Carax’s Holy Motors

<Don’t read if you haven’t watched the film>

Yes, Holy Motors is inexplicable.

It can go both ways or any way for that matter (like the extent of its character’s tiresome practises to conjure up something holy for its audience to get entranced) and yes, it’s avant-garde.

But the “beauty of the act”, as reasoned by one of it’s actors for not giving up yet, (who is also a multi-purpose protagonist in the film) helps all the stories to be crafted into an entertaining phantasmagoria, that it is hard to dismiss it’s unconventional method with an uninterested eye. After all, the beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, heh. One of those films that opens an endless debate.

Carax

A film about film as made obvious to it’s proud French New Wave roots (casting Edith Scob and Michel Piccoli) and several questions about the medium itself (although he sensitively opposes that very idea here), Carax’s Holy Motors is a provocative story about a man who has many lives in a film that manages to create it’s own strange fictional world. Carax uses his actor(s) in a way to encapsulate moments from familiar stories, (stories/”appointments” that are strange, beautiful, unrequited, painful, deceitful and familial) that emanate from the screen to engage audience who wish to lose themselves in that moment (read: who don’t fuss about context/thickening the plot). In this repeated exercise it is suggestive that this actor gets tired of these appointments (a deeply contemplating Oscar stands tentatively outside his house’s door before his last appointment for the day) i.e., these human moments that we as actors stage upon ourselves (only difference being) in the absence of any cameras. Surreal, isn’t it? Or a wee bit confusing probably.

In fact, the snippets of stories in the film, as disconnected as they may seem, becomes (only obvious) one, that by the end we tend to relate them, for example, From dawn to dusk, a few hours in the shadowy life of Monsieur Oscar..” says IMDB.  Ah, how easy we would like things to be? But such readings have shortcomings that leave you far from what the film aspires to be.

But the real high point (for myself of-course) of Holy Motors is how it doesn’t try to get sentimental about the medium through which it is mediating (i.e., no standard plot, character sketches, etc.) and yet manages to engage the viewer. Ruthlessly unapologetic. Several instances the film acts like a suggestive  roman à clef from Carax like how he feels about the changing ways with which films are being made these days. In fact, the first scene is Carax waking up from his restless sleep in a dreary room to see what is going in films these days resonates with him trying hard to make this film from the 13 year break since Pola X as told by himself in every uncomfortable Q&A session he had to attend-

– A lingering sense of worry exists till the end and it seems heavy-hearted. Be it an old woman walking alone with confused discomfort in a busy street. Even the limousine cars have lives that they are worried to be replaced but goes about praying “Amen” in the end. Even a dying character after completing an “appointment” with high emotion, gets up and leaves unruffled but not before kindly asking the “real” name of it’s character’s nephew Lea (only to be joined with Kylie Minogue later for an unrequited love song). Probably films are an episodic appointment where we come for therapy to revive ourselves (?)- The audience seemed lost in the first few scenes.

Carax is strangely naughty when he is asking such doubts. There is a literal scene when Michel Piccoli questions Denis Lavant (who is named Oscar, which is actually Carax’s name in real) “Isn’t this nostalgia (about the size of cameras to believe in the medium) a bit too sentimental?” (This shot specifically, as many other shots in the film, is shot from inside a tight limousine corner by what could possibly be a camera whose size could only be lesser than that of a human head). Piccoli goes on to interject the film with a daunting morbidity about film being a surreal paradigm “Thugs don’t need to see the security cameras to believe in them” and raising a horrific doubt to the medium- what if there is no beholder to get mused by the beauty of the act? In simple words, are we living a film in which we just can’t possibly see the camera? Just possible isn’t it? Absolute.

The final song by Gerard Manset, “Revivre” sums up this feeling to the best.

{http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oq0OxtM93mk}

Catching Up #6

The fascination behind The Artist, for me, would be it’s unexpected charm with which it was entertaining (unendingly, so) and boy it just didn’t stop.

It’s hard to complain about life once you watch Valentin’s pet dog. 

More than just a lucky charm with Jean Dujardin in the lead I am now unable to think of anyone who would’ve waltzed the role with such heart-breaking affection. Probably Johnny Depp. Clooney’s eyebrows are lazy mostly. Probably someone/anyone from a TimBurton/JeanPierreJuenet film, maybe the Big Fish, yes a taller, thinner Danny De Vito perhaps. But this again could be (the reason for searching peculiar faces) due to the treatment of film in duscussion. A stage to shine one’s charm. The old-world showbiz talent. A picturesque emotional travelogue. That propelling “மிகைத்தன்மை” that punctuates the unique charm of an actor, also recently discussed in a NeeyaNaana show too, here, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSaBuRmVEU8&feature=related (commercial “exaggeration” vs. realism in cinema).

