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One of my favourite film directors, Richard Samuel Attenborough, died on Sunday 24th of August, 2014, less than a week away from his 91st Birthday. He was the older brother of Sir David Attenborough, a naturalist and broadcaster, and John Attenborough. John Attenborough died in November 2012.
Richard AttenboroughBaron Attenborough was born in the beautiful city of Cambridge, in the county town of Cambridgeshire, England, United Kingdom; on the 29th of August, 1923. Born into an intellectual and heroic family; his mother was a founding member of the Marriage Guidance Council, and his father a scholar and academic administrator who was a fellow at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and wrote a standard text on Anglo-Saxon law; Richard Attenborough’s parents saved two Jewish girls during the Second World War and later adopted them once they discovered the girls’ parent’s were killed off. Richard Attenborough served in the Royal Air Force (RAF), during the Second World War. Soon he joined the RAF Film Unit at Pinewood Studios, where in 1943, he worked with Edward G. Robinson in the propaganda film, Journey Together (1945). The Acting bug hit him, whilst still serving in the Air Force (where he sustained permanent ear damage), and the rest is history.

I fell in love with the biographical epic tear-jerker Gandhi (1982), when I watched it as a child in the early-mid 1980’s. And as we had the video tape of Gandhi, at home, I have watched it a zillion times since then. Plus, when I was studying for my M.A. in International Cinema (2002-2003); at the University of Luton, Luton, UK; I got a chance to study this, three hour long, great epic, scene by scene. It was for my mini-dissertation, titled Historical, Heritage and Hackneyed Cinema: British and Hollywood Cinema set in early twentieth Century India, of 10,330 words, in my second semester. Gandhi was a movie that fell under ‘Historical Cinema’, where I did an analysis of racial tension (under the chapter White Bred over Brown Bred: Colonial Relations), the significance of land, specifically the ‘Train’ in Gandhi (under the chapter Landscape and it’s significance), and a character psychoanalysis (under the chapter Gender & Sexuality). Gender & Sexuality was the most crucial chapter in my mini-dissertation, which paved the way, to do a complete psychoanalysis on gender, for my final dissertation (on Hitchcockian Cinema) of 25,000 to 30,000 words, in my final semester.

Richard Attenborough and actor Ben Kingsley at the Oscars, in 1983. With their wins for Best Picture, Best Director & Best Actor, for GANDHI (1982).

Richard Attenborough and actor Ben Kingsley at the Oscars, in 1983.
With their wins for Best Picture, Best Director & Best Actor, for GANDHI (1982).

Attenborough’s directorial epic, Gandhi, is no doubt the best film to come out of the 1980’s (see my post My Favourite movie by decade, My Favourite Oscar Winner per decade from March 2014). The movie was based on the non-violent struggle of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, India’s peace activist and modern day saint, who, during the British Raj, drove away the British colonist, by hurting their conscience, instead of acting against them through violence. Of course the movie depicts him as a perfectionist, but he was a human being, and no human being is perfect. He had his little flaws, yet he was a truly great human being. Gandhi deservedly won eight Oscars (out the eleven nominated for) in 1983, including for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay and Best Cinematography, among others. Gandhi won over 40 other awards in various other award functions (in various categories), including at the BAFTA’s and the Golden Globes.

Richard Attenborough’s acting career began on stage, where he met his future wife, stage actress Sheila Sim, with whom he appeared on the West End production of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. This production led to the two falling in love and they were married in 1945. And they were happily married until Attenborough’s death on Sunday. Sheila Sim is currently suffering from senile dementia, which she was diagnosed with back in June 2012, just after her 90th Birthday. Richard Attenborough, who also attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, remained a Patron until his death.

