammunitions of winning a woman (kindness, money, gift or even with brute force) fail miserably and his perceptions of captivating someone is confounded by her unremitting rejection and re-settlements.

Buñuel enthralls the audience by his sheer gripping of human psychology here. Mathieu is so desperately obsessed and gripped by Conchita, he trusts her completely and stands by her explanations of her behaviors, how mismatched or inconsistent they would be. Truly obsession sometimes misguide you, block your visions. That’s why Mathieu is ignorant of the fact that there are two appearances of Conchita (but there is one existence of her) alongside him in different shots, but he is so oblivious and obsessed understanding this is beyond him.

The final scene shows the reunited couple once more, standing behind the glass wall of a lace shop window, a woman is suing the lace of Conchita’s blood shed dress. Is the director sewing the scenes or their relation? But this testament is again spoiled by their silent arguing and a sudden bomb explosion.

This is a prime time evidence of sheer medley of imageries, surrealistic symbolism and deep commotions between sexual politics.

Cet obscur objet du désir
(That Obscure Object of Desire -1977)

Directed By: Luis Buñuel

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Time destroys everything

If you assume this film also in the league of movies which disrespect the clockwise time flow (aka Tarantino or González Iñárritu style) you will commit a big blunder. We have seen movies which go fast forward or come back, or toil with asynchronous modules, meeting at a crossroad and then again move or thrust the reverse gear. Irreversible does not bother about these zigzag movements, however it flows in a counter clockwise fashion. There are nine to ten sequences in the movie, and all events are brought up by the previous sequence. All current events are actually descendant of the past occurrences.

Much ado been addressed to the gory violent and explicit initial scenes of the movie. They are gruesome and of course there are realistic reasons behind people move off theatre during the showing of Irreversible. To make you more disturbed and agitated Gasper Noé played an irritating tune in a very low decibel for the first half of the movie, as an added element to offer you a feeling of nausea. With these, again there is the whirling and spinning fast camerawork to give you a raw annoying feeling.

The proverbial tagline “time destroys everything” is purely synonymous with the film. What we experience in Irreversible is not only breaking the laws of time movement, but as time progresses in the events of the movie, it degrades. Time is a killer, not a healer here. Time takes the ingredients of “now” and in return we see a horrific “then”. As the storyline begins, we see everything in a chaos. We see the chief protagonists of the movie whose emotions are breaching from their past behaviors and merciless brutality ruling their mind. The psyche of the movie goes parallel with the characters. The camera spins a lot, the characters twirl and we see everything are unbalanced and out of control, analogous to the movie. It is completely dark, lots of murky symbols and signs.

As the movie progresses, the story unfolds in the opposite direction, and we see how brilliantly the director regulates the control of movie making. The audience feels the personal despair in every shot, as they are well aware of the facts what hardhearted fate is coming in the next shot but no one can control the motion of time and us. The movie offers you better scenes than just before what you see. Colorful, cheerful elements are embracing life, protagonists are bartering jokes, people are partying, and kids are playing.

The end shot is a masterpiece. Bellucci is resting in a park and kids are playing with water valve. There is Beethoven’s seventh symphony in ambience, everything beside us so vibrant and smug in happiness. The camera lifts up and suddenly starts rolling, yet once more in an anti clockwise route. You see everything rolling down in an opposite way and the screen collapses in total white background.

Irreversible leaves you with many unanswered questions. Are we really puppet in the arms of time? Is there really a vicious and evil mask is hidden under our face which might recuperate anytime? Is everything really pre-defined and we are walking on the thin strip of chances?

A must must watch for any strict film buff. A must must not recommended else.

Irreversible (2002)
Directed By:
Gasper Noé