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What's so good about There Will B Blood? almost 3 years ago
There’s a lot of arcane talk about cinematic technique, so I will refrain from going into that. Yes, it is a “fashionable” metaphor featuring two special interest groups who are unreasonably powerful in America today – the recalcitrant oilmen and the aprioristically dogmatic right wing christians. PT Anderson’s critical achievement is that he humanizes the members of both these special interest groups. Far from legitimizing their respective agendas, what the movie does, in my opinion is demonstrate human corruptibility. It underscores human fragility and points out that the descent into madness (paranoid obsession/xenophobia) as a result of disparate factors such as emotional loss and a sense of insecurity, is merely a few steps away. The platonic ideal of the flawed human is far more referential of democracy than the noble human to me, but perhaps I’m betraying my political orientation here.
Some of the above posters have argued above that the characters are less complicated than in real life or the lack of central female characters is indicative of a general lack of nuance. I think those are straw men and not substantive arguments one way or another.
Why for instance does the “…shabby set-up of Plainview and Eli’s ultimate confrontation….(come) across as just secular-progressive prejudice and loopy, unconvincing drama”? This is clearly an opinion and not a well reasoned argument.
Also, the fact that it appears ‘masculinist’ in the general import of its thesis is because it is a deliberately not-so-subtle attempt to delineate the overarching patriarchy that our society is undoubtedly mired in. Perhaps that’s sophomoric, but there’s no real artistic problem with that. No one will disagree that men make the lion’s share of all critical decisions when all is said and done.
I think it is an important document, because I feel the the American left has lessons to learn from this. Maybe bipartisanship would have a fighting chance if we understood the reasons underpinning peoples’ insecurities objectively.
Satyajit Ray's Birth Anniversary (What's your favorite Ray film?) almost 3 years ago
Birinchi Baba (The Holy Man). Absurdist, funny, and a great adaptation from a story by an underrated author from Bengal named Rajshekhar Basu who wrote employing the pseudonym “Parashuram” which in turn was a tip of the hat to a conflicted, batman-like mythological hero from the Mahabharat. Less self aware than almost anything else he directed/wrote.
Deep Thoughts, as seen on SNL almost 3 years ago
I don’t want to hurt you (every single time).
Deep Thoughts, as seen on SNL almost 3 years ago
The thing that ruined cuckolding for me was when I found out my girlfriend was sleeping with the same guy.
Director Introduction: Ritwik Ghatak over 2 years ago
i don’t know..somehow he seems to have lacked the deftness or the lightness of touch that satyajit ray had in spades. i am willing to concede that it’s a cultural bias that stems from my background being similar to ray’s (west bengal, anglicized bourgeois uh oh) than ghatak’s (east bengal~bangladesh down home backwoods). the closest (and most generically accessible) analogy i can think of is the disdain that “sophisticated” yankees have for their southern brethren. so essentially, i suppose i am wired to dislike the obstreperous gauche sensibilities as vulgar, which more objective viewers might interpret as freewheelin free spirited spontaneity. are there any bengalis (or otherwise) on this board at all who feel me?
Director Introduction: Ritwik Ghatak over 2 years ago
um, i really didn’t want to offend anyone, and i hope i didn’t offend you, chasing butterflies. I was only interested in examining the ‘ghoti’ vs ‘bangal’ dichotomy and how that colors one’s choices..this is a reason why I always view ghatak fans who aren’t fluent with bengali cultural mores with some suspicion (not to attract more flak). Unless you’ve lived in calcutta and experienced the complex nuances of that social dynamic will my critique even make sense, I wonder? For people outside of bengal, it is imperative to understand how being ghoti or bangal influences your tastes in everything – food, films, what football (soccer) team you root for, literally your entire personality is shaped by your genealogical moorings. This of course doesn’t apply to the same degree anymore in the cultural space created by the brave new world of facebook, ipods and the internet, etc.
Well, i think all criticism is subjective, and of course everyone brings a modicum of some cultural baggage to the table, so trying to explain why a cultural artefact is aesthetically pleasing is a fools errand (at least sort of) despite my seemingly conservative ‘collective Bengali unconscious’ having permeated my sensibilities. :)
However, i will try to clarify what i mean when i say that ghatak is hamfisted in his treatment of comparable material that ray does with subtlety (and dare i say grace). Ghatak’s screenplays are really redolent of a sort of populist marxism which look at things in black and white and equates proletarianism with populism. This is evident in “jukti takko aar goppo”, though some might argue that the lack of finesse is somehow the point? Which in turn is an argument I don’t entirely buy, because it seems lazy to equivocate existential angst in such a pedestrian and sophomoric way, especially in the final throes of despair that marked the end of ghatak’s life. I
If my judgment at this point seems a little unkind, it is. He seemed to have a poor grasp of dialectics, unlike ray (though of course, I’m sure one could write a book length monograph, constructing a thesis against this argument) – merely because his work seems so steeped in an almost biblical interpretation of right and wrong (a characteristic flaw among post trotskyite marxists in bengal), somewhat akin to steinbeck. Perhaps this is why a lot of his work seems so dated in the long run, and I guess, in short, i’m of the opinion that it isn’t timeless. Ray’s work, on the other hand, is, even though specific referential material has obviously dated (the feluda franchise for example).
