These are some of the ideas which I collected after some thinking and looking around, about the movie Babel. If you have not watched it, you are advised to not read further. I am writing this mainly for the group of friends I went along to watch the movie. By the way, it is both a baffling and beautiful movie at the same time.

1. The three threads in the movie, are all brilliant human stories touching us with delicate moments. The Japanese storyline is infact the one I liked most. The disco scene was wonderful. Note that all three storylines have different color palettes and background sounds. The camerawork is brilliant, many scenes manage to stay in the memory (esp. the Tokyo ones, younger brother shouting at the cops hands raised, the maid breaking down and crying before the indifferent cop, etc). It is also a notable point that the moroccan and the Mexican stories end bitterly, the American ends almost happily and the Japanese one in an indeterminate state. This makes them more life-like stories. (Yes, the Mexican one is a little bit stretched, but who knows what happens to border crossers.)

2. Babel means confusion. (It is also refers to an old Christian story which everyone knows about.) As the name suggests, the movie is about failure to understand and the failure to convey ourselves clearly to another. The deaf-mute being the most straight forward example. Having lost an infant son to SIDS, the American couple are probably struggling with their guilt and grief. (SIDS according to wikipedia, can cause parents to feel a lot of guilt). Failure to convey and understand each other’s mental state was the possible reason of their strained relationship. The Japanese girl and father are similarly not able to help each other. Also, the girl is in more trouble because everyone except the kind policeman have trouble realizing what her actions mean (esp. the dentist). The Americans and Mexicans have their own version of misunderstanding each other because of the filters of intolerance, distrust.

3. Are you wondering that problems of miscommunication are not mainly due to language barriers in this movie? Husband and wife, father and children are the ones having trouble conveying each other. The arid desert in Morocco understood the call of distress immediately. Modern Tokyo is still having trouble understanding the distress signals of its deaf-mute daughter (because of her inability to convey it properly?). Strangers from different worlds tend to understand each other when their own are not (Remember rest of the Americans leaving the couple to fate).

4. Apart from all this, what did Chieko’s note say in the final scenes? I still have no clear idea, but these are the general ideas floating around: a) The note says that she killed her mother b) A suicide note c) a confession about the truth of her mother’s death and apology. I personally thought that the note was a suicide note. (In which she would jump out of the window as she explained). The cop’s kindness has probably made her not do it. I cannot really see the reason for (a). Anyway since the director thinks the contents are immaterial, I would consider it as her final attempt at conveying herself to someone, after all her earlier utter failed ventures.

5. Is all this instantly clear from the movie? No, that is why I wrote the movie is baffling. Its left to our intrepretation. There are lots of other small themes which I omitted (Like everyone lost someone to death in the story arcs, the butterfly effect: one small act of kindness resulted in so much loss and chaos.) This is also why analysis makes no sense. It spoils the fun too. Well, the movie’s name is Babel for no reason. But hey, it sure was fun to write this much. One thing is for sure though, I enjoyed the movie very well. But certainly not more than 21 grams. Some notable reviews are listed below which I came across:

NyTimes: Faces are better understood than words. (And goes into the details of the shots and camera angles)

Slate: Globalization is God’s weapon against the tower of Babel (Or how an American weapon destroys lives across the globe…ugh, but its a point of view.)

DenverPost: Interesting. Butterfly effect and the cynical world. And they like it better than 21 grams!

Rolling Stone : They are stunned by the movies complexity. After all, the story spans 4 countries, a number of languages, and races and still works. And look at the sheer quality brought about by its truely international cast.

Happy Christmas

December 25, 2006

to you all.

My thoughts as usual.

1. Phillips SHP 805 headphones. Alexy’s. Since I discovered them, the poor guy had to literally fight with me each time to actually listen to something. So I got out this weekend and with some support from my roommates I finally bought them. (finding them was tough). 1150 bucks of pure blissful sound*. So my friend, here is my unplanned christmas gift to you, your right to listen to music on your headphones any time you wish 🙂

2. Another great christmas gift that I saw presented: Gifting each other a chance to actually meet each other in person. After a year or so. Top that!

3. So why does VH1 show all that reality bullsh*t? They are so good when they actually play music. Whatever happened to storytellers? Infact, VH1 Classic is the best that TV offers nowadays imo. Why do they need “Pimp my Ride”?

4. Tina Turner discovered! 🙂 “What’s love got to do with it?” and especially “We don’t need another hero”. My incredible ignorance in music is only matched by the happiness I feel when I think about the infinitely large musicscape left for me to explore. 🙂

5. Motorcycle diaries is a great movie. Watch it somehow. Please.

6. This whole, numbered list thing is working so well**. Why ever did I not think of it earlier? And yes, I am trying to hold that story in my mind, while trying to get to sit still with a pen and paper in hand.

*If any audiophiles are around, suggest me good headphones below 2k (If you think SHP805 is not the best one available) and I will be eternally grateful. I am not into ear/canal phones,Too risky for hearing according to a good friend. And ya, sennheizers at Apple showroom are a bit too hot to handle.

**No chalams about whole numbers please.

International Film Week

June 15, 2006

Me, SB and a mutual friend of ours were keenly following the International Film Week that is going on in Bangalore.

Even though we missed the first three movies, we will make it 4 out of 7 when we watch The Beat That My Heart Skipped today evening. The three movies that we watched were all good.

The Emperor's Journey was the first movie/documentary we saw. It follows the annual march of the Emperor Penguin to the place where they breed and bring up their young. Shooting anything in those hellish conditions in Antartica must be regarded with respect. For this, they must have spent months in those conditions. The narration was in French (subtitled) and was surprisingly from the point of view of the penguins. Which is justified when you see, really how much effort and sacrifice goes into raising those cute little penguins. All those mothers from Hindi movies who keep repeating how they suffered for 9 months might want to watch this.. 🙂 Ofcourse no disrespect meant to human mothers and fathers, but this film will surely bring tears to their eyes. For us boys, we can open our mouths wide and wonder at how complex nature can be. And those li'l ones are so cute. If I had fridge, and a freezer wide enough to have an ocean, I will maybe keep one as a pet!

The next movie was King's Game (Danish). This was a political thriller which exposes how complex and cheap the power-game can get. But in stark contrast to Hollywood or Hindi movies, there are no guns, explosives, drugs, sex or financial scams worth the GDP of a small country. The acting was amazing, nothing felt out of place. But you know, if you keep reading our newspapers, I don't think you will regard anything in the movie as thrilling 😉 But it is depressing to know that bad people are there everywhere.

Barbarian Invasions (Canada – French) was the story of a dying old father. His family and friends come together at the time of his death (brought together by his son) and we get to know interesting facets of their lives. The movie was funny as hell at times. Nothing too sentimental, sad, funny and satisfied at times, this movie also stands out for some good acting and extremely good dialogues (even though subtitled).

Although I am yet to see the last one, (I will update that later) all these movies were like good appetizers; clearing the track for some more movie goodness from abroad. They will surely help beginners like me to keep the interest and widen one's range in movies. All the hellian traffic and skipping dinner is justified after those two hours well spent. Hats off to the organizers.

Details: Today is the last show (I guess), at Pallavi theatre: 6.30 and 8.30 PM. The theater is near Kanteerava stadium.

Stalker

May 16, 2006

I have been trying to fight off this enormous lack of interest that has crept into my system. My general policy about writing is 'if it is not fun enough to rant about any subject, I will not'. (The vice versa rule might be added by a less lazy person)

There were a lot many very interesting moments that happened in my life in the last 4 months. Plain lazyness has kept me from writing about them. And even on the last post, all I could manage was post something I wrote back in November. So this is to be considered to be a step for my war against lazyness.

As always, Collective chaos came up with a classy menu for their film festival in February. Named "Tarkovsky Retrospective", it tried to showcase the great Russian director's work. Due to timing issues I could not watch the great Solaris or Nostalghia, but I managed to watch 'Mirror' and 'Stalker'.

Mirror, is a strange movie, and is not easily understood. You have to watch it to know what I mean. It is no fun writing about it 😉 . There were a lot of small scenes which touched my heart, though.
Imagine a man standing in a paddy(?) field. Quite far away. A gentle breeze descends on the field beyond the man and a ripple slowly drifts towards us. As it reaches the man, he raises his hands to feel it. When the wave finally reaches us (camera), we almost feel the shiver of cold, or atleast wish to feel it.

The movie was generally biographical, and it describes the author's interactions with his mother. For some reason, Author's mother (from yester years) and his young wife are played by the same actor. (It is stated that the author is reminded of his mother whenever he sees his wife.) At another point, the author starts describing his story to his son, and from that point onwards the young version of author is also played by the same actor who plays his son. This makes everything difficult for us. Since the director believes that art should never be forced to follow any rules… I will stop commenting about this one 🙂 But I did not have a bad time watching it. (just look out for scenes like the one I described above) I am also reminded of one of my friend's views that what's more important in art, is the how the audience is made to feel, and feeling's do not necessarily need logic. So strictly speaking a continuous story is not very important.(If you can keep your audience satisfied and make them feel exactly how you want them to feel). I think those were sb's thoughts, or atleast that is how I understood it from that discussion. (Anyway, Follow up link: Tarkovsky on Mirror)

This brings me to the exact reason I am writing. Stalker, the second film I saw on that day was simply spectacular. (A perfect science fiction movie, imo, although I am yet to see Solaris)
An (alien?) meteorite has destroyed a small Russian town in the near future. The area has come to be known as the zone. People travelling through this zone have mysteriously disappeared. Physics is said to be distorted in there. The Soviet Army has closed down the zone from people and, for years, the only people who now enter the zone are the illegal stalkers who somehow manage to outrun the army in and out of the zone. After they have closed down the place, there is a strong rumor spread among the population that there exists in the heart of this zone a room where you can go and it will grant your heart's ultimate desire.

Spoiler Warning! You have been warned, and this is a suspense movie.
The concepts of the zone and stalkers are taken from a Russian scifi novel called "The Roadside Picnic". The novel presents a curious theory that zones are picnic-spots where aliens land and leave a lot of strange artifacts not knowing their effects on surrounding population. Quite funny initially, but consider the plight of wild animals who have to deal with a flash light we left.

The story follows a stalker who has to take a scientist and a writer into the zone in search of the room. The stalker shows irrational fear about the zone, never trying to go by a straight forward path. It is like always choosing the long and safer path over the short one. The writer comes across as a drunk and pessimistic man, always doubting himself and the world. He is probably in search of inspiration for a story and the scientist says that he wants to know the actual truth about the room.

In the beginning we would see that the stalker himself in dire consequences, his child unable to walk, and probably suffering the consequences of his exposure to the zone. But somehow, he is not able to find peace away from the zone. The trio dodge bullets from the army and enter the zone through a trolley car, which takes us from a filthy brown Russian town into the lush green expanse and quiet of the zone. (The camera work all through the film is more than excellent.)

From there the long winding journey starts towards the room. Interesting fact about the journey: The stalker throws metal nuts tied with white ribbons in the general direction of travel and then follows only their trail. During this tiring journey we discover the three personalities in detail. On the actual reason each of them is seeking the room. The stalker explains more about the ways of the stalker. His love, fear and respect for the zone is revealed. The ultimate rule is that the stalker must not enter the room himself. He is only to be a Guide, and he recites an story about how his mentor broke this rule and later had to commit suicide. The landscape also changes as the complex journey begins. The lush green landscapes in the beginning start to contrast with the greyish abandoned structures inside the heart of the zone.

The background music plays its part to perfection, and the suspense builds up to an excellent emotional climax. Unlike other sci-fi movies concentrating more on the science part, this movie uses sci-fi as a plot element to bring about curious character traits of people around us. We ultimately see how wretched and how good we can be. This was one of the most stunning endings I've ever seen. Most reviews have categorized this movie as a journey from loss to discover faith. I felt it more as a discovery of qualities that make us human.

Remarkably, the movie uses almost nothing to generate so much suspense using clever plot elements and music. If you are in the right mood – that is donot feel like munching popcorn and relaxing, and are not averse to science fiction elements (which are very few) and most importantly can be patient – you should easily enjoy this one, and feel as impressed by it as me.

Original CC link for Stalker . Another (DVD) review of Stalker, which probably does better job.

Rendezvous with Rama (First in the series)
Arthur C Clarke has indeed gone above in my popularity charts for science fiction authors. There is simply more to read, and he writes the proverbial science fiction when it comes to space. Also, I have felt them as extremely light to read. Take for instance, the first book in the Rama series.

Rama

In a not so distant future, when humans have started living in Moon, Mars, Mercury and some moons of Jupiter and Saturn, an unnatural asteroid arcs across the solar system. Having run out of Roman and Greek names, it is christened Rama, and suddenly becomes the hot topic of the worlds when it is discovered to be a spaceship built by an alien race. The book explores the mystery of this huge spaceship which in itself is small world. But the reader must be warned that, the book is no thriller. One must read it for the pure fun of the prospect of stepping into unknown and unpredictable territory. It is simply filled with the thrill of exploration, and that which is unique to space exploration. Imho, the book ends in a very satisfying fashion and is closed in itself. But it does leave a lot of questions unanswered. They are addressed later in the series.

Seven Samurai

Seven Samurai is referred to as the best movie by renowned director Akira Kurasova.

Six of The Seven Samurai.  From left to right, Katsushiro, Kikuchiyo, Shichiroji, Kyuzo, Heihachi, and Kambei.

Rashomon was directed by the same director, which is the other movie that I have seen from this Great Master.

Seven Samurai is a classical mixture of the popular and art movie genres. Some poor miserable farmers employ seven jobless samurai to defend themselves from bandits. Extremely enjoyable and long. The interactions between the farmers and the Samurai, the effects of Samurai’s arrival at the village, the fight sequences and some very good acting, all these will capture the viewer’s heart. Most of the issues addressed are really thought provoking. Even then, I will only put it second to Rashomon in my list, which is simply the best I have seen. I so wish, I knew Japanese and was transported back to the ’50s just to watch these movies on the big screen 🙂

Finally, let me point you towards www.nanowrimo.org, where people are celebrating the Novel Writing Month. The point is to write 50k words within November end. (and if you can still think it holds good as a novel, you win). It is crazy adventure and I am in. (And it is still 3 days with zero word count 🙂 ). Let us see what happens.

(Images from wikipedia. easily captured and blogged using flock.)

Some very good movies

October 10, 2005

I have been watching a few good movies nowadays. Here is a list of the important ones, that you must not miss.

1. Princess Mononoke

A movie by the master of Animation, Hayao Miyazaki, it talks about the adventures of a tribal prince. He is infected by a poisonous stain when he saves his village from a boar spirit. The search leads him right into the middle of a grand conflict between Eboshi – the Lady of Iron Town and Princess Mononoke – the princess of the forest. The movie symbolizes the tussle between nature and the resource seeking destructive humans. Gods of Wolves and boars and apes and their tribes (who appear intelligent) lead the fight to the ever-greedy humans. The best thing in the movie is that all characters possess both good and bad sides, which will put the audience in a moral dilemma. If you liked this movie, you can watch Spirited Away by the same director too. (A friend told me that it felt like Alice in Wonderland in a different setup,… Maybe. Maybe some Wizard of Oz too. But it was thoroughly enjoyable and refreshingly different.)

2. Memento

Christopher Nolan (of Batman Begins fame) directs(& scripts) this beautiful movie where the protagonist suffers from short-term memory disorder. The hero cannot create new memories after he is injured when he tries to save his wife from getting raped and killed. He can keep a context only for a few minutes(after which he forgets everything after the incident, and starts with a fresh “Now where am I?”). He is out to avenge his wife’s murderer. This is a very intense movie. Please donot expect it to be a normal thriller.

3. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind

This is one brilliant movie. You will see Jim Carrey in a really different role. He does serious roles as easily as he shines in comedy. Kate Winslet plays her part to perfection. The plot of the story is again based on memory. Both of them have managed to erase each other from after they have a bitter fight. I should not say any more, or it will spoil the fun. Charlie Kaufman won the Oscar for writing this story. And rightly so. Of the three, I liked this one the best.

Please approach this movies with patience, and without any expectation. (because that is how I did it). And ofcourse your mileage may vary.

Other things

April 29, 2005

Maybe because I felt very reluctant to write, I had imposed an unwritten rule that blogging will be about books. I am breaking it because I feel like scribbling more here. Hopefully there will only still be more books here, I cannot guarantee anything.

The other day my roommate dragged me into a film festival called Films on Films. He made me buy a Rs 400/- annual membership. But unfortunately the first movie that we saw bored the worst hell out of me. The movie called “Five Obstructions” managed to do everything wrong in its 2 hours for me. Lets say, firstly everything in it was based on a dumb short film called The Perfect Man. It freaked me out, with insanely white backgrounds and some man shaving, eating and making funny noises with fingers and pretty much a lot of other dumb things. Then the movie somehow managed to insult India(for me) by mentioning Bombay’s Red light areas as the most miserable place on Earth. I was all for killing my roommate after the movie. He survived because I chose to try out one more movie and try to realize the worth of those 400 bucks.

The second movie was Close up. This was a rocker of a movie. I am very new to unconventional cinema, and this one totally surprised me. The movie, which very closely resembled a documentary, talks of a simple man who pretends to be a famous movie director (because of physical resemblence). You are very much forced to get involved in the movie because of the way of the presentation and the way the actors fared. Infact, during the movie, you will hardly realize they are acting. I still have my doubts as this is mentioned to be inspired from a real story 😉

Nothing much to say, things turned around much the opposite way. I was so much drawn in that, I -being the laziest guy on sundays- dragged myself out, sacrificing a thrilling F1 race, for a brilliant Rashomon directed by the great Akira Kurosova. I had only heard of the guy, was expecting very much. He just turned out to be the best. The movie speaks of 3 people gathering below the ruined Rashomon Gate, a wood cutter, priest and a commoner. They talk about a murder which had happened earlier, and we go through four different point of views or versions of the same story. Sounds very much like Hero, doesn’t it? I cannot compare the both, but can tell you that this strategy (of telling same stories from different angles) is put to much more good use in Rashomon. You will have to watch it to know what I mean.

Well, the credit goes to Smilebringer( aforementioned roommate) for dragging me out of the local pandi sinima shaalas into the high temples of modern motion picture art.

(The above sentence and terms are copyrighted 😉 )

But I haven’t let the poor fellow brag about it, always rolling my eyes, punching, biting , and doing generally annoying things whenever he starts bragging. Thank you, my brother, this post is as much a tribute to your patience as it is to these great films, their actors and directors..