Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Love of Materials

Antonio Gaudi (1985) / Hiroshi Teshigahara

Antonio Gaudi ties into the rest of the Teshigahara filmography also via the theme of metamorphoses – his work seems to delve perpetually into the  of this metamorphoses of an object (in Teshigahara, it is crucial to view the human body as a material, a thing) from one form to the other; therefore, a number of his films situate themselves in the middle of this mutation. As a filmmaker, Teshigahara’s pre-occupation remains not the end result of this process, but the process itself – if presented therefore with a ‘work in progress’, he is bound to focus on the ‘progress’, rather than the larger ‘work’. In Antonio Gaudi, Teshigahara devotes the final third of the film to a very material study of the Sagrada Família, not arguably Gaudi’s most famous accomplishment, and yet, incomplete or unfinished. The film contains several shots of the structure surrounded by construction cranes, cement, workers, safety helmets, wooden framework and other modern architectural framework – it is essential therefore, that it is seen as a work-in-progress and a structure built of brick, mortar, ceramics, stained glass and wrought iron. It is also not entirely untrue that the film can sometimes make the site of the church building resemble the laboratory from The Face of Another, where throughout most of the film, a man’s face is the site of a formidable architectural ambition.  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Solitary Usherettes

The sort of women whose specters will inevitably haunt the theatres of their employment long after their bodies are dead,

New York Movie '39 , Edward Hopper

Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003) / Tsai-Ming Liang

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Images of the Colonised

Gate of Flesh (1964) / Seijun Suzuki

Contras' City (1969) / Djibril Diop Mambéty

These two very similar images belong to films that both deal with colonization – the first thinks of it in an entirely metaphysical manner; the second, in an entirely material. In Gate of Flesh (1964), Seizun Suzuki mourns the complete overwhelming of the Nippon spirit (which in his film is the spirit of the warrior) by post-War American presence; in Contras’ City (1969), Djibril Diop Mambéty mocks the coloniser’s complete failure to exist in harmony with the land he colonises. While Suzuki documents this utter ruin of the human soul through a group of characters committed to hedonism as an ideal, Mambéty has his fun at the expense of the baroque French architecture whose presence is an anomaly in the city-scape of Dakar (in a close-up of a French building, a voiceover remarks: ‘It looks like a pastry’). Both images feature symbols that do not fit with their general surroundings (a US flag and a French building, surrounded by refugee ghetto and a slum, respectively), but still insist on being there by existing at a greater elevation than whatever structure surrounds them – the background of the image colonises its fore through altitude-based hierarchy. Eventually, however, Mambéty’s statement from an interview holds true: ‘If you make an anti-colonialist joke, you are also making fun of the colonized themselves.’ 

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Portkey

Easy Virtue (1928) / Alfred Hitchcock

Hitchcock makes a big deal out of still-life objects in the opening courtroom sequence of Easy Virtue: each one of them is presented as a singular entity, a magic portal to a time gone by and in reverse, a time to come. As such, whenever the investigation features a mention of a particular event in the past, the audience inside the courtroom as well as the audience outside of the film must use an object to facilitate this time travel and allow the film to illustrate visually what is only being talked about in the courtroom. A particular decanter gets the most attention, with alcoholism and the resulting unrestrained brutishness being the big ideas of the film’s first portion: therefore, whenever the prosecutor inquires with the wife about the decanter, Hitchcock summons the whole diegesis of the courtroom and allows it to get suctioned into the decanter (held tightly in the hands of the prosecutor) the moment the film cuts to a close-up of it. When the camera tracks back out from the close-up, we are now into the past, into another diegesis – the decanter therefore becomes some sorta scene-sponge, where it inhales the whole of the courtroom into itself and then exhales it into some living room in the past. In films, the past often looms upon the present, but in this case, it is the present that forces itself onto the past, invading its sanctimony through a decanter-shaped opening.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A List

It's lisztomania in cinephile-town, but I wouldn't want to, at any rate, let the following exist as either a consolation prize or as a convenient substitution for the real thing. Let's just think of it as a personal record really, nothing more, nothing less. If anything, it will atleast help us know where I'm coming from. Also maybe, over time, I can keep updating it to suit my convenience.

There is then a list of films I love unconditionally, fourteen titles in all, and as is evident, I like titles which have 'night' either in their title or in their spirit. This list is followed by an inventory-list of a number of top-of-the-head titles which could also decide to sub any day, any time of the week. Here goes, in no particular priority,

  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) / Sergio Leone
  • Taxi Driver (1976) / Martin Scorsese
  • Jaws (1975) / Steven Spielberg
  • First Loves (1974) / Kryzstof Kieslowski 
  • Kanchenjungha (1962) / Satyajit Ray
  • Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx (1972) / Kenji Misumi
  • Night of the Demon (1957) / Jacques Tourneur
  • Night and the City (1950) / Jules Dassin
  • Le Trou (1960) / Jacques Becker
  • Mystery Train (1989) / Jim Jarmusch
  • Jalsaghar (1958) / Satyajit Ray
  • Modern Times (1936) / Charlie Chaplin
  • Night and Fog (1955) / Alain Resnais
  • Gate of Flesh (1964) / Seijun Suzuki

Titles to recall and smile about on a cold winter night
The Burmese Harp, Le Samourai, Raging Bull, Ajantrik, Aguirre: The Wrath of God, Psycho, A Clockwork Orange, Modern Times, Les Vampires, The General, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kagemusha, Sunrise, Ivan's Childhood, PlayTime, At Land, A Trip to the Moon, Dersu Uzala, BlowUp, Young Frankenstein, Le Mepris, La Dolce Vita, The Story of Adele H., Real Life, Vengeance is Mine, The Third Man, Kuroneko, Anand, A Grand Day Out With Wallace and Gromit, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Peeping Tom, Sherlock Jr., The Killers (Tarkovsky), Treasure of the Sierra Madre , Shock Corridor, Woman in the Moon, The Lady from Shanghai, Oldboy, The Red Balloon, Close-Up, M., Witness for the Prosecution, Three Colours: Blue, Repulsion, Kaagaz Ke Phool