Ghatak’s screenplays really kinda blow. i am sorry, but they are awfully clunky and abruptly paced. He was not a good writer. The absence of a certain um, writerly flow is evinced from his interviews as well (including the ones linked on this board). He was garrulous, imprecise, melodramatic and curiously self aggrandizing. in comparison (for me), Ray’s dialogues, pacing and writing when it came to films is really lyrical, concise and well, minimalist as cliche as that may sound. This is really subjective, and of course no one has to agree with me on this. These facets of rhythm, light and shade (sorry i’m being vague again) get lost in translation, and again i question the judgment of non-bengali speakers perhaps not getting the untranslatable subtle differences that fall through lingual cracks thusly. As a native bengali speaker Ghatak’s dialogues grate on the ear. Ray’s to put it simply, don’t. One may of course posit that the dissonance was intended, and it may be so, I suppose. Though, again my background precludes objectivity, and i have already admitted that i perceive artistic merit through a conditioned anglicized lens of the post modern variety. In my defense, I would go out on a limb and argue that this sort of a conditioned reflex to art via personal cultural bias is true for everyone.
Re the conservative bengali mindset that needs expansion beyond blind veneration of its cultural holy cows, i can only quote ghatak from the interview someone linked above, where he talks of his disdain for tagore and the affectation of his novels. And i agree with the general project that honestly evaluates our cultural icons, such as ghatak’s estimate of Tagore’s prose output which btw is absolutely spot on. for me anyway. Ironically, one can say the same of Ghatak vis a vis the affectation. The one Ghatak movie that i do enjoy is bari theke paliye (poorly translated as ‘runaway’), because of the somlolent beauty produced by the absence of clunky dialogue. That my uncle plays the lead role, may also be an influential factor haha. Woops name dropper! :D
In closing, I will advance the hypothesis that ray’s critics may argue that his work appeals to the herdlike multitude, Because of its indisputable bourgeois thrust, its genteel sensibilities, and it may also grate for several leftist cinephiles (arguably, i’m in that category) who think he (ray) was overrated, frustratingly apolitical (relative to ghatak) and a sellout. Conversely, for Ghatak, it’s not hard to like an underappreciated underdog who dies heartbroken, the tragic marxist pilloried by the unsympathetic centrist government and estranged from his family.
But absent that framing, his body of work may have been uncompromising, but I don’t think it tapped into the emotional core of the human condition in all its confounding complexities. Needless to say, this is my opinion and very hard to explain to a sceptic even if i did a frame by frame comparison of their movies/writing style/modes of exposition/techniques. I would be hard pressed to explain how exactly for me, the ineffable spirit that imbues ray’s movies with magic is absent in ghatak’s. sort of like trying to explain the reason why the dave clark 5 or herman’s hermits are not the beatles. That is all.
My god, it was exhausting trying to cover all the bases, and i cannot stress enough that these are my (very subjective) opinions.
Director Introduction: Ritwik Ghatak over 2 years ago
Chasing Butterflies – I should have probably defined my terms, that would’ve been the academically rigorous thing to do but it was just a message board y’know? anyway -
‘biblical interpretation of right and wrong’ (whatever does that mean anyway?
- an extremist interpretation that doesn’t allow for in betweens, nuance shades of grey. a with or without us approach. the stalinists and the tea party patriots in the US have a lot in common. i invoked steinbeck because he too was guilty of this. his characters were either proletariats with hearts of gold, or conniving schemers who only wish to destroy the said proletariat. i’m sure there are exceptions, but for convenience i will not delve deeper than this
Melodrama, for instance, is a specific cinematic/narrative form and does not necessarily exclude the “lyrical”
- Absolutely! Couldn’t agree more. This is totally subjective as I pointed out earlier, and ‘I’ think Ghatak’s use of melodrama is unpalatable. for me me me me me.
Instead, you use vague descriptors like “lyrical”, “concise” and “minimalist”, which do not even do justice to dialogue in each of Ray’s films
- Thanks for coming to my aid with the ‘chess players’ example! i didn’t want to use specific examples, because it’s hard to choose only one. Second, I was talking about the entire body of work that ray left behind, and in this case i deemed it useful to use more generic (uh oh vague) terms. Third, message boards aren’t the most conducive places to explicate the visual/aural/sensory details of cinematic devices. They really aren’t. For instance no one who hasn’t seen that movie will really get what you’re referring to. And if they have seen the movie, then why bother putting into verbal expression what ontologically exists in our collective memories in the form of sound and images? Of course any writing fails to encapsulate what is awesome about cinema, such are the limitations of language. In which case broad generic examples more than suffice.