99 francs (2007), an unwittingly energetic look at the world of advertisement and art, is how I got introduced to Jean Dujardin. Eyebrows and eyes almost constantly communicating with an innocuously naive outlook at life that may dare question only when they meet someone more than just an acquaintance, more than just a walking, miming human being. Probably that’s how the film and it’s characters look at us, the audience, for a childish peck on the cheek. The Artist was pacing, no, almost dancing with an ease that it constantly brought up the question behind the dialogue narrative that came up later into films. Then you think, Dialogues just seem so tedious, don’t they?

puppeeee.


Just, look at that dog. Why would you want it to talk and mess up what you have? (IDEALISTICSIGH)


“It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.” Oscar Wilde.

Valentin’s stubborn art pride later smoothened by romance, Peppy Miller’s gamechanging peppiness and the suave reconciliation through dance, alltogether an adorable film it shaped by the end, that it was made for a loud applause and a happier audience. An unbreakable charm was the sole talent, with dialogues came more nuances to transform the art into something else that we see today. The film gives us many chances through these human silences, cartooning the drama and emoting through a constant adoration of both the art and it’s artists. How easily that driver Cliffon-Valentin friendship was sold. Was it because of the minimalistic effort? Many trinkets to wander about film philosophy and how this (still young) medium communicates with us. Some of them still in memory are- the beginning scenes where Valentin realizes that he has fallen for Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) dancing through a crowd, she might just not be another extra in his films that are predominantly silent, except for his loud charm to fill up the romantic stage or vice-versa when Peppy amuses herself in his changing room. An ingenious dream sequence where we understand Valentin’s confusion with the addition of atmospheric sounds, the key crux of the film, where the artist is lost in reality “out of the art” but in a dream. Like a blind painter able to see his paintings, stuck in delirious peril and utter inivisibility, something a blind person might consider as hell. 

Common place, The Artist is just adorable.

Valentin’s movies made a lot of money without having to open his mouth.

Dujardin’s ummm… did not do that well (32 million in U.S), but hey, he got an Oscar. (whatever that counts.)

Hugo took 150 million to make and it has made only 70 million, fetched 5 Oscars. (did you see a pattern? :O)

I also saw “A Separation”, after a long time a film that made me hold my breath, as Prakash here, http://clapsandboos.com/w/#article/20034f1e4708353875_37035656_01 writes in an unique dialogue, the film achieves an unbiased morality that hangs around long after it’s over. Lingering.

We also see Scorsese’s film late last year (another Oscar magnet that ended up with 5 Oscars) a cheerful adaptation of Brian Selznick’s book the Invention of Hugo. Another tribute to film and specifically to one of it’s pioneers. “The Father of Visual Effects”. Suddenly it’s not only just Woody Allen anymore with all the affectionate referencing.

The film’s initial scenes, the one where we end up with Hugo’s eye (at the “4” – it’s 7 o’ clock) checking on the station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) after floating through the station,almost like a train and the one where we end up with the toy store “Confiserie Et Jouets” (Confectionery and Toys) (more exactly the shop owner’s eye trying to disillusion/catch the boy about to pilfer, by luring him with a “toy mouse”) after he runs around settings that are wondefully mechanical, a crafty “panache”. The boy slides down a ladder, skates winding down (almost like a play pen), climbs up a winding staircase in a house of complex clockwork. An eye to the Montparnasse station, somewhere in Paris is where Robert Richardson invites us to.

Selznick’s fictional character Hugo is an orphan who “fixes” clocks at a raliway station in Paris (late 1920s-early 1930s). His father (played by Jude Law)dies in a fire accident (shown in the film “by opening a closed door” in the museum) but only after inspiring Hugo on fixing a broken automaton he had discovered. Later, Hugo is taken care by his alcoholic uncle Claude Cabret who also dies after teaching him how to fix clocks. All though, he later ends up “fixing” something else of greater interest.

As the plot moves forward, we find Hugo meeting Isabelle, a girl who lives with this old toy shop owner along with his wife. Later the boy’s (and girl’s) adventures in the station under the strict eye of Inspector (under-used) lead them to know more and more about this strange old shop owner and his magically mysterious past. Yes, George Melies! and Yes, Ben Kingsley!

