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Exploring the incredible Single-Shot look of Birdman!

Exploring the incredible Single-Shot look of Birdman!

The creativity involved in film making in the recent times often fall under microscopic inspection as film enthusiasts try and decipher the techniques to create the visual illusion. It is quite obvious that a film attracts such mass attention if and only if it excels in some global film podium. Birdman by Alejandro González Iñárritu is one of those rare instances when a film grabbed attention for creating a visual illusion – as if the entire film was a single shot!

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When discussed over coffee the technique was appreciated by a number of film enthusiasts, however, when discussed over whiskey Birdman’s single shot illusion is often regarded as one of the great cinematic magic tricks of all time. If you have not watched the film (you must be very busy), come back after watching it and read the rest of this write-up. Some of you might find it absurd and some of you might wonder about the impossible sense of geography – I am still an explorer!

[For film buffs and intense followers of international cinema – this is not the only one take film that I have watched. There is Ana Arabia by Amos Gitai and there are various instances when a particular part of a film is shot in a long take. However, Birdman is an exception – an exception for all good reasons]

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Birdman delves into the life of a former movie-star, Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton) portraying his mind and psychosis in an attempt to regain his lost fame. It is a first person account of the actor who is preparing for a Broadway production depicted in a style that appears seamlessly one-shot. Although the film looks like a 119 minute continuous shot, it is obviously not. The idea behind this blog is to congratulate the team (sometimes I feel I am a part of it) that made it possible and explore the blueprint of such a miraculous technique.

In an article published in Hollywood Reporter in December 2014, the Oscar winning cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki described the entire process of filming as a ‘ballet’.

Describing how difficult the lighting of the sets and maintaining the continuity were, Lubezki said, “That is because, for instance, the light that is lighting Michael at his makeup mirror will create a shadow a minute later if we move around the room. So we had to time all of the lighting changes, making sure you don’t see shadows. We were moving lights; we were moving diffusions. There were grips moving with me. Every time you see a shot, there were eight people moving with me. It was like a ballet — that’s what made it truly exciting.”

According to me, the entire movement of lights along with the camera that provided no clue to crack the single shot illusion gave Michael Keaton the much acclaimed dramatic look. The director, cinematographer and editor along with a team of highly creative people followed the panning of camera and the movement of color to stitch those otherwise long takes (usually in the 10 minute range). A tricky editing and a subtle VFX followed in the master copy.

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Well, theoretically the end result seems quite achievable. However, in reality the cinematography of Lubezki is nothing less than incredible – such flawless movement that it never looked disjointed. I am curious to find out how the entire team decided on this goal. The journey must have been fascinating to say the least. Cinematography is something that I am stating quite profusely in this article. However, it is aided by a pool of creatively genius people who contributed in editing, color grading, writing and most importantly directing the thought which probably seemed like a dream!

One of the striking features of Birdman, the film is probably the confusing and bold use of space. The film was mostly filmed on a mazelike set and the use of space, color of lights and the camera movements were purely out of artistic desire as I understand. And I completely believe that Riggan’s inner state of mind was perfectly described in this process. Whether that was intentional or not, I hold no version of my own. But, to be honest, every time I have seen the film, it excited me; I felt an utmost rush of desire in me that transported me to the sets of Birdman where Iñárritu and Lubezki would probably shoot the next scene planning the perfect transition!

119 minutes of visual illusion – One shot – quite an incredible feat!

 
 

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Two – a short film by Satyajit Ray that you might have missed

Two – a short film by Satyajit Ray that you might have missed

Short films can really be an engaging medium for film makers and film lovers. Especially for story lovers, short films have always made a mark. Satyajit Ray, one of the pioneers of Indian cinema was entrusted with a project commissioned by the US Public Television under the banner of Esso World Theater in 1965. The project had a guideline which made it mandatory for the director to make an English film in a Bengali setup. He made a silent film paying a tribute the genre. It seemed Ray was really not happy with proposal, but the result was mesmerizing.

