Thursday, November 19, 2009

Odd Man Out

Carol Reed's Odd Man Out wasn't really a discovery for me since I anyway expected it to be great (being a huge fan of The Third Man) but it really exceeded all my expectations.

The film starts in the morning with Johnny (played by James Mason) and his gang of Irish revolutionaries planning on a bank robbery which goes wrong. The way the story is told it almost feels as if it takes place in real time, which in a way it does, since everything ends just before the midnight of the same day. The robbery goes wrong because Johnny has a nervous attack just before they plan to escape with the loot. The way everything is setup it becomes clear that his sudden nervous attack is not only because he has just come out of prison after spending six months inside but also because he has a conflicted conscience about terrorism and violence. (The opening title card of film even says that the film is not concerned with the Irish separatism or any such movement but rather solely about "the conflicts inside the heart of men"). Following a scuffle during the escape Johnny is shot and wounded and he shoots the policeman. When he later gains consciousness, the first thing he wants to know is whether the person who was shot was killed or not. When he is informed that yes he died, we see that he has suffered yet another wound, this time a moral and spiritual wound. From then on, it is all downhill for him, as he suffers both physically and spiritually and searches for salvation. It actually reminded me of Crime and Punishment.

There are a few sequences in the film which don't work as well as the rest of the film does. One sequence in particular towards the end of the film where a couple of secondary characters argue about immortality of soul and some such thing. Some of the scenes which shows Johnny's hallucinations also feel slightly high handed - sort of second hand and amateurish expressionism like the scene where Johnny quotes a line about "charity" from bible to what he thinks is the Priest himself. When he can't hear what the priest replies to him he rues if only they had all listened to him and not drowned his voice with their own debates and arguments.

Robert Krasker, the man behind The Third Man, Great Expectations and Brief Encounter also shot this film. The chiaroscuro effect that he creates using the night time city landscape and the snow is just spectacular. It is hard to describe in the words. It has to be seen to be believed. James Mason has surely the most beautiful and beauitfully expressive faces (or at least masculine faces) ever captured on screen. There is not much for him to do dramatically, except to show the effort he has to make to drag himself but he still conveys an extraodinary sensitivity, pain and despair just by his face. James Mason dragging himself in the snow must surely be one of the great moments in cinema and so must be the heartbreaking ending. This is a classic for ages.

This contains links to reviews and quotes about the film. Roman Polanski says, "Superior, I think, to The Third Man. What really grabbed me at sixteen was the heavy atmosphere that hangs over everybody in the town. I still consider it one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, and a film which made me want to pursue this career more than anything else. It’s still fabulous, probably James Mason’s best picture. No film made me happier than Odd Man Out.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

2666: David Lynch Connection

One reviewer of 2666 has already called it "a love child of David Lynch and Borges."

There is one reference to Lynch which I thought was quite meaningful and revealing. When I read it first I was quite taken aback. Is there really a place like that, I thought. But then I realized it was not any gratuitous reference because Fire Walk with Me is also about the brutal end of a young girl. Moreover I feel Bolano is trying to say something similar about the nature of evil as David Lynch does in Twin Peaks. Bolano's Santa Teresa is somewhat like the "woods" that surround Twin Peaks. Woods as the mysterious source of evil. Evil which is not inside any person but something much more mystical, immanent, something which is, to say, part of the surroundings itself. In Twin Peaks the killer is caught but the mysterious "Bob" remains free and says he will kill again. May be Bolano's Santa Teresa has its own Bob.

Anyway this is the excerpt from the third section of the novel, "The Part About Fate":

The card for the Santa Teresa cybercafe was a deep red, so red that it was hard to read what was printed on it. On the back, in a lighter red, was a map that showed exactly where the cafe was located. He asked the receptionist to translate the name of the place. The clerk laughed and said it was called Fire, Walk With Me.
"It sounds like the title of a David Lynch film," said Fate.
The clerk shrugged and said that all of Mexico was a collage of diverse and wide-ranging homages.
"Every single thing in this country is an homage to everything in the world, even the things that haven't happened yet," he said.
After he told Fate how to get to the cybercafe, they talked for a while about Lynch's films. The clerk had seen all of them. Fate had only seen three or four. According to the clerk, Lynch's greatest achievement was the TV series Twin Peaks.Fate liked the The Elephant Man best, may be because he'd often felt like the elephant man himself, wanting to be like other people but at the same time knowing he was different. When the clerk asked him whether he'd heard that Michael Jackson had bought or tried to buy the skeleton of the elephant man, Fate shrugged and said that Michael Jackson was sick. I don't think so, said the clerk, watching something presumably important that was happening on TV just then.
"In my opinion," he said with his eyes fixed on the TV fate couldn't see, "Michael knows things the rest of us don't."

"this whole motherfucker of a planet."

[But] what are good times? Sergio Gonzalez asked himself. Maybe they're what separate certain people from the rest of us, who live in a state of perpetual sadness. The will to live, the will to fight, as his father used to say, but fight what? The inevitable? Fight who? And what for? More time, certain knowledge, the glimpse of something essential? As if there were something essential on this whole self-sucking motherfucker of a planet.
This is from page 563 of 2666. More than two hundred pages of rape, murder, torture, mutilation and still about hundred more pages to go. Like a macabre and horrifying musical composition. Reading it feels like it is never going to end. Of course, that is the intended effect: A never-ending cycle of life on this "motherfucking planet."

I had never heard of Ciudad Juarez before reading the reviews of the book. This is a nice article about the killings first published in 2003. According to wikipedia, it hasn't stopped. It still goes on. Reading Bolano it feels like it never will. More when I am done with the book. Hopefully soon though it looks difficult.

It's been a really long period of silence here in Zembla. Sorry about disappearing for so long. Been busy, but nothing special. Just regular banalities of life: new job (and where blog sites are banned as well), accumulating possessions to complete a bourgeois existence, and on top of that some upheavals in personal life.

It has not been just blogging, I have been mostly away from internet: social networks, email and chat as well (I was never active on twitter!). Part of it was also a conscious attempt to get away from it all just to make sure that I wasn't getting too dependent on all this and when I really did. I didn't feel like coming back. That is, until now. I hope I will continue from now on as I used to.