Tag Archive: History


On this Day …………

Martin Luther King jr. – Maya Angelou – Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

TWO EXECUTIONS

The Civil Rights Activist

On the evening, of 4th April, 1968; globally well know American activist, Martin Luther King Jr., was shot by James Earl Ray. King Jr. succumbed to his wounds, and died an hour after the fatal incident. He was 39 years old. Today marks the 50th Anniversary of his death!!

The People’s Leader

Educated at Berkeley and Oxford, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was a very prominent and progressive figure in Pakistani politics, in the 1970’s.  First as the President of Pakistan (1971 to 1973), and then as the Prime Minister of Pakistan (1973 to 1977). On the 5 of July, 1977, the military, led by General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, staged a coup, Operation Fair Play; relieving Prime Minister Bhutto of power. After various appeals and legal battles, Bhutto was finally sentenced to death. On 4th April 1979, 51 year old, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged to death, at Central Jail Rawalpindi. General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq imposed Martial Law, and his military dictatorship ruled Pakistan, until his death in 1988, in a plane crash. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s eldest daughter, Benazir Bhutto, soon came into power, after the death of her father’s assassin; bringing an end to military rule, and in turn becoming the first woman leader of Pakistan; as well as the very first woman to head a democratic government in a Muslim majority nation. The irony is, the more modern, open-minded, progressive country of the United States of America, is yet to have a female leader. Benazir Bhutto, too was assassinated, in 2007. She was 54 years old.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

BIRTH OF A CAGED BIRD

The Poet

Maya Angelou was born on April 4th, 1928; in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. She was named Marguerite Annie Johnson. Having gone through childhood trauma, including rape and child abuse, she grew up to be a prolific poet, singer, and civil rights activist. Having published 7 autobiographies; the most well known happens to be I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings from 1969. This memoir helped increase black feminist writings in the 1970’s. She received many accolades in her lifetime, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2011, which was presented by President Barack Obama. After suffering from poor health, in her old age, Maya Angelou died on the morning of May 28, 2014.

Éric Rohmer – Pareveen Babi – Roger Ebert

THREE GREAT FILM PERSONALITIES

The French Director

According to IMDB, French Film Director, Éric Rohmer, was born on the 4th of April, 1920. BUT, this is disputed by other sites, including Wikipedia’s “Rohmer” page (although if you go to other links, on Wikipedia, his birthday is listed as 4th April). But the Year is definitely, 1920. None the less, he was among the most influential directors, of French New Wave movement. Aged 89, he died on January 11, Year 2010.

Bollywood Babi69

If Parveen Babi were alive, she would’ve been 69 years old. Born into a noble Muslim family, in Junagadh, Gujarat, India; on 4th April 1949; grew up to be the quintessential heroine of 70’s Bollywood. With her minimalistic modern style (parted Babi bangs & bellbottoms) and brilliant acting talent, she captivated audiences of that era; as both a star and an intellectual actress. She was the first Bollywood star to appear on the front page of America’s Time magazine (July 1976 issue) as the modern face of Indian Cinema. But, alas, she suffered from schizophrenia, almost her entire life. Once her illness was out in the open, thanks to Mahesh Bhatt’s feminist films, Arth (1982); she left the industry (in 1983, after completing her film projects; which were released throughout the 80’s decade, keeping her fame intact) and took refuge under the patronage of U. G. Krishnamurti, and embarked on a spiritual journey. She returned in the late 80’s, by now suffering, not just from her ailments; but from deep depression as well. Soon she became a recluse. Parveen Babi died all alone, on 20th January 2005, and no body knew; until two days later. Her death, till date, is not clear as to what truly happened; police ruled out any foul play, and apparently she starved to death. She was 55 years old. Bollywood ought to have been more empathetic towards her.

The Death of a 1975 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Roger Ebert, the most prestigious American Film Critic, who was a film critic for Chicago Sun-Times, from 1967 until his death; won a  Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, in 1975. Ebert was the first Film Critic, to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Having lived with cancer of the thyroid and salivary glands since 2002, Aged 70, Roger Ebert, died on 4th April 2013; as he was preparing to leave the hospital.

Nuwan Sen’s Historical Sense
Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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The Feature-Length Movies released in 2017, that I have seen so far. From the Best to the Worst!!!!!

