Monday, November 22, 2010

Bachelor Flat

The chaos/choreography of things hidden and revealed :

[Images from Frank Tashlin's Bachelor Flat (1962).]

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Gradiva, and the secret rediscovery of movement

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Raymonde Carasco's Gradiva - esquisse I (1978) :

A dream of betweenness materialised.

Movement and suspension. Promulgation and dissolution. Flesh and stone. (Shadow and stone. Stone and stone.) Horizontal and vertical. The visible movement of garment and heat.

A fragmented but concrete presence is expressed as its dissolving gestures. The terrible mystery and monumentality of motion. Raymonde Carasco was there (with Bruno Nuytten) with her camera, filming atoms in motion, and all the exhumed gestures of our existence contained therein.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Siddheshwari, Maya Darpan: a montage of rasas

1. Siddheshwari (Mani Kaul, 1989), with Mita Vasishth.

(Siddheshwari Devi, with unknown vocalist - 'Pani Chagarni Laya')

Mani Kaul:
The meaning and feeling in films centre on what is organized for the eyes and ears with what is seen and heard in a way that leads more to the production of space than to a realization of time. Time in such films is a thing just present there; intarsia entrenched available as a result of a progression of events, as a consequence of, as something absent and only directly experienced. It is rarely present and directly experienced as a revelation of multiple durations conscious in the way it’s found in music.

Bresson ‘s single shot present itself as fragment (often with only hands, feet, door, faces, bodies, etc.) of an intangible whole not displaying any particular intention. ... Bereft of “intention” (on the part of characters and the camera) the mechanism is not driven by facial or for those matter authentic psychological motivations. The mechanism itself contains no intention at all. It is the ellipsis between fragments, the difference between fragments which finally conveys a sense of intangible intentions. That difference becomes a specific relation between the two fragments when bridged in the head of a spectator. ... Cinema itself then appears a hub of multiple intentions in conflict with each other like music.

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2. Maya Darpan / Mirror of Illusion (Kumar Shahani, 1972), with Aditi.

(Padma Talwalkar - 'Hameer')

Kumar Shahani:
Censorship confirms the extension of assigned social roles not only along caste and class lines but along the lines of family functions and sex as well. The heights of feminine heroism are still found in a bovine version of motherhood. Even as the country starves. It is far removed from the vitality of Kali or the other fertility goddess images.

The docile heroine must look like a whore but must neither bare her body in its raw splendour nor show her human desire. The censorship laws allow cabarets which fragment the female body into cut-out objects for male acquisitiveness. The nude, however, is dangerous, for she can be a whole person with her own subjectivity. When will we learn, once again, to take pride in ourselves as human beings? If not like the athletes of the citystate, can we not restore the graceful line reserved for our goddesses of Elephanta and Bahrut to the humans in whose image they were made? Before we can do that, we will have to change our ideology transmitted through myth. Because ideas of masculinity and femininity in these metonymical constructs are also worked out in irreconcilable opposites. Contradiction without a possibility of actual synthesis, since it denies change, movement. ...

According to the mythical system, the female has to prepare everything for consumption, including food and herself. And the male has to produce. Men have to project and women withdraw. Right down to the last detail where masculinity may allow smoking and femininity forbid it. When such detail - or in the more sophisticated films, formal elements stand irreversibly for concepts - replace meaning itself, one does not have to wait for ideas to degenerate into ritual rather than praxis. The language of myth by its very nature of replacing the symbol for its content spreads false conciousness: the more vulgarly sensate form in the commercial cinema and the more abstract ahistorical form in the 'art' cinema.

Laleen Jayamanne, on the character of Tejo, played by Mita Vasishth, in Shahani's Kasba:
Tejo's walk, stance, gesture and speech are all seemingly naturalist, fitting in with her role as an efficient business woman and loyal daughter-in-law, and yet her clothes seem more like costumes, too ornate, too mysteriously beautiful in colour, so that one begins to observe that her walk is also similarly ornamented, as are her other movements and especially her poses. The pose, a dynamic equilibrium in Indian dance and sculpture, is animated in the miniature tradition to bring into focus everyday gestures as well. Shahani taps into this dynamism of the pose and brings it into play in contemporary everyday gestures and movements... Shahani says that the function of the Nayika and Nayaka (which literally means female and male leader) is to lead the viewer to the enjoyment of the rasa. Shahani uses this aspect of classical Indian aesthetic theory to abstract or rather extract a virtual story from the actual Chekhov tale, which he does however follow with great care and tenderness. ...

Through a dance-like walk and holding several poses at a series of large windows, moving her body out of the frame, Tejo observes something below, as though she were Radha looking for Krishna. The camera picks up some falling leaves and floats down to pick up Nandini walking out with her dead child bundled in her alms. Thereafter an urgent, rapid camera movement creates a vertical concatenating barrier of the series of windows splitting the screen in half, into the inside and the outside of the house. And Tejo's movement outside the window, holding a pose evocative of Indian dance; the falling of leaves; Nandini walking away; the movement of the camera attentive to each of these; all create a delicate sensation transposing the mythico-iconic duo into the worldly woman and the motherly; torn halves of a composite, jagged, modern entity.

Geeta Kapur:
In Maya Darpan (1972), Tarang (1984) and Kasba (1990), the theme is at the first level pedagogical: industrialization and the emancipation of women; capitalist development as part of a historical process toward socialism; the desired breaking up of the feudal family, and of the nation, into class categories. He builds up a national allegory - but not to confirm the nation. It is a framing device for an analysis of class; from an altogether different point of view, it is a space for the location of artistic traditions that have a civilizational spread and therefore extend the nationalist discourse... If the national is broken up, so for that matter is the male collective of the working class: both are disciplinary concepts and in the later, more abstracted phases often authoritarian. They are broken up through futurist projections into states of plenitude, among other devices through the sheer beauty of image, the excess of which allows imagist cinema to signal a surplus attraction and break open hermetic constructs. Shahani's own brief is precisely to not let the one subsume the other: to not let the symbolic over the imaginary, or vice versa. He keeps hold of the "real" through demonstrating a condition of concrete immanence in the actual work...

... Such issues as these are often "resolved" by Shahani through the female presence that always takes the shape of a dual persona of nature and death, an actual duo that combines to make an elegiac figure of disinterested desire. It is in that metaphysical moment of self-naughting that a dialectical move into the third alternative is made. Shahani uses this dialectic to arrive at the figure of the "true beloved", a hypothetical figure who embodies the erotics of pain and resurrects herself in the uncharted space of transfigured knowledge.

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"The dialectical way invests chaotic power in the creation of little machineries of the heterogeneous. By fragmenting continuums and distancing terms that call for each other, or, conversely, by assimiliting heterogeneous elements and combining incomparable things, it creates clashes. And it makes the clashes thus developed small measuring tools, conducive to revealing a disruptive power of community, which itself establishes another term of measurement. (...) The encounter therein of incompatible elements highlights the power of a different community imposing a different measure; it establishes the absolute reality of desires and dreams. But it can also be activist photomontage à la John Heartfield, which exposes capitalist gold in Adolf Hitler's gullet - i.e. the reality of economic domination behind the lyricism of national revolution - or, forty years later, that of Martha Rosler, who 'brings back home' the Vietnam War by mixing her images with those of adverts for American domestic bliss. Even closer to us, it can be the images of the homeless projected by Krzystof Wodiczko on official American monuments, or the paintings that Hans Haacke accompanies with little notices indicating how much they have cost each of their successive buyers. In all these cases, what is involved is revealing one world behind another: the far-off conflict behind home comforts; the homeless expelled by urban renovation behind the new buildings and old emblems of the polity; the gold of exploitation behind the rhetoric of community or the sublimity of art; the community of capital behind all the separations of spheres and the class war behind all communities. It involves organizing a clash, presenting the strangeness of the familiar, in order to reveal a different order of measurement that is only uncovered by the violence of a conflict."

- Jacques Rancière, The Future of the Image (trans. Gregory Elliott), 2007.

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Upalēkha sūtra :

Listen, a heave of wings,
the turning of a wheel.

A forest fire spreading out
And ashes
from my body's skin.

And then stillness...

Trees, veils of fragrance.
Forests, rustling


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