Monday, June 13, 2011

as i had imagined

your face distracted me exactly as i had imagined,
the same languor of your lips,
the beautiful fragility of your fingers,
that mascara
which only looks good on your eyes,
a certain heat on your cheeks
that some would consider sexiness,
and the blissfully, carelessly undone hair,
that shaded all and revealed all,
exactly as I had imagined,
before we met
in crazed times, those times of craze,
even being in your shadow that aroused jealousy,
exactly as I had imagined,
blue smoke like never before,
the blue smoke that rose from your
lips into the depth less depths of being,
like the first blue smoke, the true blue
of being, like the first blue after the first fire,
exactly as I had imagined,
the vacuousness confused for sultriness,
the certain heat in your cheeks,
the magnitude of your gaze,
but mostly your colour, that mascara,
the shade beside your shade,
the fragility of your fingers,
as the blue rose from
your lips,
the smouldering cigarette in your hand,
exactly as i had imagined,
in the crazed hour of departing,
when even one look is too many and one too less,
as one leaves and departs for ever,
shattering one's heart,
in the clear crystal of that blue
that colour on your eyes,
that heat on your cheeks,
the magnitude of your seeing,
exactly as I had imagined,
the blue smoke rising from your cigarette,
as one departs,
in the crazed heat of that crazed hour,
hostage for ever
to the handsome velvet of your skin.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Winter Light

Bergman's Winter Light functions as a drama, both as a story and as a piece of cinema. The camera is central to this 'movie', for while the dimensions of the story are important, I personally feel that the camera work in this drama functions as a mirror that reveals and withdraws from the characters the important aspects of their experiences, which is the director's main attempt. It is customary Bergman territory, a northern land, a few people, bareness and coldness of the landscape. However, central to it is the camera, that not only focuses on the main characters but does so in an unhesitant and unflinching gaze, which to the viewer's dismay, hides more than revealing. There are a few scenes, especially Ingrid Thulin's monologue, where in one single shot, the camera looks at her and she looks at us, in a scene that is enormous in its intensity, for the scene would not have the same concentrated intensity had the camera been otherwise. The drama, since it focuses on what is deemed as God's silence, God's silence towards the world, it is in the space where that silence exists that the camera acts via and on the characters.

It is not possible for this drama to seize us without the claustrophobic quality of how the camera works, for it follows the faces of the main dramatis personae, as if following the faces into the minds of these people, for the minds of the people is where the doubts are, where the silence that affects them lingers, where it festers. If the pastor of this small church, which opens the first act, has doubts regarding God's existence, and if his worshippers too suffer with the same woes, then all is lost. In essence, here the worshipper leading the flocks are all blind, surrounded as they are by this curtain of doubt. If God does not speak to an individual, personally, or if God's silence is perceived as a condition wherein one cannot function metaphysically, then this malaise is not new but an old one, the oldest one. Where worship functions is in the form of a supplication, in the form of a physical supplication, for without a physical supplication, even in the most cerebral religions, God remains distant.

It is also true that in this drama, Bergman shows the emptiness of mere rituals and critiques the rituals that dominate or by force dictate the development of a certain kind of spirituality. And by giving a rawness to the emotions of his characters, by giving them a past that is troubling and unhelpful, a certain atmosphere of doubt is created. The fisherman who doubts shoots himself, the pastor's lover who doubts bends down in the end with doubts, the pastor without faith leads the church service in the end. And Christ too had doubts we are reminded, on the cross he felt forsaken, what are we to make of that, a worshiper asks? In the end nothing is resolved, the unbelieving belief goes on, must go on. Perhaps knowing to have to live in God's silence is a gift, the ultimate test of a believer.

The austerity of the landscape, the winter setting, the closeness of the camera are signals achievements of this drama. The gaze is on the actors, as if by penetrating into their eyes, not only will their doubts come out, but also their confessions, their solitary silences, their hesitations and perhaps some resolution.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

that indeterminate hour

A group of stragglers and bums had gathered outside the ramparts of an old fort in ruins. Beyond, one could see the lights of the city, but here, at an indeterminate hour, between dusk and night, several other people joined this group, and lit a fire. He sat near the fire, on the soil of this land, from where Arabic calligraphy was still visible on the broken and fallen columns of this old fort; he was thinking of what the verses might mean, in that chaste Arabic, he thought at that delicate hour between dusk and night. He felt close to the patron saint of stragglers and those who light illegal fires near derelict forts, in this land of many patron saints. The night was on the cusp of dusk, at a very dangerous hour he heard this crowd whisper. And then all of a sudden, she walked across the dusty field and sat next to him, her long brown hair hiding a part of her face, and the sky dazzled with crimson rays, and far on the horizon small clouds fled away from each other, and the hour that was already indeterminate became heavy with melancholy. And he wasn't sure whose heart beats he could hear then, his or hers.

From the group huddled around the fire, a woman rose and began singing a song, as she sang to the rhythm of a flute and a drum, and she sang of a book of separations, and how her lover never came, and she sang of long hair and how her lover never wrote to her, and though the song rose from her lips it passed through his heart, he felt. The singer's hair was black and long, and she sang of long hair and separations, and she lamented that her lover never wrote to her and never came to her, so how was she to spend her nights, she asked. She sang that her eyes were always wet and that she seldom slept, and evenings brought her pain and her bed was lonely and that her lover never wrote and never came to her. The singer with long black hair sang and danced as if possessed, and the sky was black and now past that indeterminate hour, and a dark melancholy hung in the air, as she sang , who will tell her lover that she waits for him and who will transcribe her tale on paper, she asked, as the fire raged in the middle of this strange group of people, as the singer finished her song and she sat down next to the fire, to some applause and some cheers.

The night had passed that indeterminate hour of delicate mystery and he felt as if all the fresh dew that had fallen on the earth near the singer's feet had stopped in his eyes. He looked at the girl with long brown hair sitting next to him, and her eyes were like clear flames in a desert, the singer's song had passed through her heart too, he thought. She was writing with her nails on the earth near her, on soil fresh with dew she wrote and crossed, she wrote and crossed, and he wasn't sure whose heart beats he could hear then, his or hers. This hour was full of surmise, he thought, as such hours always are, and this disparate group of stragglers felt a common destiny at that hour, hour heavy with melancholy and fresh dew. He looked at the girl sitting next to her, and the hour of reckoning seemed bright as a flame, her long brown hair seemed like his destiny, and her finger tips were soiled now and the singer's song had passed through his heart and her heart too. Who was to transcribe his tale on paper, he thought, and who would record her indifference he thought, and her eyes were bright like flames and the hour was filled with surmise and she never came to him and never wrote and the nights were long he thought and who would tell her that he was waiting for her and he seldom slept and the dew was still fresh and the singer had finished her song and the singer's song had passed through his heart and he he wasn't sure whose heart beats he could hear then, his or hers.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Luis Bunuel's Susana is generally regarded as one of his lesser movies though I would go on to say here that he only made great movies. However, it is true that Susana is not so well known, though it has all the trademarks of the great director and perhaps raises more questions than one might think otherwise. Susana was made during the master's Mexican phase and is shot in black and White. It has some surreal tricks but on the whole it has a more straight forward narrative than one would expect in a Bunuel movie. Susana is a movie wherein Bunuel subverts the Gothic genre but also makes the movie as a kind of a morality tale. However, even on a not so close viewing, it is obvious that the director is not content in just narrating a tale but in laughing at a few widely held "male" conventions, and also certain aspects of Mexican and Catholic constructs.

Susana is shown being restrained and then thrown into a cell in a reformatory wherein this young woman soon realizes that for company she has rats and scorpions. It seems clear that Susana had escaped and has been apprehended. She is being punished. Susana, terrified, prays to God and cries his help and soon flies out of a iron window in the wall, after a cross shaped light throws a reflection on the floor. Outside, it is a virtual deluge and soon she takes refuge at a hacienda, wherein a kindly looking family give her bed and food and kindness. Susana is however not welcome to the elderly maid who sees in the rain and in Susana's appearance a bad omen, a devilish act.

Susana is blonde and beautiful and it is soon clear that she is about to create havoc in this household as all the three men, the master, his young son and ranch hand all fall for her. Susana's goes in a well planned manner to seduce all three, creating friction in the household. However, the ranch hand gets to know that she is an escapee from the nearby reformatory and blackmails her into loving her. Susana uses one against the other and eventually her identity gets revealed and she is dragged, virtually back to the reformatory. We never really get to know why she had in the first place been incarcerated there and what her crimes are though it does seem that she might somehow be mentally unbalanced.

