White noise is a random signal (or process) with a flat power spectral density. In other words, the signal's power spectral density has equal power in any band, at any center frequency, having a given bandwidth. White noise is considered analogous to white light which contains all frequencies.

Who am I?

Neo-hippie cinephile. Follower of the great Jim Morrison who once said "If the doors of perception are cleansed, everything would appear to man as it truly is, infinite."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

8 1/2 Stars

I have just watched Fellini's 8 1/2, no wait, actually that was a few hours ago, but I am still very much under the influence. This was in no way meant to be a review of the film. I am too insignificant to be reviewing the Maestro's films, but it has taken such tones. It is but a wide-eyed rant. I would describe 8 1/2 in one word - brutally honest, OK fine, two. And the scene that captures the essence of the film is the dream sequence where he has his own harem. It would be a lie for any straight man to not admit to such a 'fantasy', albeit on a more subconscious level - a harem of all the women he knows, restricted to their specific roles. Showing utter disregard for political correctness - a trait for honesty I guess, Marcello's Guido whips some of his ladies adorning a glittered cowboy hat.

The film started a little slowly for me, unlike La Dolce Vita. I found myself asking why should I be interested in Guido. Of course this was after the wonderful opening sequence of Guido trying to escape from his car, with its jammed locks, stuck in a traffic jam, as the other commuters either watch him struggling with his misery or continuing in their own preoccupations. Even during these initial blasphemous moments, I couldn't help noticing the little throwbacks to previous scenes, like Guido doing the mascara on his mistress like the chubby dancing Saraghina from his childhood - what the Hollywood template would label as "setup and payoff", or later in the film, Guido wrapped up in white sheets in the harem sequence, just like in the Asa Nisi Masa sequence, again from his childhood, or Oedipal references, accentuated by the fact that Guido's mother's character is played by the wife of Vittorio De Sica, a father figure in Italian cinema.

Asa Nisi Masa made the film interesting again for me. Fellini's mastery and economy in showing the child's POV comes through easily; his internal turmoil with the demon of a strict religion in a staunch Catholic Italy - a response to the scene earlier in the film where a priest asks Guido if his film is about religion and he cannot hide its huge influence on everyone in Italian society. What impressed me a great deal about the movie was the frequency of dream sequences, whether it was a quickie where the critic is taken away and hung at the mere lifting of the artist's finger, or the longer drawn out harem scene, or the angelic white scenes with Claudia Cardinale. The fast cutting in the dream about the press conference brings out the great overbearing inquisitiveness of the press, discussed in more detail in La Dolce Vita. The slow pace of the spa sequences convey the fact that Guido is the only young man (he is 43!) there.

8 1/2 is the only good 60's European film that I have seen so far that also looks fabulous. The contrast is perfect - the blacks are truly black. The use of shadows and minimal lighting is script organic and the abundant use of the spotlight in the dream sequences add to the dreamy quality, without using cheap post production techniques like fuzzy edges. The eyes of Vittorio Storaro, a cinematography legend tells us in the special features that all the flashback scenes had a great deal of use of shadows, thus differentiating it in look from present day and dream sequences, which were of course very white.

The casting is perfect, down to the little old man who tap dances for Guido on his command. Apparently, the actor was mentally challenged, and yet, the master that Fellini was, he was able to extract that little cameo out of him. Marcello is as usual spot on with his pensiveness. Anouk Aimée, with dark framed glasses, in elegant white plays the perfect intellectual wife, while Sandra Milo, with her veil and loudness hits the mark as the superficial mistress, who is sympathetic to her husband but is drawn to the largely apathetic Guido. Claudia Cardinale looks and acts like the angel she is supposed to be. They all sway perfectly to Nino Rota's Feliniesque music to create this smooth flow whenever needed.

The resolution at the end has hardly any dialog but combines Fellini's love for the circus in a very effective way, and it isn't bleak, not that there is anything wrong with bleak films. Realists might cry out idealism, but in keeping with the theme of the film, this is also a dream sequence, with the child in Guido (and thus by extension, Fellini) leading the band as they play the tune to which all the people in Guido's life, all of whom he wants to put in his film, dance around in a large circle, holding each other's hands; in the background is the giant unused structure built for Guido's unrealistic film.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Official Rio Post

The first thing that hit me about Rio were the red-tiled roofs of houses adorning the side of the main road we took from the airport, taking me back to those underdeveloped areas around the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport in Calcutta - people drying their few clothes under the tropical sun, little boys in vests playing football on the clay pathways. That usual companion after long flights, Fatigue was nowhere to be found, whisked away by Herr Wanderlust probably.

