{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Friday, November 25, 2005

Tarkovsky on Art

Before defining art or any concept, we must answer for the broader question, what is the meaning of man's life on earth? May be we have to enhance ourselves spritually. If our life tends to be a spritual enrichment then art is a means to get there. This of course in accordance with my definition of life. Art should help man in this process. Some say art helps man to know the world like any other intellectual activity. I don't believe in the possibility of knowing. I am almost an agnostic. Knowledge distracts us from the main purpose of life. The more we know, the less we know. Getting deeper, our horizon becomes narrower. Art enriches man's own spiritual capacities and he can then raise above himself to use what we call "free-will".

Monday, November 21, 2005

Grace of Bresson.

After reading about Robert Bresson for a week, I finally had the first taste of him in The Diary of a Country Priest. Quiet unexpectedly and quiet effortlessly (if I may say so), I was deeply moved by the plight of a Priest subjected to intolerable hostility and humiliation, and his spiritual journey to gain some grace, which in my opinion he ultimately finds and so does the film. The early parts of the movie reminded me of Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov, his uneasiness, weak health and more importantly his solitude. Also the young Priest's life seemed to give some pointers to the early life of Pastor in Bergman's Winter light and Bergman, for sure, was inspired by this film a lot. The acting is top-class, especially of the young priest (played by Claude Laydu) and how in a small happy scene, he transforms into a young-at-heart soul, is both delightful and heart-breaking. There is one episode which can be called the marvel of film making, the dialogue between the countess and the priest about faith, god, love and peace.

There are plenty of things to talk about in this film, like lighting, subtle sound effects, scene cutting (this reminds me of Ozu, where lot of action happens offscreen) and Bresson's way of dealing with actors (like he wanted only a devout believer for the role of the Priest and his way of talking to the actor on telephone before going for a screen test because for Bresson sound is more honest, intelligent than deceiving plain images), which I save for a latter day. Bresson called himself an agnostic, here takes a very universal stand on faith, giving equally powerful contentions for either side in this restraint visual painting, and this is at this moment, Bresson found grace as a cinematic master in my eyes.

In a particularly touching scene, where distressed priest go to see the dead countess and give his last blessings of peace, he responds, "How can one give something that one doesn't have, miracle of an empty hand".

Friday, November 18, 2005

Bressonian Donkeys

It looks like actors and directors, although working for a common goal to make a good film, have different ways to meet their ends. An able director wants to direct an actor in the way he likes, whether or not s/he is aware of what he is doing and an able actor wants to know what he is doing so that he can perform it to the fullest. Its not the question who should succumb to whom in this tussle of knowing, not knowing and acting, not acting, but its very interesting to look from the director's and actor's point of views on that, especially directors'. Acting sometimes reminds me of playback singing, where the singer is really on the mercy of music director, lyricist and the sound engineer. Some of directors go by some must-have qualities for their actors as Fellini once famously said, For me a clownesque talent in an actor is the most precious gift s/he can have, others don't go by any particular talent.

Sometimes all this gives us reasons why some of the directors have a chamber of actors with whom they want to work with, looks like they have made peace in the conflicting requirements or why some of the directors go for non-actors, freshers, just not to let the actor's acting skills and some acquired persona to meddle with their own vision or why for some directors actors are like props which just fill the frame as a building or even light, or why some directors go for suffocating close-ups of the talented actors or why acting is not always about acting, its is at times about not acting too.

Maggie Cheung, one of the stars of Wong kar-wai films, seemed baffled by the way director works and how she is given no knowledge of what she should be. In the special features of In Mood for Love's DVD, in a small press interview with lead pair of the movie, Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung, Maggie seemed quiet unhappy by the way Kar-wai was working and in the way Kar-wai eluded any questions that Cheung asked about her character, though in public, she tried to show all the respect for the director's vision and craftsmanship. On the other hand Tony Lueng seemed ok with Kar-wai unexplained ways probably because he has worked on many films with the director but Maggie Cheung was working after a gap of 10 years, previously they worked together in Days of Being Wild, when both the director and the actor were almost new. Here is an excerpt from an interview where Maggie explains the funny way Kar-wai worked.

Q:How was Wong Kar-wai while making the movie?