Isabelle and Hugo. (HEARTshapedKEY)

From libraries to actual Melies film footage, Scorsese actually takes us back in time or rather enlightens us about the earliest pioneers of the medium. Melies saw film as an imaginative illusion, but what’s more interesting is his length of imagination. Well, least said, he went to the moon long before everyone did, the first sci-fi film ever.

Moreover, in the relation to the film, it’s interesting that the automaton’s that appear in the film were real. (shows the length of Scorsese’s perfection). Here Selznick himself is baffled.

Melancholia.

This time it was that glorious epiphany-type connect. From reading Stephen Davis’ Morrison biography Life, Legend, Death to highlighting the books Morrison used to carry with himself wherever he went, to reading one of them i.e. Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil and finally being led into the very mind-numbing evil itself, yes, Lars Von Trier.

Incidentally, when I was reading Neitzsche’s B and E, Chap. III p.47 where he talks about religious moods and saints,

"in the background of the most recent philosophy, that of Schopenhauer, we find almost as the problem in itself, this
terrible note of interrogation of the religious crisis and awakening. How is the negation of will POSSIBLE?
how is the saint possible?—that seems to have been the very question with which Schopenhauer made a start
and became a philosopher. And thus it was a genuine Schopenhauerian consequence, that his most convinced
adherent (perhaps also his last, as far as Germany is concerned), namely, Richard Wagner, should bring his
own life− work to an end just here.."

Perhaps what’s more interesting is this thematic cloud that Trier has chosen to end the world with.

Earlier this year, Ebert recorded in his journals, that of Trier’s Cannes visit, as neutrally as he tries, there seems to be a confident dismissal of a crazy nut of a man , just like how Trier has chosen to dismiss almost everything in this world crazy nut of a world, his films being exceptions. The journal ends with how the crowd wished for Malick to be present and Trier to go away. If only Malick shows up people would know his art upheaval and versions of the world. Who knows what that can bring up? Melancholia certainly more than matches up the positivism and humanity yearned for in Tree of Life.

Trier is one of those very few sincere ones hoping for an apocalyptic 2012, if not praying solemnly for it, in blue melancholy. In terms of recurring philosophy, one must be content that Mr. Trier is one of those stubborn upon his existential explanation, clear if not confident about his clinical depression and for what it’s worth, he had all his fun on that crazy drunken night that Antichrist was. For post-Antichrist, I honestly thought he had lost all coherence. A sense of reassurance atleast with respect to that, in Melancholia. Ofcourse, given to the highly unsociable Trier and his stubborn individualistic viewpoints, this sci-fi film is remotely conventionally-sci-fi. One cannot expect a city from War of the Worlds to be ransacked and thousands of people thrown around crying.

Trier’s two-part drama is, visually, his most stunning work. In fact, this time, he made what he wanted to see, for real, the bigger picture of it all. The extinction of it all, the futility behind it and the execution grandiose finale- a sense of receiving, a coming to the audience. The film begins with what seems to be paintings/aural visuals in motion (an arbitrary kitschy tool in Antichrist and a failed one now it seems), the beautiful bride forced/pulled to the Earth by roots of nature, mankind accepting impending doom, which comes through the dance of a deadly but friendly blue planet (much bigger than the Earth) crashing onto the Earth, destroying it or rather dissipating it into the oblivion. So, to sum-up, an astronomical apocalypse with a dash of Kubrick-an audacity and excerpts from Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde in the background. Then, he would start rendering his story around this.

The film comes with a newly-wed couple Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgård) struggling to turn around a long white limo, uphill a winding road and each has to take their turn (the driver, the husband and the wife) before they arrive late to their wedding party in what appears to be a big estate of sorts where her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) lives with her husband John (Kiefer Sutherland) and son Leo. Just when you think whatinthefucksname, Trier gets uncomfortably close to the Hollywood Wedding Movies stupor involving speeches and toasts. If you closely notice there are hardly 10 tables around (Trier can’t manage more than that I guess).

