Tag Archive: Romance


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

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

Julie Andrews and Max Von Sydow

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

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

Richard Harris, Julie Andrews and Max Von Sydow

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

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

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

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

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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


(1929-1993)

Remembering Audrey Hepburn, on her 88th Birth Anniversary!!!

Audrey Hepburn; a brave kid during the second world war who participated in the Dutch resistance, a beautiful young ballerina, a Tony & Oscar winning actress of the stage & screen, a Hollywood icon, a classy Fashionista, a kind humanitarian, a caring philanthropist, and a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF; who gave herself completely to serving poverty stricken, and ailing, children, across, Africa, South America and Asia!! A modern day saint!!

A mini-pictorial tribute, to this unique personality!!

Nuwan Sen

 

Supposedly based on a true story, this is about a group of sweet sixteen/seventeen year old swingers, who form a secret club, to literally bang one another; resulting in sexually transmitted diseases, for almost everyone involved in this notoriously, teenage, pornographic club. A very bold movie on idiotic teens, who think with their sex organs rather than their brains.
Bang Gang (une histoire d’amour moderne) (2015), known in English as Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story), is the feature length directorial debut of Eva Husson. It’s a good educational film for teenagers, to be careful. And using protection, isn’t a 100% guarantee either. Sleep with someone you truly care about and trust (even then it might not be safe, if you happen to blindly trust someone; as we see in the case of Marilyn Lima’s character, George, who gives herself to Finnegan Oldfield’s character, Alex, and once he’s used her for his pleasure, this Alex fellow, moves on to deflower another virgin). BUT, the message is clear, don’t screw around. But at the same time; as this is apparently based on a real incident that happened in America (Atlanta, Georgia) and is transported to France here; the STD’s aren’t that of a dangerously incurable nature. It’s just syphilis. Thus the youngsters here are safe in that sense; but it still could have been something worse. Yet, at the same time, the film isn’t judging the young characters for their indulgence, nor does it condone the behaviour. It simply tells a tale of what took place in an elite suburb of USA, set here in a small French town!! It’s up to the audiences to decide, how they feel. Compassion, or anger, or a mix of both, or neither. I actually felt nothing for the characters. In a sense, it is an emotionless film. Sex without human emotions. No Love, No Romance!! I thought it was quite a good story, but felt nothing for the characters. There was nothing that provocatively shocking either. Amazingly not even a sexual attraction towards the many graphic nudes, in the film. Eva Husson has brought out something really unique, even though sex orgies and teenage promiscuity, is nothing new to the world of cinema. As Andy Grove once said “Every generation thinks they invented Sex”, and as well as the quote by author Robert A. Heinlein, states, “Each generation thinks it invented sex; each generation is totally mistaken”!!!!! Same in the case of sex in modern cinema, including early & modern Hollywood (pre & post the Hays Code).

Finnegan Oldfield & Marilyn Lima

One major flaw; besides the fact that the movie takes plenty of it’s time to get to the point, i.e. the result of being involved in these orgies; is that, it is too obvious that some of them aren’t teenagers. Of course, no body playing these teens, actually would be, but very few feel like they might be 16 or 17. Especially Finnegan Oldfield, he looks like a much older man. 26 year old, Oldfield, plays a 17 year old, but feels that he is in his late 20’s, and the other four leads feel early to mid-20’s, despite the fact actress Marilyn Lima showcases her flat, underdeveloped, breasts, quite a few time. At the same time, she is the most beautiful looking character in the show. Marilyn Lima almost looks like a cross between classic French stars, Jeanne Moreau & Brigitte Bardot. Both, in charming innocence and sex appeal. Marilyn Lima is brilliant in her very first role, that too a very challenging one. Young actor Lorenzo Lefebvre, was almost believable as a 16 year old, until he took his clothes off at the end, showcasing his very mature looking naked body.
I watched this downloaded movie (now that I’ve become a bit of a pro, when it comes to downloading films; see my Blog-post Mardi-Gras, Movies-Gay from March 2017), late last night!! Unfortunately, the copy of Bang Gang (une histoire d’amour moderne) I downloaded, had no subtitles in it; but my little knowledge of the French language, was enough for me to comprehend what was happening, in a general sense. Besides, the movie was less to do with dialogues, and more to do with banging, and the serves ’em right aftermath.

Lorenzo Lefebvre and Marilyn Lima, in a scene from, Bang Gang (une histoire d’amour moderne) (2015)

In the actual incident, that took place in Atlanta, USA, apparently the kids involved were even younger, ranging from 12 to 16. Eva Husson though, increases the ages to 16 & 17, as well as portrays the crazed sex, drugs and parties, with a very detached outlook. Instead of getting the audience involved with the characters, we actually are just an audience looking at a screen, sans any emotional connection. Quite good, but I deleted the downloaded copy, as I’d like to get hold of a copy, avec subtitles. Bang Gang (une histoire d’amour moderne), a movie with a very realistic look at social problems faced by youngsters of today, is really worth checking out, even though it’s not among the best Art Films ever.

Bang Gang (une histoire d’amour moderne) (2015)
My Rating: Pretty Good!! 7/10!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
#‎NuwanSensFilmSense
nu Sense on Film

Queer Movies, and the month of Mardi-Gras

10 years ago, on 3rd March 2007, I witnessed the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras (simply known as Mardi-Gras, down under). This was when I was a student, doing my MA in painting (2006-2007), at COFA (College of Fine Arts), UNSW (University of New South Wales). It was a spectacular event, with gaudily glittering floats, semi naked bodies, cute kids, and the Sydney Mayor. In full swing, in the Australian summer, it went on, from dusk till dark.