TOP Films of 2017 (10 Star Rating Each)

  • Call me by your Name (2017)
  • Loving Vincent (2017)
  • Dunkirk (2017)
  • T2 Trainspotting (2017)
  • Die Göttliche Ordnung (2017) – English Title: The Divine Order
  • The Hungry (2017)
  • Battle of the Sexes (2017)
  • Darkest Hour (2017)

The Rest of the films of 2017, from the Close to Excellence to Average to bad to the most Pathetic!

  • Veeram (2017) – Alternate Title: Veeram Macbeth! My Rating: 9/10
  • Downsizing (2017) My Rating: 7/10
  • All Nighter (2017) My Rating: 7/10
  • Space Between Us (2017) My Rating: 5/10
  • Vishka (2017) My Rating: 4/10
  • Life (2017) My Rating: 3/10
  • Begum Jaan (2017) My Rating: 1/10
  • Judwaa 2 (2017) My Rating: 1/10
  • Fifty Shades Darker (2017) My Rating: 1/10
  • The Institute (2017) My Rating: 1/10

I’ve only mentioned of films meant for Cinematic release (even though I watched most of them on the small screen, or smaller yet on my Laptop); and that too, if they were first released last year, only (doesn’t matter which country they made their debut in; and doesn’t matter if I saw them last year itself, or more recently, within the last two months of 2018). Plus, I have only listed Feature films, no Short films, like In a Heartbeat (2017), No-One (2017) and The Colour of his Hair (2017); to name a few. Neither have I added any Television Anthology series (where a one season is considered a “Limited Series”; thus like a loooong movie) like, ‘Season1’ of Feud (2017 onwards) or ‘Season3’ of Fargo (2014 onwards) for instance (which were both excellent shows, by the way), or any other TV series released in 2017, like 13 Reasons Why (2017 onwards), for example! Nor have I mentioned any mini-series/TV movies of documentaries, from last year. So far, from this year’s releases, I’ve only watched Padmaavat (2018), and that was a way way way over top, disappointment.

So, like most of you, my fellow film fanatics; am really looking forward to watching the 90th Annual Academy Awards, LIVE; on 5th March 2018, early morning (on this side of the Globe)!!!!!

May the Best Picture win!!!!!

Nuwan Sen Film Sense
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A LETTER TO VIOLET EYED HEAVEN: TO ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMEN THAT GRACED THE HOLLYWOOD SCREENS

Elizabeth Taylor with her two great Loves
Left: Mike Todd (1950’s)
Right: Richard Burton (1960’s & 70’s)

Dearest Ms. Taylor,

              First of all, let me thank you, for contributing so much to the world of Cinematic Arts; with your marvelous performances; working tirelessly to bring us, film buffs, joy for eternity.

              Born in United Kingdom, to two American citizens, on the 27th of February, 1932; you moved to the United States of America, at the age of 7; in April 1939, as tensions of another war gripped Europe. Couple of years later, you started working in Hollywood, as per your mother’s wish. You were adored by Hollywood for your unique sharp features, raven hair and fair skin. Specifically it was your unique eyes, a genetic mutation; that grabbed their attention. Blue eyes that appeared Violet, and a double pair of natural eyelashes. A rare beauty, and a natural acting talent; proved through your first auditions. Casting directors found you different to other child actors of the time; and some were afraid of your direct open attitude. Growing up, you survived through many hurdles and hardships. Two of your baby teeth were pulled out, before they were ready to fall; to make you seem more mature. By the age of 12, you had no free time at all, as you attended school in the studio lot itself, and then you had to practice singing, dancing and the lines for next day’s scenes. You never really had a childhood, as you mentioned once, that your childhood ended, when you became a child star, as MGM controlled every aspect of your life. Born with scoliosis; in your preteens, whilst filming for National Velvet (1944), you had a bad fall and fractured your back, which went undetected for many years; for which you suffered in silence, your entire life. Yet the worse was yet to come.

              In May 1950, aged only 18, you married heir to the Hilton Hotels chain, Conrad Hilton Jr.! Beaten black and blue on your wedding night; and having gone through abuse at his hands, your parents were horrified when they found out. Eight months into your marriage the two of you divorced. This caused a public scandal, and it sadly reflected badly on you, not on the man who abused you. Then a year later, you were back in the United Kingdom; this time working on a British Film Ivanhoe (1952). During the filming of Ivanhoe, you met  the newly divorced actor, Michael Wilding (20 years your senior). He thought marrying a young innocent starlet like you, would aid his failing career; and you felt being an older gentleman he’d be kinder, and you’d feel secure. But ’twas far from a happy marriage. Egoistical men, little understood your compassion and sympathetic nature towards people suffering; including your kindness towards gay actors, Montgomery Clift, Rock Hudson and James Dean; to name a few. One of your main co-stars, of the epic, Giant (1956), James Dean was killed in a car crash, on 30th September 1955; before the movie was completed (although Dean had finished working on his scenes). You were devastated. Soon, yet another young actor was almost killed in a car crash, but you weren’t going to let history repeat itself. On 12th May 1956, during the filming of Raintree County (1957); when close friend and co-star, Montgomery Clift had a terrible accident (soon after leaving a dinner party at Wilding and your Beverly Hills home; when Clift fell asleep whilst driving); you rushed to his aid, and saved his life by literally shoving a hand down his throat, and pulling out his teeth, he was choking on. Your husband was not impressed. After giving Wilding two sons, and his philandering ways reached scandal magazines; you couldn’t take it anymore, and divorced him, in 1957. Having suffered through two bad marriages, you wouldn’t have wanted to experience that pain again. But then came Mike Todd (an even older gentleman, born on the 22nd of June, Year 1909; who had been married twice before, who’d lost his first wife to death, and next to divorce), an American Theater and film producer, who swept you off your feet. The first great love of your life.

              You and Mike Todd had a whirlwind romance. Married on 2nd February 1957; it was a third marriage for both, a 24 year old, you, and 47 year old Mike Todd. For the first time in your life, you were truly happy and deeply in love.You traveled around the world in Todd’s private jet, named The Liz (a.k.a. The Lucky Liz); a testament to your love for each other. In fact, Todd had released a film, Around the World in 80 Days (1956), based Jules Verne’s classic novel; which ended up winning five coveted Oscars, including for ‘Best Picture’; just over a month after you were married; at the 29th Annual Academy Awards. You were lucky for him; and you were lucky in love, for the very first time in your life. For once, both Todd and you, were in happy, like never before. Later that year, you gave birth to a beautiful baby girl; your very first daughter. A child born out of marriage filled with love and joy. On the first anniversary of the release of his Oscar winning film, Todd threw a grand party, as a celebration of his love for you. 18,000 of close friends were invited to this Madison Square Garden extravaganza. A live coverage of the event was held. Todd loved to boast, and why not, he was jubilant, as were you. A 14 foot high cake was made for the event, and you had to climb up to cut the cake. It was all show and pomp; but ’twas wasn’t hypocritical function in the name of traditions or customs you were carrying out; but a fun filled party. Apparently the party ended up with a very Hollywood  slapstick style food fight, thanks to a rowdy crowd; but you, Todd, your close friends and other elegant guests weren’t part of that. The television coverage of the party made it an Hollywood event of the century; and the function was deemed a flop. But did it matter, not really. This was your great love story, and you felt safe that nothing could ruin this euphoric romance. But then tragedy strikes…..

              On 21st March 1958, you were to fly with your husband to New York, where the Friars Club was to honour him the next night as Showman of the Year. But you were suffering from a bronchitis cold and a temperature 102°. You really wanted to go, but Todd insisted you stay at home and rest. Added to that there was a rainstorm outside. Actor, Kirk Douglas, your next door neighbour, was to accompany your husband. But, Anne Buydens (Douglas’ wife) had a bad feeling about the plane ride. They argued, but Buydens won, and Douglas missed the flight, and was mad at his wife for it. Mike Todd hugged you for a fifth time, part of him not wanting to leave you alone with your children. Even though ill, you were glowing with love and sadness and being apart. When Todd got onto his plane, he spoke to you once again, he called from the air-to-ground telephone, and told you he’ll call you once he lands in Tulsa, to re-fuel. But he never did. Despite the bad weather, the flight was considered safe enough, to fly smoothly. At 10:41pm (2241 hrs), left the airstrip , and headed to New York. The twin-engine Lockheed Lodestar plane suffered engine failure, went out of control and crashed killing all four people on board, including Mike Todd; the love of your life. It was 22nd March 1958, early morning, when the incident happened. Meanwhile Kirk Douglas recalls having missed the flight and mad at his wife, ” We were driving and not talking to each other, so we turned the radio on, and the announcer spoke of the shocking news of the plane crash. At the same time, you, sick in bed, unaware called up Todd’s personal secretary, as you were worried you hadn’t heard from him. Soon you got the shocking news, and your world came tumbling down.

