Chasing Rabbits

A place for my thoughts, important and unimportant. Just indulging myself. For my news blog, visit: http://bit.ly/1Xr1tgM

Tag: Bizarre

Fight Club

Fight ClubFight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The book is a complete descent into madness. Darkness. Oblivion. At the end of which you feel saved.

Ha! I am a big fan of the movie. I have seen it countless times and I finally got down to read the book yesterday. I’d been delaying it primarily ’cause I heard from sources, Palahniuk himself being one of them, that the movie is better. Also, I tried reading Invisible Monsters a long time ago and I couldn’t cut through Chuck’s prose. His prose is one-of-a-kind.

Anyway, to come to the first real opinion you might be looking for: I found the book better than the movie.

Is the book better than the movie? That’s for you to decide. As of now, I will only tell you why I think what I think.

(Spoilers Ahead) First of all, the book is in itself, GREAT. I hope you’ve seen Taxi Driver. If you haven’t, you won’t get what I am trying to say. Imagine a Taxi Driver novel narrated in first person where you are digging through Travis Bickle’s sick, demented, cancerous mind one word at a time, one paragraph a minute. The experience is bound to be dark, trippy and is going to make you question your sanity at the end of it. Reading Fight Club was something similar. With the movie, you all saw the events unfold through a, how do I put this, jazzed-up, glossy, distant medium. But the actual matter of this story, the insides of Jack/Tyler’s brain is so f**ked up, while you are reading and finally when you finish the book, it gives you an entirely different kind of psychological jolt that you cannot expect from the movie. Sure, the movie and the book share the same themes, the same ideas and it’s the ideas and the quotes and the cool stuff that fans of Fight Club, casual or not, to this date talk the most about, but as far as I am concerned, the juice of the book lies in Jack/Tyler’s growing, slow-burning insanity and exactly how Chuck writes it and it’s bloody fantastic!

Simply put, the book is as much a spirited, passionate meditation on insanity and depression as it is about anti-consumerism, masculine identities, anarchism and what have you.

Another reason I loved the book more than the movie is because of the endings. With the book, the way it’s progressing, Tyler reaches his inevitable end. It’s beautiful. It’s brilliant – all the support group people coming together calling out to him, him ending up in the mental institution he calls heaven, with the space monkeys surrounding him, promising that his dreams of ending civilization won’t fail… The book from start-to-middle-to-finish is perfect; there is not a single jarring note, there is not a single thing I disapprove of, all in all – Tyler reaches where he’s supposed to reach.

Whereas, in the movie, we end up with an abrupt twist (after the first obvious twist) – Jack shoots himself, Tyler disappears or rather Jack reconciles between his two selves and now both are one and they can equally handle Marla, the monkeys and himself with equal ease. People say Fincher makes dark movies but the ending is a true cop-out. It’s a forced hopeful, happy, sweet-muffin ending which in all likelihood, given the circumstances, the crazy, f**ked up circumstances, is the last thing that’s supposed to happen. A person SO mentally ill cannot recover just like that. He just cannot. You have to read the book to realize the level of insanity Jack/Tyler has drowned into and the movie kind of didn’t really capture the sickness of the novel. Nevertheless, it’s one of the greatest films ever made without a doubt, but yeah, the book is definitely a totally different animal, better than the movie in my opinion and obviously, highly recommended.

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Sonchidi/The Golden Bird (2011)

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Sonchidi/The Golden Bird
Year: 2011
Director/Writer: Amit Dutta
Cast: Nitin Goel, Gagan Singh Sethi

So last night, I was discussing with my good friend from college who is now in Jamia doing his masters in mass communication about hinterland cinema. The discussion quite naturally turned to Anurag Kashyap and his work, then to Kamal Swaroop’s Om-Dar-Ba-Dar and his influence on Kashyap and finally to Indian experimental film. Now this bloke is in a very advantageous situation as compared to me because he gets to see a lot of Indian independent films (real independent films, not Anurag Kashyap, Vishal Bhardwaj) thanks to his departmental library. So I asked him to suggest a few names from the Indian indie world whose works I should check out. The first name he gave me was Amit Dutta.

Fifteen hours later, my head is reeling with excitement, thinking about the treasure trove I have discovered thanks to my friend and hamara sabka dost, the Internet! Amit Dutta, Vipin Vijay, Ashish Avikunthak, Amitabh Chakroborty, Kabir Mohanty, Kumar Sahani, Pramod Pati (I had seen some of his shorts on Youtube before) – so many people and their films to discover! It’s like an entire subculture swept under the rug of whatever is passed on as modern Indian cinema. The lack of publicity that these films suffer from infuriates me. Nevertheless, this is not going to be an angry post. This is about my thoughts on Sonchidi/The Golden Bird, the first Amit Dutta film (or the first film of my latest tryst with Indian independent cinema) that I saw. It’s been a couple of hours since I saw the movie and I needed some time to have lunch and quietly gather my thoughts. So here goes…

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If you read the plot of Sonchidi on IMDb, it sounds like science fiction. This science fiction part is just a vessel to carry broader ideas, some of which I admit I didn’t get. In fact, I began watching the film without any intention to make sense of the film. That worked. I just soaked in the experience, and boy let me tell you, it’s one haunting, hypnotic ride. The film is about two travellers who have come to a remote part of the Himalayas in search of a flying saucer. This saucer was apparently made by a mad scientist in a bid to transcend the human form i.e to escape the cycle of rebirth and attain divine status. One of the travellers was familiar with this scientist when he was young and he recalls his memories about the guy, while the other documents their entire travelling experience on his tape recorder.

