Friday, October 07, 2005

Two movies, a book, and a quizzer's place

Come, come. Surely, even you can't come up with such a beautifully contrived title for a post. Cinema Paradiso is definitely one of the better things to happen to movie lovers in these parts. One is circumambulating Nagarjuna circle (clockwise) a la Ganymede around Jove, as one often does, and then one catches a glimpse of a store that calls itself "Cinema Paradiso". With heavy heart, and virtual certainty that this will be a gigantic letdown, one detaches oneself from Nagarjuna's beguiling centripetal charms and propagates rectilinearly into said establishment. " 'pon my word, what do we have here?" [This is the little rational choice idiot having fun. See here.] Shelves thickly stacked with all kinds of movies - there's your Kurosawa, your Ray, your Truffaut, your Godard, your Hitchcock, your Tarantino, my Emmanuelle Beart, your Schwarzn., your Wong Kar-Wai, my Meryl Streep, your Woody Allen and so on. Started by Santhosh, a cinematographer, "Cinema Paradiso" can now be found in Madras, Bangalore, Calcutta and Hyderabad.

Veena (methinks) had a post at Yossarian Lives about the Tamil movie Autograph that had been in the pending list for a while. So, this becomes movie #1. And truly, it is as they say, thoda hatke hai. The director takes you on a romp through an autobiographical and autographical (as in everyone he knows signs his autograph book) journey through his past, mostly about the girls and women he fell for. #1 is a classmate from high school, this part was done rather nicely, one thought. #2 is a classmate from college. Turns out the bloke studied in Kerala, so this part of the movie is all backwaters and elephants and kai kotti kaLi, mohini attam, kathakaLi. The story though, isn't as credible. What with our 'hero' from Tamil Nadu de-boating a gang of slimy, oil-slick Mallus because they taunted him; the girl's pop being some kind of modern Capulet or Montague pater familias; and so on. #3 is not really a 'love interest'. This one is a colleague who inspires the hero/diro to pick himself up, 'become something in life' (aambleah aNaa vaazhkayilu vaazhapazham yada yada (The last bit is from Seinfeld, but its very confusing with the italics, isn't it? Tee hee...)). This tries to deal with the "we're just friends" aspect of man-woman relationships. Hmm. On the whole, the movie is decent. "A welcome change from the standard fare", as they quoth. But nothing spectacular, at all. The Tam chauvinism bit was played up a little bit too garishly (the interior Mallu speaketh). Hopefully, better stuff will emanate from the same crew soon.

Apparently, all self-respecting intellectual cinematic types are supposed to have seen many Truffaut works. Self had not seen even one. This was remedied, thanks to Cinema P. Les Quatre Cents Coups became flick #2 to be borrowed. Truffaut was a rather opinionated and vocal film critic, the "...enfant terrible of the Cahiers du Cinema and Arts..." Rather uncharacteristically (for a critic) and bravely, he decided to put his money where his mouth was, and with money borrowed from his father-in-law ("Eef zee feelm failz, Eye weel ave atleast ruined Papa..."), he plunged into the murky (how can it not be with the French) world of cinema. The result was The Four Hundred Blows. The story is autobiographical (do all first films have to be?), and deals with the growing up of young Antoine Doimel (Truffaut went on to make 4 other movies with the same chief character). The film is a landmark in the French New Wave cinema, and so on. Suspect that the modern day viewer will be left a little bit cold at the approach this movie takes, but apparently some features of modern cinema that we're accustomed to originate from this seminal work (the last shot 'freeze frame' for example). All said and done, a watchable movie for the acting, the photography, and the historical and conversation value. Doimel as an adult holds promise. At some point in a grown-up French movie, someone is bound to take off their clothes. Mmm...

Concurrently, one has been flipping through the latest collection of Satyajit Ray's writings/speeches (some in Bengali) on cinema. Can't quite remember the name of the damn book now, but definitely worth a gander. Or goose. If that's how you're inclined. Not sure all of what he says is clear, but you can't miss his almost 'measured passion' for cinema, in the way he talks about film makers and movies that inspired his work. There is even a chapter where he analyzes shot-by-shot the scene from Pather Panchali where Harihar is told about his daughter Durga's death. Thought seems to have gone into every facet of the shot (scene composition, lighting, camera angles, weather), and it does show, in the movie as a whole, even if you don't notice individual items. Read it.

TAILPIECE: Now we have to write about quizzing too? Two movies and a book weren't enough? Ostrogoths. Vandals. Visigoths. Anyway, the IIT Madras Open Quiz happened on Sunday last (October 2, 2005). 300 odd teams (of four people each). Usual IIT quiz, some really good questions, a decent amount of highly obscure stuff. The usual suspects won. The usual suspects came second. We came fourth.


kuffir said...

the tam chauvinism bit has always been played up a little garishly - ever since 'nayakan', at least. think of all the movies in which the hero/protagonist flexes his herohood outside tamil country - bombay, calcutta, delhi, bangalore, rajasthan and even hyderabad..tells you something about certain deprivations faced in infancy by the director/s, i guess.

Veena said...

Is that 'Speaking of films' that you talk about? Flipping through it currently and do concur. One should read it!

And as for the Tam chauvinism part of Autograph, concur again. Years of watching Tam and Mallu movies where chauvinism is the norm has made moi innured to such things. Gone are the days I would vehmently defend Tamland to my Mallu schoolmates and Malluland to my Tam family. :)

Anonymous said...

If you are interested in cinema and in directors you should check out this site.

Ludwig said...

Been gallivanting. Hence late.

[kuffir] Hmm...perhaps true. Although I must say it wasn't as striking in other movies. Maybe the fact that its particularly jarring in the otherwise low-key "Autograph", as compared to (say) "Baasha" or something.

[veena] Yes, "Speaking Of Films" it is. Very flippable, dippable sort of book, no? Chauvinism in Mallu movies? [Horrified] Surely not! Haven't seen too many myself (although it is the mother tongue), but IIRC, it is mostly a nostalgic hankering for Mallu-land, rather than bashing up 10 non-Mallus single-handedly types.

[anonymous] Thanks for the link. See where you go when you click on the Truffaut link in the post! :)