The Mardi-Gars festival, is actually a carnival before Lent, in the Christian calendar. BUT, in Sydney, it’s a Pride carnival. Mainly due to the fact, that during the Pride month (which happens to be the summer month of June); is in the heart of winter, down under; where seasons go in the exact opposite direction to the norm. Christmas down under, is in the height of the hot sweltering summer. Thus, the Pride March, down under, has been interwoven with the Mardi-Gras; and is known as the Sydney Mardi Gras!! This takes place, on the first Saturday, of March. And thus, this year, it was held on 5th March 2017!!

In 2008, it was on the 1st of March, 2008. By now, I’d completed my 2nd Masters, and I was temporarily working as an ‘International Student Advisor’, at the ISS (International Student Services), in UNSW. I did not attend it that year (in fact, March 2007, has been the only Mardi-Gras carnival I’ve seen, so far). But I did, go and see, one movie, at the Mardi Gras Film Festival, held in Sydney, in February 2008. The movie was, The Houseboy (2007); and it was pathetic. One of the worst films I’ve ever seen.
°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°

Downloading

Towards the end of last month, I came across a fellow film buff, from Pakistan, on Twitter, with whom I ended up chatting (something I rarely do, that too on Twitter). Soon I befriended him, on FB (Facebook). And on his FB timeline, he had mentioned Mahershala Ali, an actor of Muslim faith, who won the Oscar, for ‘Best Supporting Actor’ for Moonlight (2016), at the 89th Academy Awards, held on the 26th of February 2017; and how proud he felt of being a Muslim, himself, for the very first time. I simply asked him whether he’d seen Moonlight, and that I’d love to. He told me he had watched it twice; and said he’d send me the link to download the movie. And he did.

Now, back to 10 years ago; Year 2007!! I was dead against piracy, and downloading movies on the web, et al. I remember how my Australian friends & flatmates, use to react; feeling embarrassed at doing such things themselves. But I have been living in Sri Lanka, for 7½ years now, and not being able to watch any good movies (as they practically are never shown in Cinema’s here); I’ve had to rent or buy films occasionally, that happen to pirated copies. See my posts on Life of Pi  (2012) and Mud (2012) from October 2013.

But, luck had me travelling to, places like:-
New Delhi, India, between 2010 & 2012 (where you don’t see pirated copies in street shops, unlike Sri Lanka, and have to (literally) go to an underground market, if you want cheap pirated copies); where I not only got to buy good original DVD’s (even though they were with Indian copyrights, thus they have to be approved by the Indian Censor board, and certain films, have a universal rating, with sex and nudity edited out; and though am against censorship, I prefer to buy original DVD’s, than badly pirated ones, found in good shops, in Colombo and it’s suburbs, in Sri Lanka), but also got to see some great films on the Big Screen, on the superb Cineplex’s of New Delhi (see my list on IMDB titled Oscar Winners … and then some 2012, from March 2012).
-and-
Adelaide & Sydney (once again), Australia, in November 2014; where too, I watched a couple of the superb films, on the big screen, plus bought many a DVD’s (see my Blogpost Holidaying in Australia, comes to an end from November 2014).

Meanwhile, back in Sri Lanka, I’ve tried to download films, from certain sites; either I get an error message, or it’s not available in this country, or something or the other. So, only way, I’d watch films online, is if they were available on Youtube; and late last year, streamed a few on iflix. But, as I mentioned above, that this nice new (virtual) friendly acquaintance of mine, sent me a link. And on the night of 28th February 2017; I started to download, Moonlight. By the time, I finished downloading the film, it was next morning, i.e. 1st March 2017. Thus Moonlight, was my very first successful download. And within the next few days, I downloaded four more s; in conjunction, with the month of (or rather the last week of), Sydney’s version, of the Mardi-Gras festivities.
°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°

5 Queer Movie, within the first 5 Days, of March 2017

So here are my mini-critiques on the 5 films, I’ve downloaded so far (downloaded for the very first time). And unlike the pathetic film I saw at the  Mardi Gras Film Festival; except for one here (which too was Averagely good), all the rest of the films were pure excellence of Cinematic magic.
Thus, here is my own little ‘Queer Film Festival’!!!!!!
Beware of some spoilers below!!!!!
……………………………………………………………………………………………….

1. MOONLIGHT (2016)

An Art-House Film, that bagged the ‘Best Picture’ Oscar, this year; a rarity, and a win after a fumble at the Academy Awards, that almost felt like Moonlight, had not won.

Moonlight is a touching portrayal of a young, afro-American, gay man, Chiron, brought up in a rough neighbourhood, in Miami, Florida, USA. With a drug addicted, emotionally unstable and abusive, mother; plus being bullied and beaten up in school; Chiron grows up to be a thuggish looking drug dealer, with a heart of gold. The finalé with the admission of virginity, by a very masculine, strong built man, pulls at your heart strings. This is a brilliant, coming of age, drama, about sexuality, true love, and what it’s like to be black in America, especially in a poverty stricken neighbourhood. Directed by Barry Jenkins, who won the ‘Best Director’ Oscar; Moonlight is a powerful piece of though provoking cinema. This is also Jenkins’ directorial, feature film, debut.