MC:Sometimes he has to switch the camera to slow motion but we don't even know it because the camera is far away and we don't even hear the machines going. He will see a shot and then suddenly he will picture it as a slow motion shot and he'll just say, let's try one of those, and then he'll just do it, without us even knowing.

If you have seen Bowfinger, apparently it seems like War-kai is doing the same, but he is surely trying to achieve much more than that.

Also there are cases where actors (even reviewers) complained after seeing the movie that they (actors) have been 'used'. One particular example is The Last tango in Paris, where Maria Schneider, after seeing the film, told that she has been raped, and I think similar comments are made by Marlon Brando too. And what about Roger Ebert's furious uproar after watching Blue Velvet and his well-known sympathy for lovely Isabella Rossellini . Here is what Maria Schneider has to say.

MS: When I read Last Tango In Paris, I didn't see anything that worried me. I was 20. I didn't want to be a star, much less a scandalous actress - simply to be in cinema. Later, I realized I'd been completely manipulated by Bertolucci and Brando.

On the other hand some directors will like an actor to act as gently, as naturally and at times at remotely as possible. Here what Antonioni has to say about acting.

Michaelangelo Antonioni: The film actor need not understand but simply be. One might reason that in order to be it is necessary to understand. That's not so. If it were, then the most intelligent actors will be the best actors. Reality often indicate the opposite...His reactions on the character he is playing, which according to the popular theory should bring him closer to the exact characterization, end up by thwarting his efforts and depriving him of naturalness. The film actor should arrive for shooting in the state of virginity. The more intuitive his work the more spontaneous it will be.

Some of the directors altered the whole concept of acting, by using non-actors. Robert Bresson used people from street who don't bring any acting baggage with them and calling them 'models'. His views on acting are very novel and very extreme.

Robert Bresson: The actor learning his part presupposes a 'self' known in advance - which does not exist.

Bresson has gone to an extreme to take a donkey in the lead of his well known masterpiece Au hasard Balthazar.

There will is a tussle to act by knowing the part and to be the part by not knowing it and actors and directors taking their stands somewhere on this line-- the closer, the better. With all this, it seems I have a soft corner for the Bressonian Donkeys, which I do and all this vaguely reminds me of a scene in The Seventh Seal, where in response to Death coming for him, an actor responds, Is there no exemption for actors?

Friday, November 11, 2005

Buñuel on love.

I saw this book called An Unspeakable Betrayal: Selected Writings of Luis Buñuel from Google print.

Here is this interview of Luis Buñuel under the heading Surrealist Writings in the book, aptly titled On Love.

I. What sort of hopes do you place in love?
L.B.: If I am in love, all Hopes. If not, none.

II. How do you view the transition from the idea of love to the fact of being in love? Willingly or otherwise would you sacrifice your freedom to love? Have you ever done so? Would you consent, if you felt it necessary in order to be worthy of love, to sacrifice a cause that up to that point have considered yourself bound to defend? Would you agree not to become what you might have been, if at the price you could fully savor the certainty of love? How would you judge a man who would go so far as to betray his convictions to please the woman he loves? Can such a pledge be asked of him and obtained?


1) For me nothing exists for the fact of being in love.
2) I would gladly sacrifice my freedom for love. I have already done so.
3) I would sacrifice a cause for the sake of love. But the remains to be seen in the moment.
4) Yes.
5) I would judge him favorably. But nevertheless, I would ask this man not to betray his convictions. I would even go so far as to insist on it.

III. Would you acknowledge the right to deprive yourself for a time of the presence of the person you love, knowing how exhilarating absence can be for love, yet aware of the mediocrity of such a strategy?
L.B.: I would not like to separate myself from the loved one. At any cost.

IV. Do you believe in the victory of admirable love over sordid life, or that of sordid life over admirable love.
L.B.: I don't know.

Monday, November 07, 2005


A mirror shone several rays,
The beautiful, ugly and the dead.
Reflections of life onto its past,
Silent though, nothing left unsaid.

Sweet smell of far off fields,
Wet nostalgia of yesterdays.
Minced with sickening warmth,
Affectionately flaming all todays.

Flaring love for forgotten yore,
Longing for a far winter sun.
Dangers of lighting new fires,
And fears of having all undone.

Flawless arms around my neck,
Told to stay by longer and rest.
Dying dreams of late mornings pleaded,
For the lost quest to rest in the nest.