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Photograph-V

On Facebook, I was challenged; on the 1st of November, Year 2017, to post a Black&White picture per day, without posting any people, and no explanations, yet it had to do with my life. This was a 7 day challenge, that ended today. Whilst, the rest of the photographs are pretty self explanatory (to some extent at least), this is a picture, which is very personal, and has to do with my childhood on wards, till date. It does not simply depict my love for Books & Films!!!

So here is an explanation for this picture, I posted on FB, for Day V (i.e. 5th November 2017) :-

So past 4th midnight, I thought of posting something uniquely personal for Day V, of the B/W photography challenge. I started taking out the close near dear reads and views, from my shelves, and set them on my bed. It was already next day, with 9/10ths of a moonlit sky shining above the wet clouds outside. At 00:55 am, 5th morning, I took the snapshot. Yet, ’twas a pity, I won’t be able to explain it. But today morning, after posting the last picture of the challenge, I went back to this. And decided, I can’t explain it on FB, but I have a Blog, where I can.

So the picture; let us start with Audrey Hepburn. So, as many of my fellow bloggers and close friends are aware, that Hepburn happens to be my all time favourite actress. I’ve been a fan of hers since I watched My Fair Lady (1964), as a little kid, back in the mid-1980’s. I wanted to grow up and marry her, and remember asking my mum, how old Hepburn was (of course I realized Audrey Hepburn was somewhat older than me, but what I didn’t realize at the time was that this musical, set during the Edwardian era, was made long before I came into existence). Anyway, Audrey Hepburn starred alongside the suave gentleman, Gregory Peck, in ROMAN HOLIDAY (1953), which happens to be my all time favourite movie. I watched this in the summer of 1994, just before my 19th Birthday, whilst living in New Delhi, India. Plus, 1994 was the best year of my teenage life (coming of age in Shit Lanka was a nightmare, so it was a refreshing change to go back to India in 94′, after a hellish six year stay in monstrous Lanka. And now am back, going through a lot of stress due to being stuck in a narrow minded extremist country like Shit Lanka. Been here for just over eight years now. Getting anything done in SL is a hassle, including trying to work on this simple blog-post without unnecessary disturbances and distractions). Anyway, even though a fan of Hepburn since childhood, it was once I watched ROMAN HOLIDAY, I truly fell in love with Hepburn. AND soon both her debut movie; about a Princess walking around the scenic architectural delights of ancient Rome, in modern day Italy, as a commoner, having an accidental fling, a tragic love story set in 24 hours, this B/W tearjerker romance that pulls at your heartstrings; along with Hepburn herself, became my all time favorite movie, and actress, respectively. I was simply smitten by her charmingly naturalistic acting. In 2003, after handing in my final dissertation titled “Marriage on Hitchcock Films: From Rebecca to Marnie”, for my MA in International Cinema, at the University of Luton, Luton, UK; I treated myself to an Audrey Hepburn Box-Set of Video Cassettes, which included my all time favourite, ROMAN HOLIDAY. The cassette cover that can be seen on the picture above.

Having mentioned Hitchcock, many of you know Alfred Hitchcock is my all time favourite director; and that REBECCA (1940) happens to be my favourite Hitchcockian classic. Thus, when I was studying his movies, doing an out and out psychoanalysis of varied character sketches, from his best period of Hollywood movies (his first 25 years in Hollywood) for my final dissertation of 25,000 to 30,000 words; I bought some of his movies, and rented others, in Oslo, Norway (as that’s where I resided, during my final semester, as I had no classes; thus working full time 5½ days a week, and concentrating on my dissertation on Saturday evenings and Sunday the whole day; I was exhausted). The video tape of REBECCA which can be seen above was one of movies I bought. But there is more of a history I share with Hitchcock’s REBECCA. I fell in love with this hauntingly magnificent tale of woman living under the shadow of her husband’s dead first wife; when I first saw it as a kid, in the mid-80’s. So this most probably was my all time favourite, till I watched ROMAN HOLIDAY, almost a decade later. Around that time, at school, The British School, in New Delhi, India, we had to write a film review. REBECCA being fresh in my mind, I remember writing my very first film review, on this noirish perfection by Alfred Hitchcock, aged 11; whilst I was in Senior-I. Later, aged 12½/13, I read Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (on which the Hitchcockian masterpiece was based on). And this so called women’s book, my very first piece of Adult Fiction, instantly became my all time favourite novel, and it remained no.1 till aged 20, I read the English translation of CITY OF JOY, a French novel by Dominique Lapierre. I bought the book of CITY OF JOY (pictured above) in 1994, though I read it later. And from the age of 20, till now (I’m 42 now), it has remained my favourite novel. BUT, am currently reading Arundhati Roy’s latest novel, THE MINISTRY OF UTMOST HAPPINESS (pictured above as well), since I located it at the end of August 2017 (yup, am a very slow reader; and it’s not like I get to read my book every single day); and THE MINISTRY OF UTMOST HAPPINESS seems to be fast becoming my all time favourite. That I’ll know for sure, once I finish reading it.