But in all this he quietly dispositions all that is about to crumble. All it needs is a drunk dad, Dexter played by John Hurt to talk about his marriage-on-the-verge to the public. His wife gets up calling it a load of crap firstly into his accusations and gets into more about the lack of ambition in Justine, which as a domineering mother she publicly appreciates in Claire. Charlotte Rampling as Gaby, the critical mother fueling sibling-complex, trying to pull down Justine on her own marriage, calling it something that should be enjoyed while it lasts. While Claire simultaneously proud of her mother’s public comment about she arranging a fabulous “partay” comes around to take control, she shouts back at her mother’s speech when she goes over board“Why did you even bother coming”  perhaps John’s friends are there because he’s seen munching in controlled anger. Note: John calls both his wife’s female family members, bitches, to his own wife. Soon you’ll know the interludes that connect this wonderfully fucked-up family.

As Trier breaks his knuckles one by one of the familial bourgeois-dysfunctional, one becomes aware of all that’s selfish and exists as a farce in a family(Festen?). Before you know it, a deep-set ground-reality along with melancholy sets within the bride (clinically depressed) and nothing would change this, not even a husband in love and is willing to express his care, not even a lucrative , prospective career offer in advertising (Stellan Skarsgard in a cameo-corporate, Jack), not even a drunken-happy-bear-of-a-dad who knows only to desert his daughter on her wedding night for buxom women who go by the name Betty before the dessert’s been set.

There is a high point of humour underneath all this, perhaps that’s where all the melancholic grief could be yielded, for the depressed could laugh at the pointlessness of it all. Marriage, Money, Family , Sex disregarded distributed, Art carelessly rearranged even Science suicidal in shame.

The second act pulls the duality seen between Claire and Justine to the center-stage. Earlier with respect to the chaos reigns, the bean lottery, considered as a man made chaos game, Udo Kier (as an insignificant butler) when explaining that there were 678 beans and no one guessed it right (all the guests came pretty close), this incredibly trivial matter seems to be thrown away and somehow comes up in the second act- an intentional calibration. The other would be John, a fellow-manager of the apocalypse, giving hope to Claire-like people, the intelligent scientific man who studies things, almost proud and humble at the same time watching Melancholia pass away, but can’t live minutes watching it approach. (Nietzsche’s satyr?). Also among many things came an astrological reference, when Justine finds Taurus missing in the constellation, sitting on Abraham (the horse), reminds us that Kirsten Dunst ,who also appears to be in depression while shooting and Lars von Trier share the same sun sign (Taurus), oh wait same birthday.

As the knowing of the impending dawns, it’s interesting how Claire tries to exist. It was all about wailing and crying with her son’s future held in her arms and a whole run around the estate in futility and exhaustion. In fact, till the very end, Claire seems to suffer with Melancholia’s arrival, as all three (Justine, Claire and Leo) are washed with it’s blue atmosphere. Even Justine claims she tried earlier in human normalcy- she kindly asks, “Well, what did you expect?” to Michael about her marriage and meekly asserts “Well, I tried” to her sister about her trying to be happy. Everyone tries, some give up sooner than most.

As a melancholic pristine Justine watches over suffering humanity, Claire, nascent innocence (Leo) has it’s eyes closed. Melancholia crashes, silence. Trier really has made his statement this time. Well, he tried.

We could choose to be Michael and gracefully shoulder our coats over and walk away.

Depression could be understood, not shared, or atleast one can hope.

Sigh, Meanwhile, Watch this, TRIERchuckle.

Paint it Black.

So, here’s that film that had enough trouble and pre-release buzz (52 cuts and that Rajini-Kamal inuendo?) and post-release it’s getting trouble for it’s originality in question?  Man.

This film had a lot of buzz to get the cinephile critic in every enthusiastic film-lover/film-watcher/self-acclaimed-film-connoisseur “up and about” (too much up could do good but too much about negates the whole purpose) to bring about his Tarantino (poor guy leave him alone, already!) and Guy Ritchie (like as though these templates belong only to him) comparisons to get his expectations alive again and quick yardscale measurements to decide whether or not it can be termed as a classic.  Ah Shut it please. When was the last time you have seen anything pay so much attention to tamil pulp and pop culture with such vibrant character dimensions and rich black humour? And oh all of a sudden you became too good for this?

I came about this tweet the other day. 

This is the sad truth and one must really try to come out of that narcotic phase. Hollywood creates more crap manufactured mundaneness than anyone in the world, atleast compared to the huge new wave of Tamil films that appear in much better sense . A thoughtless claim such as a Tarantino-inspired take is a tight slap on Thiagarajan Kumararaja, who took the pains to bring/make the film here with you-know-what-all obstacles. Getting minute referential pleasures is one thing but obsessive correlation thinking it improves their perspective is, sad.

