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

Monday, January 29, 2007

Films this Weekend.

I caught a mild fever midway this long weekend and utilized some of it to see films. Here is the list in chronological order.

Guru: Nothing much to appreciate, except Vidya Balan's death, it is the only high point of the film, sort of pulled loose strings together for a while. Also, Mithun Chakraborty is very good and his sincere contempt for God is only instance I saw in recent Hindi films, where a character shows it - without any guilt, doesn't succumb till end, and is not punished for it.

Salaam-e-Ishq : Nothing to talk about, except that its almost four hours long. I liked the last song sung by Kailash Kher. Its goes "Ya rabba, dede koi jaan bhi agar, dilbar pe ho na koi asar", at last they understood.

Innocence: I liked it but I have one problem with it, its ending. [Spoiler Ahead]. There can be two major interpretations of the ending. After the purple-girls are 'released' from the school, one of them, Bianca (Bérangère Haubruge), go and play under a fountain with a young boy, giggling and splashing water on the boy, and scene closes as the film has started, with fluids and bubble. One simple reading is that she is now liberated and freely exploring her sexuality, which she has meticulously endured, saved and cultivated. The second reading might be dark, her release from school may her descent/trapping into much real and horribly concealed world, earlier she was doing one stage show (which is film's metaphor for prostitution), now its a daily ritual, she is now everybody's whore, free but in fierce competition, and constantly and unconsciously catering to the sexual drive of the world. This revelation will be her true loss of innocence. If the film meant the first one, I looks a bit cliched, even if it is an amazing visual treat filled with horror in every corner (even a simple act of young girl playing on a swing creates sense of horror and fear of unknown), acted by an absolutely brilliant cast, especially the girl who plays Iris (Zoé Auclair). If it is of the second kind, it makes lot of sense. But I feel, its a mixture of the two.

L'Atalante : What can I say. Although this film is set on a ship with newly-wed couple, it seems that Jean Vigo has made a character out of Paris, not just a city alluring and cheating at the same time, but an enticing red lipped whore, a far-off love interest. The farewell scene of Juliette (Dita Parlo) is comic but a single look on her mother's face changes it to tragic. The look at the face of the thief is so feeble that we feel more bad for him than for the Juliette, whose purse he stole. Amazing montage of the rage of crowd and cruelty of a big city. The erotic love scene where distant lovers make love, or the underwater sequence (such sequence in 1934, amazing !) where Jean (Jean Dasté) searches for Juliette or the scene where Juliette walks on ship's deck with foggy background. Idiotic Jules (Michel Simon), who involuntary seduces Juliette and the peddler who charms her and the city where she is lost. This is one of those few films where the re-union of the lead pair is both real and also has dusky dream-like quality.

Suzhou River: Good film. Its like Vertigo, set in modern China and the direction is inspired by Wong Kar-wai. The leads are very good especially the actor who plays Mardar (Jia Hongshen). There is one scene where he is drunk and he acts amazingly downbeat. The film looks too adamant to see allegory in the obsessive tale of love, that I think is its weakness.

Zatiachi: The beginning of the film is very cinematic, the way few characters are introduced side by side their past and their skills. The music and fights are very fresh. The sword fights are short and bloody in an alienating and shocking way. A good tap dance finale. A novel Zatiachi.

Ghost World : Good Film. Thora Birch is extremely good as Enid, who hates extroverted, obnoxious, pseudo-bohemian losers. Its heart breaking to see how all those whom Enid thought will never move, move ahead of her. Great dialogues. In one Seymour (played by Steve Buscemi) says "Maybe I don't want to meet someone who shares my interests. I hate my interests." Wow, someone finally said that ! Also Seymour says " I suppose things are better now, but... I don't know. People still hate each other, they just know how to hide it better."

Frozen : They say its about artistic freedom but it is primarily about artistic void. It is said to be based on real events, about the artist, Qi Lei, who is obsessed with death and tries to stage his death through ice burial. With a twist at the end, film mixes art, life, death and 'will to die' nicely. Lead actor ( Xiaoqing Ma) is very good, he says so much without dialogues, he also played the lead in Suzhou River. Not very good, but a nice small film about an artist in trouble.

Gerry: Saw first 45 mins and slept. Its moving to nowhere, and I am liking it.

Will write about some of them in detail later. I am preparing a list of films and film-makers from East Asia and South East Asia, that I need to see. Will share it, once its done.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Omkara and Expletives

Disclaimer: Please don't read if you easily get offended.

There was a huge debate over the use of expletives in Omkara. Though very late, but here is my take on it. Just to clarify, I am from the land where the film is supposedly set and I am a big fan of all those expletives, this post is an effort to do justice to what they deserve.

Before we proceed let me have a code of referring to them. They are not meant to be written (especially not in English transliteration) so we are not going to write any one of them here. We are going to refer them by the first English letter in their transliteration. Also, most of the impact of the examples I quote will be lost, because they are written, not spoken. Call me prude but here we go.

To say the least, I hated the use of expletives in Omkara and the way the whole debate was hijacked by was it a right decision to use them or not. No one ever even bothered about how to use them, which was the whole point. Expletives are never used as exclamation marks. There are two reasons for that. Firstly, they become too obvious (which is bad for their ample use), secondly, exclamatory use make them a statement of sort, which they are not. If I say, "kinghe jaa raa, B" (where are you going, B), it doesn't make any sense. No one sensible will use them like this. The correct use is "abe kinghe jaa raa, B sunta hi na" (where are you going, B doesn't listen to me). It makes perfect sense. Here B doesn't qualify the person but his act of not listening. Note that there is a slight tinge of care for the person you use them for.

Let me make an parallel for the use of expletives. We have a sweet-dish up north, its called gur-gajar. In a small setup (its called a Kohlu) where gur (jaggery) is made, when gur is in the last stage of its making, we put some skinned carrots (cut them across the length such that they don't slice into two, like we do in green chilly pickle) into steamy hot gur, stir them for about 5 mins or so till they become soft and juicy, and then taken them out. After half an hour (just to cool down a bit, but still too hot to handle), they are picked out whole and put in mouths (this usually causes mouth ulcers for children, but who cares). Now there is no single entity, - no gur, no carrot, they are joined into holy matrimony of sweet love. As the carrot enters the mouth with juice dipping from chin to chest, it is an experience and sight to behold. Expletives are like carrots, and the language like gur to begin with. It is not to say that language sweetens the effect of expletives, but it is to say that it assimilates it, they are joined seamlessly. Any attempt to separate them is done in bad taste and stinks of vulgar sensationalism.

Experienced and well meaning people mostly use expletives in between the sentence and never raise their voice while speaking them. They go with the flow of the sentence, adding a more lyrical quality and liveliness (immediacy). There is no show off, they are lukewarm honey dropped from heaven in between the sentences, adding the warmth. No one notices them in the sentence, but every one know they are spoken. For Gods sake, please don't use them like the F word. First thing to note is they are not meant for abuse. They are not just fillers. They are the flavor. They should seep in effortlessly and slowly over time, like flavor in hot-soft muffins, not like an add-on of hard nuts. Its a lazy way to use them. If one watches closely, he/she will notice that most of the expletives are used for inanimate things, situations and life as such, not for people. Simple use of expletive comes with inanimate but personal things, which we love, for eg. scooters, "yaar, B, start ho jaa, G lega kya".

In Omkara, barring few occasions by Deepak Dobriyal, no one used them properly. It was one of the biggest reason why I didn't like the film much. You can call be names, but I get really sentimental about expletives. I see them as a part of culture. At last, after all this talking, I should give you an example of the correct use of expletives. In Khosla ka Ghosla, when Khoslaji (Anupam Kher) tells his friend, Sahni sa'ab (Vinod Nagpal) that his son doesn't like his name, he replies "Khosla saab.. aaj kal ke bachche bade mnc mijaaz ke hote hain...unhe ye kabootron waale naamon mein sharmindgi mehsoos hoti hai ...nayi ?.. unke saath ek baar compromise kar lo, saare budhape ki insurance ho jaati hai...ooo jee.. sach poocho to ye saara desh hi B compromise pe chal raha hai.. hai ji...". The honey dropped from heaven and it was a moment of pure bliss.
NB: This post would not be possible without the help of Vivek and Rajeev. Thanks !

Monday, January 08, 2007

A Poem by Auden

Read this poem, The Unknown Citizen, on Vidya's blog. She says " [it] leaves me with a "wow" every time I read the last two lines". For me it shoots 3-4 lines before that. The last two lines take time to sink in but when they do, they sink very personally !

The Unknown Citizen

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a saint,
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in a hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation.
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their education.
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

-by W. H. Auden