Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Trial of Joan of Arc 1961

Bresson film has the virtue of brevity (this one sums up the historic trial in just an hour), but they do not yield to a single or a casual view. This film has a hypnotic effect, even in its apparent monotone and absence of overt drama. The film begins and ends with a movement of feet; at the beginning, those of her mother, proceeding to the restoration proceeding, and the end, as Joan is hurried, pushed or goaded towards the steps of the pillory. Human speech is underplayed and eliminated to a limit in all his films. Sound effects--a key turning in a lock, the sound made by a chain, a gun shot-- play an important part in his composition.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Lust for Life

An excellent biopic about Van Gogh. More than his life, it's a film that captures to an extent the transcendence of his painting. It is liberally interspersed with the canvases and the camera's palette imitates that of the painter. These paintings along with the environments in which they were created as well as the joyful musical score lead you into the universe of the artist. The main events and people in his life are presented in a straight forward way, and the narrative and excitement never flag.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Money 1983

A good man is transformed into a brutal criminal. The film is pure crystal: all that can be sheared is excised. A truthful person need not act. The absence of acting and expressed emotion does not imply none is conveyed: the camera itself  becomes a beast of coiled fury. Objectivity is what Bresson aims at. In telling a powerful tale, Bresson gives a cold visual narrative. Speech is minimal and monotone. Finally he gives us an experience of taut power, a story that is as incomprehensible as reality itself. Could this happen to anyone?

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Devil, probably...1977

Bresson, at age 70. A young man contemplates suicide. He finds life a demeaning reality. What is life, he asks? Insurance, a nine to five job, raising children, credit cards, installments, taxes, children etc He sees nature being wasted to technology, nuclear radiation hazards, missiles. The "masterpiece" is the thermonuclear weapon, capable of killing twenty million at one stroke. Yet he is not able to do it, to drown or shoot himself. Suicide is difficult, a psychoanalyst tells him, and that is why the Romans asked a friend to do it. But, he says, death appals him no less than life. Loss of life-force, sight, hearing, thought. A chilling film, and Bresson brings on the ultimate dilemma with great force, in his usual style of expressionless actor-models. A great film.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Haider2014..semi Bollywood

This brave new made by India Hamlet is the third in Vishal Bhardwaj's trilogy of films based on the plays. The constraints due to  audience expectation as well as Vishal's own artistic powers show through. As a cinema craftsman he catches the snow blanketed valley as well as the nuances of speech and accent and depths of Kashmiri culture. As a dramatist he manages to transmute the great play in which the particulars are reshaped but nearly all the contours are clearly preserved in splendid refraction. The political backdrop is incidental in this essentially human revenge drama. The fratricide and maternal infidelity is captured with great power. But Haider is no introspective and complex Hamlet: he is boy who explodes into manhood in the quest for revenge. To paraphrase a reviewer " may be deficient in the Hamlet department but it gives good Gertrude." Tabu is indeed in complete command of her role. What remains most in my mind is the intoxicating snow enveloped landscape and what I can only call the soul of this place I once visited in the depth of winter.

The climactic "pile of corpses" sequence is wonderful; it takes place in a Muslim snow clad graveyard sprawling with some dozens of bodies, and with many a twist of plot we see Ghazala aka Gertrude self immolating, not for political reasons but as an act of penitence.

Chutzpah: the pleading for mercy by a person who has killed his parents on the grounds that he is an orphan.