Kumararaja has given a unique film to come in a long time and that yellow black template would reach cult status,if not now then maybe a few years later. More than tagging it as the FIRST TAMIL NEO-NOIR , this film has such hilarious intent at the saddest points. That, in exactness builds the generics of any Black Comedy, though here, it takes a while to set in-  its own sweet time.

That piano note that lingers. Remember?
This is going to stay with you for a long time.

Then there are references of it being a part of Ramayana and all those animal names. (Pity, a director can’t even name his film’s title a little off the charts without pre-release tagging ?(worst kind)) Meh. Don’t care. There are other fascinations that make the film an utter pleasure to silently watch, listen and laugh out loud with a bitter tone of sadness, as an aftertaste. Now that doesn’t come easy. Probably on the likes of a 90’s Kusturica classic. Do I tell about the number of timely Ilayaraja hits that slowly surround you ? Or  about the pimped-up black low-rider with red-seat covers that occupies most of the first half? Or about the one stop-slow clap one liners? STOP reading this GO WATCH NOW.

The film starts with a wall painted with yellow rings on a black background (or maybe its a wallpaper). That room is apparently like a lion’s den. The film returns back to the same room repeatedly during the course of a secret romance between Sappai (Ravi Krishna) and Subbu (Yasmin Ponappa), who seem to be the only domesticated in-house beings. Jackie Shroff as Singamperumal? Nope not impressed actually. He worked more as a quirk comic relief (Oh, and what was that face grin? A roar was it? BAD.) I wonder why Nasser wasn’t called. He would’ve been fabulous , perhaps an effortless sweep too (No need to get nude and all :P). A Bharathiraja could’ve made it more entertaining.

Anyways, going further into the film with the gangster’s car is like strolling casually with Kumararaja’s well conceived subplots brought into an exhibition through yellow lights from his black silhouettes (Ex: Kodukkapalli and his son, drinking with the “powder”-peddler). In fact, in the initial scenes we see the characters emerge from dark shadows as a talkative gang member sets up ‘interesting’ stories about his aunty adventures. Both Sappai and Pasupathy take presence before you know when. These people have been there. They have been listening to the stories as well. Just like us. The virtual audience. That’s why when Pasupathy shouts to interrupt the gang member’s vulgar comedy, you immediately understand it. There is some sort of gravity, a story , a deal-to- be-made involved. Such efforts taken for lighting as though they took place on a stage. (So here is where one applaudes P.S.Vinod like as though you’ve known him for life :P).

Then again, there, on the table, you see a huge empty liquor bottle they sit around, to talk. A modulated man-shop-talk on libido; voiced just high for everyone around the table to get the joke and low enough to not disturb their sex-hungry, impotent boss. Probably that’s the table they sit around daily. You see that the entire film. Attention to detail like these make the setting and the happening of Kumararaja’s story an instantly believable and delicious pastiche of different pop-cults but made only with his salt and spice for taste. Look at the tea stalls he stops with you. The songs that he has chosen to linger at the back of your ear. The settings of Singaperumal’s house. Cycles and Rusty cars everywhere , the ice-cream trolley and oh, that lonely PCO section of a departmental store. These are his elements.

Also, such words out of his pen is not only commendable achievement as a writer (Oram-Po’s dialogues remember?) but also a subtle plotter. A loud speaker phone as a plot-moving device? Wow. (bring your Tarantino-talks now). There is a scene just after the second half that builds a chase sequence. Here, as Pasupathy runs with jarring slow-mo and alternating visual cuts with the BGM jumping from what seemed to be a Massive Attack song and the original BGM score with diegetic sounds, he also conscientiously narrates on the daily course of action. An action in need. The need of the hour. Now there is one of the many director’s loud cheers to popular culture in noir film. Not to mention the elaborate Mariachi music that accompanies the bloody gang fight. This I believe doesn’t belong only/even to Tarantino. It is the sweet sound of violence washed away by blood.

This piece named as “Kodukkapuli and Kaalai 2” by YSR probably , again, ‘probably’ reminds you of Jean Pierre Juenet’s films.
But in short Yuvan has done it this time, all though I wish he had done something about those long silences (Some where a little too long). But I don’t know about how the director sees it. He tells in an interview that he sweeps you off your feet. I don’t think I did. But more interesting things happen in that chain of interviews.

Here you can see how sad cinema media has become. In each of the director short crisp replies lie his pride on his work to avoid such redundant questions. In fact you can actually tell what her (the host) next question would be.

