Tag Archive: 1950’s


Quoting Oprah!

“Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher”

– Oprah Winfrey
Talk Show host, Television Producer & Philanthropist
   (Born in 1954)

Today also happens to be Oprah Winfrey’s 65th Birthday! Wishing her all the best, in every way. A true leader,and a great human being!

Bookish Nuwan
Nuwan Sen’s  TV Sense
Nuwan Sen ()

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Richard Burton plays Philip Ashley, in the 1952 film adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s acclaimed novel, My Cousin Rachel.

A constantly brooding, suspicious, miserable character, that we rarely see smile. Even his happiness (in rare moments when he seems to be happy) is superficial, taunted by his skeptical nature. His mental state, stained by the loss of his favourite cousin, who raised him, and with the guilt of harbouring lustful desires for a woman who might be the reason for his cousin’s untimely demise, eating away at him; Philip Ashley is never at peace. AND this character is portrayed with pure perfection, by the brilliant British Shakespearean actor, Richard Burton. Predominantly a British star, the UK’s Cornwall set My Cousin Rachel (1952) was Burton’s first foray into Hollywood and it earned him a Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actor in 1953.

Olivia de Havilland plays the ambiguous character of Rachel, in My Cousin Rachel (1952)

Daphne du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel is about an orphaned kid, Philip, who is brought up by his wealthy cousin, Ambrose Ashley (played by John Sutton in the movie). Ambrose, while away in Italy, meets the widowed Contessa Sangalletti (a.k.a. Rachel), a distant cousin of theirs, and Ambrose and Rachel soon marry. But their marital bliss is short lived, as Ambrose dies of a brain tumour. Yet before his death, he manages to plant the seeds of suspicion on young Philip’s mind, that she’s been poisoning him. Thus, when Rachel comes over to Ambrose’s Cornwall estate, no matter how nice a person she seems to be, Philip is never at peace. He has a love-hate relationship with her; and he suffers throughout, due to the seeds of distrust having taken root in his mind. Even in the end, he is in agony, wondering whether she was guilty or innocent. Something that would haunt him for the rest of his life.

I really liked the ambiguous ending, for we never truly find out about Rachel, though we do feel she might be more innocent than guilty. She’s not a perfect person, but she most probably didn’t murder her husband, nor try to to kill off Philip, as he suspects. And as we get to know later, she doesn’t have any intention of taking over Ambrose’s estate, she doesn’t expect a dime. It’s all left to Philip.

With no real interest in making it in Hollywood, Richard Burton joined this project, due to the recommendation of director George Cukor (whom Burton had great respect for). Originally Cukor was planning to direct this cinematic adaptation of du Maurier’s Gothic novel. But when Cukor and du Maurier, read the first draft of the screenplay, they felt it was unfaithful to the novel, and were both disappointed. So Cukor dropped out. However the project went ahead, without Cukor, and the movie was ultimately directed by Henry Koster. The end result, though different to the novel, was excellent; mainly thanks to Burton’s brilliant acting talent, along with the rest of the cast. Even du Maurier was pleased with Burton’s performance, as well as certain shots filmed in the real Cornwall; but felt de Havilland didn’t capture the mystery of the character of Rachel, well enough. Even though I haven’t read the book, I agree, I felt de Havilland’s performance was quite lukewarm. She wasn’t bad, in fact she was interesting enough; but far from great. Then again the character she played was quite ambiguous, and hard to judge. None the less, the film is excellent; Burton Brilliant; and the cinematography by Joseph LaShelle, hauntingly beautiful. The Cornwall setting and the beach play quite an important role in this story, but I noticed it’s not as significant to the plot, as much as it (especially the representation of the beach) was, in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca; the 1940 film adaptation of which (by Alfred Hitchcock, starring de Havilland’s sister, Joan Fontaine) went on to win Oscars, for Best Picture and Best Cinematography. 1952’s My Cousin Rachel, was nominated for four Academy Awards, including one for Richard Burton (his 1st Oscar nomination), but it won none. Burton never won an Oscar, though he was nominated seven times, altogether.

Apparently, Olivia de Havilland didn’t get along with Richard Burton, whom she hated. She felt he was coarse, crude, unsophisticated. But then again, growing up, she wasn’t very kind to her own sister, Fontaine. Today, amazingly, Olivia de Havilland, is the one who is still alive. Most notable for her role as the kindly ‘Melanie Hamilton’, in Gone with the Wind (1939), de Havilland turned 102, on 1st July 2018, surpassing younger sister, Joan Fontaine, who passed away on 15th December 2013, less than two months after her 96th Birthday!

Olivia de Havilland, Audrey Dalton and Richard Burton, in a scene from My Cousin Rachel (1952)

Back in my teens, in the early 1990’s, I watched the 1983 BBC television mini-series, based on My Cousin Rachel, which apparently is comparatively more faithful to the novel, and which I loved too. YET, I loved this classic movie adaptation, I saw end of September 2018, online on Youtube, with not that clear a sound, and re-watched day before, even more. Although, if my memory serves me right, I do feel, Geraldine Chaplin in the 83′ version, most probably did more justice to the role of Rachel.

Recently there was another film adaptation of this book, released last year (2017), directed by Roger Michell, and starring Rachel Weisz and Sam Claflin, in the lead. Am yet to see this newer version, which has had some mixed reviews.

My Cousin Rachel (1952)

My Rating: Excellent – 10/10!!!!!!!!!!

Bookish Nuwan
Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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This Blog Post, is my contribution to the, REGALING ABOUT RICHARD BURTON BLOGATHON, hosted by Gill of Real Weegie Midget!!!!!

Thank you Gill, for letting me take part in this Blogathon, dedicated to a such prolific British Actor of the Stage and Screen!

Nuwan Sen (NSFS)

The ❝October Birthdayz❞ Blogathon (Day 3)

Costume Designer, Edith Head, celebrates her birthday with, actor, Mel Ferrer, and his beautiful wife, Audrey Hepburn; at a party hosted for Ferrer and Hepburn, at the Beverly Hills Hotel, in Los Angeles, California (circa. October 1955/1956)

So here are the Participants, for Day 3, of the The ❝October Birthdayz❞ Blogathon, with their contributions :-

  • On Walter Matthau (1st October 1920 – 1st July 2000)
    Paul of Pfeiffer Pfilms and Meg Movies, does an interestingly unique post, one of my personal favourite films ever, the brilliant comedy, Cactus Flower (1969), staring October born, Walter Matthau, along with Ingrid Bergman, Goldie Hawn & Rick Lenz (For Hawn & Lenz; who share a birthday, both being born on November 21st, in different years; Cactus Flower, was their debut movie). What’s unique about Paul‘s post, with his affection for Michelle Pfeiffer and Meg Ryan, is that he does a small analysis of what it would be like if Pfeiffer & Ryan were to replace Bergman & Hawn, respectively, in Goldie, Meg and Matthau, Michelle and Ingrid Bergman too: From Cactus Flower to a Pfantasy Pfeiffer Pfilm
    NSFS
  • On Roger Moore (14th October 1927 – 23rd May 2017)
    Gill at Realweegiemidget, sends in her third and final post for this Blogathon, where she pays tribute to her favourite (and definitely the most good looking, till date) on screen James Bond, Roger Moore, and she also speaks of his non-Bond roles, a parody on his 007 character and a movie she hasn’t seen (i.e. his final performance), in FILM… Remembering When Roger Moore Hit the Bullseye and Moore
    NSFS
  • On the Birth of Cinema with Roundhay Garden Scene (Birth-date: 14th October 1888) & Joseph Ignatius Breen (14th October 1888 – 5th December 1965)
    Tiffany at pure entertainment preservation society, writes a long essay, focusing on; French inventor, Louis Le Prince’s Roundhay Garden Scene (1888), filmed at Oakwood Grange (Le Prince’s in-laws house) in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England, UK, which is believed to be the oldest surviving film in existence; the (till date) unsolved mysterious disappearance of Louis Le Prince, as he was planning to exhibit his ‘moving picture’ invention; and delves deep into the life of, American film Censor, Joseph Ignatius Breen, known for enforcing the Motion Picture Production Code (a.k.a. Hays Code) under Will H. Hays; and Breen’s contributions to the Golden Age of Hollywood. Breen came into this world, in the United States of America, the same day, Roundhay Garden Scene was filmed, in the United Kingdom. Tiffany Brannan discusses all this, and more, in her essay, Clean with Breen: “October 14, 1888: The Birthday of the Motion Picture and Its Greatest Contributor” for “The Second Annual Great Breening Blogathon” & “The October Birthdayz Blogathon” – Tiffany Brannan
    NSFS
  • On All Hallows’ Eve (Birth-date: 31st October circa.1556), Bela Lugosi (20th October 1882 – 16 August 1956), Guillermo del Toro (Born on 9th October 1964), along with a couple of great Horror Giants of Literature & Cinema, who, were not born, but died during this month of Halloween, Edgar Allan Poe (19th January 1809 – 7th October 1849) & Vincent Price (27th May 1911 – 25th October 1993), respectively
    Reut of Moody Moppet, to go with the Horror month of Halloween, speaks of an anthology of Edgar Allan Poe’s macabre literary works, squished into an animated movie, where each story uses a different technique of animation. One segment is narrated by, the now Oscar winning film director, Guillermo del Toro. Another segment uses an archive voice recording from the 40’s, of Bela Lugosi (who shares his birth-date with my sister, 98 years apart) narration of Allan Poe’s short story, The Tell-Tale Heart. And another uses a caricature resembling, the legendary, Vincent Price. Reut Zriri ‏accounts all this under Extraordinary Tales (2013) – The ❝October Birthdayz❞ Blogathon
    NSFS

A Very Big Thank you, to my fellow bloggers, Paul, Reut, Tiffany‏ and Gill, for their contributions for Day 3 of the The ❝October Birthdayz❞ Blogathon. A a special thanks to Gill, for contributing 3 posts, for each day of the Blogathon, even though due to time constraints, she couldn’t do a post especially for this Blogathon, it was very nice of her to send me 3 previous posts, that go well with The ❝October Birthdayz❞ Blogathon.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
Nuwan Sen n’ Style

P.S. Also see the participants and contributions, for Day 1 & Day 2, in my posts, The ❝October Birthdayz❞ Blogathon (DAY 1) and The ❝October Birthdayz❞ Blogathon (DAY 2), respectively.

