To my Fellow Bloggers, friends, family, and other visitors/followers/fans :)
I shall be taking a break from blogging, as I’ll be travelling around country for a month and half, on a work related research tour, with my new work mates. So adieu for now. I haven’t left you, keep checking, I shall be back soon.
With much love
Nuwan Sen (20th July 2014)
Art Picture: Detail/Close-up from my drawing titled ‘That Flandrin Youth in the digital age (Bed-In)’ from last year. The sketch is based on/inspired from Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin’s famed Jeune Homme nu assis au bord de la mer a.k.a. Young Male Nude Seated beside the Sea from 1835-1836, Singer/Songwriter/Peace Activist John Lennon’s famous ‘Bed-Ins for Peace’ from 1969, and me myself (of course I do not blog in the nude, Ha!!, though aesthetically speaking, I prefer to draw the human figure in the nude).
Nuwan Sen’s Art Sense
Latest Entries »
To my Fellow Bloggers, friends, family, and other visitors/followers/fans :)
Hundred years ago today, on the 18th of July, 1914, was born a heroic personality, who’d end up, not just being a champion road cyclist, but also a war hero, who’ll save the lives of, as many as, 800 to 900 Jews, during the second World War, Gino Bartali.
Gino Bartali was born to a small farming family in Ponte a Ema, Florence, Italy. He grew up in a deeply religious family (of the Catholic faith) in Tuscany. By 13 Gino was working in a bicycle shop and started racing around the same time. He started racing professionally in 1935 when he was 21. By 1936, he was an Italian champion. When he got married; on 14 November 1940, the wedding being blessed by Pope Pius XII (who held office from 1939 to 1958); Bartali donated his bicycle to the Pope. Gino won the ‘Giro d’Italia’ three times, in 1936, 1937 and 1946, and the ‘Tour de France’ twice, with a gap of ten years, in 1938 and 1948. Gino stopped racing when he was 40, after being injured in a road accident.
The War Hero
During the Second World War, Gino Bartali, helped a lot of Jews by carrying false (non-Jewish) identifications for the Jews that were being persecuted under Nazi oppressed Italy, during the Italian Social Republic, which had become a puppet state of Nazi Germany during that period. He carried these falsified identifications, messages and other documents, to the Italian Resistance, by rolling up and hiding the papers, in the saddle seat post and head tube under the handle. Bartali cycled from Florence, through Tuscany, to Umbria, Marche, and sometimes travelling as far away as Rome, all the while wearing the racing jersey emblazoned with his name.
Through Pope Pius XII (and the Archbishop of Genoa and the Franciscan Friars), Gino Bartali, helped Giorgio Nissim, a Jewish accountant from Pisa, help save 800 Italian Jews escape during the war, by carrying out forged documents and needed photographs. Gino used to leave Florence in the morning, pretending to train, rode to a convent in which the Jews were hiding, collected their photographs and rode back to Nissim. Gino Bartali used his position to learn about raids on safe-houses as well.
Gino Bartali, on suspicion, was taken ‘Villa Triste’ in Florence. The Sicherheitsdienst, intelligence agent of the SS, and the Italian RSS office, and questioned Gino, threatening his life. Luck was on his side, when one of the soldiers turned out to be a fan of the cyclist, who intervened and saved Gino’s life, just as he was about to be tortured.
Gino, a devout catholic, continued to secretly help the Jews. In 1943, he led Jewish refugees towards the Swiss Alps himself. He cycled pulling a wagon with a secret compartment, telling patrols it was just part of his training. Gino also hid a Jewish family in his cellar, by doing so saved their lives.
In year 2000, Gino Bartali had a bypass surgery yet died of a heart attack on the 5th of May, Year 2000.
Last Year, having gained great respect, for his efforts to aid Jews during World War II, Gino Bartali was given recognition, with the title of Righteous Among the Nations. There is also Piazza Gino Bartali, in Florence, in his honour.
Nuwan Sen’s Historical Sense
Les Enfants du Paradis (1945), known in English as Children of Paradise and Children of the Gods consecutively , is masterful work of cinema. This epic tear jerker romance is one of the greatest classics of all time. Loved by the French and any other cinema enthusiast, with highly cultured and aesthetic taste, from around the globe. Among the greatest classics ever made.
What the movie is about (including the plot summary)
This movie is centred around a stage (mime) artiste, and his painful love for a kind hearted beauty, who’s been pursued by three other suitors; another stage actor, a criminal and an aristocrat. Yet, the beauty only loves the innocent eyed mime artiste, but varying circumstances won’t let them be together. One of the greatest tragic love stories ever, Les Enfants du Paradis, to the French is what Gone with the Wind (1939) is to Americans, and Mother India (1957) is to Indians. The, over three hours long, movie is divided into two parts.
1re Partie (Part – I)
Boulevard du Crime
1827: The film begins with a camera panning through the crowds at a fair on Boulevard du Temple, in Paris, nicknamed ‘Boulevard du Crime’ due to the crime melodramas that were so popular in many a theatres around there at the time. We see Garance (Arletty), a beautiful woman who earns her living by modestly exhibiting her physical charms in a carnival show. As she walks along the Boulevard through the crowds, we meet an actor named Frédérick Lemaître (Pierre Brasseur), Garance’s first suitor, who tries to flirt with her, unsuccessfully. Then we meet Pierre-François Lacunaria (Marcel Herrand), a ruthless thief, who fronts as a scribe, to cover up his organised criminal enterprises, Garance’s next pursuer. Shortly at the fair, Garance is accused of stealing a watch, which was actually stolen by Pierre-François, while they were watching a pantomime, featuring mime artiste, Baptiste Debureau (Jean-Louis Barrault), Garance’s third suitor, the only one Garance truly falls in love with. Having witnessed the whole crime, Baptiste, who’s dressed up as Pierrot; a stereotypical fictional character, famous in Italy and France; mimes out what actually took place to the police and the victim, in turn saving Garance from being arrested. Garance reciprocates with a flower, which Baptiste saves, who’s already madly in love with Garance. And Garance too, sympathetic towards his innocent sad eyes, loves him back. But neither says anything to one another.