 

‘Two’ is a silent film with a very surreal treatment that depicts the encounter of two kids from two different segments of our society. A rich kid with all kinds of amusement materials at his disposal and a slum boy with limited resources but with a very poignant approach towards happiness are protagonists of this short film.

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A still from sets of ‘Two’

 

The kid from the well-to-do family watches a slum boy playing around from his window and tries to conquer his small world of happiness with all his efforts. As they both display their collection of toys, every time the rich kid out-plays him with his set of options. Loud trumpets as an answer to a humble flute, a cowboy look with a gun as an answer to a home-made mask and a spear. And when defeated by all means, the slum boy tries to fly a simple kite, the rich kid shoots it down with his air rifle. Overpowered and humbled, the slum boy gives up while proud of his victory the rich kid comes back to his lavish room filled with toys and amusement materials.

The "Ray" of hope for Indian Cinema!

The “Ray” of hope for Indian Cinema!

However, the suggestive victory of the rich kid did not last long enough.  The film ends with flute music played by the slum boy which encapsulates the silent aura of the films while the rich boy observes his toy robot breaking down. He still did not surrender, but the slum boy made him realize the thin line between winning and losing. A must watch!

 

Cast: Ravi Kiran and a random street child

Producer: Esso World Theater

Screenplay & Direction: Satyajit Ray

Cinematography: Soumendu Roy

Editing: Dulal Dutta

Art Direction: Bansi Chandragupta

Sound: Sujit Sarkar

Music: Satyajit Ray

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2015 in Films - as I see them..

 

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COLORS OF ETHIOPIA

mymotionpicture:

I have never seen more candid images than these… Steve you made my day…

Originally posted on Steve McCurry's Blog:

Ours
Time-old
Highland of highlands
Ancient
Where all history ends
Where all rainbows meet…
Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin
Poet Laureate of Ethiopia
1936 – 2006

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I knew that the English regarded themselves as civilized, 
 but it seemed to me that in many ways Ethiopia was a far more civilized place.
Catherine Hamlin, M.D. in The Hospital by the River : A Story Of Hope
Founder with her husband of Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital

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 Ethiopia confounds every expectation
You arrive expecting a vast featureless desert and instead find yourself
overwhelmed by majestic landscapes and climatic abundance.
Ethiopia is a true revelation.
It is the most welcoming, enjoyable and
uplifting country I have ever visited.
– Philip Briggs, Ethiopa 

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ETHIOPIA-10395 (2)

Ethiopia has always held a special place in my own imagination.
I felt I would be visiting my own genesis,
unearthing the roots of what made me an African.
– Nelson Mandela

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Over the…

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Posted by on January 15, 2015 in Painting with light...

 

Chatushkone – resonating hope in the mute tunnel of recent Bengali cinema

Chatushkone – resonating hope in the mute tunnel of recent Bengali cinema

To begin with, please don’t consider it as a review of the film. It is not even a critical analysis. You can read it as an expression of gratitude for the man who brought a spring of hope in the Bengali film industry and is doing wonders for the last five years. It is a humble attempt to assert the fact that Bengali films are still intellectually superior in a country where senseless films are celebrated as commercial cinema!

It is very different here in Bengal. We tend to celebrate art in various forms and when it comes to films we have a natural tendency of becoming a little more critical. After the golden era of the seventies, there was a lull in Bengali cinema. I was lucky enough to experience the rise of Bengali cinema during the earlier years of this millennium. I would definitely credit a few film makers who compelled the Bengali audience towards theatres. Rituporno Ghosh, Aparna Sen, Anjan Dutt, Kaushik Ganguly and definitely Srijit Mukherjee are the leading names in this context.

