Saturday, 25 December 2010

Reflections of life in cinema #1

This is the first part of a series I have conceived. The objective is to write of events and anecdotes from real life that recall bits and scenes from the world of cinema. The reasons for writing these pieces are many. In increasing order of importance: one, it provides an insight into the myriad workings in the mind of a cinephile. Two, it comments on the symbiotic relation between Cinema and Life. And three, it is an easy excuse for me to write about films. Easy because these pieces are meant to be short. I can therefore write about (and possibly invite some interest in) my favourite films without going through the grind of writing a completely detailed review.

How the camera makes us dance

My friend, Rhine, and I were walking around St. Paul's Cathedral on Christmas eve. Lots of shutterbugs stood around us. A group of youngsters were posing for a snap as we passed by them. Suddenly realising that we could be coming in the way of the photographer and his subject, Rhine took a detour and went round the group so as to avoid ruining their shot. This silent game amused me and I wondered with a laugh if he will forever be following his noble principle of not blocking shots. With the proliferation of cameras in modern life plus the inexhaustible urge to be clicked, Rhine's resolution might turn his trajectories of motion completely unplottable.

This suddenly reminded me of that master who understood the underlying humour in modern existence: Jacques Tati. All his films explored the comic possibilities of man trying to live in a world more interested in spectacle rather than comfort. In Playtime, an American tourist in Paris tries to photograph an old lady selling flowers at a street corner. With a lot of care to detail, Barbara (the tourist) arranges her subject - asking the lady to strike up a pose - but she just can't click a photo. Every time she is on the verge of pressing the button someone enters the frame, thus disturbing her composition. This gives rise to a series of amusing gags. Finally another American photographer interrupts them and now wants to photograph the old lady, the flowers and Barbara together!

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