Ashton Sanders & Jharrel Jerome in a scene from Moonlight (2016)

The strong built, Trevante Rhodes, brings out such a sensitive performance; through a character, that outwardly generally feels frightening, with his gold chain, and gold teeth; and tough, overtly masculine, act; that touches deep, seeping into your veins, feeling the pain he’s going through. What a beautiful human being the character of Chiron is. The movie is told in three chapters, with three actors, playing one character, Chiron, in three stages of his life. Thus, the film has a main character (Chiron the protagonist of the film), but no lead actor, as such. The trio of actors perfectly essay the role of Chiron. In fact, the whole ensemble cast is terrific.

Mahershala Ali; who won the Oscar, for ‘Best Supporting Actor’ (making him the very first Muslim to win an Oscar, in the acting category); plays a kindly drug dealer, who becomes a mentor, a father figure, for little Chiron. Overall an excellent movie, that deserved the ‘Best Picture’ award, at the 89th Academy Awards, held last month. Moonlight, was the first film with an all-black cast, and the first LGBT film, to win an Oscar, for ‘Best Picture’ ever.

Watched Moonlight, late Wednesday night (1st of March, 2017)!!

My Rating:-
Excellent!!! 10/10!!
……………………………………………………………………………………………….

2. CAROL (2015)

A Christmas Carol, a beautiful Christmas romance, and a wonderful, lesbian, love story.

Cate Blanchett is superb as ever, nothing surprising about that fact. Todd Haynes, is an equally great director, again nothing new about that. But, Rooney Mara, WOW!!! What a brilliant performance. I’ve seen excellent films, starring Mara, in small roles, like in The Social Network (2010) and Her (2013); but I hardly noticed her in these movies. So she definitely was the surprise packet in Carol, for which Rooney Mara, tied in, for the ‘Best Actress’ win, at the 68th Annual Cannes Film Festival, in May 2015 (see my posts The 68th Cannes Film Festival finalé and Winners & Disappointments – at Cannes 2015, from May 2015).

Carol, is based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith, titled The Price of Salt. Though am a fan of Highsmith thrillers, I haven’t read this particular novel. This story, is very different to Highsmith books (at least that’s what I gathered from the movie). While most Highsmith literature has to do with crime, interwoven with themes of sexuality; The Price of Salt seems to be, an out and out, love story, of two beautiful women; living in a male oriented, homophobic, world. Sadly, this is the world, a great American writer like, Patricia Highsmith, a lesbian herself, had to survive in, in the 1950’s.

Carol is a beautiful heart warming Christmas romance, set in America, in the foxy 50’s, starring two fantastic foxy actresses. Rooney Mara carries ’s charm and simplicity, with grace; and bold Blanchett, is outstanding as ever. Carol, has the potential of being, a future Hollywood classic. While Moonlight, is a brilliant, low-budget, American indie-film; Carol is the quintessential, modern day, Hollywood romance.

I had the luck of seeing Cate Blanchett, in real life, down under. Heavily pregnant, she came to UNSW, to see a digital television exhibit, at our University; in early 2008. I actually didn’t recognise her at once. For one thing I wasn’t aware she was pregnant. So, when I saw a heavily pregnant lady, come out of the exhibit, in a massive pair shades, with a little boy, and stare right at me; I didn’t really pay much heed to her (I was waiting to go inside, with a couple of friends; waiting for whoever was inside to come out). But I did feel she looked familiar. Then she removed her dark glasses (for our benefit 😀 ), and started speaking to a person in a wheelchair, quite near me. It was her voice I recognised, and it’s only then I looked at her. After she left, I asked the students working the exhibit, and they confirmed it was her!! If I already knew she was pregnant, I would’ve recognised her instantly.

Watched Carol late night, on the 2nd of March, 2017!!

My Rating:-
Excellent!!! 10/10!!
……………………………………………………………………………………………….

3. HOLDING THE MAN (2015)

Above: Actors Ryan Corr & Craig Stott; as Timothy Conigrave & John Caleo, respectively; in the film, Holding the Man (2015)
Below: The real-life Timothy Conigrave & John Caleo

What better day to watch an Australian Gay-themed film, than on the night of, Sydney’s Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras parade. Of course being on this side of the Ocean, there is no way I can attend the parade, down under, in all it’s splendour. But instead, I watched an Australian Queer Film, based on a memoir; which was the basis of a stage play, with the same title, by Tommy Murphy (who is also accredited with the screenplay for this movie), that came out in 2006; whilst I was in living in Sydney. The play was a big hit in Sydney; and in 2007, I remember seeing an interview with Tommy Murphy, on a local television channel in Sydney. Unfortunately I never got to see the play.

As I mentioned, Holding the Man, is based on the true story, of Timothy Conigrave’s (stage artiste, writer & activist), 15 year love affair with John Caleo (who died of AIDS); which Conigrave penned down, in a book called, Holding the Man. Conigrave completed this book shortly before dying of an AIDS-related illness, himself, in October 1994, at the age of 34 (a month before his 35th Birthday).

Holding the Man, is a tragic story, chronicling the life of two gay men, in Melbourne, Australia, who fall in love as teenagers, in the 1970’s; and survive all odds, when the land of Oz, was still very homophobic. It’s a pity, Timothy Conigrave and John Caleo, weren’t able to see, how much the world has changed today, and how much more open, Australia is to gay culture today. In fact, Sydney is the next gay capital of the world, after San Francisco, in USA. BUT, no matter how open and free, homosexuality is down under, today; sadly many a Australians do take Gay people for a joke. Homosexuality is no laughing matter. People can still be pretty cruel, and inhumane, even in Australia, towards the LGBTIQ community.