From Novels, to non-fiction; FREEDOM’S DAUGHTER: LETTERS BETWEEN INDIRA GANDHI AND JAWAHARLAL NEHRU 1922-1939 (also pictured above), edited by Sonia Gandhi; happens to be my favourite text of non-fiction; which I read in my mid-20’s. When it comes to print media, there seems to be a major Indian connection. It’s just a mere coincidence. But still, even though with unfortunate Sri Lankan roots, that constantly try to pull me down into the mud with them, I was born and brought up in New Delhi, India. And I had a pretty good childhood (maybe not necessarily a great one, as I was badly bullied in school, it was still better, than when we ventured south into an inhumane and war torn island). Thus having such a strong Indian connection (altogether spent 17 years of my life in New Delhi, 12½ years in row); and a soft corner for my Birth city; plus being a movie maniac; I cannot, not add, my favourites in films, to do with India. My favourite Indian movie, is a Bengali/English bilingual Art House Movie, from the state of West Bengal, directed by Aparna Sen. I bought the DVD of THE JAPANESE WIFE (2010), which can be seen above, along with Kunal Basu’s book of Short Stories (one of which happens to be the basis of this movie), when I visited New Delhi in November/December 2010, on holiday. This was a holiday I took to India, after a break of 9½  years. Aged 35, I thoroughly enjoyed the short story, of The Japanese Wife, as well as the movie. Having watched Indian films throughout my life (especially Bollywood movies, though I happen to be a bit of an Art House snob), it’s amazing how Aparna Sen’s cinematic adaptation of THE JAPANESE WIFE, ended up becoming my favourite Indian movie ever. But having been brought up on Bollywood commercial cinema, I cannot not point out my favourite commercial Hindi Film, from Bombay (now Mumbai) from the state of Maharashtra, India. Mahesh Bhatt‘s ARTH (1982), the DVD of which can be seen above as well. ARTH; which I actually first saw as a kid, and few times later; is a reel life adaptation based on Mahesh Bhatt‘s real life extramarital affair with actress Parveen Babi, who suffered from schizophrenia. A tragic beautiful mind, that soon left the film industry once her illness was out in the open, thanks to this excellently made movie. died under mysterious circumstances, in 2005 (see my post related to her Death Anniversary from January 2013).

Speaking of extramarital affairs and coming back to short stories, I read Anton Chekhov’s THE LADY WITH THE DOG (pictured above), an adulterous love story, when I was 15. This Russian romantic short, happens to be my all time favourite short story, till date (du Maurier’s The Apple Tree, comes a close second). My favourite novella (a text too small to be a novel, yet way too long to be considered a short story), happens to be Truman Capote’s BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (pictured above as well); which I bought, and read, in 2009, whilst living in the most beautiful city in the world, Paris, France. Fell in love with this beautifully written piece of prose, a quick read (Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, happens to be next favourite novella, and I love Kubrick’s surreal adaptation, from 1971, of the book, as well). The movie version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), which also happens to be among my favourite films, directed by Blake Edwards, also stars my all time favourite actress, Audrey Hepburn.

So, I’ve come a full circle, from Hepburn to Hepburn!!!! Almost like a of .


#‎NuwanSensFilmSense
Bookish Nuwan (NS)

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Ink-tober 2017, has come to end. Today, was the last day!!

