This is the second in a series of posts about the film appreciation course I did this summer. The first post was about the overall experience. This post attempts to discuss the selection of movies, and what I liked, and the very little that I did not. (Update: The third part discussing the lectures has now been posted.)
I am a baby as far as exposure to world cinema goes. The course was a brilliant introduction to non-mainstream movies for me. I doubt there is any other forum where you can see such a wide range of movies.Yes, we were living, breathing, eating and of course, discussing cinema. Yes, we would be dead tired by the end of the day. Yes, we were exhausted by the end of week 2. Yes, our brains were mended and dented by one “heavy” movie after another “over-weight” movie. And yes, I doubt there was even one out of the 60+ participants who did not doze off during a movie.
Yet the course was NOT a film festival. First, because it had most of the “classics”. What film festival could boast of that? And second, because there was a lot more to the course than just the movies.
There was an attempt to tie the movies to be screened on a particular day to the topic of discussion for that day. Admittedly, it must have been a daunting task. The connections wherever I could see them are as follows -
- “Battleship Potemkin” was an example of Editing. Sergei Eisenstein testing his montage theory (Montage is a film editing technique).
- Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “A short film about love” and Damle-Fattelal’s “Sant Tukaram” were used to show the various ways in which the rhythm of the story can be used. How the “ups and downs” in the lives of the characters keep the audience engrossed. How the three act structure can be used not only for the movie as a whole but for the sub-plots too.
- Orson Welles‘ “Citizen Kane” and Michaelangelo Antonioni’s “Red Desert” followed lectures on visual composition. And this is the first time I began to appreciate a movie beyond its story. A movie is not only, and not always, about “narrating a story”. It can also be a visual experience and meaning can be conveyed through use of light and colors.
- Alejandro Inarritu’s “Amores Perros” was shown as an example of a different way to narrate a movie.
Having said that, it was unfortunate that there wasn’t a separate time allotted to discuss any of these movies after we had seen them. So, unless there were specific questions about any of these movies, they would hardly be discussed, mainly due to lack of time. Most disappointing was a non-discussion on Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Mirror” which went swooooosh over my head. It is a much talked about movie but we didn’t talk about it at all. Or maybe, the movie has “interpret me” so boldly written over it, that there is no point to a discussion. Each person is supposed to think about it and make whatever they want of it. I for one would have loved to know how others interpreted it.
By far, the best discussions were the ones in which we had a chance to interact with the director of the movie. At most times, the outcome of such a discussion would be an appreciation of the effort that went into making the movie, regardless of whether or not you liked it. I enjoyed the discussion on “Khosla ka Ghosla” with Dibakar Banerjee the most. After all, I got to talk about what I didn’t like about the movie. He was adorably receptive to criticism.
Then there were these movies that I did not understand and the ensuing discussion with the directors confused me further. Granted, it is not in the director’s job description to be able to express his thoughts. But, it was exasperating to listen to, “oh, I didn’t think about it”, “yeah-ok, I made it for myself”, “I just had an idea in mind and started shooting (without any specific purpose in mind).”
I guess I am a bit self-indulgent here. In the sense that, as long as “I” understand it, I am fine if the director is unable to explain himself, irrespective of whether or not I liked it. But, if I don’t understand and the director refuses to explain, who do I turn to? Or should I just say, they are not good at expressing their thoughts in words, so I shouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t understand what was happening on screen. Yet these movies had a reason to be on the list. Because, they were different, experimental and the director’s were available.
But, there were these couple movies that had no business being shown along with all-time world classics on the coveted screen of NFAI. Tripurari Sharan’s (Director, FTII) “Woh subah kidhar nikal gayi” and Somnath Sen’s (faculty, FTII) Diploma. The only reason, as I could fathom, that we were subjected to these movies was that the makers were, in one way or the other, involved in making the list of movies to be screened. Diploma at least had a decent concept and some very good dialogues as redeeming factors. It’s a shame that these were the two movies that showcased the talent, or rather the lack thereof, of the graduating students of the acting diploma course at FTII (except Swati Sen and Megh Varn Pant). This is a course that is supposed to produce the finest actors of our country.
Anyway, four months after the course, these are not the first things that come to mind when I think about it. What I learnt without realizing it was that I have begun appreciating more movies. I have begun recognizing that there is more to the movie than the upper layer, where it exists. Of course, I am nowhere close to understanding abstractness in its entirety. But, now I leave room for the fact that abstractness is not meant to be understood in its entirety.
I’ll leave you with a list of movies that I enjoyed (in the order in which we saw them) -
- Abbas Kiarotsami’s “Where is the friend’s home?“
- Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “A short film about love“
- Damle-Fattelal’s “Sant Tukaram“
- Orson Welles‘ “Citizen Kane“
- Ritwik Ghatak’s “Meghe Dhaka Tara“
- Anand Patwardhan’s “War and Peace“
- Pedro Almodovar’s “All about my mother“
- Federico Fellini’s “Eight and a half” - this one is special because I liked it despite not understanding most of it.
- Goutam Ghosh’s “Yatra“
- meetu(Update: The third part, discussing the lectures has now been posted.)