Sunday, January 18, 2015

on not watching films

People often ask me, not unreasonably, why I stopped editing films. My answer depends from time to time on how I happen to be feeling at the moment: I got sick of the sound of machines. I wasn't editing anything fun anyway. I really was the operator most people said editors would land up being. I hated the smell of the studio 16 hours into an edit. I hated not being able to see the outside for hours and hours. Headaches. 

For the most part every one of these answers is constructed over time for ease of reply. It's hard to actually answer the question. It's harder still to know whether the person really wants to know or is making conversation, and whether I want them to know. Like everyone else, I have a few handy answers to the question and that's that.

One time, a year or so ago in Goa, a teacher from FTII who happened to be there was somewhat surprised when I answered his question with a rather vehement 'I want to have nothing to do with films!'

'You still watch cinema, don't you?'

'Oh, of course!' I replied, thinking the while, that he said cinema instead of films. It never even entered my head to consider the word 'movies' in our conversation.

I said that 'of course' a little haughtily, perhaps; but the truth is - it had been even then - I hardly watch films anymore. 

Here's what has happened: from the cinema-crazy 14 year old who spent every vacation borrowing and watching two films every day, who read and learnt chapter and verse about the shape of film history, theory, whatever possible, I have now reached a point when films don't interest me much.

Films that are made these days, I mean. I find them tedious, predictable, vulgar and gimmicky. On the rare occasions that I go to theatres to watch a recently released film, I almost always regret having bothered. When friends, people with good taste, find good things to say about films, I am automatically suspicious.

People demand so little of cinema and cinema meets all those expectations with such slick expertise.

I just don't get it.

Then, the other day, looking for the exact scene in which that poem by Forugh Farrokhzad, 'The Wind Will Carry Us' happens, I landed up watching the whole film on Youtube. And my breath was taken away.

Why don't people make that kind of cinema any more? Why?

God knows, I suspect not even Kiarostami makes that kind of cinema anymore. It's all of piece that I haven't watched his last two films, partly because I'm afraid I'll be disappointed.

But watching The Wind Will Carry Us, I realised how much my writing has always depended on cinema, how much it's withered for lack of this particular nourishment.

At this moment, I feel like a novice. It's terrifying, to come to this point and realise that I don't really want recommendations, because I no longer trust anybody else's taste in these matters; that what I really want to do is to plunge blind into something, discover someone new who makes the films that I need to see.

I have no idea where or how to begin. I don't know how I think it will work when all I have is a laptop or, at most, an inadequate TV. I don't know whether I can forget the experience of sitting in a sparsely populated theatre, where no one feels the need to talk, eat, drink, hold hands or do anything except watch the film. 

What this means is that while I'm still very unlikely to watch all the Oscar rubbish, I might go on a kind of pilgrimage - visit favourite old directors and so on. The question, of course, is how to watch recent stuff without going to film festivals. I've kind of got used to solitary splendour. 

Oh well.


km said...

This is the kind of post that makes me miss reading blogs.

The question, of course, is how to watch recent stuff without going to film festivals.

Fear not, I hear Netflix is coming to India. (But good luck finding festival fare there...)

??! said...

This is the kind of post I sometimes feel like writing about books.

Well, only once a year. Still.

Have you tried Jinni or Suggestmemovie?