A recently befriended fellow artist, told me about this. Ink-tober, is a drawing challenge started by illustrator and animator, Jake Parker, back in 2009. So every October, he gives a challenge for 31 days, with one topic per day. People storm the net, posting their ink sketches per day with the hashtags #inktober & #inktober2017! So I joined the challenge, this year. I couldn’t work on it every day, but when I could, I took my time to work on a proper drawing (or did a quick rough sketch), and posted them on Facebook; and a few on Twitter; with the above mentioned hashtags##!!

So now that the month has come to an end, and I’ve done 17 works for Ink-tober, I thought I’d share it with my fellow Bloggers!! 😀

DAY 1: SWIFT

My Topic: SWIFT HAND MOVEMENT

DAY 2: DIVIDED

My Topic: THE DIVISION OF PEACE

DAY 3: POISON

My Title: THE ORIGINAL POISONED APPLE, POISONED WITH KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL

DAY 4: UNDERWATER

My Title: UNDERWATER FANTASY

DAY 5: LONG

My Title: LADY LONG LEGS COVERED IN BELL BOTTOMS!

DAY 6: SWORD

My Title: PESHWA BAJI RAO I (1700-1740), OF THE MARATHA EMPIRE, & THE FLEXIBLE SWORD THAT SLAY HIS OPPOSING ARMIES

DAY 7: SHY

My Topic: SHY GIRL

DAY 8: CROOKED

My Topic: … AND THEY ALL LIVED IN A CROOKED LITTLE HOUSE

DAY 9 to DAY 15, I didn’t have time to work on anything!!!!!

DAY 16: FAT

My Title: THE FAT MAJA WITH GIANT BABY RING-NECKED DOVE (STREPTOPELIA CAPICOLA) PERCHED ON HER ELBOW
(Inspired by Francisco Goya’s LA MAJA DESNUDA, a.k.a. THE NUDE MAJA)

DAY 17: GRACEFUL

My Topic: GRACEFUL PRINCESS WITH BABY STREPTOPELIA CAPICOLA, AND POTTED PLANT OF EUPHORBIA CONTINIFOLIA!!

DAY 18: FILTHY

My Topic: FILTHY SELFIES IN GARBAGELAND!!

DAY 19: CLOUD

My Title: EUPHORIA: TO BE ON CLOUD 9

DAY 20 to DAY 22, again I couldn’t work on any drawings/sketches!!

DAY 23: JUICY

My Title: JUICY KISS

DAY 24: BLIND

My Title: BLIND BRAINWASHED LOVE FOR HELL ON EARTH, LAND OF PURE EVIL!!

DAY 25 to DAY 28, yet again I had to take another break from drawing!!

DAY 29: UNITED

My Topic: UNITED STATE OF OPEN-MINDEDNESS !!!!!

DAY 30: FOUND

My Topic: FILM NUWA – FILM SCHOOL & PRODUCTION HOUSE, FOUNDED BY NUWAN SEN, IN THE NEAR FUTURE (HOPEFULLY)

DAY 31: MASK

My Topic: MASKS OF DECEPTION

So that’s it. All 17 creations, I did this month, some good, some not so great!!!

So which of these drawings/quick sketches do you like? Which Topic/Title of mine, interests you the most?

Enjoy

Nuwan Sen

#NuwanARTS

Quoting Parveen Babi

 

The essence of spirituality lies in being a good human, and following, good, positive principles
– Parveen Babi
     (1949 – 2005)

 

Parveen Babi with Shashi Kapoor, in the late 70’s, on the sets of Kaala Patthar (the film was released in 1979)
The Film was based on the Chasnala mining disaster of 1975

Amitabh Bachchan & Parveen Babi in a scene from Deewar (1975)
This tragedy was loosely based on the life of notorious Indian gangster, Haji Mastan

Parveen Babi with her (then) life partner, Kabir Bedi, in ROME, in 1976

Lovers in Rome: Kabir Bedi and Parveen Babi, in 1976

Amitabh Bachchan & Parveen Babi, in the biggest Bollywood blockbuster of 1977; Amar Akbar Anthony
A comedy about three brothers, brought up in three different faiths; Hindu, Muslim & Christianity. The Big B and Babi starred in a number films together, and all of them super-hits

Pink n’ Blue, I Love You
Hema Malini (dressed in pink) in the titular role, of Raziya Sultan (1983), along with Parveen Babi (in Blue)
This bio-pic is based on the life of Queen Razia Sultan (1205 – 1240), the only female to ever rule the Delhi Sultanate; and this was one of the rare Bollywood commercial films to tackle Lesbianism (although the lovers were shown in a purely platonic sense, it was well hinted)

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
#‎NuwanSensFilmSense
Nuwan Sen (Quoting Quotes)

The indirect vengeance of a non-visible villain. A villain that you never see, in his negative persona, on screen. YET, a villain who manages to torment his ex-wife, through his literary brilliance.

Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals (2016) is a masterpiece of filmmaking. A great piece of Cinematic Literature. Brutally direct, unnerving at times, difficult to sit through, and a class apart. One of the most sophisticatedly directed Hollywood thrillers of this century. Tom Ford is the future of American Cinema.
This post is full of spoilers, after all, it’s a character analysis.  

Nocturnal Animals is about a well to do, but unsatisfied, art gallery owner, Susan Morrow (Amy Adams), who one day receives a draft of a novel, written by her ex-husband, Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal); with whom she has had no contacts, for almost two decades. Slowly as she reads the novel, it becomes clear, the entire book is a conniving, vengeful, manipulative attack, on Susan. His revenge, for what he feels, she had done to him, in real life, all those years ago. Her guilt, her past memories, start to painfully gore into her psyche. The concept of ‘The Pen is mightier than the Sword’ stabs deep, in this unique blend of two storylines, one real (the reality set in the movie), and other fiction (the book written by the villain of the piece).

The Two Gyllenhaal’s  
Jake Gyllenhaal plays two characters, one is Edward Sheffield, the writer, the other Tony Hastings, the fictional character, penned down by Edward. Both are shown as lovely human beings, nice/kind/caring/sensitive. A loving husband; any woman would be lucky to be married to.

We see Edward, of the past, from Susan proposing to him, defending him, loving him, and marrying him. But their lives are not going anywhere. He is a struggling writer, with not much ambition in life, and an inferiority complex, of being considered weak. Although, Susan never calls him weak, and defends him, when her mother (Laura Linney) calls him thus. Yet, the fact Susan considers him sensitive in felt like an attack on his manhood. Edward’s ego can’t handle it. Worse, when she leaves him for a more dashing, classy, young gentleman, Hutton Morrow (Armie Hammer); to whom Susan is married to, in the present; that seems like the nastiest thing she has done to him. Not really though, the worse was yet to come.

Then in comparison, and contrast, to Edward, we see Tony Hastings, the fictional character, in Edward’s novel (in fact we see Gyllenhaal as Tony Hastings, before we see him as Edward Sheffield). Like Edward, Tony, is a loving husband; and a father of a teenage girl; with a kind and caring personality. Tony sets out on a trip, with wife and daughter, in tow (played by Isla Fisher & Ellie Bamber, respectively), through the dark deserted roads cutting through America. Soon they are attacked, by a gruesome group of creepy men, headed by Ray Marcus (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). We see Tony, helpless, and unable to defend his wife and kid, from these devils (the vicious villains of the novel). We see, Tony, as a normal human being, not a superhero. Ironically, a realistic portrayal of a fictional character. What follows is a tense drama.

Amy Adams, with a copy of John Currin’s Nude in Convex Mirror, hanging behind her; in a scene from the film.

Bringing out the Invisible Villain
Amy Adams is the icing on the cake. It’s through her emotional turmoil, as she reads the book, that gives birth to the real villain of this movie. It’s Adams’ character, Susan, that brings out the villain of Gyllenhaal’s character, Edward, to light. Every word, every tragedy, in the book, is a deeply cruel allegory of what Susan had done to Edward (according to Edward), in the past.

As the tension unfolds in the book, we (the spectators), along with Susan, feel the taunting tenseness of the sequence, taking place on the road. That is a very unnerving scene, as these hooligans harass the Hastings family. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is superbly shocking, as the villain in the book, Ray Marcus. But we have to remember, that he is but a fictional villain; not a real one (real as set in the movie). At the same time, the drama of the book, like the reel reality, is so engrossing, we are drawn into this parable of realism. We sit there, watching this long uncomfortable sequence, hoping the family will be sparred from these devils in human form.

