Tag Archive: Heritage Films


Remembering the late Shashi Kapoor (1938-2017); on his 80th Birth Anniversary!!

Shashi Kapoor was no doubt the most versatile and International celebrity to come out of India. An actor, director and Producer; who not only worked in Bollywood films (both Art & Commercial); but worked in regional Indian films; Indian English-Language Film (in fact he was the first star of the renowned Merchant/Ivory Productions; before they went onto make British gems), as well as British movies!! And he was a renowned stage artiste as well; who formed the famed Prithivi Theatre; fulfilling his father’s, Prithviraj Kapoor’s, dream. Added to which, he had a good reputation; as being one of the nicest people ever. A charming, kind-hearted, friendly personality; and morally superior to most people, in general. Shashi Kapoor died on 4th of December, 2017. He was 79 years old!

I’ve posted this quote, from one of his Bollywood films; Silsila (1981)

Hum gayab hone waalo mein se nahi hai … jahan jahan se guzharte hai jalwe dikhate hai … dost toh kya, dushman bhi yaad rakhte hai

….which in English roughly translates to ….

We are not ones to easily vanish; …. wherever we go, we show them our charm; ….. that not only friends, even foes shall remember us

…. and that quote truly sums up, what this charismatic celebrity is to his loved ones and fans alike. True to any great personality, they’ll never be forgotten; and shall live on forever, through people who admire them. RIP Shashi Kapoor, Stephen Hawking, Sridevi, and other greats people we lost in recent times.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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Couldn’t sleep a wink last night, kept getting up to check the time. Finally got off my bed by 4:30am (0430hrs); made my instant coffee, and got ready to catch the Oscar Red Carpet coverage LIVE (on this side of the Globe), at 5am (0500hrs); and continued to watch the entire show, until the finalé at 10:20am (1020hrs).

James Ivory giving his Oscar speech; after winning for Best Adapted Screenplay, for Call me by your Name (2017)
89 year old Ivory (who’ll turn 90 in June) became the oldest person to win an Oscar, ever!!

I was pretty disappointed, when Call me by your Name (2017) and Loving Vincent (2017); didn’t win the golden statuettes, for ‘Best Picture’ and ‘Best Animated Picture’, respectively. BUT I wasn’t surprised either. Though I haven’t watched The Shape of Water (2017) and Coco (2017); which won the earlier mentioned awards; in their respective categories; I highly doubt, they are as unique, as the naturalistic delicate love story that was Call me by your Name, and the spectacular literally moving impressionist artwork that was Loving Vincent. Added to which Coco also grabbed the award for ‘Best Achievement in Music written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)’. Poor Sufjan Stevens; his “Mystery of Love”; is such an amazingly melodious creation. Love that song.

Yet, luckily James Ivory was awarded the trophy ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’; for Call me by your Name. Aged 89, this was the very first Oscar win for Ivory; making him the oldest Oscar winner ever. Being one third of the trio behind the famed Merchant/Ivory Productions (which included Ismail Merchant and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala), and today, with only Ivory being among the living, of the trio; he gave a heartfelt speech paying tribute his two co-producers/directors/writers and close friends. I’ve been a fan of Merchant/Ivory Productions since I can remember. They made some brilliant Indian English language films, from the beginning of the 60’s decade, to the early 80’s; before they went onto make beautiful British Heritage Films, like the E.M. Forster trilogy for instance; A Room with a View (1985), Maurice (1987) & Howards End (1992); and other eloquent creations set in eras of elegance.

Another touching speech, that was given, was by Frances McDormand; who nabbed the ‘Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role’ Oscar, for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017). Albeit pretty hysterically; but heartfelt. She got all the female nominees and winners to get up, and stand with her (though not on stage). I was really happy when, as expected, Gary Oldman won ‘Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role’ for Darkest Hour (2017). For he was brilliant as Churchill, and ’twas not just ’cause of the prosthetics. He truly embodied the character. At the end of his speech, he asked his mother to put on the kettle, for he was bringing home an Oscar. Darkest Hour, quite deservedly, also won for ‘Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling’. Jordan Peele, became the first Afro-American Screenwriter, to win the prestigious award for ‘Best Original Screenplay’; for his horror venture, Get Out (2017). Though Dunkirk (2017) sadly lost out to Blade Runner 2049 (2017) for ‘Best Achievement in Cinematography’; it did bag a few in technical categories.

During the In Memoriam, the academy paid tribute to various stars like Harry Dean Stanton, Roger Moore, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lewis, et al. Added to these great American celebrities, they had also mentioned actor Shashi Kapoor (1938-2017); the very first star of  Productions; which was not a surprise, as he was an international star. But, somewhat of surprise, of course a pleasant one at that, was the inclusion of Sridevi (1963-2018), a national star of India; who bridged the gap between Bollywood (Films mainly made in the national language of India, Hindi) and South Indian Cinema (she’s worked in various South Indian languages made in various Southern Indian States).

Black & Gold: Lupita Nyong’o & Sandra Bullock

Rita Moreno, when she won for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for
West Side Story (1961), at the 34th Academy Awards, in April 1962; along with Best Actor in a Supporting Role winner (for the same film), her co-star, George Chakiris (L); and actor Rock Hudson (R)

From Oscars 1962 to Oscars 2018: 86 year old Rita Moreno, wore the same skirt she wore when she won the award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role; 56 years ago

Fashion and a great sense of style, are a dominant feature at the Academy Awards; and this year, it was the Black & Gold combination that struck me as the best. Both Lupita Nyong’o & Sandra Bullock, looked amazing in their Black & Gold garb; but it was the 86 year Rita Moreno, who stole the show; when she wore the skirt that she originally wore for the Oscars, in 1962. She topped it off with a strapless black top, simple jewellery, a headband, gloves, and spectacles. She made spectacles look good. The attire that disappointed me the most, was the crude chandelier of a dress, that hung on Salma Hayek. Too gaudy for my taste!!!

In a chic pantsuit, Emma Stone presents the Oscar for Best Achievement in Directing; which went to Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water (2017)

Red n’ Bright: Meryl Streep & Allison Janney
Allison Janney won the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for I, Tonya (2017)

True Blue: Nicole Kidman & Jennifer Garner

The Gentlemen looked dashing in their tuxedos; but it’s always the Ladies who steal the show at Award Ceremonies; or any function, when it comes to dress sense. But what is even more impressive is when a Lady dons a Trouser suit; and at this year’s , it was the chic style adorned by Emma Stone, that caught my eye!!!👁

Overall, the 90th Annual Academy Awards, was an interesting show; with no slip-ups this time!! And Jimmy Kimmel did a wonderful job, second time round. Bringing in Bonnie and Clyde (1967) veterans; Warren Beatty & Faye Dunaway; a second time, as well (after last years debacle), was a icing on the cinematic cake.

Congratulations to all the Winners!!! Here’s to 2018!!

