Tag Archive: Suave2017


Mai May Movies 2019!

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

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The

Feature Films

The Front Page (1931)

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Rating: 9/10!

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La Chienne (1931)

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

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

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

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

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

My Rating: 8/10!

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Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)

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

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

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

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

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

My Rating: 8/10

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The

Short Films

Dream House (1953)

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

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

My Rating: 8/10!

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

Feature Films

Mr. & Mrs. ’55 (1955)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last movie I watched this month (May 2019).

My Rating: 6/10!

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Postscript:

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

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

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The 70’s

Feature Films

The Last Detail (1973)

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

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

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

My Rating: 3/10!

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The White Buffalo (1977)

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

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

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

My Rating: 4/10!

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This Decade (2010’s)

Documentaries

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

Room 237 (2012)

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

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

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

My Rating: 6/10!

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Vadim, Mister Cool (2016)

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

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

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

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

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

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Carré 35 (2017)

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

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

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

My Rating: 8/10!

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Short Films

Uuquchiing (2018)

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

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

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

My Rating: 3/10!

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Feature Films

12 Years a Slave (2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Postscript:

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

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Chouf (2016)

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

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

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

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

My Rating: 8/10!

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Rutabaga (2018)

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

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

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

My Rating: 1/10

La Révolte des Innocents ()

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

Really good movie, based on a real incident!

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

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

My Rating: 8/10!

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Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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For the very first time in this country, there was a special Film Festival, celebrating women & womanhood, to coincide with , this year! This was in the first week of this month! The opening movie was on 28th February 2019, which I didn’t go for, plus I wasn’t able to attend the movies on 1st & 2nd of March 2019! So the 3rd of March, 2019, was my very 1st attendance at the very 1st Colombo International Women’s Film Festival!! The Festival took place at the National Film Corporation (NFC), in Colombo.

Julia Jentsch & Emilia Pieske in 24 Wochen (2016)

My Day 1 (3rd March 2019)

Afternoon 3:30pm (1530hrs)

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Tradition (2016) – Short Film, directed by Lanka Bandaranayake

An elderly woman decorates a young depressed looking bride, in traditional Kandyan jewellery, as the bride reflects on her past sexual liaisons. Good premise and the decorating of the woman in bridal attire is beautifully done, but the flashbacks look fake. Sometimes nudity is added just for the sake of it, and it doesn’t work, like in this case. For example, there is stark naked man seated in toilet, then he just gets up showing us his clean buttocks and flushes the toilet (he neither wiped nor washed his ass before doing so, yet the bugger was spotlessly clean), another half naked man walks really carefully, in nothing but a shirt, and turns slowly so that his perfectly placed shirt manages to cover his penis (who talks and walks like that, is he training to be a monk?) As I mentioned the nudity is put in just for the sake of sensationalizing nudity. What I am trying to say is not that shit ought to shown on his ass or there need to be a show of a guys genitals, but my point is how unrealistic and artificial those flashback scenes felt. What I liked was veteran, Irangani Serasinghe, who was admiringly marvellous as she explained the significance of each piece of jewelry. Especially when she puts the chained rings, and mentions that the new bride will be chained to her husband and children for life (in other words, there is no escape). The ugly and unhappy bride was well portrayed as well, and from her memories we are shown she’s no virgin bride as Sri Lankan brides are presumed to be!

Good Concept, but the flashback sequences could’ve been handled better.

Average Fare: 5/10

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Deepa Mehta’s Anatomy of Violence (2016) was based on the real life gang rape that shook the Indian capital, in December 2012, yet depicting a fictional backstory for each of the perpetrators.

Anatomy of Violence is made in the style of a mockumentary, a fake realism of sorts, with adult actors playing children as well, including their own younger selves. The movie was actually bit of a drag, and a lot of time is wasted on each person’s backstory. The perpetrators are humanized a level bit too much. Showed them in a very sympathetic light and time wasted to show how ‘ordinary’ these men are. No matter what they might have gone through when they were young (for it’s mere speculation) that’s no excuse for what they did, as adult men, with a mature enough brain that’s quite aware of what they were doing. And we do get to see that they have no conscience, no regret. As much as you can empathize with what they might have gone through growing up, you can’t feel any kind sympathy towards their selfish inhumane act. These six men, gang raped a 23-year-old physiotherapy intern, Jyoti Singh Pandey, in a moving bus, beat her and tortured her. She succumbed to her injuries and died in within two weeks after the assault.

The film is divided into segments, and the Aftermath segment, with the details of actual newsreels inter cut with documentary drama style, was the best segment. This film could have worked way better as a documentary of an Actors Workshop, rather than using the improvisational exercises as a representation of reality.

None the less, Anatomy of Violence was an averagely good effort, from the acting talent, as well as from the famed film director.

Average Fare: 6/10

Panel discussion on Violence Against Women.

