Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The French channel

Sadly, I have lost the ability to watch or appreciate movies, whatever be the language. I have always found Hindi, Tamil or other Indian films far too melodramatic for my liking. While I have lapped up hundreds of Hollywood films in my younger days, I find it increasingly difficult to follow most accents now and need to invest that extra bit of concentration to lip-read and understand what’s going on.

One day last month, sitting in front of the TV and indulging in my favourite pastime of aimless channel surfing, I stumbled on to this French channel called the TV5 Monde, that was screening a French movie, with English sub-titles. I must say that I found it quite absorbing. I threw away my remote device and stayed glued to the channel till the titles came on. Since then, I have returned to this channel quite often. One of the films was set in the days of the Spanish Inquisition, another was a murder mystery, a third one about a music teacher who wanted his son to become a great pianist, yet another about the French Resistance during World War II – so quite a variety.

When I tried to analyse what aspect of these movies appealed to me most, I could not come up with a ready explanation. They were certainly not the typical ‘art movies’ – a genre of films that is far too intellectual for me and that I steer away from. There was nothing extraordinary about the stories, the actresses were not, necessarily, stunning beauties and the action was certainly not livelier. Slowly, it dawned on me that what I liked about them was the understated style and the subtlety in the techniques and in the acting.

I find most Indian movies too loud, in every sense of the world. The shots and the frames keep changing in a kaleidoscopic manner. Loud music with special sound effects come on at the slightest opportunity. The directors believe that the actors need to display their histrionic skills in the most extreme fashion- cram as much dialogue as possible, sob uncontrollably when sad, laugh hysterically when happy, seethe with indignation when angry ( with close-up shot of blood-red eyes, accompanied by thunder and lighting) – all calculated to manipulate the emotions of the viewer and jar his/her sensibilities. The whole experience is quite draining and you come out of the theatre as if you have traveled long distance in a car where the driver kept steering recklessly while accelerating and jamming the brakes in rapid succession and honking incessantly..

In contrast, these French movies involve minimal camera movement and infrequent zoom-in and zoom-out. The music is never too loud and comes on gently in the background. The actors are restrained in their emoting and don’t find it necessary to gesticulate wildly and thump their chests madly. In fact, the dialogue itself is kept to a minimum. This, aided by the fact that English sub-titles are used, makes sure that dimwits like me don’t remain clueless about what’s happening. An ordinary story manages to come alive and leaves an imprint.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That kind of filmmaking works for some subjects. The trick lies in selecting the best way to tell the story to teh viewer. More often than not, Indian filmmakers screw up that decision.Some of those who make right decision to start with, get confused midway and fumble in execution.

Do you recommend any movies specifically?