Tag Archive: Italy


Photograph-V

On Facebook, I was challenged; on the 1st of November, Year 2017, to post a Black&White picture per day, without posting any people, and no explanations, yet it had to do with my life. This was a 7 day challenge, that ended today. Whilst, the rest of the photographs are pretty self explanatory (to some extent at least), this is a picture, which is very personal, and has to do with my childhood on wards, till date. It does not simply depict my love for Books & Films!!!

So here is an explanation for this picture, I posted on FB, for Day V (i.e. 5th November 2017) :-

So past 4th midnight, I thought of posting something uniquely personal for Day V, of the B/W photography challenge. I started taking out the close near dear reads and views, from my shelves, and set them on my bed. It was already next day, with 9/10ths of a moonlit sky shining above the wet clouds outside. At 00:55 am, 5th morning, I took the snapshot. Yet, ’twas a pity, I won’t be able to explain it. But today morning, after posting the last picture of the challenge, I went back to this. And decided, I can’t explain it on FB, but I have a Blog, where I can.

So the picture; let us start with Audrey Hepburn. So, as many of my fellow bloggers and close friends are aware, that Hepburn happens to be my all time favourite actress. I’ve been a fan of hers since I watched My Fair Lady (1964), as a little kid, back in the mid-1980’s. I wanted to grow up and marry her, and remember asking my mum, how old Hepburn was (of course I realized Audrey Hepburn was somewhat older than me, but what I didn’t realize at the time was that this musical, set during the Edwardian era, was made long before I came into existence). Anyway, Audrey Hepburn starred alongside the suave gentleman, Gregory Peck, in ROMAN HOLIDAY (1953), which happens to be my all time favourite movie. I watched this in the summer of 1994, just before my 19th Birthday, whilst living in New Delhi, India. Plus, 1994 was the best year of my teenage life (coming of age in Shit Lanka was a nightmare, so it was a refreshing change to go back to India in 94′, after a hellish six year stay in monstrous Lanka. And now am back, going through a lot of stress due to being stuck in a narrow minded extremist country like Shit Lanka. Been here for just over eight years now. Getting anything done in SL is a hassle, including trying to work on this simple blog-post without unnecessary disturbances and distractions). Anyway, even though a fan of Hepburn since childhood, it was once I watched ROMAN HOLIDAY, I truly fell in love with Hepburn. AND soon both her debut movie; about a Princess walking around the scenic architectural delights of ancient Rome, in modern day Italy, as a commoner, having an accidental fling, a tragic love story set in 24 hours, this B/W tearjerker romance that pulls at your heartstrings; along with Hepburn herself, became my all time favorite movie, and actress, respectively. I was simply smitten by her charmingly naturalistic acting. In 2003, after handing in my final dissertation titled “Marriage on Hitchcock Films: From Rebecca to Marnie”, for my MA in International Cinema, at the University of Luton, Luton, UK; I treated myself to an Audrey Hepburn Box-Set of Video Cassettes, which included my all time favourite, ROMAN HOLIDAY. The cassette cover that can be seen on the picture above.

Having mentioned Hitchcock, many of you know Alfred Hitchcock is my all time favourite director; and that REBECCA (1940) happens to be my favourite Hitchcockian classic. Thus, when I was studying his movies, doing an out and out psychoanalysis of varied character sketches, from his best period of Hollywood movies (his first 25 years in Hollywood) for my final dissertation of 25,000 to 30,000 words; I bought some of his movies, and rented others, in Oslo, Norway (as that’s where I resided, during my final semester, as I had no classes; thus working full time 5½ days a week, and concentrating on my dissertation on Saturday evenings and Sunday the whole day; I was exhausted). The video tape of REBECCA which can be seen above was one of movies I bought. But there is more of a history I share with Hitchcock’s REBECCA. I fell in love with this hauntingly magnificent tale of woman living under the shadow of her husband’s dead first wife; when I first saw it as a kid, in the mid-80’s. So this most probably was my all time favourite, till I watched ROMAN HOLIDAY, almost a decade later. Around that time, at school, The British School, in New Delhi, India, we had to write a film review. REBECCA being fresh in my mind, I remember writing my very first film review, on this noirish perfection by Alfred Hitchcock, aged 11; whilst I was in Senior-I. Later, aged 12½/13, I read Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (on which the Hitchcockian masterpiece was based on). And this so called women’s book, my very first piece of Adult Fiction, instantly became my all time favourite novel, and it remained no.1 till aged 20, I read the English translation of CITY OF JOY, a French novel by Dominique Lapierre. I bought the book of CITY OF JOY (pictured above) in 1994, though I read it later. And from the age of 20, till now (I’m 42 now), it has remained my favourite novel. BUT, am currently reading Arundhati Roy’s latest novel, THE MINISTRY OF UTMOST HAPPINESS (pictured above as well), since I located it at the end of August 2017 (yup, am a very slow reader; and it’s not like I get to read my book every single day); and THE MINISTRY OF UTMOST HAPPINESS seems to be fast becoming my all time favourite. That I’ll know for sure, once I finish reading it.