Nuwan Sen

Nuwan Sen n’ Style

Timothée Chalamet with his mother, and Armie Hammer with his wife (Oscars 2018)

Comical moment with host Jimmy Kimmel and Helen Mirren

Daniel Kaluuya congratulates Jordan Peele on winning the Best Original Screenplay Oscar (inset) Daniel Kaluuya

Nuwan Sen Film Sense
#90thAcademyAwards
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There’ve been quite a few fantastical tales, on celluloid reels, of humans falling in love with the unreal, and vice versa. Lets take a look at some great, and some far from great, renditions of this unusual phenomena, explored mainly on the Big Screen. Fairy tales for more mature audiences (teenagers and/or adults), if you may.
What brought about this sudden urge to write about unrealistic romances, portrayed in a realistic style on celluloid? I watched, Her (2013), back in March 2015 (on 22nd), and never got to write about it (of course films today aren’t made on celluloid, but am speaking in a general term, to reference cinema of the past). Plus it brought about memories of some really great films (as well as certain terrible movies), I’ve watched in the previous decades, going way back to my childhood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An ode to unrealistic romances.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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

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

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

Nuwan Sen

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!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
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In 1956, the very 1st video tape recorder was invented. And by 1963 videocassette recorders were invented. But since, initially, it was intended only for the professional sector, it was way too expensive for the general public to afford for home use. The first consumer video cassette was introduced by SONY in 1971. The VHS (Video Home System) was released in Japan in late 1976 and in the USA in early 1977. So after being in use for 60 years, and surviving for almost 40 years in homes around the globe, the production of, the Video Cassette player, has finally come to an end. In July 2016, FUNAI Electric, in Osaka, Japan, the last remaining manufacturer of VHS recorders; which had been producing VHS-playing VCR’s for 33 years; announced, it would cease production of videocassette players by the end of the month !!!!!!

nuwans-collection-of-films-dvdvhs-008

Ironically it was 33 years ago, in late 1983, that we got our very 1st videocassette player. I was 8 years old. By the age of 9/10, I was a pro when it came to VCR’s and VHS cassette’s. I use to love recording stuff off the tube (televisions, that existed in another era). By the 1980’s, thanks to the videocassette player, cinema’s saw a major decline in numbers. People preferred to watch movies, in the comfort of their home. In fact, as a kid, it’s only once or twice, we went to the cinema, in the 80’s. But we use to go out on other outing a lot back then. By the mid-90’s thanks to the multiplexes, cinemagoers multiplied. Back in New Delhi, India, during my Delhi University (DU) years, we students went to the Cineplex’s, just to witness the new trend of having many a screens in one theatre. Plus it was a classy experience, unlike the best (one screen) cinema’s in Colombo, Sri Lanka, at the time. Soon Laser Disc’s (LD’s) & Video Compact Disc’s (VCD’s), started entering the market. I remember, how back in the late 90’s, I was talking with my fellow batch mates in DU, and I recall verbatim, that I said “Call me old fashioned, if you like, but I prefer the old videocassette, to these Laser Disc’s and VCD’s”; and they nodded in agreement. In fact I wasn’t a fan of sticky VCD’s at all (but loved the concept of audio CD’s, since I first saw/listened to them in the late 80’s, even though, I was still buying audio cassettes, in the late 90’s, as well).

My Audrey Hepburn collection of Videocassettes (from September 2003)

My Audrey Hepburn collection of Videocassettes (from September 2003)

By the early 2000’s, I was still buying video cassettes, mainly in regard to my Master’s course, in England. In Luton, UK, in September 2003, just after I handed in my final dissertation, titled “Marriage in Hitchcock Films: From Rebecca to Marnie for my MA in International Cinema, I treated myself to a collection of Audrey Hepburn movies, by buying a box set containing, five videocassettes (four out of the five were movies I had already seen). AND it was thoroughly worth it, being a big Audrey Hepburn fan!!!!!

The Dual System (VHS-deck & DVD player, combo system) I bought in Oslo in December 2003; we still use!!

The Dual System (VHS-deck & DVD player, combo system) I bought in Oslo, in December 2003; we still use!!

Videocassettes on one side

Videocassettes on one side …

... DVD's on the other.

… DVD’s on the other.

In Oslo, in December 2003, I bought a Dual System (VHS-deck & DVD player, combo system); and still kept recording films/TV-miniseries from television onto video cassettes, until about 2005!!! I saw a Christmas offer, in a catalogue, back then, and I knew it would be perfect for us (our family), for we had so many videocassettes from the 80’s onwards, and a few VCD’s, in our house in SL. Not to forget the few home movies (we had on old video tapes), of what we had filmed, in our childhood to teenage years. Of course, all those (older) cassettes are rotting away in a store cupboard. Hope I can salvage the home movies, at least. It’s only within the last decade, that I haven’t done any kind of video recording at all. Of course, since 2004 onwards, I’ve bought quite a few DVD’s, around the globe, adding to my ever growing private home library of books and movies (also see my post Holidaying in Australia, comes to an end, from November 2014).

My Film Library: My Private DVD collection

My Film Library: My Private DVD collection

My Film Library: My Private collection of Movies (Videocassette's & DVD's)

My Film Library: My Private collection of Movies (Videocassettes & DVDs)

My Film Library: My Private collection of Movies (Videocassette's & DVD's)

My Film Library: My Private collection of Movies (Videocassettes & DVDs)

So the video cassette survived, well into the early part of the 21st century. Even VCD’s couldn’t kill the tape. But now, DVD’s, downloading, online viewing, watching movies on your iphone/smart phones, et al, people hardly would look at their old video tape’s, let alone watch them. And finally now the last remaining manufacturer of VHS has ceased production. It’s the end on an era!!! But since some of my old cassettes, from the early noughties, are still in working condition, I’ll still be watching them, once in a while.

Other Movies in our house

Other Movies in our house

Other Videocassettes in our house (most still in working order)

Other Videocassettes in our house (most still in working order)

Other Videocassettes in our home (most still in working order)

Other Videocassettes in our home (most still in working order)

The 80’s  & 90’s: Old Videocassettes, from our childhood/teenage years, in a store cupboard (doubt they work at all)!!!!!

The 80’s & 90’s: Old Videocassettes, from our childhood/teenage years, in a store cupboard (doubt they work at all)!!!!! The few VCDs, are fine though!!

My Film Library: (Last, but not the least) SIX new DVDs, a recent acquisition of mine (from just last month)!!

My Film Library: (Last, but not the least) SIX new DVDs, a recent acquisition of mine (from just last month)!!

To the good old videocassette, that’s been part of my life, since childhood!! We’ll always have fond memories. Thanks to videocassettes, my love for good cinema, survived forever; through an aesthetically depressive society, such as SL, that has no respect or an understanding for the fine arts, especially the fine beauty of cinematic arts. ❤ Love Film!!!!!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
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nu Sense on FILM

Today happens to be the 101st Birth Anniversary of my all time favourite cinematographer, Jack Cardiff. His uniquely brilliant, colourful aesthetics, in movies like. Powell&Pressburger’s Black Narcissus (1947) and The Red Shoes (1948), Alfred Hitchcock’s Under Capricorn (1949), and King Vidor’s War and Peace (1956), are stunningly splendid, with it’s vivid spectrum of striking colours. His creations on the big screen, are pure art. A massive canvas filled with moving pictures.

Jack CardiffJack Cardiff was born on the 18th of September, 1914, to a couple of music hall performers. By the age of four, he was already a child artiste, who’d worked in music hall productions as well as a few silent movies. As a child actor he starred in My Son, My Son (1918), Billy’s Rose (1922), The Loves of Mary, Queen of Scots (1923) and Tiptoes (1927). By 15 he started working as a camera assistant, clapper boy and production runner. By 21, Cardiff had graduated to camera operator and occasional cinematographer. Having already worked with Alfred Hitchcock, in The Skin Game (1931), as a clapper boy; soon he got a chance to work with Powell&Pressburger, as a second unit cameraman. Powell&Pressburger were so impressed that they hired him as a cinematographer, and the rest is history.

