Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Filmclub '08-'09

The end of yet another term of another committee of Filmclub.

The elections for 3 posts of the Filmclub managing committee just concluded and the three who will be taking over are as follows:

sem 3,gdpd
Film & Video Communication

sem 3, gdpd
Animation Film Design

sem 1, pgdpd
Film & Video Communication

Congratulations and best of luck guys!


The old team
(Shreyas, Sarah, Amarantha, Deepak)


Today we have a special screening to go with the election for the new Filmclub managing committe (2008-2009). (Results to be posted soon).

From the Animation studio that brought you Animatrix comes this visually stunnig new anime film based on the popular Japanese manga written by Taiyo Matsumoto. In Treasure Town, life can be both gentle and brutal. This is never truer than for our heroes, Black and White, two street urchins who watch over the city, doing battle with an array of old-world Yakuza and alien assassins vying to rule the decaying metropolis.

For more: Visit the official website

Sept 11, SHOLAY

Cut to India.

The most popular western ever made here.


Ramesh Sippy

Sholay can be said to have inaugurated the modern period of commercial Hindi cinema. Often described as India's best-known "curry" western, Sholay was 'patterned' on American spaghetti westerns, though as with any other good Hindi film, the presumed 'copy' is at least as interesting as the 'original'. The addition of romance, comedy, and songs gave it the ambiance that one expects of a Hindi film. The film narrates the story of an ex-cop Thakur Baldev Singh (Sanjeev Kumar) who hires two jail birds (Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra) to eradicate a town and neighbouring villages of the menace of Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan) and his band of dreaded dacoits.

The film made use of several interesting innovations. This included its spectacular cinematography, with shots panning over rocky heights and barren canyons, often under menacing clouds. This lends the movie much of its eerie tension. One of the long opening scenes, which shows a train being defended by Baldev Singh against an attack by bandits, is quite spectacular in its effects, and is reminiscent of similar scenes in westerns, most notably John Ford's "Stagecoach" (1939). Sholay, likewise, plays upon themes of nature versus culture, the encroachment of nature upon culture, and the meaning of civilization in wilderness.

“Kitne aadmi the?”

But Sholay will also be remembered for the heights it took villainy to in Indian films. Unlike earlier villains who were content to bring about a misunderstanding between the lovers' families, Amjad Khan's Gabbar seems to pursue evil as an end in itself.

Sholay presents interesting parallels with its predecessor by nearly two decades, Mehboob Khan's Mother India, notably in the enduring trope of the daku (Indian English "dacoit") or highwayman—an outlaw whose popular representations span the gamut from freedom-loving Robin Hood to rapacious sociopath. Unlike in the former, the dakus of Sholay—from their first appearance in the flashback of the train-shootout—are unambiguously evil and bent on carnage, yet they are apparently ensconced in the very heart of the nation (the film's visual setting is the plateau country of the northern Deccan, India's midsection), and the forces of social order (here focused in the brooding patriarch, Thakur Baldev Singh) are powerless to defeat them. Indeed, the sadistic Gabbar Singh has brutally murdered this "Father India's" two sons and has literally cut off his law-administering arms (cf. the comparable though "accidental" mutilation of the father in Mother India). To strike back, Singh must (as he puts it) "use iron to cut iron," replacing his slain offspring and severed arms with two "adopted" criminal “hands,” who alone possess the requisite bravery (and moral ambivalence) to track down the monster in his lair.

Significantly, a mere six weeks before the premiere of Sholay, on June 26 1975, another self-styled "Mother India," Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, claiming that anti-social forces imperiled the nation and that draconian measures were required to prevent chaos, imposed a "State of Emergency," suspending constitutional rights and jailing thousands of political opponents. In retrospect, Sippy’s cinematic epic appears as a surprisingly dark and prescient parable of the erosion of traditional order and the brutalization of politics in the once-happy
village of Ramgarh—the Nation writ cinemascope.

One of the biggest hits in history of Bollywood, Sholay (in English as Embers, Flames, Flames of the Sun), was recognized as the Best Film of 50 years at the 50th Filmfare awards. It was India's first 70 mm, stereophonic sound film and was released on Friday, August 15, 1975, with as many as 250 prints, including at the Minerva Theatre in Bombay (now Mumbai). This was the first film in the history of Indian cinema to celebrate silver jubilee (25 weeks) at over a hundred theatres across India. To date, more than 1,100 prints of Sholay are in circulation-the highest number for any Hindi film.

