Thursday, July 23, 2009

The desolation of life and art.


Last week I finally looked at
 Apocalypse Now; Francis Ford Coppola's greatest movie (and yes that's even taking his earlier The Godfather and The Godfather II into consideration). It is viewed as making a definitive statement on the turmoil of war, showing the undiluted difference between good and evil, the desolation and darkness that ensues when morals are taxed and the impact of hierarchical American decisions on the rest of the world.
 
To do this, the producers formed a bond with Ferdinand Marcos to use his military equipment and enable accessibility to the remote shooting sites in the Philippines. Along with all the 'trappings' of shooting in the jungle, they also endured a typhoon which blew their sets and set them back in time and money, Martin Sheen suffered a nervous breakdown (the opening scenes of him in the hotel room were unscripted and quite real; in fact he really broke the mirror and even attacked Mr. Coppola in a fit of drunken stupor). Later on, he would also suffer a heart attack and struggle to reach help. Marlon Brando demanded too much money for too little work, eventually turned up 80lbs overweight (his character was a lithe, thin man) and with no idea of his lines having not read the script. This weight gain also effectively eliminated Mr. Coppola's scripted ending because as he said Mr. Brando was 'too fat'.  

In meeting the demands he had set for himself, Mr. Coppola mortgaged himself thin and was well known during the time as the suicidal director proclaiming it as his intention many times. In short, the production was way over budget, very behind time and extremely punishing on all involved; and that's not counting the two years it took for post production to be completed!

All of this makes me admire Mr. Coppola and the film's cast and crew tremendously, including Dennis Hopper, Robert Duval and a very young Lawrence Fishburne (he was actually 14 at the time of filming but gave his age as 17). However this admiration is tempered by one of the final scenes; that of an oxen being butchered to death. 

On seeing it (and cringing painfully) I had thought that it was a simulated scene using an animal stand-in. Just a couple days ago however I found out that it was indeed a real animal that was brutally murdered with no thought or value for its life. I have read conflicting reports; that it was an actual ritual in progress and Mrs. Coppola saw it and alerted her husband and they started shooting. But knowing a tiny bit about shooting film and remembering the shots (I don't think I will be able to look at them again) I am more inclined to believe the latter report which is much the same; that Mr. Coppola was alerted to the fact by his wife however to facilitate shooting, he recreated it with another oxen for his much needed ending.

To me it is a strong case of life imitating art, imitating life as the very thing which Mr. Coppola sought to document; the twisted minds that blur the line between good and evil,the desolation and darkness, the cold hearted taking of lives and the effects of the American will at any costs are more clearly illustrated than the scene of US soldiers lead by Mr. Duval's character wiping out a seaside village so that they could surf its waters.

And no; I am not anti-American.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Paying homage to the Land of McGuffin.

Okay, I changed the picture on my post on McGuffin! It's trifling really, but the fact that the post did not show a pic that is distinctly Scottish as opposed to a pic that represents me bothered me every time I thought of it. Now it does! 

Only thing is... because I did that the post traded positions with the last one and I am yet to figure out how to fix that! Oh well. 




No I am not part Scottish...


For non-film buffs and film buffs who instinctively know film techniques but are not aware that they do; a Mcguffin is a plot element that catches viewers' attention or drives the plot of a work of fiction. The incomparable Alfred Hitchcock popularised both the term and the technique, a hallmark of his thrilling films. In 1966 the great French director Fran├žois Truffaut interviewed Mr. Hitchcock who illustrated the term "McGuffin"with this story: 


"It might be a Scottish name, taken from a story about two men in a train. One man says, 'What's that package up there in the baggage rack?' And the other answers, 'Oh that's a McGuffin.' The first one asks, 'What's a McGuffin?' 'Well,' the other man says, 'It's an apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands.' The first man says, 'But there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands,' and the other one answers 'Well, then that's no McGuffin!' So you see, a McGuffin is nothing at all."

I am confused by people who gorge themselves on mangoes and still doubt the existence of God.


Mangoes
Originally uploaded by sahgal rahul
Okay, granted the picture does not show mangoes from Trinidad and Tobago or even the Caribbean. In my defence the ones I just consumed were totally Caribbean and very Trini, which made the need to eat them all the more urgent and hence no mangoes to photograph for the blog!

Flickr came to my rescue and more specifically the gentleman who took this lovely picture. Here in Trinidad where 'mango season' means all your neighbours' trees are laden with fruit, one never thinks that other countries have mangoes too. And certainly not that India is the number one producer in the world! Quite an edifying piece of information for me...maybe I should reconsider that job offer I got from Mumbai...

I don't know about India or any other countries for that matter, but from my experience and observations 'mango season' in Trinidad and Tobago can make the most honest, trustworthy person dither on the values of honesty and trustworthiness when faced with ripe mangoes hanging 'just within reach' from a tree that belongs to someone else! Why just last week...

No I didn't; but Lord knows I wanted to! After all, three lovely ones were hanging over my neighbour's wall, practically in the street. That MUST make them public property! Since then when I go in and out of my gate I avert my eyes and turn my full concentration to the task of unlocking and opening my gate.

I apologise to lovers of apples in advance; I can't see what you people find soooo delicious about that fruit and I am firmly convinced that Adam did not succumb to an apple. I am perfectly sure it was a mango!

Julie to be specific!

Flickr

This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

She's gone and done it!

Finally! 

For a good while now (more specifically about a year) I have been toying with the idea of starting a blog. Since then it's been somewhat of an errant thought that lasts no more than 20 seconds quickly banished by the reality that it is quite probable that what I have to say might not been that interesting at all. Another thought that figures quite prominently is that I may not know enough words to string together a worthy paragraph or (and here is the clincher) that as a writer for consumption; I may just plain suck!

There, I've said it! So if any of you out there read this and harbours any of those opinions about this blog, rest assured I am well ahead of you. That being said; I am here and will try to not be myself but instead will be as interesting, lively and intelligent as I would like to think myself.

Oh! Another thing; though well-intentioned this may turn out to be a weekly rather than daily blog. Other times it may be daily; it all depends on how exciting life may be day to day.