Ben Cross and Amy Irving in The Far Pavilions (1984)

Ben Cross and Amy Irving in The Far Pavilions (1984)

Ben Cross and Omar Sharif in a scene from The Far Pavilions

Ben Cross and Omar Sharif in a scene from The Far Pavilions

As a little kid, back in the mid-1980’s, I watched The Far Pavilions (1984), a beautiful mini-series, set in India, in the 1800’s. Back then, I had no idea who Jack Cardiff was, but was amazed by the superbly, epic scale, picturesque, television show, which has been tagged as, “Gone With The Wind (1939), of the north-west frontier of India.” I got to re-watch it in my teens, back in the early 1990’s. Thus, even though unaware at the time, this was my very first Cardiff involved show, that I witnessed. And I’ll end up watching quite a few Cardiff’s aesthetic brilliance of the big screen (on the small screen), before I learn the cinematographer responsible for the visual beauty of these great movies.

The Red Shoes (2)

Moira Shearer in The Red Shoes (1948)

Moira Shearer in The Red Shoes (1948)

Scenes from The Red Shoes

Scenes from The Red Shoes

Still as a kid, towards late 80’s, when I watched The Red Shoes, I was spellbound. The beautiful colour combination, costumes, the respectable art form of the ballet, the story, the movie as a whole, I fell in love with it almost instantaneously. And at the time I didn’t even realise it was an old movie. Especially ’cause I had no idea who the actors were. By then I knew quite a few classic stars, from Charles Chaplin, Laurence Olivier, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, Julie Andrews, Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda, Al Pacino et al; so I felt these must be very new actors, who aren’t famous yet. In fact, even now, besides The Red Shoes, am not familiar with the work of Moira Shearer (who was actually a renowned ballet dancer, and had appeared in very few films), Austrian actor, Anton Walbrook, and Marius Goring. The story follows the life of a young ballerina, who becomes the lead dancer in a new ballet called, The Red Shoes, a fairy tale. The movie tells a story within a story. One through the ballet, and the other, the movie plot. I remember this scene, where the lead male character, asks the ballerina, “Why do you want to dance?”, she fearlessly quickly answers with another question, “Why do you want to live?”
I only saw The Red Shoes, once, less than 30 years ago, but I still remember, that scene so well, as if I saw it yesterday. That was the scene, that changes the lead character, played by Moira Shearer, Victoria Page’s, life, in the movie. The ballet sequences were mesmerising, telling a beautifully epic tale of it’s own, and filmed so beautifully. My personal favourite was the one with raggedy clothes, portraying an exhausted ballerina, complimenting the frighteningly beautiful visual effects of the time. Eons before the evolution of CGI.

Scenes from War and Peace (1956)

Scenes from War and Peace (1956)

Scenes from War and Peace

Scenes from War and Peace

Audrey Hepburn in a scene from War and Peace

Audrey Hepburn in a scene from War and Peace

The next, was War and Peace, which I watched around the same time, more ‘cause I was already a great fan of Audrey Hepburn by then. A brilliant epic, adapted from Leo Tolstoy’s celebrated novel, War & Peace. With a stellar star cast, including Mel Ferrer, Henry Fonda, Audrey Hepburn, Jeremy Brett, May Britt and Anita Ekberg, this Hollywood adaptation, of a novel based on Napoleonic Wars, especially Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812, happens to be amongst my favourite of epic scale war movies. And again, I recall, how brilliant the cinematography was. Of course the movie mainly focuses on complex relationship and personal maturation, of the three lead characters, and two aristocratic families, on the backdrop of the historical events of the Napoleonic invasion. I got to re-watch War and Peace, as an adult, just over a decade ago, whilst living in London. ’Twas  really worth it.

In the 90’s, as a teen, I watched Paul Czinner’s, As You Like It (1936). A pretty good movie adaptation of Shakespeare’s famed comedy. Jack Cardiff worked as a camera operator for this film, starring Laurence Olivier and Elisabeth Bergner. I enjoyed the movie, but I don’t recall much greatness, cinematography wise. Anyway, Cardiff wasn’t responsible for cinematography. Plus this happens to be a Black & White film, and Cardiff was famous for excelling in colourful epics.

Whilst living in Portsmouth, UK, 11 years ago, around this time, most probably to celebrate Jack Cardiff’s 90th Birthday (he was still alive then), one of the British channels, telecast, two of his movies. I already knew about both these films, and had heard about Cardiff. But it was that particular day, 11 years ago, that I got to know who Jack Cardiff was, after seeing these two films, which were shown one after another, that day. Black Narcissus and Under Capricorn. I loved the movie, and learnt a lot more about Cardiff, once I googled him out, back in 2004. And to see he was responsible for the magnificent cinematography, of my childhood films, The Red Shoes and War and Peace as well, was an added bonus. Since then, Cardiff happens to be my all time favourite cinematographer, of yesteryear.

Black Narcissus (3)

Scenes from Black Narcissus

Scenes from Black Narcissus (1947)

Scenes from Black Narcissus (1947)

Scenes from Black Narcissus (1947)

Cardiff’s work, on Black Narcissus, is undeniably the best I’ve seen till date. Set in the foothills of the Himalayas, near Darjeeling, India, and made as India was on the verge of getting their Independence from the British Raj, it’s another excellent movie, in every way possible, from the narrative, the brilliant cast, the setting, the cinematography, you name it. Starring Deborah Kerr, Jean Simmons (playing an Indian girl named ‘Kanchi’), Flora Robson, Kathleen Byron, David Farrar, Esmond Knight, Nancy Roberts and Sabu Dastagir, it’s a touching story of a group of Anglican nuns living in isolation, who have to ultimately, after being tragic victims of jealousy and lust, have to leave their peaceful life in India, under the British Empire. Jack Cardiff won his very first Oscar, for his beautiful creation of Black Narcissus, under the category, ‘Best Cinematography, Colour’. He was nominated for three more Oscars, twice for colour cinematography, and once for film direction, but never won. In 2001, he was awarded an honorary Oscar, as the ‘Master of light and colour’. Prior to that, in 1995, he was honoured with a lifetime achievement award, by the British Society of Cinematographers. And in Year 2000, Jack Cardiff was also awarded the OBE (Order of the British Empire).

Scene from Under Capricorn (1949), Down Under.

Scene from Under Capricorn (1949), Down Under!

Alfred Hitchcock’s Under Capricorn, is set Down Under, in the depths of the heat and dust of the Australian outback, i.e. Sydney of 1831, a town full of ex-convicts. Starring Joseph Cotten, Ingrid Bergman and Michael Wilding, the movie tells the story of how an Irish gentleman, who visits Australia, comes across his childhood friend, now a married woman, who’s suffering from alcohol abuse, and helplessly watches her decent into madness. Amazingly George Cukor’s Gaslight (1944), a superb piece of noir, too dealt with a married woman’s (played by Bergman as well) decent into madness, and Cotton played, a sympathiser, who saves her from her murderous husband, the man responsible for driving her insane. Under Capricorn, was Hitchcock’s second film made in Technicolor, after Rope (1948).

Death on the Nile (2)

Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot, with the Sphinx in the background, in Death on the Nile (1978)

Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot, with the Sphinx in the background, in Death on the Nile (1978)

Back then I also got to watch, Death on the Nile (1978), a very good adaptation of crime writer, Agatha Christie’s novel. Which was a really good movie, though not great. But again the cinematography capturing ancient Egyptian monuments was simply brilliant.