In no other culture has there ever been such a tired, archaic debate about who’s greater, and its squeaking grindmill through the decades contributes to neither an understanding of the films of the two masters
- Clearly you haven’t heard of the Beatles vs stones debate. Or the Who vs Kinks debate. Or the..haha i’m only joking. :)
And if at all, one could perhaps talk about say how differently a Santhal dance occupies the frame in “Ajantrik” and “Agantuk”
- I completely agree! Ghatak was a transcendentalist, perhaps? An anti modernist, sort of in the mold of Emerson, Thoreau, Leopold etc? This instantly dates him and makes him a little intellectually fusty in my mind. Ray in comparison eschewed these labels, and had a more rounded (again, dare i say erudite?) philosophical bent. I could go into details, but why bother? Another instance of him (Ghatak) being a little dated.
picked a Sunil Ganguly story (for Aranyer Din Ratri) when he visited the theme of man vs nature, and why Ghatak would choose Adwaita Mallabarman’s Titas
- See above response. Also, Ghatak had some annoying hipsterish tendencies. Ray had no qualms about working with material that was popular with the masses (Sunil Ganguly was and is widely read in Bengal btw for those who aren’t from Calcutta) instead of digging up esoterica from the quote-unquote literary underground.
in the context of Uttam Kumar’s scorching screen persona in countless Bengali films from “Sharey Chuattor” in the fifties to “Kalankini Kankabati” in the eighties
- It’s interesting you’d choose those as your bookends for Uttam Kumar’s commercial output.Instead of more patently bad tripe like Saptapadi or Antony Firingee. But okay. And I agree about that contextualization. Though i hope you aren’t equating Share Chuattor with Kalankini, that’d be really unfair. The former’s comic gold.
And I am indeed canvassing for ray btw. I’m not even being subtle about that. I have my I <3 ray underwear on as I type. I kid.
And, yeah sure. Ray was more broadly interested in mainstream modern popular culture (an interest that mirrors mine, I like to think :P), more than Ghatak was at any rate. And more importantly he had a sense of humor and a natural curiosity about the world he lived in, the subtleties and poetry of ordinary middle class urban life, etc. Whatever. Ghatak, like any extremist just seems so devoid of humor. Or maybe his humor doesn’t appeal to me cause I might think it’s too declasse. I’m willing to allow for that. Lord (uh oh) knows bengali marxists could use a little humor.
Why don’t you talk about the use of military images in Guy Debord’s “Society of Spectacle” for a change since he happens to be on your favourite auteurs list! The urban, educated Bengali has acquired a reputation of being secular. Ironically, he has simply replaced the Hindu gods with Tagore and Ray
- Wheesh, okay. This seems like a weird personal attack, but okay. :D
I am as “leftist” as the next guy, but Ghatak let his fear of being branded bourgeois cripple his natural sense of curiosity and by extension his artistic tendencies. Ray didn’t I guess, in the final analysis. and i’ll be damned if i let a fear of being called a sellout (secular, urban educated whatever) affect mine.
Move on and speak for yourself and not for all Bengalis this side of the border.
- I never said I was doing otherwise!
And I don’t want to have the last word at all! Feel free to leave comments on this. really hope you aren’t too peeved at me, though i have a feeling you are.
Post a song you are currently listening to over 2 years ago
Films You Fell Asleep During about 2 years ago
The Big Sleep, ironically. That always comes to mind. And yes, Inland Empire! Also the Bukowski movie Matt Dillon was in.
Is the Malaise of the 70s Returning to America? over 1 year ago
do check out my list and feel free to make suggestions, thanks – http://mubi.com/lists/great-recession-2008
Is class making a comeback in American cinema? over 1 year ago
please check out my list and contribute, thanks – http://mubi.com/lists/great-recession-2008
PUBLIC SCHOOL BUDGET CUTS AND FILM STUDIES about 1 year ago
“…the only art courses being cut are the ones about analyzing art, not producing art”
whoever said that the two practices were separate (or, indeed, even separable)?
with regard to what other people are saying the general gist seems to be that liberal arts/humanities do not instantly produce a commodity which stimulates the economy, ergo they should be eliminated. To me this seems to indicate fundamental flaws in what standard economic indices valorize (war! sick hospital inmates running up bills! spending on crap no one needs!), and every effort should be made to counter this way of thinking.
the purpose of education is misconceived to be a means to get a job in our era. this is explicitly not what university education is designed to (or in my opinion, even should) do. There is honestly no point in getting a 4 yr engineering college degree, besides networking and foot in the door internships. Most all the learning in technical fields happens on the job. But unless you’re an autodidact (or blessed with some innate capacity), you will not learn how to critically analyze the written word, unless you go to a 4 year liberal arts college. Most people, even grownups, don’t really know how to read.
Jirin, is indeed right, that education should ideally be a hedge against controlling the masses, but for this the desegregation of non-employment generating educational opportunities (read: a good liberal arts education) should be opened to people of humble means, the working class, so that they aren’t solely limited to eucation of a technical nature (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but being limited is clearly undesirable).
In Norway they pay you to go to school. My good friend who is dutch-scots, was paid by the dutch government to go to school as a naturalized dutch citizen and got a free ride from the university of edinburgh, scotland, because she was born there. Education should totally not be for profit, and be subsidized by public funds. Neoliberal austerity does not work, and to apply it to education is kind of egregious.
Being anti-intellectual/anti-education is like cutting off your nose to spite your face. The situation in the US is untenable, it will continute to create greater inequities.