This discussion was quite good. Wish there more people in attendance, only about ten people were left in the audience (for the movie there were only a few more, who left as the interesting discussion started). I shared my own thoughts on Deepa’s Mehta’s perspective transferred onto the Big Screen (including some of the stuff I mentioned above), when the audience was given a chance to question and comment. I enjoyed this post-film Q&A, more than the actual feature. Wish Deepa Mehta herself was present. It would’ve been interesting to speak to an acclaimed director like her directly, a director I use to have such great admiration for back in the 90’s & noughties (especially thanks to her directorial ventures like; the brilliant first two installments in her Elements trilogy, Fire,1996 &1947:Earth,1998, and a really good third installment made amidst a lot of controversy, Water, 2005, as well as her, far from great, but still pretty good flicks, like, Camilla, 1994, Heaven on Earth, 2008 & Midnight’s Children, 2012).

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Evening 6:15pm (1815hrs)

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Bless this home (2019) – Short Film by Randi Pavithra Kaluarachchi, was just crap.

The silly “Dishum Dishum” sequence was ridiculous (a play on fantasy versus reality). Can’t really compare it to Mehta’s film, where adult actors play child characters. What Pavithra Kaluarachchi wanted to showcase was domestic violence, in a manner of child’s play. So we see the parents in cowboy hats (the father in full cowboy gear) pointing their figures at each other going “Dishum Dishum”. Ultimately we see the woman dead, in reality. It just didn’t work, for me at least, and it came out looking quite silly. As I mentioned it to the director herself, when I met her briefly later that night.

It might have worked better if she made it in a more surreal setting, having a cowboy chasing a cowgirl, both on horseback, making it looking like an actual western, and then the cowboy lassoing the cowgirl off her horse, cutting to reality to show the dead woman and two little kids starring at her. That would have made for a better movie than two fully grown humans doing a silly “Dishum Dishum” to each other inside a house!!!!

Thus it’s mainly thanks to the two adult leads, that the movie was ruined. A good concept none the less, what Randi Pavithra Kaluarachchi tried to indirectly show, but unfortunately, really poor in the execution.

Pathetic: 1/10

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24 Wochen (2016), English Title: 24 Weeks

Directed by Anne Zohra Berrached, this German movie, discusses the issue of late-term abortion. This was the best film, I saw, at the Festival.

A happily married woman with a little daughter, is about 6 months pregnant with her second child, when she learns that the unborn child would have down syndrome. Along with her husband, they slowly come to terms with bringing up a child with down syndrome, including taking their little girl to special schools for kids with down syndrome, so that the daughter can adapt to her brother’s disability, once he’s born. Just as they’ve made peace with the fact of raising a child like that, they get worse news. The unborn baby also has a heart defect.

The movie deals with the moral dilemma the parents have to face, when it comes to having a late-term abortion, trying to make the decision as to have the baby, or abort the growing child. And since it’s a late-term abortion, she’d have to go through an induced labour and the probability of the child being born alive are high. Thus, the new born baby will have to be given a lethal injection. Sad, tragic, painfully heart rending!!! We feel for the parents, having to go through what they are going through, without judging them for their final decision.

Beautiful and tragic!

Very Good: 8/10!

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My Day 2 (5th March 2019)

Evening 6:15pm (1815hrs)

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Love vs. Love (2019) – Short Film by Pavithra Damunugahkumbura. What in the world was that? It was so pathetic, there is nothing to salvage!

Pathetic: 1/10

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Mary Shelley (2017)

Saudi Arabia’s 1st female filmmaker, Haifaa Al-Mansour, directed the bio-pic of the famed female author responsible for giving birth to Frankenstein, in the early 19th century. The book was published in 1818.

The movie is beautifully made, but falters towards the end, but it’s still a pretty decent period piece (see my tweets below). Al-Mansour’s previous feature film (a Saudi Arabian movie, made in the Arabic language), Wadjda (2012) was a superb movie. I highly recommend that. Way way better than this bio-pic, which too was quite good though.

Pretty Good: 7/10

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My Day 3: Closing Ceremony (7th March 2019)

Evening 6:30pm (1830hrs)

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Sri Lanka’s veteran female director, Sumitra Peries, was felicitated with the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’, at this 1st Colombo International Women’s Film Festival! Deservedly so, SL’s top director, Lester James Peries’ wife, is a filmmaker in her own right. This event took longer than necessary, mainly thanks to long boring speeches by multiple female film personalities of this country. Sumitra Peries though, was kind enough not to take too much time, as she felt us spectators might be anxious with all talk and no screening happening.

From the speeches, Dr Sumathy Sivamohan, through her speech, though a tad long, shared something really interesting on how when Sumitra Peries’ directorial debut, Gahanu Lamai (1978), was released, they traveled all the way from Jaffna to Colombo, when they heard it was directed by Lester James Peries’ wife. Yashoda Wimaladharma gave a very genuine speech, recalling the Late Lester James Peries, with a teary eye and a wavering voice. Touching!

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Sumitra Peries’ latest venture, Vaishnavee (2017), closed the Film Festival. As much as Mrs Peries is a well revered personality here, I was really disappointed with this movie. A localized tale, akin to the ancient Greek mythological tale of Pygmalion and the Ivory Sculpture, Vaishnavee, truly bored me. A grieving puppeteer, whose bride to be has eloped with her lover, carves a female puppet from a tree inhibited by a tree goddess. The puppet comes to life and he falls in love with it, but they aren’t destined to be together. The concept of being in Love with the Unreal (see my Blog post from May 2017, as well). The acting, the characters and the plot development was far from good. Irangani Serasinghe was OK; Mahendra Perera was Mahendra Perera, like he is in practically every movie; few funny moments with Samadhi Arunachaya (a sort of comic-relief); Veena Jayakody looked like she was suffering from a constant asthma attack, and the rest of the cast members, including Yashoda Wimaladharma, truly bored me. Some laugh at them, rather than laugh with them, funny moments in the film (with the exception of Arunachaya). Enjoyable story line based on a fantasy, but poor execution. Though not the worse film ever, it was still really bad!

Very Bad: 3/10

Instead of showing her latest movie, it would have been better for the festival organizers to have shown her best work. Like Ganga Addara (1980) for example. Though that too is only Average Fare (after all Lankan movies are yet to come to an international standard, they have a long way to go, see my Blog post on The SAARC Film Festival 2018 from May 2018), Ganga Addara is definitely among the better movies made in this country.

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I wish I could have worked on a better post, analyzing the movies in depth, but struggling through so much emotional turmoil, through my stress, anxiety attacks and depression, it’s been very difficult to do a proper blog post. But am managing the best I can. Way too many disturbances and distractions, breaking my concentration and ruining my train of thought. Sometimes am just too exhausted, both physically and mentally. My head literally hurts (but my diabetic meds are pretty strong too) and I feel very sensitive to sound (and this country is very noisy in every possible way). Plus, my high blood sugar is apparently affecting my eyesight. My vision fluctuates in a very weird manner, especially when typing on my Laptop!

Anyway, glad there was this wonderful festival. This was the 1st, hope there will be more in the future. This country is very good at having a 1st, but follow ups are an extreme rarity (for e.g. there was a 1st and 2nd Colombo International Film Festival, in 2014 & 2015; but nothing else). So kudos to all the organizers for this film fest, celebrating Women, for , let’s hope it continues, annually.

Nuwan Sen’s Movie Sense

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

1Bollywood FIVE

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

3Ingrid Bergman & 40’s Hollywood

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

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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

JANAAN (2016)

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

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

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

MATA NAM AHUNA (2015)

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

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

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

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

BISORJON (2017)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

POORNA (2017)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HALDAA (2017)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE WATERFALL (2017)

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

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

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

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

BAHUCHITHAWADIYA (2018)

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

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

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

THE SAARC FILM FEST EXPERIENCE

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

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

MY RATINGS (Set of Seven):-

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

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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Remembering the late Shashi Kapoor (1938-2017); on his 80th Birth Anniversary!!

Shashi Kapoor was no doubt the most versatile and International celebrity to come out of India. An actor, director and Producer; who not only worked in Bollywood films (both Art & Commercial); but worked in regional Indian films; Indian English-Language Film (in fact he was the first star of the renowned Merchant/Ivory Productions; before they went onto make British gems), as well as British movies!! And he was a renowned stage artiste as well; who formed the famed Prithivi Theatre; fulfilling his father’s, Prithviraj Kapoor’s, dream. Added to which, he had a good reputation; as being one of the nicest people ever. A charming, kind-hearted, friendly personality; and morally superior to most people, in general. Shashi Kapoor died on 4th of December, 2017. He was 79 years old!

I’ve posted this quote, from one of his Bollywood films; Silsila (1981)

Hum gayab hone waalo mein se nahi hai … jahan jahan se guzharte hai jalwe dikhate hai … dost toh kya, dushman bhi yaad rakhte hai

….which in English roughly translates to ….

We are not ones to easily vanish; …. wherever we go, we show them our charm; ….. that not only friends, even foes shall remember us

…. and that quote truly sums up, what this charismatic celebrity is to his loved ones and fans alike. True to any great personality, they’ll never be forgotten; and shall live on forever, through people who admire them. RIP Shashi Kapoor, Stephen Hawking, Sridevi, and other greats people we lost in recent times.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

Couldn’t sleep a wink last night, kept getting up to check the time. Finally got off my bed by 4:30am (0430hrs); made my instant coffee, and got ready to catch the Oscar Red Carpet coverage LIVE (on this side of the Globe), at 5am (0500hrs); and continued to watch the entire show, until the finalé at 10:20am (1020hrs).

James Ivory giving his Oscar speech; after winning for Best Adapted Screenplay, for Call me by your Name (2017)
89 year old Ivory (who’ll turn 90 in June) became the oldest person to win an Oscar, ever!!

I was pretty disappointed, when Call me by your Name (2017) and Loving Vincent (2017); didn’t win the golden statuettes, for ‘Best Picture’ and ‘Best Animated Picture’, respectively. BUT I wasn’t surprised either. Though I haven’t watched The Shape of Water (2017) and Coco (2017); which won the earlier mentioned awards; in their respective categories; I highly doubt, they are as unique, as the naturalistic delicate love story that was Call me by your Name, and the spectacular literally moving impressionist artwork that was Loving Vincent. Added to which Coco also grabbed the award for ‘Best Achievement in Music written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)’. Poor Sufjan Stevens; his “Mystery of Love”; is such an amazingly melodious creation. Love that song.

