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If Audrey Hepburn were alive today, she’d be 90 years old! Just imagine! It’s hard to even fathom; a post WWII, modern, youthful, energetic, fun-loving and fashionable, foxy 50’s generation; that gave us stars like Audrey Hepburn, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Grace Kelly, Marlon Brando, et al; would ever grow old! And sadly most of them didn’t; and some died way way way too young. The era of cool! I remember it like it were yesterday, when we heard of Hepburn’s demise in January 1993, at the age of 63. I was 17 years old. Where did the 1990’s go?? Am already in my 40’s, and it’s Audrey Hepburn’s heavenly 90th Birthday, today!

To mark her 90th Birth Anniversary, Audrey Hepburn’s Birth place, Brussels, Belgium; is holding a special exhibition, titled Intimate Audrey, which began earlier this week; which includes contribution from Hepburn’s older son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer (who put together this exhibition).

I wish I was in Europe, right now. If any of my fellow bloggers/Hepburn fans are in Europe these days, and happen to be in Belgium, do check it out! From whatever media I’ve come across about the exhibition, it looks amazing. The exhibition includes the green “Vespa Farobasso” scooter she rode, in Roman Holiday (1953), my all time favourite movie; Hepburn’s own fashion drawings & humanitarian writings, and the Oscar statuette awarded posthumously for her humanitarian work.

A screen legend, a style icon, a kind human with a Big Heart!!!!!! My all time favourite actress!! Great personalities never really die! They live on, through us, their greatest fans, forever!!💓

❤ Hepburn ❤

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

 

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Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, happens to be one of my favourite epic novels; a condensed version of which, we studied in Grade 8 (at Stafford International School), when I was 13 years old. Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre too I read in my early teens; and later saw the extravagant play, based on Jane Eyre, by a British drama troop visiting New Delhi, India. So, having read two of the sisters works, out of the trio of published Brontë writers; Les Soeurs Brontë (1979), English title – The Brontë Sisters, supposedly the most accurately bleak biopic based on the lives of the famed Brontë’s; was definitely a must see for me, as both a lover of literature, and a diehard Film Fanatic!!!! And so I did, yesterday evening, when Les Soeurs Brontë, was telecast on TV5MONDE.

Pascal Greggory (as Branwell), Isabelle Adjani (as Emily), Isabelle Huppert (as Anne) and Marie-France Pisier (as Charlotte Brontë); in André Téchiné’s Les Soeurs Brontë (1979)

The title, Les Soeurs Brontë (1979), is a tad misleading, as there is a lot, over an hour, about the depressing life of the artist, Branwell Brontë (played by Pascal Greggory), the less famous brother, of the Brontë sisters. Thus the film ought to have been aptly titled, The Brontë Siblings, or simply The Brontë’s (or Les Brontë’s)!! The version I watched was the 115 minutes long movie, which was released at the 32nd Cannes Film Festival in May 1979; competing for the prestigious Palme d’Or. The original (unreleased) film is said to be around three hours long. I’d love to watch that version as well. Hopefully it will be released in it’s entirety on DVD, someday.

There have been very few English Language Biographical films/television mini-series, on the lives of the Brontë’s. Yet, ironically, this French epic, happens to be the most accurate re-telling of the Brontë family on the Big Screen. Set in wet and windy Yorkshire, the movie tells the story of the lives of the Brontë siblings, as adults. Thus, the two elder sisters, who died, aged 9/10 and 11, are not spoken of. We see the three famed sisters and only brother, living an averagely well enough life, though it’s still a pretty stoic existence, in the countryside. The mother is long dead, thus the rest of the household comprises of; their ageing, Anglican Minister, father; a spinster aunt (which hints, determining the fate of the Brontë children) and the housemaid. At the beginning of the movie, the brother, Branwell Brontë, paints a a portrait of the four living siblings; which is admired by the entire family. They have an artist in their midst. A painting, which later on, Branwell erases himself off of, as he nears his own death from depression.

The Three Sisters: The original Bramwell Brontë painting of the famed Brontë sisters (before they were famous)
Bramwell Brontë erased himself from the painting.

