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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An ode to unrealistic romances.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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

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

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

Nuwan Sen

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Late Last Night, I watched the deeply psychological on-screen study, that was, David and Lisa (1962), online on Youtube!!
david-lisa-posterVery Freudian, in nature, David and Lisa, is set in a teenage mental asylum, where a new mental patient, David (Keir Dullea); with hapnophobia, the fear of being touched; starts diagnosing other mental patients, in the facility, to perfection. He deals with each patient, helping them out with their psychosocial problems, but himself. His favourite study, is that of a girl called, Lisa (Janet Margolin); who is suffering from a split personality, as well as disorganised schizophrenia. Poetic Lisa, can only speak in rhymes, whilst, her other adopted persona; the aesthetic Muriel; cannot speak, but writes and draws what she wants to say. David’s other favourite subject, is Simon (Matthew Anden); his partner in chess, with great musical skills.
david-and-lisa-with-sculptureDavid, is well read, has a high level of intellect, but his paranoia; of getting killed, if he were touched; his fear of people invading his space, and his obsession with time, make him less than normal. A young unsocial man, who needs help, to control his fears. At the time, this movie came out, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) wouldn’t have been considered. We all have a little OCD, but David’s is rare case of extremism. At the same time, his OCD does not incorporate the ritualistic behavioural patters, associated with ordinary individuals with OCD. Yet his OCD is more specifically to do with time, and his hapnophobia. He goes about his everyday chores as a normal human being; but detests any physical contact, even that of a handshake, or an accidental brush. No matter how slight, a touch, it could throw him into a deep despair. Distressed David, shows strong symptoms of mental health. But otherwise, he is so wise, as to tackle his peers mental problems, even better than the shrinks involved. For example, as Lisa speaks only in rhyme, he connects with her, through rhythmic speech towards her, himself, trying to understand her disorientation, from the normal world. David is a patient, in a mental institution, that studies other patients, not just ’cause they intrigue him, but also to try and help them. Though he seems emotionally distant, sans any feeling, and very rigid, in public; left on his own, and to some extent in front of Dr. Alan Swinford (Howard Da Silva), we see his emotional vulnerabilities. Plus we see, his aesthetic, knowledgeable side, as he quotes the likes of Romantic poet, William Wordsworth, and when he tells Dr. Alan Swinford, not to play “Dr. Freud” with him; referring to Neurologist/Psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud. David is shown reading a lot, and we are told, he has been reading up on many books on psychology.

David’s surreal dream sequences!!

David’s surreal dream sequences!!

David’s obsession with ‘Time’, reminded me of surrealist painter Salvador Dalí; and his famed works on melting clocks. The likes of ‘The Persistence of Memory’, ‘The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory’ and ‘Melting Watch’, to name some. Although, the analysis of David’s obsession, and Dalí creations, are extremely different. The Surreal dream sequences, involving Clock executions, were very Dalísque. David has nightmares, which he attributes in a positive manner. He dreams of himself holding the hands of a massive clock, decapitating the head; of someone that has hurt him emotionally; 12 times, around the clock. Dr. Alan states, in David’s dreams, he is clearly killing off, people he considers the villain; like Dr John (Clifton James) for instance; plus making David feel fully in control. Thus the actual nightmare, to David, though tensed, is a positive dream. Yet, when Lisa falls prey, to his Clock executions, he finds it difficult to decapitate her head, even once, let alone 12 times. This is one nightmare he cannot accept.

Keir Dullea as David

Keir Dullea as David

There is a suggestion of a homosexual subtext, in the movie, but it’s not even slightly noticeable. Yet, David’s warmth towards Lisa, is of a more of a psychosomatic nature, and his desire, that of a purely platonic friendship. At the same time, his closeness towards, Simon, his chess partner, again, isn’t an emotional, and/or sexual, one. His facial expressions and body language convey no romantic desire, for neither Lisa nor Simon. Highly intellectual, yet he seems devoid of having experiencing, psychosexual aspects of, puberty. It would be interesting to read, the late Philosopher and Social Theorist, Michel Foucault’s, psychosexual analysis into David’s character.

Janet Margolin as Lisa

Janet Margolin as Lisa

The young cast of mental student’s are brilliant, as are the elderly, playing psychologist & psychiatrists, running the institute; and David’s dysfunctional parents. Especially the two leads, played by Keir Dullea and Janet Margolin. This was Janet Margolin debut feature film. Also debuting, in David and Lisa, were Matthew Anden, Jaime Sánchez, Karen Lynn Gorney, Nancy Nutter and Coni Hudak. This was also the directorial debut, of Frank Perry.

Keir Dullea and Janet Margolin, visit New York theater; where their film has set box-office records!

Keir Dullea and Janet Margolin, visit New York theater; where their film has set box-office records!

The basis of the movie is a book, called Lisa and David, by psychiatrist and author Theodore Isaac Rubin. Loved this movie!!! Wish I could have come across a better copy, and seen it on a bigger screen. The Black & White cinematography by Leonard Hirschfield, adds to the excellence of David and Lisa!! Especially great movie, by a first time director. This is most probably, one of the best films, ever made on mental health; rather an actual study of it. The movie is not a love story, as the title might seem to suggest. I highly recommend, David and Lisa, for film buffs, and psychology enthusiasts, alike.

David and Lisa (1962)
My Rating: Excellent!! 10/10!!!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

Août 16' 001

Aparna Sen’s Parama (1984), a.k.a. Paroma, is a brilliant piece of Indian Art House Cinema. A story of a woman, who’s lived the first 40 years of her life, belonging to others; and at the age of 40, finally finds herself. At 40, she finds her own true identity; as Parama. Not the daughter-in-law, Parama!! Not the wife, Parama!! Not the mother, Parama!! Not the housewife, Parama!! BUT, the individual, Parama!! Through a passionate extramarital affair, with a young man, she learns to live, for herself, and not others.