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The subject of this write-up happens to be the latest film by the last name in the aforementioned list, “Chatushkone”. The film is undoubtedly the biggest blockbuster in 2014 as far as Bengali cinema is concerned. It proved that the Bengali audience is still very particular about the art of cinema. It is not the mindless films (read commercial films) but intelligent and substantially superior films that attract audiences to cinema halls. Srijit’s films have been proving the point from his debut film to say the least! Autograph, Baishey Shrabon, Hemlock Society, Mishawr Roshshyo, Jaatishwar and then came Chatushkone.

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Being a film buff and a keen student of film making, I am a part of the stories that float around the industry for the last seven-eight years now. Chatushkone happens to be Srijit’s one of the oldest scripts that witnessed a number of adversities. If a film is perceived as the brain child of the film maker, perhaps this child of survived the most difficult conditions. Challenging the conditions like actor walk-outs to loss of inspiration (the sad demise of Rituparno), Chatushkone was perhaps the most adamant project of the director that turned out to be his best film till date. Analysis of the film is done in various scales and the success story has been written, discussed and celebrated through various means. I still wanted to point out some of the weak links of the film when I went to the theatre for the second time to watch the film. I considered taking notes! I couldn’t, I was converted to a keen audience.

chotuskone_goutam-ghoseThere are a number of films that are made with the concept of film within a film. Srijit challenged the form – he made a film with four films in it, treating them very uniquely. With different time lines, different colour codes, different taste and a very subtle approach all the four films had a statement of its own. The quadrilateral chemistry between the four directors illustrated in the film was entwined in a soothing yet a very compelling thriller story. The director has a unique signature in terms of his sarcastic and invigorating dialogue writing; Chatushkone was no different.

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The plate was full for the audiences to grab their desired tastes. The likes of Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Goutam Ghose, Aparna Sen and Chiranjit played the major characters along with wonderful cameos from Kaushik Ganguly, Barun Chanda, Neel Mukherjee, Indrashish Roy, Paayel Sarkar, Arpita Chaterjee and Koneenica Banerjee doing justice to the script. Chiranjit (Dipak Chakroborty) probably collected the most number of congratulatory messages for Chatushkone, his comeback film. As far as the music was concerned, the songs penned by Anupam Roy were lyrical and soothing as usual. Although, I personally feel that the film had two songs too many, given the genre or the subject of the film is concerned.  Editing, Cinematography, set design and the execution couldn’t have been better.

 

chotuskone_parambrataAs a concluding note, I would definitely like to congratulate Srijit Mukherjee for restoring the hope of audience in Bengal. Dear comrade, keep inspiring us with your efforts that can and will nullify the efforts of some shallow trade-analysts who define films on the basis of box-office collection! I wish him all the success for his future projects and hope his films cross international boundaries bringing more glories for Bengali cinema.

 

Signing off from the desk of mymotionpicture seeking light on the other end of the mute tunnel called, Bengali Cinema!

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2014 in Films - as I see them..

 

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The girl I stalked at Park Street Metro!

The girl I stalked at Park Street Metro!

“Did you believe me, when I said I am fine last night? You hung up after saying a quick goodnight. You prove me everyday how insensitive you are!” She was screaming at the top of her voice while the crowd in front of the metro station at Park Street made way for this lady in black. She was quite tall, she was wearing a black top with folded sleeves with a black jeans. Her phone seemed to be a costly gadget; white and red. She stood at the gate and before disconnecting, she fumed, “Just wait and watch you scoundrel, see what happens today!”

 

I followed the woman as my smoking spree took the back seat for some time. I thought I had a story around that outrageous woman. Although, these relationships nowadays are growing ever so more impatient and couples are happily breaking up! I heard some friends of my friends throwing break-up parties to celebrate their liberation. I wonder why on the earth they tried to make something work that eventually resulted in foul-mouthing.  As I walked down the steps I spotted her a few steps ahead. She walked in haste as if she had a mission. I could hear an announcement, I didn’t care!

