Art

Trois Couleurs: Rouge

A wonderful French movie from 1994 directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski touches upon the subject of loneliness, old age, friendship and one of the few film that has 100% ratings on both metacritic and rotten tomatoes.  It revolves around a retired judge whose experiences of life has made him cynical, although he is insightful and anecdotal. Enters Valentin, a young woman who is a runway model, in the judge’s life and the movie goes into a different realm. Their friendship blossoms and they share a unique bond. When we get experience of life, the joys, the sorrows we start viewing the world with a focused eye and with some predefined rules set in our minds but it can always be fruitful to come in contact with those who are viewing the world with a different perspective.

The movie is worth watching for how relatable the concept is and for the acting of Valentin. There have been many movies that explore the friendships with major age gap such as Harold and Maude, Bhuvan Shome ( A master piece ), Leon the professional, Cinema Paradiso, Thelma and Louise, Ikiru, Mrs. Palfrey at the clairmont etc and one realizes how the two people grow in the process.

A memorable dialog from the movie:

Valentin : I love him. If only I could help.

Judge: You can. Be.

Valentin: What do you mean?

Judge: That’s all, be.

 

Chandidas and Rami

Ghazals are one of  the purest form of expression I have experienced in my life till now. The metaphor clad meters chalk out the palpable  feelings of lovers howsoever hyperbolic and exorbitant they may seem. They are all so foolishly romantic that they seem incredible and prodigious.

In one of the ghazals of Ameer Minai performed by one of the artist, he recounted the tale of Chandidas and Rami. Chandidas was a poet famous in the medieval period and his poems are many times used to draw parallels between human and divine love. Then, Chandidas was a priestly class while Rami was a washerwoman and the love between them was not only frowned upon but impossible in the era of division and class. They took their love as sacred as the love between Radha and Krishna; Chandidas refused to forgo his love for Rami and also his priestly duties in the temple much to the despair of his family. Many legends say that he was arrested by the queen and later whipped to death but no one knows the true story.

Why the story of Chandidas and Rami holds significance? Much of later Bengali literature, art, and societal thought found its foundation in the legend. The urge to show the face of society and the characters involved without any exogenous and dramatic variables became an integral part of the art. The spirit of defiance and being recalcitrant in the time of social disapproval might have carved the room for breadth in the thought process.

THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU

When I decided to watch this movie I thought it would be a dark comedy like In Bruges or Clerks but after watching, it came out much more than what I had expected. It is one of those few films that let the events unfold by themselves without any human or dramatic intervention. It falls in the genre of the movies that lives in the moment, witnesses the reality as it is untouched by any exogenous factors, concludes nothing, and shows people living their lives from one second to the other.

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The name of the character Dante Remus Lazarescu seems a satire, Dante Alighieri wrote The Divine Comedy, Remus, the twin brother of Romulus, was one of the founder of Rome, and Lazaraus was brought back to life on the fourth day after his death by Jesus.

The Romanian (Remus connection) movie deals with the overworked medical staff who are shown as human beings, not as saints. They also stress out, smoke, use cell phones, refuse treatment to patients etc. After circling (circles of hell in Dante’s treatise) through three hospitals, the fourth hospital (Lazarus was brought back on fourth day) accommodates the patient eventually and the ambulance driver along with the nurse, Mrs. Mioara could take a sigh of relief. The viewer is left wondering whether Mr. Lazarescu lived. The role of Mrs. Mioara played by Luminita Gheorghiu is something we can relate to from our experience. She represents the element of sincerity and humanness in us. Despite the high handed behavior of doctors with advanced ‘degrees’, she maintains her composure and makes sure that the job she has undertaken is seen through. I kept on wondering where have I seen her before and the words ‘pose and job’ kept striking me till I could trace it back to Child’s pose – another wonderful performance  from the actress as a wealthy matriarch in post Ceausescu Romania.