Bunuels' concerns are not mundane however. In this story gets woven the male machismo that seems to be the male prerogative and how all of Susana's actions are attributed to the devil, she herself being devil incarnate. The spectre of a temptress somehow excludes the possibility of a male allowing himself in being seduced, for the male character somehow cannot innately resist temptation. Bunuel, I think, plays on the Adam and Eve story of Adam's gullibility, absolving him of all blame can be quite tempting. In this case, Bunuel clearly also brings in certain elements of Mexican Catholic narratives to show the viewer how background political and social realities allow the exploitation of women and how strong willed female characters, which usually Bunuel shows, are seen as a sign of unrest and rebellion against the established order of men, church and piety.

Susana has some key note Bunuel trademarks of leg shots though in this case, Susana uses her bosom to unveil these hypocrisies. As regards narration, the surreal trademark shots are less in evidence though the drama hinges within a household and almost reads like a detective tale. Susana is essential viewing for Bunuel devotees.

Thursday, March 17, 2011



he saw the most beautiful flowers laid out on the wet green grass, flowers in their most riotous colour, splattered with colour, as if all the colours of this world had taken refuge in them. he saw the flowers but could not name them. he wanted to touch them, smell their scent and drown in their profuse colour and when he was about to touch them, he was wrenched away by a force that he could not see and all that he heard was cries and sounds that surrounded him, sounds and noises that came from some invisible place. and it was then that he realized that all would be lost soon, as he felt an invisible force making him climb a rope that he saw hanging from the most benevolent sky, as his hands bruised against the rope that was drawing him higher and higher, whisking him away from the colours he had seen, illegal and illicit as he thought, till he could think no more.

Saturday, March 12, 2011



you did not read the pages that fluttered away, pages with words or something like that, you relied on conjecture and hearsay, you thought that language and spoken words were enough, you did not understand the difficulty of loving in two languages, did you? you thought that at sunset the sky looks the most beautiful, the sun wears colours that have ripened and saturated finally and given to the sky what it loses at dawn, you ignored the blue of noon, the fierce heat of certain southern afternoons, when appleyards are sleepy and farmhands and their young lovers have kissed and wept, you ignored all that, didn't you? you heard the music and you knew all the songs but you still thought that music was elsewhere, else why would you forget the tunes you heard outside cheap public houses when insomniacs drift out and the moon slips in? you thought that unheard melodies were the sweetest, else why would you drift away like certain clouds do from certain other clouds, leaving gaps and spaces that are bigger than the sky at times, you ignored certain forlorn spaces, even though they had music, didn't you? you said that nights are laments and days are dirges and that poetry is water for the soul and that bull fighting is the most melancholic invention ever and you bled when the fighters bled, didn't you? you said that you felt cold in arthouse cinemas and art galleries were a load of rubbish and that real art was on the streets and after midnight along the seafront on cold northern nights along tacky hotels when a lone towel swings in its loneliness on the clothes-rail, you remember? you said walking with one hand in the other was your idea of resistance and rebellion and that philosophy was cheap and even poetry was tacky compared to the loneliness of a lost cat, you shouted and whistled and your white teeth shone and you said this is the world and this is the life and this moment alone is real, didn't you? you said only poor students on drugs with cheap clothes live the high life, they mix music with saliva and their kisses are the best, the most satisfying and the most fulfilling, they touch the core inside or something like that, you remember? you said one should stand with the back naked against a window wet with rain and then make love after midnight with all the burning and the yearning and the with all the anger and the rage one feels, didn't you? you said poetry is in the skin and that the waters of true poetry rise with the moons and the dunes of the skin, you laughed that brandy laugh and everything finished, the days and the nights and the skin and the moons and the aches and everything, you remember? but you didn't write and record what you thought and felt, even though the pages and sheets were always there, bare and empty, as they are now, bare and empty, as they flutter now aimlessly, tired and wasted, you didn't, you didn't.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Le Ceremonie

In Chabrol's Le Ceremonie, class consciousness pervades not only the unconscious but all visible relations. Henceforth, from the first frame, the viewers objectivity is constantly under pressure. Class distinctions pervade and invade us everywhere and possibly everyone is a victim of somebody else. That there is something amiss in all this is not a new wonder. When the domestic servant played by Bonnaire and her mentor played with menace by Huppert engage in a private war against their oppressors, hell will break loose. We must not however be trapped into thinking where our loyalties must lie. Chabrol achieves mastery in depicting the states of people's mind and warped personalities that are distinct from their class sensibilities. It is true that Sophie's employers are complacently smug but it is also true that occasionally they are kind. They are rich is a fact but that they are also alive is another fact; in deciding what is not right or passing judgement, the duo of Sophie and her mentor are acting for themselves, not on behalf of some members of their class.

Chabrol gives us a lot of clues about their flawed and dangerous personalities. In essence, the duo are lonely in their respective ways but their solidarity for each other has pathological consequences. They don't really know each other but assume so, their friendship or bonhomie is born out of darkness and need. This kinship or solidarity runs along class divides but I think, it also cements along a line that brings their fractured pasts together, and allows events to develop. I do not believe that Sophie is pushed towards the Huppert woman, who is already many steps ahead. Sophie has already crossed many frontiers in her mind. The employing rich family remain true to their own sensibilities and taste ; contrast Don Giovanni with rude mannerisms and what they see on their TV. That the ending is sinister and dark is not because there is a class war but because Sophie's person is going towards that denouement anyway.

The cultivation of style is seen by the two women as directly linked to money; whether aesthetic sensibilities are inborn or arise from cultural and educational capital is indeed the most important point here. Sophie's war is born out of a warped understanding of such things. Her vindictive nature sublimates in violence. However, the employing family and their arrogance is a reflection of their "entitlement status", and it exists amongst all classes and those who write poetry or even visit art galleries. However, this entitlement does not predispose or should not allow them to be victims of violence, for this entitlement is all that some people know. Nice clothes, beautiful houses and charming taste is ultimately all part of a social privilege that some have and either inherit or acquire from a background capital.Those who don't have it are not neccessarily those who cannot acquire it.

In Le Ceremonie, the actors playing the rich family are brilliant in their respective ways but Huppert brings malignant menace and considerable nuance to her role. Bonnaire plays the role out of her skin. Her performance is easily the best. This is such a great movie that one viewing alone leads to myriad reflections. And its aesthetic is so chilling and so Chabrolesque that one frame on, and we know mayhem is afoot.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Intentions of Murder

Sadako, the plump young and portly lower class suburban wife has certain certainties in her life that she expects but beyond these, there isn't much. Hell breaks loose when a stranger breaks into her house while she is alone. Initially, it seems that he is looking for money which he steals but Sadako resists him when she wakes. He tries to flee and threatens her with death, he has a knife. He then savagely attacks Sadako and ties her on the floor. However, seeing her naked thighs unleashes him and he rapes her. Later, Sadako decides to kill herself and while thinking these thoughts feels hungry and nibbles on left overs. An attempt to throw herself on the rail track behind her house is half hearted.

In Sadako, the quintessential unprivileged woman decides to stay quiet. Sadako is the common law wife of a quiet librarian, who has a mistress too. He is seen sporting Eros and Civilization in his library. Later at home, he treats Sadako as a kept woman. The train track is just behind the house, it is an important motif in this movie. Sadako's son is not registered as her son, need we know any further?

In Intentions of Murder, Imamura shows both how the kept woman or a woman can be continuously subdued and subjugated. That she is raped and develops some feelings for her tormentor is quite beside the point. The state of mind which induces a person to develop sympathies for one's subjugator is indeed a complex and interesting psychological state. However, in Sadako's case, her feelings are not born of some vague romantic longing, for how often does a woman fall in love with someone who rapes her? Her escape with her rapist to Tokyo must be seen as her fight against the many betrayals that she has suffered at every step of her life, witnessed by the numerous flashbacks and reveries we see her falling into. We can make a case of Sadako as a victim of not only her circumstances but as a psychological sufferer, and her escape and trysts with the pathetic man who has raped her is her flight not to Tokyo but to those inner regions of the mind that we know nothing about, especially hers. That she leaves her hopeless life but also her son behind is a proof of how sordid her life is, better escape with this aggressor, this obvious evil man than live with her husband whose systematic violence towards her is a given part of her life. At one point in the movie, even her son calls Sadako a fatso!

Towards the end of this movie, which ends on a positive note, Sadako has gained freedom from her rapist, her husband's mistress is dead whilst spying on her ( her mission to prove to him that Sadako is unfaithful, to him who has a mistress) she has filed a case to gain legal status as a mother, and her husband, convinced that Sadako did go to Tokyo with a man, agrees in a meek manner for the status quo to remain. But the status quo has changed. Sadako has from her trauma gained a strength, and is convinced of her inner charms even if outwardly she looks unattractive. But that is neither here nor there.

