November 25, 2008

The Master of Suspense?....Not really.

First things first. Let me just confess this. I haven't seen 'The Lady Vanishes', 'Spellbound', 'Notorious', 'Strangers on a Train', 'Dial M for Murder' or 'The Birds' yet. And I haven't seen 'North by Northwest' either. OK. So you feel pity for me? Just let me put it this way. I am so excited to realize what life has in store for me. There are so many wonderful stories by this master storyteller that are soon going to be a part of my existence. Life is indeed more fascinating than we realize.

In an opinion poll somewhere, I had seen him voted as the greatest filmmaker in the history of cinema. I had just seen 'Sabotage' then, and that too in a poor quality DVD. I wasn't very impressed by the poll. But then life has its own screenplay.

'Rope' defined for me what suspense is. It is not thrill, that stays for a moment. It is not horror. It is something very quiet, very gradual. It takes time. It is like the build up in horror, or perhaps the resolution after a moment of thrill. It doesn't shake you by attacking your senses. It targets your psyche, your conscious and subconscious mind. It grows inside you, even disturbs you immensely, but it does not let you realize how much you are getting affected.

Suspense does not depend on an action. And unlike horror, which is mainly an experience associated with a supernatural and unknown force, suspense is very much a basic human emotion. It is what we feel just before an exam or while watching a cricket match. Or may be when you have proposed a girl and are waiting for her reply. Suspense is an element that can accompany any human emotion. It is innocent in 'Rebecca', daring in 'Rope', passionate in 'Vertigo', guilty in 'Psycho' or plain curious in 'Rear Window'.

This man used the suspense genre to explore various aspects of human life. No. I daresay, he invented this genre of motion picture, he defined it and set a standard for others to try and achieve. And they are right who consider him the master of suspense. But he was beyond that. He was philosophical (his intentions and notions are debatable and we need not go into that, for example his view of women) in his own way. He was definitely a master of his art and technique (Oh, I remember my excitement on understanding the simple yet magical mechanism of the famous 'Vertigo' shot). And above all, he was master of storytelling, which I feel cinema is all about. Whether he was the best is irrelevant.

November 23, 2008

Ek kahani aur suna do...

कभी अचानक परिचय पाकर जब किताब के पलटे पन्ने,
ख़ुशबू की आँधी-सी आयी, आप बन गए मेरे अपने.
जितने मौसम संग रहे, नमकीन, अंगूर भले लगते थे,
मिर्ज़ा ग़ालिब, मीरा को सुन हू तू तू खेला करते थे.
लेकिन सूना आज यहाँ है, कोशिश जितनी करना चाहूँ,
नहीं किनारा ढूँढ सकूँगा, बस बहता ही रहना चाहूँ.
अगर इजाज़त हो तो बोलूँ, माचिस फिर इक बार जला दो,
एक दशक से चुप बैठे हो, एक कहानी और सुना दो...

First Meeting With Two Geniuses

While most of my friends were busy as interns in hospitals around the country, I was having a great time watching films. I was down in the final semester and was supposed to appear for the Obstetrics and Gynaecology paper again after a few months.

It was then that I chanced upon this story of an intern, beginning to learn the art and science of practicing Medicine under the guidance of an apparently eccentric but immensely experienced doctor.

It was my first meeting with the great Akira Kurosawa. And thanks to the Criterion Collection DVD, it came with an excellent commentary that, apart from discussing the art and science of this film, talked about the life and works of Kurosawa in general. It also talked about the powerful actor who played the central character, who was soon going to become one of my favourites.

'The Seven Samurai', 'Throne of Blood', 'Yojimbo', 'High and Low' and 'Rashomon' followed. And Toshiro Mifune was going to be with me forever.

It was sad to know that the great association between the two geniuses was over with, ironically, the first film I saw them in. And although I loved 'Ran' and 'Dreams' too (two of Kurosawa's later works), I missed the charismatic and versatile Mifune.

The good news is, I have not yet seen all of their films.

November 22, 2008

Worshiping Krzysztof Kieslowski

The first movie that I saw of him was 'Three Colours : Red', ironically the last film he directed. I couldn't appreciate it much, except for the stunningly beautiful cinematography. I didn't know that it was the last of the trilogy. I didn't know what did the colour red signify. I didn't know revisiting this movie would be an experience!

After watching the other two of the trilogy and reading online, I realized that the films were based on the themes of liberty, equality and fraternity: 'Blue', 'White' and 'Red', in that order.

I have revisited the three again and again, with the full-length commentary by Annette Insdorf, and without.

As I write these words, I have finished just six of 'The Decalogue'. I know I have still witnessed just the tip of the iceberg. But I feel, this filmmaker has had the most powerful impact on my understanding of cinema and life.

If Cinema is my religion, and that certainly is, Kieslowski is my God.

P.S. : I would love to share some of my personal notes on the study of his works. Soon.