Yi Yi

Movies as life are a mix of happy and sad emotions, they are so concurrent to life that we fidget with the possibility of them coming true. They have the power to transform a mind, implant or steal an idea from you, and stay and with you like an organism. After meandering on Netflix like a milling crowd in Times sq., I promised myself  that this weekend I will watch a meaningful movie. I was going through articles from Harvard Film Archive (HFA) and it’s when I stumbled upon Edward Yang’s work. East Asian cinema has given us gems of directors such as Kurosawa, Takeshi Kitano, Hou Hsiao-Hsien and their work is unparalleled. The line of thought is authentic and relatable. HFA ‘s article can be found here : http://hcl.harvard.edu/hfa/films/2008septoct/yang.html 

Surprisingly enough New York Times published an article on Friday on the best 25 movies of this century so far and it did included Edward Yang’s work which I would consider a magnum opus. It’s as grand as Tolstoy’s war and peace and as real as the pathos of Kazuo Ishiguro – The remains of the day. If one thinks about the movie then there is nothing really special about it. It’s a movie that has all stages of life in it played by different characters, the movie starts with a wedding and concludes with a demise; it’s a movie about how different people handle the situations differently- from Yang Yang, the budding photographer to his father NJ, whose honesty doesn’t finds a place in a world driven by profit. The restless search and struggle for something meaningful, the creativity driven by and despite frustration is something one can relate to. It’s a very human movie; it takes time, experience, internal struggle, and external manifestations for characters to realize that they are human. The setup of the movie is in Taipei, one of the big cities in the world and it takes an artist’s perspective to put inanimate objects and concepts as artists and characters. The cities, though founded on the traditional values, offer global views but lack the humanness and one has to wade through them, weed out a lot to reach one’s destination. Yang Yang who likes to take photograph of back of people’s head is embodiment of a marvelous concept that we don’t see the entire truth, only half of the truth at one time. One memorable dialogue from the movie is between Yang Yang and his father in which Yang Yang says “I can’t see what you see and you can’t see what you see, so how can I know what you see?” For solving this paradox, Yang Yang starts taking photos of back of people’s heads so people will know what they can’t see, a concept though lucid but difficult to assimilate with.

Yi-Yi translates to one and two, and may be Edward Yang wanted to say “as simple as one and two”

Sonder is a word that means “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own”. The movie justifies the existence of the word.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0244316/

 

Monotone

Monochromatic photographs and movies are graceful and attractive but life if lived in only two colors won’t be an exciting one. The daily drudgery, repetitiveness, and monotony can bog anyone down. That’s why we take to avenues of entertainment, to movies that let us live lives that are not ours, listen to music and start believing in the world. Emily Dickinson, the great poetess said

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The riddles we can guess

We speedily despise-

Not anything is stale so long

As yesterday’s surprise!

Bukowski 9 to 5

 

Few days ago I watched an old movie named Barfly starring Micky Rourke. The movie was based on the formative years of Bukowski when he was drinking himself to death and was on verge of destitution. He wrote the screenplay himself and portrayed the lead who finds solace in writing poetry.

One dialog from the movie is remarkable. Wanda asks Henry “Do you trust me”?, Henry replies “Yes, why not! It is easier that way”.

I am pasting one a letter here that goes hand in hand with what we feel today. How insecurity, the comfort, the society influences our actions and make us do things which we might not have done if free abstractly.

 

December 8, 1986

Hello John:

Thanks for the good letter. I don’t think it hurts, sometimes, to remember where you came from. You know the places where I came from. Even the people who try to write about that or make films about it, they don’t get it right.

They call it “9 to 5.” It’s never 9 to 5, there’s no free lunch break at those places, in fact, at many of them in order to keep your job you don’t take lunch. Then there’s OVERTIME and the books never seem to get the overtime right and if you complain about that, there’s another sucker to take your place. You know my old saying, “Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors.”

And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does.

As a young man I could not believe that people could give their lives over to those conditions. As an old man, I still can’t believe it. What do they do it for? Sex? TV? An automobile on monthly payments? Or children? Children who are just going to do the same things that they did?

Early on, when I was quite young and going from job to job I was foolish enough to sometimes speak to my fellow workers: “Hey, the boss can come in here at any moment and lay all of us off, just like that, don’t you realize that?”

They would just look at me. I was posing something that they didn’t want to enter their minds.

Now in industry, there are vast layoffs (steel mills dead, technical changes in other factors of the work place). They are layed off by the hundreds of thousands and their faces are stunned:

“I put in 35 years…”

“It ain’t right…”

“I don’t know what to do…”

They never pay the slaves enough so they can get free, just enough so they can stay alive and come back to work. I could see all this. Why couldn’t they? I figured the park bench was just as good or being a barfly was just as good. Why not get there first before they put me there? Why wait?

