its been over a week and the internet at home is still not working. in the interval the holidays are over and all of last week was spent tweaking the time table in multiple meetings with the different kinds of faculty in the school. meanwhile i have been conscientiously been keeping up with my movie-a-day pledge and need to record them here in case they slip through the sieve that my memory is.
last sunday our weekly film session at mukul’s without mukul there was bela tarr’s ‘werckmeister harmonies’ set in a hungarian town where cycles of peace and violence of history are evoked through the perpetual rotations and revolutions of celestial bodies (and the camera) when a beatific giant whale and a vicious violent prince arrive in the town square as part of a strange circus.
‘akira’ was set in neo-tokyo after tokyo had been completely destroyed by an uncontrollable energy called akira. our hero is part of a biker gang whose task is to save the word from this energy from destroying the city yet again along with his best friend. its gorgeously drawn and exults in its fabulous anti-technology imagery by loving the gadgets and spectacles that technology creates.
‘the class’ was just spookily ‘real’. set in a french high school it was a high school drama without the usual ending where great transformations happen in students due to the ministrations of a benevolent teacher. instead, the frustrations and delicate power politics of a classroom were much too accurate for us to take as we saw ti immediately after a technology faculty meeting in lalitha’s air conditioned room.
dad and me have also been periodically watching episodes of two documentary series by adam curtis. the first is ‘the century of the self’ which is the story of psychoanalysis and the way it has been used to brainwash entire populations to become passive consumers over the decades- perfect for theory of design class- i think. the second was a series called ‘pandora’s box’ whose basic premise is the delusion of the belief in an all explaining science. it follows this premise relentlessly through different episodes on russia and the planning process, america and the cold war, the british planned economy, the ddt vs environment debate, a dam building debacle in africa and the building of atomic energy plants around the world.
‘the diving bell and butterfly’ is shot like a fever dream. we enter the head of the ex-editor of elle magazine and watch the world through his woozy vision as slowly learns to deal with ‘locked in’ syndrome. as he begins to speak through a painfully slow process he starts to tell his life story. essentially the butterfly allows his imagination to fly free even though his body is caught in the diving bell. it is a romantic vision of an artist ‘against all odds’ shot in this over stylized manner- that is effective most of the time- and when it isn’t it is still lovely to watch with its collage of ideas, references and images.
it hasn’t been all high art last week. i loved the new 'star trek' film with a younger less pompous captain kirk and a spock with a love interest. to reboot the aging series by making into a teenage coming of age action drama was a good idea. and it had the coolest line of lovetalk i had heard in a long time ‘ i will be monitoring your frequency’- a gorgeous uhura whispers in spocks year as he teleports to the surface of vulcan to save his family before the planet is sucked into a black hole.
‘the mask of the ninja’ was crap about some ninja feud across japan and san francisco with lots of swordfights and karate chops. ‘blood and chocolate’ makes budapest into werewolf land. a hollywood horror of the old country- a europe that is constructed as a land of olde fantasy and legend. the heroine is saved from the intrigues of traditional systems only by the fact that she has returned from america. these themes also appear in ‘the third man’. in post war vienna where the whole city is a confused mass of territories and complicated internal politics and underworld trafficking. in this arrives the plain speaking, bull-in-a-china-shop american who wanting to get to the truth discovers that his best friend (played deviously well by orson welles) is a villain. fantastic chase scenes in a bombed out vienna with a frightening conversation on a giant wheel and another in a labyrinth of sewers that lie below the city.
in ‘dear diary’ this terrible europe does not exist. instead morretti takes us on a tour across rome on his vespa showing us neighborhoods and his associations with them, their architecture being the story, until he takes a drive to the place where pasolini was shot. in other episodes he speaks directly to the camera in a woody allen like way about trying to find an island where he and his friend can write in peace away from ‘santa barbara’ and ‘the bold and beautiful’ or his desperate search through doctors and hospitals for a cure to the incessant itching of his hands and feet. what a lovely film.
speaking of pasolini, ‘salo’ was excruciating- as it was supposed to be. based on the marquis de sade novel ‘120 days of sodom’ the action is displaced from eighteenth century france to nazi-fascist italy where four men helped by a team of soldiers and women story tellers capture a group of young men and women and make them perform the most gory sexual acts possible. these include rape, torture, murder and even a formal meal of the shit from last night. as unwatchable as it was riveting.
terrifically entertaining was ‘oldboy’ a graphic novel film. a man is mysteriously imprisoned for 15 years and then is even more mysteriously set free. as stylized and violent as a great graphic novel, this was great fun. based on the che guevaras account of the cuban revolution ‘che’ was no romantic ‘motorcycle diaries’ as it cut between the journey of the revolutionaries across the jungles in cuba into the city and che speaking on american television about american imperialism. it still portrayed an intellectual revolutionary hero.