Although initially declared a commercial disaster, Sholay went on to become the most successful film in Indian film history. It is the highest grossing movie of all time in
India with collections of Rs. 2,134,500,000/- or US $ 50 million. Even today, it remains the box office gold, a reference point for both the Indian film-going audience & the film industry.

The large cast of super-stars contributed to that, as did the memorable dialogues between Gabbar and Baldev Singh, and between Gabbar and his henchmen. Amjad Khan played the role with perfection, and not without sardonic humor. His lines became so popular that cassettes of Gabbar's dialogues were being sold separately, to be learnt by rote by millions of movie goers.

It is widely acknowledged by movie critics to be one of the best movies ever created by Bollywood and to be the most watched and popular. It was declared "Film of the Millenium" by BBC India and internet polls in 1999.


This week we return to Westerns, not Spaghetti Westerns though. We start with

John Ford

Although there were Westerns before it, Stagecoach quickly became a template for all movie Westerns to come. Director John Ford combined action, drama, humor, and a set of well-drawn characters in the story of a stagecoach set to leave Tonto, New Mexico for a distant settlement in Lordsburg, with a diverse set of passengers on board.

Dallas a woman with a scandalous past who has been driven out of town by the high-minded ladies of the community. Lucy Mallory is the wife of a cavalry officer stationed in Lordsburg, and she's determined to be with him. Hatfield is a smooth-talking cardsharp who claims to be along to "protect" Lucy, although he seems to have romantic intentions. Dr. Boone is a self-styled philosopher, a drunkard, and a physician who's been stripped of his license. Mr. Peacock is a slightly nervous whiskey salesman (and, not surprisingly, Dr. Boone's new best friend). Gatewood a crooked banker who needs to get out of town. Buck is the hayseed stage driver, and Sheriff Wilcox is along to offer protection and keep an eye peeled for the Ringo Kid (John Wayne), a well-known outlaw who has just broken out of jail.

While Wilcox does find Ringo, a principled man who gives himself up without a fight, the real danger lies farther down the trail, where a band of Apaches, led by Geronimo, could attack at any time.

Stagecoach offers plenty of cowboys, Indians, shootouts, and chases, aided by Yakima Canutt's remarkable stunt work and Bert Glennon's majestic photography of Ford's beloved Monument Valley. It also offers a strong screenplay by Dudley Nichols with plenty of room for the cast to show its stuff. John Wayne's performance made him a star after years as a B-Western leading man, and Thomas Mitchell won an Oscar for what could have been just another comic relief role. Thousands of films have followed Stagecoach's path, but no has ever improved on its formula.


poster: Shreyas R Krishnan

Sept o4, SATYA

An Indian Noir today,

Ram Gopal Varma

RGV’s most notable film to date and one that has set standards in its genre is Satya. Satya is the story of an impoverished man who is so dehumanized by society that the only way he can regain some of his humanity is by becoming a cold-blooded killer. It is said that the first thirty minutes of Satya are one of the best thirty minutes of Hindi cinema. It is an entirely different type of gangster film, in that there is no stylish portrayal of gangster life, nor is it a typical cat and mouse game between the police and thugs or between rival gangsters.

Sept 02, PSYCHO

Film noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize moral ambiguity and sexual motivation. Hollywood's classic film noir period is generally regarded as stretching from the early 1940s to the late 1950s. Film noir of this era is associated with a low-key black-and-white visual style that has roots in German Expressionist cinematography, while many of the prototypical stories and much of the attitude of classic noir derive from the hardboiled school of crime fiction that emerged in the United States during the Depression.

The term film noir (French for "black film"), first applied to Hollywood movies by French critic Nino Frank in 1946, was unknown to most American film industry professionals of the era. Cinema historians and critics defined the canon of film noir in retrospect; many of those involved in the making of the classic noirs later professed to be unaware of having created a distinctive type of film.

What better way to start off a week of Noir films, than with the Master of Suspense himself. Alfred Hitchcock.

