Tag Archive: Mystery


Mai May Movies 2019!

Like I did, back in Year 2015 & 2016, I decided do a Blog Post on all the films I saw within this Month of May, 2019!!!!!

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The

Feature Films

The Front Page (1931)

Watched on Sunday Afternoon, 12th May 2019! Downloaded Film!

A Downloaded Movie, downloaded way back in July 2017! Have a load of Downloaded films, from July 2017, am yet to see!

The Front Page (1931) is an interesting satire centered around the Press. Earl Williams (George E. Stone), a Caucasian/white American man and supposed Communist revolutionary, claiming innocence, is convicted of killing an Afro-American cop, and is to be hanged. The court press room, situated right next to the gallows, is waiting to cash in on the latest, and cover the hanging of Earl Williams. Sometimes we see how desensitized reporters can be; for them it’s just the next story. But when the convict escapes, and is found by reporter, Hildy Johnson (Pat O’Brien); who’s about resign, get married and leave for New York, from Chicago; yet keeps getting roped in by his conniving editor, Walter Burns (Adolphe Menjou); and when Hildy Johnson realizes that Earl Williams is innocent; Hildy is hell bent on proving Earl Williams’ innocence. Of course, for Hildy, it still is the latest scoop, but he wants to save an innocent man’s life as well. A hilarious comical take on the world of news-reporters, based on the play, The Front Page, by two ex-Chicago reporters, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, which was 1st staged on Broadway in 1928!

This 1931 pre-Code comedy, is a premake of Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday (194O), minus the ‘Girl Friday’, as intended in the original Broadway play (a play I haven’t read yet). But His Girl Friday is far more an enjoyable romp than The Front Page. Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell had great chemistry in the 194O classic, as a formally married couple having to work together, and the wife, Hildy (Russell); in lieu of the male Hildy (gender swap) from the original story; constantly getting pulled in by her editor/ex-husband (Grant) and the candlestick phones that keep ringing off the hook, even though she wants to get away and get married to someone else. His Girl Friday is among the greatest comedies ever made. Reporting is in their blood, the love for the job, for both (female) Hildy in His Girl Friday and (male) Hildy in The Front Page. The Front Page‘s Hildy is actually named Hildebrand Johnson, and ‘Hildy’ is short for Hildebrand, an affectionate nickname.

Though The Front Page, directed by Lewis Milestone, is not pure excellence (not just compared to His Girl Friday, but in general); it still comes really close! A Near-Excellent, brisk, fast paced, romp with witty dialogues; that is a must watch; especially for fans of film and literature!!!!! This movie was nominated for a trio of Oscars (‘Best Picture’, ‘Best Director’ & ‘Best Actor’ – for Adolphe Menjou) at the 4th Academy Awards! Lewis Milestone had already won two ‘Best Director’ Oscars. One for Two Arabian Knights (1927), in the ‘Comedy’ category, and the other for one of my favourites films on World War I, a pre-Code anti-war film, All Quiet on the Western Front (1930).

The Front Page is a near-Excellent comedy!!!!

My Rating: 9/10!

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La Chienne (1931)

Watched on Sunday Night, 12th May 2019! On TV5MONDE!

Directed by Jean Renoir, La Chienne (1931) is about a depressed married man who falls for a streetwalker (the title, the English translation of which reads as ‘The Bitch’, is a reference to her character; a character that is both conniving and foolish) and has a clandestine affair with her. Lulu (the streetwalker played by Janie Marèse) however uses the man that loves her, Maurice Legrand (Michel Simon), for the man she is in love with, her pimp, Dédé (Georges Flamant); who in turn uses her using Legrand, for his own personal gain. Legrand’s artworks are sold by Dédé making Dédé rich; and leaving Legrand a penniless vagrant.

A really good socially critical look at human relationships, showcasing how selfishly people use one another for their own benefits! La Chienne might not be an excellent French film by Renoir, yet it’s a very good thought provoking movie, with a brilliant concept. The finalé is both tragic and comic, at the same time. The satirical state of fate of mankind.

Actress, Janie Marèse, who played Lulu, was tragically killed in a car accident, soon after the filming wrapped up. Marèse’s real life lover, and her co-star, Georges Flamant (who debuted as Dédé, in La Chienne) was recklessly driving the car. He survived the accident, but his career was seriously damaged by the press.

La Chienne, released few months after Marèse’s death, was director Jean Renoir 2nd Sound film (as in with synchronized sound)!

My Rating: 8/10!

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Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)

Watched on Monday, 6th May 2019! Downloaded Film!

John Ford’s very 1st movie made in Technicolor, Drums Along the Mohawk (1939) was the 1st movie I watched this month (another Downloaded Movie, from almost two years ago).

Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck, this Historical story, is about a newly married couple who make a new home close proximity to White settlers at Mohawk Valley on the New York frontier and find themselves at the heart of the American Revolution of 1765 – 1783.

The Year is 1776, the newly married couple get roped in by Mohawk Valley’s settlers who’ve formed a local militia in anticipation of an imminent war against them, by Tories (British loyalists) and Tories’ American Indian allies. Soon war ensues, with women and children lending a helping hand. A crucial point of the plot is the Battle of Oriskany, a pivotal engagement of the Saratoga campaign, which was one of the bloodiest battles of the American Revolution. A small group of Brits, travelling south from Canada, invaded the Mohawk Valley as a diversion. Fort Stanwix, that was besieged, is depicted as Fort Schuyler in the film. Fort Stanwix was renamed Fort Schuyler in 1776, only after the battle. Plus, Britishers hand in the war, has been toned down, it’s practically non-existent. Apparently there are lot of minor inaccuracies. Especially, due to the brewing war in Europe at the time, Ford didn’t want to show the British as villains, as the Brits were fighting against German Nazis, the modern day villains, in a modern day war.

Though lacking in historical accuracy, the movie does manage to capture the essence of the American Revolution, through retelling of a small deviation branch of the war. Thus, it’s still a really good movie, led by Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert. The colourful cinematography is breathtakingly beautiful, and the movie was nominated for two Oscars, including for ‘Best Cinematography’ (in Colour), to Ray Rennahan and Bert Glennon, at the 12th Academy Awards, held in 1940. Ray Rennahan was also nominated, the same year, for ‘Best Cinematography’ (in Colour), alongwith Ernest Haller; for (1939), for which Rennahan and Haller, won!! With the exceptional Gone with the Wind, in competition, it’s obvious that Drums Along the Mohawk didn’t have much scope. None the less, it’s still a really good movie.

My Rating: 8/10

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The

Short Films

Dream House (1953)

Watched on Friday, 10th May 2019! Online on YouTube!

Dream House (1953) is a short Indian English-Language Film, starring Ashok Kumar and Meena Kumari. An advertorial film from Dunlopillo, UK (a popular brand for pillows and mattresses in India at the time; which Kumar happens to have in his stylishly decorated home). I came across this beautifully filmed short flick by fluke, that Friday night! Shot inside Ashok Kumar’s house, with cool contemporary Indian interior design (love the décor), as Meena Kumari visits (for they’ve been rehearsing for director Bimal Roy’s Parineeta (1953) a.k.a. The Fiancee; based on a book by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay (sometimes credited as Sarat Chandra Chatterji), a beautiful novel; of which the English translation I read quite recently, maybe ’twas a year or so ago); this quick, less than 3 minutes, short film, is really worth checking out; especially for lovers of Indian cinema; specifically lovers of Bollywood classics from it’s golden age. It was lovely to see a barely 20 year old, Meena Kumari, in a colour film; back in the early 50’s. Seen her colour movies from later on (60’s & early 70’s); but never seen her in colour, when she was so young. Though she’s a good actress and was known as the tragedy queen, back in her hey days, am not a great fan of hers; unlike her contemporaries; like, Nutan, Nargis, Vyjayanthimala, Waheeda Rehman and Madhubala (to name a few Hindi Film actresses of the 1950’s & 60’s, that I adore). But I do admire Kumari in the movies she’s worked in. So it’s not like I dislike her, just not a starry-eyed favourite of mine. Young, Meena Kumari, looks elegantly beautiful in this advertorial short, in a red saree, with a fashionable high-collared blouse!

My Rating: 8/10!

Stars of the Foxy 50’s: Madhubala (1933-1969) and Meena Kumari (1933-1972)
LEFT: Candid shot of Madhubala (51′)
RIGHT: Meena Kumari in a scene from a movie (57′)

Feature Films

Mr. & Mrs. ’55 (1955)

Watched on Tuesday, 28th May 2019! Online on YouTube!

Guru Dutt’s Mr. & Mrs. ’55 (1955) is a hilarious farce, that works well to a certain point, but soon goes downhill.

The movie starts off with Pre-60’s Independent-minded Feminist, Seeta Devi (Lalita Pawar), holding a meeting on petitioning the courts to pass the Divorce Bill. Her secretary informs her, showing her the latest newspaper headline, that the Divorce Bill shall be passed. It’s a woman’s right, if she needs to separate from a bad husband/marriage! Meanwhile her niece, not yet 21, Anita Verma (Madhubala) has secretly gone to see a Tennis match. She has a major crush on Tennis player, Ramesh (a Guest Appearance by Al-Nasir), who does not reciprocate. As Anita tries to escape her aunt’s secretary, who has come to find her at the Tennis match, Anita bumps into a lazy wayward man, Preetam Kumar (Guru Dutt), who at once is smitten by her. Soon, we see Anita turn 21, and is to inherit her late father’s fortune; but according to his will she has to get married within a month of turning 21. The independent-minded aunt isn’t happy, the young girl with a crush on a tennis player, is. But when Ramesh turns down her proposal for marriage, she is crushed. Yet, the fact he plays Tennis is what she truly loves, not necessarily the player. If he didn’t play her favourite sport, she wouldn’t be so crazy about him. The aunt decides to buy a groom, who’ll agree to a divorce, once Anita inherits everything. Who does the aunt rope in, but none other than the jobless cartoonist, Anita accidentally bumped into early on in the movie; beloved, Preetam Kumar. The name ‘Preetam’ in Hindi means beloved.

The movie is laugh out loud hilarious, and the characters have been placed perfectly. Less than a year into Independence, the modern Indian progressive minded city’s educated and elite are beautifully showcased. The movie has some memorable songs, some not so; mostly picturized around Guru Dutt and/or Madhubala. But my favourite number is the comical song, “Jaane kahan mera, jigar gaya ji”, themed around the supporting characters played by Johnny Walker and Yasmin (a.k.a. Vinita Bhatt); during a lunch break at a clerical office. Hilarious, melodic and fun. Mr. & Mrs. ’55 starts to waver when Preetam kidnaps his wife and takes her to his village (today, that would be considered harassment, in itself). In the village she meets Preetam’s sister-in-law (played by Kumkum), who shows how a woman’s place is in her husband’s home, doing all the chores, having kids and taking care of them. An acceptance of domestic violence against wife as being the norm, is mentioned. So basically women have no rights. Cringe worthy. Let’s say it’s village mentality; but soon Anita, who falls for husband during this excursion (lets say a Stockholm syndrome of sorts) starts to feel the same way, and Seeta Devi, with a brain of her own, is shown as the villain of piece. Seriously?? Guru Dutt!?!?! This is when the movie starts to falter. Of course, this pre-second wave feminism, feminist, Seeta Devi, is shown to be a bit of an extremist; hating all men; but instead of providing a moderation, director Guru Dutt has brought out a narrow minded concept that the Indian woman’s place is at her husband’s feet. The other archaic extreme, with a false sense of patriotism. That’s when it disappoints. Mr. & Mrs. ’55 was considered a movie of societal relevance, back then. But it gives such a false message. So, out of the over 21⁄2 hours film, the 1st hour or so is brilliantly excellent, and continues being enjoyably fun for the most part for the next half hour, but falls short towards the last hour.

