Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tango lesson: Using less words, more videos

I have been wanting to write about this beautiful movie for a long time. But words have failed me. So I thought may be I could do a video review with saying as little as possible. I want you to see this movie and enjoy the visuals and the romance as much as I did.

(Watch one video fully, come back to the post and so on..)
 If you want to dance, the world is your prop. How they just dance on the road,

In the rains,

in the kitchen, on the fireplace, with chairs and walls, escalators in the airport,with everything and everywhere in the world...

this trailer really captures it all. Their fights, his passion, her writer's block, their dances, and their romance.

Sally Potter and Pablo Veron are both superbly talented, and truly headstrong. When two equals fight, its a painful pleasure, a high and a low. You badly want them to resolve. These intimate fights of lovers revolve around one thing - When Pablo teaches Tango, Sally follows with difficulty, but she does. But when Sally wants to direct a film, Pablo doesn't want to follow. Its the man-woman fire and ice rapport that they really showcase well in this film

The colors in the film are really beautiful. The black and white with the contrasting bright colors of her imagined film that she writes the script for.

The interesting thing about this movie is that it is based on Sally Potter's real life. In such movies, one doesn't know whats real and whats fiction. Its the guessing thats fun.

My friend Samir often tells us in his reviews, what a movie should taste like in our mouth. This one is definitely like French chocolate.

I'll just leave you with another intense video - this one should leave you with intrigue, if you aren't already that is!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Shrek – The twisted fairytale

When I think of Shrek, the word I can most associate with it is ‘topsy turvy’. Think about it. ‘Prince Charming’ and ‘Fairy God Mother’ are the villains. The Kingdom of’ Far Far Away’-the utopian land of our imagination- is far from perfect. The ugly Ogre is our hero. And all the times he gets a chance to either get a beautiful wife or turn beautiful, he chooses not to. Sleeping beauty and the likes who are vulnerable and beautiful are made fun of for how unbelievably dumb they are.The tale is about accepting your ugly self. Finding true love is all about finding someone who can love you for what you really are.And yet, it is very much a fairy tale in structure and thought. An underdog’s story, of good winning over the evil, leaving you with hope that you will be accepted for who you are. Every fairy tale is supposed to represent the dreams and fantasies of a generation and Shrek does that only too well.  Only the codes change.  Today’s codes of aspiration are not flawless beauty, physical strength or vulnerability. Or lets say that's getting passe. Today’s codes of aspiration move towards acceptance. We don’t need Prince charming to rescue us from demons, because we are not weak or vulnerable anymore.  But won’t it be a perfect if we met someone who loved us with all our ugly secrets and imperfections? Someone who could save us the trouble of having to wear the masks that don’t represent who we are anymore.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


If you like philosophy or sociology, you can’t miss Dogville. It's similar to 1984 or Brave New world in way because it creates a mythical society to serve a purpose. It meticulously constructs how a society develops prejudice once it discovers power. Goes to question if human beings would really be civilized if they didn’t have to be. If they could get away with doing what they did, if they didn’t have to bear the punishment for being inhuman. Haven’t we heard that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely? If a whole society was entitled to power over someone who is powerless by virtue of not belonging, wouldn’t we abuse it and enjoy it? And that is exactly what prejudice is. It is a fair assumption that prejudice for strangers or outsiders arises out of fear and distrust. But Dogville forces to open your eyes to see that prejudice is an open door to experience and use power, especially with the minority. Prejudice makes you feel better about yourself, and liberates you from the real need of proving yourself. Prejudice is easy success and free identity. Grace, (played by Nicole Kidman) was a single, helpless and harmless woman in need of help. Chased by gangsters, she needs shelter and ends up in the fictional town of Dogville. Nobody in Dogville needed to fear her. They didn’t too. They begin as nice people with values who want to embrace her with a notion of altruism. Their values slowly start eroding when a collective sense of abandoning the value systems happen as they start discovering power- the power to get away with raping her, abusing her and mistreating her.

The film’s subtle but intelligent tagline ‘A quiet little town not far from here’ is just the place we are in today – quiet, and with dangerous things deep within us. Dogville might be a slight exaggeration or a simplistic point prover. It reminded me of Dylan’s Not dark yet. But it’s getting there.  

The film is shot like its taking place real time on stage. I think it’s a powerful method to construct a world with minimal distraction. The point to pick is a philosophical question that hounds our society now, and everything else in the film is an aid to be constructing that question.
The pace of the film is slow. But the slowness suited the film. It would be incomplete without it. Because decay in the values of a conditioned society happens only slowly.

Dogville was my second Lars Von Trier movie. The first was Dancer in the dark. Dancer in the dark was deeply disturbing because it brutally portrays a really believable tragedy that we very often want to avoid because most of us are conditioned to hope. We are splattered with inspirational stories where zeroes become heroes, right wins over evil. These actually occur with a low probability. But using Pareto’s 80:20 rule, these 20% stories receive 80% of PR. Dancer in the dark is a shocker, because very simplistically, it depicts a poor, helpless, disabled woman being easily/effortlessly taken advantage of and cheated upon by someone who was stronger, for a very simple reason – he could and he could get away with it too, and that too without much ado. It isn’t counter intuitive. It’s our conditioning that makes us feel disturbed.

