Tag Archive: Italy


One Lovely Blog Award

I’ve been nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award by the blogger who goes as, A Guy without Boxers, a nudist, named Roger, with a very picturesquely risqué blog. I was nominated early last month (3rd November 2014), when I wasn’t here in SL, but travelling Down Under. So congrats Roger, and thank you for nominating me & my blog, No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen.
One Lovely Blog AwardLike any Blog Award in general, the recipient has to meet certain requirements, and here they are :-

1. Thank the person who nominated you, and post the award Logo. DONE (above).

2. Share seven facts about yourself.

(I) I am a born film buff. My first word as a baby most probably was ‘movies’, not ‘mamma’ like normal babies.
(II) I am an artist as well (Oil Paintings mainly) where too the concepts are mostly based on Cinema. I consider myself as an artiste with an ‘e’, due to my artistic nature in general.
(III) I love to read and write. Currently reading Ben Okri’s The Age of Magic, and am constantly writing.
(IV) I am still a virgin, partially by my own choice, as I’ve never had the desire to jump into bed with just anyone, to please other people, and yet never had the luck to be with the one I want to.
(V) I was born in New Delhi, India, to Sri Lankan parents, and having studied at the British School, in Delhi; Stafford International, in Colombo; University of Delhi, in Delhi; University of Luton, in Luton, UK; College of Fine Arts, at the University of New South Wales, in Sydney, Australia; and having lived in six countries, in three continents, and travelled around those three continents; I consider myself ‘International’, a citizen of the world, I go beyond borders.
(VI) English is my first language, as I studied in English all my life, and my brain works in English. Though my mother tongue is Sinhala.
(VII) Paris is my favourite city in the world, from the cities I’ve lived in, and the Country of Switzerland as a whole, and watery city of Venice, are my two favourite places, from the places I’ve visited.
DONE

3. Nominate 15 bloggers for the award and inform them of their nomination.

Through my previous experiences, am aware that many of my bloggers don’t like to continue this chain. And it doesn’t really feel right to just nominate a few. So I shall be kind enough to bend the rules for you here, as I did once before for The Liebster Award. Thus I nominate all my fellow Bloggers, who visit my blog and wish to continue this chain.
DONE

So wish you all the best, and thank you Roger for specifically nominating me, and again sorry for the delay on working on this post.

Cheers
Nuwan Sen

From the setting of the 1300’s Verona, performed at the Curtain Theatre in Shoreditch, and the Globe theatre, London, to the setting of the 1950’s New York, on the Broadway stage, NY, and West End, London, and onto Hollywood’s celluloid. Romeo and Juliet to West Side Story.

West Side Story Main

Rachel’s Theatre Reviews and The Rosebud Cinema are co-hosting ‘The Stage to Screen Blogathon’; for which I chose to write about the musical, West Side Story (1961).

From the Stage to the Big Screen
In 1957 Broadway staged a musical, West Side Story. A modern, mid-1950’s, adaptation of the much loved tragic play about pre-teen innocent love by Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was conceived between 1591 and 1595, and set in Verona, Italy, in the 14th century). Then in the beginning of the 60’s decade, the movie version, set in the mid-50’s itself, was released, West Side Story (1961). Of course I haven’t seen the stage version, only the movie. The original Broadway and West End runs were before I came into existence, from 1957 to 1960, but I haven’t seen any latter versions either. But would love to if I get a chance. Not many Hollywood versions of stage shows tend to be that great, but West Side Story (1961) is an excellent Hollywood adaptation.

Starting off it’s so beautifully filmed. After the colourful overture, with a screen littered with vertical black lines, of varied sizes, that almost looks like musical notes, which transforms into the skyscrapers of Manhattan, the film zooms from an aerial shot of the city into the darken alleys in the day time, where the Jets are watching boys playing with a ball. Soon we see the rivalry between the two clans of the ‘Jets’ (Caucasians/Americans) and the ‘Sharks’ (Dusky/Latin-Americans/Puerto Rican immigrants), a bunch of out-of-work/school teenage/young adult rowdy boys, who have nothing better to do other than fight each other, for no specific reason, other than racial hatred. Then, as most people know the plot of Romeo and Juliet, Boy-Tony Wyzek (Richard Beymer), of the Jets, meets Girl-Maria Nuñez (Natalie Wood), of the Sharks, by chance at a dance, fall instantly in love, which worsens the rivalry between the two groups, who fight, in which, Tony’s best friend, Riff Lorton (Russ Tamblyn) accidentally gets knifed by Maria’s brother, Bernardo Nuñez (George Chakiris), and in turn, the angered Tony kills Bernardo, in the spur of the moment, and has to hide as the Sharks wow to avenge the death of their leader, Bernardo. More misunderstandings occur when Bernardo’s girlfriend, Anita del Carmen (Rita Moreno) visits the Jets. At the end, the tragedy differs, from the Shakespearean tale, as only one of the lovers’ dies, by getting shot, leaving the other to a lonely life of misery. With this innocent death, the two sides resolve their differences, and start to get along, but at what cost.

West Side Story Pix

It’s a great modern adaptation, with excelled direction and choreography by the famed classical and contemporary ballet dancer, Jerome Robbins (co-directed by Robert Wise), with the rhythmic background music composed by Leonard Bernstein. Love the songs, the dances, the music, the cast, the great sets, the art décor, the cinematography. It all blends in beautifully bringing out a masterpiece of Cinematic history. So far as exceptional dancing sessions are concerned, the two people to watch out for are the two supporting characters, George Chakiris and Rita Moreno. Love the dance off at the neighbourhood dance function. The matching and fitting purple/black outfits worn by Chakiris and Moreno add to the seductive movements. Love the song and dance, ‘America’ on the roof, the same night. The movie has some other great songs like the romantic ‘Maria’, the very comical ‘Gee, Officer Krupke’ and the deep and rowdily calming ‘Cool’, to name a few.

Unfortunately the DVD I have (another movie brought down from the States), isn’t in the original widescreen format, the film was released in, but a television edit with the two sides cut off. I don’t see why they should have cinemascope films (film released since 1953) in academy ratio anymore. After all most people who own a television set, and a DVD player, would have a widescreen television in their homes. Of course most people with a lot of money and no common sense have widescreen televisions and no idea how to use them. Thus they distort an academy ratio picture to fit the widescreen with disastrous results. And worse they wonder why vehicles looks unnaturally elongated and people disproportionately fat, stretched and short. I prefer to watch a widescreen movie as a widescreen movie, but if the picture format shown is a television edit (in Academy Ratio), I wouldn’t stretch it to fit the screen, nor zoom it, cutting off the top and bottom of the picture. After all, the cut off sides aren’t going to magically appear. So as I said, I had to watch West Side Story, in academy ratio, a television edit. I would love to watch the widescreen version someday.

Original vs. Modern Adaptation
The best modern adaptation of a Shakespearean play, for me, happens to be Kenneth Branagh’s very stylish flick, Hamlet (1996), which was brought forward from 16th/early 17th century Denmark to 19th century Denmark. A glamorous upscale adaptation, spoken in the original text, of Shakespearean English, yet believably transformed 200 odd years into the future. The greatest modern adaptation I’ve seen till date. Kenneth Branagh is a superb director, more so when it comes to modern adaptations of Shakespeare. For example, films like Much Ado About Nothing (1993) and As You Like It (2006). I also enjoyed Michael Hoffman’s modern adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999). When in comes to the tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet, no doubt West Side Story happens to be best modern adaptation I’ve seen so far, and there have been quite a few. Like Romeo + Juliet (1996), set in the 1990’s in Shakespearean English, it’s the worst adaptation I’ve seen so far, but not among the worst movies ever. Yet it was pretty bad film. It didn’t work for me at all. Then there was the Bollywood adaptation, Josh (2000), for which the basis was more West Side Story, and less the original Romeo and Juliet. Josh was a moderately OK take on the Shakespearean classic. More recently there was Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela (2013) (see my post Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela: A Pleasant Surprise) a near excellence venture set in a fictional Indian village. Which I watched earlier this year and blogged about it, as well, back then (Press on the link above). And there might be so many more versions of this tragic romance. Of course this is when it comes to modern adaptations about the doomed lovers. When it comes to an original adaptation, i.e. set in the 14th Century Verona, out the ka-zillion big screen ventures that exist, the best, and my favourite, happens to be, Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (1968), starring Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey.

West Side Story Pix - on the sets

Awards
West Side Story won 10 Academy Awards, out of the 11 nominated. It won Oscars for ‘Best Picture’, ‘Best Director’ to Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise, ‘Best Supporting Actor’ to George Chakiris, ‘Best Supporting Actress’ to Rita Moreno, ‘Best Cinematography’, ‘Best Art Direction’, ‘Best Costume Design’, ‘Best Film Editing’, ‘Best Original Score’ and ‘Best Sound’. West Side Story was also nominated for ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’, but lost out to Judgment at Nuremberg (1961). Added to this, Jerome Robbins received a special award for ‘Brilliant Achievements in the Art of Choreography on Film’.

West Side Story (1961) is one of the best musicals ever made. It’s aged well and among the greatest classics ever made. Excellent!!! 10/10.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

stage to screen blog

Thank you Rachael, of Rachel’s Theatre Reviews, and Rosie, of The Rosebud Cinema, for starting this Blogathon and letting me work on West Side Story (1961). I really enjoyed being part of the Stage to Screen Blogathon.

Cheers
Nuwan Sen

Phlims prom a Pestival

Films from a Festival
Festival FilmsLast week I attended the International Film festival that took place in Colombo. Organised, in association with the Okinawa International Movie Festival in Japan, this was the first time in Sri Lanka that an International film festival was held. About time. Especially for rare film buffs here with taste, like me, this was heaven sent. I only managed to watch eight of the many films on show, due to coinciding times, no repeats, the distance between cinemas, traffic, heat, exhaustion, dehydration, and TBA (To Be Announced) films; still on TBA; even though the film festival is long over; et al. So here is a brief write-up on each movie I got to watch, at the Film Festival last week. Of course, it’s pronounced ‘Phlim Pestival’ in local English (People here love to insult other accents, especially of my birth country, Europe and America, but they never see their own faults, just felt like giving them a taste of their own medicine, hence the tongue-in-cheek title).

Day 1, 3rd Sept
Killa (2014) – This Marathi Art house movie, from India, is about a prepubescent boy, who moves from the city of Pune to a small town, with his mother, after the death of his father, and due to his mothers transfer from her work. Just as he manages to settle down, make friends, and an incident at the Fort that destroys his trust in people, his mother gets another transfer to yet another location in India. Beautifully directed movie, by a previous cinematographer.
Post the movie there was a Q&A. After complementing the director, Avinash Arun, for the wonderful experience Killa was, I asked him the significance of the literal Fort (Killa), especially for the child (for I gathered the metaphorical meaning of the title), and what inspired Mr. Arun to make this movie. He answered just part of my question, saying it was his own childhood experience moving around the country with his mother. Thus I asked him whether it was autobiographical, he answered with a ‘Yes’, and then I asked him whether it was set some time in the past, maybe the 80’s (as I had guessed), and ‘Yes’ came the reply. My Rating 9/10.

Mauvais Sang (1986) – This French movie starring Michel Piccoli, Juliette Binoche, Denis Lavant and Julie Delpy, was a pretty morbid, aesthetically, and visually, beautiful piece of drama, though not a great movie. Made at a time when AIDS was still relatively a new disease in the world, the movie is set in the near future at the time (lets say end of the 80’s), where a disease is killing off people having sex instead of making love, sex without any emotional attachment. An ageing American woman is after the serum, an antidote, to this new mysterious illness, and she hires two aging Frenchman, who recruit a young man, to get hold of this serum. A very slow paced movie, to be watched with a load of patience. Some beautiful reflections on various facial expressions and a study of human emotions. My Rating 8/10.

Il Deserto Rosso (1964) – Unlike the above two movies, which I watched in cinemas, Il Deserto Rosso, was shown that afternoon at the Goethe Institute, a German cultural centre here. Thus it was a DVD projected on to a screen. Il Deserto Rosso, is an excellent movie by the late great Michelangelo Antonio. The story is about a mentally ill woman, Giuliana (Monica Vitti) who tries to survive in the world of modern day eccentricities and existential uncertainty. Her loneliness and insecurity of life is exploited by Corrado Zeller (Richard Harris), a business associate of her husband, Ugo (Carlo Chionetti).
To start off the cinematography is beautiful, with a predominantly grey scale, the movie starts with the greyish dull background of the industrial country side, with a woman (Vitti) dressed in green coat walking towards the camera, with her child in a Mustard brown overcoat. I loved the Mustard and Green contrast to the foggy backdrop. If not for those two characters, one could have easily assumed the film was made in Black & White. Being Antonio’s first colour venture, he symbolically brings out the feeling of emotional and physical alienation, with the industrial wasteland and one lonely woman stuck in this hideous landscape, in such a beautiful country. With some brilliant camerawork and amazing cinematography, the bleakness of the visual picture adds to the beauty of the sadly neurotic tale in the movie.
One of the most beautifully tragic sequences is when her son (Valerio Bartoleschi) fakes a sudden paralysis, she assumes it’s polio. Once she discovers his cruelty of conning her, it only adds to her isolation in the modern industrial wasteland, not even being able to trust her own little child. Which makes her run straight from the frying pan into the arms of the fire, Corrado Zeller, who forces himself on her. In the end you wonder whether this mentally ill woman is the only morally sane person in this inhumane landscape.
Michelangelo Antonio is a genius at story telling and he takes his time to develop the plot. Excellent Italian movie. My Rating 10/10.

Day 2, 4th Sept
Apur Panchali (2013) – Apur Panchali is a true story, about the forgotten young actor, Subir Banerjee, who starred in the first instalment of Satyajit Ray’s famous Apu Trilogy, i.e. Pather Panchali (1955). Beautifully done biographical movie of how life imitates art, as if the Apu films were made for the little actor who starred in the first venture. This beautiful Bengali Art film from India is a pure cinematic enchantment with a high international standard. I love the inputs of the classic trilogy along with scenes from life of Subir Banerjee. The character is shown initially snubbing everyone who asks him whether he played Apu, who grows up to detest cinema and Ray. But by the end of the film we see the suffering man’s soft corner. Parambrata Chatterjee does a superb performance as the younger Subir Banerjee, as does Ardhendu Banerjee, as the older version. Loved it!! My Rating 10/10.
Festival FilmzIdentificazione di una Donna (1982) – Yet another Italian film by Michelangelo Antonio, which too was a projected DVD, I watched at the Goethe Institute that evening/night, instead of a cinema. An erotic insight into a movie directors many female conquests, two main ones. Another romantic and aesthetically sexually explicit venture by the veteran Italian film maestro. My Rating 9/10. 