Richard Attenborough with Laura Dern and Sam Neill in a scene from JURASSIC PARK (1993)

Richard Attenborough with Laura Dern and Sam Neill in a scene from JURASSIC PARK (1993)

As a teenager, in New Delhi, in 1994, I watched Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993), on video tape, and later on the Big Screen, within that year. I thought it was a really good Sci-fi, B-movie. And I loved the way Attenborough’s character, Prof. John Hammond, explains the process of extracting blood (Dinosaur DNA) from a mosquito that had been preserved in amber fossil. At that age, DNA extraction and cloning really impressed me, something I learned as a kid in school in the late 80’s. The rest of the film was a visually spectacular drama, loved the CGI of the time, especially the creations of pre-historic animals, but what I found the most amazing was Prof. Hammond’s detailed explanation. I wasn’t so crazy about the sequels, The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) and Jurassic Park III (2001), though. Yet I wouldn’t mind checking out the latest instalment, Jurassic World, which is yet to be released.
Richard Attenborough z Brighton Rock  (1947)Richard Attenborough starred in a lot of great movies throughout the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, including In Which we Serve (1942), Brighton Rock (1947), The Man Within (1947), The Guinea Pig (1948), Boys in Brown (1949), Eight O’Clock Walk (1954), SOS Pacific (1959), The Angry Silence (1960), The Dock Brief (1962), The Great Escape (1963), The Flight of the Phoenix (1965), Doctor Dolittle (1967) and The Magic Christian (1969) with Ringo Starr of ‘The Beatles’, to name a few out of zillion he’s starred in. Brighton Rock, The Great Escape, The Flight of the Phoenix, Doctor Dolittle, 10 Rillington Place (1971), Jurassic Park and Miracle on 34th Street (1994), are amongst his most popular films as an actor. I have a vague memory of watching The Great Escape as a little kid, but am unsure. Anyway, I re-watched it more recently and loved it too. This excellent flick, based on a true story, is about several escape attempts by allied prisoners of war from a German POW camp, during World War – II.

In the late 60’s, Richard Attenborough, made his directorial debut, with the musical, Oh! What a Lovely War (1969). His next directorial venture was Young Winston (1972).
Richard Attenborough Young WinstonIn England, in 2002-2003, I watched Attenborough’s previous biographical epic, Young Winston (1972), at the University Library. This movie deals with former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill’s, younger days, stationed in India and Sudan, as a cavalry officer. I really enjoyed it. Though no where near as great as Attenborough’s magnum opus, that was Gandhi, Young Winston was still a pretty good movie.

Besides Young Winston and Gandhi, as a director, Richard Attenborough, brought out some amazing biographical epics, like A Bridge Too Far (1977); about an unsuccessful Allied military operation, fought in the Netherlands and Germany during World War – II; Cry Freedom (1987); based on the life and death of prominent anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko; Chaplin (1992); on film genius, Sir Charles Chaplin, a.k.a. Charlie Chaplin; Shadowlands (1993); on the heart-rending love story between Oxford academic C. S. Lewis and American poet Joy Davidman, and her tragic death from cancer; In Love and War (1996) on Ernest Hemingway’s experiences during the First World War; and Grey Owl (1999), another bio-pic, this time about Archibald Belaney, a.k.a. Grey Owl, who was a British schoolboy who turned into an Indian trapper, and called himself ‘Grey Owl’.

Richard Attenborough didn’t just make bio-pics, he made a few out and out fictional movies as well, and his last film was Closing the Ring (2007).

Richard Attenborough zfilms Down Under, in Sydney, in 2008, I watched Closing the Ring (2007), on the Big Screen, Attenborough’s last venture. Pretty Good but far from great. Starring Shirley MacLaine, Christopher Plummer, Mischa Barton, Stephen Amell, Neve Campbell, Pete Postlethwaite and Brenda Fricker. The biggest mistake Attenborough did, was to take in the muscular pretty boy, Stephen Amell, who can’t act for peanuts. He just voiced the dialogues expressionlessly, like a pretty mannequin, a Barbie doll. The story was interesting enough though, set during the Second World War (in flashbacks) and the 1990’s; set in Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK and Michigan, USA. Towards the end, it becomes a bit cheesy and overtly melodramatic. But still an enjoyable enough watch, thanks to the veteran actors in it.

A sad loss, with the death of a British gem, Richard Attenborough. Day after tomorrow, 29th August, 2014, would be his 91st Birth anniversary. He’ll be remembered forever through his great works. May he rest in peace.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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Enjoy my words of wisdom :) and various other comments on films and books.

