Good cinema can captivate us long enough to make us think about greed and grime | Mint

Good cinema can captivate us long enough to make us think about greed and grime

Douglas spoke highly of Ray, whose work he said he’d studied back in college, hailing Ray’s “cross-cultural artistic expression.” (Atish Naik)
Douglas spoke highly of Ray, whose work he said he’d studied back in college, hailing Ray’s “cross-cultural artistic expression.” (Atish Naik)

Summary

  • Michael Douglas, who famously played an advocate of greed, won the Satyajit Ray Award at IFFI. Incongruent? That’s cinema doing what it must: stirring up emotions and thought.

Incongruity, thy name is cinema. Audio- visual imagery has this tick, possibly traceable to human evolution: It tends to stick in our heads. This may explain why deepfakes bother us more than verbal lies. In a cine context, this stickiness can make space for irony. There’s no better example than what we saw this week at the 54th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) held in Goa to celebrate world cinema. On Tuesday, the American actor-producer Michael Douglas was conferred with the Satyajit Ray Lifetime Achievement Award. The honour duly set off a shutterbug frenzy for media coverage; past winners, we heard, include Dilip Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Martin Scorsese and Bernardo Bertolucci. And Douglas, 79, spoke highly of Ray, whose work he said he’d studied back in college, hailing Ray’s “cross-cultural artistic expression." The award itself was indeed richly deserved. As an actor, Douglas had us on edge over an affair gone wrong in Fatal Attraction, cringing with jaws dropped over marital discord in The War of the Roses, and riveted to our seats over a murder foretold in Basic Instinct. As a producer, we must thank him for The China Syndrome, above all, a movie about individual bravery to expose the truth. And yet—blame sticky synapses—all these fade in the face of his role as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street.

“Every dream has a price" is the tagline of this 1987 film directed by Oliver Stone. It’s about a dreamy rookie on Wall Street who painfully learns that lesson from Gekko, a big investor essayed to perfection by IFFI’s awardee. Gekko wants an airline taken over not to save it, but asset-strip it—to the rookie’s shock. The most vivid part of this drama, the one that won’t fade away, is Gekko’s pitch to other investors on the juicy profit to be made in taking his target apart. “The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good," he tells them, “Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms... Greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind..." For film buffs, no less indelible is the almost wordless crash from exuberance to grief in Ray’s 1955 classic Pather Panchali, a tragic tale of poverty that offers a sharp contrast not just in its setting, but in its conveying of emotions visually more than verbally. In this world, faces speak—as do squalls and silences. It’s at the other end of the one that Douglas’s character inhabits.

Incongruous as it may seem, in either case, that’s what cinema at its best does. It pries open other worlds that aren’t really ‘other’ (but closer home than we notice) in an orchestral bid to hold us captive for a few hours, stir us up in the process, and provoke thought. Does ‘greed is good,’ for example, capture or distort the operative mantra of capitalism? Gekko’s speech attributes all our aims and motives to a single thing and blurs all nuance in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Used as another word for self-interest, the pursuit of which is expected to serve us all well, greed gets to piggyback on free market theory. But Gekko’s rhetoric does not make greed ‘good,’ just as his take on it is only a caricature of market economics. Still, the swagger of that proposition retains its power to make us sit up and argue. Audio- visual stuff that captivates us also has the ability to sway us. Some scenes stay vivid even in this era of an optical overload. If they make us think about greed and grime, that’s good.

Catch all the Business News, Market News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates.
more

MINT SPECIALS

Switch to the Mint app for fast and personalized news - Get App