Day 3, 5th Sept
Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya (2013) – This is an interesting comical  Bollywood commercial cartoon film, made in Hindi, with song n’ dance, fantastic music and vibrant colourful animation. A great commercial venture especially for kids. Initially, the fart jokes early on, cheapened the movie a bit for me, but the story was excellent, well told and movie was worth watching, especially for the marvellous animation. A near Brilliant movie.
Again there was a Q & A, with director Shilpa Ranade. Without a mike in the balcony of the cinema hall, I had to shout my question, and asked about the inspiration behind this story (I wanted say a lot more, had I a mike up there). She mentioned that it was a story (Bengali book) she was brought up on and there was a Bengali language film made by Satyajit Ray. And I asked her if there was an English translation available of the book, which I guessed there should be,  and she confirmed it with a ‘Yes’.  I checked online and discovered, the book’s origins belong to Satyajit Ray’s own grandfather, Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury, an author that existed in the 19th Century. Ray’s 1969 film was titled after his grandfathers Bengali book, Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne. My Rating, for Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya, 9/10.

Disengagement (2007) – Yet another movie starring Juliette Binoche. This time an English language French movie set in Avignon, France and the Gaza strip, an exclave region of Palestine. The film deals with a mother (Binoche) who goes looking for her daughter in Gaza, to hand in her inheritance, during the Israeli disengagement from Gaza, i.e. the withdrawal of the Israeli army from Gaza, and the dismantling of all Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip in 2005, due to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Yet another emotional tragic French Film worth checking out. One of the highlights of the movie is seeing, veteran French actress, Jeanne Moreau, in a cameo appearance as the family attorney. My Rating 8/10.

Ajeyo (2014) – This Assamese Art film, from India, by Jahnu Barua, was slightly disappointing. Assamese films aren’t that famous, among various movies in India, that come out from various Indian languages from various states in India. The story was good, but poorly executed. Firstly it felt like a boring television soap, and it seem to waste a lot of time. But soon the movie catches up. Jahnu Barua, is a respected director in the Assamese community.
There was one last Q & A here, and I was glad to have to shout out my question from above in the balcony sans a mike, yet again. Majority of the movie being set during India’s Independence and partition from Pakistan, circa 1947, I asked him whether it was a real life account of an actual person. He said it was mostly fiction, but also had some actual human experiences as well. My Rating 6/10.  

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

Yesterday, Sunday morning, I watched Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013), the best commercial Hindi Film of last year, on Star Plus. An excellent Bollywood movie, despite it’s few flaws, some more relevant than others.
The Flying Sikh picBhaag Milkha Bhaag is a biographical film about the famed Indian sportsman Milkha Singh, nicknamed ‘The Flying Sikh’. The movie starts off with the 1960 Rome Summer Olympics, where while leading the 250m race he slows down assuming that his pace could not be sustained, and looks behind at his fellow competitors, which causes him to lose the medal, as he comes in fourth. This scene is interjected with him turning around as a child, while on the run, and seeing his father being beheaded. Soon the Indian press is on heat, as to why he turned around, and his pictures are being burnt on the streets of India.

From here the movie tells us about Milkha Singh’s painful journey from escaping to India, from being murdered along with his family in Pakistan, during the partition of 1947, to him growing up with hoodlums, to his love affairs/flings, him joining the army and ultimately representing India at many international athletic events. The majority of the film is set throughout the 1950’s, and ends with him winning the gold medal in the ‘India-Pakistan Friendship Games’ of 1960, for which India’s, post independence, first Prime-minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, persuades Milkha Singh to set aside his memories of the Partition era, and commit to the race. When Singh wins the race, it is General Ayub Khan; Pakistan’s dictatorial President (second President) of West & East Pakistan, who became President through a coup (Pakistani coup d’état of 1958); who proudly gives Singh the title of ‘The Flying Sikh’.

The Flying Sikh Left: The Real Milkha Singh Right: Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh in the movie

The Flying Sikh
Left: The Real Milkha Singh
Right: Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh in the movie

As a film, it’s beautifully made by film director, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra. Considering the fact that am not a great fan of his past work; like Aks (2001) and Delhi-6 (2009); with the exception of Rang De Basanti (2006), which too was just an OK movie, though with a great concept, for me; I think Omprakash Mehra has brought out one the best films ever made in Bollywood till date. With beautiful cinematography, art décor, the setting of the 40’s and 50’s, though not to perfection, he has brought out a brilliant venture, that he’ll be remembered as one among the greatest film directors ever. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, is a movie that could have easily made it’s way to the ‘Best Foreign Language Picture’ category at the Oscars this year. India has submitted many a movies to the Oscars since 1957, but only three have made the cut, been nominated for, ‘Best Foreign Language Picture’; Mother India (1957), Salaam Bombay! (1988) and Lagaan (2001); and out of the three, only Mother India and Lagaan, happen to be commercial ventures, while Salaam Bombay! is a pseudo-realistic art house venture; all made in the Hindi language.

Actor Farhan Akhtar, who too am not generally a great fan of, as an actor (he’s a good director), does a marvellous job as Milkha Singh. Akhtar doesn’t just portray Milkha Singh, he becomes Milkha Singh. Farhan Akhtar solely carries the whole film on his shoulders. His love interests in the movie have supporting roles; Sonam Kapoor as Biro, whom he falls in love with early on in the film; Australian actress Rebecca Breeds as Stella, the granddaughter of the Australian technical coach, with whom he has a one night stand and subsequent fling, during the 1956 Melbourne Summer Olympics; and ultimately Pakistani singer-cum-actress Meesha Shafi, as the Olympic swimmer for the Indian team, Perizaad, who finds herself being attracted to Milkha Singh, but he doesn’t reciprocate. What’s interesting is the main love interest in Milkha Singh’s life is omitted in the movie, his wife Nirmal Kaur. Milkha Singh met Nirmal Kaur, captain of the Indian women’s volleyball team, in Ceylon in 1955. The couple married in 1962. The film only goes up to 1960, thus it’s obvious his romance with his wife isn’t shown. But director, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, could have shown the first time the two meet each other, hinting at the fact that this would be the future Mrs. Milkha Singh.

The Flying Sikh romances Down Under Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh and Rebecca Breeds as Stella, Singh's fling during the Melbourne Summer Olympics of 1956

The Flying Sikh romances Down Under
Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh and Rebecca Breeds as Stella, Singh’s fling during the Melbourne Summer Olympics of 1956

Divya Dutta, a superb actress I have great respect for as an artiste, does an excellent job, as Isri Kaur, Milkha Singh’s elder sister, who brings him up on her own, while being abused by her husband for paying more attention to her brother than him. Taking the Hitchcockian road, film director, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, has a cameo in the movie, as a pilot, in a comical intervention scene.

The basis for the movie, on Milkha Singh’s life, happens to be from Singh’s autobiography, The Race of My Life, co-written along with his daughter Sonia Sanwalka. Am really keen on reading this book now. Singh sold the rights for the film for just one rupee, and inserted a clause stating that a share of the profits should be given to the ‘Milkha Singh Charitable Trust’, which was founded in 2003 with the aim of assisting poor and needy sportspeople.

Milkha Singh was the only Indian male athlete to win an individual athletics gold medal at a Commonwealth Games, until this year, Year 2014. Singh also won gold medals in the 1958 and 1962 Asian Games. Besides representing India in the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne and the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, as shown in the movie, he also took part in the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. In the Rome Olympics, though Singh came fourth, as he eased off while running, as mentioned earlier, and shown in the movie, he broke the Indian National Record, of 45.73, and held it for almost 40 years. He was awarded the Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian honour, in recognition of his sporting achievements.

The Swaying Sikh Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh and Meesha Shafi as Indian swimmer Perizaad, dancing down-under Set during the Melbourne Summer Olympics of 1956

The Swaying Sikh
Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh and Meesha Shafi as Indian swimmer Perizaad, dancing down-under
Set during the Melbourne Summer Olympics of 1956

The Film won seven Filmfare awards, earlier this year, including the well deserved awards for ‘Best Film’, ‘Best Director’ and ‘Best Actor’. But it also won for ‘Best Lyrics’, the ‘R D Burman’ Award, for ‘Best Costume’ and for ‘Best Production Design’. I do not necessarily agree with these awards. Though good, there were other films, with better songs, like the beautifully versed song written by Gulzar, for the house warming party, from Ek Thi Dayan (2013). And when it comes to ‘Costumes’ and ‘Production Design’, what about Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (2013), which had some magnificent costumes, brilliant  art décor and superb cinematography (See my post Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela: A Pleasant Surprise from earlier this year). Even though I don’t agree with the latter lot of awards it won, I do agree it is the best film of year 2013. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag also won the National Award for ‘Best Film’.

A wonderful movie, really worth checking out.

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013) My Rating 10/10!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

Hundred years ago today, on the 18th of July, 1914, was born a heroic personality, who’d end up, not just being a champion road cyclist, but also a war hero, who’ll save the lives of, as many as, 800 to 900 Jews, during the second World War, Gino Bartali.

Gino Bartali in 1936

Gino Bartali in 1936

The Cyclist
Gino Bartali was born to a small farming family in Ponte a Ema, Florence, Italy. He grew up in a deeply religious family (of the Catholic faith) in Tuscany. By 13 Gino was working in a bicycle shop and started racing around the same time. He started racing professionally in 1935 when he was 21. By 1936, he was an Italian champion. When he got married; on 14 November 1940, the wedding being blessed by Pope Pius XII (who held office from 1939 to 1958); Bartali donated his bicycle to the Pope. Gino won the ‘Giro d’Italia’ three times, in 1936, 1937 and 1946, and the ‘Tour de France’ twice, with a gap of ten years, in 1938 and 1948. Gino stopped racing when he was 40, after being injured in a road accident.

The War Hero
During the Second World War, Gino Bartali, helped a lot of Jews by carrying false (non-Jewish) identifications for the Jews that were being persecuted under Nazi oppressed Italy, during the Italian Social Republic, which had become a puppet state of Nazi Germany during that period. He carried these falsified identifications, messages and other documents, to the Italian Resistance, by rolling up and hiding the papers, in the saddle seat post and head tube under the handle. Bartali cycled from Florence, through Tuscany, to Umbria, Marche, and sometimes travelling as far away as Rome, all the while wearing the racing jersey emblazoned with his name.

Through Pope Pius XII (and the Archbishop of Genoa and the Franciscan Friars), Gino Bartali, helped Giorgio Nissim, a Jewish accountant from Pisa, help save 800 Italian Jews escape during the war, by carrying out forged documents and needed photographs. Gino used to leave Florence in the morning, pretending to train, rode to a convent in which the Jews were hiding, collected their photographs and rode back to Nissim. Gino Bartali used his position to learn about raids on safe-houses as well.

Gino Bartali, on suspicion, was taken ‘Villa Triste’ in Florence. The Sicherheitsdienst, intelligence agent of the SS, and the Italian RSS office, and questioned Gino, threatening his life. Luck was on his side, when one of the soldiers turned out to be a fan of the cyclist, who intervened and saved Gino’s life, just as he was about to be tortured.

Gino, a devout catholic, continued to secretly help the Jews. In 1943, he led Jewish refugees towards the Swiss Alps himself. He cycled pulling a wagon with a secret compartment, telling patrols it was just part of his training. Gino also hid a Jewish family in his cellar, by doing so saved their lives.

In year 2000, Gino Bartali had a bypass surgery yet died of a heart attack on the 5th of May, Year 2000.

Last Year, having gained great respect, for his efforts to aid Jews during World War II, Gino Bartali was given recognition, with the title of Righteous Among the Nations. There is also Piazza Gino Bartali, in Florence, in his honour.

Nuwan Sen’s Historical Sense
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Les Enfants du Paradis (1945), known in English as Children of Paradise and Children of the Gods consecutively , is masterful work of cinema. This epic tear jerker romance is one of the greatest classics of all time. Loved by the French and any other cinema enthusiast, with highly cultured and aesthetic taste, from around the globe. Among the greatest classics ever made.
Children of Paradise (1945) Classic NS 1What the movie is about (including the plot summary)

This movie is centred around a stage (mime) artiste, and his painful love for a kind hearted beauty, who’s been pursued by three other suitors; another stage actor, a criminal and an aristocrat. Yet, the beauty only loves the innocent eyed mime artiste, but varying circumstances won’t let them be together. One of the greatest tragic love stories ever, Les Enfants du Paradis, to the French is what Gone with the Wind (1939) is to Americans, and Mother India (1957) is to Indians. The, over three hours long, movie is divided into two parts.

1re Partie (Part – I)
Boulevard du Crime
1827: The film begins with a camera panning through the crowds at a fair on Boulevard du Temple, in Paris, nicknamed ‘Boulevard du Crime’ due to the crime melodramas that were so popular in many a theatres around there at the time. We see Garance (Arletty), a beautiful woman who earns her living by modestly exhibiting her physical charms in a carnival show. As she walks along the Boulevard through the crowds, we meet an actor named Frédérick Lemaître (Pierre Brasseur), Garance’s first suitor, who tries to flirt with her, unsuccessfully. Then we meet Pierre-François Lacunaria (Marcel Herrand), a ruthless thief, who fronts as a scribe, to cover up his organised criminal enterprises, Garance’s next pursuer. Shortly at the fair, Garance is accused of stealing a watch, which was actually stolen by Pierre-François, while they were watching a pantomime, featuring mime artiste, Baptiste Debureau (Jean-Louis Barrault), Garance’s third suitor, the only one Garance truly falls in love with. Having witnessed the whole crime, Baptiste, who’s dressed up as Pierrot; a stereotypical fictional character, famous in Italy and France; mimes out what actually took place to the police and the victim, in turn saving Garance from being arrested. Garance reciprocates with a flower, which Baptiste saves, who’s already madly in love with Garance. And Garance too, sympathetic towards his innocent sad eyes, loves him back. But neither says anything to one another.

Soon we see all three, Garance, Baptiste and Frédérick Lemaître working on the same stage, and living in the same residential apartment house, as neighbours. Meanwhile a fourth suitor, a rich aristocrat, propositions Garance to be his mistress. Love, jealousy, romance and crime, all take place in the first part itself. It’s so beautifully filmed with great difficulty. The movie was made during the second world war, through endless problems. What the cast and crew endured, through both, natural, and man made, disasters, whilst making such a great movie, adds to it’s high status.
Children of Paradise (1945) Classic NS 3A Look Behind the Troubled Scenes
Starting off with, the quarter-mile long main set, of ‘Boulevard du Temple’ a.k.a. Boulevard du Crime, was severely damaged by a storm and had to be rebuilt entirely. The set builders were short of supplies and the camera crew’s film stock was rationed. The financing, of the initial French-Italian production, suddenly had to stop just few weeks after production began in Nice, thanks to the conquest of Sicily in August 1943. Meanwhile, the Nazis forbade the producer, André Paulvé, from working on the film because of his remote Jewish ancestry. The production had to be suspended for three months. Soon the French film company Pathé took over the production, but their cost were uncontrollably escalating. Things were made worse by the theatrical constraints during the German occupation of France during World War II. The Vichy administration under Nazi Germany had imposed a maximum time limit of 90 minutes for a feature films, thus the epic film had to be split into two parts, against the wishes of film director, Marcel Carné.

Alexandre Trauner, Set Designer, and Joseph Kosma, Music Composer, were both Jewish, and had to work and live in secrecy throughout the production. Many of the 1,800 extras were Resistance agents using the film as daytime cover, initially mingling with some collaborators and Vichy sympathisers. The movie production had to be halted many a times, for various reasons during the war, and when resumed, in Paris, in early spring of 1944, the Director of Photography, Roger Hubert, had been assigned to another production and Philippe Agostini, who replaced him, had to analyze all the reels in order to match the lighting of the non-sequential shot list, through many a electrical power cuts.

Production was delayed again and again and later until the Allied forces landed in Normandy. When Paris was liberated in August 1944, the actor Robert Le Vigan, cast in a minor role, had to flee, as he was sentenced to death by the Resistance for collaborating with the Nazis. He was replaced at a moment’s notice by Pierre Renoir, and most of the scenes had to be redone. Le Vigan was tried and convicted as a Nazi collaborator in 1946. Director Marcel Carné along with writer Jacques Prévert, had to hide some of the key reels of film from the occupying forces, until the liberation of Paris.
Children of paradise (1945) Classic NS 22e partie (Part – II)
L’Homme Blanc
Without giving away much of how Part – I ended, the second part starts some years later. The two platonic lovers, who were never together (intimately), in the first part, have separated due to various reasons. Mime artiste, Baptiste Debureau, is now in a loveless marriage, with stage actress Nathalie (María Casarès), who we see pine for Baptiste’s attention in the first part. Nathalie plays his ever suffering devoted wife, who selflessly loves him with all her heart, even though he doesn’t feel the same for her. They even have a son together, but nothing can make Baptiste ever truly love his wife. Meanwhile we see Garance; whose real name, we discover is Claire Reine, by the end of Part – I; unhappily living under the rich aristocrat, Count Édouard de Montray (Louis Salou) for protection, to save herself from being arrested for an attempted murder, that she wasn’t involved in. Again the party that tried to commit the crime is none other than the thief, Pierre-François, towards the end of Part – I. In Part – II, Garance has been globetrotting with the Count for a number of years, and just returned to Paris.

A chance meeting between, Frédérick Lemaître, now a great stage artiste himself, and Garance, in a private Box, at the pantomime performance starring Baptiste, gives rise to a poisonous envy, within Frédérick, once he realises that Garance truly only loves Baptiste. Frédérick later enacts Shakespeare’s Othello, to perfection, focusing his own jealousy towards his own ‘Desdemona’, i.e. Garance. Meanwhile the Count too finds himself a victim of jealousy, wondering who Garance true love happens to be. During the production Othello, the Count starts to suspect Frédérick to be her secret love, and tries to provoke Frédérick to a duel.

Baptiste and Garance, never meet for majority of the second part, but when their paths do finally cross, tragedy befalls many people involved with the two lead characters. Such a sad, heart rending movie, filmed so aesthetically and brilliantly. Today it’s one of my favourite love stories ever and among the best French films I’ve ever watched. Some of the most beautiful scenes revolve around Baptiste’s character, and Jean-Louis Barrault does a superb job as the tragic mime artiste that makes others laugh yet suffers in silence. One beautiful scene is, when Baptiste, is beaten and thrown out of a Pub window in the first part, he returns wipes himself and picks up the flower that Garance thanked him with early on. Not one word spoken, and this is while he’s not in character. When in character, he performed his mimes on stage to perfection. The fluidity of his body movements, the expressions, the drama, the crime performed by a comical character. It’s pure brilliance especially his performance in Part – II. Love the set décor, the story, the analysis of love, greed and anger. The Carnivalesque situation, of disruption and celebration that happens at the same time, that takes place towards the end of movie, with one of the lead character’s (I shan’t mention whose) fate unknown, was a fascinating and unexpected ending. With brilliant actors and a superb director at the helm, Les Enfants du Paradis (1945), is really worth a watch.

Excellent !!!! 10/10

Les Enfants du Paradis was shown on TV5 MONDE. Part – I, on Tuesday 8th July, 2014, and Part – II, on Tuesday 15th July, 2014.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

I discovered Sidney Lumet films, pretty late in the day, for a film buff, though I was aware of some of his more famous work, since my teenage years. Some of the first films of his I watched were about a decade ago, The Appointment (1969), Serpico (1973), Murder on the Orient express (1974) and Dog Day Afternoon (1975). And the most recent movie of his I watched was, his feature length directorial debut, 12 Angry Men (1957).
Sidney LumetBeginnings
Sidney Lumet was born in Philadelphia, USA, on the 25th of June, 1924, to two veterans of the ‘Yiddish Theatre’. Thus, dramatic arts being in their bloodline, Lumet was lucky enough to be born into such a family. Lumet’s father was a Polish Jewish emigrant to the United States. Lumet’s mother died when he was still a child.

Sidney Lumet made his debut on Radio at the age of four, and by five he was already working on stage, as part of the ‘Yiddish Theatre’ group. Soon he was working on Broadway plays, and by eleven he starred in his first film, a short film called Papirossen (1935). At fifteen, he appeared on the feature film, One Third of a Nation (1939). But soon his acting career came to a standstill with the Second World War and him coming of age, and he was stationed in India and Burma as a radar repairmen between 1942 and 1946. On his return to the States, he formed an Off-Broadway theatre group, and became it’s director. Soon he evolved into being a highly respectable Television director. But it was only in his 30’s that he got to finally direct his very first feature film, 12 Angry Men (1957).
Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry MenSidney Lumet & Social Realism
I watched 12 Angry Men (1957), Lumet’s first big screen directorial venture, just late last month, when it was shown; projected on to a not so big – big screen; at the Ethnic Centre here. 12 Angry Men is about 12 angry jurors, headed by Henry Fonda.

A young Hispanic man is on trial for the murder of his intolerable father. As the juror’s are locked up in the room, to discuss the case, we find 11 of the juror’s having already made up their mind that the kid is guilty, except for one, Henry Fonda. It’s interesting to watch how effectively Fonda’s character creates doubt in each juror’s mind, and turns them one by one to agreeing with him on a ‘Not Guilty’ verdict, in this highly intellectualised film. A very intriguing character study of 12 varied unnamed men (simply known as Juror. #1, Juror. #2, Juror. #3 et al), stuck inside a room on a very hot day, with their temperatures rising to near boiling point. The film was nominated for three Oscars, including for ‘Best Picture’ and ‘Best Director’.

Beautifully directed, it’s a bridge between art cinema and a commercial venture, which veers more towards art cinema. Yet, Lumet never liked to make his films too artsy, but at the same time wasn’t interested in making an overtly decorated, visually appealing, meaningless film either. He liked a social message input, he loved realism, yet the kind that people would enjoy watching. Lumet abided by a good script, great dialogues and superb performances from his actors, testing them to the limits, rather than action.

I had seen the latter remake (1997 version) of this movie starring Jack Lemmon, George C. Scott, Edward James Olmos and Tony Danza, about a decade or so ago. Which too was a very good television adaptation. But the Lumet classic was a magnificent piece of social realism. In fact Sidney Lumet is known for films on Social Realism. Take Network (1976) for instance.

Faye Dunaway, on the phone, in a scene from, NETWORK

Faye Dunaway, on the phone, in a scene from, NETWORK (1976)

I watched Network, down under, in Sydney, back in 2008, when it was shown at the ‘Art Gallery of New South Wales’. We (my friends and I) use to  go and watch some great classic, and foreign language, movies at this Art Gallery in Sydney, while I resided there (2006-2008). Network is a fascinating tale of media manipulation (electronic media in this case) to get what they want. They’d do anything possible, to the extent of being inhumane to gain higher ratings for their show. The movie, staring Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Robert Duvall and Peter Finch, shows how an ageing anchor, when fired, reacts in a strange way, and ends up being a martyr of sorts exploited by the television industry. The movie was nominated for 10 Oscars, and took home 4 trophies. Peter Finch was the first actor to win the ‘Best Actor’ award posthumously at the Academy Awards.

Network is a brilliant insight into media lifestyle, and my favourite Lumet film till date. Network was the second last Sidney Lumet film I watched until I saw 12 Angry Men, end of last month.

In 2007, while studying in Sydney, Australia, I watched Equus (1977), at my University (UNSW) library. Another superb character analysis here, with Richard Burton playing a psychiatrist trying to make sense of teenage boy’s unhealthy attraction towards horses. The boy, played by Peter Firth, finds sexual satisfaction through grooming horses and riding them in the nude. Yet one day in rage he blinds six horses in a stable. In early 2007, the play, by Peter Shaffer, which this movie is based on, was in the talks, as Daniel Radcliffe was performing the role of the teenage boy obsessed with horses, for a stage version, on the other side of the ocean. Soon I knew I had to check this film out, and it was truly worth it.

Richard Burton does a superb job as the psychiatrist, who ends up envying the young man, for the youngster finds more pleasure through horses, than the shrink has ever done in his life. Equus was nominated for 3 Oscars.
Sidney Lumet's Murder on the Orient ExpressLumet’s take on Agatha Christie
One of the first Lumet movies I watched was, Murder on the Orient Express (1974), just over a decade ago, whilst living in Oslo, Norway. Based on an Agatha Christie novel, this was a brilliant adaptation with a great star cast of legendary actors including Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman and Albert Finney to name a few. The whole movie set in a train, Pre-World War-II, where one of the passengers included, the famed fictional Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot (Albert Finney). A business tycoon (Richard Widmark), has been killed, stabbed 12 times, and everyone has a motive. The suspects include a great glamorous star cast, with the who’s who of cinema. Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Vanessa Redgrave, John Gielgud, Michael York, Sean Connery, Anthony Perkins and Jacqueline Bisset. Ingrid Bergman won the ‘Best Supporting Actress’ Oscar, the movie altogether was nominated for six awards.

Around the same time I also watched Lumet’s The Appointment (1969). Just don’t recall whether I watched in Norway or in England, UK. The Appointment, starring Omar Sharif and French actress Anouk Aimée, was a moderately good movie, set in Rome, about a husband who suspects his innocent wife of being a high-class prostitute, with tragic consequences.
The Appointment was nominated for the ‘Palme d’Or’ at the Cannes Film Festival in 1969.

Al Pacino Sidney Lumet films

Lumet works with Al Pacino
Around the same time, 10 years ago, in 2004, I watched Serpico (1973) and Dog Day Afternoon (1975), on the small screen, while living in Portsmouth, England, UK. Both starring Al Pacino, and both based on a true story. Serpico is a brilliant film, where Pacino plays a real life heroic cop, NYPD officer Frank Serpico, who went undercover to expose corruption in the police force. Dog Day Afternoon is a fictionalised story about an actual Brooklyn Bank robbery that took place in 1972, during the hot ‘sultry dog days of summer’. Both films were nominated in various categories at the Academy Awards, and Serpico took home no Oscars, including the ‘Best Actor’ trophy for Al Pacino, while Dog Day Afternoon bagged one but both Pacino and Lumet lost out on their consecutive awards yet again.

Christopher Reeve in DEATHTRAP (1982)

Christopher Reeve in DEATHTRAP (1982)

Lumet works with his daughter, Jenny
Sidney Lumet cast his writer daughter in three movies, including Deathtrap (1982), Running on Empty (1988) and Q & A (1990). Am yet to watch any of these movies.

Lumet’s last work
I watched Lumet’s last film, Before the Devil knows You’re Dead (2007), early on in 2008, on the big screen, in Sydney, Australia. By now Philip Seymour Hoffman, even more popular, post his Oscar win for Capote (2005), played the lead in this tragic cinematic piece of excellence.

Ethan Hawke and Marisa Tomei in a scene from BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD (2007)

Ethan Hawke and Marisa Tomei in a scene from BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD (2007)

Most probably the most out and out commercial venture made by Sidney Lumet. And not necessarily as great as many of his classics, but still an excellently well made movie. Before the Devil knows You’re Dead, is about two brothers who decide to rob their own parents jewellery store, yet hoping to make it a victimless crime. But there is no such thing as a perfect crime, thus things go haywire and their mother, who gets shot, falls into a coma. The movie has a great cast, besides Seymour Hoffman, it also stars Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney, Marisa Tomei, and Rosemary Harris. Unfortunately, a talented actress like Marisa Tomei, is wasted in this movie. She’s used as nothing but a sex object, sharing a bed between two brothers. Married to one, and having affair with other.

Lumet classics am yet to watch
Besides Deathtrap (1982), Running on Empty (1988) and Q & A (1990),  there are so many of his films am yet to watch including, Stage Struck (1958), That Kind of Woman (1959), The Fugitive Kid (1959), View from the Bridge (1961), Long Day’s journey into Night (1962), The Hill (1965), The Anderson Tapes (1971), The Verdict (1982), Garbo Talks (1984), The Morning After (1986), A Stranger Among Us (1992), Guilty as Sin (1993), Night Falls on Manhattan (1997), Strip Search (2004), Find Me Guilty (2006) and much much more.

Night falls on Manhattan

Though Lumet was nominated many a times for various films, he never won an Oscar. But he did receive an Honorary Academy Award for ‘Lifetime Achievement’ in 2005.
He was also nominated twice at the Cannes Film Festival.
Altogether 14 of his films were nominated at the Oscars in various categories, and some of his films, made in the 70’s, took home more than one Oscar.

Sidney Lumet died, aged 86, of Lymphoma, on 9th April 2011. As soon as I heard of this, I paid tribute to the great director by making a ‘Set of 7’ list on IMDB, along with seven mini critiques (see my list Sidney Lumet: Set of Seven on IMDB).

Day before yesterday was Sidney Lumet’s 90th Birth Anniversary.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

William Wordsworth, Abraham Lincoln and the Titanic

William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth

The 14th Century

  • 1367 – Future King of England, Henry IV, is born.

The 15th Century

  • 1452 – The birth of Leonardo da Vinci. One of greatest Italian Renaissance artists ever, who was a genius painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer.
With Leonardo da Vinci's 'Mona Lisa' at the Louvre, Paris, France (July 2008)

With Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ at the Louvre, Paris, France (July 2008)

The 19th Century

  • 1802 – William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy, come across a long belt of daffodils, whilst on a walk around Glencoyne Bay, Ullswater, in the English Lake District, United Kingdom; which inspires Wordsworth to pen the poem I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud (a.k.a. Daffodils).

 

  • 1843 – The Birth of American Author, Henry James.

 

  • 1865 – After being in a coma for nine hours; having been shot on the head the night before, by actor John Wilkes Booth; President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln, succumbs to his injuries and dies at 7:22 a.m.

 

  • 1889 – Artist, Thomas Hart Benton, is born.

 

  • 1896 – Closing Ceremony of the very first modern day Olympic Games, Summer Olympics 1896, officially known as the Games of the I Olympiad, takes place in Athens, Greece. The multi-sport event was held between 6th and 15th of April 1896.
Abe Lincoln & The Titanic

Abe Lincoln & The Titanic

The 20th Century

  • 1912 – Two hours and forty minutes after hitting an iceberg, the British passenger liner, RMS Titanic, sinks in the North Atlantic at 2:20 a.m. Only around 700 people out of the 2,227 passengers and crew on board survive the tragedy.
  • 1922 –  Hindi & Urdu poet and Hindi film lyricist, Filmfare Award winner, Hasrat Jaipuri, is born.

 

  • 1938 – Birth of future Italian film actress, Claudia Cardinale.

 

  • 1959 – Birth of future British actress, Emma Thompson.

 

  • 1989 –  96 people died, and 766 people were injured, when they got crushed, during an FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England, UK. The most of any stadium-related disaster in British history.

 

  • 1990 – Future British actress, Emma Watson, was born
Claudia Cardinale

Claudia Cardinale

Today – That Year
Historical Timeline with Nuwan Sen
Nuwan Sen’s Historical Sense

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B.Bertolucci

Bernardo Bertolucci & I
My introduction to Bernardo Bertolucci was as a teenager, back in the early/mid 1990’s, when I was awed by the spectacle that was The Last Emperor (1987). A movie I was reprimanded for watching, as supposedly it was not suitable for a 16/17 year old. Even at that age I was aware that I had actually just witnessed an artistic piece of cinematic excellence. What I should have realised at that age, but didn’t, is that I did not belong in this aesthetically depressive dump hole. But I knew that my taste was a bit high for these so called older and wiser idiots to ever comprehend. If they had a problem with me watching such a fine piece of cinema, ’twas because of their own perverted mentality, not mine. None the less, till date, I think The Last Emperor is the best film Bertolucci has made, and my second favourite, besides all the bad memories associated with watching it.
Next, still in my teens, was Little Buddha (1993), in 1994, when we went back to live in New Delhi, after an unpleasant hiatus of six years away from my country of birth to the country of unfortunate roots. Coming from a Buddhist background, minus the deep blinded faith of the religion, instead having a more open minded modern acceptance of the philosophical aspects of Buddhism, Little Buddha was a must watch for me. Though no where as near as excellent as The Last Emperor, I really enjoyed Little Buddha, and thought it was a very good movie.

Bertolucci (80's & 90's)

Bertolucci’s Childhood
Bertolucci was born in the region of Emilia-Romagna, in the city of Parma, in Italy, on the 16th of March 1940. His mother was a teacher, and father, Attilio Bertolucci, a reputed poet, art historian, anthologist and film critic. Bertolucci, also has a younger brother, who is a theatre director and playwright. Thanks to his family background, Bertolucci, started writing at a very young age and as a teenager, received several prestigious literary prizes.
Wishing to be a poet, like his famous father, Bertolucci, attended the ‘Faculty of Modern Literature’, at the University of Rome, from 1958 to 1961. But meanwhile, his father having helped, famed Italian film director, Pier Paolo Pasolini, to publish his first novel, Pasolini reciprocated by hiring Bernardo Bertolucci, as a first assistant in Rome for Pasolini’s film, Accattone (1961), thus Bertolucci left the University without graduating.
At 22, Bertolucci directed his first movie, La Commare Secca (1962), for which the screenplay was written by Pier Paolo Pasolini. Post that, Bertolucci decided to leave behind ‘s poetic ideals, and make it on his own. Giving birth to his second, and more acclaimed, film, Prima Della Rivoluzione (1964), a.k.a. Before the Revolution. The rest, as we know, is history.

Prima Della Rivoluzione by Bernardo Bertolucci

Before and After The Sexual Revolution
After having watched two Bertolucci films, in my teens, the next one I watched, was The Sheltering Sky (1990), in 2002 in London, eight years after watching Little Buddha. A beautiful drama set in the deserted landscape of the African continent, where an American couple travel aimlessly searching for new experiences in the late 1940’s. The Sheltering Sky stars John Malkovich, who is superb as always, Debra Winger and Campbell Scott.
And then I watched the acclaimed, Prima Della Rivoluzione, mentioned above, in 2003, in Oslo, I loved this Italian classic, the only Italian language film of Bertolucci I’ve seen till date. The story is about a May/December romance, set in the backdrop of Italy’s ideologies (much like protagonist’s) torn between their comfortable Bourgeois lifestyle and flirtation with communist theory, released just before the sexual revolution of the 60’s. A study of youth at the edge of adulthood. The lead actress, Adriana Asti, was married to Bertolucci, later divorced.
Soon, in 2003, Oslo, itself, I got a chance to watch The Dreamers (2003), on the big screen there, when it premiered for an Oslo film festival. That was my first and only Bertolucci on the big screen till date. I fell in love with this film about three innocent film buffs, with liberated views, living in a dream world, as the 1968 riots unfold outside in Paris. Thus, set during the height of the sexual revolution. The movie starts with the sacking of famed French film archivist, Cinephile and co-founder of the Cinémathèque Française, Henri Langlois, and ends during the Parisian ‘Student Occupation Protests’, of May 68’. The Dreamers, is my favourite Bernardo Bertolucci venture till date. And I’ve seen it numerous times since then. Post that I watched the controversial Last Tango in Paris (1972), in Oslo itself, and Besieged (1999), while residing in Portsmouth, UK, in 2004.
BB's The Dreamers (03')The Last Scandal of Bertolucci
Last Tango in Paris (1972), was a movie I didn’t really enjoy that much, but happens to be a very good movie, and worth checking out at least once. Made, based on Bertolucci’s sexual fantasies (apparently he once dreamed of seeing a beautiful nameless woman on the street and having sex with her without ever knowing who she was), it is the most scandalous movie Bertolucci has ever made till date, especially due to the graphic rape scene using butter. Actress Maria Schneider, was unaware of such a scene, and was told just before the take that her character was to be raped. She felt she was manipulated and forced to do a scene that was not on the script, and she later mentioned that in that scene, she was not acting but, ‘‘I was crying real tears. I felt humiliated and to be honest, I felt a little raped, both by Marlon (Brando) and by Bertolucci. After the scene, Marlon didn’t console me or apologise.’’ She also added much later that her biggest regret in life was making this movie, and that it ruined her life. She never spoke to Bertolucci after that and never forgave him, even in death, for what she considered an emotional rape. Maria Schneider died of cancer, in February 2011. In 2013, Bertolucci, expressed sadness of his treatment of Maria Schneider stating that, Maria was just, ‘‘a 19-year old who, had never acted before. Maybe, sometimes in the movie, I didn’t tell her what was going on because I knew her acting would be better. So, when we shot this scene with Marlon using butter on her, I decided not to tell her. I wanted a reaction of frustration and rage’’. Yet Bertolucci also mentioned that even though he felt guilty, he did not regret it.
Marlon Brando too felt emotionally raped, and avoided contact with Bertolucci, but reconciled 15 years later. About Marlon Brando, Bertolucci had said that he is, ‘‘an angel as a man, a monster as an actor’’.

Last Tango in Paris (1972)

Academy Awards & Recognition
Bernardo Bertolucci’s film Partner (1968), entered the 29th Venice Film Festival and the 22nd Cannes Film Festival. Amore e Rabbia (1969) entered 19th Berlin International Film Festival, where he was nominated for the Golden Berlin Bear. Il Conformista (1970), earned Bertolucci, many award wins at prestigious ceremonies, including the Golden Berlin Bear, and Bertolucci was nominated for ‘Best Screenplay’ at the Academy Awards in 1972. His very first Oscar nod. Yet it was the controversial Last Tango in Paris (1972) that gained him international recognition (and notoriety), along with two Oscar nominations, for ‘Best Actor’ (to Marlon Brando), and ‘Best Director’ for Bertolucci. Many wins and nominations followed his work then on forward, but it was Bertolucci’s bio-pic, The Last Emperor (1987), gained him an even greater, better reputed, recognition, as one of greatest film director’s ever. It was the first feature film authorized by the Chinese government to film in the Forbidden City in Beijing. The film won all the nine awards it was nominated for, at the Academy Awards, including ‘Best Picture’ and ‘Best Director’. Bertolucci’s biggest Oscar triumph yet. He also won two awards at the Golden Globes. Post that he had many other wins and nominations for various films at various ceremonies, yet nothing broke the his record wins of The Last Emperor. Definitely the best film he’s ever made, and my second favourite Bertolucci. In 2007, Bertolucci won the Golden Lion for his career at the Venice Film Festival, and in recognition of his work, he was presented with the inaugural Honorary Palme d’Or Award at the opening ceremony of the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.

BB's Last Emperor

The Last Emperor (1987)

Bertolucci appeals for a fellow Film director
Director Bernardo Bertolucci, was among the people who signed an appeal to the Swiss government to release Roman Polanski, who was being held while waiting to be extradited to the United States, in September 2009.
(Also see my post Roman Polanski & His Films from September 2013)Director Bernardo Bertolucci - On the sets of ...

Bertolucci Films am yet to watch
I have so many Bertolucci, films I haven’t seen yet, including La Commare Secca (1962), Il Conformista (1970), Novecento/1900 (1976), La Luna (1979), La Tragedia di un Uomo Ridicolo (1981), Stealing Beauty (1996) and Io e Te (2012), to name a few.

Io e Te (2012)

Io e Te (2012)

Belated Birthday wishes to Bertolucci
Bertolucci celebrated his 74th Birthday on Sunday, the 16th of March, 2014. Wishing him all the best for his future endeavours. (Also see my list BB: Set Of Seven On IMDB, made on his 73rd Birthday, last year)

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

Six Degrees of Separation: Kate Winslet to ….

Kate Winslet Silver 6°

…Franco Zeffirelli
Winslet starred in Little Children (2006) along with Patrick Wilson (1), who previously appeared in the TV mini series, Angels of America (2003), which co-starred Al Pacino (2), who played the lead in Serpico (1973), which was based on a true story and directed by Sidney Lumet (3), who also directed Equus (1977), which was based on a play by Peter Shaffer (4), whose play The Royal Hunt of the sun was adapted into a movie, released in 1969, which also starred Leonard Whiting (5), whose most famous performance, is that of, ‘Romeo’ in Romeo and Juliet (1968), the finest cinematic version of this famed tragic love story, which was directed by, Tuscan born, Franco Zeffirelli (6).

…Louis Garrel
Winslet gained international fame when she played the fictional character of ‘Rose’ in Titanic (1997), which was based on a real incident, where Kathy Bates (1), played a real life survivor of the Titanic disaster, Molly Brown (2), and Brown was portrayed by Debbie Reynolds (3) in The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964); a biographical film on Brown, which includes her Titanic voyage and survival; and Reynolds starred in the musical, Singin’ in the Rain (1952), alongside Gene Kelly (4), who appeared in the French musical Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967), which also starred Catherine Deneuve (5), who recently came in another French musical, Les Bien-Aimés (2011), which co-starred actor Louis Garrel (6).

…Jennifer O’Neill  
Winslet bagged the ‘Best Actress Oscar’, for her role of ‘Hanna Schmitz’, in The Reader (2008), which was based on German novel by Bernhard Schlink (1), another novel of whose was the basis for the movie, Der Tod Kam als Freund (1991), which also starred Sebastian Koch (2), who played the lead in the Dutch film, Zwartboek (2006), which was directed by Paul Verhoeven (3), who also directed Starship Troopers (1997), which starred Casper Van Dien (4), who appeared in the forgettable Sanctimony (2000), which also had Catherine Oxenberg (5), who appeared in the pilot episode of the television series, Cover-Up (1984-1985), of which the lead star was Jennifer O’Neill (6).

… Bárbara Mori
Winslet starred alongside Leonardo DiCaprio (1) in Revolutionary Road (2008), and DiCaprio starred in The Great Gatsby (2013), in which Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan (2) had a small role, and Bachchan (a.k.a. Big B) was paired alongside Hema Malini (3) in a lot of films in the 70’s and 80’s, and Malini; who had held the no.1 position for two decades, a rarity in a male oriented film fraternity; was one actress that the Big B was never paired with, off screen, by gossip columnist; and Malini’s daughter, Esha Deol (4), appeared in Na Tum Jaano Na Hum (2002), which co-starred current superstar, Hrithik Roshan (5); known not just for his good looks and vanity driven muscular physique, but also for his outstanding dancing and acting abilities; and Roshan starred alongside Mexican actress Bárbara Mori (6) in Kites (2010).

… Henry Fonda
Winslet appeared in The Holiday (2006), a Christmas romance, where fellow British actor Jude Law (1) played her elder brother, and Law gained popularity worldwide; when he was nominated for an Oscar in 2000, for his role of ‘Dickie’; in The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), which was based on an acclaimed novel, of the same name, by Patricia Highsmith (2), and this very novel was the basis for the French classic, Plein Soleil (1959/60), starring Alain Delon (3), who appeared in the Italian film, Il Gattopardo (1963), a film directed by Italy’s famed, Luchino Visconti (4), who also directed the German language film, The Damned (1969), with Helmut Berger (5), who starred in Hollywood’s, Ash Wednesday (1973); a controversial film at the time for showcasing actual plastic surgery (facelift) in progress; in which Henry Fonda (6) had a cameo.

… Roberto Rossellini
Winslet starred in Titanic (1997), a film directed by James Cameron (1), who also directed the cheesy, sci-fi flick, The Terminator (1984), which starred Michael Biehn (2), who played a stalker in The Fan (1981), where Lauren Bacall (3); played, the stage and screen siren, who’s been stalked; and Bacall was married to actor Humphrey Bogart (4), who is most famous for appearing in the much loved classic love story, Casablanca (1942) alongside, Swedish born, Ingrid Bergman (5), who was married to Italian director, Roberto Rossellini (6).

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense ()