Categories
cinema

Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time (2021)

So, it’s December now and I thought that this would be a year (like most) which would pass on without me having to cry about watching a movie and lie about not crying about it later.

Like how most grown men do.

But I was proven wrong, like how most grown men are (often).

So, I had read Slaughterhouse-5, sometime just after I could squeeze in a membership in a decent library to which I could cycle to.

Usually, people who do read books, talk about reading slaughterhouse-five in college. Others would have had a passing glimpse of the Cat’s Cradle cover, those folks ended up with an MBA.

Nowadays, people look at you as a genius if you remember that if you merely remember the author and the book title. They might even give you a prize for it.

So it goes.

Nevertheless, nothing ever prepared me (even reading Slaughterhouse-five) for Bob Weide’s documentary Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time. Otherwise, I would have carried a box of tissues with me.

The tears came not only because of the realization of the fact this was a thoughtful, cheerful and wonderful documentary on arguably America’s greatest man of letters of the 20th century.

Ok side note:

how to determine if you are really reading the greatest author of your generation?

Answer: If your parents have heard of him/her; then better throw the book away, far away.

Side note ends.

The tears came because, it is possible to lead a fruitful life by a man of letters (as this documentary shows).

Vonnegut Jr, died in 2007, he was eighty-four and he had retired ten years earlier. He regarded life very seriously and hence wrote funny novels about it.

The tears came because, any career length feature about Vonnegut would have simply been awe-inspiring.

But this doc which was forty years in the making where the writer-director is himself a character (a trait Bob inherits from Vonnegut) and makes it another great film about family, friendship, loneliness and the struggle of the creative process.

Just like Simla Special.

Ok, that was supposed to have been my punchline.

So, do yourself a favor and use the weekend to watch Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time.

Like most of the movies that matter, this is not on any OTT that you maybe paying precious money on.

That’s life, spending on all the wrong things, when all the right things are for free.

Simla Special can be watched for free on YouTube.

If you don’t know how to get hold of a copy of Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time, you are using the internet wrong.

So it goes.

Categories
cinema cinema:english

Holy Mackerel!

A note on De Palma: the documentary
BaradwajR in his review of the Tamil film Thoongavanam cried out that what that film really needed was the styling of De Palma, not workman like direction; but that is just reducing De Palma to a stylist, Thoongavanam on the other hand got the workman like director it needed (just a flat out thriller), it certainly did not deserve the twisted visual brilliance that a De Palma film is expected to have.

It also reinstates the prevailing notion that De Palma is just a stylist, which he isn’t, just.

Like the people who I know who love Mission Impossible, I fell in love with the De Palma film without actually knowing that it was his film, and when I did and later re-watched Mission Impossible (my permanent laptop lock screen is the cyclical staircase from the film), I went “holy mackerel!”
Obviously when I heard that a documentary was being made, it went right to the top of my ‘to watch’ list of the year and I finally saw it yesterday.
De Palma, the documentary is a very straight-plain-just-the-director-talking-about-his-movies kind, of course interspersed by clips from his films, but it doesn’t have the admittance of peers or future admirers like the documentaries of Kubrick or Orson Welles or even Woody Allen, which is sad because De Palma deserves more than just a talking head documentary, the least is to have arranged for the rest of the New Hollywood to say few words about him.
Maybe BDP wanted it this way. His life, his work, his words.
bdp
<Idea Suggest: one big round-table with Coppola, Lucas, Spielberg, Scorsese and De Palma>
Even among New Hollywood, De Palma stands a little away; he has never got the widespread admiration of the others (which itself is enough reason to re-look DP films) but somehow managed to stay commercially relevant. The bright spot of this documentary is De Palma himself, to use the often cited “he carries the film on his shoulders” expression, but here there is no other option, you just have an aged film maker being very matter-of-fact about his films, there is no romanticizing or bowing down to any of the greats, very avuncular.
DP also realizes that he was fortunate to have worked in a time when studios were more genial towards filmmakers.
The stylistic flourishes that have now come to be known as the De Palma catalogue: the long takes, split screens, character juxtapositions, ominous music or the general feeling of accentuated darkness are not mere add-ons(as they have been written about in every style vs substance argument), these are the tools of a director who thinks visually, a director whose stimulus comes from walking through art galleries, a director who know holds the same thread that Hitchcock had; these aren’t just gimmickry (well but some are).
Let us just say that De Palma uses style like how a writer uses words, well but then he uses them lightly without pretense so that you don’t have to run and look-up a dictionary every time.
I think it is very difficult to un-see a DP film, a part; ok that is too much, a moment or the visual experience always remains, like say the fireworks in Blow-Out (my favorite DP, possibly one of the best tragedies in cinema), the church in Obsession, the staircase in Mission Impossible, the opening of Snake Eyes, the ending of The Untouchables; with only great difficulty that a person can lie about forgetting the above.
It is the paranoia that he creates which just comes out of the film and surrounds the audience much like the atmosphere, to keep me thinking about the places that I’ve never been to and situations I’ve never been in. In this way even the below-average De Palma thriller is cut above your everyday thriller and holy mackerel, entertaining as well.
Proof of what a thinking mind can do a medium.
(insert Brain De Palma joke here)
De Palma films have divided people and critics, thumbed down on many efforts, even the critics who adore him only see him within Hitchcock’s shadow, clouding him from adulation are his dubious distinctions including sharing shoulders with Michael bay on the number of Razzie nominations for Worst Director.
If not for nothing, De Palma the documentary would be a good place to start or revisit a wonderful director.
Because the real life of a movie only begins when it has been removed from the theaters.