Tag Archive: Brilliant Cinematographers


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Aesthetics   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
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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).
-and-
Adelaide & Sydney (once again), Australia, in November 2014; where too, I watched a couple of the superb films, on the big screen, plus bought many a DVD’s (see my Blogpost Holidaying in Australia, comes to an end from November 2014).

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

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

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

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

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

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
#‎NuwanSensFilmSense

french-short-films

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!!

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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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Août 16' 001

Aparna Sen’s Parama (1984), a.k.a. Paroma, is a brilliant piece of Indian Art House Cinema. A story of a woman, who’s lived the first 40 years of her life, belonging to others; and at the age of 40, finally finds herself. At 40, she finds her own true identity; as Parama. Not the daughter-in-law, Parama!! Not the wife, Parama!! Not the mother, Parama!! Not the housewife, Parama!! BUT, the individual, Parama!! Through a passionate extramarital affair, with a young man, she learns to live, for herself, and not others.

Bollywood superstar, of the 70’s & 80’s, actress Rakhee, plays the lead titular character, in this Art Film from the state of West Bengal; of which I watched the Hindi language version. I’m not sure, as to whether the movie was made in Bengali, and Hindi, simultaneously; or whether it was made in Bengali, and dubbed into Hindi. But if it were dubbed into Hindi; it’s a damn good dubbing; for the lip movements are well in sync with the Hindi dialogues. Of course, this is not a Bollywood film. Bollywood films, represent the Bombay (now know as, Mumbai) Film Industry; based in the capital city, of the state of Maharashtra. Plus, Bollywood films, are mostly of the commercial genre, made mostly in the Hindi language. There are rare few Art Films in Bollywood, and even rarer films made in English as well. Parama is a movie from the Indian state of West Bengal. Films made in Bengal generally tend to be Art House Films, and Parama is an art film, made by one of the most prolific Indian directors ever; Aparna Sen. She, has made films (and acted) in, the English language, the national language of India (i.e. Hindi), as well as in her mother tongue (from her state), Bengali. Director, Aparna Sen plays a supporting role as Parama’s closest ally and confidant; her best friend and an intellectual, in Parama.

Rakhee looks bewitchingly beautiful, with her Parveen Babi bangs, and long luscious hair hanging loose.

Rakhee looks bewitchingly beautiful, with her Parveen Babi bangs, and long luscious hair, hanging loose.

Parama depicts, the life of many a married Indian women, living within an archaic patriarchal society, where the woman’s place is at home; a subject matter that is relevant even today. And of course, these women, too, are content, with their lives, taking care of household chores, and playing second fiddle to their husbands, and the husband’s family. Not all Indian women tend to underestimate themselves, definitely not the modern thinkers and feminists, especially from the 1970’s onwards. But majority of Indian society, thrives on such blind traditions; that any deviations are looked as the work of the devil. Most women, are not meant to have an individuality, and aren’t allowed to think for themselves. Thus, most women do subject themselves, to a routine life, on what they have been prepared for since birth; i.e. taking care of the needs of one’s husband, and his family. Modern, intellectual women, who move out of their comfort zones, is a rarity in India. But it does exist, especially in cities like New Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. Yet, India is a massive country, with an equally massive population; where it’s not easy to educate and modernise an entire nation. And being a largely poor country, with majority of Mother India, suffering for hunger; it’s hard to eradicate poverty on it’s entirety, as well. But many a NGO’s, other charitable organisations, et al; do try their best. And the improvement, of even a small percentage of society; is proof of it. If India was a tiny island, with a considerably less of a population crisis; no doubt it would have been a rare first world nation, floating in the Indian ocean. With their progress, in aesthetics, economy, culture; if there wasn’t so much poverty, and land mass to cover; they’d be one of the most popular places on earth, as opposed to the notoriety, they’ve been associated with; especially when comes to the treatment of women, and poverty.
Août 16' 012Parama (Rakhee) is one such housewife, living in a well to do household, who is content with her routine life, obligations and limitations. We find out, from her group of intellectual modern female friends, who’ve all climbed up the ladder, that Parama, was a Sitar player, with great potential; but had to give it all up when she got married, and immersed herself into, so called marital duties. When she married, she married his entire family. In fact she hasn’t even studied further, not done a degree, a vocational course, nothing. So scope for her to have a life for the self, seems limited. Then one day, a famous young Indian photographer, Rahul (Mukul Sharma), based in New York, USA; visits Calcutta (the capital of the state of West Bengal, which today is known as, Kolkata, where this movie is set). Rahul comes to do a photo essay, for a prestigious, American magazine, on Indian housewives, focusing on one individual. He sees Parama, and is infatuated by her grace and beauty, he chooses her on the spot. She refuses; but her husband’s family pushes her to do so; along with her trio of teenaged kids. On the first day of the shoot, Rahul just asks her one question, “What do you think, Paroma?”, he wants to know what makes her click! And he clicks, with his camera, as she starts to unravel her brain, which she seems to have shut off, entirely, post marriage.

