July 8, 2007

Before Sunset

We used to have an attic in our ancestral home which did double duty also as the worship room. As a kid, during my summer vacations, I used to find all sorts of interesting knick knacks browsing through stuff in there. These days, for apartment dwelling, moving-house-every-other year kind of people like us, only our old laptops can yield such pleasures ...


I saw this movie over a year back. I quite liked it. I had loved its prequel even more. It was a terrific film.

I had downloaded these images from somewhere or other at that time; I wanted to include these on a post about Before Sunset. But I stopped blogging soon after and forgot all about these until found them again this weekend while trying to organize my laptop.


December 15, 2004

A modern fairy tale

A quarter century ago, Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. They found that the artifacts of Kabul museum - 5000 years of Afghan history - had vanished.

For a very long time, people expected the objects to show up on the global black market of art objects. But nothing ever come up. Eventually, the Russians left. The Taliban came to power. They too destroyed or looted what they could lay their hands on. But whatever left the vaults of Kabul museum in the year of 1979 could not be found.

And now the artifacts have been coming back.

About 8 government museum employees made a pact in '79. They stored these objects in small boxes and hid them away in various locations. They promised each others not to open the boxes until and unless all of them were present. The pact held through 25 years of bloody history of Afghanistan. And now the artifacts are coming back - boxes of 2000 year old Bactrian gold jewelry and ornaments, boxes of coins depicting Afghan royalty dating back to 500 BC, ivory plaques from 2000 year old Kushan culture .....

The archaeologist Fredrik T. Hiebert has been taking inventory for the Afghan government. All told, there are 20,400 objects. Less than 100 are still missing. Guy Gugliotta filed the story for Washington Post last month.

If you like cheer up stories, here is another one of how Iraqi engineers revived the marshes that Saddam had drained off to kill the way of life for Marsh Arabs.

October 2, 2004

A 500 year old crime gets an almost happy ending

From Nigel Reynolds's story in the Telegraph:

"The Book of Hours - a volume of psalms, prayers and a calendar - was commissioned by Duke Galaezzo Maria Sforza of Milan for his wife, Bona of Savoy, in 1490. The Duke wanted the best craftsmanship and turned not to Leonardo (Ed: i.e. Leonardo de Vinci), who had recently painted his Virgin on the Rocks altarpiece in Milan, but to the celebrated miniaturist Giovan Pietro Birago.

Birago was paid 500 ducats - five times the fee Leonardo received for the altarpiece - and produced a book of more than 350 pages, including 64 full-page miniatures and 140 text pages filled with small miniatures and margins bursting with Renaissance ornament.

Birago also left behind a letter to Bona complaining that as he was completing his task one Johanne Jacopo, a friar from the Convent of San Marco in Milan, stole 28 of the illuminated pages, including all 12 of the "calendar illuminations", each one illustrating a month of the year. .....With each page measuring 4.3 inches by 3.6 inches, they would easily have been slipped under his habit.

Continue reading "A 500 year old crime gets an almost happy ending" »

September 20, 2004

Events calender

Sulekha Mehta has a book reading in Asia Society on Sept 28

Sepia International has a Raghubir Singh retrospective from Sept 30 to Oct 30 (Opening reception is on Sept 30th 6-8 PM). I doubt very much wheather we would get to see another Raghuvir Singh retrospective in quite some time either in India or in USA. If you happen to be in the tristate area, you might want to try to drop in. I am hoping to check it out.

November 23, 2003

Websites on Varmeer and Ancient India

This I think, is the ultimate Varmeer resource on the net. (via Bookslut)

The Met, by the way, has four Varmeers. One evening last summer, half an hour before it was to close, I had run up the stairs to the museum. I asked the first Met employee that I saw where can I find the Varmeers, before I realized that she is with the building security . She told me that they have four, in room 12 and 14, and gave me precise directions. I was very impressed. (They were not in 14, but close)

British museum has put together an interesting website on ancient India . (Via Anil Dash)

November 18, 2003

Film notes

Guardian has an idiosyncratic list of 40 best directors. Like any such list, it made everyone unhappy. Om notes that there is no Indian in the list. Greg Allen is puzzled that David Lynch is at number one and that Michael Moore is there at all (the latter shocked even me).

