May 21, 2009

Persepolis, Metropolis and other Cities

Finally I caught 'Persepolis'. Had heard so many good things about the film and it still managed to surpass all my expectations. It has taken me years to realize the importance of animation movies. I have never found myself fascinated by the idea. As a result I never opened myself to this genre. Deciding to watch an animation was difficult. But whenever I went for it, I was satisfied, and impressed. It was only after 'WALL-E' although, and then 'Ratatouille' that I realized the importance of these films. Animation empowers you with the ability to tell stories that you could never imagine otherwise. It empowers the storyteller in you to go beyond all conventions and create a world nobody would have thought of. And then I saw 'Persepolis', an animation all right, but more than that, a political film, close to a social satire, semi-autobiographical and a treat for any lover of meaningful cinema. It is an important film, not just because of its political statement, but also for the future of cinema in general, and the animation genre in particular. Soon, I hope, the already diminishing line of divide between films will end. And instead of labeling a film as 'art' or 'commercial' or into a genre, we will all accept films as just good or not-so-good films. It is high time, an animation film gets nominated in the 'Best Picture' category as well, apart from the less celebrated 'Best Animation Feature' category.
By the way, 'Waltz with Bashir' is already with me, and I should be watching it soon.

Also saw Wim Wenders' 'Alice in the Cities'. Beautiful movie. It is one of those movies that make your day. It was sad to know that Yella Rottlander, who plays the little Alice in this 1974 film did not have much of a career as an actor afterwards. But in this film she was more than wonderful, one of the performances you are not likely to forget.

Finally, just today, I saw 'Metropolis'. I never had the guts to decide on a 2-hr long silent film made in 1927. But somehow, I managed to play it this morning. And man, it didn't let me bat an eyelid. It is more than 80 years old now. Perhaps my grandfather would have been a baby when it was released. And it still manages to connect. The performances are obviously melodramatic, but within a few minutes you are so well settled for it that it does not affect you at all. In fact, a film that finds a place in almost all 'Best Movies of All Time' lists, this German movie is a challenge for filmmakers of each era. Just go through the following facts about it:
  • Among the first Sci-Fi films of cinema history.
  • It would have cost more than Rs 1000 crores, if it were made today. (considering the inflation)
  • Inspite of being a silent film, it took two years to shoot.
  • It used more than 35,000 extras. (perhaps the most scary thing in its making- I remember shooting with 10,000 extras for one day in 'Lagaan' was such a pain for the crew)
Thankfully, this gem has been restored and we now have a version close to the original. I wish something like that could be done for our very own 'Neecha Nagar' (1946).

So, some great films have come my way these days. Or a better statement would be - I have found my way to some of the great works. The journey continues, Insha Allah....

P.S. Reportedly, 'Metropolis' was one of Hitler's favourite films. See, the power of cinema- one thing that both we and these historic personalities could share!

May 19, 2009

The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, Her Lover, Their Film and My Nightmare

Years ago, when I wasn't used to this class of cinema, I experienced 'Pink Floyd: the Wall' in the TV room of my hostel. A group of seniors had brought the DVD and I fail to reason how I could survive that visual exercise. Those were the days when I was not an avid cine buff and didn't even know that things that can be disgusting for us is acclaimed world over as art. And I still remember that nauseated feeling I had had watching the man licking his fingers straight from the shitpot.

As I discovered the beautiful, varied colours of world cinema, from all ages and across all continents, I got used to stuff which I had never imagined I would see on screen, or otherwise. After the inevitable 'Eraserhead', things became easier still. Tarantino's 'Grindhouse' followed. I grew comfortable watching transvestites acting strange (Polanski's 'The Tenant'), men making love to men (Wong Kar Wai's 'Happy Together'), old men out there to teach the world with some brutal 'games' (the 'Saw' series), someone eating a live octopus ('Old Boy'), twelve-year olds sucking human blood ('Let the Right One In'), and outrageous, psychopathic young adults with a terrible sense of humour ('A Clockwork Orange'). I remember when I narrated some scenes from 'Erasehead' to my mother, she was offended and blamed 'such' movies to have 'freaked' my mind. I can't even imagine what her reaction will be when she finds out these are the films I watch. (Although these are not the only movies I watch and the only reason of watching these is that I try to watch all kinds of films.)

But still. Last night I was shocked beyond anything. I always knew it was among the most controversial movies. I also remembered that the movie shows the cooking of a human body, in all its entirety. And yet, the experience it was! It just kept building up, till that final moment when our Mr Thief takes a bite of Mr Lover's body, a delicacy served to him by his Wife and cooked, obviously, by the Cook, a passionate French artist.

It was beautiful. The entire film. Very well shot. The colour scheme was a treat in itself. And I was amazed at how the director could manage this balance between a disgusting, disturbing content in this beautifully designed and packaged bottle. But I should admit that I had to go through what they say on the net about this film. I tried my best to understand why this film is celebrated. And I should admit even more honestly that I could not find a reason strong enough, apart from the shock value.

I do not know whether I am going to consider this movie among the good ones I have seen in my life, most probably not. But when they talk about those must-watch-before-you-die list of movies, I am sure this English film will find its way.

P.S. Statutory Warning: If you decide upon watching it, do not plan to eat during or around your movie experience.