The Other Cinema

Mumbai Film Festival

Abhijit Ghosh-Dastidar

The Mumbai Film Festival (October, 2013) presented different social milieus as poetic counter points in visual expression. The best of World Cinema was supplemented with New Spanish Cinema, celebrations of Spanish Cinema from Luis Bunuel to Jaime Rosales, Kabul Fresh of contemporary Afghan directors, Cambodian New Wave, Restored Classics from Charles Chaplin to Hoo Hsiao-Bien, Film India, Real Reel and tributes to Leo Carax (France) and Costa-Gavras (Greece/France).

3X 3D
Commissioned by a Portuguese city ‘‘3X 3D’’ (France/Portugal, 2013, Colour, 70 Mins), directed by Peter Greenaway (UK), Jean-Luc Godard (France) and Edga Pera (Portugal) raises the city of Guimaraes as European capital of culture. A blank screen precedes Greenaway’s ‘‘Just in Time’’ (16 mins) and thereafter snatches visual splendour from the city’s two millennia of history. Costume clothes dating to 1711 AD, the countess of Portugal who built the 17th century monastery, a mathematician astronomer of 1546 glide in the repertoire of time. Guimaraes, the ancient capital of Portugal, is recounted in voice over tourism commentaries on St Jean Vic, the father of Portuguese theatre, structures, curtains, courtyards in 3-D, mythological saints and archtypal soldiers in paintings and sculptures. King John of Portugal, photo-icons of saints, super-imposed 3-D images of the death of Pope John XXI, St Nicholas Day of 5 December 2012, tourists outside Braganca court yards, open air tables and chairs, the statue of Christ crucified in the interior of a monastery, mendicants and beggars construe the spirit of Guimaraes monastery. The images dissolve in 3-D of an iron smith with tongs and stones, and ancient sea port, soldiers in the Peninsular War, the beating of drums, the satirical poet Antonia Caravalho, public festivities, Sacramento of 1830, Church interiors, flying insects around a crucifix, social historian Sampaios, St Gautier, theologian Paio Galvaro, Peter the bookworm burnt as a heretic and Dante’s imagination. The narration, the text variation, the cathedral and the costumed actors make Greenway’s film a multi-media extravaganza.

Edger Pera’s ‘‘Cinesapiens’’ (37 mins) occurs inside an auditorium, where the audience clap to super imposed images of tap dancing. The images are for amazing, but one goes to the Cinema to learn something, besides entertainment. Marriage vows of a couple, are followed by images of an incoming train which makes the spectators terrified. The viewer searches for truth in the reality of the shows, which mix reality and illusion. The active audience progresses from cinema mute to cinema of sound, while movies bring sing song musicals, and words and voices distract audiences. Star worshippers, Rudolph Valentino, kino magnetism, emancipation implying the blurring of boundaries between those who act and those who see, point to a fraternity of metaphors scarificed and business stories. References to porn films, the Ku Klux Clan, demands of cine decency against sex mania, cocktail of Hollywood, classical Greece, krypto celluloid glasses on eyes, seas constructed to see the five feeble senses conclude with a child wearing glasses and enjoying bubble gum. Pera’s overview from rudimentary cinema to technology driven images is an amazement revolution of krypto celluloid creatures.

‘‘The Three Disasters’’ (17 mins) by Jean Luc Godard is a personal history of cinema in images, sounds, textual extracts, movie clips, photographs and snatches of distorted video. Evolution of monsters, debt of universal wars, three dice, war footage of buildings as they crumble, St Augustine, shadows, names and numbers, zero not equal to itself but equal to infinity, shadows of complex numbers, Hollywood techniques, Greeks did not consider zero to be a number, thoughts buildings up dice and scaffolds, accuse revolution of building its own grave, by destruction of images. A return to past, as life is full of dead people, but newsreels are mostly propaganda. Orson Wells filming and Jean Renoir shooting, where weather has a way to shape minds. Books to put inside books, reality on reality, and the history of one second shifts to one minute, to history of a year and eternity. Bodies and minds together form images of the world, contrary to images of the state. Right eye bandaged Nicholas Ray is followed by shadows versus words, captions and paintings, tales of fireplaces, dogs and puppies. The metaphor of zero is searched in Hindu mathematics of the negativity of numbers. Bad dreams are written on a stormy night. Perspectives are formed as hope for peace is renounced, circus trapeze swing, the original sin of western paintings, classical painting, Eisenstein with no space in the Kremlin, Orson Wells, and San Francisco engulf the screen. Godard finds the situation impossible for the narrator, and searches for a symmetry between space and time. There is great talk of revolution and despotism. From time to time, the earth trembles, visualizing Visconti’s ‘‘La Terra Trema—The Earth Trembles’’ (1948) in Godard’s conception and manipulation. ‘‘Les Trois Disasters—The three disasters’’ derived from found-footage collage makes 3-D expressive.

Stray Dogs
Tsai Ming Liang’s ‘‘Stray Dogs’’ (Taiwan/France, 2013, Colour, 138 Mins) rejects narrative, and observes the extreme margins of Taipei society in a charcoal landscape. A little boy (Lee Yi Cheng) and a little girl (Lu Yi Ching) are sleeping. The mother (Cheng Shiang Chyi) is combing her hair, with face covered by thick hair. The five-minute fixed-camera shot encompasses the woman brushing her hair. The only sound is the breathing of the sleeping children. The lower trunk of a tree lies on the road. The children trudge through woods, strewn leaves and tree branches. The Taipei landscape emerges in improvised irrigation, sounds of water flowing, a pharmacy at a hospital, overhead shots of sand beaches, an open air restaurant, city traffic and rail tracks. A man sits in a crouched position by the sea shore, super market stores full of goods, two men on stilts at a road crossing advertise products, rains, a man urinating, lighted cigarettes and smoke are part of the milieu. The mother walking through an abandoned stretch of foliage and concrete, feeds dogs. Soon she is under guilts with the children. The woman stares at a large landscape painting on a wall. One notices hills and cultivation on the foothills. The woman lights a torch and urinates on the ground. Sitting on shrubs, a man (Lee Kang Sheng) eats chickens, and later sleeps in an abandoned building. The mother shampoos the girl’s head in a public toilet. The man smothers a cabbage doll in candle light. A boat drifts into a river with the children, but the mother seizes the children. At the abandoned concrete site, woman feeds dogs, and the man drinks from a bottle. The man puts his arms around the woman from behind, and they watch the mountain landscape mural and the dark sky, for screen time of about 14 minutes. Silent contemplation springs from austere minimallism.


Vol. 46, No. 39, Apr 6 - 12, 2014