Talking of movies that I watched lately, I loved, LOVED 'Lost in Translation'. And in case you are interested, the cinematographer for 'Lost in Translation' also worked for Spike Jonze's 'Being John Malkovich' and 'Adaptation'. Somwhere in my notebook I had also scribbled down Sophia Coppola's top 10 movies. But I can not find it right now.

I also saw Kill Bill. I am not a martial art movie fan. I watched 'Kill Bill' simply because it is a Quentin Tarantino movie. I thought it was very stylish, but unlike 'Pulp Fiction' I won't pay to watch 'Kill Bill' again. It was more interesting to read about, than to watch:

Tarantino begins with the logo from a 1970s Hong Kong production company, Shaw Brothers, the curtain-raiser for innumerable fan references. The heroine's yellow jumpsuit alludes to Bruce Lee's Game of Death; the Kato masks presumably to Lee's TV series The Green Hornet. Tarantino has cast veteran Japanese action star Sonny Chiba as a legendary sword-craftsman, and, in an equivalent spirit of homage, brings in 19-year-old Chiaki Kuriyama in her schoolgirl-killer persona from Kinji Fukasaku's Battle Royale and Jun Kurimura from Takashi Miike's Ichi the Killer. Of course, significant casting reaches its apex with David Carradine, the Caucasian who notoriously denied Bruce his rightful starring role in the TV show Kung Fu, and so is here naturally the ultra-villain Bill (though we don't actually clap eyes on him until Volume 2 comes out next year). Tarantino compresses it all into a stratum of pulp. And now is as good a time as any to reflect how thoroughly since 1991 he has persuaded a generation of moviegoers that, all along, they have known and cared as much about this cult world as he does.

While it is a completely different film in terms of genre and storyline, I am surprised that no one has brought up Truffaut's 'The bride wears black'.


Lost in Translation website
LIT Story in Guardian
NYT article which is now behind price wall.'s whimsical Sofia Coppola interview

A chat between Quentin Tarantino and Brian Helgeland on scriptwriting
An earlier version of Kill Bill script has links to all Quentin Tarantino scripts online here

September 9, 2003

indie movies from India

In the last few years, there has been a spate of low budget Indian English movies. They don't have the polish and sophistication that established directors, expensive sets and pricy cinematographers bring to a movie. But neither do they suffer as much from Bollywoodish melodrama. There were also the sleeper hits of last year from well known Indie directors, Mira Nayar (Monsoon Wedding) and Gurinder Chadha ('Bend it like Beckham'). Both crossed the cultural chasm that plagues movies about South Asian experiences. Incidentally, I recently watched 'Mississipi Masala', a movie made few years earlier by Nayar. I think it is more honest than 'Monsoon Wedding'.

What triggered this particular bout of profundities is reading the reviews of Everybody says I'm fine, the first feature film made by Rahul Bose and 'Where is the party yaar', directed by Benny Mathews ((via Sajit Gandi and Prashant Kothari respectively).

Rahul Bose was a fixture in the Bombay theatre scene. He first came to national prominence through his role in 'English August'. The book was incredible. It came out when we were still in college. We couldn't stop talking about it. The movie was also well made. But it does not have as much charm that the book does. But the gals could not stop talking about Rahul Bose.

Bose also acted in Aparna Sen's 'Mr and Mrs Iyer' opposite Konkana, Sen's daughter. It was released a few months back. Even if you see only one Indian movie this year, I would strongly recommend that you watch this. It has its weaknesses. But it is by far one of the best Indian movies made in the last few years. Most of the dialogue is in English and it is sub titled well.

I also saw Leela ( the reviews here). Leela is more feel-good and mushier. But what is important about Leela is not that it is shallow in resolution, but that it attempts an honest examination of sexuality and cross cultural identity.

February 10, 2003

Matisse Picasso

I am sure there is going to be a flurry of coverage of the Matisse Picasso exhibition in MOMA. I quite excited about it. I am hoping to eventually post all the interesting stories on the exhibition to this entry.

'Matisse Picasso': Artists Dueling, Curators Dealing by Sarah Boxer in NYT
MOMA's subway series by Alexandra Lange in New York.

(via Modern Art Notes)

January 23, 2003

Van Gogh

van Gogh's Letters: My eternal gratitude to Web Enxhibits for putting this up on the web. There is also an interesting Van Gogh and Gauguin site here.

(both links from this mefi thread)

December 29, 2002

Some interesting cartoonists

Doug Marlette has a gift for pissing people off.

My favourite has always been Doonsbury. Trenchant, acerbic and an 'equal opportunity offender'.

Phoebe Gloeckner's website has some interesting stuff. (via Susannah Breslin's guestblog on Boingboing).

Update: Also see Best and worst of comics in Times (via LinkMachinego)

December 5, 2002

Art books II

Talking of art books, I recently picked up the Ozenfant for 50 cents (yes, I am that cheap!) at a sale at the Farguson library ( More about him here). It looks like a difficult read and the writing seems a little stilted. I don't know whether it is because of the quality of translation. or if it is written like that. French is a more ornamental language and the people more prone to hyperbole than the Anglo saxons. It is possible that their prose (like Urdu) can not be appreciated as much in English translation.

However, I am having a fabuous time browsing through The story of art. It is ..well, a large book. But it is easy to read and sustains my interest. But I don't want to start it before I finish 'Masters of Light' which I am still reading. and which I would recommend unhesitatingly to any fellow film nut.

I also want to read 'Anil's Ghost' by Micheal Ontdatje. I have been interested in Michael Ontdatje ever since I saw 'English Patient', but haven't gotten down to reading any of his books yet. One of the good things about moving to east coast has been that I am reading more. Also it is so fucking cold, you are really not too motivating to go out!

It started snowing again this morning. It looks very nice and enjoyable from the windows i.e. until you try to drive through it ...

December 2, 2002

Aspen online

The complete Aspen Magazine: The multimedia magazine in a box is now available online. It seems incredibly rich in content. I am almost salivating ....


November 30, 2002

Art books

I have decided that I need an education in Visual history. So I have put together a list of books that I wanna read (or at least take a look to decide whether I want to really read them!). This was shamelessly culled from the art book recommendations in the Nov. issue of Artnews. Now that I have put it together, it feels a little intimidating. Please chime in if you know of a great art book that is a must read or if you have any thoughts about these books.

Story of art by E. H. Gombrich
Art and illusion by E. H. Gombrich
Foundations of modern art by Amedee Ozenfant
Passages in modern sculpture by Rosalind Krauss
Languages of art: An approach to a theory of symbols by Nelson Goodman
Other criteria: Confrontations with twentieth century art by Leo Steinberg
About modern art by David Sylvester
Modern art and the object: A century of changing attitudes by Ellen Johnson
In Praise of shadows by Junichero Tanizaki
Likeness and presence: A history of the image before the era of art by Hans Belting
Stanley Spencer by Keith Ball
Vision and design: Roger Fry
Velasquiz by Jose Ortega y Gasset
Transformations in late eighteenth century art by Robert Rosenblum

Unrelated: A list of 10 art books that you want for Christmas

November 11, 2002

Kramer vs. Kramer trivia

Nestor Almendros in conversation with Dennis Schaefer and Larry Salvato in the book Masters of Light:

On Kramer vs. Kramer, can you comment about your aesthetic or photographic approach to the film?

..In this film, fortunately we have done things with time and research. Robert Benton wanted to come from Piero Dela Francesca, amazingly enough for a contemporary subject; but that was the painter we studied to begin this movie. We looked at a lot of frescos and books.

As the film went on, I found that the objects in the film have no connection with Pierro della Francesca; we had the colors and we tried to match the colors on the walls and clothes, etc. But, little by little, in the middle of the movie, I began to get interested in David Hockney. Then, just the other day, I was very happy to find out that David Hockney admires Piero della Francesca a lot and he actually considers himself a follower of his. So I was not that far off. I've been searching through David Hockney lately because he uses contemporary things like chairs, cactus in a pot, lampshades and windows; things that look like things that are in this movie. .."

I know it is a rather old movie. But it was one of the best movies that I watched in my final year of college. I still remember it vividly. I hope to post some stuff on Hockney later tomorrow. Don't know anything about Piero della Francesca. Incidentally, 'Masters of Light' seems to be an awesome book (just started it).