The tale of the Brontë’s is really a tragic one. And the movie is filmed beautifully, with superb cinematography, creating the atmosphere of pure misery, with a backdrop of a dull, dreary, cold, uninviting, capture of the Yorkshire moors. Despite leading an ordinary life, that won’t really amount to anything; these three Victorian women desire to make something of their lives. We see, a pre-20th century feminism, a 19th century subtle boldness, the three encompass. They aren’t very vocally vociferous about not being just household creatures serving men, but they somehow manage to enforce their desires in a very patriarchal society. Charlotte Brontë (Marie-France Pisier), the eldest sibling, is the most ambitious. She somehow convinces her aunt, to permit her to go and study French, in Brussels, Belgium; along with her younger sister, Emily Brontë (Isabelle Adjani). She wishes to come back and open a school. However, Emily ends up despising Brussels, especially as the two English Protestant sisters have to deal with residing in a Catholic country. Charlotte endures without agitation, as she wants to somehow study, at the same time we see her silently fall for her much older teacher. Meanwhile, Anne Brontë (Isabelle Huppert), finds work as a governess, with a wealthy English family. While the three sisters are away, the unsuccessful Branwell, has to deal with the death of their aunt; who dies from exhaustion from constipation. Funny, as it might sound today, it is sad, at one time such a thing existed, as medicine wasn’t advanced enough for ageing people suffering from constipation. Her death, gets all the three sisters to stop their academic/working lives and come back home; for the sake of their father and brother.

Father & Daughter: Patrick Magee & Isabelle Adjani in a scene from the film

From here we see a lot about Branwell Brontë. His affair with an older married woman. Him not achieving anything through his literary works. His depression when his lover leaves him (she leaves to be with her children, once her husband dies). To his ultimate demise. Of course the lives of the rest of the sisters are shown too; but he seems to be the protagonist for most of the film, until his death. Meanwhile, we see the father’s support of his children’s wishes; their father, Patrick Brontë (Patrick Magee). It’s as Branwell Brontë nears his death, from drugs and alcohol; we see the trio of Brontë sisters secretly publish a book each, under a male pseudonym.  Soon two of the sisters succumb to tuberculosis, and Charlotte Brontë is the only living sister, by the Operatic end of the movie. Charlotte too died young, at the age of 38.

With a great cast, the movie is well acted, perfectly directed, beautifully photographed; yet not without a few minor flaws. Branwell Brontë’s story is a bit of a bore; but overall, the entire movie is slow paced anyway. But the darkly depressing portrayal of the Brontë’s, make the icy brilliance of the movie, extremely realistic. With very naturalistic performances, we feel what they are going through. We feel the depressing tone of the film to near perfection. It’s hard not to be annoyed at Branwell Brontë though; and admire the sisters, especially Charlotte and Emily. Both Branwell and Charlotte suffer through unrequited love; but Charlotte bears it all, with a strong mind and unbroken spirit, even though with a broken heart, and ends up publishing a novel, which Branwell never gets to know about. But Branwell, when ditched by his older lover; takes refuge in alcohol and Opium; dies of tuberculosis, and passes his illness onto his two younger sisters, Emily and Anne, as well. Charlotte Brontë was, less than a year, older than Branwell.

Marie-France Pisier as Charlotte Brontë, in a scene from Les Soeurs Brontë (1979)

It’s sad, when the movie ends, we realize that none of the Brontë family members were aware of the three sisters accomplishments, other than the trio themselves, and most probably the father. The mother, the brother, the aunt, et al are dead, by the time the books are published and credited to the three sisters.

Marie-France Pisier, steals the show, as the eldest sibling, Charlotte, who survives everything, and everyone, that tries to pull her down. After Pisier, Isabelle Adjani, who plays Emily, is the next brilliant character sketch. Emily loves to trek through the moors, in men’s clothing. Not that she is a tomboy; but she dresses in trousers, as a practicality; as she tells her maid, “it makes me walk faster”. But she’s careful not to let anyone see her dressed in that manner, other than her own family. For a Victorian Lady to be dressed in trousers would have been a scandalous affair. Isabelle Huppert plays the youngest, and doesn’t have the sense of psychological strength of her elder sisters. But the dullest character is played by Pascal Greggory. Who to is actually superb, in doing a character role of a very weak human being. All the actors are superb, including stars like Patrick Magee, Hélène Surgère and Jean Sorel; to name a few, in their supporting roles. Hélène Surgère plays the aptly named Madame Robinson; the older married woman who seduces Branwell Brontë. I think the biggest flaw of the movie is that, too much of the plot is focused on Branwell Brontë; though the title suggests otherwise.  Yet, trust the French to bring out a masterful retelling of three of greatest writers of British literature. However, Patrick Magee, who is Irish; spoke his lines in English, and then dubbed into French. Though, I hate the idea of a movie dubbed in a different language, in general (I prefer reading subtitles in English of foreign language films I don’t understand); it really works well here.

The Three Actresses, who played the Brontë Sisters: (L to R) Marie-France Pisier, Isabelle Huppert and Isabelle Adjani

Overall a beautifully executed piece of cinema, a well made period drama, just slightly less than excellence for a few minor flaws.

Les Soeurs Brontë (1979)
My Rating: Near Excellent – 9/10!!!!


#‎NuwanSensFilmSense
Bookish Nuwan

french-online-film-festival-poster

Last month, on the culture segment, ENCORE, on FRANCE24; I saw Lisa Nesselson, speaking about an online French Film Festival (FFF)!! It wasn’t until, the night of, the 20th of January, 2017; that I finally got to check it out. All the short films, in the festival, were free; and apparently, in some countries, including our neighbouring country, India, ALL Films were Free!! So, I got to watch some of the short films, on 20th, last month (as I stated earlier); but I didn’t get to the watch some more until, the 11th & 13th of February 2017!! I wish I could have done a post about this earlier; as the Festival finished on the 13th of February, 2017. Pity, I hardly got to watch all the short movies, let alone, BLOG about it, sooner (I did not watch a single, full feature length, movie). BUT, I DID Tweet about the festival, initially, the very next day (after I first saw it), on the 21st of January, 2017, so that at least my followers on Twitter would be aware of it, just in case they already didn’t know about it. Even though, it’s too late to catch any of the films, from the festival site, do check out the website, “www.myfrenchfilmfestival.com”!!

So here is a look, at my quick take(s) on French Shorts, from the virtual Festival!!
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Vincent Cassel in a scene from Violence en Réunion (2015)

Vincent Cassel in a scene from Violence en Réunion (2015)

Short Films, I watched on 20th January 2017
SET OF SEVEN7

A Done Deal (2015/16) a.k.a. Une Formalité

A hilarious short film about a hit man, who is asked to take out a man to coffee, and shoot him later in an alley. But instead, the intended victim, ends up being a real pain in the arse; driving the hit man into near insanity. The most enjoyably piece of farce française, in the Festival.

This Canadian film, stars, actors, Steve Laplante and Richard Fréchette, as the hit man and his mark, respectively. Une Formalité was co-directed by Pierre-Marc Drouin and Simon Lamarre-Ledoux.

Funny, yet violent!! Excellent movie!!!!!
My Rating:- On FFF: 5/5  On IMDB: 10/10

Overpass (2015) a.k.a. Viaduc

A teenager risks his life, in the middle of the night, to do a  graffiti, on a flyover (a.k.a. overpass). The next morning, there is talk of picking up his brother from the airport. The scene at the airport, is sad, once we understand, what they meant, by picking up the brother. BUT, it is when we realise what the young teenager was writing, on the flyover; that it really pulls at your heartstrings. A poignant Canadian film, directed by Patrice Laliberté.

Young newcomer, Téo Vachon Sincennes, gives a heartrending performance!!

Touching! Another Excellent Short!!!!!
My Rating:- On FFF: 5/5  On IMDB: 10/10

Group Violence (2015) a.k.a. Violence en Réunion

Headed by a celebrated French actor, like Vincent Cassel, how can this movie go wrong. Vincent Cassel, plays an ex-street fighter, who is trying not to go back to his old violent ways. But it’s not as easy, as it seems.

Really good take on the western fear of Islam; and how a group of thugs; headed by Cassel’s character, use that, by covering up in a burka, and walking in the streets in the hours of darkness, to intimidate the cops on night patrol. An excellent short film, mostly due to Cassel conveying so much through expression, and less dialogues. Pure Perfection!!!!!
My Rating:- On FFF: 5/5  On IMDB: 10/10

4XD (1964) a.k.a. 4 Fois D

The Classic short film in the competition, is a nostalgic trip to beautiful French femmes of the 60’s decade. Near excellent documentary short, thanks to director Philippe Labro’s, directorial debut, naturalistically filming, Mireille Darc, Marie Dubois, Françoise Dorléac, and my favourite French actress, Catherine Deneuve (see my post 3.3.3.3 from July 2015, as well).

Year 2017, also marks the 50th Death Anniversary of Françoise Dorléac, the elder sister of Catherine Deneuve. Dorléac’s untimely death, at the age of 25, was due to car accident; when the car flipped and burnt. Françoise Dorléac had tried to open the door, was unable to do so, thus was incinerated. The police could only identify her remains, through the fragments of a cheque book, a diary and her driver’s licence. A tragic loss, to world of cinema.

Beautifully filmed in Black & White, 4 Fois D, is really worth checking out, if you are fan of these classic French stars!! An Ode to Beautiful Women!! Close to Excellence!!!!!
My Rating:- On FFF: 4½/5  On IMDB: 9/10

Téo Vachon Sincennes in Viaduc (2015)

Téo Vachon Sincennes in Viaduc (2015)

1992 (2016)

The year is 1992! A lonely, gay, 17 year old, only has a video camera for a friend. He films everything around him, all the time. Soon he develops a crush on a 23 year old. After a night of sexual pleasure, he films the sleeping, naked body of , his 23 year old, on night stand. What would happen when the teenager’s father see’s the tape!!

Director, Anthony Doncque, has brought out a very touching, coming of age drama; of what it was like to be a gay teenager, in the early 90’s!! It’s interesting to see how the father handles it, when he discovers his son is gay. Young Louis Duneton, and Matthieu Dessertine; play the teenager, and his older sexual desire, respectively. Alain Beigel, plays the father of the 17 year old lone youngster.

Really Good Queer Short!!!!
My Rating:- On FFF: 4/5  On IMDB: 8/10

The Plumber (2016) a.k.a. Le Plombier

Méryl Fortunat-Rossi’s, Belgian movie, Le Plombier, is a hilarious film, full of sex sound. Behind the scenes of the porn industry, a Flemish man, who generally dubs, for animated characters, in cartoons; goes into lend his voice, for a blue movie. The results are idiotically comical. Though there is no actual skin show, the movie is very adults only, thanks to the various sounds, explored by the dubbing crew of characters.

Erotically Funny!! Quite Enjoyable!!!!
My Rating:- On FFF: 3½/5  On IMDB: 7/10

The Geneva Convention (2016) a.k.a. La Convention de Genève

Two group of teenagers are getting ready for a fight, over somebody owing someone money. One young man, tries to act as a mediator; and thus unfortunately gets roped into it. But when the person, the money is owed to, walks in, with no violence in his mind, the movie takes a comical turn.

Pretty Good Coming of Age, movie!!!!
My Rating:- On FFF: 3½/5  On IMDB: 7/10

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Short Film, I watched on 11th February 2017
LONE1 RANGER

Flesh & Volcanoes (2014/15) a.k.a. La Chair et Les Volcans

An ailing adolescent girl, lives with her father, in Auvergne; a beautiful region in France, popular for it’s dormant volcanoes, and natural hot springs. The young lonely girl deals with daily constraints of living in this little village, with a lot of patience. But there is a limit to her patience; and her inner volcano could easily burst out, any day now, and make her do something completely irrational.

