January 26, 2010

When heart matters!

I must confess that for me intent and spirit is far more important than the final product. If there is a film that has its heart at the right place, that is honest in its approach and execution, and that involves me emotionally, I prefer to ignore its flaws. Add to it some original thinking and a first-time filmmaker, and I am going to exalt the effort. So, this is what I intend to do here.

I watched 'Chintuji' when it released last year, in the theatre. And I re-watched it again today on DVD. I laughed. I cried. And I felt so good, I wanted to recommend it to everyone. There are flaws, no doubt about it. The screenplay has a side-track that could be totally avoided. And the execution suffers a little due to limited budget and lack of a top-class direction. But the writer-director has put together something that I will cherish forever. The song 'Akira Kurosaw', that I had mentioned in an earlier post has become my daily chant and the moment where 'Mera Naam Joker' finds its reference in the film, with the tune of 'Jaane Kahan Gaye Wo Din' playing over the pictures of Raj Kapoor, made me cry like a child. Watch the movie and you will understand what I mean. If you don't find it special, it's fine. But if you do, we'll have things to talk about.

Strongly recommended. Especially if what matters most for you is heart.

January 24, 2010

Getting Cinemate #10: Film-Noir

Film-noir (pronounced ‘film noah’, literally ‘the black film’) is a broad film genre. Although the precise definition is debatable, the typical film-noir is a stylish, crime drama portraying cynical attitudes and sexual motivations and commonly pessimistic endings. The classic Hollywood film-noir period was the 40s and 50s and black-and-white cinematography with low-key lighting was the most striking visual trademark. Some of the best films belonging to this period and genre were by masters like Alfred Hitchcock (Notorious), John Huston (The Maltese Falcon), Otto Preminger (Laura) and Orson Welles (Touch of Evil). However, some are of the opinion that various colour films of the later period and even some science fiction films belong to this genre. Sin City (2003) is considered a neo-noir film.

Perhaps the best example I can give to illustrate film-noir would be Sriram Raghvan’s Johnny Gaddar (2007). Notice the dark, criminal psyche of characters for whom we actually develop empathy in spite of their anti-social behaviour and action. And the moment it ends, it detaches itself from its characters, reminding us that it was the story of ‘bad’ people. The pessimistic end seems justified but we find ourselves empathizing with the characters. We actually empathize most with the biggest bastard. And it is all so overtly stylish and thrilling. Now, just imagine the same film in black-and-white, with shadows and silhouettes. That is classic film noir for you.

Getting Cinemate #9: Film Stock

The photographic film on which a motion picture is shot is called Film Stock. There have been two major trademarks for colour film stock and processes and all of us remember reading these among the opening credits: Technicolor and Eastmancolor.

Technicolor was the most widely used color motion picture process in Hollywood from 1922 to 1952. It provided with top saturated* levels of color and was used commonly for larger-than-life films like musicals, costume dramas, and animated films, e.g. The Wizard of Oz, 1939. But it required bulky equipment, more technicians, and a high budget. And it used a dye-transfer process that was time-consuming. So, it was replaced by Eastmancolor films when Eastman Kodak introduced it in the early 50s. It was cheaper and easier to develop.

But over the period it was discovered that Eastmancolor prints have tendency to fade and many of the films of the 50s and 60s have lost their visual splendour. Hence we hear of ‘restoration’ of old classics, which involves various options, one of which is using the Technicolor dye-transfer. Technicolor prints have more stable colours and are considered of archival quality. Also Technicolour negatives are more suited for transferring to video formats for home viewing. Even today, some films use Technicolor, esp. those set in the 1940s, e.g. Pearl Harbor, 2001.

P.S. Saturation measures the amount of a colour in its shades. For example, the colour red has increasing levels of saturation from reddish black to blackish red to very dark red to very deep red to brilliant red- the most saturated shade.