Yet, luckily James Ivory was awarded the trophy ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’; for Call me by your Name. Aged 89, this was the very first Oscar win for Ivory; making him the oldest Oscar winner ever. Being one third of the trio behind the famed Merchant/Ivory Productions (which included Ismail Merchant and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala), and today, with only Ivory being among the living, of the trio; he gave a heartfelt speech paying tribute his two co-producers/directors/writers and close friends. I’ve been a fan of Merchant/Ivory Productions since I can remember. They made some brilliant Indian English language films, from the beginning of the 60’s decade, to the early 80’s; before they went onto make beautiful British Heritage Films, like the E.M. Forster trilogy for instance; A Room with a View (1985), Maurice (1987) & Howards End (1992); and other eloquent creations set in eras of elegance.

Another touching speech, that was given, was by Frances McDormand; who nabbed the ‘Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role’ Oscar, for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017). Albeit pretty hysterically; but heartfelt. She got all the female nominees and winners to get up, and stand with her (though not on stage). I was really happy when, as expected, Gary Oldman won ‘Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role’ for Darkest Hour (2017). For he was brilliant as Churchill, and ’twas not just ’cause of the prosthetics. He truly embodied the character. At the end of his speech, he asked his mother to put on the kettle, for he was bringing home an Oscar. Darkest Hour, quite deservedly, also won for ‘Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling’. Jordan Peele, became the first Afro-American Screenwriter, to win the prestigious award for ‘Best Original Screenplay’; for his horror venture, Get Out (2017). Though Dunkirk (2017) sadly lost out to Blade Runner 2049 (2017) for ‘Best Achievement in Cinematography’; it did bag a few in technical categories.

During the In Memoriam, the academy paid tribute to various stars like Harry Dean Stanton, Roger Moore, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lewis, et al. Added to these great American celebrities, they had also mentioned actor Shashi Kapoor (1938-2017); the very first star of  Productions; which was not a surprise, as he was an international star. But, somewhat of surprise, of course a pleasant one at that, was the inclusion of Sridevi (1963-2018), a national star of India; who bridged the gap between Bollywood (Films mainly made in the national language of India, Hindi) and South Indian Cinema (she’s worked in various South Indian languages made in various Southern Indian States).

Black & Gold: Lupita Nyong’o & Sandra Bullock

Rita Moreno, when she won for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for
West Side Story (1961), at the 34th Academy Awards, in April 1962; along with Best Actor in a Supporting Role winner (for the same film), her co-star, George Chakiris (L); and actor Rock Hudson (R)

From Oscars 1962 to Oscars 2018: 86 year old Rita Moreno, wore the same skirt she wore when she won the award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role; 56 years ago

Fashion and a great sense of style, are a dominant feature at the Academy Awards; and this year, it was the Black & Gold combination that struck me as the best. Both Lupita Nyong’o & Sandra Bullock, looked amazing in their Black & Gold garb; but it was the 86 year Rita Moreno, who stole the show; when she wore the skirt that she originally wore for the Oscars, in 1962. She topped it off with a strapless black top, simple jewellery, a headband, gloves, and spectacles. She made spectacles look good. The attire that disappointed me the most, was the crude chandelier of a dress, that hung on Salma Hayek. Too gaudy for my taste!!!

In a chic pantsuit, Emma Stone presents the Oscar for Best Achievement in Directing; which went to Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water (2017)

Red n’ Bright: Meryl Streep & Allison Janney
Allison Janney won the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for I, Tonya (2017)

True Blue: Nicole Kidman & Jennifer Garner

The Gentlemen looked dashing in their tuxedos; but it’s always the Ladies who steal the show at Award Ceremonies; or any function, when it comes to dress sense. But what is even more impressive is when a Lady dons a Trouser suit; and at this year’s , it was the chic style adorned by Emma Stone, that caught my eye!!!👁

Overall, the 90th Annual Academy Awards, was an interesting show; with no slip-ups this time!! And Jimmy Kimmel did a wonderful job, second time round. Bringing in Bonnie and Clyde (1967) veterans; Warren Beatty & Faye Dunaway; a second time, as well (after last years debacle), was a icing on the cinematic cake.

Congratulations to all the Winners!!! Here’s to 2018!!

Nuwan Sen

Nuwan Sen n’ Style

Timothée Chalamet with his mother, and Armie Hammer with his wife (Oscars 2018)

Comical moment with host Jimmy Kimmel and Helen Mirren

Daniel Kaluuya congratulates Jordan Peele on winning the Best Original Screenplay Oscar (inset) Daniel Kaluuya

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The Feature-Length Movies released in 2017, that I have seen so far. From the Best to the Worst!!!!!

TOP Films of 2017 (10 Star Rating Each)

  • Call me by your Name (2017)
  • Loving Vincent (2017)
  • Dunkirk (2017)
  • T2 Trainspotting (2017)
  • Die Göttliche Ordnung (2017) – English Title: The Divine Order
  • The Hungry (2017)
  • Battle of the Sexes (2017)
  • Darkest Hour (2017)

The Rest of the films of 2017, from the Close to Excellence to Average to bad to the most Pathetic!