Rakhee as Parama (a.k.a. Paroma)

Rakhee as Parama (a.k.a. Paroma)

Soon Rahul and Parama, fall into each others arms, in a sexual affair, of love and lust. Her husband’s family never suspects. Them not suspecting, is less to do with their trust towards her, but more to do with them taking her for granted. They never feel she is capable of any feelings, or any human emotions, outside, her robotic household duties. Once Rahul leaves, for an assignment, the lovers secretly exchange love letters; a kind of romance she obviously never had before; and probably she was married off, through an arranged marriage, by the elders; and wasn’t her decision in the first place. It’s with Rahul, Parama first discovers true happiness.

Unfortunately, it’s found out, that she secretly posed for a sexy photo shoot, for her lover, Rahul. Meanwhile, with no news of the whereabouts of the photographer, all hell breaks loose. She is discarded by her husband’s family. Even her two elder children, refuse to accept her. Only the youngest child, still in his preteens/entering his teens, seems to still feel affection towards his mother. We wonder, what happened to Rahul?? Did he con her?? Is he dead?? Or captured?? He’s just vanished from her life, all of a sudden.

The sexy photograph, that results in Parama being disgraced by the family.

The sexy photograph, that results in Parama being disgraced by the family.

The movie is sympathetic towards the wife, even though she has an extramarital affair. And explores, the double standards, in Indian society. Men are accepted, being immoral (for we see the husband’s eyes stray towards other women as well), but a woman, if not morally superior; she is cast out, looked down on, and degraded. She might have made a mistake, but she learned from it. She ultimately opens her eyes, and we realise, she doesn’t need the support of a man, and marriage, to have a fulfilling life. Only her teenage daughter seems to understand.

This is an excellent movie, by Aparna Sen. I highly recommend it. From the narrative, to the set décor, to the brilliant cinematography; this is one of the greatest films ever made. Watch out for the close-ups on Parama, exposing her vulnerability, her simplicity, her metamorphosis from a common housewife to an individual who can think for herself. Plus, see the silent role, played by a common looking potted plant, Parama’s very unique beloved plant; the significance of which, sways through nostalgia into her being able to free herself from societal chains forced on her. Remembering the name of the plant finally, and zooming out of the window. We know she’s a new woman. A woman of today, who’s not afraid of anything, anymore.

Rakhee & the Euphorbia Cotinifolia, in a scene from Parama (1984)

Rakhee & the Euphorbia Cotinifolia, in a scene from Parama (1984)

Parama (1984), a.k.a. Paroma, is a must watch, for any film buff. I watched this movie, online, on Youtube, on Wednesday, 10th of August, 2016!!

My Rating: Pure Excellence!! 10/10!!!!!      

