Friday, July 31, 2009

synecdoche new york . satah se uthata aadmi . the bicycle thief . agraharathil kazuthail . 26 bathrooms

like ‘the trial’, which a character is reading in the beginning of the film, ‘synecdoche new york’ is a vortex of reflections affecting each other in perpetually shifting scales. sometimes the city is found in another one or you see yourself in miniature. while blurring the line between dream and reality the identity of all the characters and all their relationships are themselves blown apart until almost nothing is real.
in ‘satah se uthata aadmi’ a similar story within a story revolves around the act of writing as a voiceover reads passages about characters and they in turn read out other stories that turn into images until all intertwine into a fever dream somewhere in small town india.
i liked ‘the bicycle thief’- not so much for the sweet downer of the story about losing a bicycle but more the rome of the working class neighborhoods with rationalist apartment blocks relentlessly plodding on the horizon or the other ancient city of market squares and labyrinthine roads where the hunt goes on.
in ‘a donkey in a brahmin’s village’ at the end when the fire in the skull of the donkey sets fire to the village the film suddenly expresses the anger that is until then suppressed under never completely lighthearted comic episodes. the pollution that the donkey represents is used by the hypocrisy of the villagers for their own means until even its death becomes something that can be used to wield power by making mystic its aura.
from a to z ‘26 bathrooms’ is peter greenaway’s checklist of ideas clustered around bathrooms including lost soaps, public washrooms, tiles and mirrors punctuated by a discourse on the history of british bathrooms held forth by an expert. another film for my architecture collection.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

wizards . millennium actress . the children’s book . opera java . tren de sombras. in which annie gives it those ones. mindgame.

the collage like madness of the war sequences that splice nazi war footage with the exaggeratedly cute and evil brothers and their war between normal people and the mutants. the real villain is of course the movie projector that blinds the mutants under the supreme commander – the bad brother in the darkness hatching his evil plots to take over the world.

the pop singer in ‘perfect blue’ is now a reclusive actress hiding away from the media glare. a filmmaker fan follows her to her house and become embroiled in the telling of her story as characters in her history on and off screen. not really as maddening and beautiful as perfect blue but still gorgeously made.

the music in opera java was divine even though the pieces did seem to go on a little too long – as did the story of ravana and sita in indonesia. here too the performed and the lived lives of the characters intermingle and blur. typically the ravana character stole the show with his creepy dance in the abattoir and the tango on top of the bar table. ram as usual is the most boring and only becomes interesting somewhat in the threesome with ravana and sita and when he kills sita. the ugly subtext about the story being an allegory of american imperialization was awful and clumsy but i still loved the movement of arms and the watery layered sound of the music.

regardless of the conceits of ‘experimental film’- the concern with the act of film making and representation or the ‘truth’ o the image, or the texture of film itself- ‘tren de sombras’ was pretty much a colour by numbers kind of mystery story. the film is arranged in three or four sections. in the beginning is the ostensibly found footage of a photographer who disappeared in 1930. the trouble is that besides the artificial cracks and blurs of the footage much of it is not framed like it was shot in that ea. at least not to my untrained eye. the second half looks for clues to his disappearance in the house and the garden while the third rewinds the footage and discovers possible leads in what really happened.

also about a family splintering apart at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century is the gorgeous new novel by a s byatt ‘the children’s book’, as the community of artists live out their bohemian lives considering modernity through the arts and crafts movement into art nouveau flourishes of marionettes, fairy tales and beautifully decorated pots.

complete anomaly that i am i had never seen that cult architecture film ‘i which annie gives it those ones’. finally getting my hands on it i sat down to watch and was curiously disappointed or rather saddened by its perpetual cynicism about architecture itself. not that taking the systems apart is not necessary but all we get in return is a tired old 70s flower child rant about ‘poor people’ punctuated by (naturally) music stolen from the beatles. but then again my reaction might stem from pure self defense. it must be because i spend so much of my time on the side of the table that was being taken apart. what is strange is the odd inversion- the violent (often simplistic) ranting about ‘poor people’ nowadays happens from the faculty while the students speak the language of the market.

like ‘wizards’ the anime ‘mindgame’ is happily unhinged switching between all kinds of animations styles- sepia tinted rounded characters in a flattened landscape, to long angular lines, to photographs. the story follows nishi and two girls as they choose life while running from the law and a drug mafia who are inexplicably dressed up as football players. while running away the group gets swallowed up by a giant whale from which they escape into their many possible futures. 

