The aesthetic quality of cinema

There is a wonderful vignette representative of Satyajit Ray that was published in May, 1989 in The New York Times that I must share. Ray had been sidelined by heart disease, and after half a decade, Ganashatru, which he had finished in 28 days was about to premiere at Cannes.  Asked by Barbara Crossette why the film wouldn’t be released in Kolkata theatres until the following autumn, Ray said, ‘They keep the fans whirring all the time. It ruins the soundtrack.”

I smiled and thought of some of the other auteurs who never compromised on their artistic integrity. The dreamlike quality of Ritwik Ghatak’s Titash Ekti Nadir Naam. The shot in which Shabana Azmi’s face peers out in Mrinal Sen’s Khandhaar. The perfectly balanced framing aesthetic of Yasujiro Ozu in all his films.

The average length of a single shot in Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker is over one minute.  “We are made to feel this inertia- the drabness of time. Time is not just a neutral light medium within which things happen,” said Tarkovsky. “We feel the density of time itself.” 

When a Russian bureaucrat told Tarkovsky that no one would watch his films, he replied that he only made them for two people– Ingmar Bergman and Robert Bresson. 

I watch films not only to be entertained, but also to be mesmerized by the pure aesthetic quality of cinema.