Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tryst with the TIFF - I : Arbit arbit arbit abrupt!

I knew film festivals were akin to 'modern art' exhibitions. Like looking at say a Mark Rothko and trying to make sense of it, so you don't feel too stupid in the crowd you're standing in. I knew that if the movie was arbit, it would be featured. That my first ever tryst with a fim festival would be so arbitrary, and inexplicable, was never really expected.

So on a crisp Sunday morning, the closing day of the TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival), I decided to sample the fest to my senses! So with jacket, accessories et al, completing my art aficionado ensemble, I stepped in to watch something called The Lonliest Planet. The summary on TIFF, said that it was a movie that explores a young couple's life against the rugged Georgian landscape. Essentially, what it said was that 2 young people, evidently in love embark on a backpacking trip in Georgia. In the middle of a hike, all equations are turned on their heads by an incident, that perhaps even ends before you realize it. And the couple then evaluates the truth of their relationship, and the very basis shows signs of being threatened. Super impressive summary, Georgia, backpacking, human nature - it had it all, I believed and I was rather proud of my choice.

But this movie had an opening sequence that almost made me cringe. Darkness, a creaking sound and a woman screaming made me fear the worst, and shocking as the scene may be, I still haven't quite understood why the opening scene was so inexplicably ridiculous! Apart from a shock element and the unnecessarily presumed essential entry condition of female nudity, there was no coherent reason why someone would want to show a soap clad, not-intensely-attractive woman screaming and jumping in a decrepit bathroom. Someone, incidentally had a better immediate interpretation! He felt that the lady was insane, and the hero who ran in to wash off the soap was her caregiver! Maybe she was! Or maybe, as hindsight showed, I am insane, given my wonderful capacity to choose movies!

So after our great art movie opening sequence, we are told that the lady is not insane and the man is not a caregiver, but they are rather a couple who is very much in love and engaged to be married. Man, love is blind in more than one way! So they're in Georgia for a backpacking vacation and for company they have a Georgian tour guide. They walk, climb, frolick in the grass, take together-together pictures and walk and walk and walk in silence. Then came a shot of a large mountain and I was stuck looking at that mountain for a good one minute, wondering why, when suddenly 3 figures were moving at the bottom of my screen - presumably, tour guide, distance, man and woman together. The only dialogues so far are random comments like 'I want to buy a Japanese car' by the rambling tour guide, who has performed the best despite the hero being the guy who played Che Guevarra in the Motorcycle Diaries or more notably Octavio in Amores Perros!

Then comes the shattering scene, the famous scene that is going to change everything and expose the fragile threads that hold these people together! Great scene, all in Georgian, but understandable. Here is what happens. What appears like a band of bandits come to the site, yap animatedly with the tour guide and when interrupted by our hero, he points up his gun and instinctively the hero hides behind his fiancee for a split second, before hurrying in front. The next scene is again a landscape, and three tiny figures move across the scene, and it is tour guide, distance, woman, distance, man. Very well taken, and perhaps the only good thing about the movie. After this it just looks like the director has squandered away what could potentially have been something akin to a 'Who is afraid of Virginia Woolf' in terms of implied psychological undercurrents! I, for one, expected some flash insight into the past, which could perhaps have blown up in the current context. I expected an exchange, at least with expressions, if words are not arty enough and I expected a re-evaluation of relationships as the summary claimed. And I fretted so much after the movie, because I expected my creative instincts and expectations to be satisfied!

In what appears like a movie where the editor went on strike, we have another patchwork of silences in the rain, where the hero walks off in a huff when the woman smokes a puff and the woman, who so far has been angry holds her raincoat over the drenched hero. Then we have a bonfire picnic, where the tour guide gives his poignant story and yet another level of ridiculous inexplicability follows. The last scene is a do-it-yourself guide of how to dismantle a tent. End of story.

At the end of this, I was left dumbstruck, yet thankful that the movie ended and I wondered whether arbit movies with abrupt endings are definitions of film festival movies! A sense of perseverence prevailed and I went to watch yet another one later that night, though I shall write about it in part II.... where I flirted with psychos! I mean the movie and not necessarily the crew! Or maybe not......

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