Soon we see all three, Garance, Baptiste and Frédérick Lemaître working on the same stage, and living in the same residential apartment house, as neighbours. Meanwhile a fourth suitor, a rich aristocrat, propositions Garance to be his mistress. Love, jealousy, romance and crime, all take place in the first part itself. It’s so beautifully filmed with great difficulty. The movie was made during the second world war, through endless problems. What the cast and crew endured, through both, natural, and man made, disasters, whilst making such a great movie, adds to it’s high status.
A Look Behind the Troubled Scenes
Starting off with, the quarter-mile long main set, of ‘Boulevard du Temple’ a.k.a. Boulevard du Crime, was severely damaged by a storm and had to be rebuilt entirely. The set builders were short of supplies and the camera crew’s film stock was rationed. The financing, of the initial French-Italian production, suddenly had to stop just few weeks after production began in Nice, thanks to the conquest of Sicily in August 1943. Meanwhile, the Nazis forbade the producer, André Paulvé, from working on the film because of his remote Jewish ancestry. The production had to be suspended for three months. Soon the French film company Pathé took over the production, but their cost were uncontrollably escalating. Things were made worse by the theatrical constraints during the German occupation of France during World War II. The Vichy administration under Nazi Germany had imposed a maximum time limit of 90 minutes for a feature films, thus the epic film had to be split into two parts, against the wishes of film director, Marcel Carné.
Alexandre Trauner, Set Designer, and Joseph Kosma, Music Composer, were both Jewish, and had to work and live in secrecy throughout the production. Many of the 1,800 extras were Resistance agents using the film as daytime cover, initially mingling with some collaborators and Vichy sympathisers. The movie production had to be halted many a times, for various reasons during the war, and when resumed, in Paris, in early spring of 1944, the Director of Photography, Roger Hubert, had been assigned to another production and Philippe Agostini, who replaced him, had to analyze all the reels in order to match the lighting of the non-sequential shot list, through many a electrical power cuts.
Production was delayed again and again and later until the Allied forces landed in Normandy. When Paris was liberated in August 1944, the actor Robert Le Vigan, cast in a minor role, had to flee, as he was sentenced to death by the Resistance for collaborating with the Nazis. He was replaced at a moment’s notice by Pierre Renoir, and most of the scenes had to be redone. Le Vigan was tried and convicted as a Nazi collaborator in 1946. Director Marcel Carné along with writer Jacques Prévert, had to hide some of the key reels of film from the occupying forces, until the liberation of Paris.
2e partie (Part – II)
Without giving away much of how Part – I ended, the second part starts some years later. The two platonic lovers, who were never together (intimately), in the first part, have separated due to various reasons. Mime artiste, Baptiste Debureau, is now in a loveless marriage, with stage actress Nathalie (María Casarès), who we see pine for Baptiste’s attention in the first part. Nathalie plays his ever suffering devoted wife, who selflessly loves him with all her heart, even though he doesn’t feel the same for her. They even have a son together, but nothing can make Baptiste ever truly love his wife. Meanwhile we see Garance; whose real name, we discover is Claire Reine, by the end of Part – I; unhappily living under the rich aristocrat, Count Édouard de Montray (Louis Salou) for protection, to save herself from being arrested for an attempted murder, that she wasn’t involved in. Again the party that tried to commit the crime is none other than the thief, Pierre-François, towards the end of Part – I. In Part – II, Garance has been globetrotting with the Count for a number of years, and just returned to Paris.
A chance meeting between, Frédérick Lemaître, now a great stage artiste himself, and Garance, in a private Box, at the pantomime performance starring Baptiste, gives rise to a poisonous envy, within Frédérick, once he realises that Garance truly only loves Baptiste. Frédérick later enacts Shakespeare’s Othello, to perfection, focusing his own jealousy towards his own ‘Desdemona’, i.e. Garance. Meanwhile the Count too finds himself a victim of jealousy, wondering who Garance true love happens to be. During the production Othello, the Count starts to suspect Frédérick to be her secret love, and tries to provoke Frédérick to a duel.
Baptiste and Garance, never meet for majority of the second part, but when their paths do finally cross, tragedy befalls many people involved with the two lead characters. Such a sad, heart rending movie, filmed so aesthetically and brilliantly. Today it’s one of my favourite love stories ever and among the best French films I’ve ever watched. Some of the most beautiful scenes revolve around Baptiste’s character, and Jean-Louis Barrault does a superb job as the tragic mime artiste that makes others laugh yet suffers in silence. One beautiful scene is, when Baptiste, is beaten and thrown out of a Pub window in the first part, he returns wipes himself and picks up the flower that Garance thanked him with early on. Not one word spoken, and this is while he’s not in character. When in character, he performed his mimes on stage to perfection. The fluidity of his body movements, the expressions, the drama, the crime performed by a comical character. It’s pure brilliance especially his performance in Part – II. Love the set décor, the story, the analysis of love, greed and anger. The Carnivalesque situation, of disruption and celebration that happens at the same time, that takes place towards the end of movie, with one of the lead character’s (I shan’t mention whose) fate unknown, was a fascinating and unexpected ending. With brilliant actors and a superb director at the helm, Les Enfants du Paradis (1945), is really worth a watch.
Excellent !!!! 10/10
Les Enfants du Paradis was shown on TV5 MONDE. Part – I, on Tuesday 8th July, 2014, and Part – II, on Tuesday 15th July, 2014.
Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
Today, the 14th of July, 2014, happens to be the 96th Birth Anniversary of the most famous Swedish Film director ever, Ernst Ingmar Bergman. He is recognised as the most accomplished and influential auteur, to come out of, one of the most scenic and breathtakingly beautiful Scandinavian countries in the world, Sweden.