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

Another month of MAI MAY MOVIES, comes to an end!!
May Mai Movies for 2016Yet again, there are some beautiful movies, I watched, within this one year, that I never got to write about. Especially, the latter lot of DVD’s; that I bought Down Under, in November 2014 (majority of the films, I bought in Adelaide & Sydney; I had managed to watch back in November/December 2014 itself, and write about them, and a few last year, 2015, but here are some films I couldn’t so far); including, Lorenzo’s Oil (1992) – watched on 7th December 2015 (which coincided with the one year anniversary, of my adoption of ), In Cold Blood (1967) – watched on 16th February 2016, A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) – watched on 11th March 2016 (’twas a, 2Disc, Director’s Cut DVD; a collectors item, with a lot of special features, and documentaries), and On the Waterfront (1954) – watched on 21st March 2016 (now I just had one more film I bought in left, which I finally watched toady afternoon; see the last film on this list). There were also the trio of superb Hindi Films (DVD’s), I got down from New Delhi, India, in February 2015 (thru my old man, who flew to New Delhi, last February, on an official visit, to the Indian capital). The three films were, Haider (2014) – watched on 10th March 2015, The Lunchbox (2013) – watched on 3rd December 2015 (managed to watch, at least 2/3, last year itself), and Mary Kom (2014) on 12th January 2016! And, not to forget, the three Big Screen gems, I saw this year, at the local Cinema; the near excellent, historical epic, Bajirao Mastani (2015) – in January 2016; Leo’s Oscar winning performance (prior to the Oscars), in The Revenant (2015) – in February 2016; and, the true life story of a brave young girl, who sacrificed her life to save the lives of hundreds of passengers on board Pan Am Flight 73, which terrorists had hijacked, in 1986, in Neerja (2016) – in March 2016!!!!! Plus so many other movies; at festivals, special screenings, cable TV/channels et al.

So here is the run down, on all the films I watched, this month (May 2016) :-  

The Hero: Love Story of a Spy (2003) – An out and out Bollywood commercial film. This movie, was actually somewhat a waste of my time, but wasn’t all that bad. Quite OK actually, with an interesting enough premise. Both, Sunny Deol and Preity Zinta, were pretty good in their respective roles. BUT, the one to watch out for, was the former beauty queen, Miss World 2000, Priyanka Chopra (who’s now made her way into the United States, playing the lead in the ABC television series Quantico (2015 onwards)), in her Bollywood debut. Not only does she mesmerise you with her, cool n’ classy, disposition, but also her performance. This was the first movie, I watched this month.

Watched The Hero: Love Story of a Spy, rented on our cable television.

My Rating: Average Fare – 5/10!!!
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Black Sea (2014) – Leading with Jude Law, the film comprises of an all male star-cast, compressed into an old dilapidated submarine. This British, adventurous thriller, film, is about a gold hunt, in the depths of the Black Sea, off the coast of Georgia (the Eurasian country). It’s a good insight into human tolerance, especially when people from two different backgrounds have to work together, to achieve the same goal. This movie is really worth watching, though not among the greatest adventure films, ever made.

Watched Black Sea on HBO On Demand.

My Rating: Very Good – 8/10!!!!
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Harry, un Ami qui vous Veut du Bien (2000) – Watched this movie for a 2nd Time! I first saw this, some years ago. A movie about a man’s obsession with a married man, which proves disastrous, to the married man’s family. Very Hitchcockian, with it’s very claustrophobic atmosphere, set in a lonely house in the countryside. It’s so beautiful, and really good. My original rating stands. Though not necessarily an excellent piece of cinema, it’s really good, and was worth watching a second time.

Watched Harry, un Ami qui vous Veut du Bien on TV5MONDE.

My Rating: Very Good – 8/10!!!! (My Original Rating)
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Les Rides (2014) short film – An OK tale about a group of, fanatic four, senior citizens, who plot to run away from their Old Peoples Nursing Home. This 13 minute short film, is interesting enough, but not that great. Liked the magical realism, input.

Watched Les Rides on TV5MONDE.

My Rating: Average Fare – 6/10!!!
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Nightingale (2014) – A brilliant ‘One Man Show’, with David Oyelowo. Being the only actor, in this movie, set within the confines of his home, Oyelowo carries the entire movie on his shoulders. He plays a psychotic, lonely, war veteran, who is waiting for/expecting, a visit from an old friend. A truly tragic film, that’s worth checking out, for the performance of perfection, by British actor, of Nigerian roots, David Oyelowo, alone. The movie, on the whole, could have been better though.

Watched Nightingale on HBO On Demand.