Watched Holding the Man, late night, on the 4th of March, 2017. The movie finished past midnight!! A sad beautiful tale, filmed beautifully by director, Neil Armfield. This is among the rare greatest Australian films, I’ve seen.

My Rating:-
Excellent!!! 10/10!!
……………………………………………………………………………………………….

4. REFLECTIONS OF A GOLDEN EYE (1967)

Brando & Taylor, on the sets of Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967)

Based on the novel, Reflections in a Golden Eye, by Carson McCullers; this beautifully made movie, with a uniquely stunning photographic technique, was directed by John Huston, starring Elizabeth Taylor, in the lead, with Marlon Brando, Brian Keith, Julie Harris and Robert Forster. This was Forster’s debut role, where he played a sexual desire, of Brando’s character.

The main plot of the movie, revolves around the wife of a Major, stationed in a US Army post in the American South in the late 1940’s. The said wife is played by Elizabeth Taylor. A young new Private (Forster), has a perverted obsession, who voyeurs around the violet eyed beauty (Taylor), watching her naked body reflect through the golden brown lens of his eye. It’s a beautifully filmed, movie about a peeping Tom; unaware, of the Major (Brando), the husband, of his sexual desire, himself has a repressed homosexual desire for the Private. Seeing the Private’s naked golden body, many a times in the brown woods, only adds to the Major’s already uncomfortable want for a young man, he cannot have.

Despite a great story line, and the beautiful photographic technique, the film isn’t without it’s flaws. The most visible one being, that of Taylor’s character. Though the film is set in the late 40’s, Elizabeth Taylor’s look, just doesn’t feel the post-war period. With the latest hairdo’s and fashionable dress sense, straight out of the 60’s; Taylor is magnificently more modern, than the setting of the movie. Another flaw is, the movie starts to bore in the middle, especially after the death of a mentally unstable character, played by Julie Harris. Added to which, Huston could have focused more on the Major’s repressed sexuality; i.e. the character played by Marlon Brando.

A scene from the film, Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967); featuring Robert Forster, in the original release of the picture, with the golden hue, that did not impress audiences.

Initially the movie was released, with a golden hue enveloping the movie, as a reference to a drawing of a golden peacock, in the movie; a golden peacock in whose eye, the world is a mere reflection. But audiences did not seem to get this symbolic aspect, thus the original copy was withdrawn from cinema’s, and a normal coloured version re-released. I saw the ordinary colour version, but I’d love to check out Huston’s original aesthetic creation; with the warm sepia tint, over the colour film.

None the less, it’s a very admirable effort by John Huston. I watched Reflections in a Golden Eye on Sunday afternoon, 5th March 2017!!!!

My Rating:-
Average Fare!! 6/10!
……………………………………………………………………………………………….

5. SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY (1971)

Last but not the least, most probably my favourite of the lot. What a clever, unusual film. The 60’s & 70’s were definitely the period that Hollywood ruled; bringing out bold unique plots.

Starring Peter Finch, Glenda Jackson and Murray Head; and brilliantly directed by John Schlesinger; Sunday Bloody Sunday, is a very mature, open minded, intelligent story. Murray Head plays a bisexual; who has two partners. One, played by Finch, and the other by Jackson. And each is aware of the other’s existence; and have a mature understanding, and acceptance, of the other, though neither of the, young bisexual scientific artist’s, partners have met each other. What’s more interesting, is how decent these people are, and in what a civilised manner, they handle sharing the same partner. They go on living a very normal life, with their lover, who finds time to spend with both, his male lover, as well as his female lover.

This is a very modern outlook, we don’t really see in this century. Of course, there are plenty of films on threesomes, extreme sexual deviations; but most of the time it’s showcased in a sleazy manner. That’s the beauty of this film, despite having a homosexual man and heterosexual woman, sharing one lover, there is nothing sordid about it. It’s so sophisticatedly handled, and is made to feel, so normal, and that too in a movie, that came out in the 70’s decade; it’s a wonderful feat.

One of the most intellectually adult movies, I’ve ever come across. Peter Finch, is spot on, as the elderly gay man, who is not seen suffering because of his sexuality, and who happens to a well to do Jewish doctor. Glenda Jackson plays a divorcee, who suffers from a childhood trauma, during the war. And each of them lives a relatively happy life, sharing one man, without suffocating the lover. And the lover, being bisexual, enjoys openly romancing both. And yet, it’s only the two of them he romances, and he doesn’t hide the fact he’s also seeing the other. So technically he is faithful to both his lovers.

A lot does happen in the movie, but it’s more character based, where these three people live a very civilized life, in a very normal manner, with acceptance and understanding. Isn’t this the kind of normal acceptance, of people who are different, and understanding them, that could make the world a better place. In a way, a very futuristic attitude. It’s a society that doesn’t have to fight for Gay Right’s, or Women’s Lib, et al; why?? ‘cause gay men and women are seen, living a relatively liberal lifestyle, with no judgement. Their friends accept them, friends’ children play with them, they are asked to take care of the kids, they trust each other; isn’t this the kind of normality, that ought to really exist, in today’s world, but sadly does not. Schlesinger, though set the movie in the 70’s itself, has forecasted a very progressive future, which should have made it’s way, by now.