"There is no terror in a bang, only in the anticipation of it."

One of the most famous-- and possibly apocryphal-- Hitchcock anecdotes concerns a five-year-old Alfred Hitchcock, sent to the local police station with a note from his father after some mischief-making.After reading the note, a sergeant put young Alfred in a cell, and left him there for a few agonizing moments.The policeman returned and let Alfred go, only to tell him, "This is what we do to naughty boys." True or not, this story and Hitchcock's Roman Catholic background encompass all the themes Hitchcock would later put in his work-- terror inflicted upon the unknowing, and sometimes innocent victim; guilt (both real guilt and the appearance of it); fear, and redemption.


This is the film that best epitomises how Hitchcock could mis-direct audiences and play games with them.Psycho (1960) is the "mother" of all modern horror suspense films - it single-handedly ushered in an era of inferior screen 'slashers' with blood-letting and graphic, shocking killings (e.g., Homicidal (1961), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Halloween (1978), Motel Hell (1980), and DePalma's Dressed to Kill (1980) - with another transvestite killer and shower scene).

It is based on the novel of the same name by Robert Bloch, which was in turn inspired by the crimes of Wisconsin murderer Ed Gein. The film depicts the encounter between a secretary, Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), who is in hiding at a motel after embezzling from her employer, and the motel's owner, the lonely Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins).

SAUL BASS (1920-1996) was not only one of the great graphic designers of the mid-20th century but the undisputed master of film title design thanks to his collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock, Otto Preminger and Martin Scorsese. He is known for reinventing the movie title as an art form.

Haunting is the word to describe the vertical bars sweeping across the screen in a manic, mirrored helter-skelter motif at the beginning of Hitchcock’s 1960 Psycho. This staccato sequence is an inspired symbol of Norman Bates’ fractured psyche. Hitchcock also allowed Bass to work on the film itself, notably on its dramatic highpoint, the famous shower –murder scene with Janet Leigh.


  • The film only cost $800,000 to make yet has earned more than $40,000,000. Hitchcock used the crew from his TV series to save time and money. In 1962 exchanged the rights to the film and his TV-series for a huge block of MCA's stock (he became their third largest stockholder).
  • Robert Bloch's original novel was inspired by the notorious serial killer Ed Gein who was also one of the inspirations for the character of Hannibal Lector (The Silence of the Lambs/Manhunter).
  • Hitchcock bought the rights to the novel anonymously from Robert Bloch for just $9,000. He then bought up as many copies of the novel as he could to keep the ending a secret.
  • The blood in the shower scene is actually chocolate sauce.
  • The shot of Janet Leigh flushing the toilet is believed to be the first such shot in American cinema history.
  • The MPAA refused to pass this film because they claimed to be able to see Janet Leigh's nipple during the shower scene. Hitchcock didn't edit it out, but merely sent it back, (correctly, it seems) assuming that they either wouldn't bother to watch it, or miss it the second time.
  • Hitchcock insisted that audiences should only be allowed to see the film from the start so as not to ruin the surprise. This was unheard of back then as people were used to just coming in at any point during a movie.
  • After the film's release Hitchcock received an angry letter from the father of a girl who refused to have a bath after seeing Diabolique and now refused to shower after seeing Psycho. Hitch sent a note back simply saying "Send her to the dry cleaners".
extra: How to turn your boring movie into a Hitchcock thriller


This week, Filmclub brings to you student films from
the following schools. These were received as entries
for the Chitrakatha film festival held at NID

Aug 26th

Aug 28th


The next in our week of Surreal films is:

Jan Svankmajer
Revered Czech animator Svankmajer's 1993 film is a virtually dialogue-free exploration of the strange intimate workings of the lives of six common people. Through a disturbing mix of live action and the wondrous stop-motion animation that the director is famous for, the humdrum lives of a postwoman, shopkeeper, television presenter, detective, and two apartment dwellers are examined and intertwined while we see the elaborate processes these people go through to satisfy strange fetishes which involve food, animals, and everything in between in a way which is not all sexual to the observer.

