Sunday, September 27, 2009

Seeing is fighting

I was watching a movie today, a very old Hindi movie, when movies used to have a unique element called - a story. This movie is called Laila Majnu and is based around a couple of legendary lovers.

I really loved the movie and might do another post about the movie itself, but here I want to talk about one aspect of it. There was a scene where the hero is engaged in a sword fight with the heroine's evil brother and as the fight continues I suddenly realize that I can "see" the fight. No, no, I was not blind before or any miracle like that, just bear with me here. I could see exactly what both the characters were doing, their footwork, the somersaults, the running; I could see what the sword arm was doing, I could see what the swords were doing, I could watch the whole fight and follow it very easily.

I actually watched another scene in another old Hindi movie called "Amar Akbar Anthony", in this one the fight was unarmed combat between two of the heroes and and the common factor was the detail I was able to see - I could see who kicked whom, where and how hard and how he pushed the other one and all of that.

Now contrast that with the current movies, both English and Hindi - there are 17 different shots every second, showing 17 different things - hero's feet in extreme close up, villain's hands in extreme close up, a bystander...again, in extreme close-up...and all kinds of techno-fabulous sounds going on all the time. You can't really see what's happening, what are they doing to each other, that you can't follow, you have to play Sherlock Holmes...when you see the hero's face in extreme close-up distorted with pain, you have to infer that the villain must have gotten a good hit in, if you see the villain's lip bleeding in the next shot, you infer that the last *whap* sound you heard must have been the hero's fist connecting with the villain's face, and so on and so forth.

Let me take a very specific example. In the last Bond movie called Quantum of Solace, there's a fight scene in the beginning, Bond vs. a bad guy, hand-to-hand combat going on. Since it's a dynamic situation both the fighters use whatever item they can get their hands on to hurt the other guy. Now with this background...we see a piece of rope hanging in mid-air, we see Bond's face, his eyes, obviously noticing the rope, then we hear some techno-fabulous *whap* *boom* *crunch* type sounds...what do you infer?

I inferred that somehow Bond used that piece of rope strategically to hit the bad guy. But how? What was the ingenious gambit that he devised? I have no freaking clue!!

So while the director is sitting in a Los Angeles penthouse counting dollar bills, I am sitting in the theatre thinking, "You bloody wanker! I didn't pay 12 quid to see a piece of rope!! Show me what the f**k is going on, you idiot!"

My point is that technology has progressed a lot in the movie-making business but it is possible to abuse that technology and be so carried away by the amazing, super-powerful, stunt-designing computers that you forget about the man who pays his hard-earned money to see what tale you have spun for him. And then they ask why people don't watch movies on cinema any more!

Now, here's my plan - any time there's a movie like that on the cinema that I am considering watching, I am going to call the director and ask him:
SG: "Listen, dude, are you the kind of director who goes for technology in a big way?"
SG:"Okay, no harm in that I guess. But are you also the kind of bloke who sometimes gets carried away with technology and forgets about the craft of filmmaking?"
Director:"Yes, I guess so."
SG:"Hah! Then I am sorry mate, but you would be interested to know that I am not going to watch your latest movie!"

And with that, I will hang up, leaving him to deal with the sense of doom that he starts experiencing!
Pretty good, eh?

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