This British film, is a masterpiece of cinematic intellect. A must watch. The Best film, in this list, I watched Sunday Bloody Sunday, late Sunday night (5th March 2017); the movie ended past midnight. Totally worth it!!

My Rating:-
Excellent!!! 10/10!!
……………………………………………………………………………………………….

So that’s all folks, the 5 films I watched, within the first 5 days, of this month. Four of which, were pure excellence!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

From movies released last year, 2016; I’ve only seen 12 of them so far; 9 of them within last year itself; and only 2 on the Big Screen; from the rest, except for a couple of them, that I watched online, on iflix, the others were on cable TV (either On Demand, or a foreign television channel)!! Here are the Best to the Bad!!!!!

Left: Sonam Kapoor as Neerja Bhanot in Neerja (2016) Right: The late Neerja Bhanot

Left: Sonam Kapoor as Neerja Bhanot in Neerja (2016)
Right: The late Neerja Bhanot

1. Neerja (2016) – Excellent: 10/10!

In 1985, Pan Am (Pan American World Airways) began an all Indian cabin crew for its India/Pakistan/West Germany routes. Neerja Bhanot was the Head Purser, of Pan Am Flight 73, when hijackers attacked the flight, on the 5th September, 1986.

The Pan Am flight had reached the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan, from India, that morning. Carrying 380 passengers on board, the flight was on it’s way to Frankfurt, West Germany, and was to travel to New York, USA. As the flight was ready to close it’s doors, at the Jinnah International Airport, four armed Palestinian men of the terrorist organisation, known as ANO (Abu Nidal Organisation), forced their way into the aircraft; disguised as security officers escorting a Libyan diplomat. The brave Neerja Bhanot, quickly warned the trio of pilots, who, following protocol, escaped through an overhead hatch in the cockpit. Thus, making sure the plane does not leave the tarmac. Neerja, though terrified, along with other attendants, hid American passports, so that the ANO couldn’t differentiate, Americans from non-Americans, as the terrorists were specifically targeting Americans. After 17 hours, of their demands being unheard, the terrorists went crazy, and opened fire on all passengers. Neerja Bhanot quickly opened the emergency exit, and managed to save the lives of 360 passengers on board (20 others were killed), and 19 crew members. Bhanot made sure, all the people, who were still alive had escaped, without saving herself first. Ultimately she sacrificed her life, saving the lives of three children, as she shielded them from gunfire. She died of gunshot wounds, just a couple of days, before her 23rd birthday.

Sonam Kapoor does justice to the role of Neerja Bhanot!! Kapoor was spot on. In an interview, when Kapoor was asked, whether she is looking forward to winning the ‘Best Actress’ trophy at the Filmfare Awards, this year; she replied, that she didn’t know, for that was not the reason, she did this movie. None the less, she deservedly won the Critics’ Award, for ‘Best Actress’ at the 62nd Filmfare Awards, held earlier this month. However she lost out in the popular vote, for ‘Best Actress’. The movie altogether won six awards, including the Critics’ Award, for ‘Best Director’ (for Ram Madhvani), the ‘Best Supporting Actress’ trophy (for Shabana Azmi) and ‘Best Production Design’ (for Aparna Sud). The Production Design was truly superb, the way they replicated the whole Pan Am Flight 73, by making the model of the flight and it’s interiors, to perfection. It looked like an actual plane, on the tarmac.

This tragic story, is a must see. A perfect tribute, to the late Neerja Bhanot (1963-1986)!! Bhanot, an ordinary girl, not your conventional super heroine; but when put in an extraordinary situation, showed an inner human bravery, under fear. Also see my mini-write up on Facebook’s AHC page (Link:- https://www.facebook.com/search/str/%2523nuwansensfilmsense/keywords_search?filters_rp_author=stories-feed&filters_rp_creation_time=%7B%22start_month%22%3A%222016-03%22%2C%22end_month%22%3A%222016-03%22%7D)!!

Watched Neerja, on the Big Screen, early last year (in March 2016)!!

Here’s to Neerja Bhanot, an innocent girl, a film buff, a model, an abused wife, a divorcée, an air hostess, and most of all, a humanitarian; who put others before herself! Bhanot was posthumously awarded the Ashoka Chakra Award, India’s highest peacetime military decoration award, for valour, courageous action or self-sacrifice, away from the battlefield. She was the youngest, and first female, recipient of this award. She received various more awards, posthumously; for her bravery, her loyalty to her passengers, and humanity.

2. Kapoor & Sons (2016) – Excellent: 10/10!

A fun filled family film, with a gay character. Bollywood is becoming more progressive. It’s a beautiful family movie, about a dysfunctional family, that get together to celebrate, the family patriarch’s, 90th Birthday; post recovery from a heart attack. A lot of drama, secrets, pain, romance and comedy, unfold; into a complex family reunion. With a great ensemble cast, the movie is made in a way, that the whole family can enjoy; from tiny tots to the elderly!! Just loved this Dharma Productions, movie, directed by Shakun Batra.

The Film won five trophies, at this year’s Filmfare Awards; including one for the legendary, Rishi Kapoor; who deservedly won, in the ‘Best Supporting Actor’ category. 64 year old Kapoor, played the 90 year old, head of the house, with perfection; in this movie.

