Friday, November 12, 2010

OD-ing Cinema

I think I now have a fairly steady list of my top three films, of course subject to constant change.
-- Casablanca, but of course
-- Motorcycle Diaries, but of course again
-- Postmen in the Mountains, a new one. A new one that I watched today, I meant.

This whole week I have been happily OD-ing cinema, some of the finest, at the international film festival organized by Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy till this weekend. Yours truly is anchoring it at one of the three venues and bringing out a newsletter at the end of each day. It's been utterly fun, being paid to sit and watch films all day! It feels so much like being back in college.

Thanks to Poorna sir at university, the Film Studies class has remained the finest class I shall ever be in. Over a year, we watched films nearly every day, sometimes two per day. The best part was the discussion after the film. After a few dozen, we had all become quite good at noticing little details and paying attention to angles and lighting and such like. I have been trying to do the same here too. Sometimes there is company to sit with, sometimes I find myself a little corner. Then there are new people to talk to about cinema and that director and this story and what was good. There have been tales of experiences I am incredibly jealous of, some acquaintances that I earnestly hope will turn into friendships.

I meant to write on the films. It started with the incredible Whoopi Goldberg in Sarafina, a South African musical. Herzog's Aguirre, the Wrath of God was beautiful and reminded me of the Amazon trip that I had promised myself when I was 15. National award winning Kutty Srank (Malayalam) was interesting too, reminded me of Akiro Kurosawa's Roshoman. Frank Capra's Mr Smith Goes to Washington was funny and so was The General, an old silent film; watch it for the beauty of communicating without words.

That brings me to Postmen in the Mountains. I must say, it is by far one of the best films I have ever seen. The Chinese film was made by Huo Jinqui in 1999 and tells the story of a postman who hands over his duty to his son to deliver letters to highly inaccessible villages in the mountains of Hunan province, China. On the son's first trip, the father accompanies him and the story is about the bond that forms between the two. I care not to write a full review, read this instead:

What bowled me over was the cinematography. Just like Motorcycle Diaries, this is a image-heavy film. Lots of green fields, tall mountains, stone-laid walking paths, a moving didn't take much for me to love it!

I must mention a few scenes here. In one village, the father reads out a letter to a grandmother, supposedly written by her grandson. But in fact, the grandson never writes to her and it is the kind postman who slips in money and an empty sheet of paper to her to keep her going. There is one shot of the grandmother looking out of the door as the 'letter' that the postman makes up, is being read. The lighting is so fantastic, I can still see it before me.

There is another where the father tells his son that he has delivered letters all his life but he had got only one letter all his life and that was written by his wife telling him of the birth of their son. A very poignant scene. Towards the end, there is a role reversal where the son advices the father about the things he has to do in the village; all these years, he was delivering mail and is ignorant of his village.

There are some very emotional scenes in the film. Every shot could be a picture postcard. I will stop gushing now. Just watch it.

My eyes are tired. There are four more films to watch tomorrow. Ciao!

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