 

I know I am a complete mess and I am tired of hiding it, however, when it comes to beautiful women and their grief, I somehow get involved. She was angry when our eyes met and she looked stunning as her glance and gestures probably came from a classic dance drama depicting arrogant love. I saw her punching the ticket and walking in. She went down the tunnel to the other side of the station. She will go north. Then I saw her coming up again. So, will she go south? I went to the counter and bought the ticket that will take me to the terminal stations both north and south. Now I don’t see her anymore.

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I went in and I searched the length of the platform for her. So I went down the tunnel to search for her on the other side of the platform. “All that spirits desire, spirits attain.” – Khalil Gibran described in his words how so co-incidental and how relevant this meeting will be. I saw her sitting at the end of the platform. It was pretty crowded. I looked at the display to find out when the next train will arrive. She didn’t notice me until I went right in front of him and said, “Excuse me, may I speak to you for a while, in private. I am obviously not stalking you but it is really something very personal.” She looked at me with mixed emotions. Anger got the better as she stood up and left the seat to move somewhere else. I felt terribly insulted and awkward as I thought people staring at me might take things otherwise.

 

I stood there for a while keeping a close watch on her movements. I developed a notion that she might have considered doing something extremely insane. She walked down the platform and kept looking at her watch in regular intervals. I walked up to her and this time she spoke to me. “Listen, I don’t know you and neither I am interested, will you please excuse me?” Her voice was cold and the disgust was very evident.

 

“I don’t earn my bread disturbing women at metro stations my lady. I thought you can be a menace to number of people who will choose the metro for travelling today. Are you considering a suicide?” She was taken aback and tried to look say something. I knew this was the only chance and I kept on saying, “I know Bibhash very well, he is my friend and I have watched both of you in his facebook profile.” Before I could finish, she went ahead to see whether the next metro is arriving. She bent in front to dodge other men and women trying to find the same. She looked back and came close to me. She smelt like the red soil drenched in the first rain. I started regretting!

 

I wish I could tell her that when the razors, pills, knives start whispering her name, there is a voice screaming at the top of its lung’s capacity saying that I knew you are not fine. You can never be fine with me, unless I am not me!

 

I believe I looked different but she recognized my voice. “I know you, who are you and how do you know that I came here for end my life? I really don’t want to live. I have to end this suffering! You tell me, who are you?” I smiled, I tried to tell her that it hurts being on the other side of the world. I tried to tell her that she looks astonishingly beautiful and it is not worth giving up her life for some trivial relationship discord. She was growing restless and I spoke to her for another 49 seconds. I told her that she is the most beautiful woman that I came across and I was really dumb that I couldn’t mention that ever so more frequently. I was happy that I could surprise her for the one last time!

 

miss-meThe metro rail officials in Calcutta have a hard time with this idiosyncratic young generation. Some irritated sad soul started announcing again, “Due to a probable suicide in the Rabindra Sadan Metro station, all metros heading towards north are temporarily suspended. Inconvenience regretted!”

I am trying hard but she cannot see me anymore!

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2014 in Schizophrenia, then I wrote...

 

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An evening at Princep Ghat…

An evening at Princep Ghat…

He was new in the team and Anusua used to notice his movements very carefully. He looked like a complete bewildered soul in first few days of work. In a world that sought for gold and fame he was probably the one who was least interested in materialistic amity. He tried to stay aloof but he was the most dedicated, talented and creative photographer in the team. The director praised Sam in front of everyone as the recent Mutual fund campaign took our clients by surprise and a complete awe. Anusua tried some friendly gestures to attract his attention; he nodded with a gentle smile and preferred staying aloof. Just before the Christmas arrived, one afternoon as the entire team was enjoying their lunch; Sam removed his shades and quietly sat beside Anusua. His voice sent a shiver down her spinal cord, “Do you have any important work this evening?”

 

After pack-up, Anusua and Sam walked down the length of a busy road barely speaking to each other. Some of the street hawkers mobbed them with various proposals but they were quite engrossed in something that was far more deep-seated. Anusua broke the silence with her whimsical tone as she demanded a photo shoot on the streets. “I think, you’re very greedy, do you think you are the most talented photographer in the city? Now that your work is praised every now and then; let me see how good you are imagining me as your subject?” She laughed at her own words. Sam looked at her unperturbed. He raised his hand to call a cab, Anusua responded quickly to attract one of the cab drivers who looked promising. “Princep Ghat, Bhaiya.

1233128_10151970063987228_1656528350_oThe cab was already filled with some nostalgic numbers from the late 70s as they drove past the busy city traffic. Anusua was visibly excited. She initiated the conversation again. “So, who all are there in your family; you are from Calcutta, aren’t you? Although you don’t look like…” Sam was staring outside the window. He turned towards her as she noticed his beguiling eyes looking straight into her soul. Her hair was occasionally getting ruffled by the December wind. She was feeling an obvious conflict in her mind and heart. She waited eagerly for him to speak.

 

“I am alone in this city, I came from Siliguri. My parents and my younger sister stay there along with my old granny”, he said after a short pause. Anusua felt the urge to know more and asked about his local residence. She tried to know if he had a girlfriend or if something is bothering him all this while. “Are you like this from the beginning? I mean, I don’t know if I can call you an introvert, but you are certainly a stranger among the known faces in this city.” Sam smiled at times and sometimes looked at her through his lenses. He clicked a few snaps in the cab as Anusua tried hard to manage her hair. He prevented her. “Let them be, your disturbed hair personifies freedom and as far as my answers are concerned; they are blowing in the wind”, he said.

1278950_10151970061677228_2792940_o“Madam, Princep Ghat”, the cab driver intruded in the subtle romance that Anusua was longing for so long. She probably wanted the journey for a little longer. He insisted to pay the bills but the cab driver kept on staring at her. She settled the dues.

She hated taking work back at home and in her position as the copy chief of the ad agency, she had but very little options to avoid it. Her mobile was ringing for a while. She was ignoring the call while she was in the cab. It was the director. She answered the call as she noticed Sam go ahead searching his own mystery. “Yes Sir, I left the file on your table along with the flash drive with all the documents.” She stayed quiet for a while as the voice from the other end shared some more information. She continued, “I am not quite sure but I certainly believe that there is a misunderstanding, I know him.”

They were seating by the Ganges for the last half an hour. She broke the silence again, “Sam, do you know that our mutual fund campaign is leaked?”

“No, is that so? How did that happen?”, he said in cold voice.

1271357_10151970060967228_401995517_oAnusua smiled and stood up. She pulled his hands and took him near the water. She sat very close to the last step of the ghat and said, “Will you capture me like no one did before?” She was adjusting her hair, her red and white muffler was hanging as a knot from his side bag. He went up to her and stood very near to her where she they both could feel their existence. He took out the muffler and put it across her neck and asked her to undo her hair. He went back!

“Should I look a little more left?” She was feeling very special as he continued to instruct her positions, smile, wardrobe and gestures. She didn’t know if it was an illusion. She took out a bottle of vodka from her bag. She took a sip and invited him to take a sip. He obliged. In the next half an hour the bottle was sailing alone in the waters and Anusua realized she too had wings.

She wanted to kiss him but a sudden harsh sound broke the harmonious and romantic space that was growing friendlier between them. There was white flash of light that disturbed her vision. Her hands tried to find Sam. In the next few moments the things that happened with her changed her romantic getaway into an unbelievable and horrible incident that she cannot describe in words.

It was 6 a.m. in the morning. Her eyes were swollen and the wintry weather solidified her tears preventing her from opening them comfortably. She slowly understood that a group of inquisitive people were staring at her as she was lying on one of the muddy steps by the river. A policeman approached as she was trying to reason herself.

Cop: What happened to you madam?

Anusua: Where is Sam?

Cop: Who is he? You came here with a friend?