The 50’s housewife concept existed in the west too (the famed American Dream); but it’s not something artists/open-minded intellectuals condoned. Hollywood never glamorized portraying women to stoop so low. It’s as if, if anyone’s seen Mona Lisa Smile (2003), Julia Roberts’ free-thinking Art Professor were Seeta Devi, and she was shown as the villain of the piece. Mr. & Mrs. ’55 also reminded me of another Bollywood movie, that we watched a kazillion times as kids, Chhoti si Mulaqat (1967). It didn’t fare well with 60’s audiences either. But even though it did seem to some extent pro-wife’s place is at her husband’s home; it wasn’t this extreme, and was actually a very good plot and a near-Excellent movie. It dealt with child marriage, the mental dilemma of the bride as a grown up when she’s reminded of it, as she is about to wed the man she loves, and the modern Indian woman of the 60’s. Her mother is a very progressive woman; against whose knowledge the daughter was wed as child. But in a sense, to some extent, the movie does portray the mother as the villain of the piece. Yet, the plus side is, when the daughter (mostly out of curiosity) defies her mum, and decides that she should be with her husband (a husband she never knew); the husband turns out to be the man she falls in love with as an adult. Luckily! So all’s well, saved by a thread. At least, in the case of Chhoti si Mulaqat, her husband didn’t remain a village idiot, he grew up, studied, became a modern open-minded individual and came up to her standard; and earned his place, in her heart and her social circle. In Mr. & Mrs. ’55, Guru Dutt’s character is still pretty narrow-minded, even though he is a good guy and truly loves her. She definitely deserves better. It ends with the feeling, she’ll be his ideal Indian wife (like his sister-in-law), though it’s doubtful she’ll have to endure physical abuse by Mister ‘Beloved’. But the movie overall isn’t bad, just not great; ruined by that foolishness of where a woman’s place lies; and to some extent a hint against divorce and the Divorce Bill, itself.

In India, before 1955, divorce was not recognized by the Hindus, as according to the Hindu religion marriage is sacrament and not a contract. But with the codification of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, both men and women (of Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Jain, faith) are equally eligible to seek divorce. In Muslim societies, anywhere in general, the husband could divorce his wife for no reason, without a hitch, while for a wife it wasn’t an easy task to get a divorce, in some cases, not at all. The Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act of 1939 made amendments for Muslim women in India to obtain divorce, comparatively easier. Christian marriages were (and still are) governed by Victorian era implemented, The Divorce Act of 1869, Parsis by the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act of 1936, and Inter-racial/religious marriages The Special Marriage Act of 1954! The Hindu Marriage Act in 1955, was implemented on 18th May 1955. Mr. & Mrs. ’55, released the same year, was an acknowledgement of Modern India’s Hindu Marriage Act in 1955, from which the title of the movie was derived. But unfortunately, the hints on the fact that women should succumb to their man’s needs; even though the man in the movie is not a bad man, is still a bit too of an archaic mentality, even for that time. To show that women should succumb to blindly follow traditional values, is a major step backwards. A pity, such a fun flick, with such witty dialogues.

Guru Dutt’s character is a cartoonist, and the cartoons shown in the film were by R. K. Laxman; a style of drawing I recognized instantly, as I watched the film. In one scene, we see a hand drawing a caricature of Lalita Pawar, Guru Dutt and Madhubala. That’s obviously R. K. Laxman’s unaccredited hand. R. K. Laxsman’s creations were another plus for me.

Thus, Mr. & Mrs. ’55, was only averagely good, that too mainly thanks to the hilarious performance by bewitching beauty, Madhubala; and the brilliant, Lalita Pawar. Worth checking out. Even though the latter part, with it’s backward concept, along with the ending, sucked. Mr. & Mrs. ’55 was one of earliest Hindi movies to show an airport reunion, which was done to death, in much later Bollywood films.

Last movie I watched this month (May 2019).

My Rating: 6/10!

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Postscript:

All three stars mentioned here, Guru Dutt, Madhubala and Meena Kumari, died way before their time. Nicknamed, Tragedy Queen, Meena Kumari; who fought off depression and alcohol abuse, finally succumbed cirrhosis of the liver. She fell into a coma and soon left this world, on 31st March 1972, aged 38. The egoistic Guru Dutt; a truly great filmmaker (he has a better filmography than Mr. & Mrs. ’55) unhappily married to Geeta Dutt, and suffering from an Othello syndrome, finally committed suicide on 10th October 1964, after a couple of failed prior attempts. He was only 39 years old.

Born on Valentine’s Day, 1933, Madhubala, at a young age found out she had a hole in her heart (Ventricular septal defect), and won’t live that long. She completed many of her films by 1959, before her illness aggravated. She continued working while suffering through her illness, but by 1966 she was too weak, and could not finish her project, Chalak, co-starring Raj Kapoor. Chalak never saw the light of day. Mostly bedridden from weakening bones and spewing blood, she tried her hand at film direction. However her directorial debut with, Farz aur Ishq, was not meant to be. Ultimately succumbing to her illness, she died on 23rd February 1969, shortly after her 36th birthday; during the pre-production of Farz aur Ishq. Madhubala was admired in both senses, as a sex symbol of 50’s Bollywood (she was called Marilyn Monroe of Hindi Cinema), as well as one of the finest actresses of her time (she too has a way better résumé than Mr. & Mrs. ’55). Madhubala, also almost made it to Hollywood. Both, Life magazine’s James Burke, and American Film Director, Frank Capra, were impressed by her looks and work. James Burke clicked her pictures in 1951, and captioned them, “The Biggest Star in the World – and she’s not in Beverly Hills”. Frank Capra offered Madhubala a break into Hollywood and true international fame, but her father, worried about his sickly daughter travelling so far, politely declined the rich offer of her earning American dollars. Her Hollywood dream ended, then and there. Sad, none of them lived to be 40! Tragic!

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The 70’s

Feature Films

The Last Detail (1973)

Watched on Thursday, 23rd May 2019! Downloaded Film!

The Last Detail (1973) is a sad road trip where two Navy Chasers escort a kleptomaniac to prison. The young man is sentenced for 8 years, for the petty crime of stealing just $40! Good concept, sad story, but such a dull paced movie, it truly was a bore. The only saving grace were the acting talent roped in, including a virtually unknown Randy Quaid, at the time. Jack Nicholson is really good, as always, but did he really deserve to win a ‘Best Actor’ award at the Cannes Film Festival??????

Very Bad! Feel like dozing off, just writing about it.

My Rating: 3/10!

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The White Buffalo (1977)

Watched on Thursday, 9th May 2019! Downloaded Film!

A Western-cum-Adventure film produced by Dino De Laurentiis, The White Buffalo (1977) is another boring waste of time, made in the 70’s decade, that I saw this month. I’d say stay away from this film as well, though it’s not among the worst films ever made. This silly flick is actually beautifully shot in Colorado with it’s snow capped Mountains! What brilliant Cinematography!

Kim Novak has a small role it it! In a sense she’s the only interesting character, besides that ‘White Buffalo’ itself.

My Rating: 4/10!

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This Decade (2010’s)

Documentaries

Roger Vadim with 3rd wife, actress, Jane Fonda; seen here along with her brother, actor, Peter Fonda, in a water taxi in the Venice lagoon, in 1967

Room 237 (2012)

Watched on Saturday, 11th May 2019! Downloaded Film!

Room 237 (2012) is an analysis, with varied speculative theories, behind Stanley Kubrick’s Horror classic, The Shining (1980). Some interesting views through use of symbolism in the movie, but most are crazily extreme. The story of the cinematic version of The Shining (as the original story was a novel written by Stephen King, which apparently differs a lot from it’s cinematic adaptation; and in fact one theorist points out how Kubrick purposely kills off King’s vision, and hints on it in The Shining) metaphorically representing the Holocaust, and the Genocide of American Indians, makes sense, to some extent. BUT, the Apollo 11 Moon landing footage was fake, and directed by Stanley Kubrick (a ridiculous theory I’ve heard of from way before this movie was made), is going way too extreme. Of course, this crazed theorist, who compares the Kubrick’s Horror flick, to a 3D chess set, with various levels, states that he isn’t saying that the Moon Landing didn’t happen, just that the footage was fake. Quite ridiculous, with no factual proof to back his theories, and there won’t be (I sure hope not!). Capricorn One (1977) was a movie about a similar concept of a hoax. A film about NASA faking a Mars mission. In Minions (2015), there is a funny scene, where a Minion stumbles upon the set, where Stanley Kubrick is filming the Apollo 11 Moon landing; an obvious nod to this crazy documentary. The Apollo 11 Moon landing happened on 20th of July, 1969 (see my post The Greatest feat of the Space age: The day humans conquered the moon from July 2013). This year marks it’s 50th anniversary!!!!

So basically, Room 237, is a bunch of Kubrick crazed film fanatics, with unnecessarily extreme analysis, reading way too much into the classic psychological horror movie. Don’t expect an intelligent insight into The Shining, these are just mere observations. None the less, Room 237, is not a bad documentary. It’s average fare at the best. Check it out if you like, it’s watchable after all; especially if you are fan of . YET, watch Room 237, with a beach full of salt, a pinch won’t be enough!!!

My Rating: 6/10!

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Vadim, Mister Cool (2016)

Watched on Sunday Late Night, 26th May 2019! On TV5MONDE!

Vadim, Mister Cool (2016), chronicles the life of Roger Vadim, step by step, perfectly spending just enough time on each stage of his life! From him as a Film Producer/Director/Screenwriter, to a husband, a family man, his success and his downfall. Roger Vadim was notoriously known for sexploitation of his beautiful wives/life partners; but much as he himself feels, in a sense he liberated them from the confines of anti-sexual notions. This was before the sexual-revolution of the 60’s. And each wife/partner left him, once they made it as a sex siren, but becoming something far greater in the end. Yet he did give them that necessary push. 1st wife-Brigitte Bardot (a.k.a. B.B.), partner – Catherine Denueve and 3rd wife – Jane Fonda; all started off as sex symbols of the 50’s & 60’s, under him, and went onto do great work, as actresses, as well as in other fields. B.B. later became an Animal Rights Activist, Deneuve, one the greatest actresses of French Cinema, and Jane Fonda a political activist against the Vietnam War, Nixon administration as well as a fitness guru and actress of very influential American films. At the start of this year (on 4th of January, 2019), I saw Jane Fonda in Five Acts (2018), on HBO On Demand; a brilliant documentary with Jane Fonda herself speaking about her life and life choices. And of course, she speaks of her sex-siren days as Vadim’s wife, as well.

Both Roger Vadim’s success and downfall are credited to French New Wave Director, François Truffaut, who use to be a film critic for the Cahiers du Cinéma. Truffaut, though initially a fan, was mainly critical Vadim’s sexploitation of the fairer sex. But say what you may; whether Roger Vadim help liberate his women from societal pressures of the past, or was a notorious exploiter of women’s sexuality; he was a doting father. He not only adored his kids, but was a hands on father who took care of them. A stay at home dad, role reversal, while his wives went away for work. He was a feminist, in every sense of it. And his women admired him, and some are truly grateful for helping make their career, or at least give them a start. A push in the right direction. Roger Vadim was truly a fascinating personality.

Vadim, Mister Cool, is a Brilliant Television documentary, and great insight into a man’s life, both professional and personal. Loved it! This documentary was shown soon after Carré 35 (2017) ended, on the same cable television channel; TV5MONDE!

Excellent TV Documentary, one of the Best!!!!!!!
My Rating: 10/10!

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Carré 35 (2017)

Watched on Sunday Night, 26th May 2019! On TV5MONDE!

A very personal documentary, by actor, Éric Caravaca. This is the first documentary Caravaca directed. In Carré 35 (2017) Éric Caravaca speaks of a sister, he never knew existed. A sister that died before he was born. Researching his roots, his background, Éric Caravaca discovers his parents life in Algeria and Morocco, of a birth of sister, with autism and a congenital heart defect (back then known as Blue Baby Syndrome), and her ultimate death that his parents hid from him and his brother. This was before Caravaca’s parents came to Europe, and erased the life they had before, including burning all photos and film footage they had of his elder sister, Christine. The parents never spoke about her. Christine was buried in ‘Carré 35’, the French part of the cemetery in Casablanca, Morocco. Caravaca’s mother had never visited the grave. Having suffered a lot, she didn’t want to reminisce on her past. Towards the end of the documentary we see her finally visiting her baby girl’s grave.

