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

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Notes on Few Films.

Waking Life, Richard Linklater, Clip

Waking Life is filled with philosophy nuggets and musings but what makes us float through this dream is the ever-changing, ever innovative animation (It uses a technique called Rotoscoping). As the protagonist moves from one dream to other, one alternate reality to other, we see the tone and texture of the animation change, which creates a hallucinatory effect with the transformation of the static filmic space to some free floating dynamics of planes. And on top of that, all the talk makes sense too, as overlapping philosophies of heterogeneous world views which are buried in our minds. The film moves from Post modernism to existentialism to quantam mechanics to freewill to film theory to posthumanity to reincarnation (Here it is seen as "a poetic expression of collective memory") to realms of sub-conscious. In one of most entrilling episodes, one of the character discusses a story by Philip K. Dick. With a film providing so much of theories, but it rightly hints that "active thought is nothing without active action".

Spirited Away, Hayao Miyazaki, Trailer

A little girl, Chihiro, whose parents get transformed to gluttonous pigs, is lost in the world of the dead, where in order to survive and get her parents back, she has to remember her past, the tiniest of the memory will help because if you forget what you are, you can never return. As much the brilliance of the film lies in creation of Alice's wonderland - the world from a child's perspective, so as in its fable of goodness of a child, an uncorrupted human soul. Visually the film is filled with set pieces, but it doesn’t overwhelm, and condense to a series of experiences with little messages hidden inside. The bath scene of the dirty river has so many things to notice, foremost is the mastery of the visuals, also "washing" of a river and the way it "throws out" the waste point to the ecological pollution, and third and the finest is Chihiro's uneasiness with the river, may be some reminiscence of her past. Of all the subtle teachings, the most important is to remember the tiniest of the past particle. Also, in all these Japanese films, in their happy ending and smiling people, they manage an inherent sadness of moving on. When Chihiro leaves the amusement park, the close up of her hands with Haku’s, is a little reminder that this farewell will haunt her all her life, like all good and bad experiences that serve us to perceive and feel what we live through today. Chihiro may have come out wiser from the ordeal but she is still bound to her past.

Millennium Actress, Satoshi Kon, Trailer

An actress tells her story from childhood to fame, along with her unending journey to find her love. The film is a blend of reality of her story and the fantasy world she created in her films, and vice versa, we never know for sure, it is a film in a film or her life story. This blend is delightfully warmed up with Satoshi Kon's deep affection and love for her diva and the film medium. Although I haven't seen many Japanese films, but one of the character she plays closely resembles the type of character played by Setsuko Hara in Ozu's films, particularly the hair style. From such observations, it seems that the film also tries to pay tribute to all the leading Japanese actresses, and in itself through the life of a actress traces Japanese cinema history. The story starts with a very vivid montage, as our young heroine walks and the background show the history vignettes. The film has few references of the politics and rebels of the post war Japan. Also we can see some really fantastic animated sequences, especially a chase sequence which comes later in the film, where the actress is shown chasing her lover over time, in different costumes and it different places. As I said earlier, this scene can be viewed as a montage of her films, or as a glowing snippet of her life.

Little Otik , Jan Svankmajer, Trailer

[Spoilers Ahead]This was my first encounter with Czech animator, Jan Svankmajer, but it doesn’t contain much animation, arguably the best is the penile hand animation animizing the pedophilic gazes of an old man. But there is enough surrealism in straight images here. Karel and Bozena, a couple incapable of conceiving, see the images of children every where, in the food market, inside water melon, in flooded prams. Once, in an attempt to comfort (or rather amuse) his wife, Karel carves and polishes a tree root to make a baby figure, and gives it to Bozena but to his own amusement, our Virgin Mary takes it for her real child and starts breast feeding him. The real trouble starts when the tree truck comes to life and becomes an ever-hungry monster-baby, Otik, who in time to come will not even spare his creator. The most interesting character of the film is young Alzbetka, daughter of Karel and Bozena's next door neighbors, who observes the young parents and in them see striking similarities of Otesanek fable (which probably is known only to her). Alzbetza is the all-knowing heroine, at least she thinks her to be so. The wicked matchstick game she invents, the way she uses her charms as bait to get Mr Zlábek in the net, the way motherhood springs in her are all fantastic episodes of the film, and of Alzbetka hyper-conscious psyche. One of my friends used to say - even on risk of hate-gazes from both sexes - nature has played a cruel trick on woman to give her maternal instincts, otherwise with all the trouble she takes, she would have killed the baby. Once he got married and became father, he showed severe maternal instincts. I don’t know, was it societal conformity that mellowed him down or maternal juices did actually flow. Little Otik surveys not the desire to multiply but this desire to be called parents, which is more of a societal acceptance need, than the true animal instinct. The way the whole apartment building becomes interested in Otik-family and the way Bozena creates a perfect pregnancy, did result in havoc afterwards. Jan Svankmajer's take on parenthood is not only how-to-react-if-you-bear-a-monster, but the very romanticism of becoming parents, and as we can see no one, not even little Alzbetka, can escape that.

Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait , Douglas Gordon & Philippe Parreno, Trailer

I am not of fan of football, but you need not be so to appreciate this documentary. Great music, on and off the field. As Zidane mutters and yells something in a language I don’t understand, as he toes his feet on field scuffing grass with his boots, running, constantly looking for the football, his faces charts the aggression and tension of the moment, and the spirit of the sport. Highly recommended.

The Science of Sleep, Michel Gondry , Trailer

The Science of Sleep charts the same waters as Waking Life does. If Waking Life, in its punk philosophy and drunk images, creates a dreamlike world, The Science of Sleep tries to do the opposite. It creates a real world from the figment of dreams, and using an unique visual design and animation, an animation that you could make by cutting papers and sewing stuffed birds, directly out of arts and craft workshop, it brings about a tangible world. Its a film born completely out of imagination of the director, but more so from the child-like imagination of the Stéphane, who befriends Stéphanie, his next door neighbor. Soon he falls in love with her, but is unable to communicate that to her, except in her dreams. So he has devise ways to get in her dreams and say what he wants to. The problem with Stéphane is mix of shyness and the ever hovering fear which rejected lovers can promptly understand - the fear of rejection, which lovers try to reduce by looking for the right way, the right time and the right person. Stéphane, for sure, knew that he has got the right person. So Stéphane keeps on giving wrong hints, on and off the dream. In a perfectly unnatural and dreamy sequence, Stéphanie, who shares Stéphane's ideas of creation and world such that she shares his dream world, understands him. The ending is so sad, because it’s so dream-like.

What Time Is It There?, Tsai Ming-liang, Trailer

Along with his mother, Hsiao-kang, a roadside watch seller, living in Taipei, is mourning his father's demise. He meets a tourist from Paris, Shiang-Chyi, who wants the dual-time watch that Kang is wearing. Kang refuses first, but later, on insistence, sells it off. The girl goes to Paris but takes along with her the feeling of dislocation and displacement. Kang's mother becomes obsessed with the return of her husband's spirit, and starts making food at the time which is more comfortable to him, starts blocking any light to enter the apartment because she thinks his spirit will be more comfortable in darkness, which irritates Kang, because after his father's death, he has become afraid of dark. After the return of girl to Paris, he himself starts living in Paris time and watching French films. He tries to set the time of every watch; he can lay his hands on, to Paris time. In Paris, the girl with her fair share of ennui and loneliness stares at fellow people on the subway and sits in her apartment in her solitude. Tsai Ming-liang's frames are so devoid of any geographical trait that it seems that alienation and loneliness are not place specific, they are universal. Preceding climax, the film bursts into three duals; Kang gets hooked with a prostitute in his car, Shiang-Chyi with another Asian girl in her apartment, and the mother with her husband's spirit. After the sexual burst, every thing comes back to where it was before, but we see that the characters are little relieved but still painfully aware of the their loss and loneliness. In the very symmetrical frame of the last scene, an old man walks towards a big circular ride, which looks like a big clock, as if getting engulfed.


Alok said...

cool. have seen two of these. Did you notice the old man in the end of what time... is the same father character?

also Locations are very important in Tsai's films. the geography may not be important in a specific way but the cities and their identifiable signs are present everywhere. in fact the film at times seems to be more about locations than about particular characters.

anurag said...

ohh.. I didnt notice that. now it makes perfect sense :)

I was talking more in comparision to Wong kar-wai, his films are more in closed-spaces. The Taipei and Paris, doesnt seem very different.