Associate Professor Adrian Martin, 9 June 2011
Very recently, in a much-discussed Film Comment article by David Bordwell, and in the project of a fascinating book titled The Language and Style of Film Criticism (Routledge 2011), an old-fashioned line has been redrawn, separating the work of criticism proper (evocative, descriptive, evaluative, lyrical, etc) from the so-called “formalism” of close, textual analysis (frame and audio analysis, structural segment/part breakdown, etc). I reject this distinction. In the lead-up to the World Cinema Now conference this September at Monash, I propose taking seven and a half magnificent minutes one complex scene in three parts from Ritwik Ghatak’s Subarnarekha (The Golden Line, India, 1965) and seeing how deeply we can dig into its sharp audiovisual beauty. Ghatak (1925-76), only now receiving the full international recognition he deserves, is a key figure for any history of cinematic forms: using the melodramatic tradition as his pivot between classicism and modernism, he elaborated a moment-to-moment style that was a form of fluid mise en scéne shot through at every moment with the kind of disruptive “intervals” beloved of his Master, Eisenstein. In Ghatak, scenes do not simply unfold: they open up into multiple, contesting worlds, man versus woman, old versus new, feeling versus reason, body versus song. Along the way of this demonstration, I hope to offer a model of how film analysis might be done, or at least how I try to do it: its possible protocols, procedures, pay-offs. Seven and a half cinematic minutes with Ghatak, plus around two musical minutes with Abdullah Ibrahim, amounting to around sixty minutes.