Friday, October 28, 2011

LE NOTTE BIANCHE (Italian) (1957)

‘My God, a whole moment of happiness! Is that too little for the whole of man’s life?’

I’ve re-read Dostoevsky’s ‘White Nights’ prior to watching this adaptation and even in second read it seems one of the most beautiful and sentimental love story about two drifted souls where sweet and wishful dreams of four nights punctured with reality’s break of dawn. The nameless dreamer of the story is a solitary young man lives in his own world of whims and fancies. This pensive man meets a sympathetic girl waiting for her lover night after night at canal railing on night. What follows are nights where two lonely hearts encounters each other and share their gloomy past to each other and becomes almost as desirable lovers. It ends with anguish for one and bliss for another…the romantic dreamy nights of rain, snow fall ends with break of dawn that shatters this fine romantic dream in the climax.

Luchino Visconti’s screen adaptation of the story is almost faithful and honest to the original one with minor changes of cinematic translation. The expressionistic B&W camera work so beautifully captured the setting of streets, the bridge, the mist, the night lights, the rain and the snow fall, Dostoyevsky’s regular setting of St. Petersburg here recreated with fantasy and reality hand in hand like an opera by Visconti and Nino Rota’s slow evocative score pushes it forward. Marcello Mastroianni as dreamer is as perfect and as effortlessly natural as always. The film is brilliant one compared to poor Bollywood adaptation ‘Saawariya’ made by Sanjay Leela Bhanshali; and I wonder whether he’s inspired from this film or the original story because it seems that he’s inspired from the first but credited the story in his version.

Visconti’s adaptation keeps the spirit of the story alive but still there’s no alternative to the original story as the philosophical underpinnings of the dreamer is missing in this screen version.


Saturday, October 22, 2011


Most of the popular opinions on best holocaust films generally begins with either ‘Schindler’s List’ or ‘The Pianist’; here’s one of the quite lesser known masterpiece and moving humanitarian document from the cinema of Czechoslovakia that worthy enough to stamp with the most moving drama ever made on horror of holocaust. Its heartbreaking personal story of two juxtaposed protagonists set in the backdrop of small town who as film progresses slowly turning into bifurcating humanity under oppressive Fascist power of Second World War.

A jobless protagonist Tono is a carpenter trying to push his hard luck but otherwise very content and unaffected man from war. His nagging and ambitious wife pushing him to earn more money with little help of quite selfish brother-in-law who happens to be an army officer. Tono gets a permit letter to be the new manager of a shop on main street managed by an old Jewish widow who’s suffering from hearing problem. To narrate what happens further is insult to reveal for the film like this which not in a single frame unnecessarily pulled the drama, plot or story or heightens the melodrama and yet touches the true chords of our heart to give you an unforgettable experience that we expect from the great films. 

The film has absolutely great direction and the Directors-screenplay writers Jan Kadar, Elmos Klos and Ladislav Grosman deserves standing ovation. It has fine opening and maintained brilliantly the shades of Neorealist cinema; classic B&W camerawork where one can witness the brilliant use of mirrors and doors in images. It has few lighter moments too but what is most striking element to watch is the sublime relationship between the Tono and Mrs. Lautman. He is everyday common man whose conscience shifts between moral responsibility and guilt and she’s angelic old mother unaware about the horrors and living her last phase of her life with her shop, Sabbath and a stranger.  The drama and tension runs unexceptionally in last half an hour leading to tragic climax of disillusioned chaos between both of them. And this landmark film has two excellent and most naturally performed acts by Josef Kroner as Tono and Ida Kaminska as Mrs. Lautman is thing to envy even for the most professional and critically acclaimed actors of all-time; another strong reason to watch it before you die.

A cinema beyond ratings.  

Friday, October 21, 2011


With their arrival they made both history and hysteria and created the creed for the generations of music lovers called ‘The Beatles Mania.’ The four Liverpool young boys were almost in their twenties and they achieved the name, fame, money and kind of celebrity status that any accomplished music talents of that time could dream and envy of! Made by one of the acclaimed filmmaker Martin Scorsese, ‘Living in a Material World’ is one of the finest biographical and musical tributes of one of the genuine fellow Beatles and lead guitarist named George Harrison. Its epical documentary in two parts with length of three hours thirty minutes running time and it deserves that as it’s about The Beatles!

The film has loads of material for the Beatles fans- the unseen stage, shows and rehearsal personal footage, rare photographs and conversation sessions with George’s closest friends Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Brian Epstein, Yoko Ono, Director Terry Gilliam (with whom he produced ‘Life of Brian’) and it captured the ups and downs of his life as well as The Beatles. George was a catalyst and calm facilitator in the band between the dominant Paul and John who were so different in attitudes. The film documented the maniac hysteria towards the band and their music. It was time when music was religion and mad followers consider them equal to God which brought ire of media and Orthodox Church. George made and wrote some of the wonderful songs ‘Let it Be’, ‘While my guitar gently weeps’, ‘Here Comes the Sun’, ‘Something’ to name a few.

The most interesting part of the documentary is George’s personal Indian spiritual-cultural-musical connection, especially Sitar Maestro Pt. Ravishankar and mediation and mystical mentor Maharishi and ISKCON. It is treat to watch George crooning and strumming guitar and Sitar in company of doyens of Indian classical Music- Pt. Ravishankar, Ustad Allahrakha and Ustad Bismillah Khan. We see George sharing his committed views to Indian spirituality that turned him quite dismissive towards the materialistic things in the later part of his career post-Beatles. The experience of this reflected in their later albums of Beatles along with his solo album titled ‘All Things Must Pass’. There’s a point of time when George completely absorbed himself into abstract mysticism and meditation of his Indian spiritual encounter but at the same time there’s other mundane things that he’s attached too-especially the other three Beatles and the phenomena of their band. Somehow the intensity and individual talents of four guys confronted with one another that brought rift between them and one by one they started quitting after White album.

As I’ve read the autobiography of Clapton, I must say that among all interviewed men he seems too honest in his views about his closest friend in this documentary. Out of all four Beatles, Clapton admired him so much and mentioned him as one of the finest contemporary guitar player of its time. His amateur affair with George’s wife Pattie brought us one of the most soulful Clapton number ‘Layla’ but it was shocking surprise for genuine George; later Clapton married with her though he maintained friendship with him. Ringo is another genuine friend who remained concerning friend till his death. The only drawback of the film is last half an hour which is quite stretching one.

Worth watching stuff for any Beatles fans.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

FORBIDDEN GAMES (French) (1952)

Just fifteen minutes into the film and it started giving me emotional goose bumps. Rene Clement’s this simple yet heart stirring humanitarian document set in time of Second World War is one of the most sublime antiwar films I have ever seen. A number of films being made depicting the absurdities of war from eyes of innocent kids but a few of them captured it as effectively and as naturally as this film. Clement got something so breathing natural in terms of acting and expressions and point of views from both the kids especially that five years old little girl Briggitte Fossey in her debut role of Paulette makes it a paragon case study to use child actors in cinema.

As film opens we see a five years old sweet girl Paulette moving with his parents and in moments aerial attack kills her parents. She keeps moving with her dead dog and meets a boy twice her age named Michel. He takes her to his low class peasant family and two create secret world that reflects the death they see around. They’re collecting dead animals, insects and birds and made a cemetery in a dejected barn. Maybe this is their ‘Forbidden Games’ especially Michel’s stealing of crosses. Soon their secret gets revealed with biting reality of separation.

The impact of great film lies in its indelible images that you carry once you finish the film and that stays in your mind for long. The film has many of them- i.e- the kids secretly digging graves for dead animals, at the funeral around the church the kids noticing different sizes of cross and naming it for different animals, the slow panning shot of secret animal cemetery made by kids at the mill with stolen crosses and tags for animals, the captured emotional expressions of girl especially when the boy gets caught and beaten up by his father followed by frustrations of disillusioned Michel noticed by an owl. And above all that heartbreaking final frames where the girl moving to orphanage at railway station hears somebody uttering Michel and we see those cute yearning eyes and facial expressions searching him around that can break any strong heart. How can I resist tears in my eyes! What an effective and soul stirring cinema!

Cinema beyond ratings. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

MAMMA ROMA (Italian) (1962)

‘Explain me why I’m nobody and you’re king of kings.’
The desperation of oedipal mother theme is perhaps never explored on screen with such an intensity of acting and depth on screen. Anna Magnani deserved standing ovation for making Mamma Roma so breathing natural on screen; the only other film and brilliant act of mother that I immediately recollect is Kim-Hye-Ja in ‘Mother’. Mamma Roma is middle aged whore trying to leave behind her ugly past for the sake of his teenage son. She’s so desperate to make her son’s life respectable one but the old pimp turns up too shatter her pipe-dream with reality hard to resist.     

This is my first Pier Paolo Pasolini film and I wonder how such a masterpiece could remain unknown to me for so long! Pasolini was a film critic, writer and political theorist and pro-Marxist much before he started making films. Throughout his artistic career of writer and filmmaker, the man became the most controversial figure in Italy as real threat to fascism. The man was unfortunately murdered in 1975, shortly after his most controversial and blatant film ‘Salo’. Though Neorealist in it’s effect and portrayal, Pasolini’s this film is way different in approach from other Neorealist Masters like Rossellini and De Sica and the viewers can get the clue from the very first opening of the film- the wedding toast, Mamma Roma’s boisterous laughter, songs and three piglets. 

I found Pasolini more subtle, symbolic and innovative artist compared to other Neorealist masters even though I watched this single film! Let me share one observation in this respect. There’s a profound long shot where Mamma Roma keeps on walking on the road at night and simultaneously talking with whomsoever passes on the road. Pasolini repeated it twice in the film. Does she really talk to them or to herself? Well I think it’s brilliant and innovative use of narration showing internal reality of the isolated protagonist as equal to monologue that provides operatic feel without showing us the melodramatic flashback. Towards the tragic end, we see the son on striped prison bed symbolically represents Jesus Christ figure and the last frame of the film suggested Pasolini’s inscrutable angle towards religion. Throughout the film slow evocative score keeps running uplifting its despair and irony so sublimely.   

Worth to say withut exaggeration that this film wouldn’t be same without the terrific performance of Anna Magnani. She’s the woman to watch in each and every frame from the beginning to end. Both Anna Magnani and Pasolini deserved standing ovation. This is the landmark of Neorealism and Italian cinema; and I think it’s high time for me to explore more of Pasolini.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

DELICATESSEN (French) (1991)

‘Cinema since the New Wave always seems to be about a couple fighting in a kitchen. I prefer to write positive stories.’ – Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Everybody has heard and read and seen magic realism, this is what I would call magic surrealism! Rarely do we see such a cocktail fantasy blending many genres of sci-fi, black humor and romance served to stimulate your senses. This is a unique film aesthetically rich with mind-blowing visuals, weird-sweet characters and above all extraordinary use of sound mixing to suck the audience into an unusual eccentric experience.  

It brilliantly opens with a restaurant named Delicatessen occupied by a weird tenants and a menacing butcher who slashes human flesh. Enters ex clown of circus in search of a job; maybe a next victim of the cannibal butcher! But the man surprisingly started romancing with a bespectacled sweet young daughter of the butcher who can communicate with underworld rebel syndicate of human rats planning to steal corn and adding more hilarious chaos of fun to screen. The clown is sheer treat and so is watching that butcher…and those multiple failed suicide attempts are things to watch again and again along with edge on the seat chaotic climax in the bathroom.

The film was the debut full length film co-directed by the man who made absolutely wonderful ‘Amelie’. Worth to mention the extraordinary camerawork by Darius Khondji’s with awesome use of mise en scene and montage.

An absolute feast to your eyes and ears and mind…watch it ASAP.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011


‘The field is like a woman. You live with it all your life; it’s hard to learn she isn’t yours.’

What can you expect from film which scripted by writer like John Steinbeck, directed by Elia Kazan and starring Marlon Brando and Anthony Quinn! For me watching ‘Viva Zapata’ is as unforgettable experience like watching some of the greatest films of Hollywood ever made. The film is an epical saga of Mexican rebel Indian bandit named Emiliano Zapata fighting against ruthless and corrupt autocratic power to get justice for his men. 

