Category Archives: Simpleton “The Critic”

Remembering Ryan

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Ryan Larkin

(b. July 31, 1943, – d. February 14, 2007)

Ryan Larkin died from lung cancer. He was an inspiration to many  animators and creative film-makers. But  how did a man with so much talent end-up being a pan-handler? 

To be honest, Chris Landreth’s animation only covers a portion of Ryan’s career. A more unbiased account of Ryan’s troubles are well documented in the film Alter Egos by Laurence Green.

The sad thing about his death was it occured just as he was getting his life back together ( I’m sure Chris played  an important role) and working on an animation called Spare Change .

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POInt of View Part 5: Truth, Meaning & Metaphor In A Cinematic Poem

KB is a master at combining POETRY OF THE THEATRE (i.e.  the use of vivid prose language to achieve heightned emotional expression that is often the domain of poetry) with THEATRE OF POST-MODERNISM (i.e. experimental or “new-theatre” forms in which nonverbal codes and images take precedence over spoken language requiring the audience to project their own interpretation of the scenes – the form is the content)…

The most important element of any poem is not its structure, rhyme, meter, line or language. Its the idea. As a layman, I’m trying to understand the meaning of the poem or what the poet is trying to tell me. Sometimes, I’m able come-up with multiple meaning for a single metaphor – forcing me to disregard  traditional  either/or logic that insists A cannot be A and not-A at the same time. 

A Cinematic poem by a theatreman is bound to have multiple meanings for a single metaphor, so to understand the director’s point of view – the reviewer should be able to identify the links.

The theatre tantra once used to be:

To educate the illitrate, enlighten the literate and entertain the enlightened.

Has this changed?

Bingo The Clown-O

Irony in its crudest form becomes sarcasm because there is a delibrate pretence of ignorance – The Socratic Method… Did Socrates practice ignorance in order to trick a student (or an adversary) in dialogues?

Making movies with masters 

There is absolutely no reason as to why a film like Poi should fail to break-even at the box-office in 2007… Only excuses and lies or as Arthur Black would say:

Lies, all lies. Well, not lies, exactly. Excuses. Little dabs of social lubricant that help to smooth the meshing gears of everyday life.

An awful lot of impressive human creativity goes into making excuses – sometimes we expend more mental sweat trying to avoid a job than we would if we just went ahead and did the damned thing – but that’s human nature, too. And sometimes the excuses themselves become somewhat twisted works of Art.

In a film where form is the content, the reviewer should be able to identify the key-frame… In Poi, this is the key frame:

kb_key.jpgThis is the most striking or notable feature of Poi – treat it as the starting point of your imagination. A frame that could make or break a reviewer because from this point on-wards the screenplay is being written by the reviewer and not the film-maker. 

A film like Poi works only if we have reviewers capable of enlightening the audience and sadly even after 75 years of Tamil Talkies, most of our reviewers are not even capable identifying the theme.

Here is KB trying to sell the film to an audience:

You didn’t take long to scale the peak and in a way you gave Tamil cinema a new definition. What keeps you going?

I still care for creative work. It is not money alone anymore, although that also matters. I do films more for my satisfaction. The urge to do something new is still alive.

What is “Poi” about?

It is a love story without the villain element. And the screenplay is not clichéd. I’m handling very young talent and it is a new experience.

Do you think you have achieved something here?

I wouldn’t be working if I thought I had achieved anything at all. I have always given films, which are ahead of our times. For me achievement is honest, sincere and hard work.

From The Hindu 24-02-2006

Most of our reviewers don’t know the difference between a story and a screenplay. A good director or craftsman will find ways to exploit the talents of his supporting staff.

A good reviewer should be able to identify how KB exploited Biju Viswanth’s skills:

http://www.bijuviswanath.com/projects.html

KB’s role in Poi is to come up with a simple story for audience to follow, but a screenplay that would be multi-dimensional. Our reviewers have to understand the difference between a book and a film. 

Getting back to four phases of Poi:

Phase 1: The School of Poems

Phase 2: The Face of Love

Phase 3: The Life Beat of the Souls

Phase 4: Translation of Literature

What Is This?
Who Is Going To Say It?

Phase 2 & 3  are easy for the audience to understand, they may not be able to articulate what they feel, but then again audience are not being paid to review films.

Phase 1 & 4 is where the critic has to prove they are worthy of the money being paid.

He wanted a bridge, but all he got was a slide. Once again proving: I wouldn’t be working if I thought I had achieved anything at all. I have always given films, which are ahead of our times. For me achievement is honest, sincere and hard work.

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POInt of View Part 4: Intertextual Cinema

Vividly remember being asked to write a paper on Chris Landreth’s  “The End”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oY-TRd9VujA

The most revealing part of this animation was the voice on the phone.  Probably a character familiar with intertextuality as a literary theory.

Bruce Meyer’s explanation: 

Intertextual writing demands that the reader come armed with an extensive knowledge of what literature is, who the main authors are, how principal works have influenced the collective imagination  that operates in literature, and what literature’s key stories and themes have been.

Literary intertextuality is an author’s elegant, if sometimes pedantic, way of locating his or her own work in the rankings of what is important and what is not important, and of acknowledging the debt owed to earlier writers. From an author’s point of view, intertextuality is a form of tribute. It is a way of pointing to those who have informed his or her vision. In its most subtle form – allusion – intertextuality is a polite way of admitting the influence and the importance of a forerunner. In a more aggressive stance, where writers quote directly from an earlier work, it is an admission that they cannot improve upon the way something was said in the past. But in its most overt form, when the former writer appears in the new works as a character, intertextuality is more than a tribute: it is the open acknowledgement that the great works of literarure are actually a guide that can help one navigate the labyrinth of the imagination.

From the golden thread

Intertextual cinema should be easier to understand because text is now surrounded with images and sound. But for such a film to break-even at the box-office, this has to happen:

In my view, a critic performs a useful purpose only when he is able to build a bridge between the director and the audience. That is his main responsibility. A critic has to be a connoisseur since he makes a living out of making appraisals. However, unless a viewer is prompted by a personal motive, there is no reason for him to want to become a true connoisseur. Where a film is simple as well as good, the critic’s responsibility is diminished because the viewer can appreciate its excellence without the critic’s help. But there are some films which can be understood and appreciate only if the viewer has the necessary knowledge and perception. In such a case, a critic has to step in and perform the role of a teacher

Satyajit Ray   Speaking Of Films – A Critic in the Eyes of A Director (1965, 133).

A reviewer being this bridge is a long shot because of the time-space issue ( i.e. unless you really have good knowledge of literature and film-making, it would be hard to explain a film like Poi using only 500 to 750 words). So most reviewers are going find it easier to blame the  director and the producer than to explain a film like Poi.

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POInt of View Part 3: Sea, Spark & Fate

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An interpretation of Poi  using the film as a montage of poems. The opening scene of Poi ends with the caption: He is trying to empty the sea. Using  two simple couplets from Valluvar’s Thirukural, the objects in this scene can be used as a prop.

Treat the sea as a source of knowledge. The opening song hints about a tune being composed using the sea.

Kural 396:
Water comes gushing forth from the sand, the deeper and deeper it is dug; likewise, intelligence will grow, the more and more a person studies.

Kural 397:
Persons of learning can call all countries and places as their own. Why then, do not some persons care to learn?

poi002.jpgThe second important prop is a snakes and ladder board. A game is being played between two metaphysical characters : Theepori (spark) – a person dressed in traditional clothes and Vidhi (Fate) – a person dressed in modern clothes.  The board as a prop:

Kural 401:

The one who comes forth to speak before a learned assembly, without having studied good books, is like a person trying to throw a dice in a board game  without a spot for it.

poi003.jpgThe game involves an attempt to spark interest in Literature  using Subramaniam Bharathi’s formula and the obstacles one has to overcome.  As a poet, Bharathi often used fire as a metaphor. Agni Kunchonru Kanden happens to be one of his most popular poems:

I found a young spark of fire.
I left it in a hole in the woods.
The woods burned down till all was still.
For the valour of fire,
how can one speak of young or old?

Bharathi’s formula for creating interest in old literature was to reinvent them. KB uses lyrical fictions, metaphoric discourses, sceneries and dialogues to act as informants to create a narrative poem. The story involves an interrelated series of events containing characters, actions, informants, and indices, each of which may affect individual scenes, as well as the end of the film as a whole.

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POInt of View Part 2: new WINE in OLD BOTTLE

sp0121.jpg“It is impossible to legislate taste, and if it were possible, it would be repugnant. There are no commandments in art and no easy axioms for art appreciation. ‘Do I like this?’ is the question anyone should ask themselves at the moment of confrontation with the picture. But if ‘yes’, why ‘yes?’ and if ‘no’, why ‘no’? The obvious direct emotional response is never simple, and ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ has nothing at all to do with the picture in its own right”.

Jeanette Winterson, Art [Objects]

 

I guess KB makes films to trick reality into revealing itself (aka capturing Subliminal Reality)… I was thinking about these tags (extracted from the trailers):

AN OFFBEAT FILM

POI – KB’s POINT OF VIEW

A POIGNANT FILM

LOVE NEEDS A MASK

LOVE THE OTHER SIDE OF “LIES”

FORMULAS ARE BROKEN STILL POIGNANT

POI FULL OF LOVES & LIES

A POEM CALLED POI

new WINE in OLD BOTTLE

A person is walking along the shore and finds an old wine bottle. Three options:

(1) Throw it back into the sea

(2) Ignore the bottle

(3) Take the bottle home

Takes the bottle back home and finds a message.  Turns on the lamp (i.e. mind) and trys reading it.  The message first seems strange and disturbing, but soon it appears to be – A cry for help ???

Poet Osip Mandelstam once wrote:

Why shouldn’t the poet turn to his friends, to those who are naturally close to him?