  • Veeram (2017) – Alternate Title: Veeram Macbeth! My Rating: 9/10
  • Downsizing (2017) My Rating: 7/10
  • All Nighter (2017) My Rating: 7/10
  • Space Between Us (2017) My Rating: 5/10
  • Vishka (2017) My Rating: 4/10
  • Life (2017) My Rating: 3/10
  • Begum Jaan (2017) My Rating: 1/10
  • Judwaa 2 (2017) My Rating: 1/10
  • Fifty Shades Darker (2017) My Rating: 1/10
  • The Institute (2017) My Rating: 1/10

I’ve only mentioned of films meant for Cinematic release (even though I watched most of them on the small screen, or smaller yet on my Laptop); and that too, if they were first released last year, only (doesn’t matter which country they made their debut in; and doesn’t matter if I saw them last year itself, or more recently, within the last two months of 2018). Plus, I have only listed Feature films, no Short films, like In a Heartbeat (2017), No-One (2017) and The Colour of his Hair (2017); to name a few. Neither have I added any Television Anthology series (where a one season is considered a “Limited Series”; thus like a loooong movie) like, ‘Season1’ of Feud (2017 onwards) or ‘Season3’ of Fargo (2014 onwards) for instance (which were both excellent shows, by the way), or any other TV series released in 2017, like 13 Reasons Why (2017 onwards), for example! Nor have I mentioned any mini-series/TV movies of documentaries, from last year. So far, from this year’s releases, I’ve only watched Padmaavat (2018), and that was a way way way over top, disappointment.

So, like most of you, my fellow film fanatics; am really looking forward to watching the 90th Annual Academy Awards, LIVE; on 5th March 2018, early morning (on this side of the Globe)!!!!!

May the Best Picture win!!!!!

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Call Me By Your Name (2017): The Perfect Picture

A very pure form of storytelling, brought out by Luca Guadagnino, Call me by your Name; is one of the greatest English Language movies to come out of this century. The innocence, the romance, the sensuality; Guadagnino seduces his audiences into a heart-rending love affair; with the 17 year old Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet), his desire for the much older archaeology scholar, Oliver (Armie Hammer); and the Italian landscape. In the past, I’ve spoken about Why I love, films like Roman Holiday (1953), Jules et Jim (1962), Annie Hall (1977); et al; on IMDB!! The purity of the realistic, natural feel of these tear jerker romances, and sad, yet beautifully told love stories, with a mature understanding of human emotions; immerses you into these movies, empathizing with the characters; and being deeply involved with their intellectual conversations; understanding, and accepting their bonds, along with their eventual separations or tragic rides to death of their romantic flings (either metaphorically or literally). The style also reminded me of the Art Films of Éric Rohmer; especially Pauline à la Plage (1983); English Title – Pauline at the Beach (which was, also a coming of age story, released in the year Call me by your Name is set in); and Rohmer’s famed “Tales of the Four Seasons” series of films.

Everything about this movie is uniquely brilliant. The story/narrative (based on the novel by André Aciman); the script/screenplay by the renowned James Ivory (collaborated with Luca Guadagnino and Walter Fasano); the music/soundtrack by Sufjan Stevens; the cinematography by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom; film edit by Walter Fasano, the film direction by Luca Guadagnino; – They all come together to bring out something pure and touchingly sublime.

From the artistic title credits, at the beginning; which look like chalk on board (most probably a shout out to the 80’s, when chalk was still used on Blackboards; by the 90’s schools slowly transitioned to Whiteboards with gel markers) with pictures of Hellenistic sculptures showcasing the beauty of the male form; to the finalé, with the burning fire in the cold winter reflecting on Elio’s crying face (like an allegory of his burning desire; being submerged with an unbearable depression of lost love); as the end credits roll; with Sufjan Stevens lending his vocals to the melonchonic Visions of Gideon; this movie completely encapsulates the audience emotions. Though the movie might have ended, the deep impact it leaves us with, stays on for days and days. It feels so real.

Regardless of it being a love story between man and a boy; the emotional turmoil, of experiencing first love, is something every human being can relate to; immaterial of his/her sexual orientation and racial/religious background. It’s a great coming age story, of two gay men; shown in such a naturalistic and non-judgemental manner; it makes one believe in love and romance. The best line of the movie is delivered by Perlman Sr. (i.e. Elio’s father), played by Michael Stuhlbarg; towards the end of the movie. Such an understanding parent, who doesn’t condemn his son’s act of love, with a much older man. Both Elio’s father and mother, Annella Perlman (played elegantly by British born actress, Amira Casar); are very accepting, modern, open-minded individuals; who trust their teenage son’s maturity; yet cuddle and shower him with love kids desire from their parents. Age has nothing to do with maturity. There are so many fully grown immature adults in the world; incapable of intellect, deep though and understanding. Here we see a teenager, along with his caring parents; who are highly mature and sophisticated, in dealing with emotional problems with dignity.

Speaking of elegance and dignity; the Perlman’s definitely are a very privileged family; yet they aren’t obsessed with materialism; even though their superior taste in the world of arts is well acknowledged. They are well in tune with nature and their natural surroundings around the beautiful Villa, in the region of Lombardy, in Northern Italy; that they reside in. We see Elio and Oliver (an American Jewish visitor for the summer, working as an assistant to Elio’s father) exploring the natural countryside, cycling, swimming and dancing. Added to which, we see Elio as a book worm and a lover of classical music.

