Friday, March 23, 2012

Így jöttem

Jancsó’s stories seem to emerge from the vast, deserted landscapes he films them on: just as much as the spaghetti Westerns. However, in the case of the Westerns, men seem to be driven by the nature to lust and violence; in the Hungarian or East European landscapes of Jancsó, though, men and women seem to be the rightful inheritors of mad rushes for power and for meaningless liberty.

Így jöttem (English title: My Way Home) is a film that however focuses less on the intoxication of power and the consequent madness, than it does on the fragility of human relationships. With beautiful cinematographic movements and adding detail little by little, we get to understand - very slowly - the character of Jóska, so lovably played by András Kozák. It is a testament to the massive acting ability of Kozák that he could play two so diametrically opposite roles in Silence and Cry and My Way Home, even when there is no melodrama involved to distinguish between the two shades of men he is representing. For Jóska is gentle, seeking, not angry, forgiving and seeking to understand; he is yet a child and still he has the understanding of a valuable friendship and not to turn away his back on it. He is at once the rebel in not seeking safety, and at once the submissive docile who maybe even would like something to occupy his thoughts in a labour camp rather than being set free. Not the István that is angry and for whom justice is more principle than love, more idea than natural.

The film in its second half does become more or less the story of a friendship that does not need words between two men, and it’s a beautifully portrayed relation, a friendship that can exist only between men and that is as much comradeship as friendship (akin to what is seen in the landmark Hindi film Sholay). It’s a difficult art to build a story that has no real plot except the ordinary details of life: My Way Home does it through some beautiful shots and sequences, for example, when the two friends are out hunting the nude-bathing girls and are finally themselves the hunted ones. It’s one of the most beautiful sequences I’ve seen in cinema till now, rivalling all the best cheetah-chasing-deer shots of the National Geographic.

Another compelling film from Miklós Jancsó, because of its more warm nature and overall lack of tensions between characters, even if the intricacies of Hungarian politics during the War are a bit difficult to understand at first unless you knew them beforehand, this is one of the more accessible films from the European cinema.

Oslo, 31. august

Rarely are films based on burning issues like drug addiction are so well made as Oslo, 31. august (international title: Oslo, August 31st): the film goes beyond addiction itself and rather explore what each man searches, the quest for some kind of meaning to one’s life, a quest that is present in the lives of each of us and which takes different forms of different addictions. Some are put into a corner or a cage by the society, and others aren’t.

The film is lit up by a stunningly brilliant performance by the lead actor, Anders Danielsen Lie as his namesake. Relying heavily on close-ups, the central question over today’s society, the Western society in particular, occurs somewhere in the middle, when Anders recalls the life he grew up to, a home wherein “liberty” becomes another religion, where the bywords are “free” and “artist,” and where the new rule is to not to have rules. Anders stands as an accusation to all the society: that where ethics and principles are often confounded with rules and attack on liberty. The only other solution that he finds is to become like them, which he would refuse to, finally gaining true freedom in his final act.

The film reveals beautifully how deceptions are unmasked and when they are unmasked, we realize how we would have liked to be remaining duped always. Everyone else has got something - that is what Anders thinks. But on encountering them, he will only realize that they are only bluffing at living life: what they are living is only lives. But they are as lonely and as angry as Anders is, and tired, for unlike Anders they have accepted contentment with being hollow.

In a world where ideas have taken the place of love, Anders and the puppets surrounding him are only inevitable.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Exit through the Gift Shop

It matters little whether Exit through the Gift Shop is about reality or is hoax: because the moral of the story remains as it is, since street art has become fashionable, just as most other things do nowadays very quickly, leading to the instant killing of art, unless practiced in solitude. Art on large scale, from literature to paintings, was often always “brainwash” and now is even more so: the more popular an artist, the more the reason to be wary of brainwashing. More importantly than the message, the film also traces how something is erected to the scale of brainwashing, and if the film is indeed by Banksy, then there is no lack of self-ridicule in the film.

It is remarkable that a film largely constructed on footages and interviews could be at once revelatory, hilarious and a story: there is a hidden powerlessness in the film about the society; faced with more and more technology, where once art was perfected for years, it is possible to become an overnight artist now, since too often adulation and fame will win over the artist from what he could have loved doing. Of course, Guetta is no artist: he has maybe an artist’s temperament and passion, but not the skills, not the mind. But the larger question is, whether it is Guetta’s fault, or rather those of people like Banksy who produce signatured pranks, who court controversy and attention, and who think meaninglessness is art. When counterculture starts itself becoming culture, do we need to go back to culture, either embracing it as what we ran away from or trying it as a new “counter-counterculture”? And in all this, we forget why is meaninglessness so important to an increasing number of people today? Is this fondness for meaninglessness a reaction, and if so, then to what? Are we too informed with meanings and symbols all round? Or is it in fact beyond semiotics, is semiotics itself a semiotic game? Rather, do we live in a more and more heraldic world, with concepts and ideas serving now as heralds, instead of herbs and fauna?

A brilliant film, Exit through the Gift Shop will keep asking questions from all shades of consumers: tourists to art collectors, from those who find meaning in Cézanne to those who strive to create. The most disturbing question shall be: can we create anymore? Or, can we only copy and trick à la Guetta (urf Mr. Brainwash)?