Watched Kapoor & Sons, last year, when it was shown on the Indian cable channel, Colors (July 2016).

3. PINK (2016) – Excellent: 10/10!

“No means No!”, utters Amitabh Bachchan’s character; as he defends three girls (one of whom was molested), when the trio are charged with prostitution and attempted murder by the male culprits.

This is a brilliant Art House film, an excellent courtroom drama, and a women’s rights advocacy. Amitabh Bachchan proves, he is still the best actor around, in the aesthetic world of films. Bachchan plays a retired lawyer; taking care of his ailing wife, while suffering from his own health issues; who takes up this case, pro bono; for the sake of three innocent victims, who are being charged with a crime, and not the other way round. He does it for justice, and a woman’s right to refuse sexual advances.

Amitabh Bachchan lost out, in the ‘Best Actor’ category, to Aamir Khan. I haven’t seen Dangal (2016); for which Kahn won the Filmfare Award, earlier this month; but the 74 year old, Big B (i.e. Mr. Bachchan), was phenomenal, in PINK.

Watched PINK, late last year, on another Indian channel, Star Plus (November 2016)

4. Confirmation (2016) – Excellent: 10/10!

From one fictional tale of sexual abuse, to another based on a real incident. Though in this case the abuse might be merely verbal, and not of a physical nature; it is still a case of abuse of power, and gender discrimination.
confirmation-2016This movie deals with the ‘Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination’ of 1991; when a law professor, Anita Hill; who had previously worked under Clarence Thomas; was asked to ‘confirm’ her allegations of sexual harassment, against Thomas. Another sad, excellent film, with an unsettling ending, for both the protagonist’s of the movie. Kerry Washington is superb as Hill, who is initially reluctant to come forward.

Watched this television drama, Confirmation, when it was shown on the cable channel, HBO Signature (July 2016).

5. Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive (2016) – Near Excellent: 9/10!

A hilarious piece of satire, set during Obama’s presidency, dealing with; making a false proof, of the actual; Osama’s death. Not amongst the greatest comedies ever, but I couldn’t stop laughing. The movie was really enjoyable. Thus, I think I’ve given it a tad higher rating, than I should have. For more details, see my post Mai May Movies 2016 from May 2016, as well.

6. Airlift (2016) – Near Excellent: 9/10!

A true account of Indians trapped in Kuwait, in 1990, as the country was being invaded by Iraq; under Saddam Hussein. Yet again, see my mini-review under, ‘Mai May Movies 2016’, from May 2016.
pink-laden7. Michael Moore in TrumpLand (2016) – Very Good: 8/10!

Despite all Michael Moore had to say in this Stand-up/Documentary, Trump still triumphed; and now, 70 year old, Donald J. Trump; a business magnate; is the President of the United States!!

What I really liked about this documentary, is without directly attacking Trump, Moore slowly tries to make people understand, why he shouldn’t be the political leader, of America; and the dangers they face, if he came into power. This was almost an advertorial campaign for Hillary Clinton. Despite all this explanation, it is a pity, Mrs. Clinton; so much a better politician, lost out, to a business celebrity. I was rooting for her to be the first female President of America. Sad! And many, open-minded, Americans were distraught with the results. And the Women’s March 2017, is proof of that.

Watched this last year, as Trump won the elections, on iflix (November 2016).

8. Passengers (2016) – Pretty Good: 7/10!

I loved, Norwegian director, Morten Tyldum’s, The Imitation Game (2014); and his Hodejegerne (2011), a.k.a. Headhunters, is in my watch list. And when I went and watched, Passengers, in 3-D; I really enjoyed majority of the movie. BUT, unfortunately there is ‘But’!!

A spaceship carrying over 5000 people, under induced hibernation; travelling to a distant planet, in a span of 120 years; has a malfunction. As a result, more than one person, is woken up, approximately 90 years early. The film, with just two lead characters, who have to carry the burden of film, entirely on their shoulders, is very impressive. And it goes on really well, to near excellence; the whole while, a question of ethics, gnawing at you (the audience). But then (spoiler alert), a third person wakes up; and starts to ruin the film; turning the highly clever premise, and the intellectually stimulating story, into a silly, action blockbuster, waste. From here the movie becomes really, unrealistic (sure it’s set space, but the fictional aspects, still have to be believable enough) and, the romantic angle, pretty mushy. None the less, majority of this, stunningly, visually, beautiful movie, is worth checking out!!

Chris Pratt & Jennifer Lawrence in Passengers (2016)

Chris Pratt & Jennifer Lawrence in Passengers (2016)

For next month’s Oscars, Passengers, has been nominated for it’s Production Design; and the interiors of the Spaceship are magnificent; as are the special effects. But then again, CGI/special effects, are practically good in any movie today; and unfortunately, most of the time, that is the only good thing about a movie. I hope this movie bags a trophy for ‘Best Production Design’, at the oncoming Academy Awards. Passengers, might not be a great film, but still quite good, a very enjoyable movie; until they ruin it towards the end.

Watched Passengers on the Big Screen, earlier this month (January 2017)

9. My Sweet Audrina (2016) – Very Bad: 3/10!

A creepy thriller, with a really interesting premise. But a bore of a film. Don’t waste your time on it.

Watched this TV film, last year, online, on iflix (November 2016).

