Persona Review

I have always had a feud with movies which thrive on metaphorical images to derive meaning to the narrative. Cinema is a layman’s art form and I firmly believe that every individual who walks into the cinema hall should walk out of it a little changed in terms of his persona. The viewing experience should induce in him emotions of any kind such that the man who walks out of the cinema hall should be more human in nature than the man who walked in.

I have always found that the movies which base the essence of their narratives on metaphorical images evade such experiences to the viewer. If the viewer is unable to comprehend their meanings, he/she walks out of the cinema hall with plain frustration and nothing else. And if the viewer does succeed in comprehending their meanings with repeated viewings, then I believe he/she experiences only admiration towards the artistry of the story-telling process. But none of the emotions surface in the viewer in any of these repeated viewings. It is no different from a student trying to comprehend the working of an electromagnetic field. It is an experience which involves only an attempt for comprehension, leaving no space for emotions.

Metaphors if used for enhancing the effect of storytelling work wonders. Take the scorpion on the back of the Driver’s jacket in Nicolas Refn’s Drive or the rain of frogs in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia. Magnolia had a tremendous emotional impact on me without any comprehension of the rain of frogs, but the understanding of that sequence further added to my love of the film. But that doesn’t mean my first viewing experience was destroyed by my incomprehension of that salient sequence.

This is where movies like Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy, and the movie in question, Ingmar Bergman’s Persona fail artistically in my humble opinion. Although my writing may give the impression that I have no explanation of the events that transpired in Persona, it is quite the opposite. In my analysis, Elisabeth Vogler is a method actress and Sister Alma is the character she is bound to play in her next performance. However, when perfecting the emotions and persona of Alma, she finds in the character a reflection of the troubles of her own personal self, such as her conflict with motherhood and devotion to her profession. However, she overcomes these hurdles as the movie progresses, which seems to be the reason I attribute to her smiling at tense conflicts.

But what fun is such a movie which is nothing more than a jigsaw puzzle at its best ? I cannot imagine watching it again after I have come up with a sensible explanation about the events in the movie. What is art if not for the emotions it invokes ? Persona is a failure as a movie for it fails it evoke none.

RATING :- 3.9 / 10

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The Good, The Bad & The Ugly Review

Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad & The Ugly is about bounty hunter Joe (Clint Eastwood) and Mexican outlaw Tuco (Eli Wallach) who form an unlikely partnership. Joe hands in Tuco for a reward and rescues him moments before he is hanged. This partnership hits rocks when Joe’s shot at the rope goes awry one time. But, they reunite under unlikely circumstances to search for a 200000 dollars treasure hidden in a cemetery, while Sentenza (Lee Van Cleef) closes in on their heels within a Civil War background.

Quentin Tarantino has cited this movie as the best shot movie in the history of cinema and the biggest influence in his film-making career. I can see why. It was the 60’s. Hollywood was gifted with classics like Breakfast at Tiffany’s, My Fair Lady, The Sound Of Music, La Dolce Vita and Mary Poppins. But the alpha male was subdued by these movies. He was feeling it gradually. He was on the verge of a revolt. He had enough of this dancing and kissing bullshit. He needed something raw and energetic. Something that he could cheer on and make him feel like a man again. And then came The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.

The tragedy lies therein. Sergio Leone never got much acclaim for this movie. The Good, The Bad & The Ugly is a trend-setter. A classic. See, whenever we think of Western movies, what do we think of ? We think of a cowboy, with a revolver in his hand, a cigarette on his lips, sitting on a horse within a breath-taking landscape. The seeds of the Western genre were sown in this classic. Everything that we now know about the Western genre originated from The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.

What a glorious movie ! This movie’s narrative is unfolded in a 178 minutes run time. But, there isn’t a single scene in the movie where you are bored. The intensity is building up like a pressure cooker. There isn’t much movement. When you are watching this movie, you will be serene. You will watch it just like any other movie. But when the explosive climax is set into motion, the tension will reach a climax. You will be biting your fingernails, or maybe, your toe nails, like in my case.

Many look upon the movie as a celebration of ultra-stylized no-nonsense violence and coolness and what not. It isn’t anything like that. If you just look closely, you will notice that the introduction of Joe, Sentenza, Tuco, i.e. The Good, The Bad, The Ugly takes about 30 minutes of the narrative. So, it means that the first thirty minutes were like a prologue to this epic, you just don’t notice it because of its entertainment value. These characters are as well sketched as any other.

It is not a journey to the cemetery in its true sense, it is a journey from one hurdle to another. These men are in constant peril, but what makes it such a rich story is the fact that they identify themselves with the trouble. They love this life. It is not the money that drives them, it is the peril. That feeling of their thickening when they are encountering an opponent who has an equal change of winning just like them. And that moment of victory is what keeps them going. They derive a certain pleasure from it, a psychological orgasm.

Okay, enough of this goddamn formality, this movie is super cool !!!!! Everything about it is cool. Its main theme, the way Joe lights a matchstick with his fingers, the way Tuco shoots from the bath-tub. And the dialogues ! They are splendid. But what obviously stands out is the tension. The emotions that Sergio Leone puts into force is unimaginable. Instead of great dispersed crowds, he takes in a few individuals and embroils a scene with their tension. Anything can happen, but it takes a hell lot of time to happen. And that’s where the score comes in. Every epic doesn’t become an epic until it has a score to supplement that. And Ennio Morricone does just that. The score is flawless.

And the cinematography ! Hey folks, did you enjoy watching Interstellar, Gravity and Inception in the theaters ? Say thanks to Tonino Colli. His cinematography broke the barriers in cine world, because the breath-taking shots of landscapes couldn’t be confined to 35 mm. These are jaw-dropping scenes, to say the least.

But at its core, the movie is about settling old scores. This is well apparent in the final scene of the movie, which I cannot describe in detail because I don’t want to spoil it for you. But a special mention of Tuco is much required. This is one of the greatest movie characters of all time. You may think Joe is the hero of this movie. Well, he ain’t, Tuco is. He handles the whole movie and also he so convincingly puts on a mask of goodness around him, that by the climax we forget he is ‘The Ugly’.

With its acting finesse, superb cinematography and a gritty score, The Good,The Bad & The Ugly is a movie of epic proportions and will remain a masterpiece and the most definitive movie of the Western genre.

Rating : 9.4 / 10

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