Bollywood superstar, of the 70’s & 80’s, actress Rakhee, plays the lead titular character, in this Art Film from the state of West Bengal; of which I watched the Hindi language version. I’m not sure, as to whether the movie was made in Bengali, and Hindi, simultaneously; or whether it was made in Bengali, and dubbed into Hindi. But if it were dubbed into Hindi; it’s a damn good dubbing; for the lip movements are well in sync with the Hindi dialogues. Of course, this is not a Bollywood film. Bollywood films, represent the Bombay (now know as, Mumbai) Film Industry; based in the capital city, of the state of Maharashtra. Plus, Bollywood films, are mostly of the commercial genre, made mostly in the Hindi language. There are rare few Art Films in Bollywood, and even rarer films made in English as well. Parama is a movie from the Indian state of West Bengal. Films made in Bengal generally tend to be Art House Films, and Parama is an art film, made by one of the most prolific Indian directors ever; Aparna Sen. She, has made films (and acted) in, the English language, the national language of India (i.e. Hindi), as well as in her mother tongue (from her state), Bengali. Director, Aparna Sen plays a supporting role as Parama’s closest ally and confidant; her best friend and an intellectual, in Parama.

Rakhee looks bewitchingly beautiful, with her Parveen Babi bangs, and long luscious hair hanging loose.

Rakhee looks bewitchingly beautiful, with her Parveen Babi bangs, and long luscious hair, hanging loose.

Parama depicts, the life of many a married Indian women, living within an archaic patriarchal society, where the woman’s place is at home; a subject matter that is relevant even today. And of course, these women, too, are content, with their lives, taking care of household chores, and playing second fiddle to their husbands, and the husband’s family. Not all Indian women tend to underestimate themselves, definitely not the modern thinkers and feminists, especially from the 1970’s onwards. But majority of Indian society, thrives on such blind traditions; that any deviations are looked as the work of the devil. Most women, are not meant to have an individuality, and aren’t allowed to think for themselves. Thus, most women do subject themselves, to a routine life, on what they have been prepared for since birth; i.e. taking care of the needs of one’s husband, and his family. Modern, intellectual women, who move out of their comfort zones, is a rarity in India. But it does exist, especially in cities like New Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. Yet, India is a massive country, with an equally massive population; where it’s not easy to educate and modernise an entire nation. And being a largely poor country, with majority of Mother India, suffering for hunger; it’s hard to eradicate poverty on it’s entirety, as well. But many a NGO’s, other charitable organisations, et al; do try their best. And the improvement, of even a small percentage of society; is proof of it. If India was a tiny island, with a considerably less of a population crisis; no doubt it would have been a rare first world nation, floating in the Indian ocean. With their progress, in aesthetics, economy, culture; if there wasn’t so much poverty, and land mass to cover; they’d be one of the most popular places on earth, as opposed to the notoriety, they’ve been associated with; especially when comes to the treatment of women, and poverty.
Août 16' 012Parama (Rakhee) is one such housewife, living in a well to do household, who is content with her routine life, obligations and limitations. We find out, from her group of intellectual modern female friends, who’ve all climbed up the ladder, that Parama, was a Sitar player, with great potential; but had to give it all up when she got married, and immersed herself into, so called marital duties. When she married, she married his entire family. In fact she hasn’t even studied further, not done a degree, a vocational course, nothing. So scope for her to have a life for the self, seems limited. Then one day, a famous young Indian photographer, Rahul (Mukul Sharma), based in New York, USA; visits Calcutta (the capital of the state of West Bengal, which today is known as, Kolkata, where this movie is set). Rahul comes to do a photo essay, for a prestigious, American magazine, on Indian housewives, focusing on one individual. He sees Parama, and is infatuated by her grace and beauty, he chooses her on the spot. She refuses; but her husband’s family pushes her to do so; along with her trio of teenaged kids. On the first day of the shoot, Rahul just asks her one question, “What do you think, Paroma?”, he wants to know what makes her click! And he clicks, with his camera, as she starts to unravel her brain, which she seems to have shut off, entirely, post marriage.

Rakhee as Parama (a.k.a. Paroma)

Rakhee as Parama (a.k.a. Paroma)

Soon Rahul and Parama, fall into each others arms, in a sexual affair, of love and lust. Her husband’s family never suspects. Them not suspecting, is less to do with their trust towards her, but more to do with them taking her for granted. They never feel she is capable of any feelings, or any human emotions, outside, her robotic household duties. Once Rahul leaves, for an assignment, the lovers secretly exchange love letters; a kind of romance she obviously never had before; and probably she was married off, through an arranged marriage, by the elders; and wasn’t her decision in the first place. It’s with Rahul, Parama first discovers true happiness.

Unfortunately, it’s found out, that she secretly posed for a sexy photo shoot, for her lover, Rahul. Meanwhile, with no news of the whereabouts of the photographer, all hell breaks loose. She is discarded by her husband’s family. Even her two elder children, refuse to accept her. Only the youngest child, still in his preteens/entering his teens, seems to still feel affection towards his mother. We wonder, what happened to Rahul?? Did he con her?? Is he dead?? Or captured?? He’s just vanished from her life, all of a sudden.

The sexy photograph, that results in Parama being disgraced by the family.

The sexy photograph, that results in Parama being disgraced by the family.

The movie is sympathetic towards the wife, even though she has an extramarital affair. And explores, the double standards, in Indian society. Men are accepted, being immoral (for we see the husband’s eyes stray towards other women as well), but a woman, if not morally superior; she is cast out, looked down on, and degraded. She might have made a mistake, but she learned from it. She ultimately opens her eyes, and we realise, she doesn’t need the support of a man, and marriage, to have a fulfilling life. Only her teenage daughter seems to understand.

This is an excellent movie, by Aparna Sen. I highly recommend it. From the narrative, to the set décor, to the brilliant cinematography; this is one of the greatest films ever made. Watch out for the close-ups on Parama, exposing her vulnerability, her simplicity, her metamorphosis from a common housewife to an individual who can think for herself. Plus, see the silent role, played by a common looking potted plant, Parama’s very unique beloved plant; the significance of which, sways through nostalgia into her being able to free herself from societal chains forced on her. Remembering the name of the plant finally, and zooming out of the window. We know she’s a new woman. A woman of today, who’s not afraid of anything, anymore.

Rakhee & the Euphorbia Cotinifolia, in a scene from Parama (1984)

Rakhee & the Euphorbia Cotinifolia, in a scene from Parama (1984)

Parama (1984), a.k.a. Paroma, is a must watch, for any film buff. I watched this movie, online, on Youtube, on Wednesday, 10th of August, 2016!!

My Rating: Pure Excellence!! 10/10!!!!!      

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

John Lennon, what can I say!!! He’s my favourite Beatle, a Peace Activist & a modern day saint. Artiste Extraordinaire!!!!
John LennonIMAGINE!!! A world without John Lennon, The Beatles and Lennon & Ono’s Peace Activism and Pacifism. Impossible! I can’t!! The world wouldn’t be what it is today; the open minded, free spirited, sphere, with comparatively lesser wars than the epical carnages that history chronicles. He brought Peace through his music, his lyrics and the famous Bed-In’s. People are more understanding (or should be) than ever before. Not that the world is full of empathicalists today (far from it, especially in this island, that I live in), but the world is slowly improving for the better to some extent (see ’s, existentialist character, Jo Stockton, teach her co-star a thing or two about ‘Empathicalism’, in one of her movies, in my Blog post, for Audrey Hepburn’s 85th from May 2014). And John Lennon, along side his second wife, artist, Yoko Ono, played an important role, for this ever changing world, in the late 60’s & 70’s. If he were alive today, John Lennon would be celebrating his 75th Birthday, on this day, with his messages of peace, love & equality. A sad loss of a legend, a humanitarian, a believer of Equal Rights, a man without borders and an intellectual.
John Lennon SupermanTo John Lennon (1940-1980)!!!!! A & a real life Superhero!!

Initially, as a kid, when I first saw the music video of Lennon’s Imagine, featuring John Lennon & Yoko Ono, I felt a bit bored. But slowly I started loving the lyrics, the music crawled under my skin, and I started having a great admiration for The Beatles as a whole. And by the early 90’s, Lennon’s Imagine, was, and till date is, my all time favourite song. Since the early 90’s, I’ve read so much on The Beatles, especially Lennon and Paul McCartney, the songs they co-wrote, and have listened to practically every single song The Beatles, and post-Beatles Lennon, ever released. More recently, mid-2007, whilst living in Sydney, Australia, I watched The U.S. vs. John Lennon (2006), on the Big Screen, down there. A very inspiring documentary focusing on Lennon’s quest for world peace, the famed War Is Over posters, anti-Vietnam war protests; and specifically emphasising the futile attempts by President Richard Nixon’s, American, government, to silence him. John Lennon managed to shake Nixon’s government to the edge of paranoiac fear, just through his songs, especially Give Peace a Chance. An exceptional documentary, and am glad I got to watch, The U.S. vs. John Lennon, on the Big Screen. I’d generally rarely watch a documentary in the cinema, but ’twas totally worth it!!

John Lennon with his fellow Beatles; including best pal, Paul McCartney; in the mid-60’s

John Lennon (far right), with his fellow Beatles; including best pal, Paul McCartney (in the middle); in the mid-60’s

John Lennon was also a feminist (see my post Beatle News #10 from April 2013), who took his wife’s, Yoko Ono’s, surname, on the 22nd of April, 1969, as a middle name, through an official ‘Deed of Change of Name’. Thus changing his name from John Winston Lennon to John Winston Ono Lennon, a month after they were married (in March 20th, 1969). Proper Feminism is about Equal Rights, between men and women, thus it’s not essential for one to own a pair of breasts to be a feminist. Being a believer of Equal rights myself, I consider myself a feminist as well; though being a free thinker and a believer of equal rights on varied issues of race, religion, gender and sexuality, the tag of feminism alone isn’t enough to describe who I am. None the less, I believe in the stone faced feminism of the 60’s & 70’s, and am a die hard fan of John Lennon, not just due to his music, but for the kind of great humanitarian he was.

John Lennon & Yoko Ono, during their famous Bed-In’s for Peace, in 1969

John Lennon & Yoko Ono, during their famous Bed-In’s for Peace, in 1969

In early 2012, I was in New Delhi, India, during the annual World Book Fair, and, among many, ended up buying two books on the Beatles; The Beatles: The Days of their Life by Richard Havers (copyright:2010) and A Hard Days Write: The Stories behind every Beatles Song (New and Updated Edition (copyright:1994, new edition:2010)) by Steve Turner. I started blogging in March 2012, and meanwhile, after going through theses books, they soon inspired me to start a segment, on my Blog. Do check out all my Beatle News, from #1 to #33, I posted between March 2013 and February 2014, especially the ones on , and their famous ’s () and Bagism, for World Peace (including Beatle News #4, Beatle News #5, Beatle News #11, Beatle News #12 and Beatle News #16).

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Beatle News  #34:
On Tuesday, 6th of October, thousands of people joined together to form a human Peace sign in honour of John Lennon’s 75th Birth Anniversary, three day before his birthday. This tribute took place in Central Park’s East Meadow, New York, in the United States of America. I wish I was there, as one of the participants. His widow, Yoko Ono, is currently helping to fund a mobile studio called The Lennon Bus, in his name, to help music students and aspiring songwriters. This year also marks the 35th Death Anniversary of John Lennon, who was shot by a deranged fan, on the 8th of December, 1980.

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John Lennon & Yoko Ono with their newborn, Sean Ono Lennon, in 1975.

John Lennon & Yoko Ono with their newborn, Sean Ono Lennon, in 1975.

Today also happens to be, Lennon’s second son’s (Lennon & Ono’s only child together), Sean Ono Lennon’s, 40th Birthday as well. Both Lennon & Ono have a child each, from their previous marriages as well.

Sean Ono Lennon earlier this year (April 2015)

Sean Ono Lennon, who turns 40 today, in a picture taken earlier this year, in April 2015.

Sean Taro Ono Lennon was born on John Lennon’s 35th Birthday, on the 9th of October, 1975. A parent couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present than that. Going back to John Lennon’s feminism, after the birth of Sean Lennon, John became a house husband and stay-at-home dad, taking full responsibility for the care of his younger child, until John Lennon was killed five years later. Though, no where near as famous, as his post-modernist, aesthetically superior, parents, Sean Ono Lennon, too is a music artiste and activist, in his own right.

Sean Ono Lennon, who turns 40 today, in a picture taken earlier this year, in April 2015.

Sean Ono Lennon, who turns 40 today, in a picture taken earlier this year, in April 2015.

To John Lennon and Sean Lennon, who were born this day, 75, & 40, years ago, respectively. John Lennon shall forever live on through his brilliant musical legacy and Peace activism. And wishing Sean Ono Lennon all the best, and hope he’ll keep carrying the torch forward (the legacy of his father), like his mother, Yoko Ono has continued to do so. Have a fantastical 40th Birthday, Sean Ono Lennon.

Nuwan Sen n’ The Beatles
Nuwan Sen’s Music Sense

Today is International Cat Day. I’d never heard of it till today.
Cat at Hepburns Nuwan SenFounded in 2002, to celebrate this beautiful domesticated furry animal, the cat comes second, only to the Dog, as an adorable human companion.
Cat & OrangeLove Both Cats & Dogs.
What’s you favourite film, in which a cat plays a significant role in?

Orangey the Cat & Audrey Hepburn in a scene from Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

Orangey the Cat & Audrey Hepburn in a scene from Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

Mine, is obviously Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)!!!!! 😀

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

Kill Your Darlings (2013) is based on the real life account, involving some of the famed poets from the Beat Generation, including Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, before they became famous.
Kill Your Darlings Blog HeaderThe Beats before The Beats
Before Allen Ginsberg became one of the greatest literary geniuses to have existed in America, in the previous century, he was just a geeky young student at Colombia University. Yet appearances aside, young Ginsberg got into all kinds of mischief, along with his group of friends, during his university years, in the 1940’s. Set a decade before the literary revolution of the Beat Generation, this group of misfits included his contemporaries, fellow poets, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs. Unfortunately, all three of them were roped into, being indirectly involved in, a murder of a poet (a college Professor), who never got a chance to become famous for his intellect, but rather for the way he was killed, and made infamous as a sexual predator, just because he was gay. The murderer was released after two years, on the grounds that it was an ‘‘Honour Slaying’’, from forced homosexual advances, and that the murderer acted upon self-defence.

Kill Your Darlings, reminded me of some great films based on rebellious students, set in strict institutes. The likes of, A Yank at Oxford (1938), Mona Lisa Smile (2003), 3 Idiots (2009); and coming-of-age films like; To Sir, with Love (1967), Dead Poets Society (1989); which was actually set during the height of the Beat Generation, i.e. the 1950’s; School Ties (1992); which too was set in 50’s; Dangerous Minds (1995), The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys (2002) and The History Boys (2006), to name some, out of many. While, like Kill Your Darlings; A Yank at Oxford, Mona Lisa Smile and 3 Idiots; are to do with college students, the rest of the films mentioned here are set in high school. But what’s common about these movies; either based on actual events, or out and out fiction; is the fact that it deals with anti-establishment, and ironically, as well as trying to fit in. These films are about youngsters (and sometimes adults/teachers as well), who can think for themselves; with a brain of their own; yet sometimes shy intellects take time to come out of their shell. And when they do, they fear nothing.

But that’s where the similarities end. For none of these films mentioned above, has a violent crime taking place. This is where Kill Your Darlings differs, and it’s based on an actual real life incident. While tragic deaths are seen in a few of movies mentioned here; either through suicide or accident; none of them result in murder. Thus this movie, ends up being a fusion of very varied genres, including, a crime drama, a love story (love triangle), a thriller, plus a biographical film, all roped into one. Yet the movie is less of a historical film, about the poets, that made them the famed Beats, and more to do with the love-triangle, that leads to a notorious tragedy the Beats unfortunately were associated with, during their college years.

LEFT: Allen Ginsberg  RIGHT: Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg in the movie

LEFT: Allen Ginsberg
RIGHT: Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg in the movie

Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg, leads the cast, with Dane DeHaan (as Lucien Carr), Jack Huston (as Jack Kerouac), Ben Foster (as William Burroughs) and Michael C. Hall (as David Kammerer); making up the group of friends (and two secret lovers within) and academics, living in New York, far away from the battle fields of Europe, during the Second World War. Three of the friends from this group are students at Columbia University. The whole cast is superb in their respective roles. Interesting to note that the lead character here, portraying the famous American poet of the 20th Century, was actually played by a British born actor. And he did a remarkable job of it.

Radcliffe was spot-on, as Ginsberg. On the home front; we see his troubled life as a youngster, taking care of his deranged mother suffering from a mental illness that was never properly diagnosed; and his father’s indifference to it, and later dealing with his father’s new girlfriend while his mother is being treated at a mental hospital. In college, his seduction and psychological manipulation, at the hands of Lucien Carr, who uses Ginsberg, as he uses everyone in his life, including his secret, older, lover, David Kammerer. Kammerer was in his late 20’s when he met Carr, and Carr was still a young boy aged 14. Soon they started having an affair. Though, Kammerer was wrong to do so, as it would seem as a paedophiliac act on his part; he was genuinely in love with Carr. Carr too was in love with Kammerer, but couldn’t accept it himself, for the older he got, he used men who fell in love with him, to get things done for himself. In his college years, Carr got Kammerer to do his homework for him, and later Carr did the same with Ginsberg. Young Ginsberg was really innocent, thus suffered due to his affection towards Carr. And Kammerer suffered because he could not let go of his love for a man (by the now an adult Carr) who felt the same, but was ashamed to admit it. This shame Carr felt, resulted in him committing a crime in one of the most unspeakable ways possible. The movie begins with this said crime, filmed beautifully, by director John Krokidas, in his debut feature film. The camera zooms onto a half-naked, bloodstained body of actor Dane DeHaan, submerged to the waist in water, carrying a bloodied dead body in his arms. The scene is pure artistic, poetic (in)justice, depicting love, sex and death; a hint of what’s to come; intercut with a verbal clash between DeHaan and Radcliffe, on either side of the prison bars. And the title thrown, one word at a time, in quick succession, onto the screen – ‘KILL’ ‘YOUR’ ‘DARLINGS’. Beautifully made, by a director, whose future creations, am really looking forward to watching.

A superb representation of, 3 Conflicted Souls (Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr and David Kammerer); among 4 Poets (Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs and David Kammerer), who made up a group of 5 friends, (Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs and David Kammerer), including a love triangle, Ginsberg was part of, among 2 secret lovers (Lucien Carr and David Kammerer).

A Love Story with India: The real-life Allen Ginsberg in India, with friends, during his various visits to India.

A Love Story with India: The real-life Allen Ginsberg in India, with friends, during his various visits to India.

Allen Ginsberg, among the famed giants of modern American literature; coined in as The Beat Generation, of the 1950’s; has been portrayed by many a actors, from George Netesky (in 1970), to Ron Rifkin (1987), to David Markey (89’), to John Turturro (99’), to Ron Livingston (00’), to David Cross in I’m Not There. (2007); and more recently; James Franco (10’), Tom Sturridge (12’) & now of course Radcliffe. Besides Radcliffe’s brilliant performance, the only other cinematic version of Ginsberg I’ve seen, is that of Cross in I’m Not There., and that too, I hardly remember Cross’ role, in that excellent Bob Dylan bio-pic, where varied incarnations of Dylan were portrayed by a potpourri of six different actors. Incidentally, David Cross, who starred as Allen Ginsberg in I’m Not There., also appears in Kill Your Darlings, this time as Ginsberg’s father, Louis Ginsberg (a published poet himself, though not a renowned one, like his son ended up being).

Interesting fact: Ginsberg was a practicing Jewish Buddhist (Jubu) by choice, since 1950 (in his early 20’s), until his death in 1997. A Jubu, is a Jewish person who practices Buddhism, without denouncing ones own faith.

Radcliffe & I
Back 2007, whilst living in Sydney, I managed to watch most of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), when it was telecast in a local channel down under. Prior to that, when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was released in 2001, I wasn’t that keen on the ‘Harry Potter’ series of films, as it was a series of children’s fantasy films. But since living in England (2002 – 2005), I had heard such good things about it, that when it was shown on the small screen, in Sydney, in 07’; as a true film buff; I decided to give it go. Though I didn’t get to see the finalé of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I felt it was a superb children’s movie, to come out in the 21st century. Around the same time, Daniel Radcliffe actually came to Sydney, to star in the Oz movie, December Boys (2007). And he came on the TV show, Rove (2007 – 2009), hosted by Rove McManus. I don’t remember whether I saw Radcliffe live on Rove first, or on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, whilst living in Australia. Most probably on Rove. I automatically liked Radcliffe’s, down to earth, friendly persona; ‘twas a fun interview. When Radcliffe was asked who he’d turn gay for (a question Rove McManus asks all the celebs he interviews, including when he interviewed, Kevin Rudd, the then, soon to be, Prime Minister of Australia), Radcliffe answered ‘Albert Einstein’. Smart answer! Nobody on Rove had ever come up with a non-sex-appeal, intellectual, personality’s name; as a person he/she would go gay for; at least not in the episodes I ever saw. In the same episode, Nikki Blonsky and Zac Efron appeared as well, to promote the musical, Hairspray (2007). Although I don’t recall, Nikki Blonsky’s answer, I remember that Efron didn’t answer the, ‘who he’d turn gay for ’, question, and sat there tight lipped. Which seemed pretty rude. But none the less, an interesting show; with Radcliffe’s knee length socks (discovered when he was asked about his hairy legs), contrasting to Efron’s sockless feet, and Radcliffe’s well timed gulp, all roped into the show’s jokes; making that episode of Rove, a very jovial experience. I never got to watch December Boys, but did enjoy watching Hairspray back then (guilty pleasure  😉 ).

The Cast of Kill Your Darlings (2013), with the Director of the film. (L-R)  Jack Huston, Michael C. Hall, Dane DeHaan, Daniel Radcliffe & Ben Foster; carrying Film Director, John Krokidas, in their arms.

The Cast of Kill Your Darlings (2013), with the Director of the film.
(L-R) Jack Huston, Michael C. Hall, Dane DeHaan, Daniel Radcliffe & Ben Foster; carrying Film Director, John Krokidas, in their arms.

Some years prior to my brush with Rove & Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (in Sydney 07’), I had actually watched The Tailor of Panama (2001); a pretty good movie, with Pierce Brosnan, Geoffrey Rush and Jamie Lee Curtis; which apparently also starred the little Radcliffe. But to be quite honest I don’t remember him in it at all. In 2007, he also came in the latest stage adaptation of the famous play by Peter Shaffer, Equus. It was all over the newspapers, Down Under. I’d have loved to watch that. I’ve seen the excellent, 1977, Sidney Lumet directed, movie adaptation of Equus, starring Richard Burton and Peter Firth. One of my favourite Lumet creations of the Big Screen (see my post Sidney Lumet & His Films from last year, June 2014, plus my Set of Seven on IMDB, from April 2011).

Post that, back in SL, around five years ago, I rented the DVD (unfortunately a pirated copy, pretty bad quality, and the only kind of DVD’s that can be found all over here; and I hate pirated DVD’s, thus I do buy good original films, when and if, I do go abroad – Europe, India & Australia) of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009). Thus that’s the only complete ‘Harry Potter’ film I’ve seen till date, and I felt it was a pretty good movie, though not as great as the hype surrounding the franchise. Then in February/March 2012, I was in New Delhi, India, and saw The Woman in Black (2012), starring Daniel Radcliffe, on the Big Screen there. The film was pretty pathetic (see my list of critiques titled Oscar Winners … and then some 2012 from March 2012, on IMDB), with the only saving grace being Radcliffe’s superb performance. He was brilliant, in such a mature role, as a father and a widower. I already liked his personality, when I saw him on Rove, back in 2007, and when I saw him in The Woman in Black; though a pretty bad movie; by now I had even greater respect for him, as an actor. Since then, I haven’t seen any of his films, until I saw Kill Your Darlings.

Kill Your Darlings Blog Bottom - Poster

I watched Kill Your Darlings, last week, on the 22nd of July, 2015, when it was shown at the Goethe Institute (German Cultural Centre), here. Daniel Radcliffe celebrated his 26th Birthday on the 23rd of July, 2015.

Kill Your Darlings (2013) – A Must Watch!!!!!
My Rating: Near Excellence!!!! 9/10!!!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drew Barrymore as Little Edie in her younger days.

Drew Barrymore as Little Edie in her younger days.

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

 

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

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

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

Grey Gardens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continuing reviewing the DVD films, brought from Down Under. This time some of the films I watched in December 2014.
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The Dangerous Llives of Altar Boys (poster)
A Teenage Prank gone Wrong – The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys

On December 3rd, 2014, watched this noughties flick set in the 70’s, directed by Peter Care, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys (2002).

The film is about a group of rebellious teenage boys, from a strict catholic school, who are constantly getting into trouble. Prank after prank, their mischief gets out of hand, and one day, they try to steal a cougar to place it inside their school. This final prank, results in a grave tragedy, that could bring an end, to their happy go lucky, teenage lives, for good.

The brilliant actress, Jodie Foster, plays Sister Assumpta, a strict disciplinarian, who’s seen as a monster by her pupils. Yet, she’s not as bad, as the teenage students seem to see her as. Foster, though a great actress, hasn’t much of a role to explore in this movie. She’s good, but there is nothing great about her role. Any good enough actress, needn’t be a brilliant one, could have pulled it off. I personally feel Foster, who’s capable of so much more, was wasted in this film about teenage life. A very young, Emile Hirsch, is superb, as Francis Doyle, the protagonist of the film. The makings of a future great actor, are visible, in Hirsch’s portrayal of young rebel, here. As an adult, he’s done such amazing work in excellent films like, Into the Wild (2007), Milk (2008), and the near excellent, Taking Woodstock (2009) (See my post From The Wild to Woodstock: Happy Birthday Mr. E. Hirsch from couple of years ago). Kieran Culkin, though hasn’t done anything that great in recent years, has had the potential of being a superb actor, as one can tell, watching young Culkin in The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys. Plus he had proven his worth, as a child star, in bit roles; holding his own, along side his brother, Macaulay Culkin, in the two Home Alone (90’ & 92’) movies, and; in films like, Nowhere to Run (1993), She’s All That (1999), Music of the Heart (1999), The Cider House Rules (1999), and his excellent performance, in Igby Goes Down (2002).

Kieran Culkin and Emile Hirsch in a scene from The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys (2002)

Kieran Culkin and Emile Hirsch in a scene from The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys (2002)

The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, is a very creative coming of age film. It’s a teenage movie, for teenagers, about teenagers (though rated for a mature audience), yet, at the same time, it’s also very dark and tragic. Like My Girl (1991), which was a children’s film, about children, for children, yet dark and tragic at the same time. Of course My Girl, wasn’t exactly suitable for very little children. The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, is interestingly made, injecting the teenagers imaginary world, through animation, going parallel to the actual events in the movie. Plus it explores the contrast between a strict brainwashed religious upbringing, against teenagers growing up with a mind of their own, a brain that’s capable of thinking of themselves. At the same time, the extremities of the two worlds, are explored. Trying to brainwash growing up 14 year olds, only ends up pushing them further to the edge of rebellion, with disastrous results.

A very good movie, and I highly recommend it, especially for teenagers. 8/10!!!!

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An Ozzie Classic from The 80’s – The Man from Snowy River

Watched this Australian movie, The Man from Snowy River (1982), on the same night, 3rd of December, 2014.
The Man from Snowy RiverThere are very few Australian movies that I happen to like (and even fewer that I love), for example, Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) Excellent !!, Don’s Party (1976) Very Good !!, Gallipoli (1981) Excellent !!, The Year of Living Dangerously (1982) Excellent !!, A Cry in the Dark (1988) Very Good !!, Dead Calm (1989) Pretty Good !!, Proof (1991) Excellent !!, Muriel’s Wedding (1994) Near Excellence !!, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) Very Good !!, Lantana (2001) Pretty Good !!, Australian Rules (2002) Very Good !!, The Rage in Placid Lake (2003) Near Excellence !!, Go Big (2004) Pretty Good !!, The Proposition (2005) Near Excellence !! Little Fish (2005) Pretty Good !!, Ten Canoes (2006) Excellent !!, Book of Revelation (2006) Very Good !!, Australia (2008) Very Good!!, and Balibo (2009) Near Excellence!! to name a few. I had heard about this famous classic called, The Man from Snowy River, being Australia’s answer to Hollywood’s Gone with the Wind (1939), as the 1977 novel Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough was supposed to be the Australian Gone with the Wind (the 1936 novel) by Margaret Mitchell. Thorn Birds was an excellent novel, that I read back in the 90’s, but The Man from Snowy River, isn’t anywhere as epic as (the movie) Gone with the Wind, was. Yet, this famed classic from down under, is still an excellent movie, and among the greatest films ever made, worldwide.

Based on a poem, from 1890, by Australian Bush Poet, Banjo Paterson, The Man from Snowy River, tells the tale of a young man, who single-handed, recaptures a colt of a prize-winning racehorse, that had escaped and been residing amongst wild horses. Of course the movie version is injected with, young love, misunderstandings and melodrama. But the blend of all these ingredients, along with some superb cinematography, and thrilling horse riding sequences, result in an excellence of movie making. A marvellous classic. 10/10!!!!!

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A Conniving Man’s Success Story – The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Watched this bio-pic, based on the life of Jordan Ross Belfort; a notorious American stockbroker, who pleaded guilty to fraud and crimes in connection with stock market manipulation, and other related crimes; called The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), on 4th December, 2014.

Wow!! Shockingly Great!!! What great performances!!! Director Martin Scorsese, has managed to get his actors to push their limits, to bring out the best of the sleazy world of cheats, money, fraudulence, sex, drugs, prostitution and alcohol. The most disgusting characters in the world, performed to perfection, by some of the best actors we have today. Leonardo DiCaprio, is seen here in one of his best performances ever. He definitely deserved the Oscar nod, last year (see my post Leonardo DiCaprio: Always the Oscar Bait, Never the Winner from March 2014 for my ). Raw, exposed and hardcore, the movie doesn’t shy away from extremist debauchery, sleaze and graphic sexual content. It’s surprising to see DiCaprio pull this off, with such ease, especially, as a decade ago, he supposedly turned down the role of ‘Matthew’, in Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers (2003), because of it’s explicit nature. He’s grown up since then, as a person and an actor, who dares to experiment. Like the Scorsese/Robert De Niro combination in the past, Scorsese & DiCaprio together, happen to be a superb Director-Actor duo, who have brought out some great films in the recent past. Yet this is the finest work, they’ve made together, so far. May they keep getting better. Director Martin Scorsese is the best thing to have happened to  Leonardo DiCaprio’s career.

On the sets of The Wolf of Wall Street.  Martin Scorsese directing Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie.

On the sets of The Wolf of Wall Street.
Martin Scorsese directing Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie.

The surprise package of the movie, happens to be, Jonah Hill. Who unexpectedly brings out a marvellous performance as Donnie Azoff, Belfort’s business partner. Australian actress, Margot Robbie, plays Belfort’s second wife, Naomi Lapaglia. Her portrayal too is superb as a trophy wife. Some may consider her portrayal sexist, and demeaning to women. Not just her, but the way women are showcased in The Wolf of Wall Street in general. But the movie is about a sexist egoistic man’s world, more accurately the sordid corrupt world of Jordan Ross Belfort. Yet Belfort is loved by his colleagues and people who work under him, for he has made them rich, through conning the rich and the poor alike, respectable or not.

This movie also has some pretty filthy language, as never seen before. The level of profanity, exceeds to unimaginable peaks. The word ‘fuck’ (along with its numerous conjugations) is used 569 times, making this the film with the most use of the ‘F’ word, in a main-stream feature film, ever, till date. Added to which, the film offers other derogatory terms and countless obscenities.

The Wolf of Wall Street is one of the best movies ever made, about one of the worst people ever to have existed in the financial world of Wall Street. Taking a cue from the films, specifically Belfort’s, vocabulary, I just have to say this, about the lead actor. Leonardo DiCaprio, you are a fucking genius. So is the movie. Pure Excellence 10/10!!!!!

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Slapstick 60’s, with a Great Cast – What’s new Pussycat?

Crazy is as Crazy Goes. Watched this enjoyable comedy, starring Peter O’Toole, Peter Sellers, Romy Schneider, Capucine, Paula Prentiss, Françoise Hardy and Woody Allen (in his introductory role), on the 5th of December, 2014. What’s new Pussycat (1965) deals with a compulsive playboy, Michael James (O’Toole), whose shrink, Dr. Fritz Fassbender (Sellers), happens to be crazier than he is.

What’s New Pussycat (1965)

Woody Allen, Romy Schneider & Peter O’Toole in What’s New Pussycat (1965)

What’s new Pussycat is a hilarious, colourful, wacky, British comedy, set and shot in Paris. O’Toole’s character, Michael James, happens to be a womaniser, but not by choice. Since his young age, women just seem to be attracted by him, thus all he’s doing his pleasing them. Women just seem to fall from the sky for him, literally, Ursula Andress, in a cameo, accidentally parachutes into his ‘1936 Singer Le Mans’ car, a classic open hooded British car. Yet James loves his fiancée, Carole Werner (Schneider), and desperately tries to be faithful to her. So he decides to get help, from psychoanalyst, Dr. Fritz Fassbender. Peter Sellers is, crack up laughing, hilarious, as the crazed Dr. Fassbender, who only ends up feeling jealous at poor James’ dilemma, and wonders what his problem is. Worse, when the lady, Renée Lefebvre (Capucine), whom the very married Dr. Fassbender, happens to be stalking, too falls, head over heels, for James, adding to James’ femme nightmare. Paula Prentiss too is superb as the clingy neurotic American, who constantly, tries to unsuccessfully kill herself, making James constantly getting an emergency doctor down to save her. The nurse that comes along, too seems attracted to James. Hilarious as hilarity goes, Romy Schneider, is enjoyable as his fiancée, trying her best to trust him, but who keeps ending up finding James in suspicious circumstances, involving other women.

Things go crazier than crazy, when the whole cast end up at the Chateau Chantelle hotel, in the French countryside, unaware of each others presence.

Though not among the greatest comedies ever, this absurdist romp, of what can also be seen, as glued up sequences of hilarious skits, minus a real plot, to make up, a less than 2 hour, movie, is definitely worth a watch. Quite Good. 7/10!!! 

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Consequences of Drug Addiction – Panic in Needle Park

Al Pacino & Kitty Winn (Al Pacino - inset as well) in a scene from Panic in Needle Park (1971)

Al Pacino & Kitty Winn (Al Pacino – inset as well) in a scene from Panic in Needle Park (1971)

Starring Al Pacino; as a drug dealer and addict who helps a sickly woman (Kitty Winn) worse off than he is, yet gets deeper into drug addiction, dragging her down along with him, and is unable to save, neither her nor himself; Panic in Needle Park (1971) is a hardcore, near perfect, depiction of the consequences of being addicted to heroin. Watched it on 12th & 13th of December, 2014.

A stark portrayal of the lives of heroin addicts in the early 70’s New York. The story deals with heroin dealer and addict, Bobby (Pacino), who falls in love with a sickly unhappy girl, Helen Reeves (Winn). He decides to help her, but unaware, he gets her hooked into heroin as well. Thus begins their decent into a deepening hellish world with no scope for escape. The film is so realistically filmed, Panic in Needle Park, was among the significant phase of the ‘X’ rated movies, to come out in the early 70’s. Especially, for it’s harsh depiction of the intricate ritual of preparing and injecting the heroin into a vein, ‘shooting up’ drugs, and various graphic imagery related to heroin addiction. Heroin usage is prevalent throughout the movie.

The movie is a near excellent insight into the world of drugs and deterioration, along with innocence and entrapment. The film also marked Al Pacino’s and Kitty Winn’s, first lead roles.

Director Jerry Schatzberg, was nominated for the ‘Palme d’Or’, and Kitty Winn won the ‘Best Actress’ Award, at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival.

Pure Realism. 9/10!!!!

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Elvis Presley in Blue Hawaii

Hawaiian Musical Dream – Blue Hawaii

Watched Blue Hawaii (1961), with Elvis Presley, and bevy of Beach Babes, on 18th December, 2014.

The Plus+ side – Beautiful rhythmic Songs, Beautiful scenic Beaches, Beautiful people, and one of the rare movies which showcases a male lead that is prettier that his female co-stars. Added to which, a superb actress like, Angela Lansbury, playing mother to Elvis Presley, is a major plus point.

The down side – Not much of plot, and a somewhat predictable story, so far as the love story goes. Yet the music, the comedy and the beautiful star cast, make Blue Hawaii an enjoyable experience.

The story is about Chad Gates (Presley), who returns to Hawaii, after serving his tenure in the Army. His filthy rich parents want him to join the family business, but he has other idea’s for his future.

Being the very first Elvis film to be shot in Hawaii, Blue Hawaii, was quite well received, by youngsters, at the time, and happens to be among the ‘Top-10’, top grossing, movies of 1961. An enjoyable viewing. Love the Presley songs. Love the Presley voice. Love the Presley look.
Pretty Good movie to sit through. 7/10!!!

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Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

P.S. Also see my posts DVD Films From Last Month PART-IDVD Films From Last Month PART-II from December 2014.

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

West Side Story Main

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

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

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

West Side Story Pix

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

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

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

West Side Story Pix - on the sets

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

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

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

stage to screen blog

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

Cheers
Nuwan Sen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Al Pacino Sidney Lumet films

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

Christopher Reeve in DEATHTRAP (1982)

Christopher Reeve in DEATHTRAP (1982)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Night falls on Manhattan

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

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

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

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense