Tag Archive: Rome


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Al Pacino Sidney Lumet films

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

Christopher Reeve in DEATHTRAP (1982)

Christopher Reeve in DEATHTRAP (1982)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Night falls on Manhattan

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

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

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

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

B.Bertolucci

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

Bertolucci (80's & 90's)

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

Prima Della Rivoluzione by Bernardo Bertolucci

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

Last Tango in Paris (1972)

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

BB's Last Emperor

The Last Emperor (1987)

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

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

Io e Te (2012)

Io e Te (2012)

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

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

My Favourite movie by decade, My Favourite Oscar Winner per decade (Oscar 2014 Special)
RH NS
Back in April 2011, I made a list titled My Favourite movie by decade, and in November 2012, I made a list titled Why I love …., comprising of my TOP-10 all time favourite movies, and critiquing on each one of them, on IMDB.
This evening, prior to watching this years Oscars, which will be shown live tomorrow early morning (i.e. tonight in the United States), I decided to do a post, both about my Favourite movie from each decade and my Favourite Oscar Winner per decade. For my Favourite movie from each decade is not necessarily the Best film of the decade, neither is it necessarily an Oscar Winner for ‘Best Picture’.

Three Centuries, Ten decades (I’ve omitted out the first two decades of the 20th century, for I don’t have a favourite from those two decades so far)

PRE-OSCARS
The 19th Century
1890’s
L’arrivée d’un train à La Ciotat (1895)
French Film (Silent Cinema)
The very first moving picture made, by the two Lumière brothers, Auguste and Louis Lumière. It just showcased a train coming to a platform and stopping. Sadly, like the Birth of a child, which starts with a frightened baby crying his/her lungs out, the Birth of Cinema, was marked with tragedy. People had never seen a moving picture before, and when the audience saw a train approaching towards them, on the Big screen, they started to run. So Lumière Brothers’ L’arrivée d’un train à La Ciotat resulted in a tragic stampede.
I saw this film, most probably somewhere in the 90’s, when I accidentally came across a documentary about cinema, on the telly. I don’t recall the documentary, for it was late one night, and I couldn’t watch the rest of the programme, but at least I got to watch the very first film ever made, and learn about the tragic aftermath. I haven’t seen this movie since, worth checking out for any movie buff.

The 20th Century  
1920’s
Metropolis (1927)
German Film (Silent Cinema)
An excellent German Expressionism, avant-garde, surreal, science fiction, cinematic wonder. I got to watch this classic on the big screen, back in 2007, at the Sydney public library, Sydney, Australia. I fell in love with this movie, set in a futuristic urban dystopia, almost instantly. And in 2008, when I was in Paris, France; I saw the metallic costume worn by actress Brigitte Helm, who played the lead female character, and the female android; when I visited the Cinémathèque Française there.
Metropolis (1927)
POST-OSCARS
The very first Academy Awards was held in May 1929. The winner for the most ‘Outstanding Picture’ Oscar (which was later, after going through many a name changes, from 1944 to 1961, known as the ‘Best Motion Picture’ award, and from 1962 onwards, till date, is known as the ‘Best Picture’ award), went to the silent venture, Wings (1927). Am yet to watch this silent classic, that bagged the very first Best film award. The oldest Best Picture winner I’ve watched is All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), which was excellent. Thus, my favourite Oscar winner from the end of the roaring 20’s, and the best, is All Quiet on the Western Front, which was the first film to win awards for both, ‘Outstanding Production’ (award name for Best Film at the time) and ‘Best Director’.

1930’s
Gone with the Wind (1939), my favourite movie of the 1930’s, my favourite Oscar Winner of that decade, and the Best Film to come out in that decade. My second all time favourite movie.

1940’s
Casablanca (1942), my favourite movie from the 1940’s, my favourite Oscar Winner of that decade, and the Best Film to come out in that decade. My third all time favourite movie.
1950's
1950’s
Roman Holiday (1953) – My Favourite movie from the 1950’s, also happens to be my all time favourite movie. Audrey Hepburn, my all time favourite film star, bagged the ‘Best Actress’ Oscar for Roman Holiday.
Special mention: Ben-Hur (1959), my Favourite Oscar Winner, and the Best Film, to come out of the 1950’s. (Also see my lists 50-50’s, The Foxy Fifties, These are a Few of my Favourites, Hepburn flicks through pictures and many more on IMDB)

1960’s
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) – My Favourite movie from the 1960’s.
My Fair Lady (1964) is my favourite Oscar Winner from the sizzling 60’s.
Special mention: I think François Truffaut’s, French new wave flick, Jules et Jim (1962), is the Best film of that decade, which also happens to be my second favourite film from the 1960’s. (Also see my lists The Essential 60’s (Top 60), The Late 60’s (1966-1970) öö, My Top 5 Musicals from the sizzling 60’s & 70’s and many more on IMDB)
60's
1970’s
A Clockwork Orange (1971) – My Favourite movie from the 1970’s, and the best film of that decade.
The Godfather: Part II (1974), is my favourite Oscar Winner from the suave n’ sophisticated 70’s. A very masculine decade for film, with a blend of classy and thuggery. The Godfather: Part II, also happens to be my second favourite from the 70’s. (Also see my lists My 70’s Top 5 and The Great 70’s Picture Show on IMDB)

1980’s
Rain Man (1988) is my favourite movie of the 1980’s, my favourite Oscar Winner of that decade.
Special mention: Another Oscar winner, which I feel is the Best Film to come out in the 1980’s, is, the epic scale, bio-pic, of a modern day saint, directed by Richard Attenborough. The British film, Gandhi (1982). The 1980’s were a great decade for British, Historical and Heritage, films.
The 1980's
1990’s
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), is my favourite movie from the naughty 90’s.
Forrest Gump (1994), which also happens to be my second favourite from the 90’s, is my favourite Oscar Winner from that decade.
Special mention: Schindler’s List (1993), my third favourite from the 90’s, yet another Oscar winner, I feel, is the Best Film of that decade. (Also see my list The Nineteen Nineties (Top-5) on IMDB)

The 21st Century  
2000’s (2001-2010)
From the first decade of the 21st century, my favourite flick happens to be,  Closer (2004).
A Beautiful Mind (2001), my favourite Oscar winner from the last decade.
Special mention: Brokeback Mountain (2005), is the Best film to come out of the noughties. The Biggest mistake the Oscars made, this century, was not handing the ‘Best Picture’ Oscar to this gay themed epic.

This Decade
From this decade, which is only just over three years old, so far my favourite film, favourite Oscar winner and the Best Film, happens to be, The Artist (2011), a great tribute to early cinema and the roaring 20’s. One of my favourite silent films with sound.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense
(Also see nuwansdel_02 , for the menu page, for all my list on IMDB)

Loving Film

Roman ruins (During the Roman Spring of 2005) in the Roman Forum

Roman ruins (During the Roman Spring of 2005) in the Roman Forum

The Ides of March, i.e. the 15th of March, happens to be the middle of the first month according to the ancient Roman Calendar, whence the month of March use to be the first month of the year (back then there were only 10 months in a calendar, and 51 days of the winter season were not accredited to any month), March also signified the start of Spring, thus back then there use to be many a religious observations and festivals culminating with the Ides of March. Ironically, the Ides of March is also coherent with the death of Julius Caesar, the man responsible for re-formatting the calendar, making it easier, i.e. the Julian Calendar.

From Roman times to today: The Calendar

The Roman Calendar (made in 753 BC)  is attributed as being the brainchild Romulas, the founder of Rome. The calendar began with the spring equinox, thus making March the first month, and the Ides of March (15th of March now) the middle of the Month, and in the first calendar year, Ides of March might have been a full moon day as well. Since this calendar had only 10 months, and no consistent dates, it was revived in 713 BC by King Numa Pompilius. Whereas he added two more months, but days per month differed, and for leap years, he added days to more than one leap month. Then, the high priest of the College of Pontiffs, Pontifex Maximus, lengthened the year by inserting an extra month, thus now having 13 months a year, around the early 1st century BC. 

In 45 BC, Julius Caesar re-revised the calendar, making it much easier, called the Julian calendar. He had the year consisting of, 365 days, divided by 12 months, abolishing the extra month, and a leap year added every four years, to the month of February.

Then it was re-polished up a bit in 1582 AD, by Pope Gregory XIII, which majority of the world uses as the civil calendar today, except for, apparently, countries like Saudi Arabia (uses the Islamic calendar for all purposes), Ethiopia (uses mainly the Ethiopian calendar), Iran and Afghanistan (uses mainly the Persian calendar). Two countries, mainly use the civil calendar, but also use their own for religious reasons, i.e. in India (along with Indonesia’s Java and Bali regions) some people use the Indian national calendar (a 1957 reformed Hindu calendar) as well ; and in Israel (they also use the Hebrew calendar).  

Hail Caesar !!!

With Julius Caesar in Jardin des Tuileries, Paris (April 2009)

With Julius Caesar in Jardin des Tuileries, Paris (April 2009)

 Ever since I was kid, I’ve known who Julius Caesar was, and was aware of Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. Mainly due to my late grandfather (my maternal grandfather), who loved throwing famous quotes and clichés at us. His most favourite was ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him’, the first line uttered by Mark Antony, from his speech at Caesar’s funeral from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. This speech is famous for, not only the way Mark Antony ends up praising Caesar, but also how he manipulates it to inform the general public of the conspiracy, and finally verbally attack the opponents. A style used by a lot of politicians running for office today. If, when it comes to cinema, ‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn’, from Gone with the Wind (1939), happens to be the most quoted line in history of film; and Casablanca (1942), is famous for having the most amount of quoted lines within one movie; in literature, this 16th Century play definitely has, not only the most amount of famous quotes in one text, but also the most famous line ever quoted. Some of the other famous lines from Julius Caesar, include; ‘Et tu, Brute?’ (You too, Brutus?), ‘Beware, The Ides of March are upon us’, ‘Then fall, Caesar’ and ‘Did not great Julius bleed for justice’ sake?’, to mention a few. My late grandfather would sometimes, out of the blue, all of a sudden say, ‘Hail, Caesar !’, Yes, ‘guess eccentricities run in the family. He was a person of great taste, when it came to literature, music and cinema (Westerns mainly). Healthy as ever for his 82 years, he died when a speeding car killed him, 10 years and 10 months ago to date. Julius Caesar was killed today in 44BC. I visited The Roman Forum, now in ruins, in the spring (April) of 2005, during my month long Eurotrip. And I saw Caesar’s grave (just some red bricks now) where he was cremated, and saw the ruins of the portico of Theatre of Pompey, where the senators plotted and killed Caesar.

The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum

I did this play for Bachelors in Delhi University, back in the late 90’s. 

JC On Celluloid 

Many a actors have played Julius Caesar in many a movies since the birth of Cinema, besides the stage and the small screen. From Charles Kent (the silent era, 1908) to Claude Rains (1940’s) to John Gavin (late 50’s) to Alec Guinness (the 70’s) to Timothy Dalton (the 90’s) to Alain Delon (2008), there have been more than a 100 JC’s on the big screen alone within those hundred years.  From the ones I’ve seen till date, the most powerful performance happens to be that of Rex Harrison in Cleopatra (1963).

Now, a new cinematic venture, on the life of young Julius Caesar, is in production, titled Emperor: Young Caesar. The film will depict Caesar’s early years from 92 BC to 71 BC. Caesar was born in the month of July (Julius), in 100 BC.