Pretty good, specially thanks to surreal hallucinogenic qualities interwoven into the film. Though I wasn’t a fan of the abrupt runaway, at the end. Still Quite Good!!!!
My Rating:- On FFF: 3½/5  On IMDB: 7/10

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Short Films, I watched on 13th February 2017
FIVE5 FILMS

In Deep Waters (2014) a.k.a. Dans les Eaux Profondes

A beautiful creation in animation, blending 3D & 2D artwork. Yet, quite an unnerving experience. Is it possible, to spend nine months, in your mother’s womb, with the corpse of your dead twin, and never know about it. Does the feeling of loneliness, fear of being alone, have something to do with?

This is a beautifully shocking tale, of three lonely people, who are unaware; the reason they don’t feel whole; is ’cause of  the fact, that they were meant to be a twin; but their sibling died in the womb, in the initial stages of pregnancy. Scary, Excellent!!!!!
My Rating:- On FFF:  5/5  On IMDB:   10/10

A Town Called Panic: Back to School (2016) a.k.a. La Rentrée des Classes

A beautifully animated children’s movie. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Love the stop motion animation, process, used in this.

In a school, an astronaut named, Monsieur Youri (an obvious allegory on Soviet Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin; the first human to venture into space and orbit the earth, in 1961. See my Blogpost The American Civil War & Yuri Gagarin from April 2013) arrives; and tasks the students to measure the distance between the Earth and the Moon. The prize; a trip to the moon, with Monsieur Youri, in his rocket. It’s hilarious how, a Cowboy, a Red Indian, and a group of farm animals, try to find the distance, from the Earth to the Moon.

Comically Excellent!!!!!
My Rating:- On FFF:  5/5  On IMDB:  10/10

Veil of Silence (2016) a.k.a. Un Grand Silence

Set in 1968, in a sanatorium for pregnant teenagers, expecting unwanted children, a well-to-do young pregnant girl is sent, by her parents; to avoid scandal. Being the only well-to-do girl, she finds it hard to fit in with the other, more rebellious, and somewhat jealous, peers. She faces a dilemma, when she doesn’t want to give up her baby, and go back to her wealthy family; and start anew.

A very tragic film, about the hypocritical world; which doesn’t necessarily denounce teenage sex, but does so, to the unfortunate result, of pre-marital sex. It’s absurd, how an unplanned pregnancy is looked down on; and mainly it’s just the woman carrying the child who bears the burden, of being a societal outcast. Of course, this is set in the late 1960’s, in a more rural country side.

Starring Nina Mazodier, in the lead, Un Grand Silence is the directorial debut of Julie Gourdain. The movie also stars, Sonia Amori, Clarisse Normand and Louise Legendre.

The last film, I watched, of the festival, and it went on till close to half past midnight; thus finished on 14th February 2017 (St. Valentines Day), on this side of the ocean. Very Good!!!!
My Rating:- On FFF:  4/5  On IMDB:   8/10

Juliet’s Band (2016) a.k.a. La Bande à Juliette

A French film bordering on sexual harassment, tells of a group of art students, who travel to one of their batch mate, Juliette’s, holiday home in Normandy. Here she introduces the others to her childhood friend. Soon her childhood friend, tells Juliette, about one of art students constantly hitting on her, and treating her in a discriminating manner. But, Juliette doesn’t believe her own close friend. A sad film, where we ourselves wonder whether Juliette’s friend is just crying wolf (as she’s suppose to have done in the past), or telling the truth.

Beautifully filmed, in a lovely house, yet a very slow moving, movie. But still, enjoyable enough. La Bande à Juliette, happens to be the directorial debut, of newcomer, Aurélien Peyre. The movie, from France, stars a beautiful young cast, including Pauline Acquart, Adrien Schmück, Phénix Brossard, Aurélien Vacher, Fanny Lamblin, Faustine Levin and Lucas Audineau.

Average Fare!!!
My Rating:- On FFF:  3/5  On IMDB:   6/10

The Last Frenchman (2015) a.k.a. The Last of the Frenchmen, and Le Dernier des Céfrans

What is it to be French? A pretty good story on Muslim youngsters, with Middle Eastern/African roots, born in France. Technically they are French, born and brought up in France; but when one young Muslim boy goes to enlist in the French army; he’s questioned, as to where his loyalties stand. Added to which, it’s difficult for him to tell his fellow ‘Muslim’ French friends, that he is enlisting.

The movie starts off with the French Muslim youngsters; going to the mosque, then hanging out, making fun, of one of the gang, for dressing up in outdated clothing; from Back to the Future (1985), et al. Then one of them, goes off to enlist. We see an identity crisis, these kids are neither here nor there. They are born French; but their roots aren’t. Thus, they are not accepted in either societies, without scepticism.

There is a scene, where the lead young man, waiting to enlist, is standing at a bus stand, named Frantz Fanon. This could be symbolic, as the; Martinique born, Afro-Caribbean psychiatrist, philosopher & revolutionary; the late, Frantz Fanon, spoke in detail, on the subject of identity crisis in the fields of post-colonial studies. Back in 2002-2003; when I was studying for my MA in International Cinema; I used his very first published book, Black Skin, White Masks, as a reference for various assignments, specifically on Post-colonial Cinema. Black Skin, White Masks, is a deep psychoanalysis, on effects of colonial subjugation upon Black people.

Despite a really good concept, and interesting metaphors, it feels like a waste. Quite a dull movie!! Only short film, in the online festival, that I did not care for, much; although I liked the idea, of the message the movie was trying to convey. Pretty Bad Film though!!
My Rating:- On FFF:  2/5  On IMDB:   4/10

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That’s all Folks!!
french-online-film-festivalThere were two short films, I couldn’t watch; i.e. Mother(s) (2015) a.k.a. Maman(s), and Of Shadows and Wings (2015) a.k.a. D’Ombres et d’Ailes; as, when I finished watching Un Grand Silence; it was already, past midnight (as I have stated above). Thus, unfortunately, I couldn’t see the last two available films, mentioned here. Plus, there were a couple of films, that were not allowed, in this country!!

One of the Classic Feature films, on the festival site, was, Agnès Varda’s Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962) a.k.a. Cléo de 5 à 7. Though I did not watch it online; I saw this excellent movie, some years ago. It’s French New Wave, classic. A Must Watch!! I gave it a 10/10, rating back then (also see my Blog-post Being mesmerised by ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’ from August 2013). Sad, I couldn’t watch, any of the full length films, in the festival.

None the less, from the short films I watched, quite a few of them, were really worth it. Do check them out, if you get a chance, to do so!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
#‎NuwanSensFilmSense

french-short-films

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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Plein Soleil (2015)

Plein Soleil (2015) short film

Oh!! The Heat!!! In Plein Soleil (2015), during a heat wave, under the scorching hot sun, an already stressed out man, is asked by his wife, to drop off their baby to the Day-Care centre, as he’s taking the car to work. Reluctantly, he agrees. Stuck in traffic, this sweaty uncomfortable weather, keeps adding discomfort to his already boiling head, under the heaty hood of his car. Soon he reaches his office, and manages to avoid an accident, with a boy and his football. He locks the car and rushes to his workplace, forgetting the baby baking inside.
Plein Soleil (2015) zee Scene 1The whole movie has a feel of impending doom, a tragedy waiting to happen. From one angle, he’s an irresponsible father, but at the same time, he’s stressed out. But you can’t help feeling angry at the man, as we see him enjoying cocktails with his colleagues, and chatting up with his boss, in the air-conditioned office, as his baby cries all alone, stuck in a car, with the heat rising inside this locked vehicle, from 43° to 45° and so on. I was on the edge of seat, the suspense killing me, like the oven suffocating the child in that contraption. What about the boys playing football? Will they hear?? One boy actually comes to get the ball, near the parked car, thinks he hears something, but ignores it and goes back to the game. What will happen to the baby?? It’s heartrending. You just want to save the baby somehow. But feel helpless, being on the other side the wide screen (outside the television).
Plein Soleil (2015) zee Scene 2Not to be confused with René Clément’s, excellent French classic, Plein Soleil (1960), starring Alain Delon and Maurice Ronet, based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Talented Mr. Ripley; this 2015 Belgian Short film, by Frédéric Castadot (which happens to be his directorial debut), is a brilliant masterpiece of the 21st century cinema. Hated the pain of watching the baby in pain, and loved the movie for it’s excellence.

I watched this 24 minute short flick; starring Aurélien Labruyère, in the lead, as the stressed out, irresponsible, father; late Tuesday evening (telecast at 8pm (2000hrs)), on TV5MONDE. Plein Soleil (2015), is a must watch!! 10/10!!!

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P.K. Are you DRUNK ?????

PK, an innocent humanoid Alien walks around the streets of New Delhi, looking for his ‘Remote’, i.e. his way back to his home planet.
PK 1Since E.T. (1982) famously descended on to the screens, over 30 years ago, there have been so many Big Screen Aliens visiting the cinematic world, without much success. Finally now, Director Rajkumar Hirani’s, Bollywood Blockbuster, PK (2014), took over the celluloid world, with one of the most likable fictional Aliens to have visited Planet Cinema, since E.T.

Like the birth of a new born baby, a spaceship, drops off a humanoid alien; without a stitch on his body, except for a flashing beacon (‘Remote’), strung around his neck; into the remote deserts of Rajasthan, India. The alien’s nude trek through the desert; towards a villager with a cassette player/tape recorder, walking along a train track; resembled that of the naked ‘Terminator’ (Arnold Schwarzenegger), from the pretty good, yet cheesy, 80’s, B-movie, cult-classic, The Terminator (1984). The villager steals the alien’s ‘Remote’, and the poor horrified alien manages to grab onto the cassette player, as the villager jumps onto a moving, open hooded, cargo train. Thus begins the alien’s quest to locate his lost ‘Remote’, his only way to contact the spaceship, his only way home. This expedition, ultimately, brings him to the Indian capital city, of New Delhi. This large confusing city, of various faiths, and contrasting mentalities, of the old and the new, makes the curious alien question everything, from religious views, blind devotion, to various brainwashed traditional concepts.

The maestro of the acting world, Aamir Khan, is amazing as ever, as the naïve alien (accidentally named P.K.); that’s more human, than most human beings; with his child like innocence, and curiosity, trying his best, to understand the people of Planet Earth, especially in India, and more specifically, the city of New Delhi.

PK, is a brilliant concept, that questions, fake sense of patriotism, false religious pride and egoistic ethnic personalities, that exist, even in this day and age, not only in India, but around the globe. The movie, through this nameless alien, whom everyone assumes is a man who walks around ‘Pee Kay’ (‘Drunk’ in Hindi), thus named P.K., questions religious beliefs derived out of fear. P.K. makes the ignorant, rack their brains; to help them realise their folly, of blindly following fraudulent religious leaders; and fakes fear for their livelihoods. PK is a cinematic experience, that’s a must, for all film enthusiasts of the world. An intellectual, thought provoking, satirical comedy, that crushes narrow minded sentiments, that still exist in the modern world, even among the well literate, to a certain extent.
PK 2The movie, as most Bollywood films generally do, has a romantic angle too. Yet luckily, PK, does not waste time on the love story between Sarfraz (Sushant Singh Rajput) and Jaggu (Anushka Sharma). Though initially, this India/Pakistan (Hindu/Muslim) love story does not seem that significant to the plot, there is ultimately a relevant reasoning for that romantic input, to help expose a fraudulent Maharishi (Saurabh Shukla). But, Aamir Khan, being the lead character, too, is shown falling in love. Here, I did wonder, was it really necessary for Khan’s alien to fall in love with Jaggu as well? Is it a necessity for the lead actor of a Hindi film to fall in love too? Even if it were unrequited love. Yet, that was just a minor unessential addition to an almost perfect movie, which neither helps nor ruins, the main plot.

Besides this minor, non required, heartbreak, of an alien, the segment set in the state of Rajasthan, though very essential, drags a bit, especially with a song featuring Sanjay Dutt. Was that a necessity? Didn’t it elongate the movie a tad? But yet again, that enjoyable enough, though not required, song and dance sequence, wasn’t that much of a waste of time and space, to ruin this pleasant ride along with a good hearted innocent creature from outer-space. Some interesting sequences set in Rajasthan include, the ‘Dancing Cars’ and P.K. downloading the Bhojpuri language via a prostitute. Of course the satirical comedy set Delhi, is, die out laughing, hilarious. Especially the sequences concerning various differential religions and customs, that tend to further confuse the poor alien, who comes from a planet, where everyone is considered equal.

PK is beautifully shot, in some spectacular locations, including the cobbled streets, of the breathtaking Flemish city, of Bruges (in Belgium), barren landscapes of India’s largest state, Rajasthan, and impressively showcases some iconic historical monumental backdrops of Old and New Delhi (in India). PK also consists of some melodious songs; that one can’t easily get out of their system; specifically the romantic yesteryear style of ‘Chaar Kadam’ (Four Steps), and the comical number featuring Aamir Khan and Anushka Sharma, ‘Love is a waste of Time’.

Besides, the great characterisation of P.K. by, Aamir Khan, the rest of the cast is just as superb. Anushka Sharma is amazing as Jagat Janani (a.k.a. Jaggu), a TV journalist who works for a prestigious television channel, in New Delhi, and who too questions blind religious faiths and foolish archaic superstitious beliefs, including of her own family’s. Jaggu desperately tries to expose the fraudulent Maharishi, and ropes in P.K. to help her do so. She is the only being in our planet, besides us, the audience, who is aware that P.K. is actually an extraterrestrial from outer space. Plus that vintage chic short crop hairdo Sharma sports is spot on. She feels like a cool chick from 80’s, especially in a scene she’s seen, wearing a loose white T-shirt, and no pants 🙂 . She looks good, and acts just as well. Boman Irani, another superb actor, does a great job, as Cherry Bajwa, the head of the television news network. Veteran, Parikshat Sahni, is a perfect fit as the god fearing, blindly devoted, disciple of the Maharishi, and Jaggu’s father. Saurabh Shukla is a natural as Tapasvi Maharaj, the deceptive Maharishi, conning fearful ignorant minds. Sanjay Dutt and Sushant Singh Rajput, are pretty interesting in their respective cameo appearances. But Ranbir Kapoor (of the famous Kapoor dynasty of Bollywood), puts on his usual, unimaginative, hackneyed, goggle eyed, dumb expression, seen in quite a few of his movies, in his blink of an eye, appearance. Besides these, other minor characters are also quite good in their respective roles.

A couple of Hindu organisations, wanted the film banned, as it apparently hurt Hindu sentiments. But their protests didn’t play, and PK was a big hit India.

Bollywood makes thousands of movies per year, and the whole of India (including other regional cinema), makes the largest number of films in the world. But majority of films that come out are crap. But when India get it right, they sure get it right. India has brought out some very good movies, including some of the greatest films ever, with an international standard, that happen to be amongst the best loved films in the world. Not just movies that are here today, and gone tomorrow. Not just Bollywood films, but films from the rest of the Indian film fraternities as well, especially when it comes to Bengali Art cinema, as well as Indian English language movies. India has brought out some excellent movies, that tend to age well, even though percentage wise, it might be a miniscule percentage of films, considering the output of Indian films, per year.

PK being an exceptional story, I don’t know if it ought to be necessarily nominated for ‘Best Film’, but it definitely should at least be nominated, if not gain a win, for ‘Best Script’, ‘Best Original Story’, ‘Best Director’ and no doubt secure a nomination for ‘Best Actor’, at all the prestigious Indian Award functions.

It’s extremely rare for a good movie, to make it’s way into the cinemas here. So am, so glad, PK ventured it’s way, across the Palk Straight (ocean strip), down here, and I got to watch it on the Big Screen, day before yesterday, on the 27th of January, 2015.

PK (2014) is an almost excellent, commercially successful, movie, with a brilliant social message. 9/10!!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense