Origami: trailer

Origami is a short film about two persons who have never met, between whom a bond grows as they begin exchanging a series of origami figures.

With each passing day, they both have something to look forward to: a dying man seems to get a lease of life, and a healthy young one realises life is not as mundane as he thought it was.

The trailer for the film is now out.

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“Civilisation” — Nature diaries, part 4

Nature diaries is an ongoing collection of five short films, often not spanning more than three minutes in length, which explore select ideas in a raw and organic, yet subtle, manner. These are shot entirely handheld and in natural light, with no setup whatsoever.

This means I need to be prepared when something is happening, not after the fact; and this often leads to some funny situations: since I enjoy photographing everything, people start to think I do this because I am excited by it, and they are right. But they fail to realise why I am excited by it: it is not that I have never seen that thing before (I probably have) but because every time I look at it, I see it as a new work of art.

I photograph roads. Sometimes I spend several minutes rooted to one spot trying to capture the graininess of a road or the wave white lines running along it in an artistic manner. This is construed as my awe with roads because I have not seen such roads before.

On the one hand this is outrageous and, if anything, shows the other person’s complete lack of knowledge of globalisation; but, to me, this proves to be very entertaining. This was what I experienced when I set out to film for the fourth part of the Nature diaries collection, titled “Civilisation”.

And that was understandable. Why would anybody pick up their camera and film a random street? The obvious conclusion drawn was something like, “he hasn’t seen such streets where he comes from”. (Guess what, even if I come from Tristan de Cunha, I still have internet access these days.) But what most failed to see was the composition(ally?), photographically, geometrically rich few seconds or simply a fascinating synchronisation in things.

But that is not all I hoped to capture here. Smaller things come into the picture: juxtaposing cycles with motor vehicles, chronicling the darker, graffiti-ridden side of an otherwise beautiful city, organisation, people in the very middle of their everyday lives, always looking for something interesting to do or say, the hustle, the calm, the shady, the sunny, the dreamy, the extraordinary and the same old white picket fences everybody still craves.

Here is the final result:

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(P.S. When I started off with the nature diaries, I only had ideas for four parts which means I am open to any topic you can pick for the fifth and final installment. Do take a look at the entire collection as of now to get a better idea as to the kind of topics we explore through Nature diaries.)

Film review: “Lake Tahoe”

One of Fernando Eimbcke’s earlier feature films, Lake Tahoe, almost disappeared from mainstream cinema alongside some better known films that came out that same year on the international stage (The Dark Knight, Iron Man, Quantum of Solace, Indiana Jones: the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull).

That is something very unfortunate, because Lake Tahoe, at the very least, is a stark contrast to all these big budget commercial works in that it is truly a work of art.

Despite what many might argue is an excruciatingly slow, somewhat motionless film, I believe that that is exactly where Lake Tahoe’s strength lies. Right from the very first, lengthy, action-free still that opens the film, Mr Eimbcke’s intention is pretty loud and clear.

Screenshot courtesy of Slant magazine

As I can recall off-hand while I pen this review, the entire film is shot more like a series of carefully thought, beautifully composed photographs with a single moving subject right up to the point where the camera starts rolling in a dolly alongside Diego Cataño’s disturbed teen on his way to a mechanic’s.

The film literally begins with a bang. Juan has hit his car onto a light pole. And for every passing moment then on, we give ourselves to Mr Eimbcke’s patient story-telling. One mechanic shop to another; one person to another.

EVERY FRAME ACTS LIKE A PLAYGROUND LETTING [EIMBCKE'S] ACTORS BECOME PAWNS IN THE DIRECTOR’S INVESTIGATION OF LIFE.

Back home, our protagonist, Juan’s, mother is depressed, having locked herself in the bathroom. Joaquin, Juan’s younger brother, in his tent, is perhaps most oblivious to their father’s passing if his scrapbook right at the end is no indication.

Every incident in this story of life itself is designed to teach Juan something about his on-going attempt to face his father’s death. At first he refuses, tries to get away, but that is not an option, and he learns that very gently, almost as if only Mr Eimbcke’s wide shots could.