On a Sunday afternoon, at Prescient 21, New York City, an assortment of coulourful characters, from crooks to thieves to innocent first time offenders, swarm around, waiting to be booked. One such character is a shoplifter, played by Lee Grant, witnessing all the crazy goings-on, in the squad room. Lee Grant reprises her well received role, in her film debut, in Detective Story (), for which she won the award forBest Actress at the Cannes Film Festival, in 1952.

Lee Grant in Detective Story (1951)

As the movie begins, Lee Grant arrives in a not-so-well maintained car, dragged by a shabby looking cop. She’s taken upstairs into the squad room of New York’s Prescient 21. Her crime – she picked up a purse, due to a kleptomaniac impulse. A bag she didn’t even like. And it seems this was a first time offense, or at least the first time she got caught. Naive, innocent, stressed and nerve-wrecking, she is more worried than she should be. In fact, the cop tells her, that it’s not as if she committed a murder, she most probably will be acquitted, with no charges; and it will all be a waste of his time.

When she is asked to call a lawyer, she’s apprehensive, the only lawyer she knows is married to her pregnant sister. But as things start to heat up in the squad room, she finally asks her brother-in-law for help. Meanwhile, we see what a good heart she has, and what a social person she is. She innocently tries to comfort a young girl, whose sister’s ex-boyfriend, is being booked for embezzlement. She tells one of the detective’s he is quite handsome, and doesn’t look like a cop. She is amused with a watch in a comic strip, and compares it to the wristwatch worn by the cop that arrested her. This shoplifter, might have accidentally committed a crime, but is a very genuine person. More genuine, than most cops. Of course, the cops here treat her well. When one brings her food, she is truly grateful. As Grant’s shoplifter leaves the station, she bids adieu, to all the detectives at Prescient 21.

Lee Grant is superb as a nervous wreck, a foolish and somewhat comical shoplifter. A bit of an oddball nut-bag. A very naturalistic twitchy portrayal of a scared little kitten, feeling guiltier than she should be. Grant learnt the weird New York accent, she uses in the play and movie, when she heard two girls on a crosstown bus. Yes, she eavesdropped on total strangers, not because she wanted to know what they were talking about, but to study their mannerisms. A true testament to great acting.

Based on a 1949 play by Sidney Kingsley, Detective Story, and directed by William Wyler, the movie comprises of a superb cast, including Kirk Douglas, Eleanor Parker, Joseph Wiseman, William Bendix, Craig Hill, et al. Set in a single day, the main plot of the story, however, is about a tough cop (played incredibly by Kirk Douglas), who doesn’t believe in second chances, with a temper he can’t control. As the movie progresses, he learns of a past mistake by his elegant wife (gracefully played by the beautiful Eleanor Parker), which he finds difficult to accept. He is not a forgiving man. Detective Story, is a brilliant movie, with many a sub-plots. Lee Grant is seen through most of the movie, and is well fashioned with a scarf over her shoulders (it’s worth checking out some of cool ties and suits worn by some of the male cast, as well, including Douglas and Wiseman). Basically the movie is, out and out, a Kirk Douglas venture. He is the protagonist, the only lead character of the film. The rest are all supporting characters, revolving around the main plot within Prescient 21. So it is baffling, why Lee Grant, won an award for Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival, the following year. She was no doubt superb, yet she was a supporting character; as was the cop’s wife, Mrs. Mary McLeod (played by Eleanor Parker). Parker received a Best Actress Oscar nomination, along with Lee Grant, for Best Supporting Actress‘, at the Academy Awards. In fact, with just over 20 minutes appearance, Eleanor Parker’s performance is the shortest role, to ever be nominated for aBest Actress Oscar. Like Grant, Parker ought to have been nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, as well. The movie garnered two more nominations, including one forBest Director, for William Wyler. Detective Story lost out at the Oscars, but happens to be among greatest study of varied character-sketches, on film.

Lee Grant in a scene from Detective Story (1951)

Despite the accolades, Lee Grant received for her unique Oscar nominated performance, in Detective Story, she found it difficult to find work for the next decade. In 1952, she refused to testify against her husband at the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) hearings, and thus was blacklisted. This was during the notorious McCarthy era, under which the Hollywood Blacklist began, in 1947; where famous people were being persecuted for supposedly having ‘Communist’ beliefs. Sadly many great influential personalities lost work during this period, including Hollywood celebrities, such as Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles and Dalton Trumbo, to name some. Lee Grant was removed from the blacklist, in 1962, after which she rebuilt her career in film and television.

From playing a shoplifter in her first movie, her last Cinematic appearance was in a film titled, Going Shopping (2005). She hasn’t worked in films for the last 13 years, but she did appear on stage, where it all began, in a revival of Donald L. Coburn’s 1976 play, The Gin Game, in 2013; directed by her daughter, Dinah Manoff.

Detective Story (1951)
My Rating: Pure Excellence – 10/10 !!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

This write-up, is my contribution, for The Lovely Lee Grant Blogathon, hosted by Gill of of Real Weegie Midget and Chris from Angelmans’s Place!!

Thank you Gill and Chris, for inviting me to join this Blogathon.

Nuwan Sen

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There was a time when women use to raise a hem to get a him. Well not anymore (there is not much left to raise in most modern dresses, anyway). AND definitely not the dignified British Royals. But ever wonder, how their soft graceful chiffon dresses never truly fly up, a la Marilyn Monroe style, even in the windiest weather. Royal fashion tricks reveled below.

Marilyn Monroe, when her dress blew up, and ended her marriage

Back in windy Autumn of 1954, during the shoot of The Seven Year Itch (1955), actress Marilyn Monroe was filmed with her dress billowing (a very famous scene from this classic comedy, with the iconic Monroe, halter-neck, light shaded, ivory cocktail dress) at Lexington Avenue, in Manhattan, New York City (USA). This shoot lasted several hours, surrounded by around two thousand spectators, and photographers. The scene was re-shot later in a studio, and both, edited together, ended up in the movie. The jealous Joe DiMaggio, Marylin Monroe’s baseball player husband, was far from impressed. And their marriage ended. What did he expect?? He was married to a much loved actress, and that too a sultry sex-symbol of the 50’s decade. If her sex-siren image, hurt his male chauvinistic pride so much, why did he marry her in the first place?? This popular image has been recreated by many, post Monroe’s death, one of the most notable, that comes to mind is, Kelly LeBrock’s famous red satin dress, from The Woman in Red (1984).

Duke & Duchess of Cambridge: Prince William & Kate Middleton

Today I came across an unusual article, on Yahoo UK, about how the royals have managed to keep their dresses from flying high. So apparently when it comes to the younger royals, a la Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle, they use static underwear to keep their dresses in place. Yup, undergarments that help keep your dress in place. But how did royals manage to do so, in the past?????

It seems the Queen of England, Queen of United Kingdom and other Commonwealth realms, Queen Elizabeth II, wore dresses with lead curtain weights sewn into her hemlines. Of course, it depends on the fabric. If the Queen wore chiffon dresses, which she did, quite often, in summer months, a pea size lead, or a tiny lead chain, is sewn into the hems. It’s hard to say, whether the late Queen Mother (Elizabeth II’s mother), and her favourite grand-daughter-in-law, the late Princess Diana, did the same. But they sure were just as dignified, in their lifetime.

So below are some, not so Marilyn Monroe style, billowing moments, of the Royal Ladies.

Queen Elizabeth II, during a trip Down Under

Princess Diana battles through windy weather, in Italy

Prince Charles watches, as Camilla Parker Bowles pays tribute to the late Marilyn Monroe

The Queen in Trousers

Queen Elizabeth II in Trousers

Of course, the more sensible thing to wear, especially in windy weather, is a pair of trousers. It’s decent, it’s elegant, it’s fashionable, it’s comfortable, as well as practical. Of course, the queen is rarely seen in trousers, even though she wears them, a plenty.  That’s because the Queen wears trousers, casually, mostly during her private time, with family, at home, for leisure activities, sports and holidays. She is rarely seen in more formal trouser suits/pant suits, during formal functions or visits. In fact, when it comes to her formal engagements, she loves romantic vintage dresses, and loves bright colours with matching hats and coats. Nothing beats Princess Diana’s chic fashion sense, when it comes to the British royals, but the queen has her own signature style, and she is a fashionista in her own right. Apparently Kate Middleton follows suit (pun intended), and loves to wear fashionable dresses for formal engagements, than trouser suits; though casually she might be seen in all-American jeans.

Thus, the secrets to how the Royals remain fashionably dignified in bad weather, reveled.

Nuwan Sen n’ STYLE
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Nuwan Sen’s Historical Sense

 

Immaterial of how accurate the facts from Sanjay Dutt’s life depicted in Sanju (2018) are, as a movie, this cinematic adaptation works flawlessly. Especially thanks to Ranbir Kapoor’s brilliant performance, as actor, Sanjay Dutt. Kapoor encompasses the essence of Dutt jr. to perfection. He feels Sanju, in every way possible, not just thanks to the prosthetics and make-up (although they do help), but the way Dutt moves, talks, his mannerisms; Kapoor manages to capture the Dutt persona, with excellence. Amazingly, Ranbir Kapoor is not a fan of method acting; denouncing great method acting skills of the likes of classic method actors, Marlon Brando, James Dean & Amitabh Bachchan to Aamir Khan & Leonardo DiCaprio (from more recent times); but Kapoor feels like he’s turned himself into one, to become Dutt, inside out.

Am generally not a great fan of Ranbir Kapoor (with his stale jokes, unfunny idiosyncrasies and a boring on-screen personality), but when he wants, he has proven himself capable of doing good roles; with movies like Barfi! (2012) – another excellent movie (a movie that almost made me a fan of Ranbir Kapoor), Bombay Velvet (2015) – an average fare (veering towards bad than good), yet Kapoor is quite good in his role, and now with Sanju (2018) – Ranbir Kapoor’s best role to date. If he follows this with similar good film choices with a good script, he’ll be going places.