As we see, a helpless Tony Hastings, not being able to help his wife and kid; after all normal human beings aren’t superhero’s, it’s a cry of Edward’s own inferiority complex, of himself being weak willed, as Edward assumed Susan felt about him. Even towards the end of the novel, Ray, calling Tony weak, is a hint, on Susan looking down on Edward (according to Edward), even though she never felt that way. And Tony proving, with a gun, he’s not weak anymore, is a metaphor of Edward proving, with his words, that he’s not weak anymore, either.

Jake Gyllenhaal, in his Edward Sheffield persona; in Nocturnal Animals (2016)

The shocking scene, where Tony finds his wife and daughter, raped, murdered, and kept in a suggestive manner in the nude; is an allegory of Susan’s secret abortion of Edward’s child, unbeknownst to him. In the present Susan has an adult daughter, Samantha Morrow (India Menuez), with her current husband, Hutton Morrow. But back then, she killed their child, worse she was accompanied by her then lover, Hutton Morrow. It’s obvious that Edward had kept a grudge, for close to two decades, because of it.

In the book, Tony has help, in the form a cop, a Good Samaritan, Bobby Andes, played by Michael Shannon (another brilliant role). But in the real world, Edward seems to have managed on his own. Edward at the same time, needn’t have gone so far, as to specifically send her the unpublished draft of his novel, titled Nocturnal Animals (a nickname he had for her, as she’s a night bird, who finds it difficult to sleep), and dedicated to her; as karma, had got her already.

Susan isn’t happily married. It is hinted that her husband is unfaithful. She is mostly alone, surrounded by material objects, living in a massive box of a stylish house. A modern day, glass, fortress, she seems to have created for herself. No real human connection. Her only child lives somewhere else. She’s succeeded in life, as a career woman, but not in happiness, not in living her life to fullest. She’s filthy rich, but not a soul near her. A rich loner, unhappy, and somewhat of a recluse. Edward’s final stab, at her, and her loneliness, is at the end of the movie. Where he agrees to meet her, at a posh restaurant; but stands her up. She ends up all alone, stood by everyone she cared for. It’s Edward’s revenge, fully accomplished.

Behind the Scenes: Amy Adams & Tom Ford, on the sets, during the making of the movie.

The Aesthetics   

Nocturnal Animals is a stylish thriller; dark, neo-noir, masterpiece; brilliantly filmed. Kudos to Tom Ford for bringing out something so unique; yet so Hitchcockian. The film is pure artistry, at it’s best. The symbolic aesthetics, the spot on imagery; the likes of, the bathtub scenes, shower scenes, the dead nude wife/sleeping nude daughter, et al; are perfectly synchronised. The entire movie, is a brilliant study of the cinematic arts. A must for all film fanatics, and it ought be taught to all film students, in film schools.

PIX: ME, with Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog (Magenta); at Château de Versailles (a.k.a. Versailles Palace), in France (30th September 2008).

The start of the movie itself, hints on the aesthetic superiority of the film, as real life flabby nude women, are showcased in a virtual art form, at an exhibition. Also a hint on the compare and contrast of the reality and fiction, that’s to follow, in Nocturnal Animals. These massive heaving nudes, reminded me of the study of the naked monstrosity depicted in Jenny Saville paintings. Speaking of ‘’, the films itself showcases famed artworks, from more contemporary (post-post modernist) creations like, Balloon Dog by Jeff (the king of ), Nude in Convex Mirror by John Currin (pictured above), Damien Hirst’s Saint Sebastian, Exquisite Pain, an ‘Untitled’ artwork by Mark Bradford;  to past artworks from the mid/late-20th Century, like the popular, post-modernist artist, Andy Warhol’s Shadow, Joan Mitchell’s Looking for a Needle and Alexander Calder’s 23 Snowflakes; to name some. Of course, all these artistic creations play a vital symbolic role, in the movie.

Revenge an artwork by the Art Department of Nocturnal Animals & Tom Ford, is symbolic of what the storyline of the film itself happens to be. An unnoticeable revenge. A revenge, that seems innocent; but in reality is pure torture, for the person it’s indirectly been enacted on.

Besides being a critically acclaimed masterpiece and equally visually stunning, Nocturnal Animals, is an artist’s heaven, a fashionista’s must have collectable, an interior decorator’s dream décor inspiration, and a modern architect’s ornamental wonder. A special shout out to the amazing crew of the film; especially, Abel Korzeniowski, for his haunting musical score, Seamus McGarvey, for his photographic brilliance, Christopher Brown, for his art direction, Shane Valentino, for his production design, and Meg Everest, for her art décor.

With a superb cast, backing it, and pure excellence, in every cinematic element of the film, including a great storyline, and helmed by Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals is amongst the best films, ever made. Truly, one of a kind.
My Rating: 10/10!!!!!
This post is my contribution to The Great Villain Blogathon 2017! A Blogathon hosted by Ruth of Silver ScreeningsKristina of Speakeasy and Karen of Shadows & Satin. Thank you Ruth, Kristina and Karen; for getting me involved in this blogathon. Thoroughly enjoyed being part of it.

I ended up watching this downloaded movie, twice (downloaded, ‘cause as such great films never come to cinema’s, in this aesthetically depressive country; yet it’s only just been almost a couple of months, since I first started downloading films, on the net). The first time I watched it, was last week (last Wednesday, to be more specific); which gave me the unique concept, I was hoping to find, to take part in this Blogathon; and then again, this Sunday. A special thank you, to Tom , for bringing out such a fantastic film, after all these years. Nocturnal Animals (), based on Austin Wright’s novel, Tony and Susan, is Ford’s second feature film. The first was, based on a another genius writer’s, superb novella, A Single Man, by Christopher Isherwood. This adaptation of Isherwood’s quick read, was released in 2009. Love the Ford Movie, Love the Isherwood Book. So Ford took his time, between two films, without rushing into things; and the result of which being, nothing but Excellence!!!!!  

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
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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).
-and-
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!!!!!
……………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

giovanni-dupre-1817-1882

Remembering Giovanni Duprè (1817 -1882), on his 200th Birth Anniversary.

Giovanni Duprè's Cain

Giovanni Duprè’s Cain

Giovanni Duprè's Sappho

Giovanni Duprè’s Sappho

Giovanni Duprè's The Infant Dionysus

Giovanni Duprè’s The Infant Dionysus

Born in Siena, Tuscany, Italy; on the 1st of March, Year 1817; Giovanni Duprè, was a prolific Italian sculptor, of the 19th century; who was highly influenced by Renaissance art. His creations; specifically his life size sculpture of the dead, Abel; presaged the beginning of the sad demise of Neoclassicism in Italian sculpture. Giovanni Duprè died in Florence, Italy, less than two months away, from his 65th Birthday.

The Picture of Giovanni Duprè

The Picture of Giovanni Duprè

Nuwan Sen & ARTS

Late Last Night, I watched the deeply psychological on-screen study, that was, David and Lisa (1962), online on Youtube!!
david-lisa-posterVery Freudian, in nature, David and Lisa, is set in a teenage mental asylum, where a new mental patient, David (Keir Dullea); with hapnophobia, the fear of being touched; starts diagnosing other mental patients, in the facility, to perfection. He deals with each patient, helping them out with their psychosocial problems, but himself. His favourite study, is that of a girl called, Lisa (Janet Margolin); who is suffering from a split personality, as well as disorganised schizophrenia. Poetic Lisa, can only speak in rhymes, whilst, her other adopted persona; the aesthetic Muriel; cannot speak, but writes and draws what she wants to say. David’s other favourite subject, is Simon (Matthew Anden); his partner in chess, with great musical skills.
david-and-lisa-with-sculptureDavid, is well read, has a high level of intellect, but his paranoia; of getting killed, if he were touched; his fear of people invading his space, and his obsession with time, make him less than normal. A young unsocial man, who needs help, to control his fears. At the time, this movie came out, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) wouldn’t have been considered. We all have a little OCD, but David’s is rare case of extremism. At the same time, his OCD does not incorporate the ritualistic behavioural patters, associated with ordinary individuals with OCD. Yet his OCD is more specifically to do with time, and his hapnophobia. He goes about his everyday chores as a normal human being; but detests any physical contact, even that of a handshake, or an accidental brush. No matter how slight, a touch, it could throw him into a deep despair. Distressed David, shows strong symptoms of mental health. But otherwise, he is so wise, as to tackle his peers mental problems, even better than the shrinks involved. For example, as Lisa speaks only in rhyme, he connects with her, through rhythmic speech towards her, himself, trying to understand her disorientation, from the normal world. David is a patient, in a mental institution, that studies other patients, not just ’cause they intrigue him, but also to try and help them. Though he seems emotionally distant, sans any feeling, and very rigid, in public; left on his own, and to some extent in front of Dr. Alan Swinford (Howard Da Silva), we see his emotional vulnerabilities. Plus we see, his aesthetic, knowledgeable side, as he quotes the likes of Romantic poet, William Wordsworth, and when he tells Dr. Alan Swinford, not to play “Dr. Freud” with him; referring to Neurologist/Psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud. David is shown reading a lot, and we are told, he has been reading up on many books on psychology.

David’s surreal dream sequences!!

David’s surreal dream sequences!!

David’s obsession with ‘Time’, reminded me of surrealist painter Salvador Dalí; and his famed works on melting clocks. The likes of ‘The Persistence of Memory’, ‘The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory’ and ‘Melting Watch’, to name some. Although, the analysis of David’s obsession, and Dalí creations, are extremely different. The Surreal dream sequences, involving Clock executions, were very Dalísque. David has nightmares, which he attributes in a positive manner. He dreams of himself holding the hands of a massive clock, decapitating the head; of someone that has hurt him emotionally; 12 times, around the clock. Dr. Alan states, in David’s dreams, he is clearly killing off, people he considers the villain; like Dr John (Clifton James) for instance; plus making David feel fully in control. Thus the actual nightmare, to David, though tensed, is a positive dream. Yet, when Lisa falls prey, to his Clock executions, he finds it difficult to decapitate her head, even once, let alone 12 times. This is one nightmare he cannot accept.

Keir Dullea as David

Keir Dullea as David

There is a suggestion of a homosexual subtext, in the movie, but it’s not even slightly noticeable. Yet, David’s warmth towards Lisa, is of a more of a psychosomatic nature, and his desire, that of a purely platonic friendship. At the same time, his closeness towards, Simon, his chess partner, again, isn’t an emotional, and/or sexual, one. His facial expressions and body language convey no romantic desire, for neither Lisa nor Simon. Highly intellectual, yet he seems devoid of having experiencing, psychosexual aspects of, puberty. It would be interesting to read, the late Philosopher and Social Theorist, Michel Foucault’s, psychosexual analysis into David’s character.

Janet Margolin as Lisa

Janet Margolin as Lisa

The young cast of mental student’s are brilliant, as are the elderly, playing psychologist & psychiatrists, running the institute; and David’s dysfunctional parents. Especially the two leads, played by Keir Dullea and Janet Margolin. This was Janet Margolin debut feature film. Also debuting, in David and Lisa, were Matthew Anden, Jaime Sánchez, Karen Lynn Gorney, Nancy Nutter and Coni Hudak. This was also the directorial debut, of Frank Perry.

Keir Dullea and Janet Margolin, visit New York theater; where their film has set box-office records!

Keir Dullea and Janet Margolin, visit New York theater; where their film has set box-office records!

The basis of the movie is a book, called Lisa and David, by psychiatrist and author Theodore Isaac Rubin. Loved this movie!!! Wish I could have come across a better copy, and seen it on a bigger screen. The Black & White cinematography by Leonard Hirschfield, adds to the excellence of David and Lisa!! Especially great movie, by a first time director. This is most probably, one of the best films, ever made on mental health; rather an actual study of it. The movie is not a love story, as the title might seem to suggest. I highly recommend, David and Lisa, for film buffs, and psychology enthusiasts, alike.

David and Lisa (1962)
My Rating: Excellent!! 10/10!!!!!

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)

RIGHT: Audrey Hepburn in How to Steal a Million (1966)
LEFT: 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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