Intentions of Murder is easily one of the best movies I have ever seen. Imamura is relentlessly nihilistic in corroding every perceptible value that lower bourgeoisie life uses to cover its slime and grime. It is a movie that attacks rather than shows; it is not a brave movie but a movie that subjugates the viewer in its pincer hold. The train journeys to and from Tokyo are magnificient in depicting the ennui and desperation of Sadako's life. Nothing fills you with more dread than not knowing what Sadako might do, what her rapist might not. If Sadako enjoys her rape and later shows how lusty she could be, it reflects the grime of her life, the not so genteel veil that she wears during the day. Her husband usually forces himself on her and that must not be ever considered as a paean to male victory and aggression. The flashbacks are an imporatnt part of this movie's clear and not so clear symbolism.Imamura fills more menace into this movie than you will feel in a hundred others. I am a slave to this movie, now and perhaps forever.

Monday, March 07, 2011


There’s a secret sickness called Lisa. Like all sicknesses it’s miserable and it comes on at night. In the weave of a mysterious language whose words signify without exception that the foreigner “isn’t well.” And somehow I would like her to know that the foreigner is “having a hard time,” “in strange lands,” “without much chance of writing epic poetry,” “without much chance of anything.” The sickness takes me to strange and frozen bathrooms where the plumbing works according to an unexpected mechanism. Bathrooms, dreams, long hair flying out the window to the sea. The sickness is a wake. (The author appears shirtless, in black glasses, posing with a dog and a backpack in the summer somewhere.) “The summer somewhere,” sentences lacking in tranquillity, though the image they refract is motionless, like a coffin in the lens of a still camera. The writer is a dirty man, with his shirtsleeves rolled up and his short hair wet with sweat, hauling barrels of garbage. He’s also a waiter who watches himself filming as he walks along a deserted beach, on his way back to the hotel . . . “The wind whips grains of sand” . . . “Without much chance” . . . The sickness is to sit at the base of the lighthouse staring into nothing. The lighthouse is black, the sea is black, the writer’s jacket is also black.

Roberto Bolano, from Antwerp

Friday, March 04, 2011



He loved her but he also loved the haze that surrounded her. Naturally, he was quick to accept the distance between them, anything otherwise would be foolish. However, his philosophy was based on discourse than action, and he was content to spy at her from a distance, knowing that his rivulets were changing into rapids into torrents, if only her eyes could see. But for once, he threw his caution away and decided to lay out a Persian night for her, Omar Khayyam, silken rug, moonlight and nargile. His head buzzed. The nearest tall building seemed like a piece of art. He would tell her that love begins with an obsession and ends in longing. He would tell her that he has chaste desire for her, mixed with promise and memory. He would tell her that her haze drives him crazy. He would refrain from undoing her long brown hair, he would keep his heart at arm's length from himself. He planned to lie on the silken rug near her feet, tasting moonlight mixed with soft pain. He would not touch any rusty wires.


She stood with her back against the wall, her naked toes drawing circles on his rug. He imagined he heard music as her anklets drowned the traffic outside. True philosophy must leave discourse and end in action, she said. Her fingertips came together as she said that, the air around them singed and burned. Her lip stick dazzled. She told him that love begins with longing and should end in an obsession. Her moonlight pricked. She undid her long brown hair and tied it in knots. She was seldom effusive, and she was not effusive then. Her fingers spoke. Unspoken words were falling like marbles on a polished wooden floor, darting everywhere at random. She looked at length at him and then turned away. His ache restored. Life needs the perspective of distance, she smiled. Her white feet were driving him crazy. Her haze took charge. Desire, what brute she thought. He could hear her hear his beating heart.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

She didn't Come

She didn’t come. I said: And she won’t…so
let me rearrange the evening with what suits my failure
and her absence:
I put out the flame of her candles,
I turned on the electric lights,
drank her wine then broke the glass
and switched the music: from the swift violins
to Persian songs.
I said: She won’t come. So I loosened my elegant
necktie (to relax more) and put on
my blue pajama. I could walk barefoot
if I want. And sit cross-legged, sagging
on her sofa, to forget her
and forget all the things of absence.
Then I put back in the drawers what I had prepared
for our party. I opened the windows and pulled back the curtains.
I stood in front of the night, my body holding no secret
other than what I waited for and lost…
and I mocked my obsession with purifying the air for her
(I had sprayed rose and lemon water).
She won’t come…I will move the orchid
from the right to the left to punish her forgetfulness…
I will cover up the mirror with a coat, I don’t want to see
her radiant image…and add to my regret.
I said: Forget what you have chosen for her
of ancient love lines, she doesn’t even deserve
a plagiarized poem…
Then I forgot her, ate my quick meal standing,
and read a chapter in a school book
about our distant planets,
and wrote, to overlook her harm, a poem,
this poem.

Mahmoud Darwish, Tr. Fady Joudah

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Unbearable Sensuality of Chabrol's Cinema

Claude Chabrol's cinema is rightly regarded as the cinema of ambiguity, to which I add that his cinema is also the cinema of style. And his muse, Stephane Audran, who was also his wife, starred in a few of his movies, called the Helene Cycle, is the goddess of style. Chabrol demands, and this is clear after you watch one of his movies, that one pays close attention to what we see, for a lot goes on in a Chabrol movie. Seemingly about serial murders as in Le Boucher or about a wife's infidelity, what Chabrol does is to peel away the surface and reveal the hypocrisies underneath. In a sense, unveiling bourgeois hypocrisy using the detective genre is achieved with mastery and class by the great film maker. Personally, I have always felt that great literature and great movies can achieve great results using the detective method and crime to allow the development and perhaps realisation of bigger themes.

As I mentioned earlier, we must watch his movies with intense attention, which is sometimes not possible. The bigger picture is in small details and it is possible that such details can be discerned on multiple viewings only. As soon as a Chabrol movie begins, we are immediately surrounded and assaulted in all of our senses by the most sensual of images and by a soundtrack that not only causes us to see but feel the atmosphere. Chabrol cinema, I am compelled to say, is the cinema of senses, a sexy cinema. The most mundane detail and the most trivial event is filmed with great aesthetic charm, conveying the feeling sometimes that style is more important than substance. Any unpleasant thing to be done must be got over with quickly, it seems. Consider the murder in Le Biches, where Frederique is stabbed by Why. It is done in a charming manner, as if Frederique is willing to be murdered, as if excessive force and excess of blood would revolt the sensibilities of the murdered and the murderer.

Sometimes watching his movies becomes unbearable. To a great extent, this must relate to the relation his characters have with their surroundings and the surroundings to the viewer. There is a mathematical precision to the images, so that every single move has not just been carefully rehearsed but that each move has a philosophy behind it. The unbearable sensuality is actually quite intellectual. By that I mean that the imagery has a purpose and is not just random. What is described as a thriller in relation to his movies or as suspense is a very intellectual one indeed. By suspense, if the actor doesn't know and we know is not the same as if both don't know. And anyway, the concerns of his thrill are far more ramified than any wife sleeping behind her husband's back.

I want to specifically, at this stage of my Chabrol acquaintanceship, mention the Helene Cycle. Played by Stephane Audren with Helene as her character's name in a few of these movies, she not only symbolises this extremely unbearable sensuality, she takes it a few steps further so that this charm that she radiates, this erotic and sensuous mystery that she creates, takes her and situates her in a place where she becomes remote and simultaneously extremely mystifying. The Helene cycle cannot be imagined without Audran. Her looks apart, she comes across as very accomplished and intelligent as an actor who is able to project the persona of her character on to her and vice versa. In Le Boucher, when the head mistress walks with Popaul to her school, cigarette dangling from her lips, in a wonderful one take six minute shot, she appears as if she is walking on a Paris street or on a catwalk. She is able to endow the most mundane character with the most electrifying charm.

I was very impressed with Le Femme Infidele, for what is a husband supposed to do when his wife is having an affair? Ordinarily, all sorts of usual things happen but here, the bourgeois crust is left untouched as the husband confronts his wife's lover at his home and then accidentally kills him. Such things are however not whispered at home and life must inevitably move on till other conclusions are reached. In Le Boucher, when an ex-army man starts killing women in a quaint village, the teacher to whom he has started an attachment with, and who refuses that, after suspecting this man refuses to tell the police about her suspicions till the end, which is dramatic.

In Les Biches, there is a menage a trois, and a very subtle reconfiguration of relationships. There is the emphasis on class distinctions and hypocrisy and how people can be used in relationships but there is also the seething geometry of imagery to which I will return again. Stylistically, Le Biches is beuatiful. The opening shot, when against the backdrop of the Seine, Audran steps into our sights, haughty and beautiful, chillingly so and later on at St Tropez, with Why and her chorus of jokers, which acts as a commentary on the action within it. I must admit that of the four Helene movies, I didn't like it the most, for sometimes the actions and movements seemed very artificial and jilted. It is possible to see this trait as a projection of the relational dialogue within the movie but on the whole, it did seeming jar at times. Why becomes Frederique after she has loved her and as both love the same person.

La Rupture follows the travails of a mother's battle to keep possession of her son against the dirty and slimy tricks of her father-in-law who employs an equally detestable character to defame her so that the court can decide against the child's custody. Audran plays a mother in torment but does it really well. Our sympathies are with her and the man hired to defame her is very slimy indeed. In the end, he gets what he deserves but the end is very psychedelic indeed. An image of a balloon peddler is chillingly unforgettable. This movie has a chorus too in the form of tarot playing ladies in the boarding house where Audran resides and their role assumes some significance in the end.

Coming back to the point of unbearability. I think while watching these movies, what strikes is the distance Audran has from the surroundings. She is mesmerizingly seductive in her own way and aloof in that seductive charm, as if what is going on around her has nothing to do with her, as if everything is a game. She is a study in detachment. It is this alienation, this estrangement from the surroundings that make the movies unbearable, for want of a better description. The rising tension rises from her, for she is never histrionic, never over-dramatic. This enhances the drama, the sinister drama of the movies more. In a way, Audran is more credible than a Hitchcockian character for the latter is usually in some kind of an inner existential or melancholic crisis. Audran's crises are far more subtle, based on instinctual relationships with others, her surroundings, and her own crazily mystifying beauty, which is a mix of seduction and intellectual beauty. The Helene Cycle is a great contribution to cinema by Chabrol, whose reputation is now more art house than it was during his life time.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

the infrarealist manifesto

— Galaxies of love are appearing in the palms of our hands

— Poets, let down your hair (if you have any)
— Burn your nonsense and start loving until you come up with priceless poems
— We don’t want kinetic paintings but enormous kinetic sunsets
— Horses running 500 kilometers an hour
— Squirrels of fire hopping through trees of fire
— A bet to see who blinks first, between the nerve and the sleeping pill.

— The death of the swan, the swan song, the last song of the black swan, IS NOT in the Bolshoi but in the intolerable pain and beauty of the streets.
— A rainbow that starts in a grindhouse theater and ends in a factory on strike.
— May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth. May it never kiss us.
— We dreamed of utopia and woke up screaming.
— A poor lonely cowboy that comes back home, what a wonder

Selections from Roberto Bolano's The Infrarealist Manifesto, Tr. Tim Pilcher

Monday, February 07, 2011

The Last Interview

Maristain: Have you burned your skin with a cigarette?

Bolano: Never voluntarily.

M: Have you ever carved the name of your beloved in the trunk of a tree?

B: I have committed greater abuses, but let's draw the veil at that.

M: Have you seen the most beautiful woman in the world?

B: Yes, sometime around 1984 when I worked at a store. The store was empty and in came a Hindu woman. She looked like a princess and well could have been one. She bought some hanging costume jewelry from me. I was at the point of fainting. She had copper skin, long red hair, and the rest of her was perfect. A timeless beauty. When I had to charge her, I felt embarrassed. As if saying she understood and not to worry, she smiled at me. Then she disappeared and I have never again seen anyone like her. Sometimes I get the impression that she was the goddess Kali, the patron saint of thieves and goldsmiths, except that Kali was also the goddess of murderers, and this Hindu woman was not only the most beautiful woman on earth, but she also seemed to be a good person.....very sweet and considerate.

M: What is your favourite soccer team?

B: None right now. The ones who fall to second tier, then third consecutively, then regional until they've disappeared. The phantom teams.

M: Which historical character would you have liked to resemble?

B: Sherlock Holmes. Captain Nemo. Julian Sorel, our father. Prince Myshkin, our uncle.

M: Did you fall in love with older neighbours when you were young?

B: Of course.

from Roberto Bolano The Last Interview, Interviewed by Monica Maristain

Friday, February 04, 2011

That Summer


Her feet were blotched red, as if covered with blisters, standing on the blazing tiles of a hot courtyard, in July, under a blazing sun, her barefeet had survived the ardour of her passion, as she had stood barefoot, calling him from the courtyard of their immigrant passion. He had seen his hands covered with the after scent of crushed roses, all perfume was his. The steel of agitated hooves and the clamour of other lives could not drown the lucky star of his lucky heart. Love begins with claiming the lovers' feet first, he told her, as he looked at the sky's azure and her brown hair. Thoughts like currents passed from one to the other as they felt as one, without need for caress or touch.


She looked at him through the shutters in her window, across the courtyard where he was pretending to sleep, through the shutters she pretended she had shut tight, at him across the courtyard, the concrete tiles of the courtyard baking in the hot sun, a July sun after a June of bliss, all their prayers having been answered, some by his unsure Gods, some by her mother of God, and now this. She licked her dry lips again and again, he only saw the eyes, he never saw the lips, murder at noon. A fly buzzed near his ears tirelessly which he tried to catch in his hand, when he realised that she had seen him, through the shutters. She smiled as she shut the shutters loudly, he leant back in careless bliss. The scent of violets and regrets swam through the courtyard.


Her flaming lemon top burnt in the hot July sun, yet her forehead was clean, without a drop of sweat, as they looked at the glittering concrete of the car park, three steps away from closure and oblivion. He looked away from the faraway look her eyes would surely seize soon, both waiting for some incident or accident, praying to the moody godheads of sudden destruction. A rhythm and blue number, equally detested by both, played on a nearby radio, as some stray memory of her from earlier times, which he had then resolved to forget completely, struck him like a stone dropping in a silent well. The sun kept blazing though he felt suddenly so cold.

Thursday, February 03, 2011


She said she loved busy days. I looked at the sky. “Busy days”, as well as clouds and cats that slipped away between the bushes. Those flowers that I left in the field are my proof of love for you. Later I came back with a net to look for butterflies. The girl said: “disaster”, “horses”, “rockets” and patted me on the back. Her back spoke. Like crickets squealing in the afternoons of lonely villas. I closed my eyes, breaks squealed and the police quickly got out of their cars. “Don’t stop looking out the window.” Without speaking two of them reached the door and said “police”, the rest I could hardly hear. I closed my eyes, the boys died on the beach. Bodies full of holes. There’s something obscene in all of this, said the nurse when no one was listening. “Busy days, I looked at the sky, cats”, surely I won’t return to the open air, not with flowers, not with a net, nor with a damned book to pass the afternoon. The mouth opened but the author couldn’t hear anything. He thought in silence and later thought “it doesn’t exist”, “horses”, “a waning moon in August”. Cast in black. Someone applauded from the void. I suppose this is happiness.

Roberto Bolano, Tr. Tim Pilcher

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Innocent Sorcerers

There is one scene in Andrzej Wajda'a Innocent Sorcerers that is the movie in itself. It has everything that a cinema struck can ask for: beauty, words, imagery, poetry, timelessness, sadness, energy, pathos and high drama. It runs well near fifty minutes and takes place in the shabby apartment of a young doctor with peroxidized hair in post-war Warsaw in the early hours of one night. The young man called Basil has decided to help a friend 'tame' a charming young woman they have seen in a music bar and due to some confusion ends up with her. She, who later introduces herself as Pelagia, surprises him by accepting his invitation to his place. What follows is a marvellous scene of such intense wryness, humour, tragedy, drama and cynicism that it encapsultaes everything that can be commented in a politico-social sense about any society in transition.

Pelagia begins by teasing the man and both agree that they should proceed to engage in a sentimental plan with each other according to certain written rules, which he writes down and sticks with a knife to the wall. The rules of engagement aim at introduction, intelligent conversation, followed by a kiss, by perhaps a physical union but within degrees of freedom. If Basil thinks he is clever, Pelagia is cleverer as each aim to out do the other. In conversations that skirt on various issues, from the frailty of human knowledge to human ignorance, the two engage in verbal sparring. Basil then invites her to a game of playing with a match box and scoring on what end it falls on; they bet on taking their clothes off, one thing after the other, at each wrong call. Initially, Pelagia starts to win but later Basil wins more. During these attempts, the conversation is sparkling and flirtatious, tender and tendentious, awkward and soulful, romantic, beautiful and occasionally tense. Each is testing the other and yet each is cynical and unsure not to admit something really tender.

Later as Basil makes her scrambled eggs and later still when Basil is called out by his friends for a few minutes, on returning he finds his flat empty. Basil rushes out looking around the city for her but cannot find her at all. On returning he finds her in his flat and he appears much relieved though he does not show it. Pelagia leaves after a while but after shutting the door, stops and returns to Basil again.

I thought the long scene is a mood scene, a scene that proves time and again the revivifying nature of cinema, its poetic element, its drama. The conversation between the two is beautiful poetry and at the same time, it represents a particular mood, not only for Basil but Pelagia too. I am not sure whether Pelagia is her real name; in the climate of the country that it shows, cynicism reigns supreme. In only that sense is it political, for the city scenes show the city in ruins and yet there is a gay hedonism at work here. A certain gayness pervades the spirit of the times in which these young men and women move or work. This is evident also in the almost lazy way that Basil keeps rejecting the advances of good looking females earlier in the movie. However, in a war sapped place, perhaps there is no place for tenderness or perhaps tenderness is replaced by a boxing match, as takes place in Basil's flat.

The movie has a wonderful background jazz score, which in a sense compliments the gayness of spirit of these young men who certainly seem to have no morals. Yet, in the scene between Basil and Pelagia, and in all cinema I will list this scene very high, the talk is of love and morals. A certain tenderness is missing, a certain cynicism has set in, war has taken away something after all. Both are lonely, though to his loneliness she remarks that she is ambitious. And when he finds that she has left him, he runs frantically in a mix of dazed pain and confused regret. He may after all have found the one he was looking for, she too may have found the one she wanted inspite of her ambitions. Such sentimental plans must be tried occasionally.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

I’ll give you an abyss, she said

I’ll give you an abyss, she said,
but so subtly you will only notice it
after many years have passed
and you’re far from Mexico and from me.
You will discover it when you need it most,
and that won’t be
the happy ending,
but it will be an instant of emptiness and joy.
And maybe then you’ll remember me,
though not much.

Roberto Bolano

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Green Ray

Rohmer's Le Rayon Vert situates Delphine's desire for 'understanding' in relation with her own standing in a bourgeois world where 'vacations' set the tone for knowing a person and her situation. Since loneliness can be fought by holidays in exotic locales or even at cheaper places, Delphine must not however let the world hem her in. Instead each abortive attempt at a holiday must bring her back to the starting point of such desire. What starts as a desire to negate her isolation ends up in increasing her isolation and making it more worse. Any attempts at conversation with strangers is an attempt to try; however, the outside world seeks answers that are already decided but Delphine has her own views which are outside the legitimate. The deciding tone of her outer life is set by the interactions she has with people who see the world in a narrative sequence considered normal. Delphine strives to explain to others how she sees the world and has to explain it making those explanations credible. All explanations must be bourgeois to bourgeoisie people.

Delphine struggles to articulate herself because some things have no point in being explained about. In essence, she is in isolation and lonely, but extremely sensitive to herself. This sensitivity is generally confused with stubbornness, consider the vegetarianism dialogue in the movie where she has to defend her right to be a vegetarian even if there is a hint of being teased. In this sense, not having a lover is a disability that she chooses to live with but her search is for someone credible, someone who is not simply interested in just sleeping with her. This search, like Haydee's search in The Collector, is something which the casual observer, who is hurried, has either no desire nor inclination to follow more deeply. Delphine knows the loneliness of finding herself in after what casual sleeping with people can lead to, she wants to be granted recognition as a person who is capable of being loved as well as capable of loving.

The Green Ray is a scathing indictment of a bourgeois world that usually considers difference as 'not fitting in'. As usual in Rohmer world, the action details the happenings over a month's vacation period. The chats and conversations are carried out in 'real time'. One particular chat with two strangers and the Swedish 'free' spirit is absolutely brilliant in depicting a particular kind of holiday small talk. In those few minutes, Rohmer shows the flaws of an entire generation. Maybe the green ray that Delphine sees towards the end will bring her good luck and love, for she has her quirky superstitions.

The movie is charming, the sets are around the world of cheap holidays and show cheap bargain hotel rooms, and the transition of the holidayer from a city to a beach with credibility and without artifice. The beach scenes are extremely realistic, my favourite is the exchange between the two young strangers, both men, Delphine and a Swedish girl "who knows" English. The ennui of holidays and the state of mind that prompts such desires is shown in savage nakedness.
Love is a word much misunderstood, Delphine in her youthful enthusiasm confuses it with many other things. However, sensitive that she is, she does not confuse love with 'filling the gap', she is smarter than that. Her occasional lack of humour is not her being tedious but sensitive in trying to fathom certain things. Delphine is strong-willed like other Rohmer women, she will walk alone all day if it comes to that.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

a new music

A strange music had taken hold of him of late, as if all his usual din had given way to a new desire, an illegal desire, a lust for something desirable but out of bounds, a stirring, a need for confessing, a need to be heard, to dwell on what he thought he had heard against what he thought he must hear. Walking along the usual landmarks on his usual roads, he felt as if there was a need to touch what he had formerly shunned, as if listening to what this new music meant giving in to an illegal whim, a strange but certain music inside his mind had awakened the ghosts of former lives. Had he thought what this winter spring was going to give when this cold winter had previously not whispered anything suitable for him to feel at home with? How could one convey the life sensations, the most intimate workings of one's mind when he was not even intimate with his own? It had never been a question of estrangement from himself but a question of not knowing what he was still susceptible to, for of late, this susceptibility was that of old, like when rain falls on hard earth after a dry spell, and the smell that the earth exudes is like an intoxicant, a summary judgement on love and desire. While walking thus on familiar streets that one walks on without thinking, he thought of this new music, this new feeling, like the stirring of primeval desires or the sudden acknowledgement of a dream that one has dreamed, or an intimation of a crazy desire, the thrill of desire, the smell of that desire, the thrill of that craziness.

Each step he took was as unknown to him as the beating of his heart for while one can perceive a heart beat, one cannot actually see it beat, and hence all such steps were as unknown to him as the perception of this new music or this new feeling. And yet each thought and each step towards the unknowing of his own mind had been fraught with uncertainties, but the uncertainties were more charming than any concrete reality in his life. Walking like this, and thinking about such vague things like feelings and desire, he wanted each step to take him further away from his imminent destination, for he wanted to walk endlessly, and smell not only the trembling of his heart but also the mystery that he was to himself, and that his feelings were to him. At no point did he feel that he could understand the suffusion of his new emotions or the underlying nature of his own reactions to them; at no point however was he concerned about explaining himself to himself. For the first time after many moons had he realised the craving for new desires or felt the stirrings of pain as like under a young moon, like the blue black sky at night which one suddenly notices after many cloudy skies, and after which one wants to die. As he kept on walking, he realized that even his most stolid reserve had given in to the most effusive of feelings, he suddenly remembered the worst and the craziest songs, and almost felt an urge to hum some words out loud. It was in the clear crystal of those moments that he felt he had lapsed beyond mere confession and that this new music was the sweetest medicine, the most beautiful of heartaches and the richest numbness yet. And such were his thoughts as he neared the world of his destination, which even that world could not stop.

Friday, January 14, 2011


come like a dream
on tiptoes
come like a sudden shower on a summer afternoon
come at dusk when the sun has to set
come as some faraway bells sound sadly sometimes
outside my window
like the roar of a train at dawn come
like the wind at night
come with the incessant tread of hooves
like the violence of violets
come without smile or promises
come with your long hair undone
with bare feet with one anklet only
surprise yourself
come once

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

as the wind beats

Tonight the wind beats relentlessly against the roofs
and on the streets plastic bottles and paper fly aimlessly
as some insomniacs make their way to a bar,
trying in vain to light a cigarette in such wind.
There is no promise or fruit in such pursuit
and the night will turn out to be bare and lonely,
but can it stop those who dislike the loneliness of the midnight hour?
Some of them will want to listen to duets in incomprehensible tongues,
while others will only want to drum their fingers on the bar tables
dispersing in vain the melancholy in their fingers
and some will test the water of promises made.
Altogether it is a bloody business
and bloodier than murder.
The night is silent other than the wind
and winds are seldom silent.
Some walk slowly shielding their cigarettes in their palms
as their shadows flee like frightened ghosts
on the pavements lit by the odd street lamp.
Later, one of them will finally sit at the bar
but still look expectantly at the door,
though convinced that the person with long brown hair will not come.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chloe in the Afternoon

Chloe, of Rohmer's Love in the Afternoon, is the most frank and openly speaking woman of the six moral tales. Sitting in an office will kill me she says to her lover Frederic, it is so bourgeois. Chloe wants to have what she wants to have, on her terms, in her way. Any other way would mean demeaning the whole thing. It is possible that Rohmer paints a bohemian picture of Chloe, a kind of free-spirited image of Chloe but even if that is true, she still attracts not because she shocks but because she speaks the truth to Frederic. If truth is shocking then so be it. Love or Chloe in the Afternoon is the last of the six moral tales that I have watched recently and I must admit that as a cinematic experience, it has not only been rewarding but a sexy tease too.

Frederic is visited by Chloe suddenly one afternoon in his office. Frederic is married and his wife is expecting their second child. Chloe is not an old flame but the ex-girl friend of an old friend. Chloe has returned from overseas. Chloe is looking for a job. You are not my friend says Chloe to Frederic but I like you. They start meeting each other regularly in the afternoons when Frederic, a lawyer, is free. Frederic is the quintessential narrator of Rohmer's, he likes reading novels when he goes to and from Paris to suburbia. Frederic is in a stable marriage but nonetheless he is looking for something. He imagines and daydreams once that he is wearing a magic amulet that can weaken the will power of beautiful women he sees walking around on busy Paris streets every day. They are all extensions of my wife, he thinks.

Chloe and Frederic start meeting every day nearly, going shopping or having coffee. Frederic likes talking to Chloe and Chloe is quite amused by this all. Once she disappears unannounced for a week which annoys Frederic. Later Frederic helps find her a job. Frederic insists he only loves his wife but prefers to be in Chlo's company. Frederic thinks to indulge in polygamy is barbaric but adds that he will obey the rules of society. Chloe thinks that polygamy is all right if women are also allowed the same freedom. Chloe flirts with him and he flirts with her. They kiss sometimes but he always insists that he belongs to his wife. However, later, in her tiny flat, she steps out of the shower and she asks him to dry her. He does and starts undressing himself, while she waits naked for him on her single bed but he suddenly remembers his family while taking his clothes off, an old image comes into his mind and he departs very quickly. He goes home to his wife.

Chloe wants a child with Frederic but Frederic thinks that is crazy to which she responds hence:

"It is enough to know I love you and tell you so. You know, I have a vivid imagination. I can imagine it is you when I am making love to some one else." 'You are crazy' "Crazy is pretending you love some one you live with."

Frederic dreams of falling in love with other women. At one point he asks Chloe: Can one be in love with two women at once? ( I remembered it is the same question that a dear friend asked me a long time ago) Chloe tests him initially but it is hard to say whether she loves him. She is clearly very free spirited and has bold ideas but is she really that free? Chloe sees beyond the well trodden path, she wants a meaning entirely within herself, to herself. She will not perhaps find any stability within the bounds of marriage but then as a character she is a template of a certain free spirit, perhaps of the times. She wants to become a mother, outside the marital axis. Chloe is unconventional in comparison to the conventionality of other thoughts, in comparison to how others think.

Frederic is carried away by passion but it is also fair to say that he likes being in the company of Chloe, for after all, she is good company. The question is: Can a man and woman be friends outside a sexual binding? The scene that shakes him is the scene that reminds him of his family life. That convulsion is the same as other convulsions that Rohmer males make. That they shake themselves from the point or the brim of passion and return to more 'moral' choices is a Rohmerian imperative. In that sense, Rohmer is a conservative moralist but if one is a moralist, surely one is not always conservative? The idea of ethics and faithfulness must enter into consideration in any relationship, however trivial. That such choices are made by his males does in no way make them radical departures from the other male types that were portrayed by Rohmer's contemporaries.

Perhaps the magnitude of thinking of an artist, if worth judging at all, must be done after a few decades of his work. In that sense, Rohmer's world assumes more importance now in the present European climate. However, these works must not be seen as just outside the political framework but as part of a wholesome commentary on moral and ethical considerations. In a way, the choices that are made individually have a combined effect as well. However, it is also important to realize and understand how a particular thought is approached. And which steps in a thinking process are neglected. From that point of view, these tales are very important.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

The Case of Professor Moriarity

It is perhaps time that certain facts be put straight in front of those members of the public who have followed the accounts written by Dr Watson about his long association with Sherlock Holmes, some facts that may cause certain new tremors in the public mind, as certain events did when Sherlock Holmes made a return, albeit in a manner that Dr Watson presented to the public after Holmes made his sensational return. The aim of this revelation here is not to cause any controversy but to alert the public to those issues that have vexed certain discerning minds now as they did then. I refer to the important matter concerning the events that Dr Watson described in The Final Problem and in The Adventure of the Empty House. However, I also want in particular to clear certain other issues related to those matters almost taken for granted by the reading public as also by Dr Watson himself, especially pertaining to the affair of Professor Moriarity, who I will show, never existed.

In the preface to The Sign of Four, the great writer P.G Wodehouse presented a hypothesis that it was Sherlock Holmes himself who was Professor Moriarity and that the latter was invented by Holmes to cover certain "crimes" committed, using Watson's memoirs as an alibi. Wodehouse demonstrated that Holmes was never in need of money, never demanded fees from clients, mighty or small, and never even remotely spoke about fees, though the only notable exception was when he actually demanded five thousand pounds from the Duke of Holdernesse Hall in The Priory School affair.

If Holmes never demanded fees for services rendered, pray, how come he afforded the life style he had? This needs further investigation, which I will attempt here. It goes without saying that the rooms at Baker Street did not come cheap, and even though Watson contributed half of the rent, it was certainly done in discreet ways unknown to Watson. Secondly, Holmes always sported clean and fashionable clothes, he would often dine at good restaurants, and was well disposed to regular dining out and attending concerts. Holmes would never travel second class and as far as I remember, always paid for travel and lodgings for both himself and the good doctor, staying at the best hotels. Holmes would only rarely ask for expenses to be repaired to him and yet, what was his source of income? The good doctor never seems to reflect but then he was quite discreet and loyal to Holmes.

I think it was not a matter of chance that Holmes met Watson before the affair of A Study in Scarlet. My hypothesis, after having gone over all the facts is this: Holmes was able to ascertain through his brother Mycroft Holmes the names of all the returning reliable people from the Afghan campaign and knowing Mycroft's considerable position in the Government ( Holmes calls Mycroft the British Goverment at one point ) Holmes was able to "find" Watson, knowing his poor health, quiet disposition and unsullied character. Since certain influential quarters in the Government were getting hot on the tracks of Holmes, who was an important member of the European underworld mafia, he wanted to settle down, invent a new alibi, and instead of committing crimes, at Mycroft's suggestion, solve them.

Using his good offices and his money, finding rooms at Baker Street was easy. The rooms at Baker Street were far more dearer than Watson ever knew, and Holmes paid the rent himself, with Watson paying the half but token amount. The furnishings were done tastefully by Holmes and paid for by him but Watson always thought the lodgings were pre-furnished. Holmes had a considerable amount of money acquired through nefarious activities like extortion, blackmailing and other illegal activities which he relocated to his Swiss accounts, dissolved his connections with the underworld, albeit superficially and severed temporarily his contact with Mycroft, and settled to a life of cocaine and boredom with his good friend Watson. It is quite factual that Holmes never truly envisaged the fame he would get by the accounts that Watson published, making him almost a household name across Britain and also famous in three continents.

During their time together, from around 1880 to 1888, Holmes solved many cases, including the strange Problem of the Sholto's, from which Dr Watson got a wife. It was around this time that Watson moved out of Baker Street as any family man would, and set up his lodgings and medical practice in Kensington. He continued to remain in contact with Holmes, though it was not regular. During Watson's married years, the cases that were solved where chronicled under the general rubric of The Adventures and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes respectively.

After the good doctor settled to the routine of his practice and married life, Holmes started to renew his contact with the underworld fraternity that he had apparently shunned. Scotland Yard, which had always had doubts about Holmes, had by now closed the Holmes file, not only under the pressure of the Government but also to stop looking silly in front of the public, in whose eyes Holmes was the best policeman ever. Besides, Mycroft had been urging Holmes to reconsider his position as certain elements within the underworld were unhappy with Holmes' good reputation and were considering coming out clean. Not only were there political issues involved here but if left unresolved, it could possibly drag Europe into war. With all these considerations, a strange series of events were witnessed by Dr Watson, which the reader will understand now if I am allowed, considering that I don't want to test the readers patience more.

It is clear to all that Dr Watson was at home one night, busy in the affairs of conjugal life when Holmes literally burst upon him and asked for the blinds to be lowered. His demeanour as Watson noted was unlike his usual calm self and when Watson asks him what he was afraid of, Holmes replied "air guns". Later, Holmes mentions the name of Professor Moriarity to Watson for the first time and details the criminal exploits of Moriarity , calling him the Napoleon of crime. He then persuades Watson to accompany him to Riechenbach Falls in Switzerland, where he was to have a final discussion with Moriarity. As we know, Watson neglected his marital duties quite frequently, to our gain, and instantly agreed. The events that followed at the falls are too well known for me to recount here in detail. Suffice it for the purpose that I require here that a note was left for Watson, a struggle between Holmes and Moriarity was arranged, traces that lead to both of them having fallen into their watery deaths, a confirmation from the Swiss police who were too obliging to do so, and Watson returning back to his lodgings, disconsolate and in despair.

Watson was later told that financial and other affairs had already been taken care of by brother Mycroft. Watson then published a long and slightly sentimental account of Holmes and Moriarity, the underworld considered it as a good solution, Scotland Yard as the ideal, the money laundered previously was distributed between foreign and domestic crime syndicates, the possibility of war was averted and Holmes got rid of Moriarity, who never existed, and himself, in one masterly stroke. The plan was hatched by Mycroft at the Diogenes Club and certain quarters in the Government approved. Watson continued to miss Holmes and the public found succour in the case accounts that he had published.

It is indeed my point that in 1894, three years after his death, Holmes, who had never indeed died but lived under an assumed identity in Sussex, was told by certain quarters in the British Government to return, at the time of the death of Ronald Adair, which was described by Dr Watson in The Empty House. It had indeed been a plan for Holmes to make a return by now, and what better opportunity than when "all London was interested in and the fashionable world dismayed by the death of the Honorable Ronald Adair under tragic and inexplicable circumstances". In his "meeting" with Watson again, Holmes was not only able to get the most solid public alibi, he was able to get Watson's account to the public, which was basically his. We must remember that the man incriminated in the Adair affair was none other than Colonel Sebestian Moran, whom Holmes described as the second most dangerous man in London. Not only was the Adair affair staged, in my opinion, it allowed Holmes to hand over Moran to Scotland Yard as Moran had started making uncomfortable noises in certain quarters. That his subsequent silence later on was rewarded and that it was never mentioned by Dr Watson goes to demonstrate my case further.

Holmes and Watson returned back to Baker Street, the rooms almost as they used to be, everybody was happy, including Mrs Hudson, and the good doctor resolved to carry on though the first Mrs Watson had died, we learnt subsequently. Watson's practice was bought very quickly by somebody who Holmes found and who later turned out to be a relative of Holmes's and the two settled down once again to batchelor-hood and solving crimes.
Instead of testing the resolve of my patient readers any further, I would like to emphasise the vast deception that Watson and the public were subjected to, and the elaborate plans hatched by Mycroft and Holmes to fool the public and other discerning agencies. Watson's practice was bought by none other than one of Holmes's cronies, and the money that had been laundered to Swiss banks was legally relocated to Britain, one of the missions of the Reichenbach Falls adventure.

How is it possible, dear reader, that Holmes was able to retire to the Sussex Downs with bees and a house keeper when he never had a regular income? How is it possible for him to pay the rent for the Baker Street rooms when, he could actually have bought those rooms for all the rent he paid proving that he never actually wanted to buy the property? How is it possible, we may ask, for Holmes to always travel first class? Why did Holmes always ride a hansom from Oxford Street and walk to Oxford Street from Baker Street when even a person with the most cursory knowledge of London will reveal that that is strange and bizarre! Why should one walk from Baker to Oxford Street and then take a train when Baker Street has its own station? Where indeed was Mycroft before The Greek Interpreter's affair? Why did Holmes not mention him to Watson before that? And indeed, what can be more surprising than the fact that Watson never saw Moriarity!

The above questions point to only one conclusion and that is that Sherlock Holmes orchestrated the police and the public through the memoirs that Watson published and hence used Watson to not only keep his reputation intact, but also enhance it. Holmes was the mastermind behind the London underground mafia and had operations in three continents. He used Mycroft to get intelligence about Scotland Yard tailing him. We know that his mind was first rate and analytical and certain circumstances which had pushed him to use his brain for criminal activities later pushed him to use it for the public good. He often used to rant against inactivity and boredom and on one occasion clearly marked by Watson, he speaks lightly about being a criminal. That he kept his financial affairs away from Watson and that Holmes was never openly suspected is a tribute to his genius as a mastermind and as a great actor, both talents he used to dodge the police and criminals with. I must remind the reader that Colonel Moran used to work with Holmes in the mafia and the Adair affair was staged to essentially neutralise Moran. It is also my contention that Colonel Moran knew about the non-existence of Moriarity and was planning to use it as a lever to gain amnesty from the Government.

I have based my deductions on data and facts, and have not committed the capital mistake of theorising before one has data and have not twisted facts to suit theories. I also hope that the reader will appreciate the intentions behind this piece, which is to restore the reputation of Dr Watson, which has come under vicious and unseemly attacks recently after sensational publications have started to besmirch the clean character of the good doctor, which pointed wrongly that he knew about the Moriarity issue. It is not my intention to belittle the contributions of Sherlock Holmes towards developing the detective profession into an art, for none can deny that he was indeed an artist. However the innocence and gullibilty of Dr Watson in this regard must not be questioned. I hope that Dr Watson's innocence in the whole saga needs no further defense.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

Since Cassavetes is generally regarded as outside the American mainstream, his gangster movie Chinese Bookie does really stand outside the Hollywood gangster flick . After a while, all Hollywood gangsterism becomes repulsive because these movies and the characters they show are so self immersed, as if their world is besides them. Translating that into cinematic reality makes these criminals very odd as their personalities are melo-dramatized, and all kinds of psychological baggage's are given. To that extent, Cassavetes's Vitelli too is a typical Hollywood crook who entertains, for not only does he run a striptease, his main performer there, Mr Sophistication is a talking philosophising entertainer while Vitelli himself, subdued and broken, in his monologue towards the end, talks about creating a persona, a deception that consists of watching oneself perform.

Vitelli, performed with charming finesse and restraint by Gazzara, aims to make himself comfortable with himself. He too performs what eventually Cassavetes mocks, that artificial unreality which consumes lives lived in achieving little when the means to do so have left a person. In the end his person is ambiguous and so too his fate, and perhaps that is the masterstroke of this movie. Altogether, Cassavetes achieves with method and poetry what Hollywood would not have. There is the clear influence of genre crooks and criminals, parking lots, shadows and jazz. But in narrating this story, there are realistic elements that lend credibility to the imagery, which though persistently American, has the touch of a film maker whose voice is clearly distinct, American but un-American too.

Friday, January 07, 2011

when we met once

We met by the water line
it was summer, you remember it was warm
a surreal morning, we were surrounded by the noise
of tables and chairs and spoons and cups
and what the hell I thought, reserve isn't everything.
You sat and you had the glint and stone in your eyes
and then the sun fell on your long brown hair
and restored to stone what the rose hides.
You didn't speak and I didn't say a thing
and the coffee got cold and I forgot to light my cigarette.
How are you I asked tamely as you turned to look
at an urchin making a pass at a girl,
just loving isn't enough you said,
one must live and die together, I think now
I should have died then.
You kept playing with a spoon and put it on the table
as our eyes met but what could I say?
That hour fled like a thief into the night
I remember I forgot all I had to say.
The sun shone on the water as we decided to
leave, my feet were heavy as we walked
and I remembered my unlit cigarette.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

While Waiting

While waiting, I become obsessed with observing
the many possibilities: maybe she forgot her small
suitcase on the train, and my address got lost
and her mobile phone got lost, so she lost her appetite
and said: No share of the light drizzle for him/
Or maybe she got busy with an urgent matter or a journey
to the south to visit the sun, and called
but didn't find me in the morning, because
I had gone to buy some gardenia for our evening
and two bottles of wine/
Or maybe she was in dispute with her ex-husband
over matters of memory, and she swore not to see
another man who might threaten her with making memories/
Or maybe she crashed into a taxi on the way
to see me, which extinguished some planets in her galaxy.
And she is still being treated with tranquilizers and sleep/
Or maybe she looked in the mirror before going out
of herself, felt two large pears
making waves on her silk, then sighed and hesitated:
Does anyone else other than myself deserve my womanhood/
Or maybe she ran, by coincidence, into an old
love she hadn't healed from, and joined him for dinner/
Or maybe she died,
because death loves suddenly, like me,
and death, like me, doesn't love waiting

Mahmoud Darwish, Translated by Fady Joudah

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Pornographers: Introduction to Anthropology

Ogata's boat has found it's way from the backwaters of Osaka to the seas, Ogata is inside his boat, looking and marvelling at the perfect woman he has crafted, stitching each hair separately on her, each painful step a further step towards realizing his perfect woman, with whom he can sleep at will and look without fear. This is an image that persists after The Pornographers comes to an end but: before this we have been through a maelstrom of other emotions too, and Ogata whilst occasionally philosophising , didn't struck me as a poetic type. In Ogata, Imamura has created a character who alternately hovers between the caring and the unscrupulous, between the lecher and the artist that he eventually becomes. Imamura calls his movie an "introduction to anthropology" and the world he shows is messy but not one bit artificial. It is messy because it's roots are deep inside the soil of furtive and restless minds. Even to Ogata's sidekicks, the human imagination is something one can only be afraid of.

Ogata is essentially a bum, he is a man who makes 8mm pornographic movies and sells them to clients of all sorts. Ogata is also a pimp and distributor of cheap literature and as a tenant supports his landlady and her son and young daughter with whom he is clearly obsessed. The duality of his nature is a tightrope that we must walk on, Ogata is without any scruples entirely and hence full of surprises. His landlady Haru sleeps with him at will and she keeps a Carp behind her bed in a tank, the carp is the reincarnation of her dead husband. Every time she does something bad, she says, the carp jumps, which is practically throughout the movie. In Haru, Imamura shows the social dynamic of a kept woman, it is usually the man who keeps the woman, he pays for her bum son and her daughter's studies.

The social realities which force such power changes are very obvious. Ogata and his cohorts are caught between the mafia and the law and hence his procrastination is quite complete throughout. It is not the lack of a reaction to such realities but a lack of self reflection that Imamura shows throughout his movies and here. Ogata has one eye on Haru and another on her daughter Keiko, he wants a child with Haru and marriage to Keiko, Ogata sees the inversion of all rules within a social reality that is seemingly out of bounds from the bigger niceties of life. Ogata philosophizes when he relaxes with his other colleagues, there Ogata desrcibes the realities of his situation carefully, he is also very aware of the human condition too.

Haru is later a victim of her own denials, screaming inside a cage, a woman hysterical and paranoid while Keiko is a willing victim of her own anger, systematically killing herself. Ogata throws the carp into a river after Haru dies, and retreats into his boat to perfect his perfect woman. Ogata has realized the 'pathos of being a man', as he sees it.

The Pornographers is a movie that fascinated me and like all of Imamura's movies, the social milieu that he has sketched is something that while seemingly reflective of a Japanese "underbelly", symbolises at least for me the invisible tentacles of our own minds. I am not willing to see the movie only as a critique of political and social realities or of a particular society nor do I think of it as a shocking indictment that shows incest and the indignities of lust; I think of these characters as inhabiting those terrains of the mind that are let loose when economic and cultural realities and the people who control and sanction them have lost the moral force to speak. Within the arc of such desires and the darkness of such minds arises the craving to create a perfect woman, an object, a commodity, a fetishism that absolves, apparently, the moral agent of any blame whatsoever.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Imamura Shohei's "Messy Cinema"

"I am interested in the relationship of the lower part of the human body and the lower part of the social structure... I ask myself what differentiates humans from other animals. What is a human being? I look for the answer by continuing to make films." Imamura

One of the dangers after watching a few of Shohei Imamura's movies is that one can lose the taste for all other kinds of cinema altogether, and let oneself be seduced by a cinema that has reached fruition and is complete. While Imamura described his cinema as messy, it would be fair to describe it as dangerous. By messy, Imamura might have meant subversive and sarcastic or he might have meant that his movies would not follow genre conventions or the rules of Japanese aesthetics or that he would make movies about messy characters. I would say that his cinema is complete and within one movie, he shows us all the emotions that a person is capable of, including disgust, greed, lust, affection and tenderness. I will aim here to briefly discuss some aspects of his movie called Vengeance is Mine while also observing some general features.

Vengeance is Mine is based on true events that lead to the arrest of a serial murderer and is played by the marvellous Ken Ogata. Ogata plays a disturbed and disturbing factory worker called Iwao who kills two of his colleagues in cold blood and in a gruesome, pitiless manner. There is seemingly no obvious motive for his crimes. But in classic Imamura fashion, we see his previous criminal history as a confidence trickster, a con man and a swindler and earlier still as a disaffected and rebellious young man, witness to his father's humiliation by the armed forces. Iwao is from a catholic background and the reference points to Catholicism loom large throughout the movie. Later, he lodges at an inn of low repute and befriends the lady owner of the inn. He begins a stormy but almost predictable affair with her.

The story is told in numerous flashbacks and shows how his wife and father were also erotically drawn to each other. In many ways, the general baggage of Catholicism sweeps over the movie almost completely. However, it in no way explains the senseless murders that Iwao commits. There seems to be an unpredictable edge to his behaviour, for he is extremely explosive though he is capable of occasional kindness.

I will be loath to accept any psychological explanation for Iwao's behaviour other than a deeply unsettling fascination with murder. It is more acceptable to consider the almost repulsive murders and absolutely unremorseless behaviour as just that, basically senseless. In an inversion of the title, 'vengeance is mine' would mean vengeance after life provided there is one such. However, it would be futile to consider that Imamura is telling us a tale about a serial killer. As Imamura said himself, he wants to make films that show a connection between the lower part of the body and the lower strata of society. From such a perspective, the most striking aspect is a rough rawness to his movies, depicting a world of the lower classes that is crassly and almost resolutely sexual. The numerous sex scenes that pervade his movies seem to have absolutely to do nothing with sex, for in almost all cases, there is violence associated with these acts and women are beaten into having sex. Or generally speaking, I should say that sex cannot exist other than a kind of violence that people do to each other, and this has nothing to do with class or this movie.

In the world that Iwao moves in and the people he befriends, violence is inbred within their lives as is any lack of sensitivity or decorum. It is as if decorum is the forte entirely of the middle classes. Iwao sleeps with Haru whose husband sleeps with prostitutes; Iwao's wife has incestuous moments with her father-in-law and thus the cycle seems endemic. In Imamura world, the hypocrisies and sufferings of certain weak people is a given fact, any resistance is considered as heretical. However, in what is clearly a swipe at bourgeoisie morality, the violence that is rampant is shown pitilessly. It will be total ignorance to see this without the ramifications of what the aftermath of the second war has meant for Japanese life. Imamura's cinema thus depicts a reality that is so estranged from what Ozu shows us about Japan. Ozu's 'family movies' are not unreal to say the least; it is his studied restraint that is so different from Imamura's.

"The Japanese did not change as a result of the Pacific War—they haven’t changed in thousands of years!", said Imamura in an interview. The Japanese life that we see so often in the classic cinema of Ozu or sometimes in Mizoguchi depicts a consciousness that actually is different from the one portrayed here for here it is so unaesthetic to say the last. Imamura strikes me as anti-intellectual in his approach to films and the way his characters don't look for rationalizations to define their world. Just getting on with life is entirely what the game is all about instead of ruminating on half empty streets against beautiful backdrops with melancholic beauties pondering their way carefully through snow or rain. Consider Sadako, the portly, plump woman who makes her way home after seeing her tormentor die in a train tunnel in Intentions of Murder, the movie that is seldom calm.

In my facile way, I consider that all art must not only show political realities, at home or on the street, it should not flinch in going all the way in showing the skin under the clothes, here be it a beautiful kimono. By baring monster desires for her father-in-law, monster so long as society considers it so, Kazuko, in a scene of unbearable erotic fever, brings out all the pent up emotions of the human psyche in that hot spring where vapour and night have clothed both naked bodies. In that sense, Iwao is a true revolutionary, for his killing and his questions are truly anarchic and hence senseless. How can one justify a logical killing from an illogical killing, for after all, a murder is just that? In using the lower classes to show his vast understanding of human nature, Imamura has brought out all the anxieties of the thinking classes of not only his but the entire generations of people who have fought against outside oppression in the entire world.

A 'kept' woman like Haru or a 'common' law wife like Sadako are just waiting for another oppressor to seduce and kill them; Iwao is the simmering symptom of unknown illnesses. The beautiful flower arrangements or the mono no aware must not seduce the viewer into lulling herself or himself into thinking that there is no discontent here; the world of prostitutes and pimps and murderers is existing alongside the world of those who structure that world. That Haru asks for no explanations from Iwao and that none are forthcoming from him adds to the intrigue and the drama. Haru professes a desire to have his child and eventually he kills her like he has done before, with no apparent motive at all. Ultimately, everything is senseless, including his crimes.