Unlike the tragedy that Dancer in the dark is, Dogville has a filmier ending, feel good but powerful.
And you can’t help but love Dogville for the way it questions the arrogance of ‘generosity’ in its climax. The benefit for being generous is to put yourself above the others on a pedestal, because that is what really defines generosity – doing something that most instinctively fail to. And generosity is an easier value to develop because you can control it more easily, and ironically, by going against your primal instincts, as opposed to a quality like ‘being a genius’ which if you don’t have, you don’t know what to do to attain either. So yeah, it’s a guilt free way of making yourself feel good. Grace was treated that way, because she allowed herself to be. She tried to be generous, understand them and forgive them. And all this at the cost of allowing them to become animals. Lars Von Trier asks if  power’s consequences can be offset only by power.

Dogville is serious cinema.Truly, just meant to be thought provoking and nothing else.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Dhobi Ghat

 When you read about it, it seems like one of those stories about many random people in the city who connect through coincidences. It is that. But it’s also different from other films in the same space like New York I love you or Firaaq or Edge of Heaven because the characters make conscious decisions about developing relationships with their random coincidences. Shay makes an effort to get to know Munna, and Arun makes a choice to get involved with Noor's life. I find beauty in these decisions because they leave you with hope, as if it’s in your hands to breathe the city, and not destiny’s’.

The characters are very well etched, their lives beautifully detailed and the camera lens non judgmental and real. Dhobi Ghat traverses the life of 4 people in the city - Artsy Arun to elite, sophisticated Shay, to lower middle class, aspiring actor Munna to naive Noor – new to the big bad city.

It’s hard to make a movie that has enough drama, and yet seems as real as a documentary. It means that you have to do double work to ensure that you have the best of both worlds – hold on to the power to fictionalize, but also recreate the space as its supposed to be by paying attention to every detail.  I liked the way they constructed the different spaces and lives of these guys - so much detail, but nothing glares or jumps out saying - notice me, I have made the effort...Like for example, did you notice the lamp in artistic Arun's house or the statue of Buddha in Shay's, the stainless steel utensil holder – the most common kitchen ware in every lower/middle class household in mumbai that cant afford to furnish a kitchen, or the slapstick comedy that Munna is watching in his chawl with his like brother. And of course, Munna's room – walls plastered with all the pictures of Bollywood superstars….

Another charming thing in the movie are the relationships between the different characters. Of course, the one between Shay and Munna is the most obvious one. It was so easy to understand their relationship, in the sense that, its so easy to understand Munna would fall in love with her but be very inhibited..Shay is beautiful, sweet and unattainable. Munna loves her knowing she is impossible to attain, and Shay talks to him knowing that she cannot possibly love him. Class is a big thing, consciously and subconsciously. It was easy to understand why Shay liked him, but never loved him, or was never even confused about not loving that was not an option. The movie managed to capture some other aspects of ‘class’ – like how Munna was expected to service the high class woman…gosh! The laziness, the fat and the arrogance of the woman!
Shay's unrequited relationship with Arun was interesting unrequited relationship hinges on two things...obsession and hope..but the base is fear, till a realisation dawns...its like you are running away from the realisation with it chasing you, and deep down you know its going to get you. Shay gets it all in the end I think, and then tears roll down.

The film captured everyday sentences and expressions – which open windows to understanding complex contexts - A simple innocuous statement from Noor like "He has come. We will watch TV now..He doesn't talk too much...” is about arranged marriages with no conversation.
And I couldn’t help but wonder how Shay, and Noor belonging to such bipolar backgrounds did the same thing. They were both capturing the city using their own powers of expressions.

I liked the end – the climax, and then the going on of life, as though nothing much happened. Silent lonely tears and getting over the many emotions that swell up every once in a while. Life does not end, even if phases and relationships do. That’s how it is, more tragedies than comedies. And life goes on!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Lost in translation

I think no other piece of work can really depict the idea better than this piece from Malgudi days

Part 1: here

Part 2: here

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fantasy and destiny

Noticed something really interesting...every movie that quells the need for fantasy has destiny playing a huge role in in Hum Aapke Hain Kaun...Madhuri even decides to marry her Jiju, but destiny brings her to her love...In Hangover, they did everything that a boy would fantasize about, but went scott free, with destiny seemingly connecting things to make it perfect...Take any other example...So its fantasy that destiny takes responsibility for things to happen...and fantasy is about escaping responsibility and action, about having a good time and not pay for it? isn't it?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Plot vs. Characters - Reflection of two kinds of societies?

Individualistic society's content always rely on strong characters, because characters are supposed to control and change the world, whereas collective societies always rely on intricate plots, with lesser emphasis on individualism of characters, as the fundamental belief and curiosity is about destiny, and understanding that not everything really is in an individual's control - individual is too small, and insignificant in the larger scheme of things controlled by both God and destiny. Which is why Chinese films - like the clouds, like the wind, rising the red lantern, or curse of the golden flower, have fantabulous plots and stories filled with coincidences, ripple effects, and million intricate possibilities triggered by a gargantuan system.