Making “The Game” — an iPhone 6 Plus short film

It started as an offhand idea, so we began with literally zero preparation. Half a basketball court, a ball and an iPhone in hand, I do not recall just when the idea struck me, but the four of us who were together had soon decided to make a short film.

The story, as I often like it in all of my films, was simple and open to interpretation. Two guys, a basketball: it does not matter whether they had the court or — quite literally — what was blocking their way, they would still play their game.

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The physics behind Interstellar — Christopher Nolan’s space drama

As a man of physics, Interstellar is a film I would not miss for the world; if not for the physics, for the images — and director Chris Nolan’s images have always been powerful. Interstellar does not fall short on that. However, it helps for the layperson to learn a thing or two about physics before watching the film, which is why I wrote this article — and made sure there are no spoilers.

The film is really very small, but dressed as an operatic journey through space and time. The use of physics is interesting, almost exciting, and what holds the audience’s attention is (surprisingly) as much the science as the story of a parent-child relationship.

And yet, like so many films before it, Interstellar falls short merely because it was hyped far too much and it set itself an unrealistically high barrier.

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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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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 

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Listen: “Seven Nation Army” by White Stripes (the Glitch Mob remix)

I am indescribably excited to watch G.I. Joe Retaliation this year (I have a bucketful of G.I. Joe action figures == yes, I am a nerd.)

So, while I wait, I thought I’d share this absolutely marvelous song by White Stripes, remixed by the Glitch Mob. It is used as the title music for the movie, and by Jove, it cannot get better than this!

 LISTEN: 

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