Saturday, March 14, 2009

Why bother?

I watched two movies on consecutive days. The first was the Korean movie "Old Boy" and the next was "Scent of a woman".  Even though I am sufficiently fond of Al Pacino's style of acting, I think "Scent of a woman" sucked. Here was a story that bordered on the unbelievable as regards to the almost super-human charm of an almost blind man, and all the while every viewer could've told where the story was going. The acting was hammed, the lines were cliched and on any other day this mass produced piece of Hollywood pseudo-sentiments would leave me cursing. But not yesterday.

Yes, I know that "Old Boy" won the Jury Grand Prix at Cannes and all that. Without spoiling the suspense of the storyline, let's just say that the climax is very very disturbing. I am a firm proponent of artistic freedom and the need to express stories that tread beyond the norm. However this one shook me to the core or maybe even sickened me. The ultimate topic being broached in the movie is a very natural possibility yet our society has so conditioned us that we are nauseated even at its thought. Why should in these rare cases, even true love fall under the bracket of sin just because convention says so? 

"Old Boy" takes the viewer where he wouldn't dare to venture alone. Maybe therein lies its greatness as a film. It is crisply & beautifully shot, edited down to the final "d" and brutal in its message delivery. There is so much to talk about and fictionalize about in our complicated existence but to go to the places that this movie has gone takes a rare kind of courage and morbid curiosity. Using the imagination to probe the dark corners of the mind may be the big draw for some artists but it's downright scary for me to watch the results. So watching a movie like "Scent of a woman" full of corny, romantic lines and a very very typical climactic 'courtroom' speech, made me feel normal again and I was glad for it. I was back in the conventional world where love and honour meant what we were taught when we were immature; simplified concepts of black and white that were within our limited emotional grasp. Our thoughts would like to take us to a whole lot of nooks and crannies but I think its not always such a great idea to hitch a ride with them.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Meditative Sunday

This weekend there was glorious weather in Massachusetts. After innumerable consecutive weekends of cold, drafty, snowy cooped up inactivity, the sun was out in its full blazing glory. Yet I had to be content giving this great weather a quiet and slightly dejected wave-by as I was still winding down from last weekend's mega-exertions at Vegas.

Sometimes not making the most of any opportunity has its own pleasures. Here was the perfect weekend to go scouting in and around Boston and add another pin to the places that I had visited, and all I did was spend it in a semi-haze helped by the viciously strong cold medication I was taking. My cousin brother (another Vegas afflicted citizen) and I literally sat for hours on neighbouring couches at my aunt's place but hardly spoke a word. Both of us wore dazed, happy LSD smiles. In part it was the Vegas effect and in part it was the undeniable joy of being totally useless.

My smile took shape as I wandered through the places I'd been on this stint in the USA. I had seen the Atlantic from Castle Rock, Plymouth, Bristol, Boston, from 10000 feet above Newport before jumping out of the plane, and many of the beaches of Cape Cod. I had pondered on the Pacific shade of blue from the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco and the beaches & spectacular rocky coastlines of Monterey. I had scythed my way through the teeming crowds in Manhattan, paused for a beautiful moment in Central Park on an autumn afternoon and had relaxed beer in hand with a clear, undisturbed view of the night-time Manhattan skyline from across the river in Jersey City. I had steamed past the ubiquitous symbol of America, Statue of Liberty, that green metal giant. I had taken a plunge into the sea of human enterprise that is Las Vegas, a settlement that literally rose out of the desert and does exceedingly well by any standards. I had stood in quiet contemplation over the rushing mountains of water at the Niagara Falls, and the unconquerable beauty of the Grand Canyon. I had sipped coffee in the company of the intellectual elite of the world at Harvard Square, had lunch at Stanford and stood at the same viewpoint where scientific geniuses of UC, Berkeley had hit their Eureka moment high above in their stunning mountain-top campus. Every little unnamed house that was made remarkable by the colours of fall or fresh snow danced across my mind's eye. 

Every new friend and every new experience on this trip re-engraved itself in my memory during that afternoon which I said nothing and did nothing. I let my mind replay those memories and organize them more efficiently. I really am glad for days like these. Sure, I could have been doing something for the betterment of the world in those few hours but I doubt whether it could have been so satisfying as these few hours of unrepented self indulgence. If there was more to life than this, I couldn't care less for it!