Scenes from Delhi (1938)

Scenes from Delhi (1938)

Scenes from Delhi (1938), in Connaught Place, New Delhi, India

Scenes from Delhi (1938), in Connaught Place, New Delhi, India.

Scenes from Delhi (1938)

Scenes from Delhi (1938)

Five years ago, I saw the documentary short film, Delhi (1938), online, on the BFI (British Film Institute) page, on the Youtube website. Another colourfully breathtaking insight of Old and New Delhi, of the 1930’s, showcasing the beautiful historic architecture, the modern wide roads, and Indian attire, of the period under the British Raj, and captured to perfection by Jack Cardiff. One of the best short documentaries I’ve seen, and this 10 minutes of reel is definitely worth checking out.

Caesar and Cleopatra (1)

Scenes from Caesar and Cleopatra (1945)

Scenes from Caesar and Cleopatra (1945)

Claude Rains, Vivien Leigh and Stewart Granger in a scene from Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), based on a play by George Bernard Shaw.

Claude Rains, Vivien Leigh and Stewart Granger in a scene from Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), based on a play by George Bernard Shaw.

Black & White still, with Claude Rains and Vivien Leigh, in the technicolor film, Caesar and Cleopatra

Black & White still, with Claude Rains and Vivien Leigh, in the technicolor film, Caesar and Cleopatra

Then there was Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), starring Claude Rains, Vivien Leigh and Stewart Granger. Another classic film with breathtaking cinematography, based on an acclaimed play by George Bernard Shaw. Yet, Caesar and Cleopatra, is no where near as great, as some of the other movies mentioned above (cinematography wise), but still it’s another excellent cinematic experience, altogether. I watched this online as well, on Youtube, a few years ago. Sadly that’s the last of Cardiff’s films I saw, and I don’t own a single. All these movies of his, in which he worked as a cinematographer, is no doubt worth, adding to my home library, collection of movies.

Cameraman - The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (2010)

A documentary titled, Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (2010), was released, five years ago. Being a great fan of Cardiff, am really keen on checking it out. It chronicles his career of over seventy years, as a cinematographer, reviews his magnificent work, and details how he ended up mastering the process of Technicolor in Cinema of a bygone era.

Besides being a maestro in cinematography, Cardiff was also a film director. But from his directorial ventures, I’ve only watched, to my memory, My Geisha (1962), starring Shirley MacLaine, Yves Montand, Edward G. Robinson and Robert Cummings. That too, I watched, back in the 1980’s. My Geisha, was a hilarious comedy about an actress, Lucy Dell (MacLaine), who disguises herself as a Japanese Geisha, to bag the lead role, unaware to her husband (Montand), in her husbands new directorial venture, inspired by Giacomo Puccini’s, renowned Opera, Madame Butterfly.

Some of Jack Cardiff's directorial ventures, Sons and Lovers (1960), My Geisha (1962) and The Girl on a Motorcycle (1968).

Some of Jack Cardiff’s directorial ventures: Sons and Lovers (1960), My Geisha (1962) and The Girl on a Motorcycle (1968).

Being a fan of D.H. Lawrence, I’d really love to watch Cardiff’s adaptation of Sons and Lovers (1960), starring Trevor Howard, Dean Stockwell, Wendy Hiller and Mary Ure. Sons and Lovers, was Cardiff ’s very first nomination, for the ‘Best Director’ Oscar. Ironically it won one Oscar, for ‘Best Cinematography, Black-and-White’, for which he wasn’t responsible for. From Cardiff’s other works as a cinematographer, am really keen on watching, The African Queen (1951), Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), with Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe, and Crossed Swords (1977), with Oliver Reed, George C. Scott, Rex Harrison, David Hemmings and Mark Lester, to name a few.

All of Cardiff’s works I mentioned here as a cinematographer, are excellent films as a whole, except for Under Capricorn and Death in the Nile. Alfred Hitchcock’s Under Capricorn, is not necessarily Hitchcock’s best film, yet it’s still a near excellent noir flick. And John Guillermin’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s famed novel, Death in the Nile, though not the best adaptation of one of her novels, is still a very good crime movie.

In memory of Jack Cardiff (1914 – 2009), who shall forever be remembered for his masterworks in colour, especially at a time, when colour movies were a rarity, back in the 1930’s & 40’s. I’d love to watch more of his cinematic wonders, be it as a cinematographer, or a film director.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
Nuwan Sen’s ART Sense

On the 2nd of December, 2014, watched the television movie; based on real life events, that led to the eccentric lifestyles, of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ aunt and cousin, in their latter days; Grey Gardens (2009). One of the DVD’s I brought from Australia.

From Riches to Rags  Grey Gardens (2009) Based on a True Story

From Riches to Rags: Grey Gardens (2009). Based on a True Story (Nuwan Sen’s Historical Sense)

In the early 1970’s, brothers (Documentary Filmmaking duo) Albert and David Maysles, had initially planned to document a film on former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ (widow of late President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, and by now re-married, to Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis), young life in East Hampton, New York. But once the project fell through, and having heard of the notorious scandal about ‘Grey Gardens’, a dilapidated house in the neighbourhood of East Hampton, New York, the brothers decided to make a documentary (a reality show), about Mrs. Edith Bouvier Beale (Big Edie) and her daughter, (also named) Edith Bouvier Beale (Little Edie), the residents of ‘Grey Gardens’. Mrs. Bouvier Beale, was Jacqueline (née Bouvier) Kennedy’s father’s sister, thus Little Edie, was Jacqueline’s first cousin, who was almost 12 years older than Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.

Mrs. Edith Bouvier Beale (a.k.a. Big Edie)

Mrs. Edith Bouvier Beale (a.k.a. Big Edie) The Mother

Thus, the direct cinema documentary, Grey Gardens (1975), was born. The 2009 television film, starts off here, in the early 70’s, and flashes back to 1936, where Little Edie (magnificently played by Drew Barrymore), with Gardenias decorating her hair, is nervously getting ready for her ‘Débutante’ (a social event where a young lady from an aristocratic/Upper-Class family , is introduced to society at a formal presentation, once she has reached the age of maturity. Which meant the young lady was eligible to marry, and part of the purpose was to display her to eligible bachelors and their families within their circle). The film flashes back and forth, rendering a beautiful sad tale, of the fall of a high society mother and daughter, into poverty, negligence, loneliness and a dysfunctional, shabby, lifestyle.

Drew Barrymore (as the daughter, Little Edie) and Jessica Lange (as the mother, Big Edie) in a scene from Grey Gardens (2009)

Drew Barrymore (as the daughter, Little Edie) and Jessica Lange (as the mother, Big Edie) in a scene from Grey Gardens (2009)

Such a sad, tragic, heartrending story told, so beautifully, about the Bouvier Beale, mother and daughter. Jessica Lange does a superb portrayal of Big Edie, of her highs and lows, showcasing her high societal status and her decline into a reclusive, unsocial existence. While Drew Barrymore isn’t far behind as the daughter, Little Edie, capturing the tragic decent from class, elegance and sophistication to insanity, an untidy lifestyle and self-imprisonment in her mother’s home. This film brilliantly depicts, the unhappy life of Mother and daughter, living in seclusion, and extreme poverty, within their property, completely cut off from society. A rare real life tragedy, of a mother and daughter’s deterioration from riches to rags.