The film starts by feeling more like a series of photographs interspersed with long black screens during which the viewer is left to visualise the film the way they want to, supported only by a continuing audio. Every frame acts like a playground letting his actors become pawns in the director’s investigation of life. This is truly something that has to be seen.

But the film, just like life, is also made up of small things: Hector Herrera’s talented portrayal of Don Heber letting go of his dog, Sica; or, in better times, Heber and Sica sharing a bowl of cereal in synchronisation; Lucia’s missing the concert; David’s Bruce Lee obsession; and the fridge, which, seemingly like everything else in Juan’s life, is broken.

Screenshot courtesy of Bryan Schutmaat

Lake Tahoe is not a film to be missed. Between Baz Luhrman’s heavily CGI-dependent The Great Gatsby which decided to take its own path away from the book, and Martin Scorsese’s brilliant The Wolf of Wallstreet, Lake Tahoe definitely leans towards Wolf…’s organic tone making it a match to these much newer films for any connoisseur. As for Gatsby itself, now that we mention it, nobody who has actually read the book can be satisfied with the film that looked like Mr Luhrman’s own creation.

The only thing nagging me was the film’s title. Lake Tahoe — or water itself, for that matter — has little to do with this film, so where does the title fit in except for that obscure reference to a Lake Tahoe bumper sticker Juan’s aunt had sent them and that his father hated. I suppose some things are truly rhetoric devices even in films.

To formally sum it all up: Tahoe is a moving, captivating film that only demands you give a lot more of your time to it than you would expect. It deserves a good 4/5 because, at times, it left me wanting an ever so slightly inconspicuous camera presence in the hall.

Sometimes, you realise a camera is there, other times, you are pulled into a vortex of uncanny, yet appealing, film making, like when Mr Eimbcke makes you watch Juan sitting still in a car and turns off his camera when the traffic lights turn green, or when he does that again every time somebody closes the car door.

This is one of those films you end up loving or hating with a passion. I, for one, loved it.

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“The Beatles still sell for €5,99″ and other tales of everlastingness

I noticed on my visit to the music shop today that a new batch of low-price The Beetles CDs had arrived. Now I already own all of The Beatles, so I really had no reason to pick up the disc set to inspect it, but I did and one thing stood out: a €5,99 price tag; which is roughly $8 or £5 or ₹500 I suppose.

It is fascinating how a rock band that was active for ten years sells, nearly forty years later, for the same price as Beiber’s enhanced My World disc on Amazon.

Without meaning disrespect to anybody, I think that this shows just how popular The Beetles had become by the time they broke-up. In contradistinction, it is an issue of concern that every music group’s gospel — performing every single one of the Beeth’s excruciatingly hard-to-perform symphonies — sells far cheaper than the mediocre music made today solely for cash. Perhaps that is because everybody does it; but should repetition of a classic make it any less of a classic?

Speaking of Beethoven, I recently answered myself a question that had been bothering me: what on earth does Beethoven mean? As it turns out, Beeth is beetroot (yes), and hof is farm. So that gentleman we all so admire is Ludwig from Beetroot Farm.

But are classics really held far less worthy, or does everything modern generally take precedence when it comes to setting prices, or are our tastes as a society changing, or should there exist a very different kind of motivation to last, as former US Labour Secretary, Lynn Martin, put it:

No matter what your religion, you should try to become a government program, for then you will have everlasting life.

Even more interesting is that most of what we listen to today may be heavily modified; whether it is really done that way or not, nobody can deny that we have enough technology today to make person X sound a million times better than he really is, especially if that Mr X agrees to hand over the producers a greater percentage of profits than the better-sounding-poorly-sharing and more deserving artiste, Y.

I have, bookmarked, this 1919 photograph of Cxechoslovakian violinist and composer, Jan Kubelik, from sometime back. It really is a reminder that we came from a time when state-of-the-art music refinement was done using cones taped to reduce reverberation.

Jan Kubelik (R) with Bruno Seidler-Winkler at the Piano.
Photo courtesy Flickr/painting in light

Today, refinement has come from meaning getting musicians’ unadulterated sound to helping them by making it sound better. It has become Photoshop for audio.

A counter argument I can suggest myself is that the term classics is too loosely defined. Our renaissance classics were modern works during the renaissance. While desperate efforts were being made to save the then-classics, what was really being celebrated — being the centre of attention — during the renaissance was the day’s absolute modern attempts at art.

It then does not seem far fetched to say that Beiber may become a classic singer around the 2050s or later. And we are only paranoid in saying the classics are on a decline. Or that they are in any way comparable to today’s approach to art and society — both of which have inherently changed a lot between the 16th and 21st centuries.

But even such an argument does little to explain why The Beetle’s low-price disc should sell for close to €6.

 Cover image: Flickr/erin 

A Swiss treat: thoughts on an absorbing guitar-flute concert

I last spoke of a violin-piano concert I had attended in October last year, so I thought I would re-visit the topic talking about a guitar-flute concert I had the privilege to experience recently.

The concert spanned an hour and a half, with around seven to eight pieces being performed. It, was, all-in-all a very refreshing and absorbing evening. We will go into the details soon.

The players

There were three Swiss and one Indian musician performing on-stage. Two played the guitar, one the flute and one a relatively lesser-known Indian temple instrument known as (I apologise for not being able to confirm the name or spelling) Idikyam.

Mrs Dauwalder (L) and Ms Wysser on stage
Mrs Dauwalder (L) and Ms Wysser on stage

Michel Rutscho, a classical guitarist and professor at the University of Berne, was accompanied by his wife, also a guitarist and a teacher at Basel, and a flemenco dancer, Mrs Christine Dauwalder.

They were accompanied on the flute by Ms Anita Wysser, an acquaintance and colleague from the couple’s hometown in Switzerland.

They were on a world tour to “rediscover the finer aspects of music”.

The ideal

The concert was unique not in that it was a Guitar concert, but that Prof Rutscho et al attempted — as they have done for the past six years — to bring together Western muisc with an Indian instrument in accompaniment.

Michel Rutscho (L) and Christine Dauwalder at the concert
Michel Rutscho (L) and Christine Dauwalder at the concert

The instrument in question (as previously mentioned) was played by Vidwan Nandakumar. It added a sense of explicit rhythm and bass to the leading instruments and together they gave off a feeling of harmonic confluence with surprising ease.

The second important scope of the evening’s performance was the style of music played, and that truly made the concert worth every moment spent listening to. The musicians played classical Baroque guitar pieces from Spain, Portugal, the mediterranean nomadic lands and even as far West as South America.

It was sprinkled with a couple of modern-era guitar songs, what with the guitar being a relatively modern instrument.

The music

I will not go into every single piece in detail, but I will speak about some that I particularly enjoyed.

One of the first pieces performed was Bach’s famous Partita II in D-minor. You may be familiar with it as a violin piece, which it is (because Bach wrote for the violin), but few are aware that Eythor Thorlaksson re-arranged it later for the Guitar, so that was what I heard that evening. And boy was it fun!

Here is a video of the guitar version (because I could not find a properly played guitar version audio):

A second composition by Bach also made it to the musicians’ list: Sonata in C-major for flute and continuo.

Again, I mention this because it is one of my favourite pieces and I listen to it often. I particularly like the flow of the flute in this, and if you know anything about playing the flute (or any percussion instrument, really) you will know just how difficult this can be!

The last piece I wish to talk about is Argentinian composer Piazolla’s famous Libertango. I was thrilled to hear this, and I could not find a better piece to end the evening with.

Libertango is a piece written for liberty, hence the words liberty and tango come together to give libertango. Of course, this is not baroque, but was one of the few more moderns ones performed. This piece also marks Piazolla’s attempt at tango nuevo (the modern style) rather than his usual classical one.

Let me end this article with a small present for you: the final part of the concert filmed for everybody who was not there to witness it in person.

Until next time, and after, stay musical.

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Featherwave goodies: The Abel Photographer short film soundtracks and new opening credits

2013 has been a good year for my short films. A lot of finalisation of Telltale was complete and that book was closed. Then my friend, Raghul, and I, under the Featherwave banner successfully produced our latest, and arguably best, work till date, The Abel Photographer.

New opening credits

Starting 2014, the second year for our planned Featherwave project/s, we welcome two new members on-board our small team. With The Abel Photographer, although the house debuted with its first short film, the opening credits were never judiciously worked on.