Sampath as Pasupathy is in total comfort. Now there’s potential to be fully used. Later into the film, he is the one telling the story to you (interesting that the narration starts late into the film) about his animal adrenaline thoughts of survival from other animals that are closing on him (Two elephants and a lion, hilarious if you think like that- one should STOP it). But the match winner surely is Somasundaram (Kodukkapuli’s dad) What a find. (and here is where one uses extragavant adjectives to describe the child artist talent, “Veyyil” Vasanth. Like Singamperumal tells. “Beautiful.Wonderful.Marvellous.”). Yasmin’s accent is a mood-killer obviously after such beautifully free flowing galeej tamil from the gang, which in importance builds the conversational narrative that the film treads on. Gajenderan and Gajapathy so and so. Someone with an eye for low-budget-effective casting. You would’ve seen for yourself (Assuming you’ve watched).

Other than occasionally testing your patience, the film is cleverly pushing the story of THAT unfortunate day of an aging don. End of Story. Don’t look too much for your mind’s eye may get spoiled.

After all the claims that this was an offbeat violent drama or something (all unnecessary buzz), it is clearly visible that is in fact good commercial cinema that has been sold. In fact I thought this could’ve just been a Venkat Prabhu film (you know, like Saroja) if he had gotten all serious.

A film that doesn’t need to make sounds with it’s credits. A clear must watch. A homage to tamil pop culture painted with shades of black.

And at others who constantly find the need to compare films with each other, First, how does one measure a film readily whether it’s a CLASSIC or not? , Second, how could you possibly LOOK for something in a film that happened in another film? (I mean wouldn’t that be stupid of the director,plus I guess he knows the better side of film . Maybe if you watch a film with pre-conceived notions you’re watching more than you are shown.) Third, if you want to compare references , there are many film quizzes. Do go take part, win something and feel happy yourself , thanks.

BiutIFUL.

So what does one do after trying to explain in an accident, connecting and interconnecting incidents in a chaos that just might be too hard to completely and satisfactorily justify in just three films? He goes on by getting salvation from all the explaining he had done earlier. Biutiful is Inarittu‘s meditation and Javier Bardem‘s Uxbal was the on screen messiah he chose to convey all those human accidents that occur in a man’s day-to-day pulsating life, no matter what could possibly happen on the outside world. An introvert‘s film.

What can speed his narrative process? By letting the man die. He in fact says he is in free fall. The concept of making the protagonist a dying man sets an emotional fulcrum for a better pace in storytelling. All characters seem to live on screen. But here is someone making his onscreen living count. We are all dying anyways, it is same as living. We all sleep in an omnipresent paranoia, but here is a man who is coming to terms with his deep sleep.

But surprisingly the film is paced in its own melancholy its dealing with. A dying man. It is weird that I felt it was the most disarming Inarittu film I have seen. It seemed like an expansion on Sean Penn’s Paul River, the dying mathematician segment. There is the difficulty in urinating, an Inarittu symbol of hopeless helplessness which decides the rock bottom of human ego. This was seen in Babel too, where Cate Blanchett’s Susan Jones had the same trouble and Richard (Brad Pitt)helps her and thereby reaffirms their love.

So, the man is going to die. He begins to see himself for what he believes and loves. He tries to forgive his bipolar wife, Maramba,(manic depression)and who is currently sleeping with his brother. He wants to bring back those days in the photos, those back-in-the-days moments. He starts to realize , “Has it become too late?”, when it really has become too late. The film travels to a silent, familiar place. A place where Gustavo Santaolallo’s non-diegetic sounds subscribes magic as you begin to suffer a familiar voyeuristic fever. A place where Inarittu’s childlike interconnecting puzzle game, invests your interest into the life of a Senegalese mother Ige and her husband Ekweme more than for what it’s worth. A place where you care, just like any other 10 year old girl’s birthday needs to be remembered by her, as her long lasting memory.

There is this character, a neighbour of sorts, who appears in the film. Her name is Bea , (it could be us too) and Uxbal (Bardem)cries to her out of sheer futility. There is no one else in the film he willingly tells about his prostate cancer, except her and/or us. There in, the film becomes personal and later, the film almost gives full space to Bardem in every way you could possibly think as it begins to intensify with a sense of cathartic intent, making every second of his face count. There are subtle surrealistic images thrown out in the open right from the beginning. It reminds you of Morrison’s face of death, which  has almost become a believable myth “that people start seeing people as they near death, a vision into their inevitable future”.