Drew Barrymore as Little Edie in her younger days.

Drew Barrymore as Little Edie in her younger days.

Their lives and home, were ultimately in such pathetic state, that finally Jackie O’ (played by Jeanne Tripplehorn, in a cameo, in the movie), came to their rescue. Why Big Edie’s two sons, never bothered to help them, remains a mystery. At the same time, Big Edie, never wanted to leave ‘Grey Gardens’, either, for it had been her home, since she acquired it in 1924. So in 1972, Jacqueline Onassis, helped them, donating money and workmen, to bring back the house to a habitable standard, that wasn’t in violation of any New York health codes.

 

Jeanne Tripplehorn as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Jessica Lange as Big Edie, in a scene from, Grey Gardens (2009)

Jeanne Tripplehorn as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Jessica Lange as Big Edie, in a scene from, Grey Gardens (2009)

I heard about the 1975 documentary, over 10 years ago, and had an interest in checking it out back then. Then this television movie came out in 2009, but I thought I’d rather watch the documentary first, and then the feature film. But when I saw the DVD, of the new film, available Down Under, I just had to buy it. Now, after watching Grey Gardens (2009), am even more keen on watching the original documentary, Grey Gardens (1975) by the Maysles Brothers.

Grey Gardens

Drew Barrymore as Little Edie in her older days at ‘Grey Gardens’.

The Maysles duo deserve a great thank you, for bringing out the lives of these amazingly astonishing women, who were helplessly stuck in the past. If not for these brothers’ documentary, these two women, would have been long forgotten, erased from history. And a bigger gratitude to director Michael Sucsy, for bringing out this wonderful feature adaptation for the small screen. This fascinating film honours and sympathises with these two tragic individuals, without making a mockery of them. It’s a sad, yet beautiful, movie to sit through.

Miss Edith Bouvier Beale (a.k.a. Little Edie) The Daughter

Miss Edith Bouvier Beale (a.k.a. Little Edie) The Daughter

After the success of the 1975 documentary, Big Edie passed away, in 1977. Little Edie finally sold the house in 1979. Little Edie died all alone in 2002, and her body was discovered, five days after her death. A sad end to a tragic life.

Grey Gardens (2009), won two Golden Globes, one for ‘Best Television Movie’, and a ‘Best Actress’ award for Drew Barrymore. Jessica Lange was also nominated in the same category as Barrymore. Plus, this movie, won six Emmy Awards, including for ‘Best Television Movie’, and ‘Best Actress’ for Jessica Lange. Drew Barrymore too was nominated in the same category as well. Added to which this television film got various accolades at various award functions. Excellent 10/10 !!!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Television Film Sense
Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

Continuing the DVD films, brought from Down Under, that I watched last month. I would have worked on this sooner, but since the arrival of little darling  in our lives, all my blogging got a tad delayed.
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The Long Tensed Wait – High Noon

On Monday night, the 24th of November, 2014, watched the Gary Cooper/Grace Kelly classic directed by Fred Zinnemann, High Noon (1952).
High NoonHigh Noon, made approximately in real time, deals with a Marshal, Will Kane (Cooper), who is forced to face his arch enemy alone; a man he sent to prison, Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald), who has been pardoned and released, and vows to take his revenge; on Kane’s wedding day. Grace Kelly plays the nervous, newly wedded, bride, from out of town, a Quaker, who has no knowledge of the historic enmity between her husband and Frank Miller.

The movie is a mixture of Noir and Western. Majority of the film deals with the long, nerve wrecking, tensed, wait. The drama between the two men is to erupt at 12 noon, thus we sit through 85 minutes of suspense, constantly watching the clock on the screen. It’s so beautifully filmed, that we become part of plot, as we watch the tension in all the lead characters of this little town, nervous about the noon fight, as Frank Miller is suppose to arrive by the noon train. High Noon has less to do with dialogues or physical action, but more to do with psychological tension and emotions. Especially for the Marshal. We see him try and gain his townsfolk to help him fight off Miller and his gang of three (which include Miller’s brother and two others, who wait patiently, for Miller’s arrival, at the train station), to no avail. We see Kane’s desperation and fear, hidden under his hard exterior. Even Will Kane’s closest friends, people at the towns bar, the church, everyone refuses to help. They might support Kane, but they fear Miller more.

The film won four Academy Awards and four Golden Globes, including for ‘Best Actor’ (Oscar & Golden Globe for Cooper), ‘Best Supporting Actress’ (Golden Globe for Mexican actress Katy Jurado, for her performance as Helen Ramírez, Kane’s and Miller’s ex lover, making Jurado the first Mexican actress to receive the award), and Best Cinematography – B/W (Golden Globe for Floyd Crosby). And High Noon was nominated in many other categories, in various Award Ceremonies, including Oscar nominations for ‘Best Director’, ‘Best Picture’, and ‘Best Screenplay’. In the late 80’s High Noon was selected by the United States National Film Registry (NFR), as being “culturally, historically & aesthetically significant”, entering the registry during the NFR’s first year of existence.

Among the finest Westerns ever, and definitely the best blend of Western & Film Noir. A Commercial, yet Art House, movie, long before Art House Films came into existence. I have known about this movie since the mid-80’s, the long wait was worth it. Excellent 10/10!!!!!

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A Man going Homicidal – The Shining

The Shining

The Shining

On Tuesday, 25th, watched the weirdly excellent Horror flick by Stanley Kubrick, with Jack Nicholson as the homicidal maniac, The Shining (1980).

The ‘Overlook Hotel’ is closing for the winter, and a caretaker Jack (Jack Nicholson), an aspiring writer, along with his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and six year old son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), head to take care of the Hotel for a frozen holiday. Whilst residing there, apparently due to a supernatural event, or a purely psychological one, Jack starts to go insane and tries to kill his wife and child.

An amazingly horrific feature film, set in the fictional, isolated, ‘Overlook Hotel’, in a scenic, yet foreboding, location. The whole mise-en-scène; with spacious interiors, which ironically adds a sense of claustrophobia and entrapment, the contrast of the classic building with the modern furnishing, the way the steadicam follows little Danny’s tricycle within the long endless corridors; is brilliant. The atmosphere created at the hotel and it’s surroundings, with It’s breathtaking scenery, has something very eerie about it. The movie is so deeply engaging, that the audience, would want to both leave, yet be stuck to chair, hoping to get the on-screen mother and child to safety.

Jack Nicholson is brilliant as always, naturally looking evil, with raised eyebrows. Shelley Duvall, seems realistically frightened, through the claustrophobic entrapment she feels, both by her husband and the snowbound, yet spacious, location. The little kid, is superb, especially in his ‘shining’ moments. Specifically the ‘Redrum’ scene (an anagram for ‘Murder’), which gets the sickly looking mother agitated even more, and tries to save her child, if not herself. While shooting the film, little Danny Lloyd, wasn’t aware that it was supposed to be a horror film. Yet Lloyd is pure perfection, when it comes to frightening scenes. The maze scene, interchanging the feel of loss and hope, through illumination, and gloom, towards the end, between the father and son, is splendidly depicted, representing a scope for triumph of good over evil.

Jack Nicholson’s evil male persona is also subject to, racial hatred, sexism and an egoistical, narrow minded, sense of masculinity. The movie has a bizarrely frozen ending, with the 1920’s photograph, making us question the representation of the ‘Jack’ character, as an animalistic human, or unsettling spirit, or a reincarnation. Jack is the embodiment of male chauvinism and pure evil, to come out at the height of feminism of the 70’s. He can’t stand his wife, which only surfaces after being trapped in the ‘Overlook Hotel’, through his own imagination or actual past ghosts.

This DVD, also contained the short documentary, Making ‘The Shining’ (1980), directed by Vivian Kubrick, Stanley Kubrick’s daughter. A very enjoyable, behind the scene, insight into the making of a classic.

No doubt, The Shining, is the best horror movie, after Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968). Simplistic, and almost static, in movement, with a horrifying atmosphere, the movie is a masterpiece of psychological horror, thanks to the genius that Kubrick was. Excellent 10/10!!!!! 

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In Love with an Edwardian Lady – Somewhere in Time

Somewhere in Time (1980)

Somewhere in Time (1980)

Friday, the 28th, watched the period piece, Somewhere in Time (1980). A science-fiction romance, where a man travels through time, by transporting his body and soul, psychologically, through hypnosis, to be with the love of his life.

Ever heard of a science-fiction movie, specifically dealing with time-travel, that had no use of special effects, to showcase thus. Well now you have. In this heritage, sci-fi, classic, Somewhere in Time, a playwright, Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve), uses the method of self-hypnosis, by disengaging himself with anything related to the 1970’s, to travel through time, into the Year 1912, after seeing a framed photograph of a famed stage actress of the Edwardian era, Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour). This takes place, eight years after he met an old lady (Susan French), in 1972, who hands him a pocket watch and asks him to, “Come back”, to her. Eight years later, after being infatuated with late Elise McKenna’s picture from 1912, he discovers, the old lady he met in 1972, was the one and the same the person. Since then he’s is obsessed with meeting her again, who’s dead and gone by now.

The plot sounds pretty juvenile, yet it’s filmed so romantically, believably transforming us into another era, with some great costumes, along with Collier, that one can’t not enjoy the love affair between the two era’s. This Heritage Film also stars George Voskovec, Bill Erwin, Teresa Wright and Christopher Plummer. ‘Superman’ Christopher Reeve, is well built, tall and handsome. ‘Bond’ girl, Jane Seymour is bewitchingly beautiful. Especially in the scene where she loosens her Edwardian bouffant, and gives herself to man she loves and might lose. Very moving. Very Romantic. Very Good 8/10!!!!

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The Flight to Heaven – Always

Audrey Hepburn in Steven Spielberg's 'Always' (1989)

Audrey Hepburn in Steven Spielberg’s ‘Always’ (1989)

Legendary Audrey Hepburn performs, as an angel, Hap, in a special appearance; in her last cinematic role, before retiring from cinema altogether, and lending her services completely to philanthropic work; in Always (1989). Watched it on Saturday afternoon, 29th November, 2014.

Directed by Steven Spielberg, Always, tells story of a daredevil aerial forest-fire fighter, Pete (Richard Dreyfuss), who gets himself killed, and meets the angel, Hap (Hepburn), who guides his soul to help another young pilot, Ted (Brad Johnson), as well as help Pete’s devastated old girlfriend, Dorinda (Holly Hunter), get over him, and start afresh with Ted.

It’s not a great Spielberg movie, but not a bad flick either. It has some very interesting sequences. An OK venture. 6/10!!!

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The Rise of a Singing Sensation – King Creole  

Elvis Presley and Michael Curtiz on the sets of King Creole

Elvis Presley and Michael Curtiz on the sets of King Creole

Watched this Elvis Presley classic, directed by Michael Curtiz, and based on a novel by Harold Robbins, King Creole (1958), on Sunday afternoon, the 30th of November, 2014.

This musical showcases one of the rare better performances by, the legendary King of Rock n’ roll, Elvis Presley, as an actor. The story is about a young club singer (Presley), who out of desperation, falls into bad company, and finds it difficult to get out of it. The deeper he gets, the messier and complicated things get for him, in turn risking the lives of family and friends.

Excellently filmed by Michael Curtiz, director of great classics like, Casablanca (1942) and Mildred Pierce (1945), yet as a Curtiz movie, it’s not good enough, for he was an exceptional film director. The camera mostly moves around capturing the most bewitchingly beautiful creature in the movie, with a great voice, from every angle possible. Of course I’m talking about Elvis Presley. Presley, who’s not much of an actor, does a reasonably good job here, as Danny Fisher. Walter Matthau, is pretty good, as the villain of the piece. Danny Fisher’s two love interests are quite pretty. The music is superb, the songs are pure heavenly.
Elvis Presley in King CreoleSupposedly, this was Elvis Presley’s favourite, among the films he worked in. Thanks to the music, this makes for an enjoyable viewing. Overall, a Very Good movie. 8/10!!!!     

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Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

P.S. Also see my post DVD Films From Last Month PART-I.

One of my favourite film directors, Richard Samuel Attenborough, died on Sunday 24th of August, 2014, less than a week away from his 91st Birthday. He was the older brother of Sir David Attenborough, a naturalist and broadcaster, and John Attenborough. John Attenborough died in November 2012.
Richard AttenboroughBaron Attenborough was born in the beautiful city of Cambridge, in the county town of Cambridgeshire, England, United Kingdom; on the 29th of August, 1923. Born into an intellectual and heroic family; his mother was a founding member of the Marriage Guidance Council, and his father a scholar and academic administrator who was a fellow at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and wrote a standard text on Anglo-Saxon law; Richard Attenborough’s parents saved two Jewish girls during the Second World War and later adopted them once they discovered the girls’ parent’s were killed off. Richard Attenborough served in the Royal Air Force (RAF), during the Second World War. Soon he joined the RAF Film Unit at Pinewood Studios, where in 1943, he worked with Edward G. Robinson in the propaganda film, Journey Together (1945). The Acting bug hit him, whilst still serving in the Air Force (where he sustained permanent ear damage), and the rest is history.

I fell in love with the biographical epic tear-jerker Gandhi (1982), when I watched it as a child in the early-mid 1980’s. And as we had the video tape of Gandhi, at home, I have watched it a zillion times since then. Plus, when I was studying for my M.A. in International Cinema (2002-2003); at the University of Luton, Luton, UK; I got a chance to study this, three hour long, great epic, scene by scene. It was for my mini-dissertation, titled Historical, Heritage and Hackneyed Cinema: British and Hollywood Cinema set in early twentieth Century India, of 10,330 words, in my second semester. Gandhi was a movie that fell under ‘Historical Cinema’, where I did an analysis of racial tension (under the chapter White Bred over Brown Bred: Colonial Relations), the significance of land, specifically the ‘Train’ in Gandhi (under the chapter Landscape and it’s significance), and a character psychoanalysis (under the chapter Gender & Sexuality). Gender & Sexuality was the most crucial chapter in my mini-dissertation, which paved the way, to do a complete psychoanalysis on gender, for my final dissertation (on Hitchcockian Cinema) of 25,000 to 30,000 words, in my final semester.

Richard Attenborough and actor Ben Kingsley at the Oscars, in 1983. With their wins for Best Picture, Best Director & Best Actor, for GANDHI (1982).

Richard Attenborough and actor Ben Kingsley at the Oscars, in 1983.
With their wins for Best Picture, Best Director & Best Actor, for GANDHI (1982).