From the music, to the cinematography, the atmosphere created within; the entire movie seduces us, without necessary showcasing graphic sex. The much talked about peach scene, has a naïvety entwined with it’s sensuality; as erotic as it is, it’s also a touching moment. Elio’s desire to penetrate Oliver is obvious (as it’s led to believe Elio is on the receiving end), the touching of the soft skin on the peach, exploring the hole atop, it’s aesthetically sensual without being cheap and vulgar; yet Elio feels humiliated when Oliver teases him for it. Innocence, eroticism and misery, all rolled in one; making one feel sorry for Elio.

Nature and the aesthetic male nude, play a crucial role in the movie. There is a scene where the archeology professor (i.e. Elio’s father, mentioned above) takes Elio and Oliver to see the ancient Kouros statues that have washed up close to shore, at Lake Garda. Elio and Oliver admire the statue of the male form in all it’s beauty; later the Professor tells Oliver of his admiration for the bronze kouroi, the aesthetic male nude of the bygone era; an understanding of artists’ affections for the youthful male body (which practically was like an understanding, and acceptance, in part of the professor, of Oliver’s love for the Professor’s fully developed young son). And then there is a scene where we see Oliver’s naked physique standing in the dark, from behind, standing at a windowsill; and his beautiful body looks like a Hellenistic works of art, discovered at the Lake Garda, itself. Armie Hammer was 30 years old, and in marvellous shape, when he did this role. The then, 21 year old, Timothée Chalamet, is very believable as a 17 year old Elio, who looks 15. Yup, Chalamet; is capable of portraying an even younger teenager, if he had to. What is more impressive is the fact, that both these actors are actually heterosexual; yet they play their on-screen homosexual romance with such ease, it makes the movie entirely more believably brilliant. And the atmosphere created with the landscape and background score; helps us cherish their beautiful May/December romance, admiringly.

Speaking of music, Call me by your Name also has a great soundtrack; especially with Elio being a musical prodigy of sorts. We get to hear Elio’s own renditions of maestros of classical music, the likes of Bach; and the way Liszt might have played Bach. Added to which there are some beautiful modern day songs, like Sufjan Stevens Mystery of Love and the very 80’s Love my Way by The Psychedelic Furs (from their 1982 album, Forever Now). Speaking of the 80’s; as I mentioned earlier, this movie is set in the Summer of 1983. Yet, Luca Guadagnino manages to make the 80’s feel very today. In other words; instead of making the 80’s, vintage; without making the setting a blast from the past; Guadagnino transports us, the audience back; making us feel as if we are currently living in the 1980’s. It feels like the present. The movie unravels in front of our eyes, as if it were happening, at this moment. Not in a nostalgic sense.

Teenage angst, sexual awakening, first crush; these are coming of age themes; all humans can relate to (whether it’s a love for an older person; where the adult reciprocates; or whether it’s a painful experience of unrequited love). Elio, in one sense, is a very lucky teenager; he not only falls in love; but his love with an adult is consummated (without marriage, of course). Added to which, he has very understanding parents, who give him the freedom teenagers desire, without suffocating him; at the same time, they are there for him, when he needs them the most. When Elio, heartbroken, calls his mum to come and get him; his mother rushes to his aid. The father, consoles the heartbroken child, advising him, not to stop feeling human emotions; because of the pain of losing his first love. Yet, we do sympathize, with Elio. The moment, he whispers “Elio, Elio, Elio” (reminiscence of a romantic moment they shared, where they called each other with their own names; “Call me by your name, and I’ll call you by mine”); to his ex-lover over the phone”, pulls at your heart strings. And Elio sitting and staring at the fire, the emotionally devastated state he is in, when he finds out, Oliver is getting married to a woman; is heartbreaking. Similar, yet so different, to the silent; not speaking a word, yet facial expressions betraying their emotions; type ending from Roman Holiday. That Peck & Hepburn love story is till date, my all time favourite movie; and Call me by your Name, no doubt is my favourite gay themed love story; and amongst my favourites from this century.

This artistically told delicate romance, made with a small budget; has been nominated for 4 Oscars. From ‘Best Motion Picture of the Year’, to ‘Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role’, to ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’, to ‘Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)’ for Mystery of Love; all the nominations are deservedly so; yet it is sad, that Luca Guadagnino, has not been nominated for his superb film direction. Call me by your Name, should at least bag the top prize, for ‘Best Picture’; if not for all four. Yet, I highly doubt, Timothée Chalamet, would win the ‘Best Actor’ trophy; as the academy tends to look at the Body of Work as well (which is absurd, as there is something called a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ for that); but anyway, I felt Gary Oldman did a slightly more brilliant role (of playing past British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill), in Darkest Hour (2017). Besides Call me by your Name and Darkest Hour; the only other ‘Best Picture’ nominee I’ve seen is, Dunkirk (2017). All three films are superb in their own right; but Call me by your Name, definitely deserves the coveted Oscar statuette, THE most. No matter, how great, the rest of the films nominated are; I highly doubt, that any of them come close to the unique masterpiece that is Call me by your Name!!!!!

Call Me By Your Name (2017)
My Rating: 10/10 !!!!!!!!!!