Sunday, July 19, 2009

surreal encounters on the highway

tarpaulin images on a ganpati workshop and discarded dolls

still more rain drenched streets through my car window

from college through andheri link road to marol pipeline

oshiwara in the rain

fragments of beauty drenched in the half light of the long dark corridor like shops. nothing is seen completely- only an arm, a curl, a twist, a pattern carved. on the other side of the tunnel are the workshops overflowing with new versions of antique desks we were making for mahim. 

vinita, chitra, namrata / kalpit / stephan, rupali

last sunday at home

the wine party before watching the science of sleep at mukul's

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

the rain

royal palms at goregaon with a slum of skyscrapers, gross baroque hotels and a golf course overlooking national park / drenched chawls in dadar while looking for door knobs near the station /the first drive across bandra worli sea link / walking down to haji ali dargah after coffee at indigo deli and some gateway and marine drive/ chatting about the future in the canteen / the krvia muddy football match. 

Saturday, July 04, 2009

graphic novels, animation films, etc.

it was during reading ‘the amazing adventures of kavalier and clay’, coincidentally that i bought ‘zot!’ by scott mccloud. the escapist helps in kavaliers reprisal against evil nazis making him one of the most popular superheroes in world war 2 new york. the loveliest scene for me for the love scene between the beautiful blonde actor and sam clay at democracity- the ideal new town of the future with flyovers and flashing lights at the worlds fair. pure magic. democracity is almost zot’s world – a parallel universe whose perfection is seductive to the teenagers who have walked through the portal to the other side. my rising interest in graphic novels led me to read ‘understanding comics’ a step by step proposition to read the comic book as serious art. me? i believe! especially after going on this massive downloading spree of graphic novels. 

one of my favorite was the intertwining and completely silent ‘the system’. stories of the everyday lives of new yorkers play kho-kho with one another through dissolves and sudden juxtapositions in a narrative of steeped in the paranoia of a post terror world. 

in alezandro jodorowsky’s future landscape of a planet/city mad of layers that rise from the bottom sewers where the mutants live to the middle where the red light area glitters to the very top where an elite with haloes rule. the other story was about the rise of the metabarons- a race of fantastic mercenaries. 

the other crazy fictional landscape was the one in ‘aetheric mechanics’ whose early 20th century landscape is populated with semi-fictional heroes and detectives including an almost holmes/watson team. these science fiction landscapes of the future. some of the other stories were ‘death – the high cost of living’ where death is this hot girl in search for someone’s heart and ‘the sandman chronicles- the dream hunters’- where a fox falls in love with a monk and saves him from a merchant who has cast an evil spell over him.

i have also gone completely crazy watching animation films. 'my neighbor totoro' is miyazaki’s sweet story about two sisters and their strange friend totoro who lives in the tree in the backyard of the new house. a far cry from the charm of that film was ‘perfect blue’. a teenage pop star who is intent on changing her image to become a more serious adult actress is haunted and hunted by a vicious innocence until the difference between dream and reality blurs beyond recognition. ‘voices of a distant star’ was a love story where time stand still on one end of the universe while at the other end of an sms a waiting lover grows older and older.

complete non stop madness in 'duck soup'. the marx brothers save freedonia from defeat in complete mayhem. the one liners come fast and furious and the physical comedy is hilarious. 'chandni chowk to china' is terrible- in spite of deepika padukone. saw it on an airplane from delhi to bombay. 

in the american documentary ‘home movie’ 5 strange ways of living are followed through a day. there was something annoying about the ease by which the domestic space was made into a narcissistic fantasy space. one becomes a tree house, the other a futuristic machine, another is taken over by cats while a fourth is a bunker under the ground. it seemed so easy. get inside your house and detach yourself from the world. one of the character who lives on a houseboat explicitly says this too.

the music in 'dhrupad' is sublime. so is the architecture that is shot so lovingly. from mandu to fatehpur sikri to the final shot when the camera meanders long on an aerial shot of the city blurring away and fading to white. my mother was delighted seeing her teacher sing and play the veena. one of the best films i have seen on music. the city in which 'los olvidados' takes place feels like a bombay. ruins in which the runaway child finds a place to live and the construction sit where the good boy is murdered. like an old raj kapoor film on the city but with no happy ending.

there are some incredible scenes in ‘shakti’. every one of them has dilip kumar in it. he eats up the competition- amitabh bachchan included. when smita patil comes t meet the estranged parents of vijay i sobbed away as i did when rakhee dies and amitabh comes to meet his father from the jail. some great city shots too- the fight sequence in the train and at versova fishing village should be on the cinema city map, as should the father son confrontation at bandra fort.

the last film of this post is ‘blowup’. as the egoistical photographer enlarges the photograph it reveals more as it enlarges into pixels- a pointed gun and the fallen hand of a body behind the bush. i had somehow expected more. or maybe i did not get it.