Attenborough’s directorial epic, Gandhi, is no doubt the best film to come out of the 1980’s (see my post My Favourite movie by decade, My Favourite Oscar Winner per decade from March 2014). The movie was based on the non-violent struggle of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, India’s peace activist and modern day saint, who, during the British Raj, drove away the British colonist, by hurting their conscience, instead of acting against them through violence. Of course the movie depicts him as a perfectionist, but he was a human being, and no human being is perfect. He had his little flaws, yet he was a truly great human being. Gandhi deservedly won eight Oscars (out the eleven nominated for) in 1983, including for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay and Best Cinematography, among others. Gandhi won over 40 other awards in various other award functions (in various categories), including at the BAFTA’s and the Golden Globes.

Richard Attenborough’s acting career began on stage, where he met his future wife, stage actress Sheila Sim, with whom he appeared on the West End production of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. This production led to the two falling in love and they were married in 1945. And they were happily married until Attenborough’s death on Sunday. Sheila Sim is currently suffering from senile dementia, which she was diagnosed with back in June 2012, just after her 90th Birthday. Richard Attenborough, who also attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, remained a Patron until his death.

Richard Attenborough with Laura Dern and Sam Neill in a scene from JURASSIC PARK (1993)

Richard Attenborough with Laura Dern and Sam Neill in a scene from JURASSIC PARK (1993)

As a teenager, in New Delhi, in 1994, I watched Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993), on video tape, and later on the Big Screen, within that year. I thought it was a really good Sci-fi, B-movie. And I loved the way Attenborough’s character, Prof. John Hammond, explains the process of extracting blood (Dinosaur DNA) from a mosquito that had been preserved in amber fossil. At that age, DNA extraction and cloning really impressed me, something I learned as a kid in school in the late 80’s. The rest of the film was a visually spectacular drama, loved the CGI of the time, especially the creations of pre-historic animals, but what I found the most amazing was Prof. Hammond’s detailed explanation. I wasn’t so crazy about the sequels, The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) and Jurassic Park III (2001), though. Yet I wouldn’t mind checking out the latest instalment, Jurassic World, which is yet to be released.
Richard Attenborough z Brighton Rock  (1947)Richard Attenborough starred in a lot of great movies throughout the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, including In Which we Serve (1942), Brighton Rock (1947), The Man Within (1947), The Guinea Pig (1948), Boys in Brown (1949), Eight O’Clock Walk (1954), SOS Pacific (1959), The Angry Silence (1960), The Dock Brief (1962), The Great Escape (1963), The Flight of the Phoenix (1965), Doctor Dolittle (1967) and The Magic Christian (1969) with Ringo Starr of ‘The Beatles’, to name a few out of zillion he’s starred in. Brighton Rock, The Great Escape, The Flight of the Phoenix, Doctor Dolittle, 10 Rillington Place (1971), Jurassic Park and Miracle on 34th Street (1994), are amongst his most popular films as an actor. I have a vague memory of watching The Great Escape as a little kid, but am unsure. Anyway, I re-watched it more recently and loved it too. This excellent flick, based on a true story, is about several escape attempts by allied prisoners of war from a German POW camp, during World War – II.

In the late 60’s, Richard Attenborough, made his directorial debut, with the musical, Oh! What a Lovely War (1969). His next directorial venture was Young Winston (1972).
Richard Attenborough Young WinstonIn England, in 2002-2003, I watched Attenborough’s previous biographical epic, Young Winston (1972), at the University Library. This movie deals with former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill’s, younger days, stationed in India and Sudan, as a cavalry officer. I really enjoyed it. Though no where near as great as Attenborough’s magnum opus, that was Gandhi, Young Winston was still a pretty good movie.

Besides Young Winston and Gandhi, as a director, Richard Attenborough, brought out some amazing biographical epics, like A Bridge Too Far (1977); about an unsuccessful Allied military operation, fought in the Netherlands and Germany during World War – II; Cry Freedom (1987); based on the life and death of prominent anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko; Chaplin (1992); on film genius, Sir Charles Chaplin, a.k.a. Charlie Chaplin; Shadowlands (1993); on the heart-rending love story between Oxford academic C. S. Lewis and American poet Joy Davidman, and her tragic death from cancer; In Love and War (1996) on Ernest Hemingway’s experiences during the First World War; and Grey Owl (1999), another bio-pic, this time about Archibald Belaney, a.k.a. Grey Owl, who was a British schoolboy who turned into an Indian trapper, and called himself ‘Grey Owl’.

Richard Attenborough didn’t just make bio-pics, he made a few out and out fictional movies as well, and his last film was Closing the Ring (2007).

Richard Attenborough zfilms Down Under, in Sydney, in 2008, I watched Closing the Ring (2007), on the Big Screen, Attenborough’s last venture. Pretty Good but far from great. Starring Shirley MacLaine, Christopher Plummer, Mischa Barton, Stephen Amell, Neve Campbell, Pete Postlethwaite and Brenda Fricker. The biggest mistake Attenborough did, was to take in the muscular pretty boy, Stephen Amell, who can’t act for peanuts. He just voiced the dialogues expressionlessly, like a pretty mannequin, a Barbie doll. The story was interesting enough though, set during the Second World War (in flashbacks) and the 1990’s; set in Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK and Michigan, USA. Towards the end, it becomes a bit cheesy and overtly melodramatic. But still an enjoyable enough watch, thanks to the veteran actors in it.

A sad loss, with the death of a British gem, Richard Attenborough. Day after tomorrow, 29th August, 2014, would be his 91st Birth anniversary. He’ll be remembered forever through his great works. May he rest in peace.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

Today, the 14th of July, 2014, happens to be the 96th Birth Anniversary of the most famous Swedish Film director ever, Ernst Ingmar Bergman. He is recognised as the most accomplished and influential auteur, to come out of, one of the most scenic and breathtakingly beautiful Scandinavian countries in the world, Sweden.

Ingmar Bergman with the two Ingrid Bergman's. Left - The Hollywood Actress Middle - The Director  Right - The Director's Wife

Ingmar Bergman with the two Ingrid Bergman’s.
Left – The Hollywood Actress
Middle – The Director
Right – The Director’s Wife

Ernst Ingmar Bergman, was born on the 14th Of July, 1918, in Uppsala, Uppsala Län, Sweden. Bergman’s father was a Lutheran minister (later chaplain to the King of Sweden) and his mother a nurse. Though brought up in a conservative religious setting, with an older brother and sister, Ingmar Bergman lost faith when he was just eight years old. Bergman was the black sheep of the family, and was later estranged from his father for years. His love for the theatre began around the same time he lost his faith. By nine, he was making his own scenery, marionettes, and lighting effects and giving puppet productions, in which he spoke all the parts. In 1937, he entered Stockholm University College, from which he did not graduate, but was involved in their theatre group at the time. He was an out and out film buff by then. At the time he wrote many plays, an opera, and became an assistant director at a theatre. By 1941, Bergman began his film career by rewriting scripts, and soon he wrote his first screenplay, for the Alf Sjöberg film, Hets (1944) a.k.a. Torment. A couple of years later, Bergman directed his very first movie, Kris (1946) a.k.a. Crisis.
Scenes from a MarriageYear 1999, there was an ‘Ingmar Bergman film festival’ going on in South Delhi, New Delhi, India. I had completed my (Bachelors) final year at DU (University of Delhi), and was still residing in North Campus, Kingsway Camp, North Delhi. We students went all the way to South Delhi after a quick lunch at ISH (International Students Hostel), at 1p.m, and reached the gates of the Festival Hall by around 3p.m, and queued outside for the movie, Bergman’s Scener ur Ett Äktenskap (1973) a.k.a. Scenes from a Marriage, which was to start at around 6:30pm. The movie was free, first-cum-first basis. The queue was full of youngsters, both from DU and JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University). Luckily we were right in the front of the queue.

The whole time to travel, and hours waiting outside in the hot sun, finally paid off. Scenes from a Marriage was an excellent movie, and one of my all time favourites till date. Scenes from a Marriage is exactly what the title suggest. It’s literally scenes from a marriage, of a couple who separate, divorce, meet again years later, meet yet again years later, meet again in their middle age, and talk. Yes, the whole film is an analysis of marital (un)bliss, through excellent dialogue delivery and superb acting skills. For the length of the entire movie we mostly just see two people, the husband and wife, fighting, pleading, discussing, and trying to understand one another. The movie stars Erland Josephson and Liv Ullmann as the husband and wife, respectively.
Autumn SonataThe following day or so, they were showing Höstsonaten (1978) a.k.a. Autumn Sonata, starring Hollywood actress, of Swedish roots, Ingrid Bergman (no relation of Ingmar Bergman), alongside with Liv Ullmann. Unfortunately I could not make it for a movie I was really keen on, especially as am a fan of actress Ingrid Bergman. Some of my fellow Indian University students managed to catch it though. And they had fun taunting me at missing out on such a fine film, cause I was late at our rendezvous point at the Bus Stop. This was long before students could afford mobile phones. My loss, and am yet to watch this 70’s Ingmar Bergman gem.

However, some years later, I did manage to watch Khalid Mohamed’s, very well made, Bollywood tribute to Bergman’s Autumn Sonata, i.e. Tehzeeb (2003), starring Shabana Azmi, Urmila Matondkar, Arjun Rampal and Dia Mirza. The story, credited to Ingmar Bergman, is about a tense reunion of a modern day mother, Rukhsana (Shabana Azmi) and her estranged elder married daughter, Tehzeeb (Urmila Matondkar), due to a misunderstanding on the part of the daughter. Tehzeeb keeps blaming her mother for everything assuming the mother never loved her children, while the exact opposite is true. By the time the truth comes out, it’s too late. The Hindi movie is beautifully made, one that Bergman would be proud to be credited with.

Khalid Mohamed’s Bollywood tribute to Bergman

Khalid Mohamed’s Bollywood tribute to Bergman

In June 2002, while working as a journalist here, for the ‘Daily News’ newspaper, I paid tribute to Ingmar Bergman, when Bergman donated his manuscripts, notebooks, plot summaries, unpublished books, and much much more, to the Swedish Film Institute. You can see the online edition of my old article, if you Google out my birth name/full name ‘Nuwan Senadhira + Ingmar Bergman’ (Link – http://archives.dailynews.lk/2002/06/22/fea09.html). During this period, Bergman was working on a sequel to Scenes from a Marriage (1973), i.e. Saraband (2003).

Later in 2002 itself, when I was studying for my MA in International Cinema (2002-2003), at the University of Luton, Luton, UK, I watched Såsom i en Spegel (1961), a.k.a. Through a Glass Darkly, at the University Library. Another Bergman film I fell in love with instantly.
Through a Glass Darkly (NS)One of Bergman’s greatest works, Through a Glass Darkly, is an exploration of the psychological whirlpool into the world of schizophrenia. The film takes place within the span of 24 hours, in a remote island (filmed entirely in the island of Fårö, the largest island in Sweden). Karin (Harriet Andersson), has just been released from an asylum where she had been treated for schizophrenia. Karin’s family; which include her husband, Martin (Max von Sydow), her father, David (Gunnar Björnstrand), and her brother, Minus (Lars Passgård); take a vacation to this remote island. The film is a three-act ‘chamber film’, an allusion to both; the chamber plays of Swedish playwright/novelist/poet/essayist/painter, Johan August Strindberg; and to chamber music in general, in which four family members act as mirrors for each other. A chamber play, was a popular type of play, from the early 20th century, which consisted of three acts, performed with a small cast, with hardly any sets or costumes, in a small space. It was adapted to German cinema in the roaring 20’s, and later on by Ingmar Bergman to Swedish films.
Getting back to Through a Glass Darkly, it’s really interesting to see the close relationship shared by the two siblings (pictured above), in the beginning of the movie. In fact the whole movie is an excellent character study of all four family members.

Through a Glass Darkly won an Oscar for ‘Best Foreign Language Film’, and was nominated for ‘Best Original Screenplay’ at the 1962 Academy Awards Ceremony. It also won the Golden Globe Award for ‘Best Foreign Language Film’, and was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 12th Berlin International Film Festival. Famed American film critic, Roger Ebert, in 2008, added the film to his ‘Great Movies list’.

Later in 2003/2004, whilst residing in Oslo, I watched Den Goda Viljan (1992), a.k.a. The Best Intentions, an autobiographical film, about Ingmar Bergman’s parents, written by Ingmar Bergman, but not directed by him, instead directed by Danish film director Bille August. Another beautiful movie, this time, set in the early Edwardian era. The Best Intentions, won the ‘Palme d’Or’ at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival, and it’s lead actress Pernilla August, who played Ingmar Bergman’s mother, won the award for ‘Best Actress’ at the same film festival. It’s a pity, besides having lived in Norway, I have only been to the Norway/Sweden border. I never really got to travel in Sweden, besides having travelled around Northern and Western Europe extensively.
SarabandIn 2007, while doing my MA in Painting (2006-2007), at the College of Fine Arts (COFA), University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney, Australia, I got to watch Saraband (2003), when it was shown on a television channel down there. Saraband takes place about thirty years or so after the couple, played by Erland Josephson and Liv Ullmann, divorce in Scenes from a Marriage (1973). This is an excellent sequel. It’s very rare that sequels are anywhere near as great as the first, but Bergman manages to be triumphant in bringing out a touching story, of the old couple’s latest meeting. Beautiful !!! what more can I say.

Despite being an avid film buff, it’s a pity I’ve only seen very few Bergman films till date. Only the ones I’ve spoken about. And I’ve only seen Scenes from a Marriage on the big screen, the rest, with exception of Saraband, were via video tapes. Thus, except for Scenes from a Marriage, everything else mentioned here were on the small screen. I’d love to watch Autumn Sonata (1978), on the big screen someday, if possible. Autumn Sonata was nominated for two awards at the Oscars, one for ‘Best Actress’ for Ingrid Bergman, and one for ’Best Original Screenplay’ for Ingmar Bergman.

Am really keen on watching some of his other great ventures as well, such as, his very first movie, Kris (1946) a.k.a. Crisis, A Ship Bound for India (1947), Sommarlek (1951), Sommaren med Monika (1953), Smiles of a Summer Night (1955), Det Sjunde Inseglet (1957) a.k.a. The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries (1957), Jungfrukällan (1960) a.k.a. The Virgin Spring, Persona (1966), Hour of the Wolf (1968), Cries & Whispers (1972), Face to Face (1976), Fanny och Alexander (1982) and many many more.

To one of greatest film directors ever, Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007). Ingmar Bergman died peacefully in his sleep, on July 30th, 2007. He was 89 years old. Yet he will live forever through his movies. Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (1957), was about cheating death, through a game of chess, with the personification of Death. In a way Bergman too has managed to cheat death by being remembered through his movies.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
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