Friday, July 18, 2008

[lecture/screenings] Touch of Evil: Legal Suspicion of Cinema (July 25, 26, 27)


The very esteemed and equally stuffy faculties of that very esteemed and equally stuffy institution The Miskatonic University were all in attendance in that small cramped room in all their very esteemed and equally stuff fashion- cigarette holders holding pale white Russians, top hats, single-breasted impeccably tailored suits, jade broaches, silk handkerchiefs and rare orchids sticking out of the pockets and a professorial condescension on their faces and tongues. A passerby would be prone to remark how exceptionally esteemed and equally stuffy the whole affair was.

“I do believe that the old fool has put himself out on a very shaky ledge this time around,” one of the attendees remarked.

“Do you really think Doctor Cipher can fulfill his claim of sublimating from nature… what does he call it…”

“THE ESSENCE OF EVIL,” bellowed the Mathematics professor, hardly able to control his mirth.

“What does it mean anyway? It is absurd. If the mad doctor fails to impress me, I tell you this is the end of the Occult Sciences Department of the Miskatonic and I will personally see to it that…”

“G-g-g-g-good evening gentlemen,” stammered Doctor Cipher.

The quick once over he had given his hair and clothes in the restroom was already coming apart. He pressed a couple of brass button and the wall before the gathered committee split open to reveal a strange apparatus within. Strange but typical- fluorescent tubes, blinking lights, test-tubes filled with strange green ooze, monitors with incoherent symbols- all wired up like the popular joke went “like the hair on the doctor’s head and possibly even the brain beneath.”

The esteemed gathering had already started to jab each other with their elbows and pass incredulous looks when a strange whirring sound drew their attention and they saw Doctor Cipher point a camera fixed on a tripod towards them and their images projected onto a huge screen at the center of the apparatus. A strange quiet took over the room as the gathering all shuffled around and adjusted their ties and hair to put up their handsomest profile on screen.

“An-an-an-an-and n-n-n-n-now gentlemen,” began Doc Cipher, taking centre stage and placing one hand on an enormous lever,” without further ado, I will pull this switch…”

A crazed glint entered his eyes, his lips twitched in a malicious grin and without the slightest hint of stammer declared,”… and you shall witness THE ABSOLUTE ESSENSE OF ALL EVIL”


A full 30 minutes passed before the gathering began to patter out of the room. Handkerchiefs were out rubbing the sweat off the deathly pale faces, cigarette holders were forgotten as quivering fingers struggled to light the tips. None were able even to look into each others eyes much less speak.

As they stumbled their way outside the gates it was the Dean who first spoke.

“The Horror, the horror,” he said,” Let us never speak of this anymore and as for the machine, it will have to be destroyed. Call the authorities, bribe them if you must. Mankind is not ready for this… this kind of abomination. Nobody must know. Ever.”

- Excerpt from The Madness of Doctor Icarus and Other Very Evil Affairs(1935)
By Philip Love
(Censored, burnt and lost courtesy the good, esteemed and God fearing people of the world)

“Nature knows no indecencies; man invents them.”
- Mark Twain

“Why don’t we do it in the road?”
- The Beatles

The word ‘Evil’ is perhaps the most resurrected word in the history of censorship as can be seen from popular and oft used phrases like ‘evil influence of cinema’, ‘the capacity of cinema for evil’, ‘evil impact of cinema on the young mind’. But what is the difference between the invocation of the word ‘evil’ in relation to cinema, in contrast to other modes of expression like literature and song? Is it just a descriptive word that has slipped into common parlance- a thoughtless cliché? Or is it more than a mere co-incidence? Doubts arise about the innocence of cinema from its very origins… is it not perhaps that as a medium itself and at its very fundamentals cinema is, like they say, pure evil.

Join esteemed legal researcher, lawyer, critic, prominent spokesperson and campaigner on various issues of public concern and renowned lecturer Lawrence Liang as he attempts to reconstruct the genealogy of evil in relation to cinema and takes an intriguing trip through the history of cinema, censorship and law all the way to the malin genie of 17th Century French Philosopher Rene Descartes.

Bangalore Film Society in association with Deep Focus Film Quarterly is proud to present ‘Touch of Evil: The Legal Suspicion of Cinema’.

One Weekend. Three Films. One Lecture.

Friday 25th July, 2008 Time: 6.30pm

The Commissar (1967) (Russia/103min/B&W) Dir: Alexander Asoldov

Beneath the tender humanity and lyricism of ‘The Commissar’ is a courageous stand against the rigid ideology and prejudices of the State, a stand that would nearly wreck the fate of the film causing it to banned forever in its homeland and it was almost considered a lost masterpiece for 20 years. It was rescued and premiered to a terrific response and a Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival 88’. Chronicling the relationship between a pregnant Commissar and the Jewish family into whose household she is sent to stay, Alexander Asoldov first and unfortunately only film is a passionate call for universal peace and understanding.

Saturday 26th July, 2008 Time: 6.00pm

‘Touch of Evil: the Legal Suspicion of Cinema’ Lecture by Lawrence Liang

An Attempt to reconstruct the genealogy of evil in relation to cinema by tracing backwards, the history of the ways in which the notion of evil has inflicted legal accounts of cinema, both in India and internationally, by looking at the various milestones of evil in law’s response to cinema and censorship.

Time: 7.00pm

The Party and The Guests (1966) (Czechoslovakia/68min/B&W) Dir: Jan Nemec

One could say that the Czech master of surreal absurd humor Jan Nemec had it coming with his caustic satire on society ‘The Party and The Guests’ which chronicles a party among friends go haywire and end up a prison camp. Antonin Novotny, then Czechoslovak President found the movie to be a direct and dangerous attack on the Communist regime and the movie was banned until the Velvet Revolution of 89’ whereupon it found itself on many ‘all time best’ critics’ lists, a cult following and invited enthusiastic comparisons to Bunuel.

Sunday 27th July, 2008 Time: 6.30pm

Redacted (2007) (USA/90min/Color) Dir: Brain De Palma

There is and never will be any consensus on the continuing repertoire of the great Brian De Palma. Hack-Auteur, Sellout-Rebel, Low Pulp- High Art, Style over substance- style as substance… De Palma as an expert agent provocateur has defied easy classification and when his latest film ‘Redacted’ premiered at Venice Film Fest 07’ controversy was first to knock at the door even before it was awarded the Silver Lion for Best Director. De Palma’s critique on the politics and the role of the media in the Iraq situation boldly experiments with contemporary forms and mediums as he tries to create a construct a montage around the Mahmudiyah massacres from which the ugly truth will emerge.

Venue: Ashirvad, 30, St. Mark's Road cross, Op. State Bank of India

Tel: 2549 2774/ 2549 3705/ 9886213516


(Members whose membership has expired are requested to kindly renew their membership.)

(The lecture Touch of Evil: The Legal Suspicion of Cinema by Lawrence Liang was an article written for Deep Focus Film Journal, January 2008 edition. Copies of the edition (Rs.100/-) will be available for sale at the venue.)

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