Friday, January 18, 2008

Love in the time of Cholera - Movie

The novel " Love in the time of Cholera" was the first book of Gabriel Garcia Marquez I read. At that time, I did not know that he had won Nobel prize or that he was one of the greatest Latin American writers. I had picked up the book at a random browsing in a NewYork bookshop by sheer instinct. The title was intriguing. When I started reading, I could not stop. It was so absorbing and powerful. This great romantic story transported me to a new world..literally...the new world of Latin America. And that was how I got interested in Latin American authors and in Latin America.

So, the novel has a special significance for me as an inspiration which lead me to become "Passionate about Latin America". The passion has remained as enduring and inolvidable as Florentino's passion for Fermina.

Against the above background, I was a bit apprehensive that this English film of a Latino story and that too by Hollywood might not do justice to a great writer and story from Colombia and might reduce the great impact made on me by the book. And the reviews of the film in Argentine media were unfavourable.

With hesitation, I went to see the movie yesterday, the first day of its release in Argentina. It was released in USA in November 2007.

Hmmm... I liked the film and enjoyed it. It not only rekindled the romantic feelings generated by the book ten years back but also gave a visual dimension of enjoyment to my treasued memory of the book. The last scene in which Florentino, the hero, sails on River Magdalena with Fermina and his command to the captain of the ship to hoist the black flag ( to announce cholera in the ship - in those days) so that his love moments can go on uninterrupted is very touching.

The story is about Florentino's long wait of over fifty years to regain the heart of his beloved Fermina. The young Florentino falls in love with her at first sight and writes letters and poems to her. After initially encouraging him and responding to him, she turns him down due to pressure from her father and her own female whim. She gets married to a doctor, has the usual married life of ups and downs and reaches the age of over seventy. But he does not give up. He waits year after year with full-blooded love for her, undiminshed by time. Of course, his body lets itself indulge in carnal unions with over 600 women.. and he keeps count and an annotated diary. When Fermina's husband dies, he comes to her house on the day of the funeral. He reiterates his love saying he was waiting for that day. The 72 year-old widow shouts at at him to get out of her life. But he is persistent untill she relents. And he takes her on a cruise in the River Magdalena to celebrate the fulfillment of his passion after having waited for a life time. There, the two hearts are reunited and reignited. And the two old bodies even make love.

Javier Bardem, the Spanish actor has superbly acted as Florentino while Giovanna Mezzogiorno, the Italian actress has portrayed the role of Fermina truthfully.

Shakira, the Colombian singer has lent her voice to the background songs which go harmoniously with the mood and flow of the story taking place in Cartagena in Colombia.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Perito Moreno Glacier in El Calafate in Argentina

Magical Realism- is not just a genre of Latin American literature. It could be a visual experience too ! This is what i felt, standing before the magical beauty of Glacier Perito Moreno. Was it magic? ..a dream ? ... an optical illusion? or real? I could not be sure. My eyes were moist with the misty with the white and blue, soft and frozen snow. My mind did not trust my eyes. My heart stopped its beat. I was swept off my feet. My soul took refuge in the heavenly abode of the glacial ambience. The only part which was conscious and did its duty.. my fingers... kept clicking and pictures. Welcome to view them in my photo album
I was stunned and overwhelmed by the majestic sight of Perito Moreno Glacier on 8 jan 2007. I had seen pictures and a movie about it and was expecting something. But what I saw was more than I ever imagined.

The Glacier stands majestically with its 50 metres height, like a wall, on the waters of Argentina lake. It is held on two sides by the snow-clad mountains. The area of the glacier is 250 square kilometres. There are many glaciers in the world, some bigger than Perito Moreno. What makes it distinct is its easy access at an altitude of just 1000 metres and pleasant climatic conditions surrounded by lush green scenery.

From time to time, pieces of the glacier fall with thunderous sound causing a kind of tidal wave in the lake. The pieces float on the lake moved by the winds.

After the admiration from a distance and close up views from the boat, the climax came with the walk on the glacier. The guides took us for about a kilometre over the glacier. It was my first ice walk with crampons ( ice spikes) fitted to my shoes. During the walk, one comes across a number of tunnels, cave-like openings and streams of water rushing into the holes of the glacier. One is scared of the possibility of the surface caving in and an ice burial.

The Argentina Lake, which is 100 kms long and 5 kms wide starts from the Glacier and stretches upto the small town of El Calafate, from where the tours to Glacier are organised. I stayed in the Design Suites Hotel, which has fantastic view of the lake. El Calafate is a typical Patagonian region marked by barren lands and merciless fierce cold winds. Cattle ranches and sheep farms are the only activities.
The little village of El Calafate, with a population of just 16000 residents, has 8000 hotel rooms and hosts 400,000 visitors every year. It has a modern airport, a nine-hole golf course and plenty of restaurants serving Cordero- sheep meat which is barbecued in Asadors (open pits).

The most memorable aspect of the glacier is the bluish hue, shining and reflecting the sunlight. It has inspired a local poet to write a poem called as " El Azul " - The Blue.
Here are some excerpts of the poem..

Azul..glacial, arriesgo una palabra

glacial como alma de los hombres

glacial como la mole que lo mece

O simplemente El Azul....

Friday, January 04, 2008

Carlos Paez Vilarao - Uruguayan artist

During my visit to Punta de Leste, the Uruguayan beach resort last week, I visited Casa Pueblo ( people's house ), the studio of the famous artist Carlos Paez Vilaro.

Carlos is a prolific and multimode artist. He is primarily a painter but has tried his creativity in painting, murals, ceramics, sculpture, films, cartoons,music, writing and architecture. Below are some of his paintings:

Casa Pueblo is a striking building and reflects the creativity of Carlos Paez. It is hanging on to the sea side of a tall cliff overlooking the sea. After entering the building at the top of the cliff, one keeps going down and down to the water level seven stories below.
He now lives in part of the Casa Pueblo and has made the other part as a hotel. He has designed and built it with local materials from the same site, with his own hands! From every room in the building, he welcomes and worships the sun, reflects over the blue waters and dialogues with the birds sitting on the bamboo stick roofs.

He has built a similiar building and a church near Buenos Aires in Argentina.
I was touched by a documentary film on him shown in the casa pueblo. Coming from a poor family, he emigrated to Argentina and started work in a printing press. He developed interest in painting and returned to uruguay. He joined the African band and played tambore. He travelled to Bahia in Brazil and studied the African traditions there. Then he visited Europe, Africa and Asia and Oceania. He had particularly relished his interaction with Africans. He has held exihibitions in cities around the world and has painted murals in many parts of the world. He has also painted many parts of women, who have been his sources of inspiration !
He is now 84 years old but is still burning with vigorous creativity. He has three Argentine children and three Uruguyan children. One of them was in a plane,with the uruguyan rugby team, which crashed into Andean mountain in 1972. While others gave up hope, he continued search for three months and found out that his son was one of the 16 who miraculously survived the crash and the exposure to snow and hunger for several weeks. They had eaten the flesh of their dead colleagues. He wrote a book ENTRE MI HIJO Y YO, LA LUNA in which he quotes Walt Whitman
"If you cannot find me immediately, don´t give up.
If I am not in a place, look for me, I´ll be waiting for you somewhere,
I wait for you, in some place I am waiting for you."
I gave him a book on India in Spanish and invited him to visit. He gifted to me a copy of his autobiography, "Arte y Parte"

more about him