The History of Photography
SkyArt, Fun Doodles Drawn Into Photographs of the Sky http://laughingsquid.com/skyart-fun-doodles-drawn-into-photographs-of-the-sky/
Eugene O’Neill completed writing this play in 1942. When he had already won the Nobel and three Pulitzers. He was a living legend. He was credited with bringing modernism to American Theatre. He was an institution in himself. His influence over American Drama was so profound that Time in his obituary in 1953 upon his death wrote, “Before O’Neill United States had Theater, after O’Neill United States had Drama”. Despite all this today he is remembered the most for his last play. (And many trivia enthusiasts know him as the unhappy father-in-law of Charlie Chaplin).
The play ‘Long Day’s Journey into Night’ talked about real-life situation in Eugene’s life around 1912. When the play was completed it ended up becoming a mirror image of a lifetime of plight. The play was so painful for him that in his will he prohibited any stage adaptation of the play, not only during his lifetime but for 25 years after his death. However three years after his death his wife Carlotta Monterey had allowed to stage the play.
Such an estranged relationship between a creator and his own creation is not unusual. So often an artists sublimates personal emotions, stories, pains and complains in pieces of art. However once completed, it becomes difficult for the artist to confront that very personal pain again. Hayao Miyazaki, famous animation director from Japan, who probably has made the sweetest animation movie of all time, ‘Tonari no Totoro’ (my neighbor Totoro) had to deal with such a situation. The movie ‘Tonari no Totoro’ is a movie about two young girls, Satsuki and Mei whose mother is in hospital and they meet ‘Totoro’. Miyazaki once said that the same movie would have been too painful for him if he had two boys as protagonists instead of girls because the situation of the girls reflects very much the situation he and his brothers were in as kids.
Art is tough. Creating art is tough. Imagining art is touch. And once your creation is out, confronting your own creation is also tough. O’Neill, Miyazaki and many other artists confront this dilemma frequently. “Should I use my plight as my inspiration? or should I just let it disappear in the amnesia”. For the sake of their obsessive love for their art, they choose to suffer.
Tomorrow by this time we will have known winners of 84th Academy Awards. It seems that the top two favorites to win the Best Picture award are ‘The Artist’ and ‘Hugo’. No matter who wins in the end, there is one clear winner this year….’Nostalgia’. Collins English dictionary defines Nostalgia as ‘Yearning for return of past circumstances, event etc.’ So many movies released this year not just deal with the theme of nostalgia but even celebrates it. Well, as a matter of fact many movies deal with the element of Nostalgia. Sidney Lumet even wrote once that there is something really nostalgic about stars. Nostalgia is a driving emotion for a lot of work of art. Insatiable yearning to live, re-live something that just doesn’t exist anymore has driven many writers, poets and painters to do their work. I would like to talk about three movies released this year in this context. Hugo, The Artist and Midnight in Paris.
The Artist: Some reviewer had written that ‘The Artist’ is a bold movie. It indeed is bold and courageous. It indeed takes a lot of courage to express your love at such a large scale. The Artist is a bold statement of love for cinema. In many ways, ‘The Artist’ is not an original movie. The basic storyline – ‘A glorious successful man and his career are destroyed and he with the help of his secret lover rebuilds himself’ – has been repeated a zillion times. The very premise of private lives of movie stars, their rise and fall have been shown zillion times. What makes ‘The Artist’ really different and unique is the fact that it has been presented without colors and without sound today. However, the movie is neither just about a silent movie star’s struggle to adapt to the evolution of the industry nor is simply a love story. This movie is a story of lost love. This movie is a silent movie’s ardent admirer’s statement of love towards glorious silent era of cinema. This is a movie about nostalgia.