10. Ki & Ka (2016) – Very Bad: 3/10!

The concept of the wife going to work, and husband staying at home, and being a househusband/homemaker, may seem a bit outdated; but that is not reason the movie doesn’t work. It had it’s fun spots, and serious segments; but the movie as a whole, was pretty stale and dull. On the positive side, I love the fact, the man, by choice, decides to be a homemaker; and is very supportive of his wife; and I loved the role reversal, the Abhimaan (1973) moment, in the movie, where the wife pushes him to do an interview on TV, and as he starts becoming a celebrity, she starts to feel jealous. So the concept was enjoyable. The movie also reminded me of, this Hindi sitcom; we use to watch as kids; Mr ya Mrs (1987-1988). But the movie is a bit of drag, and ultimately a waste of time. Enjoyable premise, yet poorly executed.

Saw Ki & Ka, when it was shown on Colors, last year (October 2016).

10+1. 13 Hours (2016) – Very Bad: 3/10!

Based on real events, it’s such bore of film. On the 11th of September, 2012; the US Ambassador’s compound, and an unofficial CIA base, in Benghazi, Libya, is attacked. The movie starts off really well, but then drags on, and is way to long. I felt I sat through the movie for ‘13 hours’ myself.

Watched 13 Hours, on HBO On Demand, late Sunday night (29th January 2017)!!
film-13-hours-201610+2. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016) – THE Worst film, of 2016, that I have seen, so far: 1/10!

It’s not even worth talking about, this crap of a film, by Karan Johar. Johar is a good director, and did a marvellous job when it came to his short film, within Bombay Talkies (2013); an anthology of four short films. In fact his directorial segment was my favourite. BUT, when it comes to feature length films, he sure mucks it up. And he is a good producer; Dharma Productions, is his company, the company that produced, the above mentioned, Kapoor & Sons. Plus, he is quite a good television talk show host. Really enjoy watching, most of his interviews on, Koffee with Karan (2004 onwards). Currently, the latest season, of Koffee with Karan, is running on the Indian cable network, Star World.

Watched Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, when it was telecast, on Colors, on Saturday morning (28th January 2017)!!

Special Note: End of last year, I watched a Sinhala documentary, called Usaviya Nihadai, which I tweeted as being released in 2016, for it was released in Sri Lanka, only last year; amidst a lot of controversy (of course, I watched it on the small screen; rented it out, when it was provided by our cable operator). But according to IMDB, it was released in 2015!!!!! Apparently it was released at a ‘Sakhalin Film Festival’, in Russia (I didn’t even know about an island called Sakhalin; let alone about this festival; till now). I gave Usaviya Nihadai, an Average Fare rating, of 6/10!!

Ki & Ka (2016) is practically a remake of the 70’s classic, Abhimaan (1973); with roles reversed!!

Ki & Ka (2016) is practically a remake of the 70’s classic, Abhimaan (1973); with roles reversed!!

Unfortunately, from the releases of 2016, I haven’t watched any Oscar worthy, English language, movie (except for the great production design, in Passengers). BUT Amitabh Bachchan’s performance in PINK (2016), is definitely an Oscar worthy performance. Pity, I doubt Hollywood has even heard of this movie, let alone, nominate the Big B, for his outstanding acting skills, in general.

Looking forward to, watching the Oscars LIVE telecast, next month (February 2017).

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
#‎NuwanSensFilmSense (Facebook)
nu Sense on Film (Website)

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

Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren

The Movie & I

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

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

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

My Analysis & The Characters
(Spoiler Alert)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Background

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

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

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

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

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
#‎NuwanSensFilmSense (Facebook)
nu Sense on Film (Website)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
(Twitter)
#‎NuwanSensFilmSense (Facebook)
(Twitter)
nu Sense on Film (Website)

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

Here’s a list, of my TOP-5, real life, sexy, Hollywood couples, that I think were/are the most sexiest couples to have ever existed, till date; and the most popular/scandalous.

Sexy Hollywood Couples of Yore   
The ‘it’ couple of the 60’sTAYLOR & BURTON
The ‘it’ couple of the 60’s!! All sex scandals that involved Elizabeth Taylor, were with her husbands. Unlike today, where the world/many people’s lives (famous or not), revolves around sex, getting laid and one night stands; Taylor was notorious for sleeping with the men she was married to. And she was married, an excusable, eight times.

Elizabeth Taylor, has oft remarked; that her two greatest loves were, Mike Todd (her 3rd husband), and Richard Burton (her 5th & 6th husband). She was definitely, happily married to, film & theatre tycoon, Mike Todd (a 3rd marriage for both), and they had a whirlwind romance, travelling around the globe and living life to the fullest. Sadly Todd was killed in a plane crash. Though with Todd, she had a blissful marriage, it was when she met Richard Burton, that sparks flew. Taylor & Burton, were magical together, both on and off screen. She might have had a happy family life with Todd, but with Burton, the duo, sizzled, throughout the 60’s decade.

Taylor & Burton’s, on again, off again, relationship, was a hit. People loved them (some loved hating them), so did the paparazzi. They first married in 1964, divorced in 1974 (mainly due to Burton’s drinking problem; he was an alcoholic), married again in 1975, and divorced in 1976. Burton died due to a brain haemorrhage, in 1984, leaving behind his last (4th) wife, Sally Hay Burton. Elizabeth Taylor married her last husband (her 7th husband/8th marriage), Larry Fortensky, in 1991; they divorced in 1996. Post that, she wasn’t hungry for husbands anymore. Elizabeth Taylor passed away of congestive heart failure, on the 23rd of March, 2011, aged 79 (see my tribute to Liz Taylor’s acting career, with the list I made, titled ‘My Top 10 Cinematic roles of Dame Elizabeth Taylor’, back in March 2011, on IMDB). Love Taylor & Burton, individually as actors, and together as a couple.

BOGIE & BACALL

Bogie & BacallHumphrey Bogart was a superb actor, yet lacking in sex appeal. So it’s obvious, he was known mainly for his talent. Then came, young, Lauren Bacall, and sparks flew. When they married, three times divorced, Bogart, was 45, and Bacall was only 20. Together they heated up the Big Screen, and their off-screen romance, was just as much loved, as their on screen affair, by fans. They stayed happily married, until Bogie’s sudden death in 1957. Lauren Bacall married actor Jason Robards, in 1961, but divorced in 1969. She never re-married, after that. She passed away, aged 89, on 12th August 2014 (also see my Blog-post, Call Bacall Back – The girl who taught Bogie to whistle, no more, from August 2014).

HEPBURN & HUGHES
Katharine Hepburn and Howard Hughes affair was short lived (from 1936 to 1938); but their romance was the most talked of, back in the 1930’s. She was a superstar of the silver screen, and a divorcée; he was a business tycoon, entrepreneur, investor, aviator, aerospace engineer, inventor and a power mogul, who too was a divorcé, himself, and a notoriously known playboy. Introduced to each other, by mutual friend, actor Cary Grant, the two fell in love. Soon there was talk of their impending nuptials. But Hepburn had already decided she would never re-marry, and had made a conscious decision not to ever have children. She truly believed that motherhood should be a full-time commitment, and she wanted to concentrate completely on her film career. Thus in 38’, the two separated, and Howard Hughes, went back to his wandering ways; but in 1957, he married actress, Jean Peters. Yet they divorced in 1971.
Hepburn & HughesHoward Hughes died in 1976. It’s not clear exactly, how or where. Some reports state he died, whilst travelling from Mexico to Texas, USA. Other’s state, he was travelling from the Bahamas. Katharine Hepburn, as per her decision, never re-married (but she stayed close friends with her ex-husband, Ludlow Ogden Smith, until his death in 1979); though she had an long love relationship with Spencer Tracy, until his death, in 1967. In May 2003, an aggressive tumour was found in Hepburn’s neck, but she decided against medical intervention. Katharine Hepburn died on 29th June 2003. She was 96 years old.

The Hepburn/Hughes romance, is chronicled in the movie, The Aviator (2004), starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Cate Blanchett, as Howard Hughes and Katharine Hepburn, respectively. Cate Blanchett bagged the ‘Best Supporting Actress’ Oscar, for her superb performance, capturing the essence of the legendary, Katharine Hepburn, to perfection.

The Naughty 90’s

CRUISE & KIDMAN
Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, were the most loved duo of the naughty 90’s. They met on the sets of Days of Thunder (1990), and married in December 1990. They were together for, 11 years, before getting a divorce in 2001; thanks to Cruise’s affair with Penelope Cruz. Nicole Kidman was going through a tragic ectopic pregnancy, when Cruise filed for divorce. The pregnancy ended with a miscarriage, along with their marriage.
 Though Tom Cruise, was a much loved actor, who’d made a name for himself (he appeared in some brilliant flicks in the late 80’s and the 90’s decade); Nicole Kidman, was merely famous for being Mrs. Cruise. They were loved as a couple, but Kidman on her own, wasn’t regarded as much of an actress, back then. It was only after they broke up, Kidman started making great strides, in the cinematic world. She finally made a name for herself; crashing away from the Cruise curse.

They both later re-married. Cruise married his 3rd wife, Katie Holmes in 2006, which too ended up in divorce. Nicole Kidman married, for a 2nd time, this time to, musician, Keith Urban, in 2006; and they are still happily married.

The hottest duo of this Century (so far)

JOLIE & PITT
It’s a pity, the 21st century, and even today, the sexiest couple in the industry, happens to be a straight white couple. No other/mixed races, or other sexual orientation/transgender duo’s have made it to being the hottest couple ever. Back in the mid-20th century (and up to the 80’s), let’s just say, that’s acceptable enough; but from the 90’s, till today, Hollywood still mostly loves, only straight white people, and puts them up on a pedestal. It’s really quite sad.
Jolie & PittNone the less, I too am a fan, of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. The couple are also known as, Brangelina. They look great together, both are talented artistes; and extraordinary social activists. Sure, they ruined a marriage, to become a couple (Pitt was married to Jennifer Aniston, when he started having an affair with Angelina Jolie), but today they’ve been forgiven, for they are a perfect match. Love the modern day, super couple, Jolie & Pitt, as a couple; as talented actors, and most of all, for their humanitarian work.

Back in the late 90’s, lesbian couple, Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche, came quite close to being a super couple, but their union lasted only three years (from 1997 to Year 2000). Ellen DeGeneres is currently married to, actress, Portia de Rossi. The only, non-Caucasian, couple, that comes close to being a sexy duo, today, happen to be Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith (they’ve been married since 1997; which happens to be Will Smith’s second marriage). But still they are no where near, as hot, as the Jolie/Pitt amalgamation!!!!! Other races, Inter-racial, Gay, Lesbian and Transgender; romances of Hollywood; are yet to spice up, and sizzle Hollywood, with their sex appeal!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense