Wednesday, May 31, 2006

‘stories, i want stories’

said a reader.

Luckily, he didn’t specify whose stories. So here’s a Bombay story for a Bombayite.


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

And in other film news

Ken Loach has won the Palme D'Or for The Wind That Shakes The Barley. In a World Cup year, wouldn't it have been lovely if we could have plucked his segment of Tickets out and have it win something, anything?

And everyone will be relieved to hear, Shekhar Kapur will no longer be directing the film on Buddha's life based on Thich Nhat Hanh's Old Path White Clouds. India eNews reports.

Monday, May 29, 2006

One Long Film

When I wrote about reading books that are mean to be series, in a random order, I started to wonder how it applied to films. Not the kind of films that are, in fact, series—like Star Wars or Kill Bill, or Lethal Weapon—but the kind of films that would constitute a director’s ouvre.

With Hitchcock, Woody Allen, Wong Kar-wai or Buñuel, there might be something to be gained by seeing their films in the order in which they were made. Directors’ Retrospectives attempt to reach exactly this kind of an understanding. But while it might be useful, it is not necessary. You’d lose nothing because you saw 2046 before you saw Fallen Angels.

Many directors essentially make the same film again and again. They approach their central concerns from different perspectives and though there are continuities in style, form and approach, a chronological viewing is not absolutely required.

The exception, in my view, is Taiwanese director, Tsai Ming-liang.

Two years ago, at Trivandrum, there was a retrospective of his films. And in the way one does, I randomly circled all Tsai Ming-liang’s films on my schedule, but did not really pay attention to chronology. A friend very strongly recommended that I see the films in order, and I went along with the idea in a casual sort of way. When I started watching the films, I realised that he was right and they would not otherwise make sense.

Ming-liang’s films have three main characters: the Father, the Mother and the Son (the characters are played by the same actors in film after film). In later films there’s a girl; but their stories are a progression, with some very strong elements of style carrying each story forward. All Ming-liang’s films have long, static shots. In a talkative film, there will be a grand total of four sentences spoken. There is no background music – the exceptions are The Hole and Wayward Cloud, which are really musicals – and bathrooms play a crucial role.

And yet, though so many things appear to be repeated from one film to another, there really would be no way of understanding Wayward Cloud without having seen What Time Is It There, The Skywalk Has Gone (a short film) and The Hole.

Tsai Ming-liang is not easy to watch; watch his films out of order and there is almost nothing to keep you in the theatre unless you’re a film fanatic or have the patience of a saint. In Trivandrum, people made a special effort to come to the screenings just so they could hoot and make a noisy exit.

But if you decide to stay with it, there is no filmmaker whose work is more rewarding to watch. Ming-liang’s films are deeply compassionate and often hilarious. And even as you are laughing, you are aware of an undertow of sadness. But watch the films – as far as possible—chronologically.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Looking For Jake and Other Stories

I’m halfway through China Miéville’s Looking For Jake and Other Stories and am enjoying it hugely. I first heard of Miéville when Ursula Le Guin mentioned him in passing in an interview, as a promising young writer of fantasy and sci-fi. But I didn’t read any of his work until I came across ‘Tis The Season’ in Socialist Review in December 2004.

Unfortunately, three of his four novels are part of a series and they’re not all available in bookstores. I don’t mind reading series out of order. In fact, there’s a curious pleasure in fitting together a world, like a jigsaw puzzle. It feels as if the world carried on and you went in and out of it and found things changed and though it took you a while to get used to it, you managed make connections you might not otherwise have made had you read it the way it was meant to be read.

I read Dune first, then Children of Dune, then Heretics—all in a completely messed up order. But the important thing is, I read the first book of the series and so the rest of it made sense. So I’ve no intention of reading Miéville’s New Crobuzon novels until I’ve first read Perdido Street Station.

But Looking For Jake is a very satisfying reading. The title story is a poignant account of a search for a lost friend. The circumstances are unusual and hover on the edge of the reader’s understanding. And my favourite one so far is ‘Familiar’—in which the creation becomes larger than the one who creates. There’s a novella, and a story written in comic book form. Much to look forward to.

Here are a couple of articles on Miéville’s Iron Council and his Top Fifty Sci-fi and Fantasy recommendations.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Invisibility Cloaks

India Uncut asks, what would you do if you had an Invisibility Cloak. Of course, no manufacturer’s tag being available, I can’t ask if this is the exact same type of cloak that Harry has.

So, I’ll assume the kind of Invisibility Cloak I’d like: my IC is a kind of virtual broom. It’s going to do a clean sweep of everything I don’t want to be reminded of—posts on public online fora, signature campaigns, fan clubs (no, not really)—you get the picture. A shroud consigning the past to a decent obscurity.

No, I didn’t think so. Sigh…

Ok, so I’ll take the Cloak as is and visit my friends’ bookshelves. Help them clear their clutter. And when I’m done, I’ll hang the Invisibility Cloak on my virtuously glowing halo (detachable, available in three sizes and colours).

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Seizing Up

And so, having vowed to never do this again, I've started another blog. I really have no idea if I'm going to keep this going, how often I will post and so on.

But if you are here from the comments section of anyone else's blog, thanks for dropping by and I hope that in time I will find the enthu to post, keep posting, and be responsible towards my potential readers, ha.

There's nothing to look at right now, so a word about the blog description: for anyone who's a Beatlemaniac, the title will be crystal. The description is from 'Snore Wife and some Several Dwarts' in Lennon's A Spaniard In The Works.

Wish I could link up to a dozen interesting sites, but I'm a novice and I don't even know how to send any of you to other blogs right now. Luckily for me, you are all bound to be pros at this and can navigate your way out of here with no help from me.

In fact, suggestions and help welcome!