Hiroshima Mon Amour

In my film, time is shattered‘, says Resnais of his first full-length fictional film Hiroshima Mon Amour. I don’t think this statement is as true of this film as it is of Last year at Marienbad (where time seems to explode and be everywhere), but time does fold on itself in this poignant film of memory, loss, war and love.
A French woman is shooting for a film in Hiroshima, and a day before returning to Paris she meets a Japanese man in a cafe, whom she spends the night with. An intense affair develops, and in this intense love, the woman is transported to her first love – a German soldier whom she had met during German occupation of France. On the night of French liberation, the soldier was killed in her presence and his death and loss of love continued to haunt her. She was disgraced in her town (Nevers) for consorting with the enemy, and spent days locked in the cellar in a state of mental fever. In a while, she remembered only the pain and spent life in short, meaningless affairs – until, on meeting this man in Hiroshima she feels the intensity of love and is horrified at the thought of finally forgetting her first lover.
The horror of forgetting seems the central theme of the film. The necessity to remember disasters like the loss of love or bombing of a city, to keep it alive forever, are pictured both in the personal trauma and the scenes of horror from Hiroshima. Both disasters intermingle to make the trauma of Hiroshima very personal; it is no longer so distant as the destruction of a city. She cannot take a new lover, because it would mean that she could forget love and thus would also be able to forget this new love. And how could you forget love, forget Hiroshima, and move on?
There is something so beautiful and sad about Resnais’ movie in its clear black and white imagery. The impossibility of love and the burden of guilt is reflected in the still shots above. The manner in which the flashbacks become a part of the current conversation, and in the way the two lovers juxtapose is haunting, and yet something felt often on dreamy mornings when worlds intersect, and for while you do not know which is which.
It was so fascinating to hear the conversation of the lovers – I am looking now for the screenplay(translated) of the movie written by Resnais and Duras.

Vivre Sa Vie

My introduction to Godard is fairly recent. I have only in the last three weeks begun to watch his films, and have been both intrigued and a little puzzled by his stylistic approach to film-making.
Not withstanding my confusion over his films in general, I found watching Vivre Sa Vie an absolute delight. Even in its title, the movie begins to show a certain contempt with popular notions: My life to live, It’s my life – an aggrogant expression proclaiming choice. It appears that the director takes a small satisfaction in dismantling this myth of choice piece by piece in twelve parts of the movie.

The movie follows the life of Nana, in twelve short segments. We learn that she has left her husband and child, possibly to follow some vague dreams of becoming rich and famous. In the first couple of segments, her quirky nature begins to show, as does her alienation and almost complete isolation with the world. She is struggling to meet ends, unable to pay her rent – and takes up streetwalking to earn some money. While a lesser movie would have dramatized the difficulty of this decision to no end, Godard’s version only subtly shows the discomfort through Nana’s denial to allow her first client to kiss her on the mouth. Other than this single digression, she is not shown to be either in a moral conflict or in depression over her decision.
In the next sections, she meets Raoul who becomes her pander, marking her complete entry into the profession. As the scenes progress, she appears more and more alienated, robotically going through the motions. Perhaps at some point she realizes that this is not her life – she even takes a lover and makes a decision to leave the profession, again indicating that this whole track was a matter of choice, and she could leave it at will.
The movie ends in a sudden, surprising and shocking tragedy. A tragedy that was wholly unnecessary to the movie, but perhaps vital for Godard’s stylistic build-up. Also, I cannot come up with an alternative ending, except for the kind of alienated supreme ending of L’eclisse.

The film is best known for its cinematic techniques – the use of twelve different parts, each with a title, or the use of camera angles and positions with majority of scenes being captured from behind or from profiles. Except for Nana, none of the other actors have to worry about facial expressions, as the faces are shown only briefly – almost as an afterthought towards the end of the scene. There is little dialogue in the film, and most sounds are external. All techniques which were supposedly made to shock the audience. But once the shock is over, they seem to be the perfect way to show a life. In fragments, not attempting to draw conclusions, and almost exclusively focused on the central character.

Nana’s character is well pictured. She is poor, and does not want to be. She is not contend in being a wife and mother who struggles to subsist. She has dreams and is unwilling to completely give up on them. Even though she choses prostitution, it appears to her as a transient choice, without the permanence and irrevocability she associates with settling in a mediocre marriage or life. She doesn’t ever look completely disappointed with the way things move, only because she continues to believe that there is a rainbow at the end of the cloud, until, in a while, she becomes habitual to the cloud and only feels a tiredness with it.

Anna Karina puts the perfect face to Nana. I was, at first interested in the similarity of her name to Anna Karenina. (I was, and still am quite moved by the story of Tolstoy’s heroine who throws away a perfectly settled life to chase some phantom illusions and then gets trapped in the chase). I think the same dream repeats here, as it does in so many lives. Of running from stability towards another stability.

Persepolis

Persepolis: I rarely find good movies on flights, but found this one on the Thai airlines in-flight entertainment system quite accidentally. It is an autobiographical, French animation movie. Written by Marjane Satrapi, who grew up in Iran during the period of Islamic revolution, it is a story of these years and of her later life in Vienna. Adapted from Satrapi’s graphic novel, it is a very simple animation, and quite adorable. Without getting sentimental, it explores the life around the little girl and captures her growing up pretty well with her small rebellions against the fundamentalist rule.

Another rainy day

I can thank the rains or blame them, but for once, last weekend was spent peacefully at home as the roads around me once more gave way to a gush of water and life in Mumbai came to a familiar grinding halt. As usual I was again confused if I like living in Mumbai or not. After all, a peaceful day at home with the perfect excuse of rain is a rare blessing. My only complaint is that this should have happened on a week day to grant some respite from the monotony of office.

I utilized the day in watching three movies – all three of them interesting to watch, if a bit depressive at times.

The first one was Como agua para chocolate (Like Chocolate for water), a 1992 Mexican movie based on a book by Mexican novelist Laura Esquivel. It is actually a story of a young girl’s love struggling against tradition (No! not in the traditional Bollywood style). The incomplete love manifests itself in her cooking, which becomes a mode of communication between her and her lover. Like other South American writings, an element of magic realism is dominant in the story in form of magical effects of food, ghosts, etc. I think Sir (!) Rushdie took inspiration from the plot when writing down the character of Alia (Saleem’s aunt) in Midnight’s Children. A very different movie.

The second one was a 2002 French movie Irréversible by Gaspar Noé, the Argentinian-French film-maker strongly influenced by Mr. Kubrick. The most impressive part of the movie is its tagline: Time destroys Everything, and the director shows that emphatically by moving in backward frames – starting with a violent, dark present and weaving back to a happy, dreamy past. The plot depicts revenge for a rape, but it is in a way a story of time. The movie is jarringly depressive with its frank graphics, and on a clouded, rainy day threatens to push one into a gloomy state of mind. Monica Bellucci, unlike her other movies (especially Malena), is less impressive and beautiful, though really there is very little role for her.

The third movie was the very popular 2005 film – V for Vendetta, which was very entertaining to watch. This movie depicts the Big Brother in one of his variants, and is set in a future Britain. The central character V in this movie is the rebel who single-handedly tries to overthrow the Big brother rule. The film is an adaptation of a comic book series by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. Interestingly, Alan Moore refused to watch this movie because of his disappointments with the previous adaptations of his works (From Hell, The League of extraordinary gentlemen). I don’t know if the movie would have disappointed him and the readers of the original comic, but to me it was a thriller – a nice perk from the darkness of Irreversible.

Paris, Je T’aime

There is often something catching about the French movies (strictly by my own sampling). Perhaps it is only because the better ones become famous and become available to a wider non-french speaking audience, but the handful of French movies that I have come accross have been captivating.

I have written one post on the French trilogy Trois Couleurs (Three Colors)(http://slidingsands.blogspot.com/2007/05/trois-couleurs.html), a set of three very thought provoking movies. I recently watched another French movie called Amélie or Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain (The Fabulous Life of Amélie Poulain), which was a comical and entertaining story of a mildly eccentric girl called Amélie Poulain. Almost all events in the movie are a comic exaggeration of the reality, from Amélie’s mother’s death, to her father’s belief in her troubled heart condition, to her meeting with her beloved and finally the coming together of everything. Each event underlines her isolation from normalcy and her semi-retirement to an imaginative world. It is a story which depicts the modern Parisian life by drawing a caricature of it – sometimes one of the most effective means to bring out traits.
Adding to my experience of cinéma français, last weekend I saw another French movie – the first one in the theatre – Paris, je t’aime (Paris, I love you). The film is an assortment of stories – 18 in all , each running for 5-10 minutes. Each story has been shot in a different administrative unit of Paris (called arrondissements) and has been written and directed by a different person. One would think that such a disconnected set of story could be exacting and become boring after a while – but in reality it was extremely interesting. Each story showed Paris in a different light. Surprisingly, most of the characters seemed to be immigrants to the city rather than native French. Probably it was done to give a diversity to people.
The central theme of the movie was love – and it was a different kind of love in each story – it was the love for a child, love for a wife, love for a father, love for an ex, love for a lover and love for self. The stories were witty, emotional, touching, crazy and simple in turns and though a couple of them did seem odd and unconnected, the overall collage was very pleasing and entertaining. Couple of my favorites were Pere Lachaise (the story of wit) and Faubourg Saint-Denis (the disintegrating love of an actress and a blind man).
The movie brought back wonderful memories of living in the city of Paris. This city was one of the very few places where I have lived alone with myself in a way. Nowhere else do I think I have walked alone for long hours, sat in a park alone sippling coffee listening to music or caught a sandwich and sat staring at a monument. I often remember it as the place where I lost my passport and struggled to get another one. But at the same time, it was also a place which I scanned by foot, by train and by buses, holding a map and sometimes giving up in exasperation. The only place where I got out of the train on impulse and roamed an unknown area, and felt so much with myself. The only place in which I actually lived the idyllic dream of reading a book on a park bench, near a pond, with my hair swaying away in the cool and soothing breeze.
I do love Paris, in a way.

Trois Couleurs

Trois Couleurs (“Three Colors”) is a trilogy of three french movies: Bleu (“Blue”), Blanc(“White”) and Rouge(“Red”). After searching for a long time and more than an year since watching the preceeding version , I was finally able to watch the final part of this trilogy: Rouge. The movie certainly was worth the hunt.

Each of the three movies center around a color (the three colors of the French flag incidentally). They are losely based on the political motto of liberty, equality and fraternity respectively- though I think that is more of an explanation of the theme and way to define the trilogy rather than the actual essence of the movies.

The three stories are disconnected and therefore can be watched in any sequence. The first one depicts a woman trying to deal with the death of her husband and child and learning to live by herself and become free. The second is a story of revenge from a man who has been abandoned by his lover/wife. In the third, a retired judge spies on his neighbours by tuning in to their calls, and sees a parallel of his own life in one of the young men he is spying on.

Each of the movie is brilliant, artistic and almost poetic. They mostly seem to be like the reading of a book rather than watching of a movie, enhanced strongly by the persistent use of colours. There is very little dialogue/interaction, which is useful as it leaves very little to be lost in translation. However in all stories, you can’t help feeling a strong, pressing sense of loneliness -which almost appears to be a curse of individuality.

My personal favorite amongst the three: Blanc – perhaps that’s owed to its interesting plot, and a more identifiable and formed ending.