A really tragic story where he interviews and (as his mother feels) interrogates his parents, and other relatives, trying to get the truth behind the secret history of his family’s hidden past. Heart-rending! Rather than doing an analysis of a film that in itself is an analysis of Éric Caravaca background, I’ll simply say, its must watch. Carré 35 was part of a series of Special Programs shown on TV5MONDE, in connection with Festival de Cannes 2019 (I couldn’t follow this year’s festival properly). Éric Caravaca was nominated for L’Œil d’Or (Golden Eye) Award, for Carré 35, English Title- Plot 35, at the 70th International Cannes Film Festival,held in May 2017.

My Rating: 8/10!

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Short Films

Uuquchiing (2018)

Watched on Tuesday Night, 14th May 2019! On TV5MONDE!

This short film was telecast soon after Chouf (2016) ended, on TV5MONDE itself.

Uuquchiing (2018), the title means ‘Blue Fox’ in the Inuit language of the Alaskan/Canadian/Greenland Eskimo. The movie is akin to The Butterfly Effect (2004) where a young Evan Treborn (Logan Lerman as the 7year old Evan & John Patrick Amedori as the 13 year old Evan) suffers blackouts and no memory of what happened during his blackout. Similarly here,in Uuquchiing, we see Camille (Johan Libéreau) having no recollection of how he got from one place to another, with no memory of what happened in between. But sadly this short film has such an abrupt sexual ending and no explanation of what happened and why?, it just left a bad taste in the end. You wonder what it was all about!?!?!

My Rating: 3/10!

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Feature Films

12 Years a Slave (2013)

Watched on Monday, 27th May 2019! Downloaded Film!

One of the finest films ever made. Steve McQueen has proven he’s one of the greatest filmmakers of our generation, with this Oscar winning epic masterpiece, 12 Year a Slave (2013). Finally got to see this movie. Had wanted to see it since it came out in 2013, and was even more interested when in won the Oscar for ‘Best Picture’ at the 86th Annual Academy Awards. Managed to download it almost two years ago, and finally, saw it this Monday. I still have so many films, downloaded close to two year ago, from back in July 2017.

The movie follows the true story of Solomon Northup (on whose book this movie is based on), a free Afro-American man from New York State; who conned into travelling to Washington,D.C., and then drugged by two white con-men, and sold into slavery, from where he was sent to work in the plantations of Louisiana, in the deep south. This was in 1841! For 12 years, Solomon Northup (played with excellence, by British actor of Igbo Nigerian decent, Chiwetel Ejiofor) suffers and struggles to keep himself alive through all the atrocities perpetrated on him by a sadistic slave owner (played by Michael Fassbender, another performer of excellent talent). Northup finally gets a chance to tell his story to a good Samaritan, a Canadian laborer and abolitionist, named Samuel Bass (Brad Pitt) when Northup accidentally, by luck, mentions he’s been to Canada. Such a tragic story.

Lupita Nyong’o, has a small, but crucial role in 12 Years a Slave; for which she won the ‘Best Supporting Actress’ Oscar. Been a fan of Nyong’o since she won the prestigious Golden statuette, even though I hadn’t seen any of her films, including 12 Years a Slave. I liked her personality that shone through, whenever and wherever, she was either interviewed or photographed. But, I wondered whilst watching this, as good as she was in this movie (and she definitely deserved the nomination); was she the best that year?? I actually liked Jennifer Lawrence’s performance in American Hustle (2013) much more, who was nominated in the same category as well.

None the less,12 Years a Slave, is among the greatest Hollywood films ever made. It was so long, the film ended way past midnight; it was like 00:40 am, when it finished, and around 1:00 a.m. on 28th May 2019, when I finally went to bed! ‘Twas totally worth it!!

Pure Excellence!!!!! The Best Movie, I saw this month!! May 2019!
My Rating: 10/10!

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Postscript:

Speaking of the following year’s Academy Awards, am surprised Abdellatif Kechiche’s La Vie d’Adèle (2013), English Title: Blue Is the Warmest Color, was not even nominated in the ‘Best Foreign Language’ category at the 2014 Oscars!!!! In fact both lead actresses, Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos, deserved to be nominated in the ‘Best Actress’ category as well (as neither was a supporting character), if not share a win. Blue Is the Warmest Color, won Palme d’Or at the 66th Cannes Film Festival, held in May 2013. For the very 1st time in the competition, both the lead actresses were awarded the Palme d’Or, along with the film’s director, Abdellatif Kechiche. 12 Years a Slave is definitely a brilliant bio-pic, and I loved it, but I feel this French film, was slightly better.

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Chouf (2016)

Watched on Tuesday Evening, 14th May 2019! On TV5MONDE!

Chouf (2016) literally meaning to “look” in Arabic, is a French film set within the drug cartels of Marseilles. In a Godfatherique style (à la The Godfather, 1972) the lead character, Sofian (played bu namesake, Sofian Khammes), a young man with a genius brain, an intelligent student, comes home for the holidays; and when a loved one gets shot, his whole world changes. In this case, unlike the The Godfather, Sofian joins the drug network to avenge his brother’s death; leaving behind his family and the progressive life, with a good education, he had hoped to be part of. His brother was a local gangster, a drug dealer, and is killed by another member of their secret network. We see Sofian getting dragged deeper and deeper into a life of crime, with no scope of an exit, as he tries to find out who was responsible for his brother’s death.

A really good movie, by Karim Dridi, who does not shy away from realistically showing us life in the French ghettos of Marseilles. Plus, the film, to some extent predictably, shows us how difficult it is too get away and lead a normal life, once someone gets deeply immersed into drug gangs in the brutally dangerous slum areas of Marseilles. Dridi’s Chouf, was released under the Special Screenings at the 69th International Cannes Film Festival held in May 2016.

Chouf too, like Carré 35, was shown as part of a series of Special Programs telecast on TV5MONDE, this month, in connection with Festival de Cannes 2019!!!!

My Rating: 8/10!

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Rutabaga (2018)

Watched on Monday, 13th May 2019! Online on iflix!

Director, Julien Botzanowsk’s horror flick, Rutabaga (2018) seemed to work till a certain point; but then it got ridiculously silly! The end was so stupid. Yet, I did like Botzanowsk’s naturalistic film direction as well as the acting talent roped in, including Julien Botzanowski, himself. But the movie itself was a waste of time, for me.

Interesting to note, 11 days after I saw and tweeted about it (as I tweet about every single movie; the Great, the Bad, the Hideous); I got a message, as a comment here on my Blog, by the director/lead actor of the movie (see my About page), thanking me. After all I did mention, on my tweet as well, that I liked his technique and talent, though not a fan of the cinematic outcome. This is not the 1st time, I got comments from the films directors; twice before two young french directors (Rocco Labbé and Sylvain Bressollette) wrote to me, once I blogged about their short films (see my Blog Posts, Portraits de Maîtresses: Rocco Labbé’s take on Charles Baudelaire, Le Ballon de Rouge (2012/2014) and Young Directors on my BLOG from December 2013, June 2014 & October 2014 respectively). Amazingly all three film directors happen to be French! What lovely, down to earth, good people to write to an odinary blogger/twitterian, like me. None the less, Rutabaga, was not a good movie; but again, Julien Botzanowsk is one to watch out for. Wishing him the best!

My Rating: 1/10

La Révolte des Innocents ()

Watched on Tuesday, 21st May 2019! On TV5MONDE!

Really good movie, based on a real incident!

Théo Frilet plays The Brave Judge, the English title of, La Révolte des Innocents (2018) though not the literal meaning. Set in France, in 1911, in an institute that’s gets a stipend from the government to educate poor children. The kids are not given an education, instead they are made to work, abused and exploited, by the keepers! The story is based on Louise Soliveau and Alexandre Landrin, who’ve been renamed, Joséphine Poliveau (played by Julie Ferrier) and Armand Sandrin (played by Bruno Debrandt) in this television movie. When a 10 year old child dies, under their care; the rest of the kids revolt. When the revolt is reported, this incident slowly starts to shed light on what has been happening at Les Vermiraux, the institute. A young judge, Emile Guidon () takes action and against all obstacles, facing lot of objections, keeps on going till the perpetrators, whose ill treatment and negligence led to the death of a child, are brought to justice.

This is a really good insight into a real life Dickensian Boarding house run by ruthless money hungry bigwigs that abused innocent children!  La Révolte des Innocents, ended past midnight; but just some minutes onto 22nd May 2019!

My Rating: 8/10!

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Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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An Unexpected Pleasant Surprise!!!

On Twitter, I’ve been taking part in a quite few Film Challenges, for sometime now (but not regular enough). Yesterday afternoon, I was going through IMDB, checking out films I love, from before 1929, when I came across something unexpected. This was for yesterday’s , hosted by Gabriela(@noir_or_never) of Pale Writer: Classic and Horror films unite!! The Challenge was, to mention a Film made before 1929, that should have won an Oscar. I actually found FIVE FILMS!!!!! Anyway, I also checked Roundhay Garden Scene (1888) on IMDB. AND Wow!!!! What did I see??? I couldn’t believe my EYES👀, when I saw this.

IMDB (i.e. the famed Internet Movie Data Base) has a poster I created some years ago for a Blog Post of mine, posted on their site; front page of this Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince Documentary from !!! I was like Wowza!!! That’s a lovely compliment! Feel really honoured!! Wonder how long they’ve had it! BUT, wait!!

Hmmmm!! ’twas not with my consent though! My Copyright!!!! Ha!! 😍

My Copyright!!!! Ha!! 😍

Of course, am kidding. After all, my Blog is in the public domain; so anyone can use my content (I think🤔). Anyway, it’s nice to see they’ve used it; and to post it on their site. Which means someone (or more than one person) from IMDB, has come across my BLOG!!!! That means there are more viewers for my Blog than am aware of!! That’s a great honour in itself!! 💗

What’s more surprising is, the fact this poster isn’t that great. I don’t have Photoshop or any other cool tools/Apps to create anything artistic (digitally speaking). I just have the ordinary “Paint” icon, on my Laptop (same with my previous Laptops). So there is nothing great about it. But it’s lovely to see it on IMDB!! PLUS, my printed name is quite noticeably visible on it!! 😊 Also see my Post, Roundhay Garden Scene (1888) – A Two Second Documentary, from October 2014.

Of course, I didn’t select, Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince’s (a.k.a. Louis Le Prince), Roundhay Garden Scene, for the Film Challenge (after all, though it’s the oldest surviving film footage; it was never shown on the Big Screen; the 1st Cinematic release was by the Lumière Brothers’, who had their 1st private screening of a projected motion picture, in 1895, for a select audience of 200 people), but I felt Le Prince deserved a Special Posthumous Oscar Award, for his contribution to the Moving Image. His unsolved disappearance (and maybe murder), on the way to demonstrate his scientific invention, in September 1890, is still a mystery.

Speaking of Twitter, I got this e-mail, last week (screenshot above). Although I’ve got only 661 followers (664 as of today) & am following 2,454 Twitter accounts; 8,769 people have seen my Tweets, within the week before last!! Wonderful! On my Blog here, I have 329 followers so far; and 83,320 views, altogether (yup, just decided to check that as well). Not Bad, eh!! 🙂

Meanwhile the Cannes Film Festival is currently under way; and I haven’t been able to follow that properly this time.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
(@Nuwansenfilmsen)

Nuwan Sen (NSFS👁)

Richard Burton plays Philip Ashley, in the 1952 film adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s acclaimed novel, My Cousin Rachel.

A constantly brooding, suspicious, miserable character, that we rarely see smile. Even his happiness (in rare moments when he seems to be happy) is superficial, taunted by his skeptical nature. His mental state, stained by the loss of his favourite cousin, who raised him, and with the guilt of harbouring lustful desires for a woman who might be the reason for his cousin’s untimely demise, eating away at him; Philip Ashley is never at peace. AND this character is portrayed with pure perfection, by the brilliant British Shakespearean actor, Richard Burton. Predominantly a British star, the UK’s Cornwall set My Cousin Rachel (1952) was Burton’s first foray into Hollywood and it earned him a Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actor in 1953.