November 5, 2002

Kieslowski's movies

I watched Blue last week. And White. And Double life of Veronique.

I was left depressed by White. I had watched ‘Red’ first (Yeah, I know). So I made the wrong assumption that Keislowski is essentially an optimist at heart. But ‘White’ brought out the pessimist in Kieslowski. In the end, it left me disturbed the way ‘One flew over the cuckoo’s nest’ did. There is no redemption in either.

I felt Tadeusz Miczka reached closest to the truth in his appraisal of Kieslowski:

“In Kieślowski's opinion there is neither liberty nor equality in the world. Nevertheless, mankind should try to make those ideas unforgettable and he should even try to find a way towards them. That is why the films, … reflected the reality full of axiologic confusion, where new values can be created only by means of individual attitudes. And this is the reason why the symbolism of colours in the title was filled with ambiguity”

He was shaped by his experiences in communist Poland in which he grew up where you could try to make life incrementally better, but you could never completely escape the shackles of communism. The post communist Poland in which Kieslowski died was also deeply corrupt. Kieslowski talking about himself,

“I've got one pretty good virtue which is my pessimism. That's why anything I can see is black. Really anything. The future for instance is for me you know, like a black hole. If I am ever afraid of anything I am afraid of the future... The place I am in is a bit better than the one I should be in. I was given a better place to live, you know, I sit in a better row than I really deserve."

Yet, he seemed to had been a deeply moral man, who was tormented by his responsibilities to his viewers:

“…..Any conversation involves a certain kind of responsibility on the part of the interlocutors. But let's not blow this up. It's still only conversation, exchanging ideas or impressions or emotions. The result is either getting a man wiser or dumber. And that's the whole responsibility. Nothing more. I at least cannot point any better. I know, some people are convinced that arts and culture are responsible for a nation's condition or society's mentality. But I don't accept this idea, I don't feel I am responsible for anything on such levels. [...] I simply don't feel like improving or influencing anyone, shaping or pushing in a certain direction. But I know it isn't possible in all respects for we always influence the others And this is maybe one of the reasons why I gave up making documentary films some time ago and now I give up making any films at all. [...] In a document this is the question of your responsibility for how much you influence the others. If you had a camera, especially in the old political days, you were peculiarly responsible for a man you directed your camera at. [ ] And besides -- everything I really think is a most important in a lifetime is much too private to make films about. It can't be filmed. And I escaped documentary films.”

I also loved Preisner’s score for Blue. (He has a personal site here)

Incidentally, Tom Tykwer (the director of ‘Run Lola Run and apparently one of Europe’s hottest properties right now) was chosen to direct the movie ‘Heaven’ (based on the screenplay left behind by Kieslowski). I loved ‘Run, Lola Run’. But, I feel that Tykwer’s movie persona is entirely different from that of Kieslowski. I am sure he has made a royal hash of it. But with Kate Winslet in it, how bad can it get?

Don’t be surprised if I subject you again to another Kieslowski rant in a few months.

October 28, 2002

Modigliani exhibition

Albright-Knox has created a fabulous Modigliani website to showcase their exhibition called 'Modigliani and the Artists of Montparnasse'. There is a review of the exhibition by Blake Gopnik in yesterday's Washington Post. (via Modern art notes)

Red, Kieslowski

I finally saw Red by Krzysztof Kieslowski last night. I wanna watch it again. Sobocinski's cinematography was also awesome.

Browsing for stuff on Kieslowski, I found this hilarious anecdote:

"About a year ago, Krzystof Kieslowski recieved a courteous letter from Oxford University Press. They were in the process of updating their music encyclopaedia, and could he please provide them with some details about Van den Budenmayer, the late 18th century Dutch composer whose music he had featured in his Dekalog, Double Life of Veronique and Three Colours trilogy. Their research had yielded nothing. Kieslowski replied equally courteously that Van den Budenmayer was a fictional character created by him and his composer, Zbigniew Preisner. Soon he received a second letter. Of course they understood his concern to protect his sources, but as this was to be the definitive series on classical music could he please provide them with at least some information. Kieslowski wrote a second letter, reiterating that the score had been written by Preisner, a 19 stone self-taught musician from Cracow. Still they did not believe him. After about half a year of this fruitless correspondence back and forth Kieslowski stopped replying."

