Monday, May 28, 2012

What he said

Jonathan McCalmont on this year's Cannes shortlist and eventual award (which went to Haneke's Amour and though of course I'm happy about that...):
Clearly, this shit is intolerable.

Aside from the obvious moral arguments about inclusivity and discrimination, there is also an important aesthetic argument to be made about the importance of unfamiliarity to the art house cinematic experience. Indeed, chief among the many pleasures of art house film is its ability to introduce us to whole new ways of seeing the world. For example, when Apichatpong Weerasethakul won in 2010 for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, he was not only being rewarded for his cinematography and storytelling but also for his great skill at articulating what it must be like to see the world through his eyes, the eyes of a forty year-old gay man from Thailand. Similarly, when Cristian Mungiu won the Plame d’Or for 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days he was not only being rewarded for the skill with which he explored the issue of abortion, but also for his capacity to speak for an entire generation of Romanians who grew up under the rule of Nicolae Ceauşescu. Central to the appeal of art house cinema is its peerless ability to show us the world from an entirely different perspective. Indeed, it is telling that the success of both Weerasthakul and Mungiu lead directly to explosions of critical interest in films from their respective countries.  Art house cinema is all about new perspectives and art house cinema audiences are forever crying out for new ways of seeing the world.

By choosing only established male directors for competition, 2012 Cannes festival organisers ensured that their Palme d’Or would introduce no new conceptual blood into the cinematic bloodstream.

By choosing a shortlist dominated by elderly men, Cannes festival organisers denied art house cinema audiences the chance to discover something genuinely new.

I've long felt that Cannes has become less interesting as the years go by and vaguely remember mentioning this phenomenon of Old White Men dominating the competition section. So basically, what Jonathan said.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

'Colonial history survives well in the mouth; it's warm there'

It's common in India for English speakers - we could even say native English speakers - to claim that they're past all this unease with the legacy of language, and all that post-colonial hand-wringing, and that sort of thing.

It's somewhat true, also, that much of what is written about matters of language tend to follow a well-worn path; I'm tired before I even begin. But every once in a while, someone writes something that renews old, stale insights. It's odd that so often this happens through personal histories and even odder that this is not a route taken more often (or maybe I just don't read enough).

Anyway. Found this essay by Eliane Castillo via Aisha and thought I'd link to and store this here:

But for my father, Ilokano wasn’t just a language he wanted to speak—but an entire space, a time. More specifically: an estranged space, an estranged time. And because none of the people who had lived in that space and time were with him, he refused to speak it, to produce it, either to my mother, or to me. The only time I heard him speak Ilokano was with one co-worker, a fellow security guard (and then, only reluctantly and sparingly); or on the phone with his siblings; or the one time when the two of us were in the Philippines together, during the second kidnapping of my life. (He was the one who kidnapped me. Not in an evil way. Well, not evil to me.)

But more than that, he refused, almost categorically, to speak Tagalog with my younger brother and me. He would not enter into the space of Tagalog with us. “It’s not my language,” he said firmly. Naturally, he thought of English as his own; it’s the second national language of the Philippines, after all. Colonial history survives well in the mouth; it’s warm there. Tropical.

See what I mean? Bang in the middle of a familiar narrative of estrangement in language and the claiming of spaces and times etc etc, there's 'the second kidnapping'.

(Plus, anyone who namechecks Tony Neung automatically has my full and passionate attention.)

Facetiousness aside, there's a lot there that makes me want to hug that post: I do the whole shifting accents thing too, depending on whom I am talking to and have often wished someone would theorise or at least explicate that; I like the idea of 'the cat in the throat'; language as prosthesis.

Just read, no?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Haneke's Love

Somehow, I thought I was over suffering and the slow decline into death. Really. Thought that was all so 2009, the obssessive examination of all things decaying and dying.

Turns out old obssessions can still take. And when it's Haneke, it must be watched.

And it has Trintignant! And Emannuelle Riva! (And, incidentally, Isabelle Huppert).
Haneke cast French screen icon Jean-Louis Trintignant, 81, and Emmanuelle Riva, 85, in the story of George and Anne, a couple of retired music teachers, whose rich and adoring relationship is cruelly tested when she suffers a stroke.
Set in the hushed rooms of the couple's parquet-floored Parisian flat, the film charts Anne's physical and mental decline, and the increasingly unbearable strain it puts on George, who pledges to care for her at home until the end.
Utterly believable in the role, Riva told a press conference after the screening that she threw herself heart and soul into the part, sleeping in her dressing room at the studio where it was shot to remain immersed in her character.


"Once you reach a certain age, you necessarily have to face the suffering of the people you love," he told the press conference. "It's part of nature." "It raises the issue of how to manage the suffering of the people you love." Wheelchair-bound, half-paralysed, the intelligent, vivacious Anne early on tells her husband she does not wish to live such an impaired life. But carry on they do, as far as George can take her.
Now doesn't that sound just like something I'd like to watch?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Confessions of a Light Sleeper

In early May the temperatures were 40C. For the last week it's been 43C every single day. What this means is that the house, the roads, even the plants, give off heat like they were efficient and well-maintained solar heaters. I could fry and egg on any step.

We try not to keep the AC on for too long. We slop water on to mats and leave them on the floor. We wet towels and drape ourselves with them as if we were delicate greens at the grocer's. We think of watermelons ans cucumbers and instead get more mangoes than we know what to do with.

So we succumb and turn the AC on at night.

But here's the thing: I can't actually fall asleep when the AC is on. It's nice enough when I'm reading or writing or just messing around lurking on Tumblrs and looking at pretty pictures, but once the light's off, I get anxious.

I look at my watch every 15 minutes and if my anxiety levels are elevated, then every three. Finally, at 10, 11, maybe midnight, I turn the AC off. But then:

If I turn off the main swtich, I am closing off the possibility of turning it back on if the room gets hot again (which it will, in half an hour or less). If I open the windows, I will let what little cool air there is out. On the other hand, in time - in four hours or more - there might be a breeze.

But the stabiliser lights bother me. The mattress radiates heat. I get up and open a window. Fall back into uneasy sleep. Wake up again to, maybe, turn the AC on again and change my mind. Back and forth. Toss and turn.

There's too little sleep in summer. Too much time in that elastic space when sleep approaches and retreats. Too little during the waking hours.

(Also too many mangoes. If you're in the city, please take some off me. Their smell overpowers the house. Did I say: that's another bar to sleep.)


It's been six years since I started this blog. In a lot of ways it's like a marriage*: I'm mildly surprised it's lasted this long but can't bring myself to care one way or another to renew the excitement of it. Not when the siren songs of Twitter and Tumblr sound. Not when other new, shiny things keep me off the net altogether.

On the other hand, it's a space. It's where I am and can be usually found. And I'm astonished and grateful that people still turn up, even when there's not a whole lot to see.

In the last month, I've looked at what brings new people here. It's mostly chunks of text - poetry, stuff I've stored here in order not to forget - things like that. The top two, consistently are:Edwin Morgan's 'Opening the Cage' and Anouilh's 2nd Chorus from Antigone. Other searches depend on what schools or colleges set their students to read. Some will search for Arseniy Tarkovsky or 'Penelope's Descendents' and find themselves here.

They're not going to land up on the main blog and see this, but just in case: Hi!

And to everyone else, who still land up despite the erratic, self-indulgent, unresponsive to comments behaviour I display, thanks for reading!

*I ought to mention, when I say a marriage, I really mean mine. I know many people who have lovely marriages six years on.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Late to the Manto love...

...but only slightly.

Here's Mohammed Hanif in Dawn:

How are you getting on with your creator?

Have you settled that old argument with your creator: Who is a better short-story writer? You do realise that that this kind of claim hurts people’s sentiments. Especially sentiments of people who don’t read stories, who can’t read stories or who think reading and writing stories was a perversion. I hope you understand why your family didn’t inscribe that God vs Manto argument on your tombstone as you had wished. Censorship even in my death, you protest. No Sir, just common sense. I hope that you are up there with your creator, being argumentative, still carrying on that debate about who is better at the storytelling game. (That kind of thing, by the way, is called a creative-writing workshop these days). If your old friend Ismat Chughtai drops by while you are having that debate, you and your creator should take a break from arguing and say to her: we’ll both go in the kitchen and make tea, why don’t you write us a story.

(I was tempted to quote the very last bit, but that would be unfair to both Hanif and Manto.)

And Supriya Nair's 'Here Lies Manto':

In search of Manto in Byculla, Baghdadi points out that the neighbourhood in which he once lived has changed little. The marble plaques in Christ Church, across the road from Manto’s old house on Clare Road, recall the histories of members of its congregation who lived here over a century ago. Scratch the Urdu and Marathi flyers from the walls of the municipal garden, and the Star of David underneath, confirming its identity as an old Jewish cemetery, is intact. Any evidence of the writer of Mirza Ghalib and Mozail, Thanda Gosht and Letters to Uncle Sam having once lived here, though, must now be imagined.

Also see MS Gopal's images

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Oh no she didn't!

Just back from watching Vicky Donor. Very watchable and all that but.

Did she? Did the character Ashima really say ching-chong in the last scene? She said if I remember correctly, "That boy, he has your hair. That foreigner girl. She has your nose. And that ching chong has your eyes."

Really? Did I just dream it up? Somebody tell me I'm wrong.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

this rash of posts

Woke up unable to wake up. Spoke to the kid who sounded like I felt so told him to go back to sleep (which is what I wish I could do).

Have 3,000 odd words to write but instead I am stalking people on Twitter and Tumblr. (So much for killing myself off on Facebook).

Am seriously considering starting Twitter & Tumblrs for myself, seeing as all I want to do online is reblog other awesome people and think up hashtags.

Plus which, I am, like a dragon I know, BORED.

3,000 words to go, Space Bar. And it's already half the day done. This time yesterday, you'd knocked off the day's word count, read three pages of Parade's End and listened to one episode of.

No. TMI. This is a serious blog. Full of poetry and obituaries.

In the meantime, if people are discussing the awesomeness of Mike in PGW (and he is, let's not dispute that) can I make a mention of Peter Wimsey's reluctant innings in Death Must Advertise?

Has anybody understood a word I've said here today? I feel like I am speaking from The Other Side, wherever that may be, and people can only hear a roaring sound.

Magnus Pym beckons. I am surrounded by temptations that urge me to give in.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

He's gone to where the wild things are

Via Aisha, the sad - but surely not shocking? - news that Maurice Sendak has died.

A friend gave the kid Where the Wild Things Are when he was a couple of years old and we've both loved it ever since. Often our battle cry has been the gleeful

Let the wild rumpus start!  

(Sometime we will say 'begin' instead of 'start', but hey.)

And though it slipped under my radar, I feel I must somehow get my hands on Bumble Ardy now.

Sendak said in an interview last year to the Guardian,  "I refuse to lie to children, [...] I refuse to cater to the bullshit of innocence."

And that's why I love Max. There's rebellion there; all the control he lacks over his world can be exerted over the world of his imagination. And of course there's loneliness. But also the hope of return and the certainty of an adult's love for a child - this child in the book. And it's done so delicately - an adult would see it; but a child would, I think, understand it.

RIP, Maurice Sendak. Whereever you are, let the wild rumpus start!

ETA: Sorry. Like all my friends, I'm reading everything Sandak-related and of course much of it is quotable, but this is more that that. This - judge for yourself.

Found on Letters of Note, via Din

Monday, May 07, 2012

In The The: How to Watch a Poem

In what I hope will be the first of many contributions to the lovely poetry site The The, my sort-of-essay, How to Watch a Poem.

It begins like this*:

(This post was to begin with a quote that I remember as having been said by the filmmaker, Jean-Luc Godard: “You don’t read a film; you watch it”. While trying to chase down the quote, though, I found it had disappeared so effectively that I began to doubt both the words and the person to whom I was attributing it. Regardless of who said it and whether they said it that way, here it is, the quote as epigraph:)

You don’t read a film; you watch it.

 And goes on from there. You know where to go if you want to read more.


*Actually, it begins with a photograph of Godard, which is the good and right way to begin.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Absence Excuse #93

My laptop has just had a heat-stroke and fainted.

I have given it a cold compress and advised complete bed rest for the next 48 hours.