Olivia de Havilland plays the ambiguous character of Rachel, in My Cousin Rachel (1952)

Daphne du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel is about an orphaned kid, Philip, who is brought up by his wealthy cousin, Ambrose Ashley (played by John Sutton in the movie). Ambrose, while away in Italy, meets the widowed Contessa Sangalletti (a.k.a. Rachel), a distant cousin of theirs, and Ambrose and Rachel soon marry. But their marital bliss is short lived, as Ambrose dies of a brain tumour. Yet before his death, he manages to plant the seeds of suspicion on young Philip’s mind, that she’s been poisoning him. Thus, when Rachel comes over to Ambrose’s Cornwall estate, no matter how nice a person she seems to be, Philip is never at peace. He has a love-hate relationship with her; and he suffers throughout, due to the seeds of distrust having taken root in his mind. Even in the end, he is in agony, wondering whether she was guilty or innocent. Something that would haunt him for the rest of his life.

I really liked the ambiguous ending, for we never truly find out about Rachel, though we do feel she might be more innocent than guilty. She’s not a perfect person, but she most probably didn’t murder her husband, nor try to to kill off Philip, as he suspects. And as we get to know later, she doesn’t have any intention of taking over Ambrose’s estate, she doesn’t expect a dime. It’s all left to Philip.

With no real interest in making it in Hollywood, Richard Burton joined this project, due to the recommendation of director George Cukor (whom Burton had great respect for). Originally Cukor was planning to direct this cinematic adaptation of du Maurier’s Gothic novel. But when Cukor and du Maurier, read the first draft of the screenplay, they felt it was unfaithful to the novel, and were both disappointed. So Cukor dropped out. However the project went ahead, without Cukor, and the movie was ultimately directed by Henry Koster. The end result, though different to the novel, was excellent; mainly thanks to Burton’s brilliant acting talent, along with the rest of the cast. Even du Maurier was pleased with Burton’s performance, as well as certain shots filmed in the real Cornwall; but felt de Havilland didn’t capture the mystery of the character of Rachel, well enough. Even though I haven’t read the book, I agree, I felt de Havilland’s performance was quite lukewarm. She wasn’t bad, in fact she was interesting enough; but far from great. Then again the character she played was quite ambiguous, and hard to judge. None the less, the film is excellent; Burton Brilliant; and the cinematography by Joseph LaShelle, hauntingly beautiful. The Cornwall setting and the beach play quite an important role in this story, but I noticed it’s not as significant to the plot, as much as it (especially the representation of the beach) was, in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca; the 1940 film adaptation of which (by Alfred Hitchcock, starring de Havilland’s sister, Joan Fontaine) went on to win Oscars, for Best Picture and Best Cinematography. 1952’s My Cousin Rachel, was nominated for four Academy Awards, including one for Richard Burton (his 1st Oscar nomination), but it won none. Burton never won an Oscar, though he was nominated seven times, altogether.

Apparently, Olivia de Havilland didn’t get along with Richard Burton, whom she hated. She felt he was coarse, crude, unsophisticated. But then again, growing up, she wasn’t very kind to her own sister, Fontaine. Today, amazingly, Olivia de Havilland, is the one who is still alive. Most notable for her role as the kindly ‘Melanie Hamilton’, in Gone with the Wind (1939), de Havilland turned 102, on 1st July 2018, surpassing younger sister, Joan Fontaine, who passed away on 15th December 2013, less than two months after her 96th Birthday!

Olivia de Havilland, Audrey Dalton and Richard Burton, in a scene from My Cousin Rachel (1952)

Back in my teens, in the early 1990’s, I watched the 1983 BBC television mini-series, based on My Cousin Rachel, which apparently is comparatively more faithful to the novel, and which I loved too. YET, I loved this classic movie adaptation, I saw end of September 2018, online on Youtube, with not that clear a sound, and re-watched day before, even more. Although, if my memory serves me right, I do feel, Geraldine Chaplin in the 83′ version, most probably did more justice to the role of Rachel.

Recently there was another film adaptation of this book, released last year (2017), directed by Roger Michell, and starring Rachel Weisz and Sam Claflin, in the lead. Am yet to see this newer version, which has had some mixed reviews.

My Cousin Rachel (1952)

My Rating: Excellent – 10/10!!!!!!!!!!

Bookish Nuwan
Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

#NuwanSensMovieSense

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This Blog Post, is my contribution to the, REGALING ABOUT RICHARD BURTON BLOGATHON, hosted by Gill of Real Weegie Midget!!!!!

Thank you Gill, for letting me take part in this Blogathon, dedicated to a such prolific British Actor of the Stage and Screen!

Nuwan Sen (NSFS)

Welcome to a New Month, and to The October Birthdayz Blogathon 🍁 2018! 🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃

October, is the tenth month of the Year, signifying the Orangey month of autumn in the Northern hemisphere, the orangish shades of maple leaves, associated with fall, and of course, the month of Halloween (with it’s Jack-o’-lanterns, carved out of orange pumpkins). Though Halloween’s roots originate in Christianity, All Hallows’ Eve, today (pretty much like Christmas), it’s more of a fun filled (non-religious) holiday, especially in the Northern American continent.

The month of October, also happens to be the birth month, of my sister, who actually lives in ‘Modern Day’ Halloween country – The United States of America (a.k.a. TrumpLand) itself. She’s been living there, residing in Princeton, New Jersey, USA, since May 2015. So, dedicating this Blogathon to my baby sister; who’ll complete the 38th year of her life, this month; I decided to host, The, very first, ❝October Birthdayz Blogathon! So in a sense, this Blogathon, is my gift to Sachinta’s upcoming 38th Birthday. Happy Birthday Sis!

So, my fellow bloggers/blog-pals/movie maniacs/film fanatics/cinema enthusiasts/bookish bums, you are all welcome. The Blogathon shall start on the 20th of October (my sister’s birthday) and end on 22nd of October. BUT, there are no hard and fast rules, as to when you can post. You can post, any day within the month, of October, effective immediately. So, even if you end up being fashionably late, do not fret, I shall do a special post for latecomers, on 31st October (Halloween night).

Though there are no hard and fast rules, on what or when you can post (it does have to be within this month), this Blogathon is to do with Movies, Movies and Movies. So below are some terms and conditions, on how to post, on any birthday associated with the Month of October. You are welcome to post, one or more, write-ups; as many as you like.

Some Simple Rules:

  • You are allowed to write about any famous or notorious personality, born in the month of October. But the write-up has to do with films (either Big Screen cinematic marvels or Small Screen movies made for television). So if you want to write about a non-film personality, the blog-post should be about a bio-pic based on his/her life, or a movie based on a true incident, where this particular ‘October born’ person played a pivotal part in (in which case, it has to be a charter-sketch of this famed person).
    [E.g. Mahatma Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt & Bonnie Parker, were born in the Month of October]
  • If you want to work on an author/playwright/poet, again it should either be a film based on their lives, or (in this case) a film adaptation of one of their works. BUT, it has to be a good movie (doesn’t matter how faithful the movie is to it’s source material). No judgemental and unoriginal clichés of “Books are better than Movies”, please. A good movie has to stand on it’s own merit, whether it’s based on a book or not. You are welcome to do an interesting compare and contrast (in which case both the book and movie ought to be critically acclaimed, or at least you should love both, the book as a book, and the movie as a movie)
    [E.g. Virgil, John Keats, Oscar Wilde & Joan Harrison, were born in the Month of October]
  • If you are writing on a movie starring an actor/actress, then it ought to be more of a character analysis, played by the ‘October born’ star. If there are more than one person born in October, appearing in the same movie, the review can be about the movie, but please focus more on the characters played by the ‘October born’ stars.
  • If it’s a film of an ‘October born’ director, then a movie review is more than enough, yet attributing to his unique directing techniques, as to how well the director crafted it.
  • If you want to speak about a cinematographer/music composer/playback singer/costume designer/set designer (in other words, a non-actor/actress or director, attached to the movie), please highlight this ‘October born’ person’s contribution, besides the film critique.
    [E.g. Costume Designer, Edith Head, and Music Composer, S.D. Burman, were born in the Month of October]
  • You are welcome to write about the personal life of an ‘October born’ film personality, instead of a movie they worked on, if you wish. Again, it ought to be a non-judgemental, non-sarcastic, sympathetic look at a person’s life and career. Exceptions are allowed, if the particular person was highly notorious (like a Nazi spy or a serial killer or something, who was/is a famous film personality).
  • If your, or your own Blog’s, birthday falls in the Month of October, you are welcome to include a bit about yourself/your Blog, within a film context.
  • Duplicates are allowed, but I would prefer, there were none, as there is a vast array of people born within the 31 days of October.
  • You are welcome to write about recently released movies and film personalities of the 21st century, as well; BUT I’d prefer if you were write about a movie/celebrity from the past centuries. There are so many forgotten gems of the past; from Roundhay Garden Scene (1888) (the oldest surviving moving picture – private family footage) to the Lumière Brothers 10 short films released in 1895 (the very first ‘Big Screen’ cinematic releases) to more contemporary greats from post war 40’s to the 1990’s; that need more exposure, and should to be spoken of.
  • Once you have decided, please mention what you shall work on, as a comment below; and once you’ve blogged about a film related subject matter, for this Blogathon, kindly post the link, as a comment below.

Kindly share my post, and invite other bloggers, to join in. And, last but not least, please help yourself to one or more, out of the 10, banners below, I specially made for the Blogathon.

Thank you and Enjoy

Nuwan Sen of No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen

Blogathon Banners

This is the second time I am hosting a Blogathon. The very first Blogathon (and the only one till now) I hosted, was back in September 2014 (See my Blog posts – The Essential 60’s Blogathon, The Essential 60’s Blogathon : Dr Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) and The Essential 60’s Blogathon finalé from September/October 2014). But it wasn’t much of a success, as only four Bloggers (including me) took part in it. This year I hope it shall be more of a success, as I have a bigger blogging community now. Of course, even though am happily hosting this Blogathon, I shan’t take part it myself.

One of the main reasons, I shan’t work on a post for this Blogathon, is, ’cause am very sick (physically, mentally and otherwise). Since, I’ve been working on these banners, and a few more pictures/collages, within the last six days, to host this Blogathon, this month, I am forcing myself to somehow get this post done today, with a heavy sinus filled head, as the forces of Lankan nature are acting against me getting anything done. Am feeling quite exhausted, parched, dehydrated, with tired eyes, a cold and heaty throat and chest, as we speak; and writing this in a sort of a daze. I was down with the flu, when this year started, and am just as sick, as this beautiful month starts. I wonder whether am having an allergic reaction to the new diabetic meds I’ve been on for the last two weeks. I need to speak to my endocrinologist.

Anyway, I hope you shall all take part in this, my fellow Blog-pals and lovers of everything cinematic. I shall do three special posts (including your links of the posts you do) between 20th & 22nd October 2018, and a fourth n’ final one, for latecomers, on the 31st of October, 2018.

Also check out my twitter handle (https://twitter.com/Nuwansenfilmsen) I plan to post an  ❝October Birthdayz❞ special, on twitter, each day of of this month, as well.

Thank you in advance for your participation

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense 🧡

On a Sunday afternoon, at Prescient 21, New York City, an assortment of coulourful characters, from crooks to thieves to innocent first time offenders, swarm around, waiting to be booked. One such character is a shoplifter, played by Lee Grant, witnessing all the crazy goings-on, in the squad room. Lee Grant reprises her well received role, in her film debut, in Detective Story (), for which she won the award forBest Actress at the Cannes Film Festival, in 1952.

Lee Grant in Detective Story (1951)

As the movie begins, Lee Grant arrives in a not-so-well maintained car, dragged by a shabby looking cop. She’s taken upstairs into the squad room of New York’s Prescient 21. Her crime – she picked up a purse, due to a kleptomaniac impulse. A bag she didn’t even like. And it seems this was a first time offense, or at least the first time she got caught. Naive, innocent, stressed and nerve-wrecking, she is more worried than she should be. In fact, the cop tells her, that it’s not as if she committed a murder, she most probably will be acquitted, with no charges; and it will all be a waste of his time.

When she is asked to call a lawyer, she’s apprehensive, the only lawyer she knows is married to her pregnant sister. But as things start to heat up in the squad room, she finally asks her brother-in-law for help. Meanwhile, we see what a good heart she has, and what a social person she is. She innocently tries to comfort a young girl, whose sister’s ex-boyfriend, is being booked for embezzlement. She tells one of the detective’s he is quite handsome, and doesn’t look like a cop. She is amused with a watch in a comic strip, and compares it to the wristwatch worn by the cop that arrested her. This shoplifter, might have accidentally committed a crime, but is a very genuine person. More genuine, than most cops. Of course, the cops here treat her well. When one brings her food, she is truly grateful. As Grant’s shoplifter leaves the station, she bids adieu, to all the detectives at Prescient 21.

Lee Grant is superb as a nervous wreck, a foolish and somewhat comical shoplifter. A bit of an oddball nut-bag. A very naturalistic twitchy portrayal of a scared little kitten, feeling guiltier than she should be. Grant learnt the weird New York accent, she uses in the play and movie, when she heard two girls on a crosstown bus. Yes, she eavesdropped on total strangers, not because she wanted to know what they were talking about, but to study their mannerisms. A true testament to great acting.

Based on a 1949 play by Sidney Kingsley, Detective Story, and directed by William Wyler, the movie comprises of a superb cast, including Kirk Douglas, Eleanor Parker, Joseph Wiseman, William Bendix, Craig Hill, et al. Set in a single day, the main plot of the story, however, is about a tough cop (played incredibly by Kirk Douglas), who doesn’t believe in second chances, with a temper he can’t control. As the movie progresses, he learns of a past mistake by his elegant wife (gracefully played by the beautiful Eleanor Parker), which he finds difficult to accept. He is not a forgiving man. Detective Story, is a brilliant movie, with many a sub-plots. Lee Grant is seen through most of the movie, and is well fashioned with a scarf over her shoulders (it’s worth checking out some of cool ties and suits worn by some of the male cast, as well, including Douglas and Wiseman). Basically the movie is, out and out, a Kirk Douglas venture. He is the protagonist, the only lead character of the film. The rest are all supporting characters, revolving around the main plot within Prescient 21. So it is baffling, why Lee Grant, won an award for Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival, the following year. She was no doubt superb, yet she was a supporting character; as was the cop’s wife, Mrs. Mary McLeod (played by Eleanor Parker). Parker received a Best Actress Oscar nomination, along with Lee Grant, for Best Supporting Actress‘, at the Academy Awards. In fact, with just over 20 minutes appearance, Eleanor Parker’s performance is the shortest role, to ever be nominated for aBest Actress Oscar. Like Grant, Parker ought to have been nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, as well. The movie garnered two more nominations, including one forBest Director, for William Wyler. Detective Story lost out at the Oscars, but happens to be among greatest study of varied character-sketches, on film.

Lee Grant in a scene from Detective Story (1951)

Despite the accolades, Lee Grant received for her unique Oscar nominated performance, in Detective Story, she found it difficult to find work for the next decade. In 1952, she refused to testify against her husband at the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) hearings, and thus was blacklisted. This was during the notorious McCarthy era, under which the Hollywood Blacklist began, in 1947; where famous people were being persecuted for supposedly having ‘Communist’ beliefs. Sadly many great influential personalities lost work during this period, including Hollywood celebrities, such as Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles and Dalton Trumbo, to name some. Lee Grant was removed from the blacklist, in 1962, after which she rebuilt her career in film and television.

From playing a shoplifter in her first movie, her last Cinematic appearance was in a film titled, Going Shopping (2005). She hasn’t worked in films for the last 13 years, but she did appear on stage, where it all began, in a revival of Donald L. Coburn’s 1976 play, The Gin Game, in 2013; directed by her daughter, Dinah Manoff.

Detective Story (1951)
My Rating: Pure Excellence – 10/10 !!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

This write-up, is my contribution, for The Lovely Lee Grant Blogathon, hosted by Gill of of Real Weegie Midget and Chris from Angelmans’s Place!!

Thank you Gill and Chris, for inviting me to join this Blogathon.

Nuwan Sen

#NuwanARTS
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#NuwanSensMovieSense

Little Barrymore & Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror 

Born on the 22nd of February, 1975, to the famed Barrymore lineage, Drew Blythe Barrymore, started acting at the age of 11months, when she auditioned for a canine food commercial. Not yet a year old, she got the job on the spot, when she laughed instead of crying when her furry co-star nipped her. By the age of 5 she was acting in Hollywood Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror films (with a few exceptions), one after another, throughout the 80’s decade; from Altered States (1980), to E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), to Firestarter (1984), to Cat’s Eye (1985), to Babes in Toyland (1986). She’s among the most well known child artistes of the 1980’s. Her most notable Sci-fi flick, as a child star, was none other than E.T. (mentioned earlier); directed by the man responsible for bringing out the “Blockbuster” phenomena (a ridiculous craze for predominantly tasteless cinema, today), way back in 1975, with Jaws (1975); Steven Spielberg.

Among the fantasy genre of movies, she worked in, two films involved the penmanship of, the crowning glory of modern supernatural fiction, Stephen King.

Drew Barrymore, with author, Stephen King, at the world premier of Firestarter (1984)

Little Barrymore’s King Connection!!!!!

As mentioned, as a child star, Drew Barrymore, appeared in two movies written by Stephen King. The first was Firestarter, which was based on a novel by King; and the next was Cat’s Eye, an anthology of three stories as witnessed by a cat. The first two tales, in Cat’s Eye, are based on the short stories, Quitters, Inc. and The Ledge; the third tale was specifically written by King, for the movie (where both, the cat and little Drew Barrymore, have significant roles). Beware of certain spoilers, below.

Firestarter (1984)

In Firestarter, two college students take part in an experiment orchestrated by a secret government agency known as The Shop (the Department of Scientific Intelligence). Later they get married and have a child together (a daughter). A girl with supernatural abilities, of clairvoyance and pyrokinesis. This child, Charlene McGee, a.k.a. Charlie, is played by an adorable little Drew Barrymore.

The film starts off, with the father and daughter on the run (the mother has been murdered) from members of The Shop. This secret government agency wants to use the little girl’s pyrokinetic abilities to harness a weapon of mass destruction. We see what happened prior to them being on the run, through various flashbacks. Soon the father and daughter are captured, separated, and kept against their will, in The Shop.

David Keith, Drew Barrymore and Heather Locklear, in a scene from Firestarter (1984)

Director Mark L. Lester’s adaptation of this King novel, is a flop show, and the overall experience is pretty bad. Especially thanks to the non-stop vengeful calamities by the little ‘Firestarter’, to destroy The Shop, towards the end. And each time she says, ‘to you “Daddy”, I love you’, you wonder, has she forgotten her “Mommy”, who was murdered, too, not so long ago? Especially when she says it at the end, in front of The New York Times office, it feels silly. The only saving grace of the film is the interaction between George C. Scott (who plays a cold blooded, inhumane, sociopathic, member of The Shop, with no regard for human life whatsoever; John Rainbird) and Little Barrymore. It is interesting to see how Rainbird (in the guise of an orderly) psychologically manipulates Charlie, and earns her trust. Those scenes are so innocently beautiful; and Barrymore shines most, within those moments. The experiment scenes, with a cute angry little Drew Barrymore, are actually quite good as well.

Though Firestarter, is a pretty badly made movie, it has a sort of cult following today. The movie does boast some good acting talent (including Oscar winners), yet not in their best element here. Besides George C. Scott and Drew Barrymore, we see David Keith (playing Andy McGee, the father) and Martin Sheen (as the head of The Shop, Captain James Hollister); along with, in comparatively smaller roles, Art Carney, Louise Fletcher, Moses Gunn, Freddie Jones, John Sanderford, and a young Heather Locklear as Vicky (Barrymore’s mother) in her first Big Screen appearance (prior to Firestarter, Locklear had only worked in television). Though, far from good, this 80’s B-movie is worth a look, due to innocent little Drew Barrymore, and it’s cult status today.

Cat’s Eye (1985)

A stray cat is chased down some suburban street, by a mangy looking dog. It escapes through a delivery truck and ends up in New York City. At a shop window a mannequin of little girl comes to life (only for the tomcat’s eyes) and asks him help her. And so begins the cat’s quest, through a maze of eccentric characters, to locate the real-life little girl, whose image, he saw via a mannequin, and to save her from whatever is threatening her.

A Mannequin comes to life in the form of Little Drew Barrymore, in Cat’s Eye (1985)

Little Drew Barrymore is amazing in a triple role, and she was nominated for the Young Artist Award for Best Starring Performance by a Young Actress in a Motion Picture, in 1986, at an event know as Fantasporto (i.e. an International Fantasy Film Award ceremony) held annually in Porto, Portugal. As mentioned, first we see her as an apparition, of a living person. The cat is picked up from front of the shop window, and thrown into an electric cage and tormented, in front of an addicted smoker. So this is the first segment, of the anthology of tall tales. The cat is tormented as a warning, for the smoker, to kick his habit. This takes place at Quitters, Inc., where smokers seek help to quit smoking. The king of this torturous method is a brainchild of, the Chief counselor of the clinic, Dr. Donatti’s (Alan King), ancestor, who died of lung cancer. The man being warned is smoker, Dick Morrison (James Woods); whose wife (Mary D’Arcy), and then his daughter with down syndrome (played by Drew Barrymore), will be subjected to the same horrors that the cat faced, if he doesn’t comply and stopped smoking. Drew Barrymore appears briefly in this segment, as Alicia Morrison, and we see the close loving bond between father and daughter. When Dick Morrison visits Alicia, who seems to be hosteled in a special needs school, we see Dr. Donatti following Dick, keeping an eye, and reminding him of the consequences of ever smoking another cigarette. As crazy as this satirical tale is, it’s really well made.

The cat soon manages to escape, while Dick’s wife is being tortured, and soon we see the cat leave New York, in the Staten Island Ferry, with a beautiful view of the New York skyline, which includes the now lost, then landmark, Twin Towers (World Trade Center). The skyline with the Twin Towers, was shown earlier as well, during credits. The cat ends up in the resort city, of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Here, at another shop window, he sees a bunch of televisions playing an advertisement with a little girl (again played by Drew Barrymore), as the cat curiously watches, the girl in the advertisement turns into an apparition like earlier, and again pleads the cat to save her. Here the next segment begins, led by Kenneth McMillan and Robert Hays. But Barrymore does not appear in this segment at all, so shall skip it completely. The gist, the cat gets caught by another weirdo, helps save another innocent life, and escapes. Then he jumps into a freight train and travels to Wilmington, North Carolina. And it is here, we finally meet the little girl in trouble, the little girl’s apparition the cat saw twice, Amanda. And the third segment begins.

This third segment, where both the cat, and Drew Barrymore, have a very significant role, is the one Stephen King wrote, specifically for the film. Barrymore is superb, and no doubt was one of the best child stars of the 80’s. But the third segment, is my least favourite of the three tales, especially thanks to the actress playing Amanda’s mother (Candy Clark). The woman can’t act for peanuts. At least not in this movie.

Amanda adopts the cat, against her mother’s wishes, and names him General. A troll secretly has taken residence in Amanda’s bedroom, and tries to steal her breath. A troll, her parents don’t believe exists, and the mother blames everything that goes wrong on the cat. When the troll kills Amanda’s pet parakeet, the mother blames the cat. Ultimately the cat manages to save Amanda from the troll, and when his disembodied parts are found in the box fan; the parent’s finally believe their daughter.

As I mentioned before, this last segment is my least favourite. Yet, it’s a really good children’s horror story. If only Candy Clark did a more believable job here, this movie could have been so much better. James Naughton plays Amanda’s more understanding father.

While watching this Dino De Laurentiis production, directed by Lewis Teague, it felt so familiar, I wondered if I’ve seen it before. I’ve most probably watched Cat’s Eye, long ago, maybe in my teens, back in the 90’s . Am not sure. The entire film was only averagely good, but the first two segments, themselves, were actually really good. Especially the first story, based on King’s short story, Quitters, Inc..

My Ratings!!!!!

  • Firestarter (1984) My Rating: 4/10
  • Cat’s Eye (1985) My Rating: 6/10

For this Blogathon, I actually wanted to watch and work on Rasputin and the Empress (1932), which all three Barrymore siblings (Lionel, Ethel and John) starred in (and the only film the trio appeared in together), but unfortunately I couldn’t find this classic gem, anywhere, online. So, I downloaded the two cinematic adaptations of Stephen King stories, that Drew Barrymore, acted in as a child, back in the 1980’s. Normally for Blogathons, I’ve written on movies I’ve already watched; but this was just the second time, I watched a couple of films, specifically for a Blogathon. The previous Blogaton, I took part in, i.e. THE KURT RUSSELL BLOGATHON: Conversations with a Serial Killer from May 2018, was the 1st time, I downloaded and watched a movie, especially to take part in a Blogathon. It’s definitely easier than writing from memory alone (unless I had an old video cassette or DVD of a movie, or had downloaded a film, that I could re-watch, I had to be completely dependent on my memory, in the past). Of course, there were few Blogathons, where I didn’t work on movies; in that case I had to be dependent on my own personal knowledge and research (books and online information, provided by reputed sources).

Drew Barrymore’s Great Aunt, Ethel Barrymore

This Blogpost is my contribution to The Fourth Annual Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon hosted by Crystal of In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood, in conjunction with Drew Barrymore’s Great Aunt, Ethel Barrymore’s, 139th Birth Anniversary, which falls today !!!!

Thank you Crystal, for getting me involved in this enjoyable Blogathon.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

#NuwanARTS
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Quoting Quotes of the Brilliantly Famous

I hate it when people say ‘come back to earth’ or ‘stop dreaming so big,’ 
it destroys all the hope someone had for something
     – Xavier Dolan
    (Born in 1989)

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense!!!!!

RekhaBollywood Superstar of the late 70’s & 1980’s

Check out my trio of Lists of mini-write-ups I posted on IMDB, this month (July 2018). Press on the links below.

1Bollywood FIVE

2 FIVE Feature-Length Gay-Themed Films of 2017!!

3Ingrid Bergman & 40’s Hollywood

I had made way more than 35 lists on IMDB, but for some reason, IMDB has removed lists involving Characters. There were quite a few character studies I had posted on IMDB (Sad!). It has all the rest though, lists of people, titles and pictures.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

The 8th Annual SAARC Film Festival, celebrating films of South Asia, came and went; and I got to see some films, ranging from excellent masterpieces to pathetic waste of time flicks. Below are my take on the movies that I got the chance to see, my experience of the festival, as well as my ratings for each.

JANAAN (2016)

Janaan (2016) is a Pakistani commercial film, aping the the styles of the Bollywood masala rom-com, with done to death love triangles, heroes and villains, the battle of good versus evil, tragedy and triumph. Though beautifully filmed, capturing the spectacular landscape of Pakistan’s breathtaking Swat valley; with equally beautiful people with flawless skin (not just the younger generation, but all three generation encompasses flawless beauties, male and female, with sharp features, and perfect healthy figures), speaking the very refined and poetic languages of Urdu (national language of Pakistan) and Pashto/Pushto (language specific to that region of Pakistan), with glamorous costumes; due to the cheesy story line and mediocre acting talent, the film disappoints.

The story is pretty simple. A bewitchingly beautiful girl, who’s been living in Canada for 11 years, revisits her ancestral home; and encounters love and sadness, happiness and tears, romance and tragedy, the good, the bad and the ugly; all the melodrama of a commercial movie scene. The Pakistan film industry’s commercial cinema needs to up their game. These directors don’t need to go out of their comfort zones to make Art Films, if they don’t want to (though Pakistan has a few good artsy films; one that comes to mind is Ramchand Pakistani,2008, starring Indian actress Nandita Das); but with a perfect screenplay, superb actors, and catchy tunes; even a mediocre story could turn out to be an enjoyable movie. Look at Bollywood movies; why are they successful, despite most movies coming out of the Indian commercial Film Industry made in Hindi (India’s national language) being crap; because the few good commercial movies they make are brilliant. Though am a bit of an Art House snob; I do love a good commercial movie; which includes Bollywood movies. The likes of Awaara (1951), Mughal-E-Azam (1960), Tere Ghar Ke Samne (1963), Teen Devian (1965), Guide (1965), Amrapali (1966), Anand (1971), Haré Rama Haré Krishna (1971) a guilty pleasure, Abhimaan (1973), Chupke Chupke (1975), Arth (1982) which happens to be my favourite Bollywood commercial movie, Nikaah (1982), Rang Birangi (1983), Sadma (1983), Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (1994), 1947: Earth (1998), Yes Boss (1997) another guilty pleasure, Guru (2007), Aamir (2008), 7 Khoon Maaf (2011), Barfi! (2012), Kahaani (2012), Haider (2014), Mary Kom (2014), Neerja (2016), etc etc Dot Dot Dot …. What’s brilliant about these movies, are not just the unique story lines (in some cases), the catchy music, the costumes, the cinematography et al; BUT good film direction (which I noticed Jannan actually has) and great performances (the main flaw of Jannan, besides the story). Thus a good director and great acting skills are the two key elements for making a good movie. The rest are secondary. Of course, though Bollywood is mostly popular for their commercial ventures, India does have some really good Art Films in Hindi as well, like Ankur: The Seedling (1974) my favourite Hindi language Art Movie, Junoon (1979), Kalyug (1981), Utsav (1984), Saaransh (1984), Mirch Masala (1987), Salaam Bombay! (1988) which was nominated for an Oscar, Raincoat (2004), The Blue Umbrella (2005), Stanley Ka Dabba (2011), The Lunchbox (2013), Masaan (2015), Aligarh (2015) to name some. Of course, India is not just Bollywood; there are lot a regional film, from various Indian states, in regional (and foreign) languages, from English and Urdu, to Indian languages ranging from Punjabi, Bhojpuri, Assamese, Malayalam, Telugu, to Tamil and many more. India is a massive country, with an equally massive population; with a vast array of racial, religious, cultural differences from state to state. Bengali Art Films coming out from India’s State of West Bengal, be it in Bengali or English (or bilinguals) are the best. Other Indian-English language films tend to be superb too. Last year’s The Hungry (2017) was a brilliant modern re-telling of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus.

I’ve heard about a new Pakistani movie, called Cake (2018). Really looking forward to checking it out. Sorry Azfar Jafri, your Janaan, was pretty bad; despite having made a whopping at the Box Office. Though I commend you for the excellence in direction, cinematography, editing and the beautiful costumes.

MATA NAM AHUNA (2015)

This Sri Lankan short film from Nadya Perera, was a waste of time. A total drag. Not to mention politically incorrect and tad racist. Nadya Perera had worked as crew member for the Sri Lankan/Italian film, Machan (2008), an averagely good movie, directed by Italian director, Uberto Pasolini, and much loved by Lankan audiences. Mata Nam Ahuna (2015), English Title – While You Slept (2015), is Perera’s second short film. The movie deals with a brothel catering to male Chinese construction workers here. The prostitutes are local girls who cater to these Chinese men’s needs. Once an actual young Chinese girl is brought into serve the men, a girl fears for her job. Slowly her inferiority complex and insecurity takes over and she tries to become Chinese, inside out. A good concept, but what a bore. The movie was only 24 minutes, but I felt I sat through that flick for an hour, at least.

Plus, they’ve got the facts wrong. True there is an influx of Chinese workers coming into the country post war; but Chinese labour is nothing new. And brothels are nothing new in the country. This movie gives the impression that such places are a necessity today, because only Chinese men have such sexual cravings. There have been brothels in Lanka from time immemorial, including the bringing in of prostitutes from abroad. Although the premise of the movie was good, bringing in foreign workers, means less work for locals. Yet, it’s not just post-end of war; it’s been happening since way before.

This was the second worst movie, I saw at the festival.

Jaya Ahsan & Abir Chatterjee, in a scene Bisorjon (2017)

BISORJON (2017)

This Indian Bengali movie was THE best movie I saw at the Film Festival this year, but sadly it was shown “out of competition”. Beats me, why????

With brilliant character sketches, a heart-rending story, and superb performances, Bisorjon (2017), English title – Immersion, is a must watch, for all film lovers. The story is about a Muslim man from West-Bengal, India, who washes into Bangladesh; where a Hindu Bangladeshi widow, saves him, protects him, and takes care of him. The irony of the circumstances is even more intriguing, as India’s state of West-Bengal is a predominantly Hindu region (though Islam is a fast growing religion in that state), and Bangladesh is a Muslim country, with a tiny percentage of Hindus, and other religions. Thus the biggest irony is, the fact that an injured Indian Muslim man, has to pretend to be Hindu, in an Islamic country, as he is living under the roof of a Hindu widow, and her ailing father-in-law. Plus, though they speak the same language (i.e. Bengali); the dialectics differ. So as not to get caught by the Bangladeshi forces, as he is an Indian residing in Bangladesh illegally, she teaches him to speak in her dialect (i.e. the Bangladeshi version of Bengali; or Bangla, as they call it). This beautiful slow-paced love-story without any romance is made with perfection, by director, Kaushik Ganguly. Slow does not have to be a bore, and this is anything but. The suspense of the story keeps you glued, and the exchange of dialogues are unmissable and amusing. It’s the dialogues, the expressions, and beautiful performances, that keeps the story going. The cast is just as brilliant, as the films direction; and the director too plays a significant supporting role in the film. The best work in this Indian movie, was by Bangladeshi actress, Jaya Ahsan (pronounced Joya Ahsan).

Jaya Ahsan plays Padma, the selfless widow; who gives and gives, and sacrifices, without really expecting anything in return. Seeing what a saintly human being she is, one can feel content, that there is still scope for humanity. Her character is uniquely complex. She loved her husband, who died due to alcohol abuse. She spends her time taking care of her, weakened with age, father-in-law. The discovery of a near dead man, re-ignites her dormant passion for a male companion, in her heart and soul. She doesn’t necessarily fall in love with this handsome stranger; but seeing him in her husband’s old clothes, she falls in love with the essence of her husband, that brings back memories, through this stranger. She had submerged all human feelings of desire till now. But this strange Muslim man, from another country, re-kindles her desires for a male lover. Yet, their friendship is purely platonic, and the stranger, Nasir (played by actor, Abir Chatterjee) doesn’t reciprocate. He has a girl, waiting for him back home. Even though he admires and cares, for this Hindu widow, he doesn’t feel any lustful desire for her. But neither does she feel any lust for him, but more for the memories of her husband, brought back to life, through Nasir’s clothing and smoking the cigarette brand that Padma’s husband use to smoke. As she inhales the cigarette smoke puffed out by Nasir, her heart pounds for her dead husband, in this new human avatar. She resides with contentment and misery through this unrequited love. She doesn’t want things to change, and rebuffs the affection of the village headman, Ganesh (played by film director, Kaushik Ganguly). The ambiguity of the character of Ganesh, makes the film more intriguing; as sometimes he feels like the sly villain of the piece, horny headed, helping the widow, with an alternate agenda; and yet, on the other end, his affections for her seem genuine, and he is very protective of her. His sidekick Lau (Lama), provides the comic relief, in the movie.

Then comes the movie’s climax, the day Nasir has to escape (by now we know Nasir is a thief, who trying to escape the cops, jumped into the river, on the day of immersion of the idol of Durga, and got wounded). Padma’s father-in-law is dead, she has no where to go, except maybe back to her parents. Yet, it won’t be easy for Nasir to leave, undetected, with the border patrol. Thus, Padma’s biggest sacrifice. She agrees to marry Ganesh, if he helps Nasir get back through the river, on the day immersion. She comes home, shedding her white attire of a Hindu widow, dressed like the Durga herself. We see the agony she is going through, she drinks, she smokes; and Nasir breaks down on learning of her ultimate sacrifice.

The scene so tragically beautiful is done with exceptional brilliance. Jaya Ashen is superb, your heart goes out to her. For all her affection towards Nasir, she does get one thing in return, his seedling. Initially, with all the border problems, I assumed the movie was set during the Bangladesh war of liberation, in 1971. But then I saw mobile phones, so realized it’s set in the modern day (village attire doesn’t give away the time period, as those traditional styles hardly change). Yet, the mobiles were somewhat older, in style and technology. Which made sense later, as we see Padma married to Ganesh, with a six year old kid. A kid with Nasir’s birthmark on his back.

The finalé is beautifully done, with the camera zooming into the, now dilapidated, house; where Padma and Nasir consummated their desires, resulting in the conception of a child. A child, Ganesh calls his own. Symbolic of the void left behind, by the man that brought back human desires into her heart. A man, that is dead to her, metaphorically (but lives through the son they created, that one night); unlike her husband’s death, literally, which left her with nothing.

The best Indian movies tend to come out of the state of West Bengal (as I mentioned earlier), and Bengali Cinema has brought out some of the best directors ever, including Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Aparna Sen and Rituparno Ghosh, to name some. In fact, Aparna Sen’s The Japanese Wife (2010), based on a beautiful short story, by Kunal Basu, happens to be my all time favourite Indian movie (see my post, Photograph no.5, from six months ago). Having seen Kaushik Ganguly’s, brilliant tribute to the veteran Satyajit Ray, that was, Apur Panchali (2013), and now Bisorjon, Ganguly can be added to these Bengali greats. Last month, director, Kaushik Ganguly, announced that he is making a sequel to Bisorjon.

Indian Film Director, Kaushik Ganguly, announces that he is making a sequel to Bisorjon (2017), as Bangladesh Actress, Jaya Ahsan, looks on; at an event (April 2018)

POORNA (2017)

Based on a true story, Poorna (2017), is Rahul Bose’s second foray into film direction.

Malavath Purna (a.k.a. Poorna Malavath) is an Adivāsi girl from Telangana North, a state in Southern India, who became the youngest girl to scale the highest peak of Mount Everest, at the age of 13 years and 11 months. She, till date, is the youngest girl to have done so. She reached the peak on the 25th of May, 2014. Adivāsis are a tribal community (which differs from regions to regions), that make up a small population of South Asia. Majority of them, are scattered around India. Though Adivāsis are a lower caste, considered primitive, they are not considered impure, by higher Indian castes of India’s Hindu population. Thus, not to be confused with the caste of Dalits, who sadly are also known as “Untouchables”. Unfortunately these caste systems still prevail, in modern India.

Bose’s Poorna, is a bio-pic on this famed young mountain climber. AND a brilliant movie at that. Young Aditi Inamdar, does a marvelous job, as the protagonist of the movie, in her debut performance. The movie demonstrates the trials and troubles faced by this young girl, coming from a lower social background, where child marriage of younger girls to older men, is still the norm; and how she defies social stigmas, overcomes problems after problems, from family issues, training, to the actual ascend onto the Himalayas.

These impressive inspiring tales are nothing new, and there are plenty of films made on sportsmen/women and adventurers. But this is still a wonderfully made movie, that too on real life person. Added to which, this story is about a tribal girl who beats all odds, and triumphs against adversity. If it were any other Indian or other well to do girl, the triumph would have been hers alone; but the fact an Adivāsi girl reached the peak, at such a young age; is an inspiration to the entire Adivāsi tribe. It’s a push forward for the entire community. Thanks to her, young Adivāsis have scope for getting away from monotonous lifestyles, and making something of their lives. Of course, Poorna, has the luck, and help comes in the way of Dr. Praveen Kumar (Rahul Bose), who see her potential and never stops encouraging her, and other children like her. Added to which Poorna’s mentor, her elder cousin sister, supports Poorna, and pushes her forward, despite having no hope for herself. In the end, it’s the memory of her cousin that helps Poorna achieve what she sought out to do.

More recently, in July 2017, Malavath Purna, scaled Mt. Elbrus, the highest peak in Russia, and the European continent.

With Bangladesh Film Director, Tauquir Ahmed, at the 8th SAARC Film Festival 2018 (26th May 2018); post the screening of Poorna (2017), and just hours before the screening of Ahmed’s film, Haldaa (2017)

Tauquir Ahmed gives a small speech, before the screening of his movie, Haldaa (2017)

HALDAA (2017)

Shot around the scenic river Halda, in Chattogram, in southeastern Bangladesh, depicting the lives of fishermen and their families; Haldaa (2017) is a movie with breathtaking cinematography and a lovely story. The story deals with repression, both of fisherman, due to industrial pollution and at the hands of pirates, and women, living under a patriarchal society.

Nusrat Imroz Tisha plays Hasu, a daughter of a troubled fisherman, who is forced into a marriage with a rich older man, against her will. She is the second wife, of this wealthy villain; whose first wife hasn’t borne any children, and is still married to him. One interesting point shown in the movie, is the symbolic representation of killing of the “Mother Fish”, or pregnant fish. It’s not only shown as a superstition, considered wrong to kill a pregnant fish, but also shown with a realistic aspect too, that of the breeding of the fish. If you kill a pregnant fish, the number of fish in river would reduce, which happens to be the main livelihood of those living along these banks. The Halda River, of Chattogram, is the only pure fish breeding center in Asia. When Hasu’s father kills a “Mother Fish”, it upsets both the father and daughter, later when a “Mother Fish” from the Halda River, is sent by Hasu’s husband, she refuses to cook it, and when guests arrive she throws the cooked fish to the groud, in demonstration. She is badly beaten by her husband. Unlike the first wife, Hasu, is a bold woman, and not afraid of her man. Since post marriage, she shows no signs of getting pregnant, people talk about her being sterile like the first wife. Killing of a “Mother Fish” was a sign. But she eventually does get pregnant, but it might not be her husband’s.

This shows a bold village feminist, who refuses to lose her identity; as her mother-in-law, Surat Banu (Dilara Zaman) asks Hasu, while Banu lies bedridden, after a fall, to call her by her name (instead of calling her mother). A tear-jerking scene, as Banu points out, how women lose their identity, as a daughter, daughter-in-law, wife, mother, mother-in-law; and their names vanish along with their identity. Surat doesn’t call her younger independent minded daughter-in-law Bahu (daughter-in-law), as is the custom; but by her name, Hasu. Surat admires Hasu for her braveness, and gives her the household keys, instead of the elder Bahu. This makes the, nameless and conniving, elder Bahu, not so happy.

Nusrat Imroz Tisha is superb as Hasu. With director Tauquir Ahmed’s (a.k.a. Toukir Ahmed) beautifuly filmed movie, and few awesome performances, and a touching script, it’s no doubt a great film from Bangladesh. Yet, the overall experience of the movie was average fare (among international standards). Though I didn’t think it was among the greatest films ever made, there were lot elements of the movie, I loved. The last scene, when just Hasu and her husband are left in the house, with the unexpected twist in the end, was gracefully executed. ’twas just sublime. Tauquir Ahmed, at the post screening , mentioned that he made two versions of the movie. One a commercial venture, for Bangladesh audiences, and the other, an art movie, for the international distribution (the one we saw); which he called the “director’s cut”. It would be interesting to see both, and do a compare and contrast, though no doubt, the version we saw, was the better one.

The next day, this film was awarded four trophies, including ‘Best Film’ at the SAARC Film Festival award ceremony. Though I didn’t think Tauquir Ahmed’s Haldaa, was the best film, am glad it was given the recognition, instead of some undeserved movie. It definitely deserved the win for ‘Best Cinematography’, no doubt about that. A big congratulations to director, Tauquir Ahmed. And all the best with your next project.

These three feature films have beautiful titles with beautiful meanings. Bisorjon/Bishorjan (pronunciation differs according to Bengali dialects) means immersion, as the English title suggests, and is based on the custom of immersing the idol of Durga into water (the ocean or a river), during the famed Durga puja festivities in, certain parts of India, and Bangladesh (this festival plays a vital role in the movie’s plot). Poorna or Purna, meaning fulfilled, is the name of the protagonist, and is based on the life of Malavath Purna, a young Indian mountaineer. AND Haldaa, is the river Halda, in south-eastern Bangladesh, on the banks on which the entire premise of the story is set in. Though not as great as Bisorjon and Poorna, Haldaa is the best film from Bangladesh I’ve seen; and there is scope for Bangladeshi Bangla films to catch up to International standards, akin to great European and other Asian Art House Films.

Nusrat Imroz Tisha, dressed in bridal finery, as Hasu, in Haldaa (2017)

THE WATERFALL (2017)

Seated right at the front, like Bertolucci’s “Dreamers” (i.e. like the trio of lead characters from Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers, 2003), I was one of the first to absorb this short film, before it reached the rest.

Like wasps attracted to a hornets’ nest, people thronged into the cinema, including Colombo’s so called elite. It was as if these uncontrollable crowds were from a remote village with a high level of illiteracy, or people from slums. Such a rowdy crowd for a short film. No, they were there, for the next film, a Sinhala feature film; but these losers came in early afraid to lose a seat for the next movie, Bahuchithawadiya (2018). Not that most of these people care for films at a festival; but a free viewing, that too of a Sri Lankan film, brought in the worst crowds possible.

Anyway, Lipika Singh Darai’s The Waterfall (2017), is an Indian-English language short film. Having worked on documentaries, this was first venture into a fictional movie. It’s a beautiful movie about a city boy from Mumbai, who visits his ancestral home in a scenic hill station, in the state Odisha (formerly known as Orissa). He spends his time enjoying the natural wonders of the village, missing in the city, with his cousin. In particular, there is this one waterfall, that he has great admiration for. Soon he learns that the waterfall is drying up; and urbanization is ruining the surrounding nature. It affects him, and villagers, profoundly; but it doesn’t seem to bother his cousin (who resides there), and other well to do people of the village.

Beautiful little story, about the effects of climate change and construction projects. Averagely good.

BAHUCHITHAWADIYA (2018)

This crude caper is a crapper. And yes, I was still seated right at the front.

What a pathetic waste of time. Ridiculous acting, the actors are thinking of their dialogues then saying it. With long pauses between dialogues, how artificial and unrealistic it looked. What a bore!! These “tele-drama” style acting ought to be obsolete by now (Sri Lankan soaps have been known as tele-dramas, since the invent of these distasteful Sinhala television series’, back in the 1980’s. Lankan’s till date stay glued to the idiot box watching such nonsensical shows, thus their brains are just as slow and narrow).

Even though the premise of virtual acquaintances and promiscuous youth was (though not unique), an interesting area to turn into a cinematic experience; the pathetic execution of the plot, and specifically the fake acting talent roped in, made the viewing unbearable. This was the last movie of the festival. Heavy Sri Lankan egos might not like my take on the film (as they feel they have to love films made in their own country); but me having no false pride, or fake sense of patriotism, nor any brainwashed attitudes of loving everything, just because it’s Sri Lankan, have to say it; Sri Lankan movies are not up to the standard. Gone are the days of Lester James Peries (Rekava,1956, Gamperaliya,1963), Sumitra Peries (Ganga Addara,1980) and Tissa Abeysekera (Viragaya,1987); yet these greatest Sri Lankan films mentioned here, still were average fare (internationally speaking). In more recent times, only director, Prasanna Vithanage (Anantha Rathriya,1996, Pura Handa Kaluwara,1997, Silence in the Courts,2015) comes to mind as local films worth checking out; yet even his movies are only averagely good (but brilliant in Sri Lankan terms). One main reason is, though these were/are good directors; the acting skills even of the best actors here, do not match up. And in Bahuchithawadiya, the acting talent is amongst the worst ever. Added to which, Bahuchithawadiya, is among the worse films ever made, anywhere; and THE worst movie I saw at this year’s festival. Even though, this was given an award for ‘Best Sound Design’; I feel there were better films that deserved the said award.