As a necessity, the same sequence was re-worked maintaining a similar idea but with very subtle enhancements. What lies beneath this video represent Raghul’s and my beliefs and approach to making a film.

It has been lengthened from 7s to 10s, includes a brief new soundtrack while maintaining the same geometry as the first sequence. This will be our permanent opening credit henceforth. It is very simple, so it does not fight with the film itself for more attention.

Update #1: corrected opening credit sequence

After I put up this credits sequence, I got a few emails from my readers. Thanks to some of their patience, I was able to point out the problem, which was one of two things: some of you only saw a black video, while most others found the title disturbingly invisible around the edges.

The second problem was because the video was getting sized wrongly on some browsers, mostly due to caching. It is very likely that you experienced one of these problems, and now that it has been rectified, I request that you spare another 10 seconds and appreciate it in its actual form.

NB This is in 3.2 kbps, our films will use a higher 5kbps version. (Why? Too huge to upload; bear with me).

On behalf of Raghul too, I thank you very much!

Update #2: the spirit behind this video

I was fighting against myself to speak nothing of this, but when over ten to twelve readers asked me the same (or a similar) question, I thought I would add it in here. The question, paraphrased, was an interesting one: what does the sequence represent? or, as one reader asked me, what was your thought-process while imagining this credit sequence?

Firstly, interesting and well-put. Secondly, the answer itself: if you observe the video rather than watch it, you notice three stages of development; under other circumstances, I would have chosen to represent this physically using several characteristics, but this time I decided to throw all the responsibility on a single property: colour.

The video goes from near-grey scale to blue to orange-yellow. It is merely a representation of what we believe in behind the scenes, the yin and yang, that a film must contain the good and the bad, the dark and the bright, the greedy and the generous, the horror and the joy, the question and the realisation; and a grey area between it all where the viewer stands, deciding the meaning for themselves.

While this is what intended/worked with, like all of Featherwave’s productions, this one, too, is open to your interpretation.

The Abel Photographer short film soundtracks

We have, lined up, an abstract-drama production to be filmed in early 2014. As most of our other works are doing their rounds, we’d like to give out the four soundtracks from The Abel Photographer short film to end 2013 and start the coming year afresh.

Abel’s theme

Abel is a fictional photographer in the film. A very famous, almost legendary figure, the entire story begins with Adam discovering one of Abel’s lost works. This is the late Abel’s theme.

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Adam’s theme

Adam Weathers, the main character in the film, is a photographer in professional capacity, who soon learns that he has a very long way to go after a realisation comes over him in the film.

Actor Raghul Selvam (Telltale) takes on the role of Adam Weathers. This is his theme.

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Fermez les yeux: the Judgement day theme

Abel’s lost photograph discovered by Adam is popularly known as Judgement Day. This piece, following the photograph, is stormy, inspiring and structurally complex to abstractly represent the picture itself.

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Les poèmes sans parole: realisation

This is a minimalist theme that reflects Adam’s realisation; it makes him stop, think and understand much better exactly what it was he was trying so hard to do. The piece ends on a ringing note summing up the entire production of The Abel Photographer.

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We hope you enjoyed whatever bit of our work you saw, heard or watched. It has been a long time since I replied to some of your requests both through this website and elsewhere who so our film, who expressed their wish to listen purely to the music. You can download that as well:


From Raghul Selvam,

Actor and co-founder of Featherwave

Fresh off the closed tab where I saw Featherwave’s new opening credit, and I must say it’s simple and yet appealing. I keep getting reminded of the niche that our films are creating. This just makes me more excited about our future projects. The way we shoot and work together, is on a different level. Starting from the very less use of words on-set and the understanding between me and V.H. Belvadi is uncanny!

I am always the lazy one, trying to push the film faster and to get over with it as soon as possible. But V.H. is a perfectionist. He will get what he needs out of the shot in a very subtle way, as in, he knows how to get work done out of people. And I hope that will be helpful with the addition of the two new members of our production in Origami! I have no words or expectations as to where we might go ahead or how big this “Featherwave” will become. I, for one, am an optimistic, and I don’t think we would stop churning out films until our house turns into a big production house. I think V.H shares the same enthusiasm in films as much as I do. And I know he won’t stop short of my expectations.