I first watched Call me by your Name, last month, on 11th January 2018, streamed online, on a useless website, with a pathetic copy of the film (the quality was soooo bad); BUT the movie was totally worth it. The fact I fell in love with this movie, despite watching it in such bad quality; says a lot about what a great movie it is. So I wanted to re-watch it, on a better quality. Earlier this month, I downloaded a copy of the film, from another site. It took 7 hours or so; felt like the whole day. To see, it was a 30 second clip, stating, to watch the full movie, go to some website!! I was infuriated, and utterly disappointed. Then, on 22nd February 2018, I downloaded it from the site I started downloading films, for the first time, last year (see my post Mardi-Gras, Movies-Gay from March 2017). Initially Call me by your Name was not available on the said site. It took only a couple of hours, and I watched it for a second time, then and there. The quality of the downloaded version was crisp and clear (sadly just the English subtitles for the French and Italian segments were not available; but I can make out some phrases in French, anyway ’twas not much of an issue). The film was worth re-watching, in better quality. It’s sad these great movies are rarely shown in Cinemas here; even then they don’t last for more than a week (watched Darkest Hour, at the Cinema; which lasted only one week). I’d love to re-experience this movie, away from the Laptop; and on the big wide screen someday. Until then ….

Later!!!!!
Nuwan Sen
(Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense)

🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑

Merry Christmas 2017 !!!!!

Originally a Pagan Ritual, worshiping Sol Invictus, the Sun God (which started in the Roman Empire in 274AD, on the shortest day of the year); the Christians took over some 60 years later, to celebrate the birth of Christ (Jesus Christ was not born on Christmas Day; his birth date is unknown, but speculated to be somewhere in the height of Summer, in July or August); coinciding with the Winter solstice. Today, the 2st century, it’s no more just a Christian religious holiday (except for the deeply devout), but an international holiday season. It does not matter, whether you are Christian/Anglican/Protestant/Catholic (or from any other religious branches pertaining to Christianity) or NOT; Religious or NOT; everyone one loves Christmas. No more, is it just to mark the birth of Christ; but fun filled holiday season, for all (whoever wants to enjoy this holiday).

’tis the season to jolly ……..

 

Have a Ball !!!!!

Christ might not have been born of Christmas Day, but these famous people were….

…..among many others!!

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL MY FELLOW BLOGGERS!!!!

Nuwan Sen

#NuwanARTS
#‎NuwanSensFilmSense

Photograph-V

On Facebook, I was challenged; on the 1st of November, Year 2017, to post a Black&White picture per day, without posting any people, and no explanations, yet it had to do with my life. This was a 7 day challenge, that ended today. Whilst, the rest of the photographs are pretty self explanatory (to some extent at least), this is a picture, which is very personal, and has to do with my childhood on wards, till date. It does not simply depict my love for Books & Films!!!

So here is an explanation for this picture, I posted on FB, for Day V (i.e. 5th November 2017) :-

So past 4th midnight, I thought of posting something uniquely personal for Day V, of the B/W photography challenge. I started taking out the close near dear reads and views, from my shelves, and set them on my bed. It was already next day, with 9/10ths of a moonlit sky shining above the wet clouds outside. At 00:55 am, 5th morning, I took the snapshot. Yet, ’twas a pity, I won’t be able to explain it. But today morning, after posting the last picture of the challenge, I went back to this. And decided, I can’t explain it on FB, but I have a Blog, where I can.

So the picture; let us start with Audrey Hepburn. So, as many of my fellow bloggers and close friends are aware, that Hepburn happens to be my all time favourite actress. I’ve been a fan of hers since I watched My Fair Lady (1964), as a little kid, back in the mid-1980’s. I wanted to grow up and marry her, and remember asking my mum, how old Hepburn was (of course I realized Audrey Hepburn was somewhat older than me, but what I didn’t realize at the time was that this musical, set during the Edwardian era, was made long before I came into existence). Anyway, Audrey Hepburn starred alongside the suave gentleman, Gregory Peck, in ROMAN HOLIDAY (1953), which happens to be my all time favourite movie. I watched this in the summer of 1994, just before my 19th Birthday, whilst living in New Delhi, India. Plus, 1994 was the best year of my teenage life (coming of age in Shit Lanka was a nightmare, so it was a refreshing change to go back to India in 94′, after a hellish six year stay in monstrous Lanka. And now am back, going through a lot of stress due to being stuck in a narrow minded extremist country like Shit Lanka. Been here for just over eight years now. Getting anything done in SL is a hassle, including trying to work on this simple blog-post without unnecessary disturbances and distractions). Anyway, even though a fan of Hepburn since childhood, it was once I watched ROMAN HOLIDAY, I truly fell in love with Hepburn. AND soon both her debut movie; about a Princess walking around the scenic architectural delights of ancient Rome, in modern day Italy, as a commoner, having an accidental fling, a tragic love story set in 24 hours, this B/W tearjerker romance that pulls at your heartstrings; along with Hepburn herself, became my all time favorite movie, and actress, respectively. I was simply smitten by her charmingly naturalistic acting. In 2003, after handing in my final dissertation titled “Marriage on Hitchcock Films: From Rebecca to Marnie”, for my MA in International Cinema, at the University of Luton, Luton, UK; I treated myself to an Audrey Hepburn Box-Set of Video Cassettes, which included my all time favourite, ROMAN HOLIDAY. The cassette cover that can be seen on the picture above.