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There’s a point in the film where one of them sings a song, as if he is having a conversation with God, describing himself to be a wandering soul at God’s door in search of wisdom. He asks the Guru/God to listen to his plea and help him see the light. I am not sure what the film means and honestly, I do not give a shit because the film had me hooked from start to finish. I owe it to its beautiful, minimalist cinematography that captured the silence and the loneliness of the locations perfectly. The huge mountains, the absence of population, and the sight of the two travellers walking up the slopes like two ants – it was really ‘iconic’. The second powerful aspect of the film was its trance-inducing sound design, mildly resembling that of Stalker’s. The film is soaked in spiritualism and one will need some reading to completely understand what is said and showed at every point.

It is a must watch. I am very excited about this guy. I can safely say that I loved Sonchidi, because more often than not I find a lot of films that passes off as avant-garde, utter crap and heinously boring. Next up in my watch-list is his 2009 film Aadmi Ki Aurat Aur Anya Kahaniya/The Man’s Woman and Other Stories. There are times when your internal cinematic imagination and your love for cinema tends to stagnate from watching the same boring kind of films over and over again. Sonchidi was like a breath of fresh air! There is a new kind of voice in the fringes of Indian cinema and I am just too bloody excited that it exists!

A Wild Sheep Chase

I finished the book exactly four hours ago, after which I wrote two severely soul-sucking articles on top ten Brazilian nightspots and shopping complexes, and so the details are a little fuzzy. My first reaction upon finishing the book was an intense “What the fuck did I just read?”. Since then, that feeling has been subsiding bit by bit. All I can say at this moment, with the book beside the keyboard and my eyes on the cover, is that this is one special book – one of my most magnificent reads ever, as magnificent as the mutant sheep with the star-shaped birthmark in this novel that can ‘enter’ people and control their minds. Yes.

But that’s not all the weirdness of this book. We have here a protagonist who runs a small advertising business, just as cool and jaded as the guy from Norwegian Wood (the only other fictional work of Murakami that I’ve read) but funnier, who loses his wife to his friend (who plays better guitar than him) and then gets morbidly attracted to a picture of ‘ears’. He seeks out the owner of these ‘ears’, and after he finds her, they start dating. The girl is also a bit of a clairvoyant quite possibly because of her magic ears.

Anyway, our protagonist suddenly encounters a strange man in a suit who gives him an assignment to hunt for a particular sheep from a photograph, the one I talked about earlier, and if he fails to find it in a month, he and his business are done for. So he goes out on the search for this one sheep with his girlfriend, and things get weirder and weirder ultimately culminating in, shall I say, a soulful conclusion.

HM-AWildSheepChase(UK)PaperI loved reading it. So much so that I completed it in less than a day in three sittings between which I took two solid power naps. After I finished it, I couldn’t really make head or tail of the plot but I knew I loved it – because of its delicious writing – almost intoxicating, it lures you in and grips each and every one of your nerve and just doesn’t let you go. If not for anything else, the book should simply be read for its beautiful writing; Murakami describes ‘silence’ in at least fifteen different ways in the book, each as vivid, unique and completely original as the other.

Then there’s the philosophical, metaphysical musing. I particularly liked:
Whether you take the doughnut hole as a blank space or as an entity unto itself is a purely metaphysical question and does not affect the taste of the doughnut one bit.”

And the last line of the second paragraph (I have to quote both the paragraphs here or it will seem out of context, the context being a dream the protagonist sees where a cow asks for a pair of pliers):
There are symbolic dreams – dreams that symbolize some reality. Then there are symbolic realities – realities that symbolize a dream. Symbols are what you might call the honorary town councilors of the worm universe. In the worm universe, there is nothing unusual about a dairy cow seeking a pair of pliers. A cow is bound to get her pliers sometime. It has nothing to do with me.

Yet the fact that the cow chose me to obtain her pliers changes everything. This plunges me into a whole universe of alternative considerations. And in this universe of alternative considerations, the major problem is that everything becomes protracted and complex. I ask the cow, “Why do you want the pliers?” And the cow answers, “I’m really hungry.” So I ask, “Why do you need pliers if you’re hungry?” The cow answers, “To attach them to the branches of the peach tree.” I ask, “Why a peach tree?” To which the cow replies, “Well that’s why I traded away my fan, isn’t it?” And so on and so forth. The thing is never resolved, I begin to resent the cow, and the cow to resent me. That’s a worm’s eye view of its universe. The only way to get out of that worm universe is to dream another symbolic dream.

The book is filled with stuff like this. Existential navel-gazing. There are rich, strong, impressionist descriptions of physical phenomena as poetically profound as rain and snowfall to something as commonplace as cigarette smoke disappearing into thin air. Many people claim the book is an allegory and is symbolic of a number of things. I don’t care much about what other people say. The book is beautiful for what it is and to me it is a story of a man’s physical and emotional journey more than anything else (sheep, ears, rats, secret organizations etc.). Highly recommended. I am unsure of whether to read Dance, Dance, Dance after this, which is its immediate sequel or Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, which is supposedly ten times weirder. I have a strong itch for the latter.

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