Films & Feni: The Super Star in Goa

Posted on November 27, 2008


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NOV 28, 2008 – THE PRESENTER BEGAN TO INTRODUCE ALEXIS KRASILOVSKY’S Women Behind the Camera as a film, but subsequently, he honoured the wishes of its maker and called it a “global documentary.” It’s easy to see why. Krasilovsky interviews women cinematographers from the world over – including India’s first woman cinematographer, BR Vijayalakshmi – and puts together an irresistible portrait of a glass ceiling being, if not entirely shattered, at least leaned against to a degree that cracks begin to show. The great Haskell Wexler himself admits, rather cheerfully, that it isn’t so much that women were considered weaker as the men being more comfortable with their backslapping boys-only club. In between anecdotes both frightful (Arnold Schwarzenegger sexually harassing the woman behind the camera, during Pumping Iron) and funny (one female DoP warns a man about to initiate groping, “Don’t touch equipment you don’t know how to operate”) emerges a touching tribute to the tenacity of women in a uniquely man’s world. The show was packed, and deservedly so.

WHAT IS IT WITH PEOPLE WHO MAKE FILMS about war that, nine times out of ten, causes them to embrace didacticism over delicacy? Ari Folman’s astoundingly animated Waltz with Bashir is possibly the only docu-drama you’ll see in this lifetime that involves, in equal parts, psychotherapy and psychedelic warfare – and Folman pulls off this blisteringly audacious mix with the kind of flair that recalls Apocalypse Now. But his final frames turn to live action, with real devastation and real bodies and real mangled limbs, and the abstract becomes distressingly concrete. This may well mirror the film’s progress from the imagined to the real, but doesn’t Folman trust the people who opt for such challenging fare to get his point without his helpful editorialising? Now that that’s out of my system, allow me to add myself to the growing legions of the film’s admirers. Waltz with Bashir is most certainly a must-watch, a terrifying account of how the violence of repressed memories can be more devastating than mere gunfire.

ARE THE ORGANISERS OF THE FESTIVAL ruing their decision to allow the erection of a white board, with the legend “Good Time Blog @ IFFI 2008,” requesting people to express themselves? The first few scribbles seemed innocuous enough, rah-rah ideals like “film society movement in every small town,” and this mash note from a devoted fan who’s yet to be appraised about the demise of his idol, “Che is a great leader in this world.” A little subversion followed, with Manu Yadav (who even listed his cell phone number) declaring, “Long live piracy.” Then, things started getting really creative. There appeared the picture of a boat, amidst calm Goan waters surrounded by palm trees, and the man and woman in it were labelled wanker and wankeress. And next to this charming idyll, a hand-drawn image of Rajinikanth, with the caption, “World and Tamil Super Star.” Clearly, not even art-house snobs are immune to the man’s charm.

FRANÇOIS OZON’S ANGEL BEGAN SPECTACULARLY, with a pitch-perfect recreation of Hollywood’s Golden-Age melodramas. (Even the wall-to-wall music score was so right: languid violin excursions for the sad scenes, perky pizzicato bursts for the happy moments.) I was rivetted by the borderline-obnoxious character played by Romola Garai, an Edwardian-era romantic novelist who finds fame and fortune and true love, only to have her life implode at the onset of WWI. But as the romantic giddiness gives way to gravity, Ozon switches styles abruptly, from high camp (but not the winking-knowing kind, ironic quotes entirely in place) to stately, distanced, even arty drama, and the effect is that of a shower, changing in an instant, from warm to cold. (This analogy, I confess, could have been inspired by the extreme blasts of air-conditioning in the theatre.) It’s always interesting to see art-house faves trying to stretch – this is Ozon’s first English-language film – but when the stretch transforms into an unsightly contortionist act, you know it’s time to head home.

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