Archive for July, 2014


Break from BloggingTo 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)
Flandrin Pose Digital ageArt 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

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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 in 1936

Gino Bartali in 1936

The Cyclist
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
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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.
Children of Paradise (1945) Classic NS 1What 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.
Children of Paradise (1945) Classic NS 3A 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.
Children of paradise (1945) Classic NS 22e partie (Part – II)
L’Homme Blanc
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.

Ingmar Bergman with the two Ingrid Bergman's. Left - The Hollywood Actress Middle - The Director  Right - The Director's Wife

Ingmar Bergman with the two Ingrid Bergman’s.
Left – The Hollywood Actress
Middle – The Director
Right – The Director’s Wife

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.
Scenes from a MarriageYear 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.
Autumn SonataThe 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.

Khalid Mohamed’s Bollywood tribute to Bergman

Khalid Mohamed’s Bollywood tribute to Bergman

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 SÃ¥som i en Spegel (1961), a.k.a. Through a Glass Darkly, at the University Library. Another Bergman film I fell in love with instantly.
Through a Glass Darkly (NS)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.
SarabandIn 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
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One of the most popular female cinematographers of this century, Ellen Kuras, was born in New Jersey, USA, on 10th July, 1959.

Cinematographer Ellen Kuras

Cinematographer Ellen Kuras

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.
Cinematographer SwoonAlfred 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.
Cinematographer Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindFrench 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.

TOP LEFT : Cinematographer Ellen Kuras with Film Director Michel Gondry. TOP MIDDLE & RIGHT : Blow (2001) & Away We Go (2009) BOTTOM ROW : Kate Winslet on the sets of 'A Little Chaos' (2014)

TOP LEFT : Cinematographer Ellen Kuras with Film Director Michel Gondry.
TOP MIDDLE & RIGHT : Blow (2001) & Away We Go (2009)
BOTTOM ROW : Kate Winslet on the sets of ‘A Little Chaos’ (2014)

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
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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 HudsonHyde 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.

Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth and Samuel West as King George VI, in a scene from HYDE PARK ON HUDSON (2012)

Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth and Samuel West as King George VI, in a scene from HYDE PARK ON HUDSON (2012)

The Actors
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.

Laura Linney as Margaret ‘Daisy’ Suckley and Bill Murray as President Franklin D. Roosevelt in HYDE PARK ON HUDSON (2012)

Laura Linney as Margaret ‘Daisy’ Suckley and Bill Murray as President Franklin D. Roosevelt in HYDE PARK ON HUDSON (2012)

My Verdict
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.

Hyde Park on Hudson to connect

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).
Child StarsPaying 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?

a) Female

(i) Elizabeth Taylor
(ii) Judy Garland
(iii) Jodie Foster
(iv) Anna Paquin
(v) Other (Please Specify)

(b) Male

(i) Mickey Rooney
(ii) Elijah Wood
(iii) Nicholas Hoult
(iv) Cameron Bright
(v) Other (Please Specify)
the-childrens-hour-the-good-sonQ°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)
The Musicals aimed at ChildrenQ°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