My Rating: Pretty Good – 7/10!!!!
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Brigitte Bardot in Voulez-vous Danser avec Moi (1959)

Brigitte Bardot in Voulez-vous Danser avec Moi (1959)

Voulez-vous Danser avec Moi (1959) – A hilariously fun filled crime comedy, set in a dance school, in Paris. The movie is about a happily married man, who gets caught into blackmail, for no real fault of his, and in turn for a murder, in a dance school. He is assumed to be the culprit, and only his wife believes he is actually a victim of circumstance. Soon she ventures into the school, in the guise of a dance teacher, to solve the crime on her own, against the wishes of her husband. Henri Vidal is hilarious as the husband, as are the other supporting characters, in their respective roles; with interesting cameos by Serge Gainsbourg and Dawn Addams. But, it’s Brigitte Bardot, as the bewitchingly beautiful and innocent wife, who steals the show, with her stunning performance, her perfect comical expressions and the dancing diva’s well choreographed movements. She’s hilarious, she’s fun. And thanks to her cutesy spy work, she’s the one that ultimately solves the mystery. A sexy young Miss. Marple, or Mrs. Pollifax, if you may (with apologies to Agatha Christie and Dorothy Gilman, respectively).

This movie is a must see, especially if you love Bardot. On IMDB it seems to have an average rating, but I couldn’t help laughing. And kudos to the movie, for  daring to showcase, one hell of comical sequence that takes place in, a queer club, with drag performances, in an acceptable manner; and this was a movie that came out in the 1950’s. In fact, to portray homosexuality, cinematically in the open, as being normal, would have been groundbreaking, back in the day.

Sadly, 40 year old actor, Henri Vidal, died soon after he made this movie. This was his last screen appearance!

Watched Voulez-vous Danser avec moi on TV5MONDE.

My Rating: Near Excellent – 9/10!!!!
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Kill the Messenger (2014) – A Biographical film, on journalist Garry Webb, who committed suicide in 2004. The film is set in the mid-1990’s, when he uncovered the CIA’s major role in bringing in huge amounts of cocaine into the United States. It’s a beautiful, and sad, story about a man, who truly tries to make “America great again”, by exposing the big shots, responsible for ruing his country; thus his family might have to pay the ultimate price for it.

The movie dulls at time, and the suspense isn’t necessarily continuous. You tend to lose focus at times. Yawn a bit, here and there. But it’s still quite good, and worth seeing at least once.

Watched Kill the Messenger on HBO On Demand.

My Rating: Pretty Good – 7/10!!!!
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Squatters (2014) – Two homeless youngsters, break into a house of a wealthy family, when the family is on vacation. The son of the rich family, and one of the homeless kids, fall for each other. The movie actually went pretty well, until the love angle ruined it for me, somewhat. Still the whole experience, was not that bad. In fact, the ageing, Richard Dreyfuss, and the young, Thomas Dekker, were pretty good in their respective roles.

Watched Squatters on HBO Signature.

My Rating: Average Fare – 6/10!!!
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Jean-Claude Brialy, le Goût des Autres (2013) – An interesting insight into the life of legendary French film star, Jean-Claude Brialy. This documentary delves deep into the star’s life of hosting parties to his close friends, in his big mansion. With appearances by celebrities, Alain Delon, Nana Mouskouri, Claudia Cardinale, et al; ’twas an enjoyable show.

Watched Jean-Claude Brialy, le Goût des Autres on TV5MONDE.

My Rating: Very Good – 8/10!!!!
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Poltergeist (1982) – A much awaited venture, I finally watched it. ‘twas a very good horror film. I wouldn’t exactly call it an excellent movie, nor among the greatest of the horror genre (in fact it seemed a tad silly towards the end), but I thoroughly enjoyed this piece of supernatural drama. In fact, as the movie sees it’s ghosts through the eyes of a child, it gives it a creepy cuteness.

The film’s lead character, is the child star, Heather O’Rourke. She’s the first human, to feel the presence of the Poltergeists. And the movie revolves around, her capture, by the spirits, and a couple of television sets. But to me, the star of the film, was their golden retriever named ‘E. Buzz’ (pictured below). In fact this dog, plays a prevalent role, in the entirety of the film. A Very Good Horror Classic!!

Curse of the Poltergeist: Both kids playing the two daughters, died, in real life, within the 80’s decade. Dominique Dunne, who plays the teenage daughter, was murdered by strangulation, by her boyfriend, in 1982, itself. She was 22. And O’Rourke, suddenly fell ill, and died of a cardiac arrest, at the age of 12, in 1988.