At a critical moment, a seafarer tosses a sealed bottle into the ocean waves, containing his name and a message detailing his fate. Wandering along the dunes many years later, I happen upon it in the sand. I read the message, note the date, the last will and testament of one who has passed on. I have a right to do so. I have not opened someone else’s mail. The message in the bottle was addressed to its finder. I found it. That means, I have become its secret addressee.

Thus Poi is for all of us who read and enjoy poems…

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POInt of View Part 1: Poetic Justice For KB?

sp013.jpgDuring the 150th convocation of the University of Madras on 12 November 2007, K.Balachander was honoured with a D.Litt degree (doctorate in Literature). 

Poetic justice?

Yes sir… No sir… I don’t know sir…

Time for Arts & Humanities graduates to find ways to exploit his films. Till then, the simpleton is going to have fun…

Poi is a poem written in fear… Watch it like a film, interpret it like a poem…  The theme deals with Poetry and Literary Criticism… To  truly enjoy this film, one has buy into this statement by Satyajit Ray:

Even today, there are debates over whether or not cinema can be called a form of art. Those who are not prepared to give it that status claim that cinema has no soul of its own; it is a weird mixture of components taken from literature and other forms of art.

The problem is over the word ‘art’. If the word ‘language’ is used instead, I think the true nature of cinema will become clearer and there will be no need for debate. Just as a writer has words at his disposal, a film-maker has image and sound that make up the language of cinema.

Speaking Of Films – The Making of a Film: Structure, Language and Style (1959, 29).

The key to understanding Poi begins with the song Inge Inge Oru Paatu:

There Is A Song Here…
The Sea Is Waiting To Compose A Tune…
Is Waiting To Tell You A Story…
Who Is It Expecting here…

Is It The School of Poems?
Is It The Face of Love?
Is It The Life Beat Of The Souls?
Is It The Translation Of The Literature?

What Is This?
Who Is Going To Say It?
What Is This?
Who Is Going To Say It?

God! Is It Fair?
Is Your Heart Made Of Stone?
God! Is It Fair?
Is Your Heart Made Of Stone?

He Told His Love To The Sea
She Told Her Love To His Body
He Somewhat Won Her…
She Somewhat Won Herself…

At The End Somewhat Love Won Here…
God… You Lost… You Lost To Love…
A Tamil Poem Is Born Here…
Crossing A Sea… It Crawls Here…

The song describes the film as a narrative poem. A story is being told, but with a poetic flair. The film is crafted to be dynamic, changing from phase to phase. The song outlines the four phases:

Phase 1: The School of Poems

Phase 2: The Face of Love

Phase 3: The Life Beat of the Souls

Phase 4: Translation of Literature

What Is This?
Who Is Going To Say It?

1. The Hindu Review

2. Rediff Review

3. Chennai OnLine Review

4. Galatta Review

5. Cinefundas Review

6. Andhra Cafe Review

7. India Glitz Review

8. News Today Review

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Book Review: Godless By Ann Coulter

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Oh My God!!! Oops… Being a liberal, I don’t want offend Ann by using the word GOD… Just finished reading Godless and I’m now ready to lower Coulter’s threat to human intelligence from Red to Green (Red = Dangerous, Orange = Annoying…. Green= Amusing)… Loss of credibility by Conservative Think Tanks (i.e. Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, etc) has moved Ann right to top of the Conservative Punditry Chart…

Having read other books from Coulter (i.e. TREASON, SLANDER and the most entertaining of them all: How To Talk To A Liberal (If You Must) ), I knew this book was going to offer a good chunk of in your face Liberal bashing… As usual, Coulter needs to offend some group (just to get some free air time to promote her book) and this time she picks on:

These self-obsessed women seem genuinely unaware that 9-11 was an attack on our nation and acted like as if the terrorist attack only happened to them. They believe the entire country was required to marinate in their exquisite personal agony. Apparently, denouncing bush was part of the closure process.

These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by griefparrazies. I have never seen people enjoying their husband’s death so much.

Link To Today Show’s Transcript

But as usual Coulter refuses to touch her religious conservative group’s ( much larger than the four Jersey Wives and more widespread) claim that 9/11 was God’s way of punishing America:

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Now if this book had been just another Ann Rant about dirty Liberals (& patriotic conservatives), the SPIN Book Review could have been avoided…

Unfortunately, Coulter uses three chapters (8 to 11) to challenge mock the theory of evolution with the help of Discovery Institute … OK! This really should be a no-brainer… Use Coulter to sell the Concept of Intelligent Design to the mass… It seems like DI’s lack of intelligence in choosing Coulter is the only thing evolving here because:

(1) Coulter’s comments about 9/11 Widows has overshadowed her chapters on Science and Evolution (most probably Bill Dembski being the Ghostwriter, but then again I could being wrong, esp. when the book totally screws up the Peppered moth evolution )…

(2) DI and supporters of ID are now busy trying to separate themselves from Coulter (Esp. Widow Comment)…

So would I still recommend the book… Sure! But not for educational purposes, just for entertainment and understanding the articulate form of spreading hatred & the art of stereotyping…

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