There are two types of people in this world - ones that can haggle and ones that cannot. Very solidly placed in the second category, I was left wondering how you could haggle with someone who had a perfect body like our rental car salesman, too much of that hybrid sport that can only thrive in South America - Foot Volley, probably. The city then came by with its urban accessories like malls and people, nothing less than a wealthy superficial aristocratic lady, after the hired help had made us comfortable.

The street urchins in Rio are very creative. The traffic light going red is the green signal for them to start their balance extolling acrobats. The more business minded and less balanced ones place nuts, candy, or whatever little treats they have on offer on the mirrors of the stopped cars, operating on the same principle as a strip club - you can only touch it if you buy. From what I observed though, seems like this trick only traps the tourists. All these guys have an impeccable sense of timing, mind you, quickly removing their paraphernalia and themselves from the asphalt just before the light goes green, disappointing my quest for some blood on the road.

For someone who isn't much of a cloak and dagger fan, I am quite a big tunnel freak. Rio didn't disappoint me in this regard, with its at least four or five tunnels. Add to that the crazy traffic, it only quadrupled the time we were in tunnels; granted I was squeezed up with three other guys in a microvan, all smelling like rugby players after the flights, but still, it was uber-magical. They are smart about tollbooths there. Not only do they have smiling attendants at the shaded checkpoints, they even have albeit, lesser smiling, but smiling nonetheless, or maybe squinting because of the sun (couldn't tell exactly), out in the sun, so that the huge number of cars lining up do not have to stop longer than necessary.

As we reached our hotelonthebeach, we realized that European fashion sensibilities abounded here. While that can be a good thing most of the time, our glasses, made in the conservative non-Miami US of A, fogged up every time we saw men, some of them well into their sixties, in nothing but minispeedos and their natural curly white, black or gray sweaters. The sand, though is distracting enough to be inviting. A closer investigation revealed that the beaches didn't actually have sand. It was pure raw sugar, dyed light chrome yellow.

There must be an ecological imbalance of some sort in Rio, because the people there eat a LOT of meat. All you can eat BBQ restaurants abound like fast food joints in the US, or roadside tea shops in India. Of course the meat is fresh, and more importantly for me, procured naturally. My politically incorrect readers will be interested to know that the meat of the younger animals are considered delicacies. Tropical fruits are of course popular, with coconuts as fresh as in Goa, though with water not as sweet. Crepes, which I think is a French affaire primarily, are pretty big here, with local delicacies like Strogonoff (not the German kind) wrapped up to look like neat parcels for your taste buds, in addition to the usual chocolate and fruity varieties. Rio residents are not completely selfish, however. What they take from Nature, they give back in almost equal amount. After dinner, it is common practice to lounge around in one's living room, exposing one's legs and arms for Nature's little messengers - the mosquitoes. Now, I understand that sucking human blood is a dirty job fit for only evil CEO's and the IRS, but I guess someone in Nature's world has to do it too.

Soap operas are huge in Brazil, as big as cricket in India, or Obama in the US. Much to the delight of that imaginary mischief maker, Chance, one of the biggest soap operas in Rio right now is called "Caminas das Indias" (Path to India). When people I met there uncovered by roots, I was instantly a star. It didn't matter whether it was a lawyer, a housewife, a saleswoman for toddler stuff, a waiter, or whether they spoke English or Portuguese; no one could get enough of me. I was bigger than Gisele and Adriana put together. I was being asked to translate little phrases like "arrey Baba" and "achha" and "ja" and "chal". My curiosity piqued, I decided to tune in on Tuesday at 8:45 PM to see just what I owed my fame to. Sunidhi Chauhan, in her every husky voice let people know that there was a big aag in her jigar as the gates, the gates to the mystic land of India that is, opened for one and all, and men in pagdis with plastic smiles in the ethereal namaste mudra greeted us as we steadicammed in. The next day a lot of lives were turned upside down, imaginations shattered and plenty of unmentionable calamities befell the naive public of Rio, as I revealed with perfect nonchalance about the lack of elephants, impeccably pressed sarees and perfectly symmetrical hair partings back home.

The flow of traffic isn't ebbed by nightfall, as the little red lights inch forward. Buses are packed pretty much like the ones back home, but these machines are better and bigger. So they hold more packed people, resembling night trains to Auschwitz or Buchenwald. Red lights serve only aesthetic purposes, though legally you can only "go on a red after 10 pm". When on the road behind a wheel, the denizens, even the mild mannered happy-go-lucky ones like Sambaman transform into nieces and nephews of Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, with hunched backs and squinted eyes and the urgency of dysentery patients. On one occasion, Jesus, who was in one of the back seats, was able to read the wattage reading on one of the front lights of a merging bus. The justification for such driving is of course practice for late night travel, when if travelling less than 140 kph or through my beloved tunnels, you can be stopped and mugged. Oh well, even paradise isn't without its flaws I am sure!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Cool Hand Luke

Could anyone else have played Luke with the confidence that The Man enthused? Maybe, a present day Owen Wilson, but it would be a different film then. There would be that laidback quality to the character and more humor, but what about screen presence and this huge persona that The Man brings? There would be no lopsided wry grin in the face of authority, when cutting off the heads of parking meters or escaping from prison for the umpteenth time.

Paul Newman embodies and indeed lives as the quicksilver title character. Everything else takes a back seat. The story is the real time state of mind of a very complex protagonist. Made in the late sixties and no doubt a statement against the Vietnam War, it makes you want to crush your beer can and hurl it against the wall. The film is a creative expression of anger and frustration against the political situation of the time, with the prison wardens representing the government. The "man with no eyes" and the reflecting aviators is unable to see the suffering of the inmates.

It is a bleak film, with Luke failing in his attempt to encourage his fellow inmates to break out of prison and stop living out their escape fantasies off him. His questioning of the existence of God becomes interesting in perspective of him serving as a Jesus surrogate for his friends - the sacrificial martyr. In fact, there is a shot of Newman lying exhausted on the table in the crucified position amidst egg shells, after he has just eaten fifty eggs in an hour and earned some of his friends some money. The film is however, not devoid of catharsis, as any good film should be, with the bully turned friend Dragline, having the perfect opportunity to break free, and yet, somehow managing to go back to his bonded life, with only stories of Luke left to entertain his friends. The title is, of course aptly ironic, referring to a good hand in the card game of life.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Boredom at Rio

I am hot and the moon (which isn't actually up yet) isn't blue. Sambaman is offering to turn on the air but I feel like a shy bride still trying to adjust at her in-law's place, and politely decline. Our flight takes on in five hours. Till then it's just waiting, and wondering if there's any way to stay behind - to go soak in more sun than was possible on this trip. My visa cost only 20 bucks and thus expires next week. The visa for the Americans was 8x times and expires five years later.

I saw an old man checking out a young beautiful thing outside our hotel a couple of days back. It sums up Rio's wide delta in economic classes succintly. The poor people though live on the hill. I am sure the Dharavi residents wouldn't mind having a breathtaking view of Rio when they wake up and walk to their communal bathrooms every morning. Apparently our main actor is famous here. His photo appeared in the paper the first day of our shoot. One of the actresses does soap operas, and to add to that, Sambaman's father is the equivalent of Quincy Jones (famous music producer) back in the US. Just dropping his name got us an instant permit to shoot at the giant Jesus statue. We are of course unaware of all this fame that is touching our lives each day, and continuing on in our uncouth fashion - setting lights and pulling power from famous gated mansions.

Have been reading Rabindranath Tagore's short stories. It is a refreshing change from the film books. Each story is coated with a light layer of sarcasm, very Kubrickesque. The descriptions are very innovative. Portability to film is always at the back of my head, but the creative keeda props itself up and revolts. I was thinking about the feature idea lying in bed during those inertial still moments after waking up. I am thinking of converting Alessandro to Ali and pre-WW II Italy to present day Bombay, with the city being the maze as opposed to the secret underworld city. It will certainly make Pa happy. I got excited and started naming other characters like 'Khargosh' and the main honcho 'Lal'. It'll be hard to not give him an evil laugh and a bald head. I was also imagining writing Bambaiya into the dialog. Reading PFC, especially Anurag Kashyap, always gets me excited, with the passion rushing to my head about going to Bombay and making it big in a culture which I understand better. I wonder if scriptwriters in Bombay write their scripts in English on computers, and then how do they write the dialog in Hindi?

Saw a Michael Jackson interview last night. It was conducted by this Indian guy with a British accent, who seemed to possess Michael Moore's percevierence. MJ, I think had lost it in the last few years of his life. When asked why he looked white during the time of the interview and black as a teenager, he said with a serious face that people change, and implied that puberty had caused his skin to grow darker. Either he is a great actor or innocent. I think the latter. He seemed very true in his desire to cuddle children, which don't get me wrong, is weird, but is it wrong? I don't mean this to be mudslinging. Everyone knows he was a good musician and an even better dancer. RIP.
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