Watched Poltergeist on HBO.

My Rating: Very Good – 8/10!!!!
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Horror Films Above: Poltergeist (1982) Below: As Above, So Below (2014)

Horror Films
Above: Poltergeist (1982)
Below: As Above, So Below (2014)

As Above, So Below (2014) – Silly Horror movie, filmed in the ‘Blair Witch Project’ style. No where near as great as The Blair Witch Project (1999). Only saving grace of this, pretty idiotic, horror flick, was that it actually showed the real catacombs of Paris (which I visited back in 2009), before venturing further deep, under the catacombs. As they ventured deeper the film got sillier still.

Though not the worst film experience ever, it’s still quite pathetic. And the movie defies gravity. The more and more, they went deeper into the underworld, I actually expected them to come out of the Pacific Ocean, on the other side of the globe! Yet, actors, Ben Feldman and François Civil (pictured above) were actually good enough in their respective roles.

Watched As Above, So Below on HBO On Demand.

My Rating: Pretty Bad – 4/10!!
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Le Lieu du Crime (1986) – I really enjoyed this film, starring Catherine Deneuve, Nicolas Giraudi, Wadeck Stanczak, and the yesteryear starlet, Danielle Darrieux. The way the movie began, it reminded me of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations (which also happens to be my favourite Dickens novel). The movie centres around, a young boy named Thomas (Giraudi), who’s mother (Deneuve), falls in love with the criminal (Stanczak); Thomas meets, early on in the movie; and has a one night stand, on a rainy night, with tragic circumstances. With a superb cast, headed by Catherine Deneuve, this movie, is really a unique tale, revolving around a ‘boy who cried wolf’. The kid is such a story maker, nobody, except his mother, believes his story, about what he witnessed. This coming of age, tale, is a must see, especially if you are a fan of Catherine Deneuve, like me. And the kid is brilliant, an added bonus.

Watched Le Lieu du Crime on TV5MONDE.

My Rating: Very Good – 8/10!!!!
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Into the Storm (2014) – Yet another, idiotically disastrous, disaster film. About a unimaginably massive tornado ravaging a small town called Silverton. The one good thing about this flick, was that it showed the, ironically calm, inside (the eye) of the tornado. Calm within the storm.

Watched Into the Storm on HBO On Demand.

My Rating: Near Worst, film experience, ever – 2/10!
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Timbuktu (2014) – A masterpiece of movie making!! The term ‘Timbuktu’ is generally a synonym, for some remote unknown place. But, it is in actuality, a name of a city, in Mali, in West Africa. I was always aware it was a place, somewhere in Africa, but this is the first time I saw something/anything about the place known as Timbuktu. The city is full of, beautifully designed, aesthetic, mud huts.

The film itself, is very sad, and a superb Art House film, about the lives of the poor inhabitants of Timbuktu, under Jihadists control. Anyone even slightly opposed to their strict laws, are punished severely. This movie is based around a cattle herder, and his nuclear family, relaxedly residing away from the city of Timbuktu, in the sand dunes of the Sahara Desert. But, sadly, he gets pulled into the city, and imprisoned/sentenced to death, for an accidental crime, he didn’t plan to commit.

Director, Abderrahmane Sissako, has brought out a brilliant piece of socially touching experience; and this film took home two prizes, at the 67th Cannes Film Festival, held in 2014. Sissako was also nominated for the Palme d’Or, that year, for Timbuktu. Plus it won the ‘Best Film’ award, at the Africa Movie Academy Awards; along with a ‘Best Director’ win for Sissako.

Watched Timbuktu on TV5MONDE.

My Rating: Excellent – 10/10!!!!!
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L.A.dy Dior (2011) – This is an advertorial Short film, starring my favourite French star of today, Marion Cotillard. Cotillard plays a crazed actress, who can’t handle the pressure of being the face of a famous brand of handbags (‘L.A.dy Dior’, obviously). A hilarious 6 minute short, where she ultimately throws a tantrum, which only helps the advertising campaign. Enjoyable enough, thanks to Marion Cotillard. Love L.A.dy Cotillard!!!!

Watched L.A.dy Dior online, on Youtube.

My Rating: Pretty Good – 7/10!!!!
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LEFT: Marion Cotillard in L.A.dy Dior (2011) RIGHT: Xavier Dolan in J’ai Tué ma Mère (2009)

LEFT: Marion Cotillard in L.A.dy Dior (2011)
RIGHT: Xavier Dolan in J’ai Tué ma Mère (2009)

J’ai Tué ma Mère (2009) – The two prominent factors, that make this film so uniquely impressive, is the fact, that Xavier Dolan’s directorial debut, was written by Dolan, at the age of 16, and he was still only 19 years old, when he directed it. The movie was released at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival (rather it premiered at the ‘Director’s Fortnight’), in 2009. Not only did Dolan, get a standing ovation, he also walked away, with three awards, at the festival, that year. I first heard about this film, and Xavier Dolan, in May 2009.

The movie, itself is so brilliantly made, and moving, I was hooked to the screen from start to finish, engulfing each and every emotional moment felt by it’s characters. The depth of human emotion, portrayed in the film, is so painfully real, my heart just leapt out. This is amongst the best movies, that I’ve ever seen, and ‘twas a long awaited venture, pour moi.

J’ai Tué ma Mère, which, when translated into English, means, ‘I Killed my Mother’, is a semi-autobiographical film, by Xavier Dolan. It’s deals with a tiresome mother/son relationship. They both love each other, and neither is a bad parent nor bad child, but they were just not meant to live together. Hubert (Dolan) believes he was born into the wrong family, rather, more specifically, the wrong mother (played by Anne Dorval). And he wishes to get away from her clutches, as soon as possible. But Hubert, is still a 16 year old, thus it’s impossible to get away at that young age. His father, who left when Hubert was a little kid, is no where in sight (who turns up only to make a brief appearance, to intervene in the son’s life, and makes things worse for poor Hubert). You sympathise with Dolan’s juvenile character, Hubert, and understand what he’s going through. But, at the same time, he’s still only 16, and has a freedom, some 16 year olds would only dream to have. Plus, his mother is not all that bad. Mothers can be really stressful sometimes, even to their adult kids. But Hubert’s mother, comparatively, hardly does anything to stress him out, even though he seems to lose his patience with her. She’s neither strict, nor harsh. He does what he wants. She doesn’t necessarily interfere with his studies, or future plans. YES, she’s not perfect, nobody really is, but she’s far from being the worst mother ever. Yet, Hubert feels suffocated, and annoyed, with her existence. When the mother finds out about her son’s sexuality, she doesn’t seem to mind that he is gay, but what disappoints her is, the fact she had to find out about it from someone else, rather than her own son. Thus, she’s also an open-minded woman. At the same time, Hubert, isn’t necessarily a closeted homosexual. He is open, but doesn’t seem to think it necessary to let her know, that he has a boyfriend (played by François Arnaud). The film doesn’t deal with Hubert’s sexuality as such, for that’s not what the story is about. The story is about his love-hate relationship with his mother. His sex life, has nothing to do with it. Instead of a girlfriend, he just happens to have a boyfriend, in a very acceptable and normal manner. That’s how the world today, should be. Of course, there is a gay-bashing scene, towards the end. Most probably, just to tell us, that’s something Dolan had to deal with too, in real life, and/or to show us, that the world is still not as broad-minded, as it ought to be.

The film isn’t all serious and depressing, it has plenty of comical interludes. In fact, the movie is sad, but not at all depressing to watch, and very entertaining. Xavier Dolan is really sweet, and adorable, even when he is angry. I love the scene where he comes home one night, all drugged (a one time thing, in the film), and wakes his mother lovingly. She is not at all angry at him. Dolan’s character is really sweet, when he tries to be extra nice to his mother. Of course, he’s not patient enough, for the niceties to last, and his mother doesn’t really help either. Yet, both of them, are actually good people.

There is plenty of screaming matches, in the film, plenty of drama, and more than enough comical moments, to make you cry and laugh (sometimes at the same time), with a few, very Dolanisque surreal moments!! One of the best films ever made. Dolan’s now, most probably, my favourite Canadian director, and definitely my youngest favourite film director. The only other, directorial venture, of his I’ve seen is, Laurence Anyways (2012); another brilliant Canadian film.

Watched J’ai Tué ma Mère on TV5MONDE.

My Rating: Excellent – 10/10!!!!!
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Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive (2016) – Tagged as the “million dollar fake”, this is an almost brilliant piece of satire, from Bollywood.

Released earlier this year, a sequel/prequel to Tere Bin Laden (2010); which came before, the actual Osama Bin Laden was killed; this is a hilarious movie, about what happens post the death of this, FBI’s, most wanted terrorist. Both, the Americans, and a Taliban arms dealer, try to get hold of a Bin Laden look-alike, an Indian actor (played by Pradhuman Singh). The Americans want to film, the death of the fake bin Laden, to prove to the world, that they’ve actually killed, this founder of al-Qaeda, whilst the arms dealer, wants to use the doppelganger, as proof, that Bin Laden is still alive.

The movie is a hilarious parody, on both, the Taliban regime, and America’s ‘War on Terror’. I haven’t seen the original Tere Bin Laden (poster pictured, right atop). In fact I had assumed, that’s the movie, I watched on Sunday morning, the original film, till I read the synopsis now, on IMDB, and realised actor, Manish Paul (who plays a Bollywood director, responsible for making the ‘Osama bin Laden’ doppelganger, popular; and in turn putting their lives in danger), didn’t even star in the first one. So I actually tweeted the wrong movie. Slightly disappointed about that. Now I really want to watch, the original. A lot of people, who loved the original, seem to have hated this. But I really enjoyed this farcical film. It’s definitely worth a watch. Plus, there were no cheap antics, like puking, or passing out excess gas, or any other stale jokes, or anything sickeningly grotesque, that make you feel disgusted, instead of actually enjoying a film. So, I thought it was a really clever comedy. Thus, kudos to director, Abhishek Sharma, for bringing out, such a fun movie, to sit through.

Just wanted to add, an explanation for the title. ‘Bin’ or ‘Bina’ in Hindi, means ‘Without’, and ‘Tere’ means ‘Yours’. Thus the, first three words, of the title could either translate as, ‘Without You Laden’ or ‘Yours, Bin Laden’; I think the latter sounds more like it. Either way, the pun is on the word ‘Bin’. It would have been a more hilarious pun for the word ‘Bin’, if it were in English (title/film), considering what the word ‘Bin’ stands for in the English language. Throw it in the Bin Laden!!!!!

Watched Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive on Star Plus.

My Rating: Near Excellent – 9/10!!!!
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Airlift (2016) – Set in Kuwait, this is based on a true story, of the airlift of Indians based in Kuwait, during the Invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, carried out from the 18th of August, 1990 to 20th October, 1990!! Air India, along with Indian Airlines, helped evacuate 170,000 people by civil airliners, whilst 500 people left by a ship, during the Gulf War. It took 63 days. This happens to be the biggest rescue mission, of human evacuation, in the world. Two Indian’s living in Kuwait; South Indian Businessmen, Mathunny Mathews, from Kerala; and North Indian, billionaire, Harbajan Singh Vedi, from Punjab, putting their ethnic differences aside, came together, and ended up playing a major role, in helping get Indians to safety.

The movie, however, is a fictional account, combining the two Indian’s heroic work, into one character called, Ranjit Katyal (played by Bollywood star, Akshay Kumar). Indian actress, Nimrat Kaur, plays his wife. A near brilliant Bollywood commercial venture, by director, Raja Krishna Menon, about a story that deserved to be told. Thanks to Bollywood movies like Neerja and Airlift, more recent, modern Indian history, won’t be forgotten.

Watched Airlift on Colors (a channel I practically never watch, glad I did on Sunday night).

My Rating: Near Excellent – 9/10!!!!
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10 Things I Hate about You (1999) – A modern, late 20th Century, adaptation of, William Shakespeare’s 16th century comedy, The Taming of the Shrew.

This comedy, could have easily veered towards being just another teenage chick flick, but it’s much more than that. I was pleasantly surprised, how much I enjoyed sitting through this flick. The movie has a brilliant young cast, including the late Heath Ledger, along with Julia Stiles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Andrew Keegan and Gabrielle Union. The movie also stars comedians Larry Miller and Allison Janney, in supporting roles.

Set in a High School, the film is about softening up an uptight girl, who refuses to date. All the absurdism of a perfect Shakespearean comedy, from the 1590’s, brought into the modern world of youth, of the 1990’s. I thoroughly enjoyed it. But it would have been more interesting, if I did actually get to watch it, as a teenager/young adult, than today.

I recently mentioned this movie, last month. See my Blog-post Shakespeare: Intellectual Minds and Beyond!!, from April 2016.

Watched 10 Things I Hate about You on HBO On Demand.

My Rating: Near Excellent – 9/10!!!!
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Jacques Bernard in Les Enfants Terribles (1950)

Jacques Bernard in Les Enfants Terribles (1950)

Les Enfants Terrible (1950) – Watched this, collaboration of two greatly creative talents, today afternoon!! Loved it, just as much as the book!!

3½ years ago, I read Rosamond Lehmann’s English translation, of Jean Cocteau’s famed French novella, Les Enfants Terrible!! Author, artist and film personality, Cocteau’s book, was illustrated, with his own artwork, as well. Being an artist(e) myself, I not only, loved the book, for it’s literature, but also for Cocteau’s works of modern art. And, I blogged about the book; when my Blog, was still pretty young (almost 9 months old). Later, 1½ years ago, when I visited Australia, I bought a lot of DVD’s, including the film adaptation of, Les Enfants Terrible. But it’s only now, I finally got to watch this movie. This is the last, of the movies, I bought Down Under!!

Les Enfants Terrible, the movie, is a brilliant adaptation, of an equally superb, piece of, inked, fiction. Author Jean Cocteau (a film director himself), supposedly, commissioned Jean-Pierre Melville, to make the movie, based on his beloved novel. Beautifully photographed, with dim, darkly lit, interiors; skilfully directed, with superb acting talents, the moody expressions, along with, Jean Cocteau’s, own vocals lending the narration, this is one hell of an extraordinarily exceptional piece of cinema. Now, amongst my, favourite French films, ever.

The movie, was practically word to word, as I remembered reading in the  novel. The only major difference, for me, was the fact that, I envisioned the brother and sister, Paul and Elisabeth (played by Edouard Dermithe and Nicole Stéphane, respectively, in the movie), as two pre-teens, in the start of the book, who gradually transform, into young adulthood, later on. Same with their friend, Gerard (Jacques Bernard). But in the movie, they seemed liked young adults/late teens, from the very beginning. None the less, the film was perfectly made, as perfect, as perfection goes. The crazed games, played by the siblings: their weirdly possessive, yet ambiguous, relationship; isolated, cut off, from the rest of the world; this movie is a deep psychoanalysis into the crazy human psyche, almost just as much as the book. It, like the book, reminded me of Bernardo Bertolucci’s, The Dreamers (2003). The Dreamers, was set in 1968 Paris, during the student riots.

The actress to look out for, in Les Enfants Terrible, is Renée Cosima, who plays Paul’s two androgynous sexual attractions; a young boy named Dargelos, in the first half, and later on a girl (model) named Agathe (since I had read the book, I realised that, the school bully, Dargelos, was being played by a female, in the guise of a male; though it’s really not at all noticeable, otherwise). Her transformation, from a thuggish young boy, to a beautiful young lady, is incredible. It’s hard to believe, the dirty rugged boy, and marvellous model, who shows off her elegant legs, is played by, the one and the same, young French actress Renée Cosima.

With it’s surreal dreamy moments, towards the end, Les Enfants Terrible, is almost Shakespearean, the way it’s conveyed. The inevitable tragedy, that lies ahead, is obvious. The game, they played in their ‘ROOM’, of irritating one another, when younger; continues, to a final finish, that can end, only with death. A sad film. The novel came out in the Roaring 20’s, but the film, seems to be set, in the modern day, i.e. the post-war 1940’s!!

Love the Movie!! Love the Book!! Love the Book more, actually; but as a film, this is an excellent watch. Also do check out my quick write-up, on the novel, Les Enfants Terribles (The Book), from December 2012!!!!!

Watched Les Enfants Terrible on DVD.

My Rating: Excellent – 10/10!!!!!
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Mai May Movies 2016