Bitty Ruminations #40

Posted on February 7, 2011

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FEB 7 – Has there been, in Tamil cinema, a filmmaker like Myshkin? With his yellow-sari seductresses, with his men with their torsos sawed off by a pitiless camera, and with his Zen-koan approach to shot-taking, where the ugliness of the universe cohabits peacefully with beauty, he’s undoubtedly anointing himself an auteur. But why do his films come with so many “buts”?

He casts faces from real life, faces unaccompanied by star (or even previous-cinema) baggage – but these performances don’t come with the polish, the finish you want in scenes with so much quietude. He does wondrous things with his camera, and he even justifies his inverted compositions with a flashback that plants this gaze in the viewer’s mind – but there are times you feel he’s simply showing off: look-ma-I’m-a-filmmaker. The mostly excellent initial portions unspool in quiet dread, playing games with the audience’s patience and attention spans – but once the game is given away, things become unintentionally comical, the apparent work of someone who’s made a first half that he wants to make and a second half that he feels will go over well with the sensation-seeking Tamil-film viewer.

To me, he’s a fascinatingly restless filmmaker – an amalgam of artistry, ambition, and amateurishness – whose flawed works I’d rather watch over those with fewer “mistakes,” fewer risks, fewer qualms about audience-pleasing whorishness – but damned if he isn’t a canny audience-pleaser as well.

PS: In the finest moment of the film, the one that encapsulates its nihilistic philosophies, Myshkin cuts from the “villain” approaching an unseen victim, dismembering power tool in hand, to the “hero” slumped in his chair, his arms splayed out in the exact fashion of one of the villain’s many victims. This cut – and not the showy naming of the protagonist as J Krishnamurti (yes, that J Krishnamurti), or another character as Judas Iscariot (yes, that Judas Iscariot) – tells you why this director is the real deal.

PPS: Thoonganagaram, a not-bad CineMadurai entry, has villains whose heinousness is established through the exact means employed in Yudham Sei. When was the last time two films released the same Friday played host to the same act of perversion?