Nuwan Sen

Today happens to be the 102nd Birth Anniversary of one the greatest singing and dancing sensations of the last century. Superstar Gene Kelly.
Gene KellyBorn in Pittsburgh, USA, on the 23rd of August, 1912, Kelly wasn’t a great fan of dance and music initially. When aged eight, he, along with his brother, were enrolled for dancing classes, by his mother. He hated dancing so much as a child, that he was embarrassed, especially in being called a sissy by his peers, and ended up in a lot of fist fights with boys from his neighbourhood. But by the time Gene Kelly; of mostly Irish roots, and a quarter German roots; was fifteen, he was in love with this art form.

I had known about Singin’ in the Rain (1952), ever since I was a kid, but unlike many other great musicals, I only got to watch this, Gene Kelly classic, when I was about 14/15 years old. I instantly fell in love with this musical set towards the end of roaring 20’s, just as silent cinema was nearing it’s death, with the advent of talkies, which was taking over the film industry, at the time. Today, it’s among my favourite musicals ever, and within my Top-5 favourite films from the 50’s. In fact, it’s the only musical within my Top-10, among my favourite films from the 1950’s decade (see my list 50-50’s from IMDB and my The 1950’s post from last year).

Cyd Charisse, in a green number, seduces Gene Kelly, by playing with his hat, in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN

Set in Roaring 20’s, Cyd Charisse, in a green number, seduces Gene Kelly, by playing with his hat, in SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952)

Gene Kelly took over the reins of the Hollywood musical in the 1940’s and 1950’s, and he transformed the whole concept of what a Hollywood musical film was about. Musicals became one of the best loved genres at the time, even more than the musicals of the late 20’s and 1930’s. By the 60’s the staged style musical started to die out, but ironically some of my personal favourite musicals happen to be from the 60’s and 70’s. Rarer the musicals, the better films Hollywood came up with.

Since then, I’ve seen quite a few Gene Kelly musicals, like Cover Girl (1944), Anchors Aweigh (1945), On the Town (1949), An American in Paris (1951), and the Jacques Demy French musical – Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967) with Catherine Deneuve and George Chakiris, and none of them match the brilliance in art form and cinematic wonder that Singin’ in the Rain was.

Gene Kelly kisses Françoise Dorléac in LES DEMOISELLES DE ROCHEFORT (1966)

The Swinging 60’s, Gene Kelly kisses Françoise Dorléac, in LES DEMOISELLES DE ROCHEFORT (1966)

One the biggest Hollywood singing and dancing geniuses of the Big Screen, who is credited as turning the art form of ballet, into a commercial vehicle, through his movies, and who was a tap dancing wonder, passed away in 1996.

After having suffered a stroke in 1994, and a another in 1995, Gene Kelly was bedridden until he died on 2nd February, 1996.

They sure don’t have such unique stars like that today. May Gene Kelly live forever, through his musicals, especially Singin’ in the Rain.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
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Yesterday, Sunday morning, I watched Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013), the best commercial Hindi Film of last year, on Star Plus. An excellent Bollywood movie, despite it’s few flaws, some more relevant than others.
The Flying Sikh picBhaag Milkha Bhaag is a biographical film about the famed Indian sportsman Milkha Singh, nicknamed ‘The Flying Sikh’. The movie starts off with the 1960 Rome Summer Olympics, where while leading the 250m race he slows down assuming that his pace could not be sustained, and looks behind at his fellow competitors, which causes him to lose the medal, as he comes in fourth. This scene is interjected with him turning around as a child, while on the run, and seeing his father being beheaded. Soon the Indian press is on heat, as to why he turned around, and his pictures are being burnt on the streets of India.

From here the movie tells us about Milkha Singh’s painful journey from escaping to India, from being murdered along with his family in Pakistan, during the partition of 1947, to him growing up with hoodlums, to his love affairs/flings, him joining the army and ultimately representing India at many international athletic events. The majority of the film is set throughout the 1950’s, and ends with him winning the gold medal in the ‘India-Pakistan Friendship Games’ of 1960, for which India’s, post independence, first Prime-minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, persuades Milkha Singh to set aside his memories of the Partition era, and commit to the race. When Singh wins the race, it is General Ayub Khan; Pakistan’s dictatorial President (second President) of West & East Pakistan, who became President through a coup (Pakistani coup d’état of 1958); who proudly gives Singh the title of ‘The Flying Sikh’.

The Flying Sikh Left: The Real Milkha Singh Right: Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh in the movie

The Flying Sikh
Left: The Real Milkha Singh
Right: Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh in the movie

As a film, it’s beautifully made by film director, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra. Considering the fact that am not a great fan of his past work; like Aks (2001) and Delhi-6 (2009); with the exception of Rang De Basanti (2006), which too was just an OK movie, though with a great concept, for me; I think Omprakash Mehra has brought out one the best films ever made in Bollywood till date. With beautiful cinematography, art décor, the setting of the 40’s and 50’s, though not to perfection, he has brought out a brilliant venture, that he’ll be remembered as one among the greatest film directors ever. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, is a movie that could have easily made it’s way to the ‘Best Foreign Language Picture’ category at the Oscars this year. India has submitted many a movies to the Oscars since 1957, but only three have made the cut, been nominated for, ‘Best Foreign Language Picture’; Mother India (1957), Salaam Bombay! (1988) and Lagaan (2001); and out of the three, only Mother India and Lagaan, happen to be commercial ventures, while Salaam Bombay! is a pseudo-realistic art house venture; all made in the Hindi language.

Actor Farhan Akhtar, who too am not generally a great fan of, as an actor (he’s a good director), does a marvellous job as Milkha Singh. Akhtar doesn’t just portray Milkha Singh, he becomes Milkha Singh. Farhan Akhtar solely carries the whole film on his shoulders. His love interests in the movie have supporting roles; Sonam Kapoor as Biro, whom he falls in love with early on in the film; Australian actress Rebecca Breeds as Stella, the granddaughter of the Australian technical coach, with whom he has a one night stand and subsequent fling, during the 1956 Melbourne Summer Olympics; and ultimately Pakistani singer-cum-actress Meesha Shafi, as the Olympic swimmer for the Indian team, Perizaad, who finds herself being attracted to Milkha Singh, but he doesn’t reciprocate. What’s interesting is the main love interest in Milkha Singh’s life is omitted in the movie, his wife Nirmal Kaur. Milkha Singh met Nirmal Kaur, captain of the Indian women’s volleyball team, in Ceylon in 1955. The couple married in 1962. The film only goes up to 1960, thus it’s obvious his romance with his wife isn’t shown. But director, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, could have shown the first time the two meet each other, hinting at the fact that this would be the future Mrs. Milkha Singh.

The Flying Sikh romances Down Under Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh and Rebecca Breeds as Stella, Singh's fling during the Melbourne Summer Olympics of 1956

The Flying Sikh romances Down Under
Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh and Rebecca Breeds as Stella, Singh’s fling during the Melbourne Summer Olympics of 1956

Divya Dutta, a superb actress I have great respect for as an artiste, does an excellent job, as Isri Kaur, Milkha Singh’s elder sister, who brings him up on her own, while being abused by her husband for paying more attention to her brother than him. Taking the Hitchcockian road, film director, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, has a cameo in the movie, as a pilot, in a comical intervention scene.

The basis for the movie, on Milkha Singh’s life, happens to be from Singh’s autobiography, The Race of My Life, co-written along with his daughter Sonia Sanwalka. Am really keen on reading this book now. Singh sold the rights for the film for just one rupee, and inserted a clause stating that a share of the profits should be given to the ‘Milkha Singh Charitable Trust’, which was founded in 2003 with the aim of assisting poor and needy sportspeople.

Milkha Singh was the only Indian male athlete to win an individual athletics gold medal at a Commonwealth Games, until this year, Year 2014. Singh also won gold medals in the 1958 and 1962 Asian Games. Besides representing India in the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne and the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, as shown in the movie, he also took part in the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. In the Rome Olympics, though Singh came fourth, as he eased off while running, as mentioned earlier, and shown in the movie, he broke the Indian National Record, of 45.73, and held it for almost 40 years. He was awarded the Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian honour, in recognition of his sporting achievements.