              Your close friends, actresses, Debbie Reynolds and Shirley MacLaine, rushed to your side; staying there for a few days, and helping taking care of your three kids. Liz Todd was still a baby (she would never get to know her wonderful dad). Film director Howard Hughes, lent you his jet. There was hardly much left of Todd’s remains, as the plane had exploded on impact. The only items recovered from the wreckage were Todd’s wedding ring, and a pair of platinum cuff-links, gifted by Todd’s friend, actor and singer, Eddie Fisher (Debbie Reynolds’ husband). The funeral was in Chicago. You were so distraught, you threw yourself over the coffin. The pain of loss of someone you loved so dearly would have been unbearable. Two decades later, grave robbers would desecrate his remains, due to rumours of a $100,000/- diamond ring, said to have been placed in his coffin by you, before burial. His remains would be found, have to be reexamined by dental records once again, and reburied, in a secret location.

              Your next marriage, was the biggest mistake you made. You were grief stricken at the loss of Mike Todd, and Eddie Fisher, took advantage of it, and proposed marriage to you, admitting he had always been in love with you. You accepted without thinking of the consequences. You did not marry him for love, but for marriage security (this was still the 1950’s and marriage was considered, one of the main criteria for a woman to gain respect; today a woman does not need a husband anymore). But by accepting, you hurt your best friend, Fisher’s wife Debbie. Soon your image turned from grieving widow to homewrecker, in the eyes of the public. Both Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher (Fisher and Reynolds  daughter); would eventually forgive you (Eddie Fisher is the one that abandoned them); but for the world to do so, it would take some more time (both Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher died in December 2016). To add salt to your wounds; Mike Todd had accumulated a lot of debt, which meant you would have to earn to pay it back; due to pressure from film studios. Added to which, being on a contract, meant you owed MGM; to work for them. You had no choice but to work on a film you detested, due to this contract; BUtterfield 8 (1960). But you managed to convince them to cast husband no.4, Eddie Fisher, in a sympathetic role. Having a kind heart, you were more concerned about his image, than your own. Then you won an Oscar for BUtterfield 8! Even though you were nominated thrice for ‘Best Actress’, it was finally for the film you hated, that you bagged the award. You went crying up to the stage. You were definitely not thrilled; as you were forced into working for this movie, not ’cause you wanted to. Added to which your marriage to a spineless man, wasn’t working. Even though you’d give the marriage six years of your life. But, you needn’t fret, for your next great love, was just around the corner.

Elizabeth Taylor was no doubt THE most beautiful Cleopatra to grace the cinematic screens ever!

              Now, in 1961; you had finally completed your MGM contract, and were free of it. Not only that, you had won an Oscar, for ‘Best Actress’. 20th Century signed you on for their next big venture, a historical epic on the Queen of the Nile, Cleopatra. This would be your biggest venture yet, and a crucial turning point in your life.

              You became the first Hollywood actress to be paid $1 Million for the role; and this expensive production, of Cleopatra (1963), would be among the most loved Historical epics of all time. You’d end up being so closely identified with role; when film buffs hear the name “Cleopatra”; it’s your bewitchingly beautiful face, in ancient Egyptian garments, that come to mind. Cleopatra today is synonymous with your portrayal of her on celluloid (a role you almost lost the role, when you suffered from pneumonia). Added to which, you’d end up meeting the second love of your life, Richard Burton. The Burton-Taylor romance is one of the most talked about love stories, in the world of cinema (also see my Blog-post, Sexiest Couples of Hollywood from July 2016). Your violet eyes sparkled when you saw him, he felt the same, sparks flew; you were both unhappily married to different people. An extra-marital love affair started to ignite on the sets of Cleopatra. Like the character you were portraying, you were neither young nor innocent; but a bold brave new woman, afraid of no man. Like Cleopatra, who had two great loves in her life, Cesar and Anthony; you found your next great love, the actor playing Anthony, opposite you. In a sense, it was real-life, imitating reel-life; a reel life, based on a real life historical account from an ancient civilization. Soon paparazzi snapped you and your new lover, on a yacht in Ischia, Naples, Italy in 1962. Your scandalous new romance was out in the open. People, who hated your marriage to Fisher, started enjoying this affair with Burton. Whilst, the love story, with Mike Todd, turned you into a happily married family type of woman; this new romance showcased a side, people had never seen before. A sizzling sexy side of your persona. Your steamy romance was the talk of the town. Soon you divorced Fisher, in 1964; and married your new love, Richard Burton. 

Dubbed at Liz & Dick, you two would end up doing some of the greatest performances in your lives. You ended up appearing in 11 films together, and stage plays. The most notable film of which, happens to be, Mike Nichols’ Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966); for which you won your next ‘Best Actress’ award, at the 39th Annual Academy Awards (Oscars 1967). Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? also happens to be among my Top 10, all time favourite movies. The movie itself, felt like reel-life, imitating real-life (a reversal of fortune from the time you filming Cleopatra). You two loved each other, were perfect for each other, bickering and fighting; you loved each other. You had a tempestuous relationship; mainly thanks to his alcoholism. Nor matter how much you loved him, you could not handle his drinking; and he was alleged to smoke at least a 100 cigarettes a day. Thus, after completing one more movie with him, coincidentally titled, Divorce His, Divorce Hers (1973), you finally divorced your second great love, in 1974.

Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton on the cover of NOVA (October 1966 issue)
Photographed by Douglas Kirkland

              But, both Burton and you, loved each other way too much. And reconciled, married in 1975. But this second marriage to Burton, wasn’t to last too long. You two divorced once again, this time for good, in 1976. Post that you married twice again; but that was more for companionship; and less to do with love, sex and romance. You were married to Republican politician, John Warner, and helped him with his electoral campaign. Meanwhile, you became an advocate for HIV and AIDS awareness, in the 80’s; along with actress Doris Day. You spent the 1980’s onward, raising money for various causes. You bravely persuaded President Ronald Reagan to acknowledge the disease for the first time in a speech in 1987, and publicly criticized presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton for lack of interest in combating the disease. You awarded for your humanitarian efforts, as well as for your contribution to the arts. You were the first celebrity to create a signature line of perfume. Soon other stars followed suit. And you founded a jewelry company, House of Taylor.

After having suffered most of your life, to physical ailments, mental depression and prescription drugs; you finally left the world of the living, aged 79, on the 23rd of March, Year 2011. But you live on, in our hearts; through your great cinematic ventures. You left behind a great legacy; as one of the last stars of classical Hollywood cinema, and also one of the first modern celebrities of Hollywood. You were among the lead actors, at the time Hollywood, and the world, went through a major transition. The 1960’s & 70’s decades.

               Here’s to you Ms. Elizabeth Taylor, a beautiful heart, and an equally beautiful actress. Thinking of you, on your 86th Birth Anniversary.

                                                                                                            Thanking you,

                                                                                        with Love, from one of your ardent fans, 

                                                                                                                             Nuwan Sen

picmonkey_image (12)

This Blog Post, in the form of a letter, is my contribution to the, THE ELIZABETH TAYLOR BLOGATHON, hosted by Crystal Kalyana of In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood!!

 

Thank you Crystal, for letting me take part in this beautiful Blogathon.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
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Ink-tober 2017, has come to end. Today, was the last day!!

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

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

DAY 1: SWIFT

My Topic: SWIFT HAND MOVEMENT

DAY 2: DIVIDED

My Topic: THE DIVISION OF PEACE

DAY 3: POISON

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

DAY 4: UNDERWATER

My Title: UNDERWATER FANTASY

DAY 5: LONG

My Title: LADY LONG LEGS COVERED IN BELL BOTTOMS!

DAY 6: SWORD

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

DAY 7: SHY

My Topic: SHY GIRL

DAY 8: CROOKED

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

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

DAY 16: FAT

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

DAY 17: GRACEFUL

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

DAY 18: FILTHY

My Topic: FILTHY SELFIES IN GARBAGELAND!!

DAY 19: CLOUD

My Title: EUPHORIA: TO BE ON CLOUD 9

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

DAY 23: JUICY

My Title: JUICY KISS

DAY 24: BLIND

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

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

DAY 29: UNITED

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

DAY 30: FOUND

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

DAY 31: MASK

My Topic: MASKS OF DECEPTION

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

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

Enjoy

Nuwan Sen

#NuwanARTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Bookish Nuwan

Quoting Parveen Babi

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hattie mcDaniel as Mammy in Gone with the Wind (1939)

If Americans think that one of the biggest racial issues Trumpland is facing today, is the viewing of Gone with the Wind (1939); they’ve totally gone BONKERS!!

The Orpheum Theatre, in Memphis, Tennessee; recently pulled out the showing of this iconic Hollywood epic, on the grounds it was too insensitive for modern audiences. That’s soooo stupid. Are they insane??? Gone with the Wind, especially taking into account the time period it was made in (minus modern day technical wizardry), happens to be one of the greatest Hollywood creations ever. Plus, it’s my second favourite film ever (pls also see my post My Favourite movie by decade, My Favourite Oscar Winner per decade from March 2014; and my list of critiques Why I love …. from November/December 2012 on IMDB)

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A strict Calvinist missionary from New England, marries a young girl who’s been pining for her beloved sea captain; from whom she hasn’t heard from, for two years. Soon the missionary, with wife in tow, sets sail for a new life, in a new land, known as the islands of Hawaii. Cultures clash, religious ideals clash, between the blinded Calvinist Ministers and the equally blinded Hawaiian natives, while caught in the middle of all this, is the young new bride, who tries to be the mediator. Added to this, whilst pregnant with her first child, the sea captain she yearned for at one time, touches the shores of Hawaii, only to cause chaos and mayhem, in the once paradise islands.

Such a brilliant classic, an epic saga of civilising the tribes of the Hawaiian islands; is an underappreciated gem of a movie, that spans three decades. Based on the third chapter ‘From the Farm of Bitterness’, of an even more epic scale novel, Hawaii by James A. Michener, the story is known for it’s historical accuracy. Plus, the lead male character of Reverend Abner Hale (Max von Sydow), is loosely based on the life of missionary Hiram Bingham I; leader of the first group of American Protestant missionaries from New England, who introduced Christianity to the Hawaiian islands. Added to which the character of Queen Malama (Jocelyne LaGarde) was based on Queen Ka’ahumanu, the actual ruler of Maui when the missionaries reached these beautiful islands. Yet, though the film’s historical background is spot on, the tale is fictional, and not based on a true story, just inspired by one.

Julie Andrews and Max Von Sydow

The ever wonderful Julie Andrews plays the minister’s young bride, Jerusha Bromley Hale. The sensible, the practical and the open minded personality, who dares to argue with her husband for the sake of the lovely innocent natives, at the same time, tries to make the natives understand her husband’s point of view. She’s compassionate, and understanding, without judging anyone or taking any sides. She’s the one who tries to bring a truce. Meanwhile, a mother to three kids (as the movie goes forward), she keeps having to deal with the animosity between her adamant husband, and the equally adamant captain she had once hoped to marry. The equally adamant captain, is played by Richard Harris.

Directed by Oscar winning director, George Roy Hill, with such a superb cast, this critically acclaimed movie, was the 2nd highest-grossing film of 1966; yet it’s a wonder this movie hasn’t gained much popularity, since. Is it because it’s too long ?? The original cinematic release was 189 minutes long (thus over 3 hours long); but the version I saw, was the edited version, of a 161 minutes (thus practically ½ an hour of film footage was missing). As a true film buff, I’d really like to watch the film in it’s entirety, with the missing ½ hour.

Richard Harris, Julie Andrews and Max Von Sydow

The screenplay co-written by Dalton Trumbo (see my post Trumbo 9/11 from September 2016, as well) and Daniel Taradash; Hawaii, originally was slated to star Audrey Hepburn and Alec Guinness, in the lead; and Rock Hudson as the Captain. And director Fred Zinnemann was meant to helm the project. But as Zinnemann and Trumbo had conflict of interest, Zinnemann walked out of the Director’s chair. Soon, forces of nature took over, and due to bad weather, and various other reasons, the project was delayed, not just a few years, but by over half a decade. Actors Gene Hackman and John Cullum, were known for their appearances in film, pre-fame. Added to which the film is notable for making the (unaccredited) debut of actress, Bette Midler; as well as the only film appearances of, Jocelyne LaGarde (who gained an Oscar nomination in the ‘Best Supporting Actress’ category, making her the only performer in Academy Award history to be nominated for the only performance ever given), and Max von Sydow’s two sons, Henrik von Sydow and Clas S. von Sydow.

I can imagine Audrey Hepburn doing justice to role of Jerusha Bromley Hale; just as brilliantly as Julie Andrews, has done. Alec Guinness would have been just as spot on, as the adamant Reverend Abner Hale, as Max von Sydow was. And no doubt, Rock Hudson would have been even more dashing in Richard Harris’ shoes, as Captain Rafer Hoxworth. Pity, despite it’s success in 1966, and having been nominated for seven Oscars (the following year), the film hasn’t aged well. To some extent, it does feel like a film made in the 50’s, than the 60’s. But I still enjoyed it, and despite a few minor flaws, I can’t accuse Hawaii of being anything, less than pure excellence.

I watched Hawaii late Sunday night, on 11th June 2017, but actually downloaded this movie, beginning of last month (May 2017).

Hawaii (1966)
My Rating: 10/10!!!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

French, Socialist Party member, 39 year old Emmanuel Macron, is the new President of France. Vive La France!!

Emmanuel Macron with his wife; the new First Lady, Brigitte Macron; at the Inauguration, yesterday.

Macron, who ran under the banner En Marche! (a centrist, liberal movement, founded by Macron, which encapsulates a balance between social equality and a certain degree of social hierarchy, without going into extremes) won, by a decisive margin, at the Presidential elections, defeating Marine Le Pen, on 7th May 2017. He was inaugurated into office yesterday, 14th May 2017.
This is exactly what the world needs now. Youthful, progressive, modernists, but with intellect, wisdom and maturity, of a 65 year old; to bring the world into the future. Open minded, great progressive minds, the likes of, what former Presidents, John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama were to USA, former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi was to India; and what current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau is to Canada today. Not ridiculous leaders like, America’s George W. Bush (jr.) & Donald Trump; or even worse, the pathetic Shit Lankan Presidents, with archaic, crude, extremist, mentality, that lead/have led this country for the last 28 years. J.R. Jayewardene was the only good President SL ever had, and no doubt the best Prime Minister this corrupt island has even seen. Devil’s own country, with their love for Devilled food; inhumane hot headed humans, and a heat, as hot as hell.

Kudos to France, for electing a young modernist. Let’s hope for the best!!

Wishing Emanuel Macron, all the best, in his future endeavours.

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Da Vinci & Di Caprio: The Two LEO’s
Q.1° Given the chance to be a famous ‘Leonardo’ in your life, which Leo would You prefer to be? And Why?

a) Leonardo Da Vinci

b) Leonardo Di Caprio

c) A combination of both

d) Another Leo, altogether (Please specify, who & why)

Q.2° If, to the previous question, your answer was (c); which of these combined traits would you like to own? [You may answer, if you wish to, even if your answer for the previous question wasn’t (c)]

a) Da Vinci’s Brain (intellect) & Di Caprio’s Heart (seemingly kind personality/down to earth persona)

b) Da Vinci’s Artistic Talent & Di Caprio’s Looks

c) Da Vinci’s Looks & Di Caprio’s Acting Talent

Q.3° Which of these would like to possess?

a) Da Vinci’s (approximately) 550 years of fame, as one of the most celebrated artists in the world

b) Di Caprio’s 25 years of fame, as a talented actor and modern day humanist

Q.4° What is your favourite :-

a) Da Vinci Scientific/futuristic artwork?

b) Di Caprio Film?

c) Da Vinci Painting?

d) Di Caprio Film Character?

Q.5° If you could, which of these would you like to do?

a) Travel back in time, and meet Da Vinci

b) Do Di Caprio, in the present (or by going back in time)

c) Both

Nuwan Sen
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