The PPCC has experienced this feeling of the Sublime in several films. The Empire Strikes Back was practically one, prolonged sublime-gasm, and, thanks to multiple viewings and subsequent neural rewiring, we often fall back on sci-fi images of foreign planets when we are moved by transcendental aesthetic. Recently, in our exploration of Hindi cinema, we have come across a number of Sublime moments, thanks mostly to Hindi cinema's capable use of music and imagery. More often than not, in films like Awaara (1951) or Chor Sipahee (1977) we have been blown away by a snatch of music, or a shadow falling on a face. It has been all-powerful.
This newest of PPCC projects will share some of the PPCC's most Sublime moments, as available from YouTube.
Subjectivity. A note about an obvious difficulty: we do not and cannot pretend that what we see as Sublime another viewer might not just see as filth. However, we think that rather than "I think you think" back and forth, it's more productive to explain what exactly is so special about a moment. Hence, while experiencing the Sublime in a particular object of art is a purely subjective experience, the feelings described might be universal, and we will try to maintain objectivity in explaining what moves us and why. Our first example should be a case in point, considering how poorly received this film was by viewers and critics alike.
Viewer involvement. A standard question in philosophy of aesthetics is how we can disentangle aesthetic pleasure from other factors. Some philosophers (e.g. Clive Bell) thought that aesthetic pleasure and things like Taste had to be a cool, disenchanted appraisal of beauty. Eroticism, emotional entanglements, nostalgia-seeking... all these warm-blooded reactions had to be dismissed in favor of something more detached. The PPCC does not subscribe to this view. While we believe aesthetic pleasure is a distinct pleasure from other things (like eating, or thinking how hot Shashi is), it often comes riding in on the coattails of some other emotion. At least, the PPCC has yet to find an instance of Sublime which does not feature someone we find hot. Once again, our next example, case in point.
Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, Title Song
If you are a KANK snob who dislikes KANK only because it is so KANKicious, this may be difficult to accept. But the PPCC has watched and re-watched KANK several times in the past few weeks as Friends of the PPCC have gradually been converted to all things Hindi. And with each viewing, the PPCC has become further and further KANKified, so that we are now no longer apologetically in love with KANK, but shamelessly and wildly so. How can a movie be so damn satisfying? Guh! How can a movie be so damn pretty?! Gah! SRK's hair and Rani's eye makeup and the music from that scene on the pier and the shots of leaves and the costume design's color coordination and... guh, so much more. While objectively, the PPCC may recognize that KANK fails on many conventional levels of filmmaking - storytelling efficiency, SRK's acting is also nothing to write home about - we still like it so much that it has earned its way to the first spot of our Sublime series.
Now what is Sublime about the title song? The moment when the PPCC jumped out of its skin was the changing of the seasons: first, Abhishek climbing the steps of Columbia University, marvelling at the change from sunshine to rain; followed by gloomy Rani, hugging herself as she walks through the pouring rain in Philadelphia; which zooms into autumnal colors in upstate New York while Preity plays with her son, turning into snow; becoming (and here's the golden moment) a tracking shot of SRK limping through a graveyard, arms behind his back.
There are two things which make this moment Sublime for us: first, the change in music from 'autumn' to 'winter', when suddenly we emerge from our waffling background score to something powerful and tragic, minor-keyed and full of beautiful tabla; second, SRK's limp. The PPCC, like many warm-blooded women, has a fetish for the wounded Byronic hero - and its his tragedy which makes him even more attractive. The music reinforces this air of epic scars, so that the character Dev's loneliness becomes something large and monumental and beautiful. Of course, many viewers found Dev and Maya's romance a petty affair between two unlikable people. The PPCC concedes this point; they might be unlikable, yes. However, for us, this moment captures the poignancy and brilliance of their forced separation - and, in true Sublime style, of any forced separation, of any feeling of loneliness. If we may make a generalization about aesthetics: it is in these moments that art kicks butt, when it can turn something conventionally tragic into something beautiful at the same time. This is (one of!) the moment(s!) in the film which works perfectly and transcends what it is, taking us with it.
Our original review of Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006).