The Swaying Sikh Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh and Meesha Shafi as Indian swimmer Perizaad, dancing down-under Set during the Melbourne Summer Olympics of 1956

The Swaying Sikh
Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh and Meesha Shafi as Indian swimmer Perizaad, dancing down-under
Set during the Melbourne Summer Olympics of 1956

The Film won seven Filmfare awards, earlier this year, including the well deserved awards for ‘Best Film’, ‘Best Director’ and ‘Best Actor’. But it also won for ‘Best Lyrics’, the ‘R D Burman’ Award, for ‘Best Costume’ and for ‘Best Production Design’. I do not necessarily agree with these awards. Though good, there were other films, with better songs, like the beautifully versed song written by Gulzar, for the house warming party, from Ek Thi Dayan (2013). And when it comes to ‘Costumes’ and ‘Production Design’, what about Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (2013), which had some magnificent costumes, brilliant  art décor and superb cinematography (See my post Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela: A Pleasant Surprise from earlier this year). Even though I don’t agree with the latter lot of awards it won, I do agree it is the best film of year 2013. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag also won the National Award for ‘Best Film’.

A wonderful movie, really worth checking out.

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013) My Rating 10/10!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

Happy 94th Birthday, to legendary actress, Maureen O’Hara.

Maureen O'Hara as Lady Godiva in 1955 (Inset) O'Hara in 1950

Maureen O’Hara as Lady Godiva in 1955
(Inset) O’Hara in 1950

Maureen O’Hara, Hollywood actress of Irish birth/roots, is the star of classics such as, Alfred Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn (1939), William Dieterle’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley (1941), Henry King’s The Black Swan (1942), William Wellman’s Buffalo Bill (1944), George Seaton’s Miracle on 34th Street (1947), John Ford’s Rio Grande (1950) & The Quiet Man (1952), Arthur Lubin’s Lady Godiva of Coventry (1955), Walt Disney’s The Parent Trap (1961) and Andrew McLaglen’s McLintock! (1963), to name a few.

Her autobiography, ‘Tis Herself, was published a decade ago, in 2004.

Wishing her all the best for her health in her old age.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

Iconic Hollywood starlet of the 40’s, Lauren Bacall, passed away earlier this week, on Tuesday, 12th of August, 2014, aged 89, after suffering a stroke.
Lauren Bacall 1942With hardly any legends, from the age of film-noir, still alive, it’s an end of an era. Especially with the death of Lauren Bacall, one of the most modern minded, sophisticated, innocently naughty and sultry stars of that period. She started her career as a teenager, as a fashion model, for magazines like Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. Soon she was discovered, by director Howard Hawks’ wife Nancy (a.k.a. Slim), when she spotted Bacall, on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar. Bacall was offered to act opposite either Cary Grant or Humphrey Bogart. Though a superb actor, Bogart didn’t interest Bacall much, but she was exited about starring opposite the very tall and handsome Cary Grant. But when she met Bogart in person, sparks flew. Soon Bogart and Bacall appeared in Hawks’ To Have and Have Not (1944), an adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s worst known novel of the same name.

To Have and Have Not, is a movie I studied, in my first semester, for the module ‘Film Analysis’ (which was on Howard Hawks), for my MA in International Cinema (2002-2003), from the University of Luton, Luton, UK. I did a presentation, comparing and contrasting Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca (1942) to Howard Hawks’ To Have and Have Not (1944); a step-by-step scene evaluation of To Have and Have Not, and a 2,500 worded essay comparing the book by Ernest Hemingway, and the movie by Howard Hawks, where my ultimate conclusion was that the movie belonged completely ‘to Hawks and Hemingway not’.
Lauren Bacall collageBacall was a hit in her debut performance as ‘Slim’ (Bacall’s character in the movie was named after Nancy Hawks’ pet name, in the book such a character does not exist). One of the most iconic scenes in To Have and Have Not is where Bacall teaches Bogie how to whistle. Normally books are known to be better than the movie, it’s a clichéd fact. But in the case of To Have and Have Not, this is a rare instance, where the movie is definitely better than the boring book it was adapted from. Don’t get me wrong, I think Ernest Hemingway is a great author, but To Have and Have Not, is no where near among his best works. Howard Hawks has managed to edit, change and re-polish it into a beautiful movie.