Hugo: In my humble opinion ‘Hugo’ may lose Oscar to ‘The Artist’. But Hugo is a homage to all those creators, dreamers and artists who converted a technological advance called ‘Motion Pictures’ into a genuine form of art and entertainment, called Cinema. One of those mavericks was George Méliès. The two central characters of the movie Hugo and Papa George are in a constant philosophical tussle. On one hand Hugo is constantly trying to find answers to his questions in the past – in his memories – in the old worn out notebook of his father; on the other hand George (majestically performed by Ben Kingsley) is trying very hard to run away from the past, because it’s just too painful for him to revisit those emotions. The movie is about a constant struggle between denial and acceptance of nostalgia. Finally, acceptance wins and denial loses. Hugo finally finds the answer to his questions in George Méliès’ house and he successfully drags Papa George out of his protective shell of routines and takes him to the land of memories. The deep buried past is unearthed, recognized and finally celebrated. Scorsese has masterfully made the movie in 3D and has shown the tremendous potential that 3D holds beyond animation and blockbuster movies.
Midnight in Paris: I am sure, among glittering tales of The Artist and Hugo; this little gem may be lost, overlooked or even forgotten tonight. But years from now, when some philosopher would study the conceptual depth, width and breadth of nostalgia, he will refer to this movie. For some romantic dreamers, nostalgia means a strong craving to live not just in past, but in a completely different era; the era that we have never seen, the era which was long over when we were born, the era that we have only imagined, read about or seen in movies, the era that despite everything said before, dominates our imagination. The nostalgic sensation so beautifully elaborated and celebrated by Woody Allen in this movie is one which strikes a chord with many. Because so many of us have at some point in our lives have felt this yearning to live in another era; either because the present doesn’t satisfy us, or because the unseen past seems more interesting, or simply because we are curious. In other words, we all have been nostalgic at some point in our lives. This movie is an ode to nostalgia and all those who cherish being nostalgic.
I have been late by about 12 hours in posting this piece and the Oscar ceremony has already begun, and within a couple of hours Oscar will have gone to…..Nostalgia.
Fernando Birri, one of the earliest movie directors of Argentina, sometimes called ‘Father of Latin American Cinema’, once was invited for a talk along with Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan writer, by a University in Colombia.
After the talk a question-answer session followed. One of the students asked Fernando, “What purpose does utopia serve?”
Fernando, after a pensive pause responded, “I wake up everyday of my life asking myself the same question. ‘What purpose does Utopia serve?’. Utopia afterall is like the horizon. You can never reach the horizon. You walk towards it and it keeps going away. You walk ten steps and horizon goes away by ten steps, at times twenty, at times five. Utopia is no different. You walk towards it, keep walking towards it and it keeps going away. But then I tell myself, that’s the purpose Utopia serves. To make us keep walking. To make us keep walking towards it. Just like the horizon.”
(As told by Eduardo Galeano on Radio 3 of Spain)
Belgian comic artist Peyo (Pierre Culliford) (1924 – 1992) has been touted as the chief creator of Smurfs (or Les Schtroumpfs in French). The character Smurf appeared in a Belgian comic series ‘Johan et Piroulit’ in the episode La Flûte à six trous, in the magazine Le Journal de Spirou in October, 1958. However the idea was born during a casual lunchtime conversation between Peyo (Pierre Culliford) and Andre Franquin (1927 – 1992), another famous Belgian comic artist.
It was summer of 1958 and Peyo and Franquin were having lunch while enjoying their coastal vacations. Suddenly Peyo asked Fran
quin to pass him something but momentarily forgot the name. So he asked, “Give me…….Smurfs“. According to Peyo he had created the word to mean ‘a thin, anything, any thingy’ – whatever. Franquin replied, “Here you have Smurfs, when you are through smurfing, you resmurf it for me”. It became a common joke for them and they spent a few days ‘Smurfing’. In their free time they recited classic french fables by La Fontaine and Racine in their ‘Smurfed’ versions. It gave them sentences like, “Master Smurf on a smurfed tree had a smurf in his smurf”. And so on…..
Eventually by autumn Smurf had appeared in their comic series and in a few decades it emerged as one of the most successful comic series franchises of all times. An interesting example of where ideas come from.
Learning a new language can open windows to an entirely new world of arts, culture and literature. I have been tremendously benefited from learning Spanish. One of the things I have discovered is wonderful classic Spanish cinema. I will always be indebted to my Cinema expert friend Raúl, for introducing me, among many other facets of world cinema, to the wonderful world of Luís García Berlanga.
