Sunday, December 31, 2006

Zidane, Un Portrait du 21e Siecle


Perhaps enough has been said about this film and even more has been said about Zidane over the past year. Still, I find it worth writing about, for the sake of this new wave of 'art cinema' that makes attempts at cinematic cubism.

Note: If you hate soccer stop reading.

When Douglas Gordon and Phillipe Parreno approached Zidane with their idea he asked them rather unassumingly , 'why me?'. The idea was, to dissect an 'enigma' by capturing him in his element. Zidane is undoubtedly in his element in this film. We see him playing football and collecting a red card, quite reminescent of the 2006 world cup final, but all attempts at unearthing the man behind the enigma remain nascent and experimental. When one watches a David Lynch film for the first time, it makes no sense. When one watches a David Lynch film for the second time, it starts to make some sense. The same cannot be said about this one.

'Zidane, Un Portrait du 21e Siecle' (Zidane, a 21st Century Portrait) unfolds during a Primera Liga match between Real Madrid and Villareal, on the 23rd of April 2005. Seventeen high definition cameras were employed to focus on the subject of the film, Zinedine Zidane. Zidane is as much a spectator to the game as he is a player. He stands aside, studying the game, stalking his opponents and shouting 'aiee' to his teammates when he wants them to pass him the ball. The perpetual frown on his face deepens with frustration. The slow decline of team play in Real Madrid is evident, it's written all over Zidane's face. He mutters to himself, to the refree, to the opponents and sometimes to Raul and Roberto Carlos. He picks up dibbits from the ground and pushes them back in. He shakes his head disdainfully when the other team is awarded a free kick. The only reward from all of this is Zidane's unflincing brilliance, his sublime footwork and his concentration. The film also contains snapshots of events taking place in the world on the same day. The most eerie being that of violence in Iraq, and of a little boy ,in the midst of the carnage, wearing a 'Zidane' jersey. Somewhere towards the end, we get to see Zidane smile when Roberto Carlos seems to say something hilarious. Almost moments later we see a cloud descending over him as he charges with clenched fists at an opponent. He is then given a red card. He trudges towards the dressing room, head down, removing his wrist band with slow, measured movements(I believe this sounds familiar.) and getting quite an ovation from the crowd and the other players.The film couldn't have been released at a better time.

The film engages, mesmerises and intimidates. It rises and falls like a James Joyce novel. The soundtrack by Mogwai is hypnotic and unarguably one of the film's hallmarks. The film fails, however, to unravel Zidane. Zidane is still the enigma, the laconic genius with a brewing temper and the 'grimace of a serial killer'. Maybe it's all for the best. If we knew him better, he would be the same as everybody else.

ps: If you have skipped the review and landed here, it's really a lot like a wildlife film.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Fools Think Alike!

I remember watching the 'Miss India' contest a few years ago. The crucial question posed to the finalists was , 'There are two quotations, one says that great minds think alike and another saying that fools seldom differ. Which one do you believe and why?'

The girls in all their pseudo-haute designer finery were given a minute to come up with an answer. Sadly, all of them came up with faux, studied and semi-articulate reasons (also read as 'typical beauty contest answer') for why 'Great men think alike'. Not one of them looked the judges cynically in the eye to aver that fools seldom differ. Not one! What had the world come to?

I'll tell you what the world has come to, at least from where I see it. Great minds are in short supply, especially this century, they definitely are. Given that no two minds can ever think alike (redundancy is not a flattering thing) it is quite improbable that great minds do think alike.

In defence of those hapless beauty contestants ,out for a free ticket to Bollywood, had any of them actually deviated from the structure, the stringent optimism and the bleached smiles that remain set at the jaw; an experiment with vercity would be like committing hara-kiri. You simply don't use the word 'fool' on national television! Not when you're a potential role model to delusional young girls who have misplaced the gift of thought.

We all think alike, therefore we must all, in some way, be fools!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Cerebration in Blogosphere

Is it just me or does google 'Ad-sense' have the worst sense of humour? Take a look at some of the advertisements that come up from time to time.

The folks at blogger claim that 'blogger beta is dead'. How do people (especially the assumed patrons of blogosphere) intend to change the world with minute semantic changes? (They now call it 'new blogger'.)

Ever since Time magazine named 'You' (also read as insignificant creatures in cyberspace) as the person of the year, 'egosphere' was resurrected from a brief hiatus to oblivion.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Person of the Year

It's the time of the year we all wait for, with bated breath and uncontained anticipation. No, it's got nothing to do with resolutions, turning over new leaves, fresh epicurean adventures or societal upliftment. December is the month when 'Time' magazine reveals 'The Person of the Year' aka the individual whose exploits (worthy or uncharitable) have shaped the course of the year that was. The person of the year is - (drum roll) 'YOU'! Yes, 'Time' has given in to the power of insignificance and,in sheer resignation, has placed a mirror on the cover of this particular issue. It took all the whining on blogosphere,the dirty laundry on social networks and the many videos on Youtube for 'Time' to yield to 'the individual'. Hail narcissism, self-obsession, machavilleanism (if you think I shouldn't hail this 'ism' you need a reality check) and above all fast internet access!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Literary Bans

I discovered D.H. Lawrence when I was in school. Tucked away in a shelf of the school library was the book 'Sons and Lovers'. I was struck by the title, as any school kid would be. I wanted to take it home to read. So, in a very matter of fact way, I took it to the librarian for issue. She told me promptly, 'it is not meant for you'. Her tone seemed collected and indifferent, but her eyes screamed 'discomfort'. I asked my mother about Lawrence, she said that I would understand when I was older. I left it at that, I never attempted to borrow the book when I was 'old enough' to read it. For consolation, I read about Lawrence in the encyclopaedia and the pieces fell together. Lawrence was and is still well known for the explicit content in his work. It only added fuel to the fire, and I vowed ,after reading his poem titled 'The Snake', that I would read his work some day.