About the director:
After studying at the Institute of Industrial Arts and the Marionette Faculty of the Prague Academy of Fine Arts in the 1950s, Jan Svankmajer started working as a theatre director, chiefly in association with the Theatre of Masks and the Black Theatre. He first experimented with film-making after becoming involved with the mixed-media productions of Prague's Lanterna Magika Theatre. He began making short films in 1964, and continued working in the same medium for over twenty years, when he finally achieved his long-held ambition to make a feature film based on Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland (Neco z Alenky (1988)). He has also exhibited his drawings, collages and 'tactile sculptures', many of which were produced in the mid-1970s, when he was temporarily banned from film-making by the Czech authorities. He has been a card-carrying member of the Prague Surrealist Group since 1969.


This week, we move on to Surreal films.

Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early-1920s, and is best known for the visual artworks and writings of the group members.

Surrealist works feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non-sequitur; however many Surrealist artists and writers regard their work as an expression of the philosophical movement first and foremost, with the works being an artifact. Leader Andre Breton was explicit in his assertion that Surrealism was above all a revolutionary movement.

Surrealism developed out of the Dada activities of World War I the most important center of the movement was Paris. From the 1920s on, the movement spread around the globe, eventually affecting the visual arts, literature, film, and music, of many countries and languages, as well as political thought and practice, and philosophy and social theory

{ For the Surrealist Manifesto }

Filmref.com defines Surrealism as " Subjective depiction of emotive themes through unnatural, incongruous and fantastic imagery".

"The real purpose of Surrealism", as Luis Bunuel said, was "to explode the social order, to transform life itself."

Luis Bunuel

"The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie" was (and still is often considered) the most popular work of filmmaker Luis Bunuel.

Minor social embarrassment—people start showing up for a dinner party its hosts are unaware they are throwing—turns into a genial exercise in surrealism. Six middle-class friends keep trying to have a nice meal together, but something—love-making, military exercises, criminal activities, even a sequence where they find themselves on stage in a play, playing themselves—keeps preventing them from breaking bread.

Luis Buñuel creates an absurdly comic and wickedly incisive portrait of the meaningless social rituals and polite hypocrisy of the upper middle class in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. By interweaving exaggerated reality with lucid dream sequences, Buñuel blurs the distinction between civilized behavior and social indictment. He was 72 when he made this film.


Woodstock was a profit-making venture, aptly titled
"Woodstock Ventures". Around 186,000 tickets were
sold beforehand and organizers anticipated approximately
200,000 festival-goers would turn up. Tickets for the event
cost US$18 in advance and $24 at the gate for all three days.
Ticket saleswere limited to record stores in the greater New
York City area, or by mail via a Post Office Box at the Radio
City Station Post Office located in Midtown Manhattan. As
the day of the festival neared, almost double the number of
expected people turned up and demanded that the concert be
made a free one.

The festival came amidst military conflict abroad and racial
discord at home. It was the biggest bash for the counterculture
and is a reminder of the youthful hedonism and excess of the 60s.
It was a culmination of what the counterculture meant—
the bands appealed to the generation that was questioning the
direction of American society. Many of the biggest artists
of the 60s performed at the Festival, and it was their influence on
the youth that brought them together to a farm in Bethel to
struggle against bad weather, food shortages and poor sanitation.
The site of Woodstock became, for four days, a countercultural
mini-nation. Minds were open, drugs were available and "love"
was "free". It was a festival where nearly 400,000 "hippies"
came together to celebrate under the slogan of "three days
of peace and music"

Woodstock- 3 days of peace and music, is a 1970 documentary
on the Woodstock Festival. The film was directed by Micha l
Wadleigh and was edited by (amongst others) Martin Scorsese
and Thelma Schoonmaker. It received the Academy Award
for Documentary Feature, as well as a nomination for Best Sound.

• The documentary was reportedly edited from 120 miles of
footage shot at the three-day concert.
• While they don't appear in the film, or on the soundtrack,
a number of other artists played at Woodstock, such as The
Grateful Dead, Incredible String Band, Creedence Clearwater
Revival, Johnny Winter and Ravi Shankar played through the rain.
• There is a small portion of footage of Jerry Garcia in the film
holding a joint, and also of him discussing the traffic problems
while tuning his guitar.
• Though the Doors did not play at Woodstock, drummer
John Densmore can be seen briefly watching Joe Cocker from
the side of the stage.

For more on Woodstock the festival