I just wrote in disgust against it all, it was a relief to get the shit out of my system. And now that I’m here, a so-called professional writer, after giving the first 50 years away, I’ve found out that there are other disgusts beyond the system.

I remember once, working as a packer in this lighting fixture company, one of the packers suddenly said: “I’ll never be free!”

One of the bosses was walking by (his name was Morrie) and he let out this delicious cackle of a laugh, enjoying the fact that this fellow was trapped for life.

So, the luck I finally had in getting out of those places, no matter how long it took, has given me a kind of joy, the jolly joy of the miracle. I now write from an old mind and an old body, long beyond the time when most men would ever think of continuing such a thing, but since I started so late I owe it to myself to continue, and when the words begin to falter and I must be helped up stairways and I can no longer tell a bluebird from a paperclip, I still feel that something in me is going to remember (no matter how far I’m gone) how I’ve come through the murder and the mess and the moil, to at least a generous way to die.

To not to have entirely wasted one’s life seems to be a worthy accomplishment, if only for myself.

Your boy,

Hank

Guide – 1965

To me R K Narayan has always been more than a fiction writer; at one hand he is a sweet reminisce of relatable stories and on the other is someone whose stories if read deeply can be as complex as Freud’s civilization and its discontents.

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http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059246/

Based on the book Guide which won Sahitya Academy, the movie – Guide, is a classic produced by Indian cinema industry. Few people know that it was Pearl S. Buck ( The writer of The good earth) convinced Dev Anand to produce a movie on this book while both of them were in Berlin film festival. Corroborated with excellent background score and soulful music, the movie is a mandatory watch to anyone interested in international cinema or any Indian who harbors the notion that CGI clad Hollywood movies are the best thing that have happened in this century. Although R K Narayan wasn’t elated on seeing the movie as the movie doesn’t adhere to the book verbatim, he extolled Waheeda Rehman ( Lead actress) for bringing Rosy alive on the celluloid.

It is interesting to see the how the characters of Rosy and Raju develop throughout the text. Love, skill, success, devotion, aversion, egotism, deception, introspection, withdrawal, asceticism, belief, altruism, and the eventual knowledge follow in order. The guide guides himself to glory. He guides himself to the strength that a few are introduced to and transcends the bridge of life and death. I can extrapolate Guide to the reverence with which The Great Gatsby is looked at and I think I am not wrong.

Blue Jay

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Yesterday I watched Blue Jay, quite an interesting movie it was. There is some old classic charm with the movies that are shot in black and white. Blue Jay is the one that falls in the category of Frances Ha, Nebraska, Clerks, Schindler’s list, Ida. The movie is short and sweet and literally has only two characters and the dialogues between them. I laughed at times at the reminiscences depicted. The film was quite relatable for the actors looked like next door people, nothing extra ordinary about them but then too I think there is a piece that is missing somewhere that would make us feel awestruck. The house of the guy, although in a disarray, looks like something that one can call home – it seems comfortable and one can have a good night sleep.

Florence Foster Jenkins

I have been on a movie spree for past few weeks and have watched nearly all that are watchable and are being shown in Manhattan. I watched Florence Foster Jenkins on Monday in a theater on Yorkville. Meryl Streep is a treat to watch but on Monday morning I came to know of a past case in which she had blocked the road for renovating her million dollar villa causing problem to general public. Shouldn’t law be same foe everyone? Why wasn’t she arrested for the same?

Anyway, the movie is based on a real life character that walked the earth during mid 18th and mid 19th century noted for her gaudy star studded costumes and high pitch/low pitch singing. I enjoyed and laughed throughout the movie and who wouldn’t. Meryl Streep is one of the best actress and a nervous Simon Helberg has done justice to role of Mr. McMoon – the pianist. Hugh Grant’s role as a partner supportive of no matter what is adorable. Although Florence Foster was ridiculed many times for her singing but her ‘concerts’ were not karaoke – Japanese word for empty orchestra. If I were born in that era and I had enough money to afford concerts then I definitely would have gone to see her. She did what she wanted to do and enjoyed it thoroughly. One memorable quote from the movie “People can say I cannot sing but they won’t say I didn’t sing.”. When the movie finished I was looking at faces of people and found at least 7-8 who were crying during the final scenes. Such is a human spirit that we live in a world that adores perfection while Florence Foster Jenkins was able to fill the Carnegie hall despite her not so perfect singing.