Soon Humphrey Bogart married the much younger Lauren Bacall, in 1945. Known as Bogie and Bacall, the two were the most romantic couple that existed in Hollywood in the 40’s and 50’s, until Bogart’s death in 1957. Bogie and Bacall starred in many a famous Film-noir films of that period, including The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947) and Key Largo (1948). In 1957, they were to appear in yet another film together, but that project never materialised, due to Humphrey Bogart’s demise due to cancer.

Lauren Bacall with Humphrey Bogart in 'To Have Have Not'

Lauren Bacall with Humphrey Bogart in ‘To Have Have Not’

Bacall was distraught after the loss of her husband, she re-married once in 1961, to Jason Robards, but that marriage didn’t work out. Then onwards she lived a single life, with her children and gave herself completely to the arts.

Her great film credits are endless, and span two centuries. Besides the Bogie and Bacall films, mentioned above, she starred in many a famous films without her beloved husband, including, Confidential Agent (1945) opposite Charles Boyer, Bright Leaf (1950) opposite Gary Cooper, Young Man with a Horn (1950) with Kirk Douglas and Doris Day, How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) with Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable, Blood Alley (1955) with John Wayne, Written on the Wind (1956) with Rock Hudson, Designing Woman (1957) opposite Gregory Peck, North West Frontier (1959) with Kenneth More, Sex and the Single Girl (1964) with Henry Fonda, Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood, Harper (1966) with Paul Newman and Janet Leigh, Murder on the Orient Express (1974) with an all-star cast, The Shootist (1976) with John Wayne and James Stewart, The Fan (1981) with James Garner and Michael Biehn, Appointment with Death (1988) with Peter Ustinov, Prêt-à-Porter (1994) with an all-star cast, The Mirror has two Faces (1996) with Barbra Streisand and Jeff Bridges, Dogville (2003) with Nicole Kidman, Birth (2004) with Nicole Kidman and Cameron Bright, Manderlay (2005) with Bryce Dallas Howard, The Forger (2012) with Alfred Molina, and Bacall was rumoured to be working on a new project, Trouble is my Business, to be released next year.

(Main Pix) Lauren Bacall with Jeff Bridges in 'The Mirror Has Two Faces'  (Inset) Bacall with Film Director/Actress Barbra Streisand in the same movie

(Main Pix) Lauren Bacall with Jeff Bridges in ‘The Mirror Has Two Faces’
(Inset) Bacall with Film Director/Actress Barbra Streisand in the same movie

Lauren Bacall, has won many a awards, but she’s been nominated only once for an Oscar, in 1997, for ‘Best Supporting Actress’ for Barbra Streisand’s directorial venture, The Mirror has two Faces (1996). In 2009, she was given an Academy Honorary Award in ‘recognition of her central place in the golden age of motion pictures’.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

(P.S. See my post 6° with Lauren Bacall from last year as well)

Yesterday I watched Labor Day (2013), an excellent DVD I got brought down from the United States, thanks to my sister’s husband, along with a few other films.

Labour Day Poster

Let me start off with, Loved it!!!! Even though, not a critically acclaimed movie, I really enjoyed it to the extent of calling it an excellent venture. I’d agree, it’s not the best among Jason Reitman’s works. I have loved all of Reitman’s directorial ventures I have watched so far, i.e. Thank you for Smoking (2005), Juno (2007) and Up in the Air (2009). All superb pieces of satire. Thus Labor Day, is a very different genre from the director of sophisticated comedies.

A very dull paced piece of melodrama, most probably the core reason for the lack of it’s box office success, the movie deals with a depressed mother and son, leading a lonely life, until one day a convict forces his way to their home and ironically brings hope and contentment into their lives.

The best thing about the movie, besides the great director trying out his hand on something out of his comfort zone, is the superb acting talent he’s managed to rope in. The name Kate Winslet itself, on the credits, says it all. The movie should obviously be worth checking out, for her sake at least, if not for anything else. But the rest of the cast is just as excellent as well. Josh Brolin as the convict,  Gattlin Griffith as Winslet’s son, and other supporting cast in minor roles, including Clark Gregg, Alexie Gilmore, Tom Lipinski, Lucas Hedges, Brooke Smith, Micah Fowler, Brighid Fleming, Maika Monroe, James Van Der Beek and Tobey Maguire (who narrates the story and plays the adult version of Winslet’s son, in a minuscule appearance).

Kate Winslet  and Gattlin Griffith in a scene from the movie.

Kate Winslet and Gattlin Griffith in a scene from the movie.

Kate Winslet plays Adele, a woman who after giving birth to Henry (Gattlin Griffith), goes through many a miscarriages and ultimately when she does manage to give birth again, it’s to a stillborn baby girl. Soon her husband, Gerald (Clark Gregg) leaves her for another woman, which she doesn’t blame him for. Yet she falls into a deep depression, and is taken care of by her kind son, Henry. At the same time Adele tries her best to take care of her son too, while fighting depression and her physical decline along with it. Josh Brolin plays the convict, Frank, who finds a place in their home and heart, and falls in love with Adele. We see his past in flashbacks, where we learn, that he killed his immoral wife, and drowned his innocent baby, by accident. What’s really interesting in the movie, is to see the close knit relationships between the mother and son, and between Frank and Adele. Henry is Adele’s reason to be alive, while Frank gives her a reason to live. Being alive, and actually living, are two very different things.

Labor Day is a beautiful love story, which starts off as an intense thriller and then falls into a deeply melodramatic romance between two lonely adult souls, with a coming of age sub plot on young Henry.

Gattlin Griffith, Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet making 'Peach Pie' in LABOR DAY

Gattlin Griffith, Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet making ‘Peach Pie’ in LABOR DAY

A movie really worth checking out.

My verdict 10/10, might be the least best, but among the best none the less.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

Today happens to be the 115th birth anniversary of, one of the greatest film directors, who ever lived, Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980). To commemorate the legendary Hitchcock’s birth anniversary, Rob of movierob & Zoë of The Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger started a blogathon, last month. I chose to critique Notorious (1946) & The Paradine Case (1947). Two movies I had already analysed for my, 30,000 worded, final dissertation, ‘Marriage in Hitchcock Film: from Rebecca to Marnie’, for my M.A. in International Cinema (2002-2003). Of course that was more than a decade ago. This post is a more of a fresh (or rather refreshed) approach towards the two Hitchcockian classics.

Notorious & The Paradine Case

Notorious
Notorious (1946); starring Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains and Leopoldine Konstantin; is set just after the war, where Alicia Huberman (Bergman) has gained notoriety for her father’s crimes. An American Intelligence agent, Devlin (Grant), recruits her to spy on a Nazi collaborator, friend of Alicia’s father, Alexander Sebastian (Rains), in turn risking Alicia’s life, as a modern day Mata-Hari.

The Paradine Case
The Paradine Case (1947); starring Gregory Peck, Alida Valli, Louis Jourdan, Ann Todd, Charles Coburn, Charles Laughton and Ethel Barrymore; is about a psychological extra marital fling, without any physical contact, between a married lawyer, Anthony Keane (Peck) and his client, a convicted murderer, the widow Paradine (Valli). Keane cheats on his wife, Gay Keane (Todd), on a psychological level.

Character-Analysis
Hitchcock, in general, is superb at creating tension, within his films, within relationships of his characters, between husbands and wives, friends and foes, the show and it’s spectators, the film and it’s audience. He brings out some superb character sketches, suspenseful plots and tense viewing, with excellent results. Notorious & The Paradine Case are famously known as the zenith and nadir of Hitchcockian Cinema, of the 1940’s, i.e. the highest and lowest points of Hitchcockian classics of that decade, respectively. But if The Paradine Case, is supposedly the lowest film by Hitchcock, in the 40’s; I wonder what, the majority of crap we see today, should be called. Notorious, is an excellent movie, and The Paradine Case, is near excellence.

In Notorious, we see Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman), a beautiful Hitchcockian blonde, being used by the American intelligence, as a modern day Mata-Hari; while Huberman only risks her life, less for patriotic reasons, and more for the man she loves, Devlin (Cary Grant), to the extent of marrying the enemy, Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains). Devlin is an adamant, cold shouldered, character, who not only does not talk Alicia out of it, but he also never conveys his true feelings towards her, until the slowly poisoned Alicia is bedridden and unable to save herself from the physical and psychological entrapment befallen her. Sebastian is ruthless, yet a typical mama’s boy, who can never seem to say no to his mother (Leopoldine Konstantin). When he discovers, his wife is an American agent, the Nazi collaborator, runs straight to his mother for help. Sebastian is both jealous, of the debonair looking Devlin, and broken, to believe he fell for an American Agent, Alicia Huberman. It hurts his male chauvinistic ego. The Matriarch, Madame Sebastian, Huberman’s mother-in-law, rules the Nazi household. She controls Sebastian’s every move, except for his choice in marriage. When her son comes running to her, after realising he is married to a spy, she is the pragmatic one, who schemes to kill her daughter-in-law slowly, by poisoning her coffee daily, so as nobody else suspects, while Alex Sebastian, just wants to kill her off at once and be done with it. Notorious is a beautiful, unpredictable and tense movie, one of the best of Hitchcockian-noir-cinema.

In The Paradine Case, we see a bewitchingly beautiful woman, Madame Paradine (Alida Valli), accused of being a man eater, more for her beauty, than actual proof (though she has lead a colourful past, before she was married), who is being prosecuted for killing her blind husband, by poisoning him. The widow Paradine, is an ambiguous character, for we find it difficult to evaluate her, until the end of the film, whether she is a femme fatale or a heroine. For we see her being honest, about her past, and she states she has nothing to do with her husband’s death, at the same time she doesn’t like any innocent party being accused of the crime; yet everything points accursedly towards her being the criminal, and everything suggests she’s a man eater even now. Meanwhile, we see Anthony Keane (Gregory Peck), the widow Paradine’s defence lawyer, being infatuated by her, and believing he’s in love with her, despite being happily married for eleven years to a beautiful classy lady, Gay Keane (Ann Todd). Thus we see Tony Keane suffering with a guilty conscience and the famed ‘Seven-year-itch’ syndrome, after eleven years of marriage. Gay Keane is an understanding wife, though jealous of Mrs. Paradine, she wants her husband to win the case, for she’s afraid if Mrs. Paradine gets the death sentence, she’d lose her husband for good, as he’d brood over Madame Paradine’s death, and his failure, for the rest of his life. Yet Gay Keane, doesn’t let her husband even kiss her, while that Paradine woman is in his mind. This movie, with a massive cast, has a load of interesting character sketches. But I shan’t continue to that extent. The court case is one of the most intriguing court cases ever seen on screen. The Paradine Case, is a must watch for any film buff, especially a Hitchcock buff.

Both, Notorious & The Paradine Case, are two Hitchcockian greats, worth checking out. Notorious is among my favourite films ever.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

hitchcock Blog

Thank you Rob and Zoë, for letting me work on these two classics.
Cheers
Nuwan Sen

Robin Williams

Can’t believe this news. How could Robin Williams be dead?
From Cory Monteith, to Paul Walker, to Philip Seymour Hoffman, and now Robin Williams, all these sudden deaths. An unexplained phenomena.
Has Hollywood been hit by some sort of a curse???

Williams in (Left) 'Dead Poets Society' & (Right) Good Will Hunting

Williams in (Left) ‘Dead Poets Society’ & (Right) ‘Good Will Hunting’

None the less a sad loss. One of my favourite comedians, who has starred in some great movies like Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Dead Poets Society (1989) and Good Will Hunting  (1997); to name a few; to his famed stand-up comic show, a la Robin Williams: Live on Broadway (2002), and his latest sitcom The Crazy Ones (2013-2014), there won’t be another comic star like him.

Such a tragic loss. May he rest in Peace

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

I am backI am back after a hectic tour. Two weeks around the country, specifically the eastern coast. That was more than enough. The trip got cut short, I feel more relaxed now. Shall get back to blogging soon.

Thank you fellow bloggers et al, for checking out and commenting on my blog, while I was away.

Cheers
Nuwan Sen

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