September 3, 2002

Online Sketchbooks

Will explore later:
Sketchbooks (via Kottke)

I used to check out almost daily at the time I started blogging. I haven't been there for ages. I think it is one of the coolest weblogs out there.

March 7, 2002

Very neat flash stuff

Very neat flash stuff, via Comments on Kottke

February 24, 2002

Monsoon wedding

Mira Nayar's new movie 'Monsoon Wedding' received a good review in NYT yesterday. It seems to be about the traditional Indian wedding of a not-so-traditional US resident Indian from an affluent family. The subject has lots of as-yet-unexploited potentials. I always felt that Mira Nayar is a competent filmmaker, but not a great one. But she is one of a handful of filmmakers from my part of the world who have an international audience. I am happy for her. Yesterday's NYT also had an interesting snippet about Sabrina Dhawan - the scriptwriter for the movie.

Now, let's hope that it gets released in the Bay area soon!

February 4, 2002

Interesting links

Henry Darger's Art

"Darger's 15,000 page art work, discovered after his death, is filled with images of young naked girls, at war, committing atrocities upon each other, often being subjected to torture and mutilation, all of which has caused some to call him a pedophile, at the very least. What he was, was an insane obsessive devout Catholic who had an incredibly harsh childhood and lived a solitary recluse's life. His work was discovered in the last days of his life. He died a pauper, much money has been made from his work......"
(via mefi)

Eyestorm: A British gallery of art and photography. Lots of interesting stuff with expensive price tags. Check out 360 delve

MSNBC's The Year in Pictures 2001

On a different note: Please go and see Without Sanctuary: A Photographic history of lynching in America. (Via Mefi)

January 18, 2002

In the Bedroom

I saw ‘In the Bedroom’ yesterday. I haven’t seen anything so moving in a very long time. It’s a quiet movie that holds a lot of intensity and grief and anger and passion. It was like watching a fragile piece of bone china breaking apart in slow motion. The acting was unexpectedly touching. Everything kind of came together - the haunting Maine backdrop, the low-key music, and the artless camera work - to leave a very vivid and real image.

I was scouring on the net for profiles and interviews of Todd Field, the director of ‘In the Bedroom’ ever since. The Guardian had the best story on Field here.In another story on on the same movie, Guardian says

“Field cites Kubrick as an important inspiration. .....Kubrick would have been pleased with the ending of In the Bedroom. And Field agrees that the stark resolution of the film could confound emotionally pampered American audiences. 'I believed in the story, but I'm shocked that anybody actually financed it,' he laughs.

The short films he directed before In the Bedroom also mined the rich territory of families, either dysfunctional or in crisis. When asked about his own, he suggests it was 'serene, some of it', before adding: 'It was quite a strange upbringing, frankly.' He was 17 when he learned that his older brother and sister were only half-siblings, both his parents having been married before. 'It explains why my half-brother kept trying to kill me. There was this huge lie, not just to the neighbours but with me and my little sister. There were a lot of hidden things going on there.'

In many ways, In the Bedroom could be called a 'personal project'. It was filmed, with an astute eye for the milieu, in Maine, Field's home of the past six years. It was based on the work of an author who was a friend, and it obviously touches on an understanding of families that don't quite work.” .

Here are the reviews of ’In the Bedroom.

January 14, 2002

Games, links, photography

Ok, here is some fun stuff. I am sure you may have already seen some of these (The clock!). But this is for posterity's sake! If you still haven't seen these, check them out. (If you are in office, make sure u have earphones on):

-An arcade game
-Counter-Rotating Spirals Illusion.We used to do similar stuff as kids in school.
-Deng deng dong
-The by now famous clock
(All thru Mefi.)

Also, there is a new photolog at Pretty neat (via Photographica). New images in Thom Anderson's photography site. I like his stuff.

December 28, 2001

Jorge Colombo

Jorge Colombo site has illustrations, pics, sketches from daily life in NY. (Via Mefi). Very cool.

December 23, 2001

Check this out!

Check this out!