Anusua: Yes, I was with Sam.

Cop: Your parents are waiting at the police station. Please come with me.

In the course of these events, she made a number of calls; to her director, to her colleagues and Sam. No one knew who Sam was. She kept on checking her camera on her way back home…

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2014 in Schizophrenia, then I wrote...

 

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A chair in Darkness…

A chair in Darkness…

I am planning to go out with my best friend’s mother, Tarun said to himself. He kept on murmuring for the next five minutes before a sudden light searched his room like a lighthouse scans the ocean. The darkness in his room was restored and he started his due conversation with his lover. She was sitting in front of him on a chair that was visible a while before. Darkness still prevails in Tarun’s small yet cosy apartment somewhere in central Calcutta.

Tarun tried to reason her cold expressions and came up with something that he thought was probably the best joke he can imagine in centuries. He remarked in a heroic accent, “Honey, there are certainly two kinds of coveted men on earth- the ones, with whom the girls desire to be with and the ones who are coveted by the fathers of unmarried girls”. He laughed alone! A late night traffic cacophony continued to fill the room with unwanted disputes. She tried to re-adjust her on the chair as he tried to explain the joke. “See, you didn’t get the funny part of the joke, you look bewildered”, he added.  She kept quiet.

“Alright, I am going to talk to her about her verdict. After all she is the mother of my best friend. She cannot do this to me. See, even in this much-loved darkness you look so enlightening. Don’t you believe me that we are made for each other?” Tarun kept on saying without skipping a breath. She remained stoic for a while. He thought she would come closer and embrace him as another stream of light sliced the darkness of the room in two halves. A glass of cheap liquor succumbed to gravity and his frustrations aggravated. He hated light. His expressions grew wilder!

She answered in her soft and gentle voice, “Why do you want to be with me? Your best friend is probably the best match I will ever have; and you should understand this!”  Tarun could not control his voice and shouted like a demon. His words were incomprehensible; however, his actions as seen from a distant window seemed like a perplexed animal trying to break free. He poured another glass of high spirits and mixed it with some coke to calm his nerves. He looked at her as she was trying hard to conceal her fear. His lips were dry and he tried to drink the glass full of spirits at once, his body denied the quantum of excitement; he puked!

Representational image

She thought she would reason him before the dawn and kept on maintaining a calm disposition. He grew restless every minute. He wanted to put on the lights and see the face that used to be the reason for his peaceful slumber. But he knew, the lights might unsettle her and he might lose her forever. He captured her on that chair after a long persuasion.

Tarun started walking around the chair describing how he thought he will influence his best friend’s mother to change the fate of three lives. Two of them were his best pals and he himself cannot contain his own emotions in the dearth of this hour that brings in a testimony of his gallant love. He knows where this abduction will lead to, or probably he is afraid of something. But he knows that the desire to be with her is compelling enough to go on a riot against this world. He poured another drink as silence and darkness reconciled in the room for a while.

Tarun kept his eyes fixed on her as if he was gauging her beauty and adolescence for the last time in his life. She looked uncomfortable but she knew it will be morning very soon. Tarun was probably drunk by then as he tried to reach the chair to fix a strip of her hair that was unsettled by the wind. She did not protest but he felt that she did not like it. She knew her hands were fastened tightly and if he wanted he has all the options of discovering her desires. But, he wanted to make it work and he whispered in her years, “I will go out with my best friend’s mother tomorrow. Please hang on till then!”

The first light of the sun could not disturb a sleeping Tarun as she watched him closely for the first time. She knew she was not a reality, but she knew his emotions were real. She waited freely chained on the chair before he would get up for another fighting day in the city of so-called joy. She knew he had no one except a shadow in the darkness to talk about his loveless life! She kissed his forehead! He smiled in his dream!

They exchanged a partial farewell glance in between what you read and what I wrote…

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2014 in Schizophrenia, then I wrote...

 

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