THE SAARC FILM FEST EXPERIENCE

The poorly organized SAARC Film Festival, with it’s totally mucked up schedule, started on the 22nd of May, 2018. Practically any event in this country, tends to be badly done; yet, this years SAARC Film Fest, was definitely comparatively better than the previous year’s (which was held only six months ago, in November 2017). I couldn’t go the first two days, especially due to the bad weather, and various other reasons. On the third day, 24th of May, I went. I really had a keen interest in seeing this 13 minute short film from Bangladesh, Daag (2017). The story is set during the Bangladesh war of liberation, in 1971; where a woman marries her rapist. I thought the premise was interesting. Already stressed out, as I was leaving for the fest, due to inhumane cruel people of this country; not to mention being stuck in a terrible traffic for close to 2 hours, I missed the short film. So I sat down to watch the next movie, Janaan (I’ve spoken of above). After the disappointment of sitting through the cheesy romance, and going through the stress of the day; I felt too tired to watch the rest of the films. Otherwise I would have seen the next two at least, the local Sinhala film, 28 (2014), and the Indian Marathi movie, Kshitij: A Horizon (2016). Kshitij: A Horizon, is the movie I really wanted to watch, for I could watch the Sri Lankan film, rented on cable TV, or if shown on a local channel. So, on my ‘Day 1’, Janaan, is the only movie I watched. Next day, I went early enough, and caught the short film Mata Nam Ahuna & the feature length film, Bisorjon (spoken about them above). The schedule being changed there was a Maldivian horror movie next, 4426 (2016). Initially I thought of checking it out, even though it didn’t really interest me, but still going through the weariness of the day before, I decided I needed to go home and rest. The next day, the last day of screening, on Saturday, 26th May; I went in the morning, to catch most of the movies. Still, when I reached there the short film, Kalo Meghar Vela (2018) a.k.a. The Cloud Boat, from Bangladesh had already started. So waited outside, and went in to catch the next movie, but happen to see the last bit of Kalo Meghar Vela, as it ran longer than scheduled. The next was Poorna (spoken of above). Post that, I did not see the next film, another commercial venture from Pakistan, which I heard skipped. Technical problem!!! Technical problems are nothing new at film festivals here, it always happens, and that too specially at the NFC (National Film Corporation); where these festivals mainly tend to take place. Added to that the seating is really bad, so congested, there is not enough leg space, for even a person of average height (and am 6ft, 2½”). Anyway, next I went in for Haldaa (spoken of above), which too had a technical difficulty (the sound wasn’t clear), so we ended up watching it on Blu-ray, projected onto the big wide screen. Post that, saw the next two/last two films, The Waterfall & Bahuchithawadiya, seated right in front, as mentioned.

I didn’t go for the award ceremony next day, on Sunday, but am glad the main awards were given to more deserved movies, unlike last year. Hope the organizers of this film festival do a better job, next time around. Even though badly done, am glad these rare festivals occur; as such films don’t really come to cinemas, in this aesthetically depressive country. There is no real understanding, nor an interest for, the arts, in general, in Sri Lanka. But it’s good, they have film festivals here now. After all, there were only two Colombo Film Festivals (back in 2014 & 2015) a festival, funded by the Japanese, and that died pretty young; and this was just the “8thSAARC Film Festival (which I hope shall continue, thanks to the help of other South Asian countries). None the less, looking forward to the next film festival, and preferably a more well organized one.

MY RATINGS (Set of Seven):-

  • Bisorjon (2017) – The Best – 10/10!!!!!
  • Poorna (2017) – The Next – 10/10!!!!!
  • Haldaa (2017) – (higher) Average Fare – 6/10!!!
  • The Waterfall (2017) – (lower) Average Fare – 5/10!!!
  • Janaan (2016) – Pretty Bad – 4/10!!
  • Mata Nam Ahuna (2015) – One of the worse short films ever – 1/10!
  • Bahuchithawadiya (2018) – The worst film at the festival – 1/10!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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The Mean Season (1985) is a pretty impressive thriller, which showcases the talent of actor Kurt Russell in an equally impressive measure. Directed by the quintessential 80’s film director from Canada (born in Australia), Phillip Borsos; who died too young (he was only 41, when he left this world); this Hollywood modern classic, encompasses some of the best traits of the 80’s decade. From technology, to style, the realistic feel; I felt the decade of my childhood run through my veins, with nostalgia. It’s not necessarily a masterpiece, but still an enjoyable piece of post-noir crime caper.

Set in Miami, Florida, USA, in July 1984, during Florida’s notorious “mean season”; the hurricane season that runs through the coasts of the US state of Florida, during the humid summer months (June to September); the movie is a about a reporting journalist, Malcolm Anderson (Russell) working for The Miami Journal (a fictional newspaper) and an (initially unnamed) sociopath (played by Richard Jordan). Exhausted with the never ending crime coverage he has to endure, Anderson is ready to quit and leave for cooler climes, to the more scenic US State of Colorado. A young teenage girl, Sarah Hooks (Tamara Jones), has been killed; and Anderson is given the assignment to cover it. He reluctantly agrees. Once he writes about it; he gets a call congratulating him, by the young girl’s killer. Soon a vocal relationship develops between the journalist; who’s in a dilemma (on one side he wants to genuinely help catch the killer, feeling for the families of the victims; and on the other, the scoop, nabbing the story of a lifetime is an opportunity no journalist wants to let go); and the serial killer, yet to commit more crimes.

Now the suspense begins. Kurt Russell, proves himself as an actor, in a decade Hollywood was infested with run-on-the mill blockbusters, B-grade actors, and cheesy catchphrases like “I’ll be back” (The Terminator, 1984), “I feel the need…, the need for speed” (Top Gun, 1986) and “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” (Dirty Dancing, 1987); to name a few. Soon an unbreakable bond begins, with each having a fascination bordering on homoeroticism for the other. Which in today’s terms, would be categorized as, a “Bromance”!! But this isn’t the typical bromance. For the journalist; he waits in anticipation, to hear from killer, the killer’s latest confession. Meanwhile, the attention loving murderer can’t wait to call the journalist, and letting him know about his latest victim/s. But when the reporting journalist starts to get more attention; not just because of his swell writing skills, but also ’cause he is the only person to be in touch with the killer; added to which the journalist appearing on television, with a hint of him venturing into Pulitzer Prize territory for his articles; is when the “Bromance” starts to turn sour. The killer isn’t happy. He wanted fame, through his newer killings (as we find out later that he had killed before, and confessed, and nobody believed him; thus he is duplicating the killings), and sought the help of Malcolm Anderson for it; but instead Anderson is making a name for himself; mainly just by association. True, Malcolm Anderson is great writer; but if the killer didn’t contact him, Anderson would’ve left Miami for good, and his byline could have gone into oblivion.

The killer finds the best way to get back at his “Bro”, by going after Anderson’s Achilles heal; going after his lover, a schoolteacher, Christine Connelly (Mariel Hemingway).

Kurt Russell and Richard Masur in a scene from The Mean Season (1985)

The Mean Season, is beautifully filmed. One of most beautiful, albeit pretty morbid, scene happens to be murder of an elderly couple. Though the murder itself isn’t shown, the murder’s description of it, along with Anderson’s imagination, shows how his use of a pillow, created an aesthetically spectacular scene, as the pillow feathers fall down like snowflakes. He mentions how he stood there watching this horrendous artistic creation of his.

What is more impressive, about this movie, is the realism aspect. Unlike the CGI blockbusters of today, where computer graphics overpower and ruin the entire premise of a film, instead of helping them (you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all); these films sans CGI, have an element of realism; with neither being overtly realistic nor disconnectedly artificial (though they might be out and out fictional). Of course, the film was based on a novel, In the Heat of the Summer, by a veteran Miami Herald crime reporter, John Katzenbach; who based his book on his own experiences as a newspaper reporter. Director, Phillip Borsos, spent time studying people at work at Miami Herald, he consulted them; and actually filmed on location, at the Miami Herald, with actual staff seen in the background. That’s one of the best things about the movie, the fact the press environment wasn’t recreated in a studio; but filmed in an actual press office. It was very generous of the Miami Herald to let them film there, despite being a very busy newspaper (what newspaper isn’t busy).

Crime & Journalism: Two scenes from The Mean Season (1985), with Kurt Russell (Russell is seen with Andy García, in the picture above). The movie was filmed on location, at the actual “Newsroom” of the Miami Herald newspaper.

Phillip Borsos, recalled later, that in April 1984, the day he, along with his crew, arrived at the Miami Herald; a man suspected of being a serial killer, killed himself, during a confrontation with the cops; “it seemed as though there were about 500 reporters in the office, and everybody was going insane” (quote mentioned in Wikipedia’s The Mean Season page).

Proof of the pudding, is in the preparation of an actor for a particular role, he or she, is to convincingly play. AND actor, Kurt Russell, followed around veteran American journalist and Mystery novelist, Edna Buchanan (who was working at the Miami Herald, at the time) along with Miami Herald‘s photographer of the time, Tim Chapman. And it paid off, as this no doubt is one of Russell’s better character roles. Similarly, Richard Masur, to prepare for his role as the editor of the fictional newspaper, The Miami Journal, spent several days at the Miami Herald‘s city desk.

One of the main flaws of the movie, for me, was that the revelation of the killer’s identity came too soon. It would have been better, if his face was revealed only after he pretends to help Christine Connelly, and we find out she’s been kidnapped. Post that, the revelation of the killer’s name, Alan Delour, came at the appropriate time. The thing is, when Delour, pretending to be a substitute teacher, pretends to help Connelly; we already know she’ll be kidnapped, as we know this is the killer. The other flaw, though a minor one, was the casting of Christine Connelly herself. Though Mariel Hemingway, had nothing great to do in the movie, anyway, she feels a bit out of place. In a way, it goes well with role, as Connelly wants to leave Miami, but only stays on for lover, Malcolm Anderson. Yet, Mariel Hemingway’s acting ability seems pretty limited, even for a side supporting role of small caliber. She’s an average actress; neither good nor bad. But surprisingly this average actress seemed perfectly cast in the brilliant Manhattan (1979), a Woody Allen (Black & White) masterpiece.

Mariel Hemingway in The Mean Season (1985)

Mariel Hemingway definitely looks good though. Richard Jordan is superb as the creepy voice over the telephone; but once his face is revealed, a tad too soon, it starts to go downhill a bit. Plus the done-to-death scene, when we feel all’s well that ends well, but made to realize it’s not over yet; is a tad too predictable. Still it didn’t ruin the movie for me, for most part, it really went well. It could’ve been greater, with certain changes. The one to watch out for, the icing on the cake, happens to be a fresh faced, young Cuban born, Andy García; as a good cop with a sly grin, Ray Martinez. He oozes with boyish charm in this movie.

Kurt Russell and Mariel Hemingway in The Mean Season (1985)

Though not a great movie; with it’s blend of the hurricane season (i.e. Florida’s notorious “mean season”), crime and journalism; The Mean Season, reminded me of some great suspenseful films set in Florida; the likes of Key Largo (1948), Absence of Malice (1981) and Manhunter (1986), to name a few. It also has classic-noir elements of films of the 40’s; an almost Hitchcockian feel; tied in with an investigative journalism style seen in movies like, His Girl Friday (1940), All the President’s Men (1976), Absence of Malice (mentioned above) and The Paper (1994), to name some. Even though this modern classic might not be a movie that has aged well, unlike the other movies mentioned above, it’s not exactly outdated. In fact, it’s quite a good insight into the workings of the press, press of the 1980’s decade. Plus, this would be a great guilty pleasure for die hard Kurt Russell fans. Pretty Enjoyable fare!!!

The Mean Season (1985)
My Rating: Pretty Good – 7/10 !!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

This Blog Post, is my contribution to the, THE KURT RUSSELL BLOGATHON, hosted by Gill of Real Weegie Midget and Paul of Return to the 80s!!!!!!

Thank you Gill & Paul, for letting me take part in this cool Blogathon.

Nuwan Sen

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