Mumbai Musings: Day 4- When artists become work of art
The columnist talks about how there is something about creative personalities like artists that make their stories interesting
There’s something about films whose lead characters are artists. Something vulnerable, something profound as the characters grapple with their all-consuming urge to create art. Such characters don’t really make for great masala film content naturally, given their general introverted and introspective demeanour, and often, a tendency to run away from conflict.
You want your masala film heroes to run towards it. It’s perhaps no coincidence then that a lot of films at the Mumbai Film Festival have had lead characters who are artists.Hong Sang-soo’s On the Beach at Night Lone is about an actress, who, after an affair with a filmmaker, travels to another country to reflect on love, life and death. There’s, of course, the gorgeous-looking Loving Vincent, which is more straightforward, given how it’s about a real artist, Vincent van Gogh. The Oscar entry from Georgia, Scary Mother, is about a woman who puts her burning desire for writing above her family.
Fascinatingly, both films I caught yesterday — Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! and the American drama, Patti Cake$ — are about artists too. They are both, more specifically, about one type of artist: the poet.
Mother!, at first glance, is about a man everybody calls ‘the poet’, struggling to break out with his next big work. But of course, it’s an Aronofsky film, and the story isn’t just that. There are all sorts of Biblical metaphors behind the poet-muse story, if the film can be said to have a story at all. A film may work as an allegory, but for me at least, it’s important that it has to work as a story first, but that’s a topic for another day.
The poet in Mother! seems to be of the more traditional mould, even if the director never truly reveals what it is that he has written/is writing that makes him such an ingenious writer. Fair enough though, given that nothing the filmmaker can show will truly convince you of the character’s writing brilliance.
The other film I caught on the day, the more modest and straightforward, Patti Cake$ comes with no great pretensions or self-importance. The poetry in this film is of the modern variety; the lead character’s a rapper.
She’s white, plus-sized, and not so sure about her own ability, all factors which come together to make her dream rather unattainable. Her mother, a failed singer herself, spits on her dream by saying ‘‘rapping isn’t real music”. It’s ironic that the word, spit, in the context of this film, also means ‘to rap’.
Patti Cake$ may not be particularly inventive, but has heart. In fact, in most of the aforementioned films, the lead characters bare their souls as only artists are wont to do.
Something about the fragility of creative personalities often makes stories about them feel so tender, so honest. We are, of course, not looking in the direction of The Shining Or Mother!