I am really looking forward to this movie to be directed by Burr Gore Steers (nephew of novelist, the late Gore Vidal and also of the former US first lady, the late Jacqueline Kennedy), whose directorial debut, the dark comedy, Igby Goes Down (2002), was very good movie, that I liked, though not excellent. I really hope he does an excellent job here.

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Julius Caesar on Celluloid

Julius Caesar on Celluloid

 Pix: Top Left -Marlon Brando (playing Mark Antony) in the poster of the film Julius Caesar (1953), based on Shakespeare’s acclaimed play, along with other cast members below him. Let me be a little clearer here, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, does not deal with Caesar’s life. The play is actually about the plot and murder of Caesar and the aftermath. And Caesar generally is almost always depicted in heavy robes, while Mark Antony, a soldier, in a mini tunic. 

Top Right (main picture)- Poster of film Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) depicting Vivien Leigh (who plays Cleopatra) and Claude Rains (JC); (inset picture) ex-James Bond (of the 80’s), playing JC, actor Timothy Dalton in Cleopatra (1999), I watched this back in the late 90’s, and it was one of the worst television movies I have ever seen till date, and Dalton was just as bad.

Bottom (main picture) Rex Harrison playing JC in Cleopatra (1963), among the best films I’ve seen till date; (inset picture) Alain Delon in the French comedy,  Astérix aux jeux olympiques (2008). 

– Nuwan Sen’s Historical Sense – Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense.

Statue of David

Statue of David

 Michelangelo, one of the greatest artists of the Renaissance period, was born in Italy (current Tuscany area) on 6 March 1475.

With Michelangelo's Rebellious Slave &  Dying Slave at the Louvre

With Michelangelo’s Rebellious Slave & Dying Slave at the Louvre, in Paris (August 2008)

Growing up as a kid, my knowledge of artists of modern arts was pretty limited, with the exception of Dali, Picasso, M F Hussain and a few others. But when it came to the Italian Renaissance artists, I was a bit of a pro. Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael etc etc…, were among my favourites (second only to Dali) ever since I realised I had a passion for, and was gifted with talent for, the arts. Most beautiful works by the Renaissance artists was their study of the human figure, which added to their scientific knowledge, whereas Da Vinci went to the extent of designing machines (sketches on paper only) applicable to the human form. Yes, the study of the human anatomy gave rise to everything architecturally surrounding us, since way before. Everything, from the chairs we sit on, the houses we live in, high-rise buildings, are an extension of the human form, made specially for humans. Michelangelo’s Statue of David, is one of the most popular sculptures, although am yet see the original, despite having visited Florence in the Spring of 2005, I didn’t get a chance to do so. Again in the Spring 2005, besides visiting Rome (and the Vatican), I missed out on Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. The thing was, in April 2005, I travelled around Europe for a month with a Eurail pass, valid on the European rail network for a month, covering as much as possible, occasionally sleeping in trains (few places I had a place to stay in, and once at a Bed & Breakfast in Vienna, Austria; but generally I took the night train from country to country as to use the daytime as much for travel within a country), putting my bag in a locker at a station and covering a town, hopping on the next train etc etc.. So whatever I could catch that Spring was pretty limited.

But I have seen a some other works by Michelangelo, the highlight was when I got to see some of his works at the Louvre (picture above), which I visited four times, July 2008, August 2008, April 2009 & May 2009. I passed his two famous sculptures many times, but it’s only in my second visit that I took a picture alongside the sculptures (pictured above). Most of my photographs of paintings and sculptures, are the ones I took. So from my second visit onwards I’ve tried to take pics with me in them as much as possible.

Back again in April 2005, even though I never got to see the Sistine Chapel, I did visit the Vatican, and the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica was designed by Michelangelo (pictured below), although he died (on 18 February 1564) before he could compete it.  

ROMA 001

Nuwan Sen’s Art Sense

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