Archive for September, 2014


For my own Blogathon, I decided to work on the famous/infamous 60’s piece of satire by Stanley Kubrick, Dr Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), made at the height of the cold war, about an accidental American nuclear mission to blow up the then communist Soviet Union (USSR).
Dr. Strangelove pix 3The plot
Dr Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was made and set at the height of the cold war, a time when there was no actual physical warfare, but political and military tensions arose between the communist countries of the Eastern bloc and the Western powers (NATO headed by the United States); hence known as the Cold War. A crazed general, Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) secretly orders a surprise nuclear attack on Russia (USSR). Everyone, from the President of the United States, President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers) to General Ripper’s aid, RAF exchange officer, Group Captain Mandrake (Peter Sellers again), fruitlessly try to stop the bombing. A bombing which may cause a Doomsday scenario, ridding the entire planet Earth of it’s inhabitants. Which is a fact confirmed by, the very sinister looking, Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers yet again), the President’s advisor. Thus ensues a hilarious battle of the wits.

'The War Room'

‘The War Room’

The Art Décor
The set designs are beyond impressive. Especially the ‘War Room’ at The Pentagon in Washington D.C. (Arlington County, Virginia), USA, where the President and his men discuss how to avert the impending crisis. The room is so well designed, futuristic in style (also remember the movie was made at the height of the Space Age, which brought about an important facet towards the Cold War), it feels like a space station. And supposedly when actor Ronald Regan became the President of the United States in 1981, he had wanted to see the ‘War Room’, which existed in the movie, Dr. Strangelove. Alas!!! was he disappointed to find out that such a thing didn’t exist.
Added to that, the interiors of the flight is very impressive, as is the mirrored bedroom of Miss Scott (Tracy Reed) and the offices at the Air Force Base. Though set in the States, this British-American film was entirely made in England, United Kingdom.
Besides the art décor, the cinematography is an added bonus with beautiful aerial shots of snow capped mountains to the ice bergs on the ocean floor.

PETER SELLERS TRIPLE ROLE Top Left: as President Merkin Muffley Bottom Left: as Dr. Strangelove Right (Top & Bottom): as Captain Lionel Mandrake

PETER SELLERS TRIPLE ROLE
Top Left: as President Merkin Muffley
Bottom Left: as Dr. Strangelove
Right (Top & Bottom): as Captain Lionel Mandrake

Trio of Sellers
Peter Sellers does a triple role of three very varied characters in Dr Strangelove.

(i) Sellers plays President Merkin Muffley, the President of the United States, the only serious character is this dark comedy. Ironic, considering the fact that Sellers is known more as a comedian than a serious actor. Though President Merkin Muffley is a very serious character, with a slight (non-comical) cold, his tongue in cheek name suggests otherwise. The bald president is named  Merkin, and a merkin is actually a pubic wig. Added to that he does have some interesting dialogues, like “Gentleman, you can’t fight in here. This is the War Room”. Peter Sellers improvises a lot of his dialogues with the three characters he plays.

(ii) Sellers plays Captain Lionel Mandrake. This the most recognisable Sellers character, as a Brit, serving the British crown and country. Added to that his appearance, with his famous moustache intact, he feels more Peter Sellers than any of the other characters he plays.

(iii) Last but not the least, Sellers plays Dr. Strangelove, the presidents scientific advisor, an ex-Nazi scientist. Most probably recruited through ‘Operation Paperclip’, through which many a German scientists, technicians et al, from Nazi Germany and other countries, were brought into the United States, post World War – II, for employment beneficial to the United States. Dr. Strangelove is the most intriguing character, as the name suggests. His actual German name happens to be Dr. Merkwürdigliebe, which he apparently changed to it’s literal English meaning, i.e. Strangelove, when he became an American citizen. He is a proper avant-garde sinister character with a disability. We see the menacing Dr. Strangelove to be wheelchair bound, which adds to his sinister character. Sellers modelled this character after the character of ‘Rotwang’ from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), my favourite silent film without sound, and my favourite film from the Roaring 20’s. Adding to the appearance of this disturbing character, Sellers is seen wearing one glove, a black glove that belonged to director Stanley Kubrick. Recognising the connection to Lang’s work, Sellers borrowed one of Kubrick’s black gloves, which he felt naturally menacing. Dr. Strangelove is by far the best interpretation of a evil comical genius by Sellers in the movie. The character has a unique German accent that adds to his threatening appearance. And the character slowly losing the control of his gloved hand, due to ‘diagnostic apraxia’ or ‘alien hand syndrome’, a rare neurological disorder that causes hand movements without a person having control over it’s actions, adds to the hilarity of the situation at hand (Pun intended).

'Dr. Strangelove'

‘Dr. Strangelove’

The rest of the lead Cast & the characters they play
Besides Sellers, George C. Scott is hilarious as the very childish, immature and the heavily bellied, General Buck Turgidson. His surname itself suggests his pompous and pretentious personality. He also has false pride and a fake sense of patriotism, which finds him jubilant at the prospects of bombing down the communist nation.

Sterling Hayden is superb as the eccentric, paranoid, extremist, ultra-nationalist. His charcter genuinely believes in a conspiracy theory by the communists to impurify the “precious bodily fluids” of Americans, through Water fluoridation. Apparently it’s a Russian conspiracy to pacify people so that they would easily trust authority. The name Jack D. Ripper is an obvious synonym to the notorious Jack the Ripper of 19th Century England (London).

Major T. J. “King” Kong, Piloting the Air Force flight, was initially to be played by Peter Sellers himself, but was replaced by Slim Pickens, once Sellers, who had been reluctant at first at the work load anyway, sprained his ankle and could not work in the cramped cockpit set.

Keenan Wynn as a clueless Colonel Bat Guano, with a permanent horrified look on his face, is funny character himself. One interesting scene is, when he has to shoot off a coca cola machine in the bullet riddled Air Force building, he initially refuses stating it’s “private property”.

Also check out a young James Earl Jones in his debut performance as a Lieutenant Lothar Zogg, the B-52 bombardier.

'Miss Scott'

‘Miss Scott’

Sexual Connotations
The movie is filled with some really interesting sexual innuendoes via man made devices portrayed in very suggestive modes. One of the best sexual imagery is right at the beginning, as the credits role in. One plane is shown fuelling another, with very romantic music going on in the background. It literally looks like two flying insects mating up in the air. Could be a metaphor on the two heads of states trying to get on well together, a bit too intimately, during a crisis. Then there is a bomb falling towards it’s orgasmic end, with a man riding on it, waving his cowboy hat. Pretty homoerotic, to see a man riding a phallic shaped object hurling downwards. It’s hilariously intended to look overtly sexual, and apparently Stanley Kubrick confirmed it.
Ironically the bikini clad Tracy Reed (in her introductory role), as General Turgidson’s secretary and mistress, the only female character in the entire male oriented movie, is the least sexual impression in Dr Strangelove, besides her semi-nude centrefold, aptly nicknamed ‘Miss Foreign Affairs’, shown through a Playboy magazine.

Screening Delay
A private screening of the film was scheduled for the 22nd of November, 1963, the same day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The film was just weeks from its scheduled premiere. But due to the assassination the release was ultimately delayed until January 1964.

Award Nominations
The film was nominated for four Oscars. For ‘Best Picture’, ‘Best Director’ to Stanley Kubrick, for Peter Sellers a ‘Best Actor’ nomination, and ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’ for Stanley Kubrick, Peter George and Terry Southern. The movie won none. After all My Fair Lady (1964), well deservedly garnered the top three awards; for ‘Best Picture’, ‘Best Director’ for George Cukor, and a ‘Best Actor’ win for Rex Harrison; that year. And the historical epic Becket (1964), definitely deserved the award for ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’.

None the less, Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) is among the greatest movies ever made. And it’s definitely worth checking out.

My Rating
Excellent !!!!! 10/10.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
60's c

60's dTo my fellow Bloggers,
Do check out my previous post The Essential 60’s Blogathon. There is still time to take part in this blogathon, if you are interested.
Thanking you
Yours sincerely
Nuwan Sen

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Welcome to The Essential 60’s Blogathon.

Inspired by many a Blogathon’s hosted by various bloggers in recent times, I decided to start one of my own. So let’s celebrate the next 21 days of September 2014, with the Swinging Sizzling Sixties.
60's Main Pic for BlogathonThe Essential 60’s

The 1960’s, an era well before my time, was one of the most fashionable, elegant, eras of the 20th century, when the world changed for the better, with youth rebellions, feminism, the hippies, black pride movements and gay pride movements. It’s thanks to the 60’s we live a freer life today, or rather we should, in a more open minded society. So here’s to the 1960’s decade, with massive hairdo’s (the bouffant), tight pants and micro-mini skirts.

So fellow bloggers, please do take part in The Essential 60’s Blogathon, by choosing a film, or two, or more, released anywhere between 1961 and 2014, that is set in the 1960’s, and writing a small (or big) critique about it (Please let me know before hand the movie you’ve chosen), on your own blog (please pass on the link as a comment here, once you finish the post). Since the setting should be the 60’s, it doesn’t have to be a movie released in the 60’s only. And even among the movies released in the 60’s, if the setting isn’t the 60’s, those movies aren’t part of this Blogathon. Thus any movie, that is set in the 60’s, be it released in the 60’s, or post, are welcome. Added to that, please choose one of the Polaroid style photographs below (made by me), out of the six provided, and add it at the end of your post.

Kindly blog about the films you choose for this Blogathon, by the 30th of September, this year.

Thanking you
Nuwan Sen (Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense)
Of ‘No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen’

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Pictures inspired by Polaroid’s

60’s a.     Scene from Blow-Up (1966)
60's a60’s b.     Peter Fonda in Easy Rider (1969)
60's b60’s c.     Sixties Styles with Audrey Hepburn I
60's c60’s d.     Sixties Styles with Audrey Hepburn II
60's d60’s e.     Bollywood and the styles of the 60’s
60's e60’s f.     Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard in Paris, in a scene from
An Education (2009), a movie set in the 60’s.

60's f

List of Bloggers taking part and the films they’ll critique.

Nuwan Sen – Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Cindy Bruchman The Hustler (1961)

Roger Poladopoulos (A Guy without Boxers)The Boys In The Band (1970)

Halim – Down with Love (2003)

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
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Phlims prom a Pestival

Films from a Festival
Festival FilmsLast week I attended the International Film festival that took place in Colombo. Organised, in association with the Okinawa International Movie Festival in Japan, this was the first time in Sri Lanka that an International film festival was held. About time. Especially for rare film buffs here with taste, like me, this was heaven sent. I only managed to watch eight of the many films on show, due to coinciding times, no repeats, the distance between cinemas, traffic, heat, exhaustion, dehydration, and TBA (To Be Announced) films; still on TBA; even though the film festival is long over; et al. So here is a brief write-up on each movie I got to watch, at the Film Festival last week. Of course, it’s pronounced ‘Phlim Pestival’ in local English (People here love to insult other accents, especially of my birth country, Europe and America, but they never see their own faults, just felt like giving them a taste of their own medicine, hence the tongue-in-cheek title).

Day 1, 3rd Sept
Killa (2014) – This Marathi Art house movie, from India, is about a prepubescent boy, who moves from the city of Pune to a small town, with his mother, after the death of his father, and due to his mothers transfer from her work. Just as he manages to settle down, make friends, and an incident at the Fort that destroys his trust in people, his mother gets another transfer to yet another location in India. Beautifully directed movie, by a previous cinematographer.
Post the movie there was a Q&A. After complementing the director, Avinash Arun, for the wonderful experience Killa was, I asked him the significance of the literal Fort (Killa), especially for the child (for I gathered the metaphorical meaning of the title), and what inspired Mr. Arun to make this movie. He answered just part of my question, saying it was his own childhood experience moving around the country with his mother. Thus I asked him whether it was autobiographical, he answered with a ‘Yes’, and then I asked him whether it was set some time in the past, maybe the 80’s (as I had guessed), and ‘Yes’ came the reply. My Rating 9/10.

Mauvais Sang (1986) – This French movie starring Michel Piccoli, Juliette Binoche, Denis Lavant and Julie Delpy, was a pretty morbid, aesthetically, and visually, beautiful piece of drama, though not a great movie. Made at a time when AIDS was still relatively a new disease in the world, the movie is set in the near future at the time (lets say end of the 80’s), where a disease is killing off people having sex instead of making love, sex without any emotional attachment. An ageing American woman is after the serum, an antidote, to this new mysterious illness, and she hires two aging Frenchman, who recruit a young man, to get hold of this serum. A very slow paced movie, to be watched with a load of patience. Some beautiful reflections on various facial expressions and a study of human emotions. My Rating 8/10.

Il Deserto Rosso (1964) – Unlike the above two movies, which I watched in cinemas, Il Deserto Rosso, was shown that afternoon at the Goethe Institute, a German cultural centre here. Thus it was a DVD projected on to a screen. Il Deserto Rosso, is an excellent movie by the late great Michelangelo Antonio. The story is about a mentally ill woman, Giuliana (Monica Vitti) who tries to survive in the world of modern day eccentricities and existential uncertainty. Her loneliness and insecurity of life is exploited by Corrado Zeller (Richard Harris), a business associate of her husband, Ugo (Carlo Chionetti).
To start off the cinematography is beautiful, with a predominantly grey scale, the movie starts with the greyish dull background of the industrial country side, with a woman (Vitti) dressed in green coat walking towards the camera, with her child in a Mustard brown overcoat. I loved the Mustard and Green contrast to the foggy backdrop. If not for those two characters, one could have easily assumed the film was made in Black & White. Being Antonio’s first colour venture, he symbolically brings out the feeling of emotional and physical alienation, with the industrial wasteland and one lonely woman stuck in this hideous landscape, in such a beautiful country. With some brilliant camerawork and amazing cinematography, the bleakness of the visual picture adds to the beauty of the sadly neurotic tale in the movie.
One of the most beautifully tragic sequences is when her son (Valerio Bartoleschi) fakes a sudden paralysis, she assumes it’s polio. Once she discovers his cruelty of conning her, it only adds to her isolation in the modern industrial wasteland, not even being able to trust her own little child. Which makes her run straight from the frying pan into the arms of the fire, Corrado Zeller, who forces himself on her. In the end you wonder whether this mentally ill woman is the only morally sane person in this inhumane landscape.
Michelangelo Antonio is a genius at story telling and he takes his time to develop the plot. Excellent Italian movie. My Rating 10/10.

Day 2, 4th Sept
Apur Panchali (2013) – Apur Panchali is a true story, about the forgotten young actor, Subir Banerjee, who starred in the first instalment of Satyajit Ray’s famous Apu Trilogy, i.e. Pather Panchali (1955). Beautifully done biographical movie of how life imitates art, as if the Apu films were made for the little actor who starred in the first venture. This beautiful Bengali Art film from India is a pure cinematic enchantment with a high international standard. I love the inputs of the classic trilogy along with scenes from life of Subir Banerjee. The character is shown initially snubbing everyone who asks him whether he played Apu, who grows up to detest cinema and Ray. But by the end of the film we see the suffering man’s soft corner. Parambrata Chatterjee does a superb performance as the younger Subir Banerjee, as does Ardhendu Banerjee, as the older version. Loved it!! My Rating 10/10.
Festival FilmzIdentificazione di una Donna (1982) – Yet another Italian film by Michelangelo Antonio, which too was a projected DVD, I watched at the Goethe Institute that evening/night, instead of a cinema. An erotic insight into a movie directors many female conquests, two main ones. Another romantic and aesthetically sexually explicit venture by the veteran Italian film maestro. My Rating 9/10. 

Day 3, 5th Sept
Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya (2013) – This is an interesting comical  Bollywood commercial cartoon film, made in Hindi, with song n’ dance, fantastic music and vibrant colourful animation. A great commercial venture especially for kids. Initially, the fart jokes early on, cheapened the movie a bit for me, but the story was excellent, well told and movie was worth watching, especially for the marvellous animation. A near Brilliant movie.
Again there was a Q & A, with director Shilpa Ranade. Without a mike in the balcony of the cinema hall, I had to shout my question, and asked about the inspiration behind this story (I wanted say a lot more, had I a mike up there). She mentioned that it was a story (Bengali book) she was brought up on and there was a Bengali language film made by Satyajit Ray. And I asked her if there was an English translation available of the book, which I guessed there should be,  and she confirmed it with a ‘Yes’.  I checked online and discovered, the book’s origins belong to Satyajit Ray’s own grandfather, Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury, an author that existed in the 19th Century. Ray’s 1969 film was titled after his grandfathers Bengali book, Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne. My Rating, for Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya, 9/10.

Disengagement (2007) – Yet another movie starring Juliette Binoche. This time an English language French movie set in Avignon, France and the Gaza strip, an exclave region of Palestine. The film deals with a mother (Binoche) who goes looking for her daughter in Gaza, to hand in her inheritance, during the Israeli disengagement from Gaza, i.e. the withdrawal of the Israeli army from Gaza, and the dismantling of all Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip in 2005, due to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Yet another emotional tragic French Film worth checking out. One of the highlights of the movie is seeing, veteran French actress, Jeanne Moreau, in a cameo appearance as the family attorney. My Rating 8/10.

Ajeyo (2014) – This Assamese Art film, from India, by Jahnu Barua, was slightly disappointing. Assamese films aren’t that famous, among various movies in India, that come out from various Indian languages from various states in India. The story was good, but poorly executed. Firstly it felt like a boring television soap, and it seem to waste a lot of time. But soon the movie catches up. Jahnu Barua, is a respected director in the Assamese community.
There was one last Q & A here, and I was glad to have to shout out my question from above in the balcony sans a mike, yet again. Majority of the movie being set during India’s Independence and partition from Pakistan, circa 1947, I asked him whether it was a real life account of an actual person. He said it was mostly fiction, but also had some actual human experiences as well. My Rating 6/10.  

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

68 years ago today, on the 2nd of September, 1946, the Interim Government of India was formed. This was to assist the transition of India (and Pakistan) from British rule to independence. It remained in place, until the 15th of August, 1947, the date of the independence of the two new countries of India and Pakistan.

After World War – II, the British Raj, released all political prisoners of the ‘Quit India movement’, which was a civil disobedience movement, in response to Mahatma Gandhi’s call for Satyagraha, a non-violent resistance movement. Thus preparation began to hand over the country of India to Indians. The Interim Government of India, was headed by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India.

Also see my post ‘Sixty Six years of Indian Independence’, from the 15th of August, last year.

Nuwan Sen’s Historical Sense
नुवन सेन

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