Ranbir Kapoor belongs to Bollywood’s film royalty, the “Kapoor” clan. He is the fourth generation of Kapoor’s to grace the screen, along with his successful cousins, Karishma (also credited as, Karisma) & Kareena Kapoor (stars of the 90’s & noughties, respectively). Ranbir Kapoor is the great-grandson of the renowned theater & film personality, Prithviraj Kapoor, grandson of the legendary, Raj Kapoor, and son of chocolate boy hero of the 70’s & 80’s, actor, Rishi Kapoor. Ranbir Kapoor’s mother too, is a well known Bollywood actress, 70’s superstar, Neetu Singh. AND if young Kapoor comes in more movies, like Barfi! and Sanju, he’ll definitely make the family name proud. The sad thing about young Kapoor, is not that he comes in bad films, but sometimes he takes on some really really cheap roles. Box office failures are fine, critically bad movies, are fine too; but so long as he stops doing really cheap ones, even if he doesn’t have good movies to his name, at least he won’t be looked down as a lowly cheap comedian. Look at Barfi! it was mostly a comedy (an ode to great comedians like Charlie Chaplin and Donald O’Connor), but there was nothing cheap about it. So if he loves comedy, he ought to do more of it, without being cheap and tasteless. He is such a good actor, when he wants to be. AND he’s proved himself, with his portrayal of; a member of another family belonging to another Bollywood royalty, the second generation of the Dutt’s, to grace the silver screen; Sanjay Dutt (a.k.a. Sanju).

The Women in ‘Sanju’s’ Life (the reel & the real)

Manisha Koirala as Nargis Dutt

When it comes to women in Dutt jr.’s life, who best to start with, but his graceful mother; Mother India herself, Bollywood superstar of the 50’s, Nargis. Nargis, was a talented actress and a beautiful star, of classics like Andaz (1949), Awaara (1951), Deedar (1951), Shree 420 (1955) and (her most notable) Mother India (1957), to name some. It’s during the shooting of Mother India, when during an accidental fire on the set, actor Sunil Dutt (who was playing her wayward son, in the movie) ran in and rescued her. Both sustained injuries, and film was halted. Dutt was hospitalized, and Nargis nursed him to back health, and they soon fell in love. Eventually they got married, resulting in Sanjay Dutt’s existence, his controversial life, which in turn inspired a magnificent movie. If the sets of Mother India, never caught fire, during a shoot of a fire scene (both were professional actors, and neither used stunt doubles), Sunil Dutt and Nargis might never have happened (a Hindu-Muslim love story of the late 50’s), and Sanjay Dutt would never have been born. Sadly, Nargis Dutt, succumbed to cancer, and died at the young age of 51, in 1981 (less than a month away, from her 52nd Birthday).

Manish Koirala, a brilliant actress of the 90’s & early noughties (who has actually worked with actor Sanjay Dutt, as well), does an incredible role, as a middle-aged Nargis Dutt. Back in 1994, when 1942: A Love Story (1994) starring Koirala alongside Anil Kapoor, was released; there was this famous umbrella scene which was reminiscent of a scene from the song Pyar Hua, Ikrar Hua… from Shree 420, beautifully showcasing an on-screen romance between, Raj Kapoor (Ranbir Kapoor’s grandfather) and Nargis (off-screen too, Raj Kapoor and Nargis were known to be lovers, and were in a long term relationship, back in the late 40’s & early/mid-50’s, but as he was a married Hindu man, not willing to leave his wife for this beautiful Muslim actress, he was madly in love with, Nargis finally broke it off. This was before Mother India happened, and fate took a different route). The fact is, back in 1994, everyone spoke of how the Nepali born, Manisha Koirala, felt a lot like Nargis; especially thanks to that red umbrella scene, at the start of the song, Rim Jhim Rim Jhim from 1942: A Love Story. And almost 2½ decades later, we see Koirala play, an older version, of the renowned actress of 50’s Bollywood.

Manisha Koirala does not feel like Nargis in Sanju. But she essays the role with grace and elegance, and one can imagine, a middle aged Nargis being just as beautiful, kind and elegant. The few scenes with the Mother and son (a mother, who tries to hide her ailing health from the son; and a drugged out son, who witnesses his mother’s death, but is unaware of whether what happened moments before she died, was real or was he hallucinating – something Dutt jr. would regret for the rest of his life) are truly heart rending.

Manisha Koirala, herself, is a cancer survivor. She mentioned how difficult it was to relive the trauma, while playing another person, and that too such a well reputed actress, suffering through cancer.

Sonam Kapoor as Ruby

Adorable Sonam Kapoor, does a touching portrayal of Sanjay Dutt’s girlfriend of the early 80’s. In the movie, the character is fictionalized, and named Ruby. Yet, it’s obviously based on actress, Tina Munim (now Tina Ambani), who was his beautiful girlfriend, at the time. We see Ruby and her parents ridiculed and suffer, at the hands of Dutt jr., again and again. Young Dutt, is so heartless, even when Ruby’s father (a comical cameo by Boman Irani) dies, he has no feelings for Ruby’s family, but his own selfish desire to own her.

Even, when his friend convinces Ruby (as she is about to marry an NRI, as per her parents wish) that Dutt truly loves her, and she leaves her fiancé to marry Dutt jr., Sanju is way too drugged and enjoying an acid trip at home. He has sold the ‘mangalsutra’ (a necklace that an Indian groom ties on the bride’s neck, during an authentic Indian wedding ceremony) he made for her, with a Penguin (Ruby’s favourite bird), for drugs. She had been waiting for ages at the registrar’s office to get married to him (in a civil marriage). The scene where she confronts the drugged out Sanju, inquiring where her ‘mangalsutra’ is, and the drugged-out Dutt insultingly puts the toilet seat on her neck, breaks your heart. How much more can she take? She of course, comes to her senses and breaks up, but feels no animosity towards him. Did young Tina Munim really go through so much, because she loved him?? It’s hard to say, how much is fictional, how much real; but young love can be blind, blind to their partner’s faults. Kudos to her for braving up, and finally leaving him. Which Munim actually did, and she later married Anil Ambani, son of Indian business tycoon, Dhirubhai Ambani; whose life inspired the excellent epic movie, Guru (2007) starring Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai.

The song Mein Badhiya, Tu bhi Badhiya…, from Sanju, which was originally picturized with Sonam Kapoor (and I had seen, and loved the retro 60’s/early70’s style song on Youtube), had been edited. The first bit of the song is there, but the entrance of Sonam Kapoor, driving into the studio, and consequent dance sequence, are not in the movie. The rest of the songs aren’t that entertaining. Except for “Kar Har Maidaan Fateh“, which has a deep meaning dealing with with Dutt’s victory over his drug abuse, Dutt’s surreal LSD fueled trip with “Ruby, Ruby” and the fun filled, Mein Badhiya, Tu bhi Badhiya…, the rest songs from the soundtrack are not that great or memorable, and quite unnecessary. The few classic tunes hummed by various cast members are interesting, and nostalgic.

Sonam Kapoor, happens to be one of my favourite actresses of today. Initially, I loved her as a fashionista (see my post Bollywood’s young Fashionista turns 29 today from June 2014), and since watching her brilliant role in Neerja (2016), a movie I got to see on the big screen, she’s gained more of my respect as a film artiste (also see my post TEN (Plus+2) Movies released Last Year from January 2017). Sonam Kapoor is the daughter of Anil Kapoor, star of films like Mr. India (1987), 1942: A love Story (which I spoke of earlier), and of course the Oscar winning British Film, Slumdog Millionaire (2008) – which propelled daddy Kapoor towards Hollywood fame and international appreciation.

Dia Mirza as Manyata Dutt

Dia Mirza does a decent enough role as, Manyata Dutt, Sanjay Dutt’s second official/third unofficial (explanation further down) and current wife. Dia Mirza was an Indian Beauty Queen, who went onto win the title of Miss Asia Pacific 2000. She later appeared in quite a number of Indian films, but wasn’t that great a success, besides being quite a capable actress. Even here, she doesn’t have much of a role, but she still manages to make it her own, and be noticed, as the ever supporting wife. Sanjay Dutt has two little children (twins) from his current wife (i.e. from Manyata), and an older daughter from his first marriage. Dutt was married to actress, Richa Sharma, in the late 80’s. They married in 1987, and within two years she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Dutt and Sharma separated, apparently sometime after the diagnosis. She died in 1996, in her parents home, in the United States of America. After a major court battle, the custody of their child was handed over to the maternal grandparents (i.e. Richa Sharma’s parents). Dutt’s eldest daughter still lives with her maternal grandparents, in New York, USA. Soon Dutt was involved with model, Rhea Pillai, with whom he had a long-term relationship, who stood by his side, during his first jail stint. In fact, Rhea Pillai was his second wife, through a temple marriage (which makes her his second wife, in an unofficial/unregistered sense). But they went their separate ways/divorced in 2008. He married his third wife (officially/registered second marriage), Manyata Dutt, in 2008, itself. She has been standing by her man through thick and thin, since.

Both, his first wife, and his unofficial second wife, are missing in this bio-pic, Sanju. The movie does mention, he is a notorious womanizer, and has slept with 300 odd women, including prostitutes; but portrays him in a monogamous relationship, since his marriage to Mayanta Dutt (which might be true). Yet the film fails to even mention his first two marriages, let alone that he has an older daughter, from his first marriage. Not to mention how many illegitimate kids, he might have spawned.

Manyata Dutt, celebrated her 40th Birthday, on 22nd July 2018.

Anushka Sharma as Winnie Diaz

Anushka Sharma plays Winnie Diaz, a fictional writer, who is roped into write Sanjay Dutt’s biography. Such a person, apparently never existed. It’s through her eyes, we mostly see Dutt’s life unfold, as she does her research. Though fictional, she is an interesting addition to the movie, where she records different aspects of Dutt’s life through different interpretations, by an interesting array of people. But, it’s mostly Sanju’s character that narrates the story (flashbacks into the 80’s & 90’s), and the rest is shown in real time.

Karishma Tanna playing a slut

Karishma Tanna, plays the love interest of Kamlesh Kanhaiyalal Kapasi (Vicky Kaushal), a village idiot and Sanju’s best friend, who is still a virgin. Through jet lag, Kamlesh Kanhaiyalal Kapasi falls asleep, and Sanju (being the notorious playboy who self-admittingly has slept with over 300 women) screws Pinky, with no hang-ups whatsoever. What a jerk?? He might be a playboy, BUT at least, in this context, he ought to have though of his friend, who has been there for him throughout. Sure, the woman is a slut, herself, and has no calms of sleeping with her boyfriend’s best friend, who also happens to be an actor; but Dutt could have walked out, for the sake of his friend. What’s worse is, Dutt jr. has no conscience, he does not feel bad for his friend, for hurting his best friend. Dutt feels devoid of any feelings, in this instance.

It’s hard to say how real the character of Pinky is, but Karishma Tanna most probably portrays, any random slut, responsible for Dutt’s arousal. Yeah, the bugger is so innocent, right???

