Tag Archive: Brilliant Cinematographers


The 8th Annual SAARC Film Festival, celebrating films of South Asia, came and went; and I got to see some films, ranging from excellent masterpieces to pathetic waste of time flicks. Below are my take on the movies that I got the chance to see, my experience of the festival, as well as my ratings for each.

JANAAN (2016)

Janaan (2016) is a Pakistani commercial film, aping the the styles of the Bollywood masala rom-com, with done to death love triangles, heroes and villains, the battle of good versus evil, tragedy and triumph. Though beautifully filmed, capturing the spectacular landscape of Pakistan’s breathtaking Swat valley; with equally beautiful people with flawless skin (not just the younger generation, but all three generation encompasses flawless beauties, male and female, with sharp features, and perfect healthy figures), speaking the very refined and poetic languages of Urdu (national language of Pakistan) and Pashto/Pushto (language specific to that region of Pakistan), with glamorous costumes; due to the cheesy story line and mediocre acting talent, the film disappoints.

The story is pretty simple. A bewitchingly beautiful girl, who’s been living in Canada for 11 years, revisits her ancestral home; and encounters love and sadness, happiness and tears, romance and tragedy, the good, the bad and the ugly; all the melodrama of a commercial movie scene. The Pakistan film industry’s commercial cinema needs to up their game. These directors don’t need to go out of their comfort zones to make Art Films, if they don’t want to (though Pakistan has a few good artsy films; one that comes to mind is Ramchand Pakistani,2008, starring Indian actress Nandita Das); but with a perfect screenplay, superb actors, and catchy tunes; even a mediocre story could turn out to be an enjoyable movie. Look at Bollywood movies; why are they successful, despite most movies coming out of the Indian commercial Film Industry made in Hindi (India’s national language) being crap; because the few good commercial movies they make are brilliant. Though am a bit of an Art House snob; I do love a good commercial movie; which includes Bollywood movies. The likes of Awaara (1951), Mughal-E-Azam (1960), Tere Ghar Ke Samne (1963), Teen Devian (1965), Guide (1965), Amrapali (1966), Anand (1971), Haré Rama Haré Krishna (1971) a guilty pleasure, Abhimaan (1973), Chupke Chupke (1975), Arth (1982) which happens to be my favourite Bollywood commercial movie, Nikaah (1982), Rang Birangi (1983), Sadma (1983), Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (1994), 1947: Earth (1998), Yes Boss (1997) another guilty pleasure, Guru (2007), Aamir (2008), 7 Khoon Maaf (2011), Barfi! (2012), Kahaani (2012), Haider (2014), Mary Kom (2014), Neerja (2016), etc etc Dot Dot Dot …. What’s brilliant about these movies, are not just the unique story lines (in some cases), the catchy music, the costumes, the cinematography et al; BUT good film direction (which I noticed Jannan actually has) and great performances (the main flaw of Jannan, besides the story). Thus a good director and great acting skills are the two key elements for making a good movie. The rest are secondary. Of course, though Bollywood is mostly popular for their commercial ventures, India does have some really good Art Films in Hindi as well, like Ankur: The Seedling (1974) my favourite Hindi language Art Movie, Junoon (1979), Kalyug (1981), Utsav (1984), Saaransh (1984), Mirch Masala (1987), Salaam Bombay! (1988) which was nominated for an Oscar, Raincoat (2004), The Blue Umbrella (2005), Stanley Ka Dabba (2011), The Lunchbox (2013), Masaan (2015), Aligarh (2015) to name some. Of course, India is not just Bollywood; there are lot a regional film, from various Indian states, in regional (and foreign) languages, from English and Urdu, to Indian languages ranging from Punjabi, Bhojpuri, Assamese, Malayalam, Telugu, to Tamil and many more. India is a massive country, with an equally massive population; with a vast array of racial, religious, cultural differences from state to state. Bengali Art Films coming out from India’s State of West Bengal, be it in Bengali or English (or bilinguals) are the best. Other Indian-English language films tend to be superb too. Last year’s The Hungry (2017) was a brilliant modern re-telling of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus.

I’ve heard about a new Pakistani movie, called Cake (2018). Really looking forward to checking it out. Sorry Azfar Jafri, your Janaan, was pretty bad; despite having made a whopping at the Box Office. Though I commend you for the excellence in direction, cinematography, editing and the beautiful costumes.

MATA NAM AHUNA (2015)

This Sri Lankan short film from Nadya Perera, was a waste of time. A total drag. Not to mention politically incorrect and tad racist. Nadya Perera had worked as crew member for the Sri Lankan/Italian film, Machan (2008), an averagely good movie, directed by Italian director, Uberto Pasolini, and much loved by Lankan audiences. Mata Nam Ahuna (2015), English Title – While You Slept (2015), is Perera’s second short film. The movie deals with a brothel catering to male Chinese construction workers here. The prostitutes are local girls who cater to these Chinese men’s needs. Once an actual young Chinese girl is brought into serve the men, a girl fears for her job. Slowly her inferiority complex and insecurity takes over and she tries to become Chinese, inside out. A good concept, but what a bore. The movie was only 24 minutes, but I felt I sat through that flick for an hour, at least.

Plus, they’ve got the facts wrong. True there is an influx of Chinese workers coming into the country post war; but Chinese labour is nothing new. And brothels are nothing new in the country. This movie gives the impression that such places are a necessity today, because only Chinese men have such sexual cravings. There have been brothels in Lanka from time immemorial, including the bringing in of prostitutes from abroad. Although the premise of the movie was good, bringing in foreign workers, means less work for locals. Yet, it’s not just post-end of war; it’s been happening since way before.

This was the second worst movie, I saw at the festival.

Jaya Ahsan & Abir Chatterjee, in a scene Bisorjon (2017)

BISORJON (2017)

This Indian Bengali movie was THE best movie I saw at the Film Festival this year, but sadly it was shown “out of competition”. Beats me, why????

With brilliant character sketches, a heart-rending story, and superb performances, Bisorjon (2017), English title – Immersion, is a must watch, for all film lovers. The story is about a Muslim man from West-Bengal, India, who washes into Bangladesh; where a Hindu Bangladeshi widow, saves him, protects him, and takes care of him. The irony of the circumstances is even more intriguing, as India’s state of West-Bengal is a predominantly Hindu region (though Islam is a fast growing religion in that state), and Bangladesh is a Muslim country, with a tiny percentage of Hindus, and other religions. Thus the biggest irony is, the fact that an injured Indian Muslim man, has to pretend to be Hindu, in an Islamic country, as he is living under the roof of a Hindu widow, and her ailing father-in-law. Plus, though they speak the same language (i.e. Bengali); the dialectics differ. So as not to get caught by the Bangladeshi forces, as he is an Indian residing in Bangladesh illegally, she teaches him to speak in her dialect (i.e. the Bangladeshi version of Bengali; or Bangla, as they call it). This beautiful slow-paced love-story without any romance is made with perfection, by director, Kaushik Ganguly. Slow does not have to be a bore, and this is anything but. The suspense of the story keeps you glued, and the exchange of dialogues are unmissable and amusing. It’s the dialogues, the expressions, and beautiful performances, that keeps the story going. The cast is just as brilliant, as the films direction; and the director too plays a significant supporting role in the film. The best work in this Indian movie, was by Bangladeshi actress, Jaya Ahsan (pronounced Joya Ahsan).

Jaya Ahsan plays Padma, the selfless widow; who gives and gives, and sacrifices, without really expecting anything in return. Seeing what a saintly human being she is, one can feel content, that there is still scope for humanity. Her character is uniquely complex. She loved her husband, who died due to alcohol abuse. She spends her time taking care of her, weakened with age, father-in-law. The discovery of a near dead man, re-ignites her dormant passion for a male companion, in her heart and soul. She doesn’t necessarily fall in love with this handsome stranger; but seeing him in her husband’s old clothes, she falls in love with the essence of her husband, that brings back memories, through this stranger. She had submerged all human feelings of desire till now. But this strange Muslim man, from another country, re-kindles her desires for a male lover. Yet, their friendship is purely platonic, and the stranger, Nasir (played by actor, Abir Chatterjee) doesn’t reciprocate. He has a girl, waiting for him back home. Even though he admires and cares, for this Hindu widow, he doesn’t feel any lustful desire for her. But neither does she feel any lust for him, but more for the memories of her husband, brought back to life, through Nasir’s clothing and smoking the cigarette brand that Padma’s husband use to smoke. As she inhales the cigarette smoke puffed out by Nasir, her heart pounds for her dead husband, in this new human avatar. She resides with contentment and misery through this unrequited love. She doesn’t want things to change, and rebuffs the affection of the village headman, Ganesh (played by film director, Kaushik Ganguly). The ambiguity of the character of Ganesh, makes the film more intriguing; as sometimes he feels like the sly villain of the piece, horny headed, helping the widow, with an alternate agenda; and yet, on the other end, his affections for her seem genuine, and he is very protective of her. His sidekick Lau (Lama), provides the comic relief, in the movie.

Then comes the movie’s climax, the day Nasir has to escape (by now we know Nasir is a thief, who trying to escape the cops, jumped into the river, on the day of immersion of the idol of Durga, and got wounded). Padma’s father-in-law is dead, she has no where to go, except maybe back to her parents. Yet, it won’t be easy for Nasir to leave, undetected, with the border patrol. Thus, Padma’s biggest sacrifice. She agrees to marry Ganesh, if he helps Nasir get back through the river, on the day immersion. She comes home, shedding her white attire of a Hindu widow, dressed like the Durga herself. We see the agony she is going through, she drinks, she smokes; and Nasir breaks down on learning of her ultimate sacrifice.

The scene so tragically beautiful is done with exceptional brilliance. Jaya Ashen is superb, your heart goes out to her. For all her affection towards Nasir, she does get one thing in return, his seedling. Initially, with all the border problems, I assumed the movie was set during the Bangladesh war of liberation, in 1971. But then I saw mobile phones, so realized it’s set in the modern day (village attire doesn’t give away the time period, as those traditional styles hardly change). Yet, the mobiles were somewhat older, in style and technology. Which made sense later, as we see Padma married to Ganesh, with a six year old kid. A kid with Nasir’s birthmark on his back.

The finalé is beautifully done, with the camera zooming into the, now dilapidated, house; where Padma and Nasir consummated their desires, resulting in the conception of a child. A child, Ganesh calls his own. Symbolic of the void left behind, by the man that brought back human desires into her heart. A man, that is dead to her, metaphorically (but lives through the son they created, that one night); unlike her husband’s death, literally, which left her with nothing.

The best Indian movies tend to come out of the state of West Bengal (as I mentioned earlier), and Bengali Cinema has brought out some of the best directors ever, including Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Aparna Sen and Rituparno Ghosh, to name some. In fact, Aparna Sen’s The Japanese Wife (2010), based on a beautiful short story, by Kunal Basu, happens to be my all time favourite Indian movie (see my post, Photograph no.5, from six months ago). Having seen Kaushik Ganguly’s, brilliant tribute to the veteran Satyajit Ray, that was, Apur Panchali (2013), and now Bisorjon, Ganguly can be added to these Bengali greats. Last month, director, Kaushik Ganguly, announced that he is making a sequel to Bisorjon.

Indian Film Director, Kaushik Ganguly, announces that he is making a sequel to Bisorjon (2017), as Bangladesh Actress, Jaya Ahsan, looks on; at an event (April 2018)

POORNA (2017)

Based on a true story, Poorna (2017), is Rahul Bose’s second foray into film direction.

Malavath Purna (a.k.a. Poorna Malavath) is an Adivāsi girl from Telangana North, a state in Southern India, who became the youngest girl to scale the highest peak of Mount Everest, at the age of 13 years and 11 months. She, till date, is the youngest girl to have done so. She reached the peak on the 25th of May, 2014. Adivāsis are a tribal community (which differs from regions to regions), that make up a small population of South Asia. Majority of them, are scattered around India. Though Adivāsis are a lower caste, considered primitive, they are not considered impure, by higher Indian castes of India’s Hindu population. Thus, not to be confused with the caste of Dalits, who sadly are also known as “Untouchables”. Unfortunately these caste systems still prevail, in modern India.

Bose’s Poorna, is a bio-pic on this famed young mountain climber. AND a brilliant movie at that. Young Aditi Inamdar, does a marvelous job, as the protagonist of the movie, in her debut performance. The movie demonstrates the trials and troubles faced by this young girl, coming from a lower social background, where child marriage of younger girls to older men, is still the norm; and how she defies social stigmas, overcomes problems after problems, from family issues, training, to the actual ascend onto the Himalayas.

These impressive inspiring tales are nothing new, and there are plenty of films made on sportsmen/women and adventurers. But this is still a wonderfully made movie, that too on real life person. Added to which, this story is about a tribal girl who beats all odds, and triumphs against adversity. If it were any other Indian or other well to do girl, the triumph would have been hers alone; but the fact an Adivāsi girl reached the peak, at such a young age; is an inspiration to the entire Adivāsi tribe. It’s a push forward for the entire community. Thanks to her, young Adivāsis have scope for getting away from monotonous lifestyles, and making something of their lives. Of course, Poorna, has the luck, and help comes in the way of Dr. Praveen Kumar (Rahul Bose), who see her potential and never stops encouraging her, and other children like her. Added to which Poorna’s mentor, her elder cousin sister, supports Poorna, and pushes her forward, despite having no hope for herself. In the end, it’s the memory of her cousin that helps Poorna achieve what she sought out to do.

More recently, in July 2017, Malavath Purna, scaled Mt. Elbrus, the highest peak in Russia, and the European continent.

With Bangladesh Film Director, Tauquir Ahmed, at the 8th SAARC Film Festival 2018 (26th May 2018); post the screening of Poorna (2017), and just hours before the screening of Ahmed’s film, Haldaa (2017)

Tauquir Ahmed gives a small speech, before the screening of his movie, Haldaa (2017)

HALDAA (2017)

Shot around the scenic river Halda, in Chattogram, in southeastern Bangladesh, depicting the lives of fishermen and their families; Haldaa (2017) is a movie with breathtaking cinematography and a lovely story. The story deals with repression, both of fisherman, due to industrial pollution and at the hands of pirates, and women, living under a patriarchal society.

Nusrat Imroz Tisha plays Hasu, a daughter of a troubled fisherman, who is forced into a marriage with a rich older man, against her will. She is the second wife, of this wealthy villain; whose first wife hasn’t borne any children, and is still married to him. One interesting point shown in the movie, is the symbolic representation of killing of the “Mother Fish”, or pregnant fish. It’s not only shown as a superstition, considered wrong to kill a pregnant fish, but also shown with a realistic aspect too, that of the breeding of the fish. If you kill a pregnant fish, the number of fish in river would reduce, which happens to be the main livelihood of those living along these banks. The Halda River, of Chattogram, is the only pure fish breeding center in Asia. When Hasu’s father kills a “Mother Fish”, it upsets both the father and daughter, later when a “Mother Fish” from the Halda River, is sent by Hasu’s husband, she refuses to cook it, and when guests arrive she throws the cooked fish to the groud, in demonstration. She is badly beaten by her husband. Unlike the first wife, Hasu, is a bold woman, and not afraid of her man. Since post marriage, she shows no signs of getting pregnant, people talk about her being sterile like the first wife. Killing of a “Mother Fish” was a sign. But she eventually does get pregnant, but it might not be her husband’s.

This shows a bold village feminist, who refuses to lose her identity; as her mother-in-law, Surat Banu (Dilara Zaman) asks Hasu, while Banu lies bedridden, after a fall, to call her by her name (instead of calling her mother). A tear-jerking scene, as Banu points out, how women lose their identity, as a daughter, daughter-in-law, wife, mother, mother-in-law; and their names vanish along with their identity. Surat doesn’t call her younger independent minded daughter-in-law Bahu (daughter-in-law), as is the custom; but by her name, Hasu. Surat admires Hasu for her braveness, and gives her the household keys, instead of the elder Bahu. This makes the, nameless and conniving, elder Bahu, not so happy.

Nusrat Imroz Tisha is superb as Hasu. With director Tauquir Ahmed’s (a.k.a. Toukir Ahmed) beautifuly filmed movie, and few awesome performances, and a touching script, it’s no doubt a great film from Bangladesh. Yet, the overall experience of the movie was average fare (among international standards). Though I didn’t think it was among the greatest films ever made, there were lot elements of the movie, I loved. The last scene, when just Hasu and her husband are left in the house, with the unexpected twist in the end, was gracefully executed. ’twas just sublime. Tauquir Ahmed, at the post screening , mentioned that he made two versions of the movie. One a commercial venture, for Bangladesh audiences, and the other, an art movie, for the international distribution (the one we saw); which he called the “director’s cut”. It would be interesting to see both, and do a compare and contrast, though no doubt, the version we saw, was the better one.

The next day, this film was awarded four trophies, including ‘Best Film’ at the SAARC Film Festival award ceremony. Though I didn’t think Tauquir Ahmed’s Haldaa, was the best film, am glad it was given the recognition, instead of some undeserved movie. It definitely deserved the win for ‘Best Cinematography’, no doubt about that. A big congratulations to director, Tauquir Ahmed. And all the best with your next project.

These three feature films have beautiful titles with beautiful meanings. Bisorjon/Bishorjan (pronunciation differs according to Bengali dialects) means immersion, as the English title suggests, and is based on the custom of immersing the idol of Durga into water (the ocean or a river), during the famed Durga puja festivities in, certain parts of India, and Bangladesh (this festival plays a vital role in the movie’s plot). Poorna or Purna, meaning fulfilled, is the name of the protagonist, and is based on the life of Malavath Purna, a young Indian mountaineer. AND Haldaa, is the river Halda, in south-eastern Bangladesh, on the banks on which the entire premise of the story is set in. Though not as great as Bisorjon and Poorna, Haldaa is the best film from Bangladesh I’ve seen; and there is scope for Bangladeshi Bangla films to catch up to International standards, akin to great European and other Asian Art House Films.

Nusrat Imroz Tisha, dressed in bridal finery, as Hasu, in Haldaa (2017)

THE WATERFALL (2017)

Seated right at the front, like Bertolucci’s “Dreamers” (i.e. like the trio of lead characters from Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers, 2003), I was one of the first to absorb this short film, before it reached the rest.

Like wasps attracted to a hornets’ nest, people thronged into the cinema, including Colombo’s so called elite. It was as if these uncontrollable crowds were from a remote village with a high level of illiteracy, or people from slums. Such a rowdy crowd for a short film. No, they were there, for the next film, a Sinhala feature film; but these losers came in early afraid to lose a seat for the next movie, Bahuchithawadiya (2018). Not that most of these people care for films at a festival; but a free viewing, that too of a Sri Lankan film, brought in the worst crowds possible.

Anyway, Lipika Singh Darai’s The Waterfall (2017), is an Indian-English language short film. Having worked on documentaries, this was first venture into a fictional movie. It’s a beautiful movie about a city boy from Mumbai, who visits his ancestral home in a scenic hill station, in the state Odisha (formerly known as Orissa). He spends his time enjoying the natural wonders of the village, missing in the city, with his cousin. In particular, there is this one waterfall, that he has great admiration for. Soon he learns that the waterfall is drying up; and urbanization is ruining the surrounding nature. It affects him, and villagers, profoundly; but it doesn’t seem to bother his cousin (who resides there), and other well to do people of the village.

Beautiful little story, about the effects of climate change and construction projects. Averagely good.

BAHUCHITHAWADIYA (2018)

This crude caper is a crapper. And yes, I was still seated right at the front.

What a pathetic waste of time. Ridiculous acting, the actors are thinking of their dialogues then saying it. With long pauses between dialogues, how artificial and unrealistic it looked. What a bore!! These “tele-drama” style acting ought to be obsolete by now (Sri Lankan soaps have been known as tele-dramas, since the invent of these distasteful Sinhala television series’, back in the 1980’s. Lankan’s till date stay glued to the idiot box watching such nonsensical shows, thus their brains are just as slow and narrow).

Even though the premise of virtual acquaintances and promiscuous youth was (though not unique), an interesting area to turn into a cinematic experience; the pathetic execution of the plot, and specifically the fake acting talent roped in, made the viewing unbearable. This was the last movie of the festival. Heavy Sri Lankan egos might not like my take on the film (as they feel they have to love films made in their own country); but me having no false pride, or fake sense of patriotism, nor any brainwashed attitudes of loving everything, just because it’s Sri Lankan, have to say it; Sri Lankan movies are not up to the standard. Gone are the days of Lester James Peries (Rekava,1956, Gamperaliya,1963), Sumitra Peries (Ganga Addara,1980) and Tissa Abeysekera (Viragaya,1987); yet these greatest Sri Lankan films mentioned here, still were average fare (internationally speaking). In more recent times, only director, Prasanna Vithanage (Anantha Rathriya,1996, Pura Handa Kaluwara,1997, Silence in the Courts,2015) comes to mind as local films worth checking out; yet even his movies are only averagely good (but brilliant in Sri Lankan terms). One main reason is, though these were/are good directors; the acting skills even of the best actors here, do not match up. And in Bahuchithawadiya, the acting talent is amongst the worst ever. Added to which, Bahuchithawadiya, is among the worse films ever made, anywhere; and THE worst movie I saw at this year’s festival. Even though, this was given an award for ‘Best Sound Design’; I feel there were better films that deserved the said award.

THE SAARC FILM FEST EXPERIENCE

The poorly organized SAARC Film Festival, with it’s totally mucked up schedule, started on the 22nd of May, 2018. Practically any event in this country, tends to be badly done; yet, this years SAARC Film Fest, was definitely comparatively better than the previous year’s (which was held only six months ago, in November 2017). I couldn’t go the first two days, especially due to the bad weather, and various other reasons. On the third day, 24th of May, I went. I really had a keen interest in seeing this 13 minute short film from Bangladesh, Daag (2017). The story is set during the Bangladesh war of liberation, in 1971; where a woman marries her rapist. I thought the premise was interesting. Already stressed out, as I was leaving for the fest, due to inhumane cruel people of this country; not to mention being stuck in a terrible traffic for close to 2 hours, I missed the short film. So I sat down to watch the next movie, Janaan (I’ve spoken of above). After the disappointment of sitting through the cheesy romance, and going through the stress of the day; I felt too tired to watch the rest of the films. Otherwise I would have seen the next two at least, the local Sinhala film, 28 (2014), and the Indian Marathi movie, Kshitij: A Horizon (2016). Kshitij: A Horizon, is the movie I really wanted to watch, for I could watch the Sri Lankan film, rented on cable TV, or if shown on a local channel. So, on my ‘Day 1’, Janaan, is the only movie I watched. Next day, I went early enough, and caught the short film Mata Nam Ahuna & the feature length film, Bisorjon (spoken about them above). The schedule being changed there was a Maldivian horror movie next, 4426 (2016). Initially I thought of checking it out, even though it didn’t really interest me, but still going through the weariness of the day before, I decided I needed to go home and rest. The next day, the last day of screening, on Saturday, 26th May; I went in the morning, to catch most of the movies. Still, when I reached there the short film, Kalo Meghar Vela (2018) a.k.a. The Cloud Boat, from Bangladesh had already started. So waited outside, and went in to catch the next movie, but happen to see the last bit of Kalo Meghar Vela, as it ran longer than scheduled. The next was Poorna (spoken of above). Post that, I did not see the next film, another commercial venture from Pakistan, which I heard skipped. Technical problem!!! Technical problems are nothing new at film festivals here, it always happens, and that too specially at the NFC (National Film Corporation); where these festivals mainly tend to take place. Added to that the seating is really bad, so congested, there is not enough leg space, for even a person of average height (and am 6ft, 2½”). Anyway, next I went in for Haldaa (spoken of above), which too had a technical difficulty (the sound wasn’t clear), so we ended up watching it on Blu-ray, projected onto the big wide screen. Post that, saw the next two/last two films, The Waterfall & Bahuchithawadiya, seated right in front, as mentioned.

I didn’t go for the award ceremony next day, on Sunday, but am glad the main awards were given to more deserved movies, unlike last year. Hope the organizers of this film festival do a better job, next time around. Even though badly done, am glad these rare festivals occur; as such films don’t really come to cinemas, in this aesthetically depressive country. There is no real understanding, nor an interest for, the arts, in general, in Sri Lanka. But it’s good, they have film festivals here now. After all, there were only two Colombo Film Festivals (back in 2014 & 2015) a festival, funded by the Japanese, and that died pretty young; and this was just the “8thSAARC Film Festival (which I hope shall continue, thanks to the help of other South Asian countries). None the less, looking forward to the next film festival, and preferably a more well organized one.

MY RATINGS (Set of Seven):-

  • Bisorjon (2017) – The Best – 10/10!!!!!
  • Poorna (2017) – The Next – 10/10!!!!!
  • Haldaa (2017) – (higher) Average Fare – 6/10!!!
  • The Waterfall (2017) – (lower) Average Fare – 5/10!!!
  • Janaan (2016) – Pretty Bad – 4/10!!
  • Mata Nam Ahuna (2015) – One of the worse short films ever – 1/10!
  • Bahuchithawadiya (2018) – The worst film at the festival – 1/10!

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Film Director, N. Padmakumar, standing next to a poster of his debut fictional movie, at the 21st Busan International Film Festival; in Busan, South Korea

Hari Aziz; as the name (Hindu first name & Muslim surname) itself suggests; is a mixed breed. His father is from Northern India, with Muslim roots; and his mother from South India, darker in complexion, with Hindu roots. Thus, Hari Aziz is a hybrid of a mixed race couple. Since both his intellectual parents are agnostic in nature, he has nothing to worry. They live quite a posh life, in Mumbai, India. Yet, when financial difficulties arise, we watch them getting poorer and poorer, moving into middle class housing, to even worse lower income apartments, as they descend deeper into the real India. Real, modern-day, independent India, infested with small minded archaic mentalities, extremists ideologies, thuggery and violence.

Directed by Padmakumar Narasimhamurthy, A Billion Colour Story (2016) is beautiful Indian-English language movie, shot brilliantly in Black & White, which ironically turns into colour, when the most colourful personality of this tragic tale is shot dead. I had never heard of Padmakumar Narasimhamurthy, until day before yesterday, when I watched this art movie. This is his debut feature film, he released a documentary in the summer of the same year; in the middle of the Year of the Sweets, in June 2016. A Billion Colour Story was released, later, in Autumn, that year.

With an amazing array of unknown, yet superb naturalistic acting talent, with brilliantly penned out characters, and an equally brilliant script (which too was written by Padmakumar Narasimhamurthy); this movie is a must watch. Out of all the actors, it’s the child actor, Dhruva Padmakumar; playing 11 year old, Hari Aziz, the narrator of the film; to look out for. He’s a lovely character – intelligent, very mature (in a world full of immature adults); yet shy and bashful, when a young girl, Sophia (Keya Kalyan), asks him whether he’d like to be her boyfriend. He blushes adorably. He’s a self sufficient, and trustful, kid; that his parents need not worry about. Brought up in an open-minded environment, he’s given the necessary freedom a child deserves. But of course, that doesn’t mean he is neglected. He’s showered with well endowed love and affection, and truly spoilt, to the core. No harm in spoiling him, he’s not a brat, far from it. He’s a really smart, good-hearted, kid. He knows everything there is to know about the world, thanks to his curiosity to find out about anything he hears, on his own smart phone. He doesn’t abuse the net, wasting on unnecessary hogwash, but uses his phone as it’s namesake suggests, smartly. This was Dhruva Padmakumar’s very first film appearance, and the only credited role, till date.

Vasuki, Dhruva Padmakumar and Gaurav Sharma; in a scene from A Billion Colour Story (2016)

Hari Aziz’s father, Imran Aziz (Gaurav Sharma), is lovely person. An open-minded personality, a great husband, a loving father; practically perfect. But all humans are flawed creatures, some more than others. He is a pragmatist, yet not practical. A clash of terms, let me explain. As I stated, he is a very open minded individual; not a religious person, fights against formalists – extremist attitudes, fights for justice, but is somewhat blinded by his love for his country. Despite everything going wrong, as they lose money, sink into poverty, and see inhumane attitudes, surrounded constantly with negative energy, pulling them down (it’s very hard stay afloat and positive in such a society, and I know from personal experience of having associated Sri Lankans, all over the world, and still constantly having to go through it, in this country of my own unfortunate roots, full of Lankan egos); his belief in humanity, that India is a beautiful country full of beautiful people, survives. True, India is a beautiful country; with some amazing people, but when there is so much animosity towards their inter-racial union, from both sides; he ought to have been somewhat less saintly, and a bit more intelligent. His, this, blind faith, brings about a stressful ruination of his happy life, to the extent of an imminent danger, not just to himself, but friends and family. Though am not familiar with Gaurav Sharma’s work, he seems to have starred in quite a few unheard of Hindi Films, that are critically declaimed. Yet, just because he starred in some bad movies does not necessarily mean he is a bad actor. He was superb in A Billion Colour Story; and he essayed the role of a modern man, with Muslim roots, with blind love and hope for his country, struggling to survive in a formalist, narrow-minded, society, to perfection.

Hari Aziz’s mother, Parvati Aziz (played with perfection, by a little known, South Indian actress, Vasuki); is, like her husband, yet another intelligent, modern, optimistic and very progressive individual; yet she has no blind faith in India. She loves the country, as much as her husband, but she is well aware of it’s conservative backdrop, that will never accept their interracial union, nor ever want to change for the better. She’s aware of the people’s simple minded nature, stuck in their archaic brainwashed ways, that will never learn to think for themselves. Their is no hope, and it’s not even worth trying to educate and improve such people. A total waste of time and energy. No use preaching to fools. Yet, she supports her husband unconditionally. She’s more practical than her husband. A superb wife, with a brain of her own; and the perfect mother. In this sense, the trio of family members are lucky to have each other. The perfect, free-thinking, modern family. And, they are lucky to have a great group of like minded friends. But yet, they have to deal with everyday, unnecessary stressful problems; due to self centered, inhumane people. The more they are pulled down, into living around such a cruel ignorant society; the worse life gets.

Director, Padmakumar Narasimhamurthy, seen here with his son, child actor, Dhruva Padmakumar

The family strives through heavy patience, surviving and surviving, until one day tragedy strikes. That’s when they lose all hope, and decide to leave the country (we learn earlier on that the couple met in Australia, whilst studying there). But just as they are about to leave, a ray of new hope comes there way; but at what cost. It’s too late, no matter what they do, the best thing about their life is no more; and they’d have to live with that guilt consciousness for the rest of their lives. No matter what, they’ll feel in their hearts, it was their own fault.

It’s a beautifully made, sad, heart-rending, story; told wittily through the eyes of a child. The only big flaw, was the film’s producer, Satish Kaushik’s, cameo; as a fictional film producer, named, Chopra. The scene itself, might not have been that long. YET, it drags on a bit, that it brought a “break in the continuity” of the story (a similar statement is used later in the movie); and those few minutes felt like an hour. Post that scene, the film itself felt a bit dull, for a little while (maybe due to the aftermath of that scene, making me lose interest a bit). Then it caught the pace, and moved on smoothly.

Satish Kaushik is notorious for his not so great directorial work, on Bollywood comedies and melodramas; as well as acting in them. Yet, he is a good writer, for he did co-wrote the dialogues, of one of the most notable comedies of Bollywood ever, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983); and of course he had to act in that too. And with A Billion Colour Story, he’s proved himself as a producer as well. His first (co-)production was, Mr. India (1987); a pretty good children’s film; with Anil Kapoor (an international star today), the late Sridevi (who recently died in a drowning accident), little Aftab Shivdasani (a not so well regarded Bollywood actor, as an adult star), and of course, yours truly; Satish Kaushik, as a character called “Calendar”. But he was fun in that.

Besides the stellar performances; not just by the lead trio, but also the supporting cast; including, Neha Chauhan, Swapnil Ralkar, Sumit Suri, Shashank Karmarkar and Rashmi Somvanshi (not familiar with any of them, but loved them in this film), to name some; the movie is shot spectacularly in Black and White (as I mentioned earlier). Nothing in life is Black and White, not even in a Black and White picture; there are always shades of grey. And this film itself is a great study of human psychology; the black, the white, and greys that blur the lines in between. The man responsible for the symbolic cinematography is none other than the film director, Padmakumar Narasimhamurthy, himself.

Dhruva Padmakumar, the child star of A Billion Colour Story, is the son of the film director, Padmakumar Narasimhamurthy (a.k.a. N. Padmakumar). No harm in a bit of nepotism, if they can get the job done; and Dhruva Padmakumar is a very talented young man, who does a wonderful job in the movie. With eloquent English, he narrates with pure poetry, and acts with a natural ease, making his realistic character, very relatable.

A Billion Colour Story (2016)
My Rating: Near Excellent – 9/10!!!!

N. Padmakumar’s next venture, supposedly, will be set in Sri Lanka; set against the religious and racial conflicts of this country; based on a short story by him. That would be interesting, and am really looking forward to checking it out.

I watched, A Billion Colour Story, on 2nd of May, 2018; rented on Peo TV (our Cable operator).

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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Today happens to be, the great humanitarian, ‘s, 89th Birth Anniversary !!!!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Movie Trivia!!!!

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!!!!!  

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This Blogathon, hosted by ‘Real Weegie Midget’, that I joined the last minute (as we just came across each others Blogs, just few days ago, and before I knew it, I was invited to take part in this new Blogathon), is in correspondence to actor Jack Nicholson’s 80th Birthday!! Thus, a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY, to a legendary genius of modern cinema, Jack Nicholson!! Wish him all the best in health and happiness in his old age. For this Blogathon, I’m paying a ‘Double Bill’ tribute, featuring Nicholson’s TWO Film releases, of 1966 (both Acid Westerns, with similar story line)!!!!!
Ride in the Whirlwind (1966)

Directed by Monte Hellman, and Written, Produced & Starring, a very young Jack Nicholson; the story is about an innocent man on run from a group of vigilantes.

Three cowboys, including a young man called Wes (Nicholson) stop to break for the night, at a remote hideout of a gang of outlaws, led by Blind Dick (a young, Harry Dean Stanton). Come morning, they find themselves surrounded by a vigilante hanging party. It’s interesting to note, how the vigilantes here are portrayed in a realistic light. Unlike many films and television shows of today, where people taking the law into their own hands, are portrayed in a heroic light; here we see them, for what they actually can be. They are not necessarily the good guys. They not only kill off the gang they are after, but they are responsible for the deaths of two innocent people as well, assuming they are part of a gang of robbers. Plus they are on a hunt to kill off, another innocent person, Wes. It’s a hint on why people shouldn’t take the law into their own hands. Protecting oneself and other victims is a different matter, but going after someone, committing murder, in the name of justice, without any factual evidence, doesn’t make you a hero/heroine. Sure the law makes mistakes too, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to go around harming people in the name of justice. Vigilantes are humans too, and human beings are very flawed creatures.

A pretty good story, but just an OK film. Average Fare!!!
My Rating: 6/10!!!

Jack Nicholson in Ride in the Whirlwind (1966)

The Shooting (1966)

Directed by Monte Hellman, and Produced & Starring, a very young Jack Nicholson; this film is about a group cowboys going on a hunt, under the persuasion of a mysteriously secretive woman.

While, in Ride in the Whirlwind, Nicholson plays the hunted, here he is the hunter. The villain of the piece. Nicholson plays a gunslinger named Billy Spear, who’s been hired by a nameless woman (Millie Perkins). What’s really interesting here is, like most of the male characters in the film, we (the audience) ourselves, aren’t aware of what the hunt is for, until the end. The woman who hires them, is very secretive, and keeps changing her story, as to what they are accompanying her for. The ending of this movie is, unexpectedly, excellent.

Very good movie, very well told!!!!
My Rating: 8/10!!!!

Millie Perkins & Jack Nicholson, in a scene from The Shooting (1966)

Nicholson’s TWO Roles

Whilst, in Ride in the Whirlwind, Nicholson plays an innocent and kindly character, in The Shooting, he is sexier and scummier.

Young Nicholson is brilliantly different in the two very diverse roles he does. In Ride in the Whirlwind, you feel sorry for him, he is just a young man, who is afraid of being killed, for something he hasn’t done. He has his whole life ahead of him, but is being pursued by idiotic vigilantes; who assume they are being very heroic, by trying to kill him off. He’s just a kid. But in The Shooting, he shoots an innocent kid, Coley (Will Hutchins); and you wish to shoot him off. He is the monster, with a conniving smile, and an equally slimy body language, accompanying the smile. Amazingly Nicholson doesn’t look so young, despite the fact, both these movies were made back to back, in 1965, and released in 66’. Besides, he was in actuality in his late 20’s, when he made these movies. He’d turn 30, less than a year, after their releases. So, in reality, he wasn’t ‘just a kid’. But he looks really young, and with his innocence, in Ride in the Whirlwind, to complement him, he looks like he could be still in his teens even.

Out of the two roles, it’s his devious persona, in The Shooting, that shows potential for a more successful acting career. The acting career, we are used to, in some of his most defining roles, in films like; Easy Rider (1969), Chinatown (1974), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), The Shining (1980), The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981), Batman (1989), A Few Good Men (1992) As Good as It Gets (1997) and The Departed (2006); to name some.

Though Jack Nicholson, ventured into Hollywood, at the wee age of 17, in 1954; it was the 70’s decade that brought him into prominence. And his most notably, best performance to date, no doubt was in, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, for which Nicholson bagged his very first Oscar trophy, for ‘Best Actor’, at the 48th Academy Awards, held in 1976.

Jack Nicholson & Cameron Mitchell, in a scene from Ride in the Whirlwind (1966)

Behind the Scenes
As stated above, Jack Nicholson, didn’t just act in these low-budget movies, but he also produced them; plus he also wrote the screenplay for Ride in the Whirlwind. This wasn’t his first screenplay, yet success as a writer, was yet to happen. It was later, for The Trip (1967) that he would be commended for his brilliant literary skills, on a very 60’s, counterculture, film script, about a hallucinogenic acid trip. Speaking of counterculture and acid trips, both these acid westerns too, have a major influence of the 1960’s counterculture. But one of the major flaws in both films, happens to be the look of Millie Perkins’ character (yes she appears in both films, in a supporting role in one, and a lead in the other). Her hairdo feels very 60’s (but her head is mostly covered with a hat, in The Shooting). Luckily her makeup is that of a minimalist nature; which apparently Perkins wasn’t very happy about.

Monte Hellman and Jack Nicholson made decisions on the films together, including the lead cast. They together searched for locations for several weeks; before deciding on Kanab, Utah, USA. It was the perfect site to film both their films. The cinematography in The Shooting is wonderfully imaged. The entire film was shot in natural light.

It was producer, Roger Corman’s, idea, to make two films back to back. Corman financed the pictures, serving as the film’s uncredited ‘Executive Producer’. Nicholson was apparently worried about going over budget, while making these movies. But both films were completed in a total of six weeks of continuous shooting (three weeks per film). And thus, the films were completed for the original budget estimated. Yet, Hellman had to spend more than a year, editing the film footage.

These two Acid Westerns; which do not romanticise the west, rather shed a more realistically bleak light; one of which is just OK, and other really good; is an interesting insight into Jack Nicholson in the making. The Nicholson we came to know and love, today.

A Special THANK YOU, to my new found blogger pal, of ‘Real Weegie Midget’, for roping me in, for the Here’s Jack Blogathon 2017.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
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A couple of months ago, today (on the 16th of February, 2017), I was nominated for the Mystery Blogger Award, by Charlene of charsmoviereviews; but I never got to work on it, until now. So first of all, let me Thank you, Charlene, for nominating me for this mysterious award 😉 ; and let me also apologise for the delay. Sorry!!
This award was created by Okoto Enigma.

So here are the rules:-

– Put the award logo/image above. Done
– List the rules. Done
– Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their Blog. Done
– Mention the creator of the award and provide the creator’s link as well. Done
– Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
– Nominate 10 to 20 people & notify your nominees by commenting on their Blog
– Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)
– Share a link to your best post(s)

Fellow Film Buffs: Gingerella (in front) in a playful stance; whilst Nudin (in the back) looks on

Three3 Things about myself :-

1. My two Dogs ( & ), are the best thing that happened to my life; and the only good thing in this Dog forsaken country, that I happen to live in.

2. I detest the country I live in (although I hate hating), the country of my unfortunate roots (not my birth, thankfully); and I have 41 years of depressing experiences of reasons for it (I am not going to tell you my whole life story now, am I 😛 ).

3. Being an untouched loner, I long to have a good partner; with a good, kind, heart, and intellect; someday (sooner the better). ❤

Done

Nominees :-
Any fellow blogger that even glances at this post for even a second, consider yourself nominated. But don’t feel obligated. Accept it, If you like, and continue this chain of Blog awards. If you don’t enjoy it, you don’t have to. Rules are meant to be broken, and am bending them a little here, for the sake of my dear bloggers. You are all NOMINATED!!!!!
Done
Here are the Questions that ‘I’ have to answer:-

Q.1 What is one place on Earth you would like to visit but have not yet had the chance?
A.1 Niagara Falls

Q.2 What is your favourite Academy Award Best Picture winner?
A.2 Gone with the Wind (1939)

Q.3 What is one hairstyle you would like to try?
A.3 That’s hard to say, I’ve practically done everything I liked, from Billy Idol/Grease look/Elvis blend -minus the gel (teens n’ 20’s), to floppy long locks with Beatle Bangs/Parveen Babi Bangs (30’s; as you can see on my Gravatar image); the Mohawk/Mr. T look doesn’t really interest me (It’s just not me). So I really don’t know!!!! 😦 What else is there left to try?? Now, I’ve re-cut it really short.

Q.4 What is one project or new hobby you would like to start?
A.4 Something in the Arts field; but again, I’ve tried a lot of stuff, I don’t know. What’s new??

Q.5 What is your favourite song?
A.5 Imagine by John Lennon

Done
AND Here are my Questions that ‘YOU’, my fellow bloggers reading this post, have to answer (Enjoy):-

Q.1 What’s your favourite film adaptation of a novel you have read?
Q.2 What’s your favourite film adaptation of a novel you have not read?
Q.3 Who is your favourite film character? And Why?
Q.4 If you could go back into the 20th century, which classic celebrity, who died last century, would you like to meet?
Q.5 Who is/are the actor(s)/actress(es) of today, still in their early 20’s, you would like to get naked with, in real life? (Crazy/Weird/Naughty Question) 😀

Link to your best posts (that’s a hard one, so here are some of my personal favourites; 2 from each year) :-

PAST POSTS

Year 2012
Bookish Nuwan (More of a TWEET, than a Blog Post, my very 1st official write-up)
Prater Violet

Year 2013
Édith Piaf: 50th Death Anniversary
Sissi : 115th Death Anniversary of Empress Elisabeth of Austria

Year 2014
THE BILLY WILDER BLOGATHON: Love in the Afternoon
The Essential 60’s Blogathon : Dr Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Year 2015
Classic Movie History Project Blogathon – 1966: The Year dubbed as Nineteen Sexty Sex
Classic Cinematographers: Jack Cardiff

Year 2016
Love Wins – 1 YEAR!!
Shakespeare: Intellectual Minds and Beyond!!

POST OF 2017, so far

Year 2017
90 Years of Sidney Poitier Blogathon: To Sidney, with Love
Mardi-Gras, Movies-Gay

That’s it folks!
Enjoy
Nuwan Sen
(NSFS)
#‎NuwanSensFilmSense

Queer Movies, and the month of Mardi-Gras

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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

……………………………………………………..

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

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

The Cassandra Crossing (1976)
the-cassandra-crossing-1976A train travelling from, Switzerland to Sweden, is re-routed to Poland; which will have to pass through a disused bridge; once American authorities learn that a deadly (pneumonic plague) virus is spreading on board! An excellent piece of guilty pleasure starring the who’s who of the cinematic world, taking you on thrill ride, across the scenic landscapes of Europe. Love this movie!!!!!

Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren

The Movie & I

When I first watched The Cassandra Crossing (1976), as a 12½/13 year old, in the late 1980’s (1988/89 – more probable that it was in 1988), on the telly, the only star of the film I was aware of, was the lead actress Sophia Loren (for I had a vague memory of having seen her in epics like El Cid (1961) and The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), when I was even younger; plus had heard her name, many a times, in the children’s film, Dream Girl (1977); where a playboy is teased whether he is on a call with ‘Sophia Loren’, as he speaks to his grandfather; a movie we watched as kids, a kazillion times, back in the 80’s & early 90’s). Of course, by now, I have seen so many movies of her, but The Cassandra Crossing, was my proper introduction to her, for that’s when I really got to know, who Loren was. Late last night, I re-watched, The Cassandra Crossing, on youtube, almost three decades later. The quality, not so good, the movie, totally worth it. And today, I practically know majority of the glamorous star cast, of The Cassandra Crossing. Besides Loren, the movie stars, Richard Harris, Burt Lancaster, Ingrid Thulin, Lee Strasberg, Ava Gardner, Martin Sheen, Lionel Stander, O.J. Simpson, Lou Castel, Alida Valli, Ann Turkel, John Phillip Law, Ray Lovelock, Thomas Hunter and Stefano Patrizi; to name some. There was also, an averagely OK, Bollywood disaster movie, with an ensemble cast, roping in the who’s who of the Hindi film fraternity, similar to this, called, The Burning Train (1980), which I watched in the 1990’s. Unless you are fan of Hindi movies, in general, stick to The Cassandra Crossing. The Cassandra Crossing, also reminded me of Sidney Lumet’s Murder on the Orient Express (1974), based on an Agatha Christie novel; which too roped in a great star cast, of the 70’s, but set in the roaring 20’s, in another train journey bound to travel across Europe. Murder on the Orient Express, was yet another Excellent movie, I got to watch, around 15 years ago, in my late 20’s!!! Of course, Murder on the Orient Express, is neither a thriller, nor a disaster film. It’s a murder mystery, set within the confines of a snowbound train.

Behind the Scenes: Ava Gardner, Martin Sheen & Sophia Loren; on the sets of The Cassandra Crossing (1976)

Behind the Scenes: Ava Gardner, Martin Sheen & Sophia Loren; on the sets of The Cassandra Crossing (1976)

My Analysis & The Characters
(Spoiler Alert)

Despite critics panning it down, with an average rating of almost 7/10 (which is a pretty good rating), on IMDB; The Cassandra Crossing, is actually a very enjoyable fare!! The 70’s did have quite a few famed disaster films, but none like this. This has double the pleasure, being a hybrid of a thriller as well as a disaster movie. A thriller about people trying to steal a biological weapon, harboured by the Americans, and the American authorities, to cover up their asses, trying to kill off thousands of people travelling in a train, carrying the said deadly virus, plus a train heading for derelict bridge, that hasn’t been used, since post World War – II. The thrills are never ending, the mesmerising Swiss landscapes please the eyes, the background score, hauntingly brilliant, and a very stylish international star cast, adds to the enjoyment. In addition to which, minus modern day special effects, overpowering and ruining the movie, as is the case of most thrillers of today, this is a great guilty pleasure to sit through.

Sophia Loren and Richard Harris, play a twice divorced couple, who re-meet on a train bound for Sweden; in The Cassandra Crossing (1976)

Sophia Loren and Richard Harris, play a twice divorced couple, who re-meet on a train bound for Sweden; in The Cassandra Crossing (1976)

The movie is no doubt a Sophia Loren vehicle. She looks amazing as ever, and is brilliant as a witty best-selling author, a two-time divorcee (to the same man, who also happens to be on board, as well), whose hunches are never wrong, and heroine of the movie. Richard Harris is superb as a neurosurgeon, and playing (the twice divorced) ex-husband to Loren’s character (the two together have perfect chemistry, and the characters feel, madly in love and hate, with each other, as real-life celebs, Richard Burton & Elizabeth Taylor, were at the time). Harris’ character is shown trying to save lives of infected patients medically, as well as, trying to save the train from impending doom, along with his, two-time, ex-wife. Interestingly, Harris’ real life wife, Ann Turkel, plays a young hip woman, in a small role, along with many other more famous stars playing really small, and hardly noticeable roles. It’s pity, an actress like Alida Valli, seems to be wasted in a movie, where anyone could have played such an insufficient character. I didn’t even recognise her, until she took her spectacles off.

Clockwise from Top-Right: Ray Lovelock, John Phillip Law, Stefano Patrizi, Ann Turkel and Alida Valli, in small supporting roles.

Clockwise from Top-Right: Ray Lovelock, John Phillip Law, Stefano Patrizi, Ann Turkel and Alida Valli, in small supporting roles.

Yet, the massive star cast is superb, in their respective roles. BUT the best role goes to Ava Gardner, playing a creepy old lady (a wife of a prominent arms dealer), with a young lover, her boy toy (played by Martin Sheen). She is ecstatically humorous, she brings in the comic relief in this otherwise tense drama. Sheen’s character, we initially assume, is suffering from an Oedipus complex; but in reality, as we find out later, he’s a drug trafficker, who just uses the older woman, to pass through customs, without being checked. O.J. Simpson, is a cop, in the guise of a priest, on the trail, of this drug trafficker. Nobody is who they seem. Something which is hinted at the very beginning of the movie, when a trio terrorists, rush into a medical facility, dressed as two attendants, trolleying in a patient.

Burt Lancaster, John Phillip Law and Ingrid Thulin, in a scene from the film.

Burt Lancaster, John Phillip Law and Ingrid Thulin, in a scene from the film.

Burt Lancaster, plays the villain of the piece, as a U.S. Colonel (Military Intelligence assigned to the International Health Organization (most probably a fictional organization, represented, in lieu of the WHO; World Health Organization), in Geneva, Switzerland). He has the least amount of action credited to his character. He is so good in his role, that he is quite convincingly hateable. As he is mostly confined to a room, it’s his facial expressions, body language, and dialogues that have to do all the work. Ingrid Thulin, who is stuck inside the room, with Lancaster, is even better in her role, as a firm humanitarian medical head.

The bridge known as the ‘Cassandra Crossing’, plays a significant supporting role as well. The way the bridge is shot, in a threatening manner, and showcased, on and off, as the train is being re-routed, it appears like a menacing beast, waiting to devour this oncoming train and it’s passengers. The last scene with the parts of the train crashing through the bridge (again without modern CGI) is real showstopper.

The movie blends in all the suspense that make a great thrilling achievement; blending in all the necessary action, chills, thrills, heroism, shootouts, government intrigue, you name it, along with a good plot; making this unrealistic flick of catastrophe, with an almost realistic scenario, very plausible.

Richard Harris & O.J. Simpson in a scene from The Cassandra Crossing (1976)

Richard Harris & O.J. Simpson in a scene from The Cassandra Crossing (1976)

The Background

Most of the interior scenes were shot in Cinecittà, a large film studio in Rome, that is famed for being the hub of Italian cinema. With beautiful cinematography, the location shots were taken in both France and Switzerland. The steel arch bridge depicted in the film, as the notorious “Cassandra Crossing”, is actually the Garabit Viaduct, a railway arch bridge spanning the River Truyère, in southern France. The Garabit Viaduct was built between 1880 and 1884, by Gustave Eiffel, the man behind Paris’ iconic, Eiffel Tower.

The movie flopped badly in the United States, but still made money, thanks to Japanese audiences flocking to the cinema’s to catch the movie. It apparently did well enough, in Europe, as well. Though it flopped in the USA, the movie was critically praised, for it’s beautification through Ennio Guarnieri’s cinematography, as well as, Jerry Goldsmith’s superb musical score.

The Cassandra Crossing, was directed by Italian born film personality, George Pan Cosmatos. A director, whose other works I haven’t watched yet, nor do they really interest me much, thus this movie is an exceptional case. This, no doubt, is his best work. The film was produced by Carlo Ponti, Sophia Loren’s husband. This British-Italian co-production, is an underrated gem. A must see, for film fanatics!!!!!

The Cassandra Crossing (1976) – Pure Entertainment!!!
My Rating: 10/10!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
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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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