Sunday, March 30, 2008

the flags of incompatibility

Via Veena and Alok, this article about relationship compatibility based on literary tastes. Somewhere down the page, this: 'Naming a favorite book or author can be fraught. Go too low, and you risk looking dumb. Go too high, and you risk looking like a bore — or a phony.'

It reminds me of the time I was at the Institute and we were being ragged. Yes. I was the only girl in my batch and I was being ragged less than anyone else. The entire ragging thing at the Institute was actually like an elaborate mating ritual, because at least a large part of it - for the editors - was an issue of compatibility.

What happened in them days was this: the editing course was for two years, while all other courses were for three. This meant that the batch ahead of you had their unit of director-cameraperson-sound recordist in place but no editor. Every editor in the new batch was not only being assessed, they were being wooed by every director so that their unit would be complete.

Wherefore, editors were rather closely questioned about several other things, among them literary and cinematic tastes. What films you liked said everything about you that your potential director needed to know. What answer you gave was very, very important (assuming you'd already made up your mind about who you wanted to work with for two years).

So a few nights into the ragging, my (future) director, along with the cameraman, sat down with me to do The Talk.

"So. What's your favourite film?"

This was crucial. I had already decided I wanted to be this guy's editor. He was well enough read, for a start. I looked at both of them and made a quick decision.

"When Harry Met Sally," I said.

Silence for a second and they burst out laughing.

"At least that's honest," director man said. Actually it wasn't. At that point, my absolute favourite film was either Hiroshima Mon Amour or one of several Bergman films. But I knew I couldn't say that because that would be pretentious. On the other hand, to say Harry Met Sally could be construed as meaning that I (1) was unpredictable in my tastes; (2) was being ironic; (3) didn't care what conclusion anyone drew from my tastes in film.

Whatever. It worked. But there's a catch. If someone falls for your cynical manipulation of a situation without making it clear that they know what you've just done, can you respect them?

I reserved judgment until he told me who his "director" was.

Every final year direction student had to analyse, in the final year, the work of a director. If someone chose Tarkovsky (there was always one of them every year) you knew what to think and you tried your best to avoid them. Mine, as it happened, had chosen Buñuel.

I never regretted my choice of director and I hope the feeling was reciprocated.


Cheshire Cat said...

"The entire ragging thing at the Institute was actually like an elaborate mating ritual..."

So shouldn't that have meant you were ragged more, not less?

"If someone chose Tarkovsky..."

Is there some subtle Tarkovsky-dissing going on here? Is there?


Space Bar said...

Cat: but see, I wasn't ragged. I was treated with kid gloves. Everyone tried to show what lovely people they were by not ragging me. Besides they all needed me to act in their diplomas, no?

And no Tarkovsky dissing - are you mad?! It's just that the kind of directors who studied AT's work were almost uniformly unbearable. They'd have milk spilling in slow motion all over the place in every exercise they ever did.

km said...

Ha, great post.

/For the record, my wife and I have *completely* opposite tastes in films, books and music. I don't think I can *stand* a person who wants to watch *my* kind of films *all* the time :D

//I had no idea even film schools have the "ragging" ritual. But how does someone who likes "Solaris" or "Stalker" rag another student??

///Ichikawa's "Nobi" and "L'Avventura" await the Master's Return to the Living Room.

Cheshire Cat said...

"are you mad?!"

Um, I assume that's a rhetorical question...

Space Bar said...

km: oh it was half-hearted at best. at least when i was there.

cat: of course. :D

SUR NOTES said...

spilling milk in slow motion, and women with long hair, white sarees , looking at their reflection in water , in candle light.

do images have the power to evoke venom in a polite person like me? the answer is yes, yes, yes...

and ragging, dont even get me started.

Space Bar said...

sur: my son tells me that venom is poison produced by animals. hmm. :D

SUR NOTES said...

yes, yes, i am pure animal at those moments. ( excuse the grammar)

yr child is wise. he gave me the same lecture when he got bitten by an ant outside the screening.

shrikanth said...

Hitchcock IMO is always a safe bet.
The Bridge between Mass and Class.
Appreciated by one and all.

Space Bar said...

shrikanth: yes, but that would have been a cliche almost and majorly to be avoided!