Last year José Luis López Vázquez passed away. Last month we lost Manuel Alexandre and now the sad demise of Berlanga! Three doyens of the previous generation of Spanish cinema have died recently. Berlanga in his own right is the most important director of Pre-Almodóvar generation in Spanish Cinema and according to some critics, the best Spanish director ever. Today, Pedro Almodóvar is the face of Spanish Cinema internationally. But he could hone his skills and express himself in a democratic, modern and economically growing Spain. Berlanga didn’t have that luxury. Berlanga had to show his art during an era of Franco’s totalitarian regime, when freedom of expression was probably limited. Probably that need to voice his ideas and severe limitations thereon, taught Berlanga the art of subtlety. That’s what makes his movies so special. He was not someone who wanted to shout out loud, his anger, frustrations and complaints. He was someone who just wanted to whisper. Yes! He just wanted to whisper. That was his forté. Subtle messages – stark realities wrapped in the cloak of simplicity and satire. He was a wizard of whispers.
I am just supposing that it was restriction and censorship that brought out the best of his craft. I haven’t seen all his movies. Especially the ones he made in post-Franco era. Out of those ones, I have seen only ‘La Vaquilla’ and so I cannot make an objective analysis. But at least ‘La Vaquilla’ lacked sharpness of El Vedugo, Placido, Los Jueves Milagro etc. Berlanga tried to find stories hidden in the mundane routine of common people. His actors were not like Bardem, Banderas or Penelope; full of glee and glamour. His protagonists were Pepe Isebert, José Luis López Vazquez, Cassen and Manuel Alexandre. These were not stars with crowd pulling charisma and exotic beauty. These were humble actors, who started their careers doing theatre on streets, moving from village to village, entertaining the middle class of a country slowly healing wounds of a cruel civil war. They were ‘cómicos’. They were precisely what Berlanga needed to tell his stories; funny, humble, simple and very good at their craft.
Berlanga’s movies are also like a visual anthropological encyclopaedia for mid-20th century, Spanish society. His movies reflect a deep love for people around him. His movies frequently featured customs, rituals and festivals of people in Spanish villages. Movies like Plácido, Calabuch, La Vaquilla and Los Jueves Milagro have eloquent and elaborate scenes about festivities and rural lives in old Spain. Maybe he knew that someday his country will change. It will change so much that nobody will remember what it was like just half a century ago. That’s why he passionately captured his times, his people and their routine uninteresting lives on screen.
I wouldn’t write here about his movies in detail. Just because I am not sure I know them well enough. I watched ‘El Verdugo’ – arguably Berlanga’s and Spanish film history’s best movie ever – for the first time in 2007, I watched it again in 2009 and finally I watched it last week. Every time I have discovered something new, something fascinating. Same happened when I watched ‘La Vaquilla’ and ‘Plácido’ for the second time. Berlanga’s subtlety is so fantastic, every time you watch his movie you peel off a new layer and a new meaning, a new message emerges from within. His movies were whispers and whispers can be celebrated through whispers only. In the free and democratic world where we live probably Berlanga’s movies may be lost in the maze of memories. But someday, when some curious mind would like to know, ‘what happens when singing is banned?’, one would discover the music in Berlanga’s whispers.
RIP Maestro Berlanga! The wizard of whispers!
Well, when I found this piece of music, I was just so excited! I thought I had discovered something that nobody else knew. However, after 24 hours, I have realized that I was badly mistaken. Indeed, many people know the origin of the famous ‘Nokia Tune’ and if anybody wants to know, Wikipedia has all the information.
However, as I had wasted enough time celebrating and flaunting my ‘discovery’ I thought I should share it with regular readers of this blog – who read this blog at least once a year without fail.
Apparently, the origin of the most heard single piece of melody all over the world, the Nokia Tune, (it’s estimated to be heard 20,000 times per second on the earth) is in Spanish Classical Guitar Music. ‘Nokia Tune’ comes from a composition by Francesc Tárrega, a classical guitarist who was born in Villareal in the province of Castellon in the autonomous region of Valencia in 1852. His music is a mixture of then contemporary music and Spanish flamenco music.
I am attaching the file herewith. In the Youtube Video embedded below, you can spot the Nokia Tune at 0:13 seconds.
You can download the complete score in PDF here.