The trio of actresses playing Sanjay Dutt’s two sisters

Three virtually unknown actresses, play Dutt’s sister’s (the two daughter’s of Sunil and Nargis Dutt). In real life, Namrata and Priya Dutt played a major role in their brother, Sanjay Dutt’s life. Especially Priya Dutt, who was there supporting him, throughout his prison years, along with their father, Sunil Dutt. But the two sisters are hardly noticeable, and have practically no dialogues. Blink, and you’ll miss them.

Back in November 2010, during a visit to New Delhi, India, I came across this non-fiction book, Mr and Mrs Dutt: Memories of our Parents, written by Namrata Dutt Kumar and Priya Dutt. A wonderfully written book, about their family life, struggles and what not. A really interesting biographical read with a spread of a stunning collection of Black&White photographs (colour photographs have been printed in Black&White, for a monotonal viewing pleasure). The fact it was written by Sunil and Nargis Dutt’s daughters made me more interested in reading it, and it was truly worth it. A keepsake. Sadly, more prominence hasn’t been given to these two girls, in the movie, especially Priya Dutt.

‘Sanju’s’ Two Male Anchors

Paresh Rawal as Sunil Dutt

Paresh Rawal, plays the ever worried father, Sunil Dutt. Worried about his wife’s deteriorating health, worried about his son’s drug addiction and later jail terms. Rawal, feels nothing like Sunil Dutt, but he does a good enough role of a worried father. Any father, worried about his son’s life. He doesn’t play Sunil Dutt, but he plays a concerned father, beautifully.

As much as the movie is about Sanjay Dutt, it is also about Sunil Dutt. The great bond between a father and son, and the father’s never ending trials and tribulations for the sake of his wayward son. Sunil Dutt comes across as a saint, and in a sense he was. Both Sunil and Nargis Dutt were known for their humanity. And humanity is the religion they preached to  their kids, even though Dutt jr. didn’t adhere to their preaching.

Though we see the father going out of his way to save his son, in various instances, one crucial fact is missing. To get bail for his son, through an opposing political party ruling the state of Maharashtra, at the time, Sunil Dutt, a Congress party politician, did not contest in Mumbai’s next election. That’s just one of the things he had to forgo, for the sake of his son.

The scene where Sunil Dutt, a Hindu, mentions he was threatened by an underworld Muslim don, when he wanted to marry Nargis, a Muslim; is bogus. As Nargis was in a long-term relationship with Raj Kapoor, a Hindu, and that too a married man, long before she met Sunil Dutt. Plus, the Bombay (now Mumbai) underworld was not that powerful in the 50’s, when Sunil Dutt and Nargis got married. In fact, Haji Mastan (whom Dutt refers to in the movie), gained power only in the 60’s & 70’s. Haji Mastan’s life was inspiration behind, the Bollywood movies, Deewaar (1975) and Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai (2010).

Vicky Kaushal as Kamlesh Kanhaiyalal Kapasi

It’s hard to say, who Kamlesh Kanhaiyalal Kapasi is based on, but he is way too good a friend for Sanju. Various sorces attribute the character to be either Dutt jr.’s close friend Paresh Ghelani, or actor Kumar Gaurav. I don’t know much about this Paresh Ghelani, other than the fact that he is a close friend of Sanjay Dutt’s. So it’s hard to say, whether the fictional character played by Vicky Kaushal is based on him or not. But Kaushal’s character is definitely not based on Kumar Gaurav. True, Kumar Gaurav too is a close friend of Sanjay Dutt’s. Yet, Kamlesh Kanhaiyalal Kapasi comes across as an unsophisticated village fool, with a good heart, and genuine personality. Kumar Gaurav too might be known to have a good heart and down to earth personality, yet he was a highly sophisticated young man, and 80’s film star, and is truly a sophisticated mature gentleman, today. Gaurav, son of Rajendra Kumar (Rajendra Kumar played the other son of Nargis, and brother to Sunil Dutt, in Mother India) married Namrata Dutt in 1981 (and since then she goes as Namrata Dutt Kumar). Gaurav and Sanjay Dutt had a falling out, when Gaurav married Dutt jr.’s sister, but they regained their friendship, and Gaurav too stood by his brother-in-law, throughout his prison term. So like Sanjay Dutt’s sister’s, Gaurav doesn’t have a part in the movie, in fact he is missing altogether, more like Sanjay Dutt’s first two wives.

Though we see Dutt jr. being a good, though somewhat troublesome, friend; in real life Sanjay Dutt is known to have put several friends in trouble, to the extent of them getting arrested along with him.

The Verdict

There are lot of discrepancies in the movie, on the facts from Sanjay Dutt’s life, which has led to criticism of whitewashing Dutt’s image (after all the film was directed by Rajkumar Hirani, a close friend of Sanjay Dutt). Which could be true, as despite all his flaws, he comes out a troubled human with a good heart, whom we sympathize with. But if you had never heard of Sanjay Dutt, didn’t know anything about his life, and watch this movie; immaterial of the source material being fact or fiction; you’d love this. And that’s how a film ought to be judged. A movie should be able to stand on it’s own merit, it doesn’t matter that it’s based on a book, a play, a real-life incident, et al. No harm in doing a comparison, with your knowledge of it’s source material, but what truly matters is, how well it works as a movie. So, although mostly fictionalized, with removal of key characters and moments applicable to Dutt’s life, is a pity; overall it’s an amazingly well made movie. And I loved it.

Sanju (2018)
My Rating: Excellent – 10/10 !!!!!

I watched Sanju, on Thursday, 19th of July, 2018, at the Liberty Cinema.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

A strict Calvinist missionary from New England, marries a young girl who’s been pining for her beloved sea captain; from whom she hasn’t heard from, for two years. Soon the missionary, with wife in tow, sets sail for a new life, in a new land, known as the islands of Hawaii. Cultures clash, religious ideals clash, between the blinded Calvinist Ministers and the equally blinded Hawaiian natives, while caught in the middle of all this, is the young new bride, who tries to be the mediator. Added to this, whilst pregnant with her first child, the sea captain she yearned for at one time, touches the shores of Hawaii, only to cause chaos and mayhem, in the once paradise islands.

Such a brilliant classic, an epic saga of civilising the tribes of the Hawaiian islands; is an underappreciated gem of a movie, that spans three decades. Based on the third chapter ‘From the Farm of Bitterness’, of an even more epic scale novel, Hawaii by James A. Michener, the story is known for it’s historical accuracy. Plus, the lead male character of Reverend Abner Hale (Max von Sydow), is loosely based on the life of missionary Hiram Bingham I; leader of the first group of American Protestant missionaries from New England, who introduced Christianity to the Hawaiian islands. Added to which the character of Queen Malama (Jocelyne LaGarde) was based on Queen Ka’ahumanu, the actual ruler of Maui when the missionaries reached these beautiful islands. Yet, though the film’s historical background is spot on, the tale is fictional, and not based on a true story, just inspired by one.

Julie Andrews and Max Von Sydow

The ever wonderful Julie Andrews plays the minister’s young bride, Jerusha Bromley Hale. The sensible, the practical and the open minded personality, who dares to argue with her husband for the sake of the lovely innocent natives, at the same time, tries to make the natives understand her husband’s point of view. She’s compassionate, and understanding, without judging anyone or taking any sides. She’s the one who tries to bring a truce. Meanwhile, a mother to three kids (as the movie goes forward), she keeps having to deal with the animosity between her adamant husband, and the equally adamant captain she had once hoped to marry. The equally adamant captain, is played by Richard Harris.

Directed by Oscar winning director, George Roy Hill, with such a superb cast, this critically acclaimed movie, was the 2nd highest-grossing film of 1966; yet it’s a wonder this movie hasn’t gained much popularity, since. Is it because it’s too long ?? The original cinematic release was 189 minutes long (thus over 3 hours long); but the version I saw, was the edited version, of a 161 minutes (thus practically ½ an hour of film footage was missing). As a true film buff, I’d really like to watch the film in it’s entirety, with the missing ½ hour.

Richard Harris, Julie Andrews and Max Von Sydow

The screenplay co-written by Dalton Trumbo (see my post Trumbo 9/11 from September 2016, as well) and Daniel Taradash; Hawaii, originally was slated to star Audrey Hepburn and Alec Guinness, in the lead; and Rock Hudson as the Captain. And director Fred Zinnemann was meant to helm the project. But as Zinnemann and Trumbo had conflict of interest, Zinnemann walked out of the Director’s chair. Soon, forces of nature took over, and due to bad weather, and various other reasons, the project was delayed, not just a few years, but by over half a decade. Actors Gene Hackman and John Cullum, were known for their appearances in film, pre-fame. Added to which the film is notable for making the (unaccredited) debut of actress, Bette Midler; as well as the only film appearances of, Jocelyne LaGarde (who gained an Oscar nomination in the ‘Best Supporting Actress’ category, making her the only performer in Academy Award history to be nominated for the only performance ever given), and Max von Sydow’s two sons, Henrik von Sydow and Clas S. von Sydow.

I can imagine Audrey Hepburn doing justice to role of Jerusha Bromley Hale; just as brilliantly as Julie Andrews, has done. Alec Guinness would have been just as spot on, as the adamant Reverend Abner Hale, as Max von Sydow was. And no doubt, Rock Hudson would have been even more dashing in Richard Harris’ shoes, as Captain Rafer Hoxworth. Pity, despite it’s success in 1966, and having been nominated for seven Oscars (the following year), the film hasn’t aged well. To some extent, it does feel like a film made in the 50’s, than the 60’s. But I still enjoyed it, and despite a few minor flaws, I can’t accuse Hawaii of being anything, less than pure excellence.

I watched Hawaii late Sunday night, on 11th June 2017, but actually downloaded this movie, beginning of last month (May 2017).

Hawaii (1966)
My Rating: 10/10!!!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

There’ve been quite a few fantastical tales, on celluloid reels, of humans falling in love with the unreal, and vice versa. Lets take a look at some great, and some far from great, renditions of this unusual phenomena, explored mainly on the Big Screen. Fairy tales for more mature audiences (teenagers and/or adults), if you may.
What brought about this sudden urge to write about unrealistic romances, portrayed in a realistic style on celluloid? I watched, Her (2013), back in March 2015 (on 22nd), and never got to write about it (of course films today aren’t made on celluloid, but am speaking in a general term, to reference cinema of the past). Plus it brought about memories of some really great films (as well as certain terrible movies), I’ve watched in the previous decades, going way back to my childhood.

In Her, a writer, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) falls for an electronic voice, without a body (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). In Lars and the Real Girl (2007) a lonely, simple headed, man, Lars (Ryan Gosling) falls for a sex toy, a female without a voice.

In Ruby Sparks (2012) a writer, Calvin (Paul Dano) creates a fictional character Ruby Sparks (played by Zoe Kazan) that comes to life. He fall in love with her, but treats her like his possession, in contrast to the sex toy, to whom, Lars, tends to show so much respect and affection towards. Ironically Lars doesn’t treat the sex toy as play thing, but Calvin treats Ruby, as a toy, making her do what he wants. An egoistical male’s god complex, of being in control of his woman. While Lars of Lars and the real Girl and Theodore from Her, are the exact opposite. Of course, when Theodore finds out the voice of Her is ‘in love’ with thousands of other human beings, he starts to feel jealous, knowing he wasn’t special. While we sympathise with Theodore and Lars, we can’t help but feel Calvin is a bloody prick.
Stranger than Fiction (2006), has a similar unreal premise, but am yet to watch it, so I shan’t comment on it further.

In the animated movie, Corpse Bride (2005), a man, Victor Van Dort (voiced by Johnny Depp), accidentally marries a corpse (voiced by Helena Bonham Carter). Of course in this case, it’s the corpse, who falls for the human. Yet, the corpse, itself, was a human being once, who was tricked and murdered by her paramour, on her wedding day. Similarly in the comedy, Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992), an Invisible man (Chevy Chase) and a woman (Daryl Hannah), fall for each other, yet the invisible man, being an actual human being, it makes it comparatively realistic. As in the case of Mr. India (Anil Kapoor) in Mr. India (1987), a vigilante who can become invisible with help of a devise created by his late father, happens to be the romantic object of many a women. He is still a human being. Yet, we see, the reporter, Seema (Sridevi), fall for the invisible vigilante, than his human self. In fact, she initially despises ‘Mr. India’ in his human form as Arun Verma, unaware that he is in fact her invisible hero. In Hollow Man (2000) and Invisible Strangler (1978), once the protagonists of these movies, find they can get away anything, in their invisible form, nothing stops them from acting on their lustful desires, committing rape/murder, on beautiful women.

In various superhero tales, you find a similar dilemma, as in Mr. India, faced by the love interest of the story. In Superman (1978), reporter Louis Lane (Margot Kidder) falls in love with Superman (Christopher Reeve), who actually is an alien from a distant planet. But she refuses to acknowledge, the affectionate advances from her co-worker Clark Kent, who happens to be her superhero in his human avatar. There have been quite a few ‘Superman’ films since.

Of course Superman is from another planet. But if you take other superhero’s; American conceptions like Batman (played on the Big Screen by many stars from 1966 till date), Spider-man (Nicholas Hammond, in the 70’s, Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield & Tom Holland, this century), or Bollywood creations like Shahenshah (Amitabh Bachchan) from Shahenshah (1988) and Krrish (Hrithik Roshan) from Krrish (2006) and Krrish 3 (2013), sequels to Koi…. Mil Gaya (2003); in all these stories, the superhero happens to be human, with superpowers, but their leading ladies don’t necessarily, easily, fall for the man, but have more of a desire for the vigilante, unaware the two are one and the same. In love with not just the unreal, but impending danger as well. Dangerous, risk taking, hero’s, seem sexually more appealing to the fairer sex, than a realistic human companion. These kind of films actually also put pressure on growing young men. As kids, most guys like the idea, of imagining themselves as superhero’s, for fun. But when in their teens, it’s more to do with appeasing the opposite sex, through false perceptions of masculinity, showcased in such movies. Sometimes foolishly young men might try and take unnecessary risks, just to get the attention of their female peers, with disastrous consequences.
If you take classic fairytales, we read as little children, like Beauty and Beast and Princess and Frog, this phenomena of man and beast is nothing new. Yet at the same time, both the ‘Beast’ and the ‘Frog’, are actually human beings, making it somewhat acceptable for children. If you take Greek mythology, there is the famous tale of Minotaur, where the Minotaur is the result of the Queen of Crete mating with a white bull. Added to which there are plenty of tales of Gods and human love stories, as well, in Greek Mythology. Then there is Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream. There have been plenty of movie versions of these classic tales and great old literature. In I, Frankenstein (2014); as I stated on twitter ‘another 21st century ruination of a 19th century classic’; this dull horror movie ends with the hint, that Frankenstein’s monster, a man made being, has found a human companion, after searching for over 200 years. On a lighter vein, in not so great films (yet no where as near as terrible as I, Frankenstein), like the comedy, Hercules in New York (1970), Arnold Schwarzenegger falls from the skies (and not to forget Schwarzenegger’s ridiculous Terminator franchise, from 1984 onwards, with the craziest and cheesiest storylines, ever). Like in Corpse Bride, a man accidentally awakens a goddess, in the near pathetic, Goddess of Love (1988), while in Love-Struck (1997) we see a woman who doesn’t believe in love (Cynthia Gibb) fall for Cupid (Costas Mandylor) and vice versa; and Cupid has to decide if he wants to leave his immortal form, and become human. Similarly in City of Angels (1998), an angel (Nicolas Cage) gives up his human form, for his love for a human being (Meg Ryan). Date with an Angel (1987) is about another union between a man and beautiful angel.

In the 80’s and 90’s, there were quite a few teen comedies, based on this concept of unrealistic love, helping a young man find the perfect looking partner, especially if the lead character is a geek or considered a loser, who cannot attain the affections of the opposite sex.

Weird Science (1985) and Virtual Sexuality (1999), are two films I haven’t watched, but the concept of the two teen movies, are the same. In Weird Science, two geeks create a ‘perfect’ woman (Kelly LeBrock), while in Virtual Sexuality, a girl creates herself a ‘perfect’ man (Rupert Penry-Jones).

Similar to Corpse Bride and Goddess of Love, in Mannequin (1987), an artist (Andrew McCarthy) falls for a Mannequin (Kim Cattrall). Big (1988) and Date with an Angel; the two movies combined resulted in the crappy Bollywood take, that was Chandra Mukhi (1993). The film was so bad, that it was credited as being a Salman Khan idea (the lead actor of the movie). Getting back to Tom Hanks, star of Big, back in the 80’s he did a lot of run on the mill comedies; that weren’t great, but were enjoyable enough, thanks to Hanks. In Splash (1984), we see Hanks falling for a mermaid. This adult fairy tale, is similar to the classic children’s fairy tale, The Little Mermaid.
Funny though, how all these Hollywood romances, dealing with unreal love, where the perfect looking lover, be it a mannequin, a fairy, a goddess or mermaid, were all hot white women. What happened to the browns, blacks and yellows? Where are the gays and lesbians? Are they considered less than perfect???? Added to which why is it most of time a man finding the perfect mate? And that too preferably a Blonde one? Even better if the blonde’s in a red hot attire? Like the sequence in The Matrix (1999), where Neo (played by Keanu Reeves), suddenly turns to take a good look at a blonde in a red dress. Why did she have to be blonde? What if he saw an African-American? or an Indian beauty? What if he turned to look at a man? Even in Virtual Sexuality, though it’s creation is a male, the man is a white male, Blond, with a perfect physique. Of course when it came to the Bollywood films, the perfect hero/heroine are both Indian’s, obviously. But United States of America, is a diverse country with all colours and creeds, where the indigenous people of the country are actually Red skinned, not white. Yet the 80’s (and 90’s to a certain extent) target audience, were the straight white American youth. Even though these reached beyond borders. And in a way, 80’s was one of the worst periods for Hollywood, with a load crappy B-movies, being made. Not all, but most, including these fantasy flicks.

Getting back on the topic of films based on unrealistic romances, there are some interesting films of ghosts and people falling for one another. Like in Corpse Bride (discussed above), these dead spirits were humans at one time, and are scavenging earth ’cause of some unfinished business. In the classic Bollywood film, Ek Paheli (1971), a modern man, Sudhir (played by Feroz Khan) falls in love with a mysterious woman (Tanuja), whom we discover later, to be a spirit of a dead pianist, who had committed suicide, during the Post-war era. The only way for the two to be together is, if Sudhir leaves his bodily form, releasing his spirit. Similarly in Somewhere in Time (1980), a modern day Chicago playwright, Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve) falls for a photograph of an Edwardian beauty, a stage actress, Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour). He manages to travel back in time through self hypnosis (see my post DVD Films From Last Month PART-II from December 2014). Yet, they can’t be together, as he’s thrown back into the late 70’s, due to a small mistake, he made, where she doesn’t exist anymore. The only way for them to be together, is for him to die of a broken heart, and letting their spirits unite in heavenly paradise forever.

In Paheli (2005) the exact opposite happens, a woman falls for a ghost, who’s taken her husband’s human form, and trapped her real husband’s spirit.

In Ghost (1990), when a banker, Sam Wheat ( Patrick Swayze) is killed by his best friend, he tries desperately to communicate with his fiancée, an artist, Molly Jensen (Demi Moore), with the help of psychic, Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg). While in Love Can Be Murder (1992) a ghost of a former private detective brings chaos into the life of a living private detective, (Jaclyn Smith).

Then, there are on-screen figures/cartoon characters, where the real world intervenes with the celluloid/animated characters. In Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), an animated character; based on classic Hollywood stars, Rita Hayworth, Veronica Lake and Lauren Bacall; seduces more than one human in the movie, and spectators alike. Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), has a movie character, walk off the screen and seduce his most ardent fan.

Getting back to man and beast/alien, PK (2014), sees a humanoid alien fall for a human. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), shows a great friendship between an alien and a human child. Planet of the Apes (1968) there is a famous kiss, between a man and an ape. In The Animal (2001) a man becomes sexually attracted to a goat in heat. He talks to the goat while rubbing her back and sloppily kisses her on the head. He then slaps her butt. All the popular Hulk films have a love interest

The Sixth Sense (1999), Warm Bodies (2013), Transcendence (2014), The Fly (1958 & 1986), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), Bewitched (2005), Pleasantville (1998), Ex Machina (2014), all have similar unusual human and non-(real)human interactions.
The Stepford Wives (1975 & 2004), tells of how an intelligent woman finds it difficult, to integrate into a narrow minded society, when she moves into a new neighbourhood. Of course, all the wives (in the original 75’ film) turn out to be machines (while in the 04’ version, only one husband turns out to be a robot, while the other wives have been brainwashed). This is also symbolical, of how difficult it is, when a lone intellectual person gets trapped in an archaic society, that constantly tries to drag him or her down with them. I personally know how hard is to stay afloat, without changing for the worse, living in an extremist narrow minded country. It’s not easy not to be influenced by negativity. And just like Katharine Ross (in the original), and Nicole Kidman (in the comical remake); I have to fight to stay sane, not to be swayed by the rest.

In Moon (2009), we see a clone in love with the image of a dead human; while in The Space between us (2017), a human born in Mars feels like an Alien on Earth; and falls for a human, who decides to leave with him to Mars.
Then there are people who fall for wordsmiths, that they’ve never met. In Saajan (1991) we see a woman (Madhuri Dixit) fall deeply in love with a poet (whom, nobody knows what he looks like), when a man claiming to be the poet (Salman Khan) seduces her, she falls for him. But does she truly love him? If he turns out not to be the poet, would she still love this man? In the Bengali (Bengali/English bilingual)Art Film, The Japanese Wife (2010) and the Hindi (Hindi/English bilingual) Art Film, The Lunchbox (2013), two people have an entire love affair through letters, without ever meeting each other. In The Japanese Wife, they even get married; through ink.

Last but not the least, lets have another look at the union of onscreen humans & Aliens (besides ‘Superman’). Similar to Meet Joe Black and Paheli (as spoken of earlier) Jeff Bridges in Starman (1984), plays an alien who clones himself, into a dead man’s form; and gets the widow to help him escape. In The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), David Bowie plays a humanoid alien, sleeping around with women of earth. And not to forget the Vampires/Werewolves and human unions; in films like, Nosferatu (1922), Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), The Hunger (1983) and the recent Twilight franchise.

Some great films on this unusual conception, some terrible, and some in between. But when they bring out something exceptional, those films are really worth checking out.

An ode to unrealistic romances.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

Special Note: I actually worked on this post, one day (on the 22nd of April 2015), exactly a month after I watched the movie, ‘Her’, in March 2015, I wrote most of In Love with the Unreal, and left it incomplete, hoping to work on it the next day or so. I never got back to it, and left it pending. Then, five months later, in September 2015, I re-worked on it a bit, stopped, and didn’t touch it at all through out the Sweet Year of 2016. So it was just hanging there, untouched and incomplete.…That is until today. This was my second incomplete post, from April 2015, that I left unpublished; the other being The Beatles in Art movements through the ages. But I did mange to post in … the following month, May 2015. Anyway, back in April that year, I hardly got anything much done, so far as blogging was concerned. I only posted one blog-post, i.e. The Great Villain Blogathon: Juhi Chawla as corrupt politician ‘Sumitra Devi’ in GULAAB GANG (2014), on the 15th of April, 2015. Now there are no more pending posts. All done!!

Nuwan Sen (Pending Posts from April 2015 !! All Complete!!!!!)
Also see (my), Nu Film Site of Nuwan Sen – Nu Sense on Film (nu Sense on Film), started in August 2015.

Now though, later in Year , am actually planning to close nu Sense on Film!!! I prefer to continue blogging here, on No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen.

Nuwan Sen

Queer Movies, and the month of Mardi-Gras

10 years ago, on 3rd March 2007, I witnessed the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras (simply known as Mardi-Gras, down under). This was when I was a student, doing my MA in painting (2006-2007), at COFA (College of Fine Arts), UNSW (University of New South Wales). It was a spectacular event, with gaudily glittering floats, semi naked bodies, cute kids, and the Sydney Mayor. In full swing, in the Australian summer, it went on, from dusk till dark.

The Mardi-Gars festival, is actually a carnival before Lent, in the Christian calendar. BUT, in Sydney, it’s a Pride carnival. Mainly due to the fact, that during the Pride month (which happens to be the summer month of June); is in the heart of winter, down under; where seasons go in the exact opposite direction to the norm. Christmas down under, is in the height of the hot sweltering summer. Thus, the Pride March, down under, has been interwoven with the Mardi-Gras; and is known as the Sydney Mardi Gras!! This takes place, on the first Saturday, of March. And thus, this year, it was held on 5th March 2017!!

In 2008, it was on the 1st of March, 2008. By now, I’d completed my 2nd Masters, and I was temporarily working as an ‘International Student Advisor’, at the ISS (International Student Services), in UNSW. I did not attend it that year (in fact, March 2007, has been the only Mardi-Gras carnival I’ve seen, so far). But I did, go and see, one movie, at the Mardi Gras Film Festival, held in Sydney, in February 2008. The movie was, The Houseboy (2007); and it was pathetic. One of the worst films I’ve ever seen.
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Downloading

Towards the end of last month, I came across a fellow film buff, from Pakistan, on Twitter, with whom I ended up chatting (something I rarely do, that too on Twitter). Soon I befriended him, on FB (Facebook). And on his FB timeline, he had mentioned Mahershala Ali, an actor of Muslim faith, who won the Oscar, for ‘Best Supporting Actor’ for Moonlight (2016), at the 89th Academy Awards, held on the 26th of February 2017; and how proud he felt of being a Muslim, himself, for the very first time. I simply asked him whether he’d seen Moonlight, and that I’d love to. He told me he had watched it twice; and said he’d send me the link to download the movie. And he did.

Now, back to 10 years ago; Year 2007!! I was dead against piracy, and downloading movies on the web, et al. I remember how my Australian friends & flatmates, use to react; feeling embarrassed at doing such things themselves. But I have been living in Sri Lanka, for 7½ years now, and not being able to watch any good movies (as they practically are never shown in Cinema’s here); I’ve had to rent or buy films occasionally, that happen to pirated copies. See my posts on Life of Pi  (2012) and Mud (2012) from October 2013.

But, luck had me travelling to, places like:-
New Delhi, India, between 2010 & 2012 (where you don’t see pirated copies in street shops, unlike Sri Lanka, and have to (literally) go to an underground market, if you want cheap pirated copies); where I not only got to buy good original DVD’s (even though they were with Indian copyrights, thus they have to be approved by the Indian Censor board, and certain films, have a universal rating, with sex and nudity edited out; and though am against censorship, I prefer to buy original DVD’s, than badly pirated ones, found in good shops, in Colombo and it’s suburbs, in Sri Lanka), but also got to see some great films on the Big Screen, on the superb Cineplex’s of New Delhi (see my list on IMDB titled Oscar Winners … and then some 2012, from March 2012).
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Adelaide & Sydney (once again), Australia, in November 2014; where too, I watched a couple of the superb films, on the big screen, plus bought many a DVD’s (see my Blogpost Holidaying in Australia, comes to an end from November 2014).

Meanwhile, back in Sri Lanka, I’ve tried to download films, from certain sites; either I get an error message, or it’s not available in this country, or something or the other. So, only way, I’d watch films online, is if they were available on Youtube; and late last year, streamed a few on iflix. But, as I mentioned above, that this nice new (virtual) friendly acquaintance of mine, sent me a link. And on the night of 28th February 2017; I started to download, Moonlight. By the time, I finished downloading the film, it was next morning, i.e. 1st March 2017. Thus Moonlight, was my very first successful download. And within the next few days, I downloaded four more s; in conjunction, with the month of (or rather the last week of), Sydney’s version, of the Mardi-Gras festivities.
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5 Queer Movie, within the first 5 Days, of March 2017

So here are my mini-critiques on the 5 films, I’ve downloaded so far (downloaded for the very first time). And unlike the pathetic film I saw at the  Mardi Gras Film Festival; except for one here (which too was Averagely good), all the rest of the films were pure excellence of Cinematic magic.
Thus, here is my own little ‘Queer Film Festival’!!!!!!
Beware of some spoilers below!!!!!
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1. MOONLIGHT (2016)

An Art-House Film, that bagged the ‘Best Picture’ Oscar, this year; a rarity, and a win after a fumble at the Academy Awards, that almost felt like Moonlight, had not won.

Moonlight is a touching portrayal of a young, afro-American, gay man, Chiron, brought up in a rough neighbourhood, in Miami, Florida, USA. With a drug addicted, emotionally unstable and abusive, mother; plus being bullied and beaten up in school; Chiron grows up to be a thuggish looking drug dealer, with a heart of gold. The finalé with the admission of virginity, by a very masculine, strong built man, pulls at your heart strings. This is a brilliant, coming of age, drama, about sexuality, true love, and what it’s like to be black in America, especially in a poverty stricken neighbourhood. Directed by Barry Jenkins, who won the ‘Best Director’ Oscar; Moonlight is a powerful piece of though provoking cinema. This is also Jenkins’ directorial, feature film, debut.

Ashton Sanders & Jharrel Jerome in a scene from Moonlight (2016)

The strong built, Trevante Rhodes, brings out such a sensitive performance; through a character, that outwardly generally feels frightening, with his gold chain, and gold teeth; and tough, overtly masculine, act; that touches deep, seeping into your veins, feeling the pain he’s going through. What a beautiful human being the character of Chiron is. The movie is told in three chapters, with three actors, playing one character, Chiron, in three stages of his life. Thus, the film has a main character (Chiron the protagonist of the film), but no lead actor, as such. The trio of actors perfectly essay the role of Chiron. In fact, the whole ensemble cast is terrific.

Mahershala Ali; who won the Oscar, for ‘Best Supporting Actor’ (making him the very first Muslim to win an Oscar, in the acting category); plays a kindly drug dealer, who becomes a mentor, a father figure, for little Chiron. Overall an excellent movie, that deserved the ‘Best Picture’ award, at the 89th Academy Awards, held last month. Moonlight, was the first film with an all-black cast, and the first LGBT film, to win an Oscar, for ‘Best Picture’ ever.

Watched Moonlight, late Wednesday night (1st of March, 2017)!!

My Rating:-
Excellent!!! 10/10!!
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2. CAROL (2015)

A Christmas Carol, a beautiful Christmas romance, and a wonderful, lesbian, love story.

Cate Blanchett is superb as ever, nothing surprising about that fact. Todd Haynes, is an equally great director, again nothing new about that. But, Rooney Mara, WOW!!! What a brilliant performance. I’ve seen excellent films, starring Mara, in small roles, like in The Social Network (2010) and Her (2013); but I hardly noticed her in these movies. So she definitely was the surprise packet in Carol, for which Rooney Mara, tied in, for the ‘Best Actress’ win, at the 68th Annual Cannes Film Festival, in May 2015 (see my posts The 68th Cannes Film Festival finalé and Winners & Disappointments – at Cannes 2015, from May 2015).

Carol, is based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith, titled The Price of Salt. Though am a fan of Highsmith thrillers, I haven’t read this particular novel. This story, is very different to Highsmith books (at least that’s what I gathered from the movie). While most Highsmith literature has to do with crime, interwoven with themes of sexuality; The Price of Salt seems to be, an out and out, love story, of two beautiful women; living in a male oriented, homophobic, world. Sadly, this is the world, a great American writer like, Patricia Highsmith, a lesbian herself, had to survive in, in the 1950’s.

Carol is a beautiful heart warming Christmas romance, set in America, in the foxy 50’s, starring two fantastic foxy actresses. Rooney Mara carries ’s charm and simplicity, with grace; and bold Blanchett, is outstanding as ever. Carol, has the potential of being, a future Hollywood classic. While Moonlight, is a brilliant, low-budget, American indie-film; Carol is the quintessential, modern day, Hollywood romance.

I had the luck of seeing Cate Blanchett, in real life, down under. Heavily pregnant, she came to UNSW, to see a digital television exhibit, at our University; in early 2008. I actually didn’t recognise her at once. For one thing I wasn’t aware she was pregnant. So, when I saw a heavily pregnant lady, come out of the exhibit, in a massive pair shades, with a little boy, and stare right at me; I didn’t really pay much heed to her (I was waiting to go inside, with a couple of friends; waiting for whoever was inside to come out). But I did feel she looked familiar. Then she removed her dark glasses (for our benefit 😀 ), and started speaking to a person in a wheelchair, quite near me. It was her voice I recognised, and it’s only then I looked at her. After she left, I asked the students working the exhibit, and they confirmed it was her!! If I already knew she was pregnant, I would’ve recognised her instantly.

Watched Carol late night, on the 2nd of March, 2017!!

My Rating:-
Excellent!!! 10/10!!
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3. HOLDING THE MAN (2015)

Above: Actors Ryan Corr & Craig Stott; as Timothy Conigrave & John Caleo, respectively; in the film, Holding the Man (2015)
Below: The real-life Timothy Conigrave & John Caleo

What better day to watch an Australian Gay-themed film, than on the night of, Sydney’s Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras parade. Of course being on this side of the Ocean, there is no way I can attend the parade, down under, in all it’s splendour. But instead, I watched an Australian Queer Film, based on a memoir; which was the basis of a stage play, with the same title, by Tommy Murphy (who is also accredited with the screenplay for this movie), that came out in 2006; whilst I was in living in Sydney. The play was a big hit in Sydney; and in 2007, I remember seeing an interview with Tommy Murphy, on a local television channel in Sydney. Unfortunately I never got to see the play.

As I mentioned, Holding the Man, is based on the true story, of Timothy Conigrave’s (stage artiste, writer & activist), 15 year love affair with John Caleo (who died of AIDS); which Conigrave penned down, in a book called, Holding the Man. Conigrave completed this book shortly before dying of an AIDS-related illness, himself, in October 1994, at the age of 34 (a month before his 35th Birthday).

Holding the Man, is a tragic story, chronicling the life of two gay men, in Melbourne, Australia, who fall in love as teenagers, in the 1970’s; and survive all odds, when the land of Oz, was still very homophobic. It’s a pity, Timothy Conigrave and John Caleo, weren’t able to see, how much the world has changed today, and how much more open, Australia is to gay culture today. In fact, Sydney is the next gay capital of the world, after San Francisco, in USA. BUT, no matter how open and free, homosexuality is down under, today; sadly many a Australians do take Gay people for a joke. Homosexuality is no laughing matter. People can still be pretty cruel, and inhumane, even in Australia, towards the LGBTIQ community.

Watched Holding the Man, late night, on the 4th of March, 2017. The movie finished past midnight!! A sad beautiful tale, filmed beautifully by director, Neil Armfield. This is among the rare greatest Australian films, I’ve seen.

My Rating:-
Excellent!!! 10/10!!
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4. REFLECTIONS OF A GOLDEN EYE (1967)

Brando & Taylor, on the sets of Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967)

Based on the novel, Reflections in a Golden Eye, by Carson McCullers; this beautifully made movie, with a uniquely stunning photographic technique, was directed by John Huston, starring Elizabeth Taylor, in the lead, with Marlon Brando, Brian Keith, Julie Harris and Robert Forster. This was Forster’s debut role, where he played a sexual desire, of Brando’s character.

The main plot of the movie, revolves around the wife of a Major, stationed in a US Army post in the American South in the late 1940’s. The said wife is played by Elizabeth Taylor. A young new Private (Forster), has a perverted obsession, who voyeurs around the violet eyed beauty (Taylor), watching her naked body reflect through the golden brown lens of his eye. It’s a beautifully filmed, movie about a peeping Tom; unaware, of the Major (Brando), the husband, of his sexual desire, himself has a repressed homosexual desire for the Private. Seeing the Private’s naked golden body, many a times in the brown woods, only adds to the Major’s already uncomfortable want for a young man, he cannot have.

Despite a great story line, and the beautiful photographic technique, the film isn’t without it’s flaws. The most visible one being, that of Taylor’s character. Though the film is set in the late 40’s, Elizabeth Taylor’s look, just doesn’t feel the post-war period. With the latest hairdo’s and fashionable dress sense, straight out of the 60’s; Taylor is magnificently more modern, than the setting of the movie. Another flaw is, the movie starts to bore in the middle, especially after the death of a mentally unstable character, played by Julie Harris. Added to which, Huston could have focused more on the Major’s repressed sexuality; i.e. the character played by Marlon Brando.

A scene from the film, Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967); featuring Robert Forster, in the original release of the picture, with the golden hue, that did not impress audiences.

Initially the movie was released, with a golden hue enveloping the movie, as a reference to a drawing of a golden peacock, in the movie; a golden peacock in whose eye, the world is a mere reflection. But audiences did not seem to get this symbolic aspect, thus the original copy was withdrawn from cinema’s, and a normal coloured version re-released. I saw the ordinary colour version, but I’d love to check out Huston’s original aesthetic creation; with the warm sepia tint, over the colour film.

None the less, it’s a very admirable effort by John Huston. I watched Reflections in a Golden Eye on Sunday afternoon, 5th March 2017!!!!

My Rating:-
Average Fare!! 6/10!
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5. SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY (1971)

Last but not the least, most probably my favourite of the lot. What a clever, unusual film. The 60’s & 70’s were definitely the period that Hollywood ruled; bringing out bold unique plots.

Starring Peter Finch, Glenda Jackson and Murray Head; and brilliantly directed by John Schlesinger; Sunday Bloody Sunday, is a very mature, open minded, intelligent story. Murray Head plays a bisexual; who has two partners. One, played by Finch, and the other by Jackson. And each is aware of the other’s existence; and have a mature understanding, and acceptance, of the other, though neither of the, young bisexual scientific artist’s, partners have met each other. What’s more interesting, is how decent these people are, and in what a civilised manner, they handle sharing the same partner. They go on living a very normal life, with their lover, who finds time to spend with both, his male lover, as well as his female lover.

This is a very modern outlook, we don’t really see in this century. Of course, there are plenty of films on threesomes, extreme sexual deviations; but most of the time it’s showcased in a sleazy manner. That’s the beauty of this film, despite having a homosexual man and heterosexual woman, sharing one lover, there is nothing sordid about it. It’s so sophisticatedly handled, and is made to feel, so normal, and that too in a movie, that came out in the 70’s decade; it’s a wonderful feat.

One of the most intellectually adult movies, I’ve ever come across. Peter Finch, is spot on, as the elderly gay man, who is not seen suffering because of his sexuality, and who happens to a well to do Jewish doctor. Glenda Jackson plays a divorcee, who suffers from a childhood trauma, during the war. And each of them lives a relatively happy life, sharing one man, without suffocating the lover. And the lover, being bisexual, enjoys openly romancing both. And yet, it’s only the two of them he romances, and he doesn’t hide the fact he’s also seeing the other. So technically he is faithful to both his lovers.

A lot does happen in the movie, but it’s more character based, where these three people live a very civilized life, in a very normal manner, with acceptance and understanding. Isn’t this the kind of normal acceptance, of people who are different, and understanding them, that could make the world a better place. In a way, a very futuristic attitude. It’s a society that doesn’t have to fight for Gay Right’s, or Women’s Lib, et al; why?? ‘cause gay men and women are seen, living a relatively liberal lifestyle, with no judgement. Their friends accept them, friends’ children play with them, they are asked to take care of the kids, they trust each other; isn’t this the kind of normality, that ought to really exist, in today’s world, but sadly does not. Schlesinger, though set the movie in the 70’s itself, has forecasted a very progressive future, which should have made it’s way, by now.

This British film, is a masterpiece of cinematic intellect. A must watch. The Best film, in this list, I watched Sunday Bloody Sunday, late Sunday night (5th March 2017); the movie ended past midnight. Totally worth it!!

My Rating:-
Excellent!!! 10/10!!
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So that’s all folks, the 5 films I watched, within the first 5 days, of this month. Four of which, were pure excellence!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

Last Friday (on 18th of November, Year 2016), watched the DVD of The Devil is a Woman (1935). A story of a man’s obsession for a woman he could never own; and a woman who refuses to be any man’s possession.
the-devil-is-a-woman-marlene-dietrich-1Set in the early 1900’s, during the Spanish carnival season; a hedonistic period of merry making; the entire story revolves around, a woman who seeks pleasure for the self, with no care for others feelings. At the same time, the men who lust for her are no saints themselves; and they deserve what they get (or rather not get), in return. The Devil is a Woman, is based on a French novel, La Femme et le Pantin by Pierre Louÿs; the English title of which reads as, The Woman and the Puppet.
the-devil-is-a-woman-marlene-dietrich-2The Synopsys
The movie begins with the carnival, in the beginning of the last century, in southern Spain, where a wanted man, Antonio Galvan (Cesar Romero), for his revolutionary ideals, walking through the merriment, sees a beautiful veiled woman. He’s instantly infatuated. The woman, he finds out, is called Concha Pérez (Marlene Dietrich). Soon he meets an old friend at the pub, an ex-military officer, Captain Don Pasqual ‘Pasqualito’ Costelar (Lionel Atwill), and tells him of his interest for a woman named Concha. Pasqualito then cautions Antonio against her, telling him to be careful of that woman, and soon Pasqualito tells him of his own past experience, when he fell for Concha, five years before. Told in flashback we see Captain Pasqualito’s obsession for Concha Pérez (back in the late 1800’s, and how she constantly tricks him, and runs off with his money. As the movie proceeds, we realise what a fool Pasqualito is, and at the same time, how violent and nasty he can be.

Marlene Dietrich and Lionel Atwill in a scene from the film.

Marlene Dietrich and Lionel Atwill in a scene from the film.

The Character roles
Marlene Dietrich is hilariously superb as a morally questionable character. Yet she hardly lets the two lead men, enjoy her lips, let alone her body. She definitely cons them, and especially uses, the Captain, Pasqualito, for his money. At the same time we don’t feel sorry for Pasqualito either, for he can be brutal. True, she not much of a lady, at the same time she is honest on issues of her untrustworthiness, but what right has he to hit her black and blue. It makes him less of a man, and not enough to even pity the fool. She, at the same time, is a bold woman, who doesn’t let men overpower her, mentally. After she’s beaten by Pasqualito, she comes off unscathed, with not a care in the world. I’ve seen very few movies of Dietrich, and her portrayals are generally that of very serious characters (with a touch of humour, perhaps); but never seen her do something so farcically fun. Thus, this was something really different for her. A comical Dietrich is practically unheard of. And I loved her mischievous performance. Lionel Atwill is superb as a fool in lust, than love. It’s amazing how much Atwill resembled Josef von Sternberg (the director of the movie). Was there reel life, imitating the real? Was von Sternberg obsessed with Dietrich, and thus portrayed her as a devilish woman (though not necessarily as heartless and vindictive, as the men in movie see her as) in this film? She’s definitely not evil, as the title suggests, though men who can’t have her, might accuse her of being so, out of spite. None the less, after collaborating in seven movies together, this was the last film Dietrich and Josef von Sternberg worked on. He was a superb director, and she was his discovery. A pity, they went on to make movies for another couple of decades (Dietrich even longer, further down the years), but they never ever worked together again. YET, the collaboration of one director, with one actress, creating cinematic magic, in seven films, is till date, unmatched in the history of cinema.

Marlene Dietrich and Cesar Romero in a scene from the film.

Marlene Dietrich and Cesar Romero in a scene from the film.

Besides, Dietrich and Atwill, Cesar Romero is hilarious, as an exiled rebel, secretly in back in Spain, whose character of Antonio Galvan, despite listening to the former Captain’s advise, and agreeing on having nothing to do with Concha; gets a bout of amnesia (not literally), and goes running straight into the arms of Concha. Of course, Pasqualito’s advise, wasn’t out of any good intention, but more due to his own desire to own Concha, for himself; to get Antonio Galvan, out of the picture. The rest of the supporting cast are just as enjoyable in their respective roles; Concha’s mother, a con woman herself; the one-eyed woman who practically makes fun of Pasqualito’s desperate state, straight to his face; the governor, Don Paquito (Edward Everett Horton), who himself has his brain in his crotch, when it comes to the affairs of the seductive Concha; etc etc etc… The actors, and the superb direction by Josef von Sternberg, make the movie, with hardly much of a plot to speak of, an enjoyable affair.

Marlene Dietrich, on the sets of the film, (inset - right) Costume Designer, Travis Banton

Marlene Dietrich, on the sets of the film, (inset – right) Costume Designer, Travis Banton

One of the elegant Edwardian costumes designed, in White Chiffon and Lace, by Travis Banton, for Marlene Dietrich.  The photograph above, this sketch, shows Dietrich in this particular outfit, on the sets of The Devil is a Woman (1935)

One of the elegant Edwardian costumes designed, in White Chiffon and Lace, by Travis Banton, for Marlene Dietrich.
The photograph above, this sketch, shows Dietrich in this particular outfit, on the sets of The Devil is a Woman (1935)

The Production Design & Costumes
With the beautiful scale of art design and marvellous costumes, this movie would have looked spectacular, if it were made in colour. In fact, the film won the award for ‘Best Cinematography’ at the Venice Film Festival.

The costumes itself, besides being marvellous, are symbolic as well. We see Dietrich character wear a lot of lace, and hide her face in veils and masks. It pertains to her personality, as well, besides her love for fine things. Her hiding her face behind a literal mask, could mean she’s also hiding behind a metaphorical one, as well. Is she just a vulnerable young woman, afraid of being owned, afraid of commitment, just pretending to be a femme fatal?? Does she just pretend to have a block of “Ice” where she should have a heart?? Does she really not care, for anyone?? The duel sequence tells us otherwise. We get to see what’s actually beneath her nonchalant attitude. As does her visit to the hospital to see Pasqualito. When she lets go of Antonio Galvan, we see she’s trying to save him from being arrested. Of course (spoiler alert), last minute, at the border crossing, she refuses to run off to Paris with Galvan. She won’t leave her beloved Spain, but at the same time it doesn’t specifically show her going back to Pasqualito, either. She’s an independent woman, even at the end, and belongs to no one.

RIGHT: Audrey Hepburn in How to Steal a Million (1966) LEFT: Marlene Dietrich in The Devil is a Woman (1935)

LEFT: Audrey Hepburn in How to Steal a Million (1966)
RIGHT: Marlene Dietrich in The Devil is a Woman (1935)

The Audrey Hepburn Connection
Getting back to the beautiful costumes (literally speaking), they are the zenith and nadir of fashion. We see her in poverty, conning Pasqualito in gaudy costumes, in the flashbacks (towards the end of the 19th century), and as a very fashionable lady, in glamorous attire in the, movie settings, present (early 20th century). Some of these gorgeous costumes (of the 1900’s), by Travis Banton, reminded me of the stylish costumes of Audrey Hepburn, from My Fair Lady (1964). Of course, both the movies are set during the Edwardian era, one in Spain, the other in UK. But these two movies comprise some of the most stylish costumes from that period, before the Great War; over a hundred years ago. Of course, My Fair Lady is set in the 1910’s, whilst The Devil is a Woman, is set in the late Victorian, to the beginning of the Edwardian era. At the same time the British era’s don’t necessarily apply to Spain. Dietrich’s costumes in the flashbacks are more like that of a gypsy woman (I haven’t posted any of the pictures with gaudy costumes above, but just the more fashionably elite attire, worn by the glamorous Dietrich, thus, below I’ve posted a couple of hideous costumes, worn by her, seen in flashback sequences). Again here, her cheap glittery attire, seen in flashback, to the more elegant Edwardian outfits, in the, films, present day, could again by symbolic of her character. It seems to showcase her improvement in taste, her sophistication, and her growth, as a individual, and not just as a fashionista. In the more elite settings, we see Dietrich’s character have a heart, though see refuses to openly show her kinder, and more vulnerable, side. As I mentioned earlier, she’s seen hiding behind masks, a plenty, both literally and figuratively.

Despite the stylish costumes, worn mainly, in the latter part of the movie, the lace eyewear, worn by Marlene Dietrich, at her initial entrance into the movie’s carnival (she’s seen in lace eyewear more than once), reminded me of the black lace eyewear, worn by Audrey Hepburn, in How to steal a Million (1966), released in the year know as Sexty-Sex!! Of course, How to steal a Million, was set in the mid-60’s itself.

Couple of gaudy costumes, worn by Marlene Dietrich, in the movie, in the flashback sequences, set in the Victorian era.

Couple of gaudy costumes, worn by Marlene Dietrich, in the movie, in the flashback sequences, set in the late-Victorian era.

One thing missing here, is Dietrich’s trade-mark, sharp, clean-cut, masculine trouser suits. Her androgynous sexual ambiguity, and her bold masculine femininity, is something missing in this movie. We don’t see her, even in drag, at least once. Another rare differentiation from her usual roles. Pretty much out of her comfort zone, yet ironically this is supposedly one of Marlene Dietrich’s favourite roles ever. It’s definitely a very non-Dietrich role, in very non-Dietrich attire. Especially in those ridiculous gypsy style clothing, she’s practically unrecognizable.

The Controversy
The movie met heavy censorship, back in the day. Spain was outraged with the depiction of Spanish people in the movie. And once the Spanish government threatened to boycott all Hollywood films, Paramount Studio’s got hold of all prints in circulation, and burned them all. But Marlene Dietrich saved a copy, for herself, thus the movie still survives, in the 21st century. None the less a very bold movie, to come out of the 30’s, and most probably unacceptable back then (due to the crazed Hays Code of Law), that a woman should find herself in charge of herself, and not running behind a man.

The Dietrich DVD’s
Back in mid-September 2016, my father went to the States, for a an official visit. I asked my sister, who lives in USA, to get me some books and DVD’s, and sent her a massive list. She sent me most of the books, and six DVD’s. One of the DVD’s was a collection of Marlene Dietrich films, titled, “Marlene Dietrich: The Glamour Collection”, comprising of five of her films. I watched Morocco (1930) and Blonde Venus (1932), last month (October 2016) itself. Am yet to watch the rest from her collection.
the-devil-is-a-woman-marlene-dietrich-through-the-gateThe Dietrich Films
The first I heard of Marlene Dietrich, was as a teenager, in 1992, the year Dietrich died, aged 90. I saw a magazine full of her glamorous pictures. The first film of hers, that I know of, that I watched, was in 2002. When I was doing my MA in International Cinema (2002-2003), at the University of Luton, Luton, UK; in my first semester, for the module, ‘Post-colonial and third Cinema’, we mostly studied Asian and African movies (third world Cinema). BUT we also watched a Hollywood classic set in Africa, studying the orientalist attitude towards the third world. The film was, The Garden of Allah (1936), starring Dietrich alongside Charles Boyer. Post that I saw her in more mature, yet secondary, roles, like in the noir-classic, Touch of Evil (1958), and, the Audrey Hepburn, rom-com, Paris – When It Sizzles (1964).

And then last month, I saw her; first, in, the near excellent, Blonde Venus (as I mentioned earlier), alongside Herbert Marshall and Cary Grant; and then, in the very good, Morocco, with Gary Cooper, with whom she had a brief love affair in real life. What’s interesting in these movies, is the fact, though an independent woman, in both films, her love for a man, ultimately dictates her life. Morocco was tragic, the way she ultimately runs like a slave after her man. Both movies were sad in their own way. Whilst Blonde Venus had a happy ending, with the family reunited, Morocco was depressing, to what she became in the end. This is where The Devil is a Woman, differs. She seems better off alone, in the end. Marlene Dietrich’s character can also be considered, that of an existentialist, a free spirited individual, who shapes her own destiny.

Though not an excellent piece of cinema, it comes pretty close. Especially worth checking out for; Josef von Sternberg superb direction and cinematography, the fabulous costumes by Travis Banton, and last but not the least, for the, uniquely fun filled, performance by Marlene Dietrich.

The Devil is a Woman (1935)
My Rating: Near Excellent 9/10!!

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