I have heard a lot of short films do not care about documentations in India, and one of the new recruits was elated that she had to sign for a film, which meant legal rights and et al!

My efforts and intentions are big for Featherwave, and I hope V.H. Belvadi shares my thoughts. After all, we do share a lot in common!


And back to me for a few closing words:

There is a lot of truth in what Raghul says — we have good communication and understanding, and that goes a long way in making a film. And there is some lie — he is not as lazy as he thinks he is, although, yes, he does try to finish a film as quickly as he can and I can only attribute it to an enthusiasm we share to watch our finished work as soon as we can!

We intend to grow big, no doubt, but that can only be achieved by keeping up all we have so far and adding to it. Introducing two new members to the team is just a start. They are the many faces of Featherwave.

2014 promises to be a good year for Featherwave, and I for one hope that this is just a start of a successful journey for our humble four-man team.

And, if you have not seen it yet, do not miss the trailer for The Abel Photographer:

Have a great year ahead and join us for more short film fun!

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Transcendence vs Interstellar: will Pfister top Nolan in 2014?

I am fascinated by directors, which is not surprising since I am a hobbyist filmmaker myself. But the second most fascinating people on set, for me, are cinematographers. I simply love the work they do, and sometimes, I feel they should be at the helm, not the directors, but we all know that is never going to happen.

When I learnt of Chris Nolan’s Interstellar earlier this year, I already could not wait to see it. But now, Nolan’s work seems less exciting to me than the upcoming film, Transcendence.

Pfister shooting for Nolan’s ‘Inception’. Nolan himself is visible at the back.
Courtesy, Collider.

The Pfister-Nolan journey

If one pair has turned out to be as interesting to me as Spielberg and Williams, it is that of Nolan and Pfister. Director-cinematographer pairs are not hard to come by. These men usually find their creative ideas in synchronisation and end up working together nearly every time.

For those of you who do not know, Wally Pfister is Nolan’s go-to cinematographer — i.e. the guy who decides what you see on the theater screen. As a photographer, then, it is no wonder why cinematographers inspire me greatly, and Pfister is definitely one of them.

Take a look at his work on Memento, Inception or The Dark Knight trilogy: all films directed by Nolan and shot by Pfister. In simple terms: Nolan tells Batman how to crash in through the door and Pfister decides where the lights and cameras go and how the audience will see their favourite superhero crashing through the door.

Cover for ‘Interstellar’.
Courtesy, Wikimedia commons.

A project apart

So what happens when Nolan’s DOP decides to direct his own film? You hire another guy with a hard-to-pronounce name like Kaminski, Lubezki, Fiore or Hoyte. (All real names; there are more but these are all I can recall now.)

Of course Nolan picked Hoyte van Hoytema, cinematographer of TTSS and The fighter, to replace Pfister; but will their teaming up go just as smoothly? or, more importantly, will the audience receive Nolan’s new film looking so differently having got used to Pfister’s dark and moody shots?

Nolan is a director who can no doubt keep the production together and get his men to translate vision onto the screen, but when Pfister is out making the same genre of movie right around the same time, the British director has other things to fear.

Transcendence

Not surprisingly, both Pfister and Nolan have kept the stories of their new films very secretive. But we do know they are mostly sci-fi (Pfister) and physics (Nolan). It has been Pfister who released his film’s trailer first, however, so take a look at more TDKR-esque photography.

With a cast like Paul Bettany and Johnny Depp and Morgan Freeman, Pfister has bagged himself a strong set of talent, so it is hard to see this one fall down.

Interstellar

But Nolan’s film is not weak in its cast either: he has with him Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, John Lithgow, and, in a supposedly fleeting role, Matt Damon.

As a viewer, I can say 2014 is going to be yet another nerdy year in film with some of my favourites coming out: The Hobit: there and back again; RoboCop; Pompeii; TMNT; X-Men: days of future past (which is hopefully as good as the comic arc); and… Godzilla.

That is apart from Captain America and other superhero films and, of course, Interstellar and Transcendence.

But the last two would be the biggest fight of all. When Pfister and Nolan became so famous for their work together, can each of them stand just as tall without the other? And then the inevitable question: who will be better?

 Cover image: Flickr/VFS  VHBsign