The day wasn't that far off. Two years ago,I picked up a collection of three of his novels at a book fair for a trifling amount. I set about reading 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' ; a story about Constance Chatterley, a woman unhappily married to a man who has lost both his legs and more in World War I , and her illicit affair with the gamekeeper. As Wikipedia put it, 'he was working class while she was bourgeois'. I was quite taken by Lawrence's lyrical cynicism. It is said that Lawrence edited the original version to make it more 'palatable' to readers. Lawrence's style is not tongue in cheek, it is brazen, laden with four lettered f-words and euphemisms that are utterly useless. (Every aspiring writer should read Lawrence. If euphemisms are futile, it's better to avoid them.) Somewhere in the middle of all this stands an empathetic writer , whose love life was rather unfortunate so to speak, with a crystal clear understanding of human society and its hypocrisy.

A few months ago I read about 'The Chatterley Ban'. The book was banned in Britain till 1960. When 'Penguin' first published 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' it was sued under the 'Obscenity Act'. The ban was lifted after the publishers proved in court that the book had 'literary and artistic value'. I was intrigued to note that Vladimir Nabokov wrote 'Lolita' , a novel on the rants of a paedophile, in 1955. The book was published in 1955 and I haven't come across anything like 'The Lolita Ban'. I don't quite understand this lapse in judgement on the part of the moral police. Interestingly enough, 'Lolita' was turned into a major motion picture in 1962. Perhaps Lawrence was unlucky enough to belong to the post Victorian era.

Nevertheless,when something cursed with a ban becomes antiquated it turns to art. So it all ends happily after all! (At least for the reader.)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Diva Says..

People who live by the book voluntarily surrender their fate to the hands of potential pathological liars (aka the authors).

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Instant Poem

I am tired of writing draft versions of my poems, editing them and putting them up. So I decided to give 'instant art' a try. Hence the 'instant poem' or the poem written without any forethought.

Dear Emily,
Baroness of verse.
Why did you hide
In furtive style
From wandering human gaze?
Your odes to death
Spill over centuries of sleep
So does your reclusive stealth.
'I am nobody', you say
To your pocket book
And partner in heinous crime.
Even the psychic sometimes overlook
The way insignificance penetrates through time.

ps: This is a silly little ode to Emily Dickenson, the reclusive American poet.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Vertigo

Amateurs don't discuss Hitchcock in their blogs. It is simply the wisest thing one can do. Given that the only other Hitchcock film they have seen is 'Psycho'. I am an amateur (in the most virginal sense) when it comes to Hitchcock; and I am about to risk all credibility so I can write about the Hitchcock classic 'Vertigo'.



'Vertigo' stars James Stewart and Kim Novak, it runs for an hour and a half. The background score ,though seemingly innocuous, sounds almost eerie. Prior to this I had only seen James Stewart and heard his famous drawl in the romantic comedy genre, in fims like 'Philadelphia'. Stewart still plays the romantic hero with a drawl, except that he is an acrophobic detective madly obsessed with the suicidal wife of a friend. Kim Novak plays the Hitchcock archetype of 'the beautiful,classy, blonde and independant heroine with an uncomfortable secret'.

The dialogue is insipid yet loaded. The camera pans, slowly stalking the characters. The attention to detail is impressive, so is the cinematography. Hitchcock didn't need invisible, artillery laden luxury cars to make one sit and the edge of one's seat; a few furtive moves in vintage mobiles could do that. He didn't need cellphones to suggest an innuendo, circumstance was riveting enough. Hitchcock's gift for narration remains unparalleled, unsurpassed and invincible. This film stands testimony to the fact that not all low budget adaptations are prone to damnation. The hallmark of his craft lies in the way he brings an intensity to the cast, the set and the theme with the eye of a compulsive perfectionist. To dismiss the film after a single viewing is the most blatant and heinous crime that can be committed against cinema.

My only regret is that I wasn't able to spot Hitchcock's guest appearance (it is said that he makes one in every movie).

Friday, December 01, 2006

An Embellished Memoir

I have been reading 'Living to Tell the Tale', the memoir of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. At each syllable I am filled with a sense of awe, wonder and trepidation. Marquez is and will always be a celebrated writer. His books tell stories of enchantment and wonder, narrated with an uncanny tenderness. Never have I felt deprived for not having learnt Spanish. Hence the awe and wonder.

As for trepidation ; I am intimidated and almost anguished by the fact that neither I nor anyone from my generation will leave a legacy worth writing about. I don't mean to sound apocalyptic but here's the hard hitting truth, I grew up in a mangled mass of concrete. My life involved drifting (and sometimes pirouetting) from one state of isolation to another. Concrete structures make no sense. They have enough power to engulf the consciousness of an entire city and at the same time, stand vulnerable to the isolation of their inhabitants. I cannot write of colours, hues and other natural phenomena. I cannot recount strange conversations with enigmatic folks with self-proclaimed psychic powers. An entire manuscript on the silent afflictions of the narcissistic seems so overly redundant, especially for the subject of a memoir.

My sole weapon seems to be that of embellishment, the new age mantra of the new age writer. Despite that, how does an embellished memoir measure up to one that is veracious, truthful and profoundly compelling? As well as banal, stereotypical fiction does, I suppose!