Having mentioned Hitchcock, many of you know Alfred Hitchcock is my all time favourite director; and that REBECCA (1940) happens to be my favourite Hitchcockian classic. Thus, when I was studying his movies, doing an out and out psychoanalysis of varied character sketches, from his best period of Hollywood movies (his first 25 years in Hollywood) for my final dissertation of 25,000 to 30,000 words; I bought some of his movies, and rented others, in Oslo, Norway (as that’s where I resided, during my final semester, as I had no classes; thus working full time 5½ days a week, and concentrating on my dissertation on Saturday evenings and Sunday the whole day; I was exhausted). The video tape of REBECCA which can be seen above was one of movies I bought. But there is more of a history I share with Hitchcock’s REBECCA. I fell in love with this hauntingly magnificent tale of woman living under the shadow of her husband’s dead first wife; when I first saw it as a kid, in the mid-80’s. So this most probably was my all time favourite, till I watched ROMAN HOLIDAY, almost a decade later. Around that time, at school, The British School, in New Delhi, India, we had to write a film review. REBECCA being fresh in my mind, I remember writing my very first film review, on this noirish perfection by Alfred Hitchcock, aged 11; whilst I was in Senior-I. Later, aged 12½/13, I read Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (on which the Hitchcockian masterpiece was based on). And this so called women’s book, my very first piece of Adult Fiction, instantly became my all time favourite novel, and it remained no.1 till aged 20, I read the English translation of CITY OF JOY, a French novel by Dominique Lapierre. I bought the book of CITY OF JOY (pictured above) in 1994, though I read it later. And from the age of 20, till now (I’m 42 now), it has remained my favourite novel. BUT, am currently reading Arundhati Roy’s latest novel, THE MINISTRY OF UTMOST HAPPINESS (pictured above as well), since I located it at the end of August 2017 (yup, am a very slow reader; and it’s not like I get to read my book every single day); and THE MINISTRY OF UTMOST HAPPINESS seems to be fast becoming my all time favourite. That I’ll know for sure, once I finish reading it.

From Novels, to non-fiction; FREEDOM’S DAUGHTER: LETTERS BETWEEN INDIRA GANDHI AND JAWAHARLAL NEHRU 1922-1939 (also pictured above), edited by Sonia Gandhi; happens to be my favourite text of non-fiction; which I read in my mid-20’s. When it comes to print media, there seems to be a major Indian connection. It’s just a mere coincidence. But still, even though with unfortunate Sri Lankan roots, that constantly try to pull me down into the mud with them, I was born and brought up in New Delhi, India. And I had a pretty good childhood (maybe not necessarily a great one, as I was badly bullied in school, it was still better, than when we ventured south into an inhumane and war torn island). Thus having such a strong Indian connection (altogether spent 17 years of my life in New Delhi, 12½ years in row); and a soft corner for my Birth city; plus being a movie maniac; I cannot, not add, my favourites in films, to do with India. My favourite Indian movie, is a Bengali/English bilingual Art House Movie, from the state of West Bengal, directed by Aparna Sen. I bought the DVD of THE JAPANESE WIFE (2010), which can be seen above, along with Kunal Basu’s book of Short Stories (one of which happens to be the basis of this movie), when I visited New Delhi in November/December 2010, on holiday. This was a holiday I took to India, after a break of 9½  years. Aged 35, I thoroughly enjoyed the short story, of The Japanese Wife, as well as the movie. Having watched Indian films throughout my life (especially Bollywood movies, though I happen to be a bit of an Art House snob), it’s amazing how Aparna Sen’s cinematic adaptation of THE JAPANESE WIFE, ended up becoming my favourite Indian movie ever. But having been brought up on Bollywood commercial cinema, I cannot not point out my favourite commercial Hindi Film, from Bombay (now Mumbai) from the state of Maharashtra, India. Mahesh Bhatt‘s ARTH (1982), the DVD of which can be seen above as well. ARTH; which I actually first saw as a kid, and few times later; is a reel life adaptation based on Mahesh Bhatt‘s real life extramarital affair with actress Parveen Babi, who suffered from schizophrenia. A tragic beautiful mind, that soon left the film industry once her illness was out in the open, thanks to this excellently made movie. died under mysterious circumstances, in 2005 (see my post related to her Death Anniversary from January 2013).

Speaking of extramarital affairs and coming back to short stories, I read Anton Chekhov’s THE LADY WITH THE DOG (pictured above), an adulterous love story, when I was 15. This Russian romantic short, happens to be my all time favourite short story, till date (du Maurier’s The Apple Tree, comes a close second). My favourite novella (a text too small to be a novel, yet way too long to be considered a short story), happens to be Truman Capote’s BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (pictured above as well); which I bought, and read, in 2009, whilst living in the most beautiful city in the world, Paris, France. Fell in love with this beautifully written piece of prose, a quick read (Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, happens to be next favourite novella, and I love Kubrick’s surreal adaptation, from 1971, of the book, as well). The movie version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), which also happens to be among my favourite films, directed by Blake Edwards, also stars my all time favourite actress, Audrey Hepburn.

So, I’ve come a full circle, from Hepburn to Hepburn!!!! Almost like a of .


#‎NuwanSensFilmSense
Bookish Nuwan (NS)