Sunday, March 29, 2009

Films Seen Recently

  • Milk (Gus van Sant, 2008): I have written about homophobia earlier. The world becomes more modern and democratic in its laws and institutions usually not because of majority opinion (homophobia is alive and kicking in most parts of the world), but because it becomes too much of an effort to oppose the demand for equality by a spirited minority. Whether it be the suffrage movement, the movement for Black and immigrant rights, and so on. Democracy doesn't work when beliefs and morals are in question. Most people would vote against what they perceive as immorality. But if the so-called immoral create enough of a ruckus to be a threat, the state usually relents. On a side note, I have always maintained that non-violence works - when it does - as a tactical move, and not as a principle. Non-violent hunger fasts of Mohandas Gandhi, for example, carried behind them the threat of civil war if he was allowed to die. So it is in this film as well. The gays are willing to protest peacefully as long as it is understood that violence is an option.

    Sean Penn's acting in this film is of the highest calibre. His facial expressions, his mannerisms, the way he walks and the way he talks, and his very eyes express his gay-ness in a near-miracle of method acting. Wow!

  • Sita Sings the Blues (Nina Paley, 2008): What a film! All the more astonishing since almost the entire artistic output is of a single person. An irreverent take on Ramayana, with a delightfully less than subtle dose of criticism for the Maryada Purshottam (Propreity Personified) Rama, the film also recommends itself for the exuberant mix of media, especially the mixing of animation with the Blues songs by Annette Hanshaw. The film juxtaposes Nina Paley's autobiographical tale of heartbreak with Sita's response to Ram's treatment of her. The high point of the film, for me, was the satire sung by Luv and Kush for their father. The artist has released the film, more or less, into the public domain, and a good quality version is available here (this is a 1.5 GB download). Subtitles and director's commentary are available here.

7 comments:

srid said...

I watched some clips of Sita Sings the Blue sometime back. Looks like the full movie available now!

Link - http://www.sitasingstheblues.com/wiki/index.php?title=SitaSites

The Water Bearer said...

An amazing movie in a long time..some of the parts are really funny!!! but it also makes you think...

I dont think that an Indian audience would take veery kindly to this movie - what are your thoughts?

Surbhi Goel said...

" I dont think that an Indian audience would take veery kindly to this movie - what are your thoughts?"

whoah!!!

only an indian audience will get all of it- satires et al. To an audience not conversant with Ramayan and its exaggerated value/importance/presence in Indian Politics, Culture, society will miss out the subtle ironies and humour. Despite Indian being a secular country , Ramayan through popular culture and politics and social discourse dominates the discourse in India. The import of Rama being de-praised by his sons will be lost to many western audience in particular. This films dislodges and question all premises of 'ideal man', patriarchy, Ramayan as anything more than a literary text itself. Some of the themes may be universal, but it is essentially an 'Indian' film and brilliant one at that.

The Water Bearer said...

Hi Surbhi, what you write is correct - the true essence of the movie may only be captured by an Indian audience that probably is more of "class" & thinks similar...which in my opinion would be around 10% of the total movie watchers...i was referring to the masses...who think of Rama as Maryada Purshottam and Sita as the Wife Divine...would they take kindly to Sita singing and dancing or Rama's toungue in cheek apology just before the climax? OR would they take kindly to the description and illustrations which Sruphnakha gives to Ravana on Sita??

I have my doubts..

thx.

Surbhi Goel said...

Hello The Water Bearer,
while you are entitled to your opinion and thoughts:

"the movie may only be captured by an Indian audience that probably is more of "class" & thinks similar...which in my opinion would be around 10% of the total movie watchers.."

# Class chauvinism is very rampant and often blurs understanding of the masses. Does 'masses' mean the majority hindu population? In that case, they will be certainly outraged at the irreverence and outraged all the more because N. Paley exposes hindu/ramayan/Ram chauvinism rather forthrightly.

"...i was referring to the masses...who think of Rama as Maryada Purshottam and Sita as the Wife Divine...would they take kindly to Sita singing and dancing or Rama's toungue in cheek apology just before the climax? OR would they take kindly to the description and illustrations which Sruphnakha gives to Ravana on Sita??"

# i doubt if the film will reach the 'kind' of 'masses' you are describing. even with subtitles in hindi et al, such a film has bleak chances of reaching wider public domain. while liberal hindus will bear it with some humour, the right wing will make a huge issue out of it!! Description of sita given by Surapnakha to Ravana are very much a part of Valmiki's Ramayan and also the amorous advances of Surpnakha towards Lakshman. The symbolism of nose cutting is not lost to most. N.Paley has added just a bit more bite to it.

best

Surbhi

The Water Bearer said...

Hello Surbhi,

* Does 'masses' mean the majority hindu population?

Yes actually I did mean the normal average Hindu.

* such a film has bleak chances of reaching wider public domain

Definitely..I'd be very surprised if it ever sees light of the day in India...and somewhere deep down, i'd be happy if it never comes to India..they'll kill it!!!

* while liberal hindus will bear it with some humour, the right wing will make a huge issue out of it!!

Thats exactly why I sought opinion on the movie; I consider myself a liberal Hindu, and while I did enjoy the movie, there were times when I felt a little odd about it...

Anyhows, thanks for your comments..its been good reading your thoughts..

r/

Surbhi Goel said...

Hello The Water Bearer,

Since you sought opinion on the film, Sita Sings the Blues. I am putting it in brief:

"The less said the better for this film, which is at once, historical/
mythical/ topical/political/comical/poetical - *simply watchable*.

A fresh approach in film making employing all possible narrative forms of oral tale-telling, Rajput miniature painting, Calender Art popularized by the Raja Ravi Verma Printing Press legacy, Line animation, Video Art ;
mixing personal with mythical and catapulting it to social and political level; story of an extraordinary woman and yet EVERYWOMAN or several women;
this biopic provokes the viewer into contemplation while tickling the funny bone."

nice exchanging notes with you.

Surbhi