From Novels, to non-fiction; FREEDOM’S DAUGHTER: LETTERS BETWEEN INDIRA GANDHI AND JAWAHARLAL NEHRU 1922-1939 (also pictured above), edited by Sonia Gandhi; happens to be my favourite text of non-fiction; which I read in my mid-20’s. When it comes to print media, there seems to be a major Indian connection. It’s just a mere coincidence. But still, even though with unfortunate Sri Lankan roots, that constantly try to pull me down into the mud with them, I was born and brought up in New Delhi, India. And I had a pretty good childhood (maybe not necessarily a great one, as I was badly bullied in school, it was still better, than when we ventured south into an inhumane and war torn island). Thus having such a strong Indian connection (altogether spent 17 years of my life in New Delhi, 12½ years in row); and a soft corner for my Birth city; plus being a movie maniac; I cannot, not add, my favourites in films, to do with India. My favourite Indian movie, is a Bengali/English bilingual Art House Movie, from the state of West Bengal, directed by Aparna Sen. I bought the DVD of THE JAPANESE WIFE (2010), which can be seen above, along with Kunal Basu’s book of Short Stories (one of which happens to be the basis of this movie), when I visited New Delhi in November/December 2010, on holiday. This was a holiday I took to India, after a break of 9½  years. Aged 35, I thoroughly enjoyed the short story, of The Japanese Wife, as well as the movie. Having watched Indian films throughout my life (especially Bollywood movies, though I happen to be a bit of an Art House snob), it’s amazing how Aparna Sen’s cinematic adaptation of THE JAPANESE WIFE, ended up becoming my favourite Indian movie ever. But having been brought up on Bollywood commercial cinema, I cannot not point out my favourite commercial Hindi Film, from Bombay (now Mumbai) from the state of Maharashtra, India. Mahesh Bhatt‘s ARTH (1982), the DVD of which can be seen above as well. ARTH; which I actually first saw as a kid, and few times later; is a reel life adaptation based on Mahesh Bhatt‘s real life extramarital affair with actress Parveen Babi, who suffered from schizophrenia. A tragic beautiful mind, that soon left the film industry once her illness was out in the open, thanks to this excellently made movie. died under mysterious circumstances, in 2005 (see my post related to her Death Anniversary from January 2013).

Speaking of extramarital affairs and coming back to short stories, I read Anton Chekhov’s THE LADY WITH THE DOG (pictured above), an adulterous love story, when I was 15. This Russian romantic short, happens to be my all time favourite short story, till date (du Maurier’s The Apple Tree, comes a close second). My favourite novella (a text too small to be a novel, yet way too long to be considered a short story), happens to be Truman Capote’s BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (pictured above as well); which I bought, and read, in 2009, whilst living in the most beautiful city in the world, Paris, France. Fell in love with this beautifully written piece of prose, a quick read (Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, happens to be next favourite novella, and I love Kubrick’s surreal adaptation, from 1971, of the book, as well). The movie version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), which also happens to be among my favourite films, directed by Blake Edwards, also stars my all time favourite actress, Audrey Hepburn.

So, I’ve come a full circle, from Hepburn to Hepburn!!!! Almost like a of .


#‎NuwanSensFilmSense
Bookish Nuwan (NS)

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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

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)

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
#‎NuwanSensFilmSense
Nuwan Sen (Quoting Quotes)

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
Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
Nuwan Sen n’ the ART’s
#‎NuwanSensFilmSense
nu Sense on Film
#NuwanARTS
&

giovanni-dupre-1817-1882

Remembering Giovanni Duprè (1817 -1882), on his 200th Birth Anniversary.

Giovanni Duprè's Cain

Giovanni Duprè’s Cain

Giovanni Duprè's Sappho

Giovanni Duprè’s Sappho

Giovanni Duprè's The Infant Dionysus

Giovanni Duprè’s The Infant Dionysus

Born in Siena, Tuscany, Italy; on the 1st of March, Year 1817; Giovanni Duprè, was a prolific Italian sculptor, of the 19th century; who was highly influenced by Renaissance art. His creations; specifically his life size sculpture of the dead, Abel; presaged the beginning of the sad demise of Neoclassicism in Italian sculpture. Giovanni Duprè died in Florence, Italy, less than two months away, from his 65th Birthday.

The Picture of Giovanni Duprè

The Picture of Giovanni Duprè

Nuwan Sen & ARTS

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

Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren

The Movie & I

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

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

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

My Analysis & The Characters
(Spoiler Alert)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Background

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

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

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

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

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
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Last Friday (on 18th of November, Year 2016), watched the DVD of The Devil is a Woman (1935). A story of a man’s obsession for a woman he could never own; and a woman who refuses to be any man’s possession.
the-devil-is-a-woman-marlene-dietrich-1Set in the early 1900’s, during the Spanish carnival season; a hedonistic period of merry making; the entire story revolves around, a woman who seeks pleasure for the self, with no care for others feelings. At the same time, the men who lust for her are no saints themselves; and they deserve what they get (or rather not get), in return. The Devil is a Woman, is based on a French novel, La Femme et le Pantin by Pierre Louÿs; the English title of which reads as, The Woman and the Puppet.
the-devil-is-a-woman-marlene-dietrich-2The Synopsys
The movie begins with the carnival, in the beginning of the last century, in southern Spain, where a wanted man, Antonio Galvan (Cesar Romero), for his revolutionary ideals, walking through the merriment, sees a beautiful veiled woman. He’s instantly infatuated. The woman, he finds out, is called Concha Pérez (Marlene Dietrich). Soon he meets an old friend at the pub, an ex-military officer, Captain Don Pasqual ‘Pasqualito’ Costelar (Lionel Atwill), and tells him of his interest for a woman named Concha. Pasqualito then cautions Antonio against her, telling him to be careful of that woman, and soon Pasqualito tells him of his own past experience, when he fell for Concha, five years before. Told in flashback we see Captain Pasqualito’s obsession for Concha Pérez (back in the late 1800’s, and how she constantly tricks him, and runs off with his money. As the movie proceeds, we realise what a fool Pasqualito is, and at the same time, how violent and nasty he can be.

Marlene Dietrich and Lionel Atwill in a scene from the film.

Marlene Dietrich and Lionel Atwill in a scene from the film.

The Character roles
Marlene Dietrich is hilariously superb as a morally questionable character. Yet she hardly lets the two lead men, enjoy her lips, let alone her body. She definitely cons them, and especially uses, the Captain, Pasqualito, for his money. At the same time we don’t feel sorry for Pasqualito either, for he can be brutal. True, she not much of a lady, at the same time she is honest on issues of her untrustworthiness, but what right has he to hit her black and blue. It makes him less of a man, and not enough to even pity the fool. She, at the same time, is a bold woman, who doesn’t let men overpower her, mentally. After she’s beaten by Pasqualito, she comes off unscathed, with not a care in the world. I’ve seen very few movies of Dietrich, and her portrayals are generally that of very serious characters (with a touch of humour, perhaps); but never seen her do something so farcically fun. Thus, this was something really different for her. A comical Dietrich is practically unheard of. And I loved her mischievous performance. Lionel Atwill is superb as a fool in lust, than love. It’s amazing how much Atwill resembled Josef von Sternberg (the director of the movie). Was there reel life, imitating the real? Was von Sternberg obsessed with Dietrich, and thus portrayed her as a devilish woman (though not necessarily as heartless and vindictive, as the men in movie see her as) in this film? She’s definitely not evil, as the title suggests, though men who can’t have her, might accuse her of being so, out of spite. None the less, after collaborating in seven movies together, this was the last film Dietrich and Josef von Sternberg worked on. He was a superb director, and she was his discovery. A pity, they went on to make movies for another couple of decades (Dietrich even longer, further down the years), but they never ever worked together again. YET, the collaboration of one director, with one actress, creating cinematic magic, in seven films, is till date, unmatched in the history of cinema.

Marlene Dietrich and Cesar Romero in a scene from the film.

Marlene Dietrich and Cesar Romero in a scene from the film.

Besides, Dietrich and Atwill, Cesar Romero is hilarious, as an exiled rebel, secretly in back in Spain, whose character of Antonio Galvan, despite listening to the former Captain’s advise, and agreeing on having nothing to do with Concha; gets a bout of amnesia (not literally), and goes running straight into the arms of Concha. Of course, Pasqualito’s advise, wasn’t out of any good intention, but more due to his own desire to own Concha, for himself; to get Antonio Galvan, out of the picture. The rest of the supporting cast are just as enjoyable in their respective roles; Concha’s mother, a con woman herself; the one-eyed woman who practically makes fun of Pasqualito’s desperate state, straight to his face; the governor, Don Paquito (Edward Everett Horton), who himself has his brain in his crotch, when it comes to the affairs of the seductive Concha; etc etc etc… The actors, and the superb direction by Josef von Sternberg, make the movie, with hardly much of a plot to speak of, an enjoyable affair.

Marlene Dietrich, on the sets of the film, (inset - right) Costume Designer, Travis Banton

Marlene Dietrich, on the sets of the film, (inset – right) Costume Designer, Travis Banton

One of the elegant Edwardian costumes designed, in White Chiffon and Lace, by Travis Banton, for Marlene Dietrich.  The photograph above, this sketch, shows Dietrich in this particular outfit, on the sets of The Devil is a Woman (1935)

One of the elegant Edwardian costumes designed, in White Chiffon and Lace, by Travis Banton, for Marlene Dietrich.
The photograph above, this sketch, shows Dietrich in this particular outfit, on the sets of The Devil is a Woman (1935)

The Production Design & Costumes
With the beautiful scale of art design and marvellous costumes, this movie would have looked spectacular, if it were made in colour. In fact, the film won the award for ‘Best Cinematography’ at the Venice Film Festival.

The costumes itself, besides being marvellous, are symbolic as well. We see Dietrich character wear a lot of lace, and hide her face in veils and masks. It pertains to her personality, as well, besides her love for fine things. Her hiding her face behind a literal mask, could mean she’s also hiding behind a metaphorical one, as well. Is she just a vulnerable young woman, afraid of being owned, afraid of commitment, just pretending to be a femme fatal?? Does she just pretend to have a block of “Ice” where she should have a heart?? Does she really not care, for anyone?? The duel sequence tells us otherwise. We get to see what’s actually beneath her nonchalant attitude. As does her visit to the hospital to see Pasqualito. When she lets go of Antonio Galvan, we see she’s trying to save him from being arrested. Of course (spoiler alert), last minute, at the border crossing, she refuses to run off to Paris with Galvan. She won’t leave her beloved Spain, but at the same time it doesn’t specifically show her going back to Pasqualito, either. She’s an independent woman, even at the end, and belongs to no one.

RIGHT: Audrey Hepburn in How to Steal a Million (1966) LEFT: Marlene Dietrich in The Devil is a Woman (1935)

RIGHT: Audrey Hepburn in How to Steal a Million (1966)
LEFT: Marlene Dietrich in The Devil is a Woman (1935)

The Audrey Hepburn Connection
Getting back to the beautiful costumes (literally speaking), they are the zenith and nadir of fashion. We see her in poverty, conning Pasqualito in gaudy costumes, in the flashbacks (towards the end of the 19th century), and as a very fashionable lady, in glamorous attire in the, movie settings, present (early 20th century). Some of these gorgeous costumes (of the 1900’s), by Travis Banton, reminded me of the stylish costumes of Audrey Hepburn, from My Fair Lady (1964). Of course, both the movies are set during the Edwardian era, one in Spain, the other in UK. But these two movies comprise some of the most stylish costumes from that period, before the Great War; over a hundred years ago. Of course, My Fair Lady is set in the 1910’s, whilst The Devil is a Woman, is set in the late Victorian, to the beginning of the Edwardian era. At the same time the British era’s don’t necessarily apply to Spain. Dietrich’s costumes in the flashbacks are more like that of a gypsy woman (I haven’t posted any of the pictures with gaudy costumes above, but just the more fashionably elite attire, worn by the glamorous Dietrich, thus, below I’ve posted a couple of hideous costumes, worn by her, seen in flashback sequences). Again here, her cheap glittery attire, seen in flashback, to the more elegant Edwardian outfits, in the, films, present day, could again by symbolic of her character. It seems to showcase her improvement in taste, her sophistication, and her growth, as a individual, and not just as a fashionista. In the more elite settings, we see Dietrich’s character have a heart, though see refuses to openly show her kinder, and more vulnerable, side. As I mentioned earlier, she’s seen hiding behind masks, a plenty, both literally and figuratively.

Despite the stylish costumes, worn mainly, in the latter part of the movie, the lace eyewear, worn by Marlene Dietrich, at her initial entrance into the movie’s carnival (she’s seen in lace eyewear more than once), reminded me of the black lace eyewear, worn by Audrey Hepburn, in How to steal a Million (1966), released in the year know as Sexty-Sex!! Of course, How to steal a Million, was set in the mid-60’s itself.

Couple of gaudy costumes, worn by Marlene Dietrich, in the movie, in the flashback sequences, set in the Victorian era.

Couple of gaudy costumes, worn by Marlene Dietrich, in the movie, in the flashback sequences, set in the late-Victorian era.

One thing missing here, is Dietrich’s trade-mark, sharp, clean-cut, masculine trouser suits. Her androgynous sexual ambiguity, and her bold masculine femininity, is something missing in this movie. We don’t see her, even in drag, at least once. Another rare differentiation from her usual roles. Pretty much out of her comfort zone, yet ironically this is supposedly one of Marlene Dietrich’s favourite roles ever. It’s definitely a very non-Dietrich role, in very non-Dietrich attire. Especially in those ridiculous gypsy style clothing, she’s practically unrecognizable.

The Controversy
The movie met heavy censorship, back in the day. Spain was outraged with the depiction of Spanish people in the movie. And once the Spanish government threatened to boycott all Hollywood films, Paramount Studio’s got hold of all prints in circulation, and burned them all. But Marlene Dietrich saved a copy, for herself, thus the movie still survives, in the 21st century. None the less a very bold movie, to come out of the 30’s, and most probably unacceptable back then (due to the crazed Hays Code of Law), that a woman should find herself in charge of herself, and not running behind a man.

The Dietrich DVD’s
Back in mid-September 2016, my father went to the States, for a an official visit. I asked my sister, who lives in USA, to get me some books and DVD’s, and sent her a massive list. She sent me most of the books, and six DVD’s. One of the DVD’s was a collection of Marlene Dietrich films, titled, “Marlene Dietrich: The Glamour Collection”, comprising of five of her films. I watched Morocco (1930) and Blonde Venus (1932), last month (October 2016) itself. Am yet to watch the rest from her collection.
the-devil-is-a-woman-marlene-dietrich-through-the-gateThe Dietrich Films
The first I heard of Marlene Dietrich, was as a teenager, in 1992, the year Dietrich died, aged 90. I saw a magazine full of her glamorous pictures. The first film of hers, that I know of, that I watched, was in 2002. When I was doing my MA in International Cinema (2002-2003), at the University of Luton, Luton, UK; in my first semester, for the module, ‘Post-colonial and third Cinema’, we mostly studied Asian and African movies (third world Cinema). BUT we also watched a Hollywood classic set in Africa, studying the orientalist attitude towards the third world. The film was, The Garden of Allah (1936), starring Dietrich alongside Charles Boyer. Post that I saw her in more mature, yet secondary, roles, like in the noir-classic, Touch of Evil (1958), and, the Audrey Hepburn, rom-com, Paris – When It Sizzles (1964).

And then last month, I saw her; first, in, the near excellent, Blonde Venus (as I mentioned earlier), alongside Herbert Marshall and Cary Grant; and then, in the very good, Morocco, with Gary Cooper, with whom she had a brief love affair in real life. What’s interesting in these movies, is the fact, though an independent woman, in both films, her love for a man, ultimately dictates her life. Morocco was tragic, the way she ultimately runs like a slave after her man. Both movies were sad in their own way. Whilst Blonde Venus had a happy ending, with the family reunited, Morocco was depressing, to what she became in the end. This is where The Devil is a Woman, differs. She seems better off alone, in the end. Marlene Dietrich’s character can also be considered, that of an existentialist, a free spirited individual, who shapes her own destiny.

Though not an excellent piece of cinema, it comes pretty close. Especially worth checking out for; Josef von Sternberg superb direction and cinematography, the fabulous costumes by Travis Banton, and last but not the least, for the, uniquely fun filled, performance by Marlene Dietrich.

The Devil is a Woman (1935)
My Rating: Near Excellent 9/10!!

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The Philosophy of the human verbal Language, is a superb communicative tool, which enables us to understand one another. Race no bar; Religion no bar; Nationality no bar, Cast no bar, Class no bar, Gender no bar, Sexuality no bar!!!!! One of the key developments, in helping the human mind, in understanding, the world full of diverse societies and cultures; history, arts, education; you name it. Brilliant communication skills, help build bridges. Here is a look at the languages, that my limited intelligence can comprehend!!
Namaste (T-Shirt)Languages I can speak Fluently

ENGLISH
English
The English language, today, is no doubt, an international language. At least it should be considered to be a global language. Majority of people speak it; how well, differs; accents differ; even dialects do, as do the manner in which it is spoken. But most people, the younger generation, and definitely the highly educated, do tend to understand it well enough, in most parts of the world. In the modern world, it’s absurd having any prejudice towards this beautiful language.

English also happens to be my first language. WHY?? Well, Sinhala is my mother tongue; but English is my FIRST LANGUAGE!! Whether people can accept that, or not.

I was born in New Delhi, India, to Sri Lankan parents; and spent my entire childhood there. As most Indian schools in New Delhi (and most other Indian cities), happens to be in the English Language (where Hindi; the national language of India; is the only subject taught in Hindi; and various Indian states having their own languages, most probably teach that particular language and Hindi, in that particular language and Hindi, respectively, in an English Language school), I too studied in the English medium. Plus, besides my early education; nursery, Kindergarten, Grade, 1, 2, 3 (which too were in the English medium); by the time I was 10 years old; I was studying at The British School, in New Delhi (starting off in Junior-4; their grading system was different to Indian schools). Thus British English, is till date, my forte (I continued to study in the English language, throughout). In fact, as a kid, I was told I had a very posh British accent (no, I was never a snob though). Of course, I don’t remember having a British accent, as such; but apparently I did!!! Years later, as an adult, when I first touched English soil (UK); in 2002; the British were quite surprised, that this was my first time in England (only if they heard me speak, of course). I still have a somewhat westernised accent, as I’ve been told; but I guess, by now it’s more of a mixture of British, and (a clearer form of) Indian English. Thus, my brain works in English; and I generally, tend to, think in English. Therefore; my FIRST LANGUAGE is English!!!!! And thanks to my knowledge of the English language, I’ve managed to get by swimmingly, around the globe, having lived in Six countries, in Three continents; and travelled to many a countries, within these three continents.

HINDI
हिन्दी
Having been born in New Delhi, India; and having spent my entire childhood there; it would be silly not to know the national language of India (i.e. Hindi). Initially I studied the subject of Hindi, in school, till about Grade-2. Once I changed schools, I was exempted from studying Hindi; as a foreign student!

INDIAN WINTER: Me, in front of the Rashtrapati Bhavan (Presidential Palace); in New Delhi, India (January 1997), when I lived there!!

INDIAN WINTER: Me, in front of the Rashtrapati Bhavan (Presidential Palace); in New Delhi, India (January 1997), when I lived there!!

Descending, straight from the ancient, sacred, language of Sanskrit; Modern day, Hindi, is a very beautiful and poetic language. Being the 4th most natively spoken language in the world; it’s very useful, not just in India, but also in various countries, surrounding the Indian land mass. In Pakistan, they speak Urdu; which is practically a more sophisticated, and more poetic, version of Hindi, itself. People in countries like Nepal and Bangladesh; tend to understand, Hindi, very well. India, being a massive, country, with an equally massive population (India is the second most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion people); Hindi to India, is like, what English is to the world. Each Indian state has it’s own language (few a direct dialect of Hindi). So basically Hindi is understood, by the whole of India, along with each state, having their own language; plus, among city folk; and the well educated; as well as poverty stricken beggars in Indian tourist destinations; people tend to speak English. Added to which, many learn; other languages as well (other Indian languages or even a completely foreign language).

Of course, most Southern Indian states, that speak Dravidian languages (like Malayalam, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada et al); tend to avoid Hindi, as much as possible. The Dravidian culture’s archaic ego, won’t allow them to admit, they know the national language of Hindi. Due to false nationalistic pride, centring, their respective states. BUT, that doesn’t necessarily mean, they don’t know Hindi. Most just pretend not to!!

None the less, Hindi, even today, is  really useful, not to mention a beautiful, language. Hindi is here to stay!! And the fame of Bollywood; worldwide; which is an industry that mostly makes commercial movies, in Hindi; in rare occasions, they do have Art Films, and English Language movies; is proof enough!!!! Hindi, is a superb second language, am glad I understand it fluently!!

SINHALA
සිංහල
This is by far, THE most worthless language; I happen to know, very well!! Having been born into a Sinhalese family; I know it well; for no matter where we lived, at home we spoke in Sinhala. But it’s of no use, outside this country. This insignificant dot of an island, full of people with massive ego’s and false nationalistic pride, that most of the world doesn’t even know exists. Tell people here, that lot of people out there haven’t even heard of Sri Lanka. The strain on their ego, is pretty rough (as if they know every single country in the world; in fact once a person asked me if Rome was in England; and this was somebody working in the travel field). While most people in Sri Lanka, do understand Sinhala (whether they are Sinhalese or Tamil); I’ve heard that, way up north; they neither speak, nor comprehend, the Sinhalese language. They only speak Tamil and English! So Sinhala is not even spoken in the whole country, let alone outside it. There was an almost 30 year civil war, between the Sinhalese and the Tamil; each preferring to believe they are of the superior race; but in reality they are both the same; both just as pathetic; with fake patriotism, and Hitler mentality. In fact; everything in this country is supposedly the best in the world. And people who have great love this country, are the ones that go and hide in other countries, take all the advantages of freely living there, and demean those countries.

Of course; initially as a kid; I happily went to learn Sinhala (when residing in New Delhi); but living here, constantly being pushed the language onto me; shoving this country every two seconds; I grew to dislike it. I had a lot of patience; and love, though not blinded by it, for this country of my unfortunate roots; but lost patience, by my mid-30’s; and started to dislike Lankan society; not just here, but everywhere; in a general sense!! I can’t take it anymore. Today, I truly, genuinely, hate them, and this country (again generally speaking; I always give the benefit of the doubt, when I meet someone, and not judge them for being Sri Lankan; but soon their judgemental; narrow-minded, attitude and troublesome nature; just gets to me).

Sinhala is not a dead language. It’s not a dying language. For the Sinhalese people; and most of the country (both Sinhalese and Tamil) tend to converse in Sinhala, quite frequently. So it’s a language I know; BUT that doesn’t mean I have to love it. It’s noise pollution, loud and screeching, and outright Vulgar!!! In fact, the Sinhalese make fun of the Tamil language; assuming Sinhala sounds so much more better; but again they are both the same to a foreign ear; a load of noise. In fact, Sri Lankans insult all foreign tongues; for SL is the BEST in world. And don’t get me started on their attitudes towards other English accents (they never look at themselves; for SL accents are pretty pathetic themselves). None the less, am not a fan of this country, and definitely not a fan of this language!! I’ve had so much trouble from these people, and their archaic attitudes. And I don’t necessarily mean illiterate people. But, I know this Language. No harm in knowing it; and no use of it outside this country (or even up in the northern part of this country).

One Language, am yet to Master

FRENCH SUMMER: Me, in front of the Eiffel Tower; in Paris, France (July 2008), when I went to live there.

FRENCH SUMMER: Me, in front of the Eiffel Tower; in Paris, France (July 2008), when I went to live there.

FRENCH
français
J’aime la langue française!!!!! I love French!! Unfortunately, am not that good in it!!

Another beautiful, and very useful, language, after English. It’s spoken extensively, in various countries, in two continents (Europe and North America), and happens to be the official language in 29 countries. Another musical language, much like Hindi. The mannerism of their speech, is naturally singsong. Sounds beautiful and soft to the ear.

When I studied at The British School, in New Delhi; when I entered senior school (S-1); at age of 11; I learnt French for the very first time. Then, when we came to Sri Lanka, I got out of touch; learnt again in Grade-8 (when I was 13); didn’t post that; did it for local A/L’s (more basic level, than the London A/L’s), at the age of 17/18/19; and forgot it completely, post that. When I first visited, Belgium, in 2003; and later Paris, France in 2005 (aged 28 & 29); I was completely out of touch. Years later; whilst in Sydney, Australia; I did a three month French course, before going to Paris. But in Paris; in 2008 & 2009 (where I lived for almost a year), I didn’t really use French at all. I spoke in English; as it came easy to me; and most Frenchman, especially the younger generation, can speak English, pretty well. Of course, you get some people who pretend not to understand English; especially; ironically; Americans in France, act as if they are French, and pretend they don’t understand English. Not all Americans are like that; just quite a few, I came across in France!!

None the less, French is an amazing language!! But sadly, unlike some languages, that one can’t forget; French can easily be forgotten, if not acquainted with regularly. Thankfully, am a Film Buff, who happens to love cinema from around the world, including France. And I happen to have some French movies, in my private collection. Plus, our cable operator provides us with TV5MONDE; a French language channel for Asia. So I can manage, not to forget, completely, but sadly, am far from fluent in the French Language.

Other Beautiful Languages

Besides the above mentioned languages, there are so many beautiful languages, around the world, some of which can come in really handy!! From Korean, to Japanese, to Thai, to Bengali, to Russian, to Arabic, to Swahili, to Italian, to Dutch, to Spanish et al; there are 6,500 known languages, spoken in the modern world!! Added to which, there some beautiful ancient languages; the likes of Ancient Greek, Latin (my maternal Grandfather, who’s no more, studied Latin in his school days), Sanskrit, Pali etc etc…!!!

Foreign languages too deserve their respect, not just ones own.

Nuwan Sen – A Social Critique on languages!!

Pure French sophistication!!! Classy Cotillard begins the 41st year of her life today. So, Happy 40th Birthday, to my favourite French, actrice de cinéma, of the 21st century, Marion Cotillard!!!!!
Marion Cotillard turns 40 (a)Marion Cotillard was born in Paris, France, to an aesthetically creative family, of actors and acting coaches. She grew up around Orléans, in Northern France, and appeared on a stage play of her father’s, as a child. In the early 1990’s, after some theatre appearances, she came in cameo’s in television shows, including in a couple of episodes, of the American fantasy TV-series, Highlander (1992-1998), aged 17. By the mid-90’s, she started working in cinema as well; but it was in the television movie, Chloé (1996), she got her first lead role, alongside veteran Anna Karina. Soon fame would catch up with her, and today she’s one of the most sought out actresses in an international scale.

I got to know Marion Cotillard, back in 2007, after watching movies like, Love Me If You Dare (2003), a.k.a. Jeux d’enfants, and the Édith Piaf bio-pic, La Vie en Rose (2007), a.k.a. La Môme. I fell in love with this beautiful acting talent that year itself, after watching the latter, i.e. Cotillard’s impressive performance as Édith Piaf, for which she bagged the ‘Best Actress’ Oscar, the following year, at 80th Annual Academy Awards; making it the very first time an Oscar had been given for a French-language role, and making Cotillard the fifth actor/actress to win for a foreign language performance. Sophia Loren was the first person to win the ‘Best Actress’ Oscar, for a non-English speaking role, in 1962, for the Italian movie, La Ciociara (1960).

Of course prior to 2007, I had seen some movies she starred in, like, Big Fish (2003) and A Very Long Engagement (2004). But I didn’t know Marion Cotillard at the time, and neither of them were lead roles. Post-2007, I’ve seen her in films like Public Enemies (2009), Nine (2009) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). More recently I saw one of her older movies, Toi et Moi (2006), which was pretty good too, though not that great. There are quite a few great roles of hers, am really keen on checking out, including, in movies like, La Belle Verte (1996) – a.k.a. The Green Beautiful, La Guerre dans le Haut Pays (1999) – a.k.a. War in the Highlands, Lisa (2001), Une Affaire Privée (2002) – a.k.a. A Private Affair, Innocence (2004), The Last Flight (2009), Lady Blue Shanghai (2010), Inception (2010), Midnight in Paris (2011), Contagion (2011), De Rouille et d’Os (2012) – a.k.a. Rust and Bone, The Immigrant (2013), Deux Jours, Une Nuit (2014) – Two Days, One Night; for which she was nominated for an Oscar, this year; and Macbeth (2015); which was released at the Cannes Film Festival this year, in May 2015, and was among the competitors for the Palme d’Or; to name some. Last year, Cotillard co-wrote, directed and starred in the short film, Snapshot in LA (2014).

Since October 07’, has been in a relationship with, another brilliant French actor, her co-star from Love Me If You Dare, Guillaume Canet. The couple have a four year old child together. In addition to being a film star, Cotillard is also an environmental activist. She’s been a spokesperson for Greenpeace, and in 2013, she caged herself near the Louvre museum, in Paris, demanding to free, 30 Greenpeace activists jailed in Russia, over an Arctic protest. She worked with UNICEF France, to help vaccinate thousands of children in Darfur, Sudan. Her philanthropic work is endless.

Wishing Marion Cotillard, all the best, for a successful & happy life and career, on her 40th Birthday. Hope to see you in more great roles in the future. Kindly avoid films like The Dark Knight Rises.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
Marion Cotillard turns 40 (b)P.S. See other Marion related posts on my Blog, including:-
3.3.3.3
Winners & Disappointments – at Cannes 2015
The 68th Cannes Film Festival finalé
Édith Piaf: 50th Death Anniversary
The 87th Annual Academy Awards

Nuwan Sen (nu Sense on Film)
(Also See: )

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