A wide empty screen, pin drop silence, as my hand inched its way to the popcorn bag, holding a popcorn in two fingers, I quietly moved it towards my mouth, the only sound to break the deafening silence was a muffled crackling – my popcorn. I whispered to my friend sitting besides me – "there is something wrong with the sound affects" and he whispered back "nope, its all right, this is an art movie, they always do that" "you sure ?" I whispered, he replied "yeah, trust me I KNOW, I have slept through a whole lot of them before" and I clammed up, munching slowly for the fear of disturbing the eerie silence with my crackling pop corn.
The opening shot was of the camera panning the horizon, and slowly moving in for a close up of the cracked and parched earth (the scene was of a desert). It went on for about 5 whole minutes, no sound, no nothing, I think they were building the suspense up, the suspense that something is gonna move on that deathly still screen. I even bet my friend that the first one who sees movement on the screen wins and the looser buys the next round of popcorn. The movie dragged on, it was about a couple living in a dilapidated shack in that desert. You could barely make out their faces inside the hut in that dim light, while out side the sun blazed in its full glory.
Have you ever wondered why these art movies are made in half light? No wonder these actors get the best actor award in these art films, you can hardly make out the features of these actors, and the dialogues are like being squeezed out of a stone and sold at a premium, the guy asks his wife a question and she answers in about two minutes. Talk about a conversation.
The hero kept going outside at short intervals and would stare at the horizon with weary eyes, grunt out a deep sigh, stare into the camera and in a cracked voice would say "it wont rain today." Excuse me!!!!!!!!! .. Helloooooooooo!!!!!! You DON'T have to tell me that, I can see that very well THANK YOU!!!!!. An empty cloudless sky, the scorching sun and the dust devils raised by the wind signify just that. You don't have to be a Sherlock Holmes to arrive at the conclusion that its not gonna rain today. I don't know what hang-ups art movies have about dialogues, you are lucky if you get to hear some sound, background or human once in a while. Why can't they stop showing stark barren horizons and save on film development costs and utilize that money to put in some more light and dialogues in the movie?
I have another friend who is a student of film direction and photography. He once got along a movie of the legendary Japanese director Akiro Kurosawa. "You mean to say that this whole movie is about a guy getting up in the morning and going off to work? No plots, no missing of trains, no accidents on the way, no mugging, no murders, no sex, no nothing?" I asked him incredulously. "The plot is immaterial in an art movie, you have to look at the technicality of the movie, the light effects, the camera angles and so on. This movie is an acclaimed work of art the world over. We have this in our curriculum" placated my friend as he clutched the videocassette reverently, (my aversion to art movies is well known in my friend circle).
Anyway we started watching this movie, the time span covered by the movie was about 1 hr 20 minutes or so, that's the time taken by the hero (subject as they are called in technical jargon which, my friend haughtily pointed out to me) to wake up, take a bath, get dressed, sip a cup of tea, read a newspaper and rush off to catch the train to office. So this guy wakes up at the shrill clangor of the alarm clock, switches on his radio, takes his bath while the camera shoots at all possible angles, heck I could even read the brand name of his tooth paste and bath soap. I chimed in "Hey, even I can make an art movie, I'll shoot my neighbor's wife taking a bath, cant I?" and my friend shook his head solemnly "No, that's VOYEURISM, if Akiro Kurosawa does it.. that's ART" and I went silent again for a while.
My friend had just succinctly shown me the great wide divide between me and Akiro Kurosawa. Talk about people having such a low esteem in my artistic capabilities. Why do people have to be so brutally frank? Meanwhile the subject of the movie had finished his bath and was getting dressed, the radio blared in the background, the subject was now sipping his tea or coffee or whatever and reading his newspaper. The camera zoomed in again on the subjects face, a tiny nick on the chin showed up like a battle scar, the steam rose from the cup lazily as it wafted upwards and then the camera was zooming in on the headlines of the newspaper. My friend broke in deliriously "just look at the camera, ohhhhhhh, its classic Kurosawa, see how the medium (camera) has so gracefully disappeared, it has bound the viewer to the subject so subtly that the viewer is the subject now, man!!! You can even read the newspaper, ohhhh Kurosawaaaaaa thou art greattttttttt" I piped in "I cant read the newspaper, it's in Japanese", my friend groaned "Hmmm we need subtitles out here, but then again, its not about reading the newspaper, its about seeing things the way the camera does, a Japanese CAN read that newspaper and relate to it". I muttered "IF I was a Japanese I would buy myself a real newspaper and NOT watch a movie to read one through a camera". My friend mournfully shook his head and sighed, "this is really not your field, ohhh why do I cast pearls before this swine?" "Hell, you can make the same kinda movie by shooting me as I rush for office, I can belt out a couple of songs in the bathroom for you and if my favorite jingle comes on the radio, I'll even do a jig for you at the breakfast table" I proposed. "THAT will be a comedy, art is NOT funny" moaned my desolate friend. "You have to know the power of the medium, the way the subject has to be handled, You have to respect art and works of these masters". So in deference to the master artisan Kurosawa I decided to keep mum and dozed off.
Why do all art movies have to be so morose and grim, reeking of serious technicalities? Exulting in morbidity as they shove down depression down your throats.
Why can't they be about simple joy and life and love and nature? Or of the joyful abundance of spring, the unbound exuberance of youth, gamboling, brimming with life. Of satin winged butterflies or the dancing wildflowers bobbing among the grass. Of the mighty snow clad peaks loftily stretching out to the skies, glistening with a golden reddish hue as the morning sunrays caress them. Of the wisps of clouds kissing the mountaintops like gentle lovers or the cascading mountain springs as they rush down the ravines, forming silky waterfalls with their misty veils. Of the first rains on the thirsty earth, of pattering raindrops on yearning leaves, Of dazzling warm sunrises and soothing cool full moon nights. Why . ohhhh .. Why?
I guess I really don't know about art after all ..........