Ernst Ingmar Bergman, was born on the 14th Of July, 1918, in Uppsala, Uppsala Län, Sweden. Bergman’s father was a Lutheran minister (later chaplain to the King of Sweden) and his mother a nurse. Though brought up in a conservative religious setting, with an older brother and sister, Ingmar Bergman lost faith when he was just eight years old. Bergman was the black sheep of the family, and was later estranged from his father for years. His love for the theatre began around the same time he lost his faith. By nine, he was making his own scenery, marionettes, and lighting effects and giving puppet productions, in which he spoke all the parts. In 1937, he entered Stockholm University College, from which he did not graduate, but was involved in their theatre group at the time. He was an out and out film buff by then. At the time he wrote many plays, an opera, and became an assistant director at a theatre. By 1941, Bergman began his film career by rewriting scripts, and soon he wrote his first screenplay, for the Alf Sjöberg film, Hets (1944) a.k.a. Torment. A couple of years later, Bergman directed his very first movie, Kris (1946) a.k.a. Crisis.
Year 1999, there was an ‘Ingmar Bergman film festival’ going on in South Delhi, New Delhi, India. I had completed my (Bachelors) final year at DU (University of Delhi), and was still residing in North Campus, Kingsway Camp, North Delhi. We students went all the way to South Delhi after a quick lunch at ISH (International Students Hostel), at 1p.m, and reached the gates of the Festival Hall by around 3p.m, and queued outside for the movie, Bergman’s Scener ur Ett Äktenskap (1973) a.k.a. Scenes from a Marriage, which was to start at around 6:30pm. The movie was free, first-cum-first basis. The queue was full of youngsters, both from DU and JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University). Luckily we were right in the front of the queue.
The whole time to travel, and hours waiting outside in the hot sun, finally paid off. Scenes from a Marriage was an excellent movie, and one of my all time favourites till date. Scenes from a Marriage is exactly what the title suggest. It’s literally scenes from a marriage, of a couple who separate, divorce, meet again years later, meet yet again years later, meet again in their middle age, and talk. Yes, the whole film is an analysis of marital (un)bliss, through excellent dialogue delivery and superb acting skills. For the length of the entire movie we mostly just see two people, the husband and wife, fighting, pleading, discussing, and trying to understand one another. The movie stars Erland Josephson and Liv Ullmann as the husband and wife, respectively.
The following day or so, they were showing Höstsonaten (1978) a.k.a. Autumn Sonata, starring Hollywood actress, of Swedish roots, Ingrid Bergman (no relation of Ingmar Bergman), alongside with Liv Ullmann. Unfortunately I could not make it for a movie I was really keen on, especially as am a fan of actress Ingrid Bergman. Some of my fellow Indian University students managed to catch it though. And they had fun taunting me at missing out on such a fine film, cause I was late at our rendezvous point at the Bus Stop. This was long before students could afford mobile phones. My loss, and am yet to watch this 70’s Ingmar Bergman gem.
However, some years later, I did manage to watch Khalid Mohamed’s, very well made, Bollywood tribute to Bergman’s Autumn Sonata, i.e. Tehzeeb (2003), starring Shabana Azmi, Urmila Matondkar, Arjun Rampal and Dia Mirza. The story, credited to Ingmar Bergman, is about a tense reunion of a modern day mother, Rukhsana (Shabana Azmi) and her estranged elder married daughter, Tehzeeb (Urmila Matondkar), due to a misunderstanding on the part of the daughter. Tehzeeb keeps blaming her mother for everything assuming the mother never loved her children, while the exact opposite is true. By the time the truth comes out, it’s too late. The Hindi movie is beautifully made, one that Bergman would be proud to be credited with.
In June 2002, while working as a journalist here, for the ‘Daily News’ newspaper, I paid tribute to Ingmar Bergman, when Bergman donated his manuscripts, notebooks, plot summaries, unpublished books, and much much more, to the Swedish Film Institute. You can see the online edition of my old article, if you Google out my birth name/full name ‘Nuwan Senadhira + Ingmar Bergman’ (Link – http://archives.dailynews.lk/2002/06/22/fea09.html). During this period, Bergman was working on a sequel to Scenes from a Marriage (1973), i.e. Saraband (2003).
Later in 2002 itself, when I was studying for my MA in International Cinema (2002-2003), at the University of Luton, Luton, UK, I watched Såsom i en Spegel (1961), a.k.a. Through a Glass Darkly, at the University Library. Another Bergman film I fell in love with instantly.
One of Bergman’s greatest works, Through a Glass Darkly, is an exploration of the psychological whirlpool into the world of schizophrenia. The film takes place within the span of 24 hours, in a remote island (filmed entirely in the island of Fårö, the largest island in Sweden). Karin (Harriet Andersson), has just been released from an asylum where she had been treated for schizophrenia. Karin’s family; which include her husband, Martin (Max von Sydow), her father, David (Gunnar Björnstrand), and her brother, Minus (Lars Passgård); take a vacation to this remote island. The film is a three-act ‘chamber film’, an allusion to both; the chamber plays of Swedish playwright/novelist/poet/essayist/painter, Johan August Strindberg; and to chamber music in general, in which four family members act as mirrors for each other. A chamber play, was a popular type of play, from the early 20th century, which consisted of three acts, performed with a small cast, with hardly any sets or costumes, in a small space. It was adapted to German cinema in the roaring 20’s, and later on by Ingmar Bergman to Swedish films.
Getting back to Through a Glass Darkly, it’s really interesting to see the close relationship shared by the two siblings (pictured above), in the beginning of the movie. In fact the whole movie is an excellent character study of all four family members.
Through a Glass Darkly won an Oscar for ‘Best Foreign Language Film’, and was nominated for ‘Best Original Screenplay’ at the 1962 Academy Awards Ceremony. It also won the Golden Globe Award for ‘Best Foreign Language Film’, and was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 12th Berlin International Film Festival. Famed American film critic, Roger Ebert, in 2008, added the film to his ‘Great Movies list’.
Later in 2003/2004, whilst residing in Oslo, I watched Den Goda Viljan (1992), a.k.a. The Best Intentions, an autobiographical film, about Ingmar Bergman’s parents, written by Ingmar Bergman, but not directed by him, instead directed by Danish film director Bille August. Another beautiful movie, this time, set in the early Edwardian era. The Best Intentions, won the ‘Palme d’Or’ at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival, and it’s lead actress Pernilla August, who played Ingmar Bergman’s mother, won the award for ‘Best Actress’ at the same film festival. It’s a pity, besides having lived in Norway, I have only been to the Norway/Sweden border. I never really got to travel in Sweden, besides having travelled around Northern and Western Europe extensively.
In 2007, while doing my MA in Painting (2006-2007), at the College of Fine Arts (COFA), University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney, Australia, I got to watch Saraband (2003), when it was shown on a television channel down there. Saraband takes place about thirty years or so after the couple, played by Erland Josephson and Liv Ullmann, divorce in Scenes from a Marriage (1973). This is an excellent sequel. It’s very rare that sequels are anywhere near as great as the first, but Bergman manages to be triumphant in bringing out a touching story, of the old couple’s latest meeting. Beautiful !!! what more can I say.
Despite being an avid film buff, it’s a pity I’ve only seen very few Bergman films till date. Only the ones I’ve spoken about. And I’ve only seen Scenes from a Marriage on the big screen, the rest, with exception of Saraband, were via video tapes. Thus, except for Scenes from a Marriage, everything else mentioned here were on the small screen. I’d love to watch Autumn Sonata (1978), on the big screen someday, if possible. Autumn Sonata was nominated for two awards at the Oscars, one for ‘Best Actress’ for Ingrid Bergman, and one for ’Best Original Screenplay’ for Ingmar Bergman.
Am really keen on watching some of his other great ventures as well, such as, his very first movie, Kris (1946) a.k.a. Crisis, A Ship Bound for India (1947), Sommarlek (1951), Sommaren med Monika (1953), Smiles of a Summer Night (1955), Det Sjunde Inseglet (1957) a.k.a. The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries (1957), Jungfrukällan (1960) a.k.a. The Virgin Spring, Persona (1966), Hour of the Wolf (1968), Cries & Whispers (1972), Face to Face (1976), Fanny och Alexander (1982) and many many more.
To one of greatest film directors ever, Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007). Ingmar Bergman died peacefully in his sleep, on July 30th, 2007. He was 89 years old. Yet he will live forever through his movies. Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (1957), was about cheating death, through a game of chess, with the personification of Death. In a way Bergman too has managed to cheat death by being remembered through his movies.
Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
One of the most popular female cinematographers of this century, Ellen Kuras, was born in New Jersey, USA, on 10th July, 1959.
Famous for her aesthetic skills with a moving camera, Kuras has done some remarkable work through the nineties and noughties. Some of my personal favourites include, Swoon (1992), Blow (2001) and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004).
Swoon is an excellent movie, based on the true story of the ‘Leopold and Loeb’ criminal case of 1924. The story is about two wealthy homosexual lovers, law students from the University of California, who kill a 14 year old boy, to prove that their superior minds could rise above the laws and rules that bound the average man. The movie is entirely shot in Black & White, and a masterwork of film making, both by director, Tom Kalin, and cinematographer, Ellen Kuras.
Alfred Hitchcock too made a loose adaptation of the ‘Leopold and Loeb’ case, in colour, back in 1948, Rope. But Hitchcock had to tone down the homosexuality due to the dreaded ‘Hayes Code’ (Motion Picture Production Code) of the times. And he changed the story, so that the two murderers strangle a former classmate, an adult male. Rope (1948), is set in one day, where the two men host a dinner party around the wooden chest, that contains the dead body, used as a buffet table.
Blow (2001) is yet another, near excellent, movie, based on a real account. This time about a notorious American cocaine smuggler in the 1970’s. Yet another beautifully done movie, this time to come out in beginning of this century, with Johnny Depp and Penélope Cruz carrying the show on their shoulders. Depp plays George Jung, the notorious drug dealer, and Penélope Cruz, his wife, Mirtha.
French Director, Michel Gondry’s, American surreal film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), happens to be my favourite of the lot. One of the best surreal, sci-fi, psychological thrillers’ to come out of this century so far. This fantasy film is about a secretive futuristic method (though not set in the future) of lobotomy, minus the actual cutting of the brain, to remove memories people don’t want to remember. Majority of the film takes place in the brain of Joel Barish (played by Jim Carrey) who is slowly getting the memory of his girlfriend, Clementine Kruczynski (played by Kate Winslet) erased. Clementine Kruczynski has already erased her memory of Joel Barish.
A beautifully directed movie, by Michel Gondry, and the cinematography by Ellen Kuras is breathtakingly brilliant. Headed by a talented cast, including Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst, Tom Wilkinson and Elijah Wood, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, won an Oscar for ‘Best Original Screenplay’ and Winslet was nominated in the ‘Best Actress’ category. It also won two BAFTA’s for ‘Best Editing’ and ‘Best Original Screenplay’. A pity Ellen Kuras was not even nominated, let alone win an award.
I watched all these movies ages ago, within the first six years of this century, thus about a decade and more ago. Am yet to watch some of Ellen Kuras’ famed works, in films like, I Shot Andy Warhol (1996), Summer of Sam (1999), Bamboozled (2000), Coffee and Cigarettes (2003), The Ballad of Jack and Rose (2005) and Away We Go (2009), to name a few.
Am also really keen on checking out Kuras’ latest venture, starring Kate Winslet, which is yet to be released, A Little Chaos (2014).
Wishing Ellen Kuras all the best, and hoping she’ll make another great surreal venture, like the dreamily magnificent, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
Last night I watched a beautiful British Heritage film called Hyde Park on Hudson (2012) on ‘Star Movies’. A much awaited, must see, movie for me, and am glad I finally got to watch it.
Hyde Park on Hudson
The Biographical/Historical drama, is based on Margaret ‘Daisy’ Suckley’s private journals, letters and diaries, which were discovered after the death, of the 99½ year old, Suckley, in 1991. The movie is about her secret love affair with President Roosevelt, including some very intimate moments they shared, that took place during the British Royal visit to the United States, in Spring/Summer of 1939.
Spring of 1939. Europe is on the brink of a second world war. United States, having gone through almost a decade of survival, post the Great Depression of 1929, is being ruled by crippled president. One day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s mother , asks a distant cousin of his, Daisy (Laura Linney) to visit the ailing President of the United States (Bill Murray). Before long the two are involved in passionate affair, and Daisy becomes one of the president’s several mistresses.
Meanwhile, in June 1939, the stammering King George VI (Samuel West), of England, and his wife, Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman), visit the United States. The British Royals stay with the Roosevelts, in their country estate, in the town of Hyde Park, in New York, along the Hudson River. The Royals official visit is to form an alliance between the two continents and gain help for the brewing war in Germany.
Beautifully filmed; with great set décor and skilfully capturing the breathtaking scenery, or rather capture the spirit, of the America’s Hyde Park; the film is a nostalgic trip back to the British Heritage films, especially the Merchant Ivory productions, that were so popular in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. One of the most interesting scenes for me was the disastrous dinner, given in honour of the King and Queen, which the King politely turns into joke as not to embarrass the hosts.
The whole cast of the film is brilliant. Bill Murray was spot on for the role of the President. A good President, though not to condone his wayward ways, is shown to be kind towards the young uncomfortable royals. Samuel J. West does a superb job playing the nervous and ever stuttering King, who became King, in 1936, only because his elder brother, Edward VIII, abdicated the throne, to marry the divorced American socialite, Wallis Simpson, in turn pouring down a ton of responsibility onto the unprepared, younger, ‘Bertie’, King George VI. Olivia Colman is wonderful as the constantly concerned Queen Elizabeth. Concerned for how her husband would be treated in this unknown land, on their very first visit, and frequently fearing that her Bertie would be compared unfavourably to his predecessor, King Edward VIII. Olivia Williams is great as the tough Eleanor Roosevelt, the American First Lady, as is Elizabeth Wilson, as the President’s mother, who runs about organising the household for the Royal visit. Last, but not the least, Laura Linney gives a touching performance as Cousin Daisy, who is overwhelmed with the Royal visit, and shattered when she discovers she’s not the only other woman in the life of the President.
I don’t really get the negative reaction and low rating associated with this movie. I personally thought it was a very well made movie, though not necessarily an excellent venture. Reminded me of two other excellent biographical screen adaptations I watched within the last decade. The television movie, Warm Springs (2005), with Kenneth Branagh and Cynthia Nixon playing Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt respectively. And the big screen Oscar winning cinematic wonder, The King’s Speech (2010), starring Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter as King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (parents of the current reining Queen of United Kingdom), respectively. Both of which I gave 10 star rating each. Hyde Park on Hudson, however, though a very good movie, doesn’t get such a high rating.
Hyde Park on Hudson
Rating 8/10. Very Good!!!!
The film was entirely shot in England, and production designer Simon Bowles has done a magnificent job creating upstate New York in the English country side. Bill Murray was nominated for a ‘Best Actor’ Golden Globe. A movie really worth watching.
Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense.
A Hundred and fifty two years ago today, on the 4th of July, 1862, Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (pseudonym Lewis Carroll) and the Reverend Robinson Duckworth row a boat, this ‘golden afternoon’, along the Isis (part of the River Thames, which flows through the university city of Oxford, England, past Christ Church Meadow and the focal point of rowing for Oxford University). Along with them are the three young daughters of Henry Liddell (the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University and Dean of Christ Church), including little 10 year old Alice Liddell. During the trip, author Lewis Carroll (Dodgson) tells Alice Liddell and her sisters a story that would eventually form the basis for his book ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ (a.k.a. Alice in Wonderland).
Paying tribute to the birth of this Children’s classic, here is a questionnaire, on modern day (20th & 21st Century) Child artistes on Celluloid.
Q°1. Who is your favourite child artist? And is there a specific movie/performance (as a child) of their’s that you love?
(i) Elizabeth Taylor
(ii) Judy Garland
(iii) Jodie Foster
(iv) Anna Paquin
(v) Other (Please Specify)
(i) Mickey Rooney
(ii) Elijah Wood
(iii) Nicholas Hoult
(iv) Cameron Bright
(v) Other (Please Specify)
Q°2. Which of these children’s villainous/negative roles is your favourite?
(i) Karen Balkin as Mary Tilford in The Children’s Hour (1961)
(ii) Harvey Stephens as Damien in The Omen (1976)
(iii) William Zabka as Johnny Lawrence in The Karate Kid (1984)
(iv) Macaulay Culkin as Henry Evans in The Good Son (1993)
(v) Other (Please Specify)
Q°3. Which of these musicals specifically aimed at children (but loved by adults all the same), is your favourite?
(i) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
(ii) The Wizard of Oz (1939)
(iii) Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
(iv) Mary Poppins (1964)
(v) The Sound of Music (1965)
(vi) The Jungle Book (1967)
(vii) Oliver! (1968)
(viii) Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
(ix) Annie (1982)
(x) Aladdin (1992)
Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
Q&A: Your Opinion Matters
On my 39th Birthday, 22nd June 2014, at the Cinnamon Grand (Previously The Oberoi), Lobby, in Colombo, Sri Lanka
It’s been a while since I even felt like celebrating my birthday. This year I actually had a ‘Happy’ Birthday for a change. I don’t know why, but I guess I made myself feel happy that day. And it was a pleasant day.
Went out for dinner with my baby sister, at ‘Echo’, connected to Cinnamon Grand. Had a nice evening.
30 years ago…
On my 9th Birthday (22nd June 1984), with my sister, at our home, at the Sri Lankan High commission residence, in New Delhi, India
On my 9th Birthday (22nd June 1984), at our home, with kids from the Sri Lankan High commission, in New Delhi, India
On my 9th Birthday (22nd June 1984), with my sister, at our home, at the Sri Lankan High commission residence, in New Delhi, India
20 years ago…
On my 19th Birthday (22nd June 1994), in front of our house, at the Sri Lankan High commission residence, in New Delhi, India (the 2nd time we went to live in Delhi)
Back to the Present day
Two days after my 39th Birthday (24th June 2014), In front of our house, 56, Siripura, SL.
Boy, I’ve put on sooooo much weight since then.
Other June B’day’s …
Billy Wilder, Meryl Streep and Cyndi Lauper (Born on 22nd of June), share birth date with me. Also see my post BW: THE BILLY WILDER BLOGATHON: Love in the Afternoon to see other famous personalities born on the 22nd of June.
Angelina Jolie & Hugh Dancy (Born in June, 1975), share birth month & year with me.
Other Celebrities born in the month of June …
Artist (Impressionist art/Painter) – Paul Gauguin, Artist (Sculptor) – Paul Landowski, Actor – Charles Coburn, Musician (Music Composer) – Cole Porter, Author – George Orwell, Actor – Peter Lorre, Stage Artiste/Dancer – Josephine Baker, Actress – Rosalind Russell, Actor – Errol Flynn, Actress – Jessica Tandy, Actress – Paulette Goddard, Actor – Robert Cummings, Musician (Music Composer/Song Writer) – Frank Loesser, Actress/Singer – Susan Hayward, Actress – Jane Russell, Actor – Louis Jourdan, Actress/Singer – Judy Garland, Film Director – Sidney Lumet, Actor – Tony Curtis, Actress/Singer – Marilyn Monroe, Poet – Allen Ginsberg, Film Producer – Robert Evans, Film Director – Jacques Demy, Actor/Writer – Gene Wilder, Actor – Morgan Freeman, Musician (Singer/Song Writer) -Paul McCartney, Film Critic – Roger Ebert, Author – Salman Rushdie, Actor – Peter Weller, Actor – Richard Lewis, Actress – Phylicia Rashad, Actress – Kathy Bates, Actor – Leonard Whiting, Actress – Isabella Rossellini, Actor – Liam Neeson, Actress – Kathleen Turner, Musician (Saxophonist) – Kenny G, Film Director/Screenplay Writer – Mani Ratnam, Actress – Frances McDormand, Singer – Prince, Actor – Michael J. Fox, Singer – Boy George, Actress – Sarika, Singer – Paula Abdul, Actor – Rupert Graves, Actor – Johnny Depp, Actor – Vincent Perez, Actress – Nicole Kidman, Actor – Chris O’Donnell, Actor – Josh Lucas, Actor – Jean Dujardin, Model – Heidi Klum, Adventurer/Television personality – Bear Grylls, Actor – Adam Garcia, Actor – Zachary Quinto, Actress – Zuleikha Robinson, Actor – Daniel Brühl, Actor – Dominic Cooper, Actress – Zoë Saldana, Actor – Kevin Bishop, Actor – Jason Schwartzman, Musician (Sitar player) – Anoushka Shankar, Sportswoman (Tennis Player) – Anna Kournikova, Actress – Natalie Portman, British Royalty – Prince William, Actor – Paul Dano, Actress – Sonam Kapoor, Singer – Lana Del Rey, Actress – Sonakshi Sinha, Actor – Michael Cera, Actor – Eugene Simon ….
….and many many more.
Nuwan Sen (JUNE 2014)
I discovered Sidney Lumet films, pretty late in the day, for a film buff, though I was aware of some of his more famous work, since my teenage years. Some of the first films of his I watched were about a decade ago, The Appointment (1969), Serpico (1973), Murder on the Orient express (1974) and Dog Day Afternoon (1975). And the most recent movie of his I watched was, his feature length directorial debut, 12 Angry Men (1957).
Sidney Lumet was born in Philadelphia, USA, on the 25th of June, 1924, to two veterans of the ‘Yiddish Theatre’. Thus, dramatic arts being in their bloodline, Lumet was lucky enough to be born into such a family. Lumet’s father was a Polish Jewish emigrant to the United States. Lumet’s mother died when he was still a child.
Sidney Lumet made his debut on Radio at the age of four, and by five he was already working on stage, as part of the ‘Yiddish Theatre’ group. Soon he was working on Broadway plays, and by eleven he starred in his first film, a short film called Papirossen (1935). At fifteen, he appeared on the feature film, One Third of a Nation (1939). But soon his acting career came to a standstill with the Second World War and him coming of age, and he was stationed in India and Burma as a radar repairmen between 1942 and 1946. On his return to the States, he formed an Off-Broadway theatre group, and became it’s director. Soon he evolved into being a highly respectable Television director. But it was only in his 30’s that he got to finally direct his very first feature film, 12 Angry Men (1957).
Sidney Lumet & Social Realism
I watched 12 Angry Men (1957), Lumet’s first big screen directorial venture, just late last month, when it was shown; projected on to a not so big – big screen; at the Ethnic Centre here. 12 Angry Men is about 12 angry jurors, headed by Henry Fonda.
A young Hispanic man is on trial for the murder of his intolerable father. As the juror’s are locked up in the room, to discuss the case, we find 11 of the juror’s having already made up their mind that the kid is guilty, except for one, Henry Fonda. It’s interesting to watch how effectively Fonda’s character creates doubt in each juror’s mind, and turns them one by one to agreeing with him on a ‘Not Guilty’ verdict, in this highly intellectualised film. A very intriguing character study of 12 varied unnamed men (simply known as Juror. #1, Juror. #2, Juror. #3 et al), stuck inside a room on a very hot day, with their temperatures rising to near boiling point. The film was nominated for three Oscars, including for ‘Best Picture’ and ‘Best Director’.
Beautifully directed, it’s a bridge between art cinema and a commercial venture, which veers more towards art cinema. Yet, Lumet never liked to make his films too artsy, but at the same time wasn’t interested in making an overtly decorated, visually appealing, meaningless film either. He liked a social message input, he loved realism, yet the kind that people would enjoy watching. Lumet abided by a good script, great dialogues and superb performances from his actors, testing them to the limits, rather than action.
I had seen the latter remake (1997 version) of this movie starring Jack Lemmon, George C. Scott, Edward James Olmos and Tony Danza, about a decade or so ago. Which too was a very good television adaptation. But the Lumet classic was a magnificent piece of social realism. In fact Sidney Lumet is known for films on Social Realism. Take Network (1976) for instance.
I watched Network, down under, in Sydney, back in 2008, when it was shown at the ‘Art Gallery of New South Wales’. We (my friends and I) use to go and watch some great classic, and foreign language, movies at this Art Gallery in Sydney, while I resided there (2006-2008). Network is a fascinating tale of media manipulation (electronic media in this case) to get what they want. They’d do anything possible, to the extent of being inhumane to gain higher ratings for their show. The movie, staring Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Robert Duvall and Peter Finch, shows how an ageing anchor, when fired, reacts in a strange way, and ends up being a martyr of sorts exploited by the television industry. The movie was nominated for 10 Oscars, and took home 4 trophies. Peter Finch was the first actor to win the ‘Best Actor’ award posthumously at the Academy Awards.
Network is a brilliant insight into media lifestyle, and my favourite Lumet film till date. Network was the second last Sidney Lumet film I watched until I saw 12 Angry Men, end of last month.
In 2007, while studying in Sydney, Australia, I watched Equus (1977), at my University (UNSW) library. Another superb character analysis here, with Richard Burton playing a psychiatrist trying to make sense of teenage boy’s unhealthy attraction towards horses. The boy, played by Peter Firth, finds sexual satisfaction through grooming horses and riding them in the nude. Yet one day in rage he blinds six horses in a stable. In early 2007, the play, by Peter Shaffer, which this movie is based on, was in the talks, as Daniel Radcliffe was performing the role of the teenage boy obsessed with horses, for a stage version, on the other side of the ocean. Soon I knew I had to check this film out, and it was truly worth it.
Richard Burton does a superb job as the psychiatrist, who ends up envying the young man, for the youngster finds more pleasure through horses, than the shrink has ever done in his life. Equus was nominated for 3 Oscars.
Lumet’s take on Agatha Christie
One of the first Lumet movies I watched was, Murder on the Orient Express (1974), just over a decade ago, whilst living in Oslo, Norway. Based on an Agatha Christie novel, this was a brilliant adaptation with a great star cast of legendary actors including Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman and Albert Finney to name a few. The whole movie set in a train, Pre-World War-II, where one of the passengers included, the famed fictional Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot (Albert Finney). A business tycoon (Richard Widmark), has been killed, stabbed 12 times, and everyone has a motive. The suspects include a great glamorous star cast, with the who’s who of cinema. Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Vanessa Redgrave, John Gielgud, Michael York, Sean Connery, Anthony Perkins and Jacqueline Bisset. Ingrid Bergman won the ‘Best Supporting Actress’ Oscar, the movie altogether was nominated for six awards.
Around the same time I also watched Lumet’s The Appointment (1969). Just don’t recall whether I watched in Norway or in England, UK. The Appointment, starring Omar Sharif and French actress Anouk Aimée, was a moderately good movie, set in Rome, about a husband who suspects his innocent wife of being a high-class prostitute, with tragic consequences.
The Appointment was nominated for the ‘Palme d’Or’ at the Cannes Film Festival in 1969.
Lumet works with Al Pacino
Around the same time, 10 years ago, in 2004, I watched Serpico (1973) and Dog Day Afternoon (1975), on the small screen, while living in Portsmouth, England, UK. Both starring Al Pacino, and both based on a true story. Serpico is a brilliant film, where Pacino plays a real life heroic cop, NYPD officer Frank Serpico, who went undercover to expose corruption in the police force. Dog Day Afternoon is a fictionalised story about an actual Brooklyn Bank robbery that took place in 1972, during the hot ‘sultry dog days of summer’. Both films were nominated in various categories at the Academy Awards, and Serpico took home no Oscars, including the ‘Best Actor’ trophy for Al Pacino, while Dog Day Afternoon bagged one but both Pacino and Lumet lost out on their consecutive awards yet again.
Lumet works with his daughter, Jenny
Sidney Lumet cast his writer daughter in three movies, including Deathtrap (1982), Running on Empty (1988) and Q & A (1990). Am yet to watch any of these movies.
Lumet’s last work
I watched Lumet’s last film, Before the Devil knows You’re Dead (2007), early on in 2008, on the big screen, in Sydney, Australia. By now Philip Seymour Hoffman, even more popular, post his Oscar win for Capote (2005), played the lead in this tragic cinematic piece of excellence.
Most probably the most out and out commercial venture made by Sidney Lumet. And not necessarily as great as many of his classics, but still an excellently well made movie. Before the Devil knows You’re Dead, is about two brothers who decide to rob their own parents jewellery store, yet hoping to make it a victimless crime. But there is no such thing as a perfect crime, thus things go haywire and their mother, who gets shot, falls into a coma. The movie has a great cast, besides Seymour Hoffman, it also stars Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney, Marisa Tomei, and Rosemary Harris. Unfortunately, a talented actress like Marisa Tomei, is wasted in this movie. She’s used as nothing but a sex object, sharing a bed between two brothers. Married to one, and having affair with other.
Lumet classics am yet to watch
Besides Deathtrap (1982), Running on Empty (1988) and Q & A (1990), there are so many of his films am yet to watch including, Stage Struck (1958), That Kind of Woman (1959), The Fugitive Kid (1959), View from the Bridge (1961), Long Day’s journey into Night (1962), The Hill (1965), The Anderson Tapes (1971), The Verdict (1982), Garbo Talks (1984), The Morning After (1986), A Stranger Among Us (1992), Guilty as Sin (1993), Night Falls on Manhattan (1997), Strip Search (2004), Find Me Guilty (2006) and much much more.
Though Lumet was nominated many a times for various films, he never won an Oscar. But he did receive an Honorary Academy Award for ‘Lifetime Achievement’ in 2005.
He was also nominated twice at the Cannes Film Festival.
Altogether 14 of his films were nominated at the Oscars in various categories, and some of his films, made in the 70’s, took home more than one Oscar.
Sidney Lumet died, aged 86, of Lymphoma, on 9th April 2011. As soon as I heard of this, I paid tribute to the great director by making a ‘Set of 7’ list on IMDB, along with seven mini critiques (see my list Sidney Lumet: Set of Seven on IMDB).
Day before yesterday was Sidney Lumet’s 90th Birth Anniversary.
Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
Audrey Hepburn plays ‘the afternoon girl’ of an ageing playboy in, Billy Wilder’s acclaimed romantic comedy, Ariane (1957) a.k.a. Love in the Afternoon.
I am taking part in ‘THE BILLY WILDER BLOGATHON’, organised by Aurora of Once Upon A Screen and Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled. Being a fan Audrey Hepburn, I chose to blog about one of my favourite Billy Wilder (& Audrey Hepburn) films, Love in the Afternoon (Ariane).
The first time I watched Ariane, which is set in Paris, France, was on the small screen, in Paris itself, back in 2008. Pretty late, for an Audrey Hepburn fan since childhood, since the early-mid 1980’s. The following year, 2009, just before leaving Paris, I came across the Ariane DVD, at the ‘Virgin Stores’ on the Champs-Élysées. Obviously I had to buy it, and have watched it a gazillion times since then.
Within my ‘Top-5’ favourite Audrey Hepburn films (4th to be exact), and with a great star cast with the likes of Gary Cooper, Maurice Chevalier and John McGiver, Ariane is amongst the most beautiful ‘Romantic Comedies’ ever, and one of Billy Wilder’s best in that genre. Wilder was a versatile film director who experimented with many a genres, from ‘Film Noir’ to ‘Melodrama’ to ‘Screwball Comedy’, et al.
A young French girl named Ariane Chavasse (Hepburn), a cellist, lives a simple life with her father Claude Chavasse (Chevalier), a private investigator, in a charming little apartment in the heart of Paris. The private eye’s latest case involves one of most notorious playboys, Frank Flannagan (Gary Cooper), he has been following, and the wife of a constantly grunting businessman played by John McGiver. One day Ariane overhears the businessman planning to shoot Flannagan who is romancing his wife in ‘suite 14’ at the Ritz Hotel. She rushes to save him, as The Gypsy’s play ‘Hot Paprika’ and ‘Fascination’ in the suite, and in turn can’t save herself falling for the very tall, ruggedly handsome, American, that Flannagan happens to be.
Soon she ends up being the nameless girl, he keeps referring to as ‘The Thin Girl’, he meets every afternoon.
What is really interesting is how cleverly Ariane’s character manipulates Flannagan’s character and drives him to the verge of madness, to the extent of him forgetting his own business, i.e. the business of being a conniving playboy, so that he mends his ways and becomes completely hers. She’s so innocent and yet so smart, managing to push his ‘jealousy’ button to the brink of insanity.
Mr. Flannagan only meets Ariane twice, initially, before leaving Paris, and she’s already head over heels in love and pain. When he returns, he fails to recognise her on a chance meeting at a Symphony (here there is a cameo by Audrey Young, wife of film director Billy Wilder, as Cooper’s character’s date for the evening). Once he manages to remember Ariane, they start meeting every summer afternoon, but she let’s Mr. Flannagan only kiss her. She pretends to be a playgirl herself whose had at least 19 men before him, and sights many a stories of her various concocted conquests, that she has read through her own private library, i.e. her fathers collection of his various investigative files. Added to which she manages to bring false proof of her lovers, by showcasing fake gifts like a Herman fur coat or a platinum anklet. Yet she never lets him know who she is. She even hides her cello so that he has no aware that she is a musician. Thus the biggest complain for poor old Flannagan is that he can’t get to ‘first base’ with her, dispelling any indication, that the audience might assume, of the couple having sex in the afternoon. A playboy falls for a virgin, who pretends to be a playgirl that doesn’t let him touch her. A hilarious movie, that twists the playboy’s existence through a naïve young girl madly in love. The original ending of the film was changed (or rather a voiceover added), for the film was otherwise threatened to land on the ‘Catholic Legion of Decency’s – Condemned List’.
The music is beautiful. The scenery, the art décor and the cinematography are breathtaking. The atmosphere is romantic. And Love in the Afternoon is one of the most romantically enjoyable films ever made. One can just lose oneself in the movie, just like one can just lose oneself in the city of love itself, Paris.
Other Essential Facts
In the beginning of the film, the voice over of Maurice Chevalier is heard saying, ‘‘….in Paris, people make love ….., The butcher, the baker, …….. Once in a while even existentialists do it…..’’. Audrey Hepburn filmed Ariane back-to-back with Stanley Donen’s Funny Face (1957), which too was set in Paris, and where Hepburn played an ‘existentialist’ herself (see my post Audrey Hepburn & The Musical).
Originally Cary Grant was to be cast as the male lead, but he refused, as he felt he was too old for it. Ironically, an even older Gary Cooper was cast instead. The 55 year old Cooper, though initially felt miscast for the role, ended up feeling very happy with the results. Cooper and Hepburn had great chemistry besides their massive age gap.
Director Billy Wilder, one of the greatest film personalities ever, was born on the 22nd of June, 1906. ‘THE BILLY WILDER BLOGATHON’ was created to celebrate this master’s work for his 108th Birth anniversary, which falls day after tomorrow. Billy Wilder was born exactly 69 years before I came into existence, to date. Some other famous personalities who share our (Wilder’s & mine) birth date, but not year, are Andrée Lumière, Charles Lindbergh Jr., Lionel Banks, Michael Todd, Prunella Scales, Amrish Puri, Meryl Streep, Cyndi Lauper, Douglas Smith and Joe Dempsie to name a few.
A must watch for any fan of Billy Wilder, Audrey Hepburn and the good old ‘Romantic Comedy’.
Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
Thank you Aurora and Kellee, for letting me write about Love in the Afternoon (Ariane) for ‘THE BILLY WILDER BLOGATHON’.