It still feels like Bardem’s best was The Sea InsideUnlucky for Inarittu, actually. Almost the same human demons to be dealt with. But it is fascinating that this Bigas Luna boy toy character is able to carry a whole film on his own with just his face. Yes,it is not quite just his charm, but an unforgettable face that forces you to give attention to Bardem for whatever creases he makes on his forehead, eyes et al , never ceases to throw you off the emotional field that the film constructs.

The film begins and ends with a conversation that has underlying emotions. That sums up the whole film. Underlining with emotions. There is not much in the surface to read.

Life is as biutiful as however way we want to spell it and ofcourse however much we are willing to read into it.

But Why, Jeff?

Its almost a test of character when it comes to even think of writing about films such as Le Samourai. What do you say ? Do you surrender and endorse yourself in your lucrative advertisement or criticize it with your constructive memories which destructs the reader’s salvation from emotional free flow? Or rather criticize it without personal opinion but only academic/technical intent and have a take at the film cold-hearted in its heart. Temenuga Trifonova sums it as a cult film due to its cool existential gloom after much dissection on Jef’s character nemesis, a ritualistic suicide and its relationship with earlier Japanese and American films. You need to think for a word before you think of a word. This film in its redundant uncanny behaviour of putting you in a spell, makes you realise where you are, who you are and more importantly it gets you thinking, just like how this angel of a hitman questions his own belief when he finds out a witness for his murder had helped him . It is not enough said when I tell that almost every scene in this film is near perfection, but to specify the beginning 10 minutes of the film is the most talked about on screen minutes, ironically so, that none of the characters that come and go around Jeff’s silent but silently moving life, DO NOT talk.

Melville makes you think and convinces you that it is mere suggestive exposition that cinema does in it’s best form. A man. Taciturn. Plain faced, with eyes that seem to have the need to talk when he looks at the mirror everytime, but is willing and more than happy to make others talk. A hat. A caged bird. A room , a room where a man seems to live or maybe caged. No, he mostly smokes and drinks water. Again, the hat sits on the stand unless its on his head. Creased by fingers that pull the trigger more so often than you would believe. It is a practice. A pattern of perfection , that suggests in you on who you would be watching for the next 1 and half hours or so.But why the gun? Why does that pop in your head? In fact why does he need to be bad at all in the first place. Anybody can live alone in a room drinking water and smoking cigarettes. Does the silence make you curious ? Or does your curiosity make what you look ominous/dangerous? Even without earlier 1930 noir  templates, Melville’s Le Samourai suggests compulsively in our deepest emotions. Curiosity.

Delon as Jeff

Even so for not the trench coat and hat, Melville makes Jeff Costello horribly visible for someone who needs to be invisible in an unrealistic way, yet so believable which makes the film and Costello in it ,walk and talk like a dream. He throws him out there in the streets of his beloved France (Paris) that the man walking with the trench coat and the hat does belong to the streets but in an alien manner. His street dull blue and building grey makes the brown and chestnut of Costello’s legend almost like a 3D character coming out of a postcard Paris. Yes, the silhouettes and the subways just got added to your Noir dreams. This film was anticipatory of Taxi Driver. But does Bickle‘s soliloquy run across Jef’s mind? No, ’cause Jef’s job as an assassin defines who he is rather than a motive or a higher socio-economic status he aspires to.

It is quite obvious the variations that had followed Melville’s films considering the incredible inspirations (Tarantino to John Woo) in terms of pacing and cinematography, but Le Samourai still makes you think it might’ve just been the most unique film you had watched proving yet again the creativity’s scope is unlimited for the treatment and not the material. The confrontation scene where Costello gets shot is action in its primal form. No unnecessary cuts. It is brought to screen to be witnessed by a passing train. Among these intermittent genius,were those extra few seconds that linger, those heavy shadows lovingly left to sink in, those Alain Delon’s eyes, those Nathalie Delon’s eyes and hair, that slimy cop and yes that Piano Player. Its almost magical. In reference with the final scene, it makes you believe that in this world, people who are intimidated are habituated in being calm and composed. A similar scene when Costello again confronts the guy who shot him –

“Nothing to say?”

“Not with a gun on me”

“Is it a principle?”

“A habit”

It makes you ponder on Tarantino‘s confession on why he makes film, because he loves making films. Its simple, honest love.  Two cops entering the room when the silent ,Samourai wasn’t there, is highly personal and the care with which the scene floats makes you fall for film. A bigger, more identifiable listening device is fixed ,then the policeman think through just like the audience ,understands the intelligence of the Samourai in question and replaces it by a tinier device. Whether it would do justice is another question, but what care and what love.

The more interesting thing about Le Samourai is how dynamic the film is, with its pace almost non-existent physically but hiding behind your ears and whispering intent slowly like a close friend/well-wisher in these dark times for you and of course from him, Jeff Costello. Why did the Piano Player help by not identifying him at the witness gathering ? If the people who hired him are paranoid of his existence maybe she is with them keeping an eye for them , a pity for him. Or maybe not. Maybe there is a bit of that unrequited love omnipresent. These are the questions that built the genre of noir, the questions that have been made as moving images , transformed into many sub-genres alike and different. The questions drive the dynamic of the character and thus, the film.  As Costello figures out , you figure out that you have already fallen for this dear film, making you think and more importantly making you care even after all these years of film that you’ve watched and lived by.

People have compared the film with many, but, I sensed it as something close to Antonio’s arthouse exhibition in Blow-up. Jane’s (Vanessa Redgrave) carefree head and shoulders when the Jazz tape plays seemed to Thomas (David Hemmings) as a reflection of questions for the murder he might/might not have witnessed, but here almost polarisingly different but in the same doubt is Jeff for the witness , the piano player is carefree playing the jazz piano setting up a surreal climax in “But why , Jeff?”. This would remain the eternal interrogative. The perpetual haze of all those dark nights the Samourai suffers in living, finding souls for prey and searching for an unforgettable memory and unattainable love.

The jazz piano will always remain as noir’s poet.

Catching up #3

So here finally after a long break , many films gone by and totally changed/discovered  paths.

The Oscars are done , as predictable as ever and this time you could actually see the rebellious idol in Franco’s presence , totally bored out of the whole damned process and yes there were hilarious spoof-ups that he was actually stoned and Anne Hathaway was on a LSD trip. If only that was true , Enter the Void would’ve received atleast a nomination. Heh, to actually look back that Void made to the top 66 foreign films in itslef is satisfactory achievement by the Academy.

King’s Speech winning was as predictable as an enthusiastic cinephile’s claim that he/she is an ardent Scorsese fan, like common get over it! My only regret (not much of a regret but a small wish) could’ve been that The Fighter could’ve won the best picture just because of the crew’s effort in making the film. Predicted Portman came and did her piece of on-stage drama , now you really can imagine Franco watching all this and not mentioning co-hosting with a cheery loud noise @ his side the entire time. Pity him. Seriously what was “the drag act” all about ? What were they thinking?

The month ended as predicted but “Uncle Bonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” , directed by the Thai auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul would remain in my mind for atleast a decade or so. A meditation of sorts to your senses and the eyes in particular that photography plays an important role in this stand-out director’s images. The film was a spectacular find last year and gaining critic attention this year to dumbfound everyone by its constant nature to find more and more as you watch it more and more. It works in amazing ways.

Uncle Bonmee

Believe me it is quite tough to top the Koreans when it comes to the dish-best-served-cold. Bedevilled unfolds in the most mundane rude manners of a Seoul corporate chick looking to chill out in her friend’s island. Truths unfold in uglier proportions than you would expect and a close knit familial revenge is justified in BokNam’s (the Chaser victim) sorry state. A clear must watch.

Bedevilled

If the previous was must watch , then what do I tell about “I saw the Devil”? It is the director of “Bitterweet Life” again wielding this time a legendary rapist killer, Geongchul Jang’s (Played by Min-sik Choi of “Oldboy“(plays Oh Dae Su) fame)torturous ride of soul searching experience in an operatic, yet slowburning format that sure is to reach cult status in no time, especially the close-up body combats. Min-sik Choi is almost 50 and still puts the evil so easily through his devil eyes. Running time almost 2 and a half hours and still you would dare not leave your seat. This time its the “Catch and Release” torture ploy, the protagonist’s fulfilling search for a complete justified revenge quench.

I Saw The Devil

It is said that “Battle Royale” is clearly the most revolutionizing film ever. Atleast in its intent that it gathers by putting a group of middle school students in a deserted island to defend themselves by forcefully killing their competition is not quite the fun to digest nor watch as a story that builds to a unacceptable climax. But what Fukasaku’s film does is to explain in one-liners what a surreal film it wants to be. A beautifully disturbing watch, in fact there is a bit of humour hidden in every scene.

Battle Royale