It’s set on the period of 1909 Mexico where the land and field of aborigine Indians were usurped by autocratic power and a delegation of Indians came to a Mexican city to meet their despotic president Diaz who ruled as General for more than 34 years. There’s one rebel man who listens to his conscience and went against the ruthless power and became a bandit fighting for the injustice.  He soon got support from a man named Madero who wanted to establish peace and democracy. Zapata was appointed as army general and next we see the end of Diaz’s tyrant rule. The law and order of new authority orders to disarm the men fighting for justice but Zapata refused as he believes that one can only demands justice with a gun in his hand. Madero’s honest intentions to establish peace was overruled by conspiracy of other officials. Zapata and his men had no options left than fight with do or die spirit with lot of personal sacrifice.

So far I would rate this one as my favorite Elia Kazan film till day and the man brought to screen the method acting as central to his films. Undoubtedly he’s ‘the godfather of The Godfather’; as Brando’s three brilliant films of early career rests in Kazan’s directorial account and Brando is in crackling form as roaring tiger Zapata. His character gets a full circle from an opposing rebel to bandit to General and finally a president to see another rebel in front of him! All rest of the supporting actors immaterial of small or long screen time enacted their parts naturally, especially another brilliant actor Anthony Quinn and Jean Peters. It has absolutely classy camera work with brilliant angles and shots that you expect from the finest western films of it’s time.

Undoubtedly the film is cent percent classic Hollywood which is absolutely perfect and faultless that scores in each and every department of filmmaking -plot, screenplay, dialogues, performances, camera work, editing and off course the direction. No wonder why it is one of the favorite films of Sam Peckinpah!


Monday, October 10, 2011


Well, like many of crazy Woody Allen fans, I’m also keenly awaiting to watch his latest offering. Quite opposite to its popular opinions and ratings, I would have quite mixed views about it. 

The protagonist inhabits in two different worlds where reality and imagination coalesces to give us pleasant surprising experience; an element Woody used in many of his films so far. Here is a confused writer suffering from mental block comes to Paris with his fiancée and fall in love with the city. He soon fantasizing about roaming in 20th century Paris every midnight where he encounters the company great writers and artists like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Faulkner, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Bunuel, T S Elliott and started romancing with Picasso’s girlfriend.

Through popping and introducing the greatest artists of 20th century and perhaps while paying tribute to many of his admirable icons Woody made the plot and script quite flippant one which fumbles and scattered with its slow pace and tad one dimensional characters. Perhaps those who’ve read the authors or knew certain facts or style of these men will like and enjoy it better than average audience. Besides the film has a lot of use of French language without subtitles and don’t have a tone of comedy, wit or intellect that his fans expect from his well made films. Except Owen Wilson there’s not a single character which I found impressive one.

Yes, Paris never seems so beautiful in any of color films I’ve ever seen. Woody poetically pays his tribute to the city of Paris. We’ve seen his preoccupation with New York in many of his early films and the opening three and half minutes picture post cards frames of this film reminds me instantly one of my all-time favorite Woody film ‘Manhattan’. Thumbs up for Darius Khondji’s camerawork and classy background score.

Average one in my opinion, the other Woody fans can watch and share their opinions…


Thursday, October 6, 2011

DETOUR (1945)

'Fate or some mysterious force can put the finger on you or me for no good reason at all.'

One may probably find the name of the film in many critics’ Best Noir films top ten list and it deserves that place too. Perhaps this is the shortest noir film I’ve ever seen with length of one hour seven minutes running time; needless to say it’s crispy and gripping one.

When everyone was making noirs with heavily paid stars and actors backed up by big studio and producer, Director Edgar Ulmer made a unique low budget noir pushed by pulp fiction plot, quite unknown actors all set in a car and road. For the most part of the film we see the car and what’s happening as trap and consequences inside as well as outside it. The first half an hour of the film and there’s moment of jolt when a strange dame joins the car headed to LA. The protagonist is a piano player cum hitchhiker who is in a fix confronting two strangers in ride and their accidental deaths that put him as prime suspect of murders. It would be a big spoiler if I reveal anything further about its plot. Watch it to check its cult status in noir films.

Ratings- 7.5/10 


One of the well made underrated gangster film and a directorial debut of Robert De Niro. The influence of mentor Martin Scorsese is visible, the opening of the film reminds me of one of the great gangster film ‘Goodfellas’. It begins with a nine years old kid who grows up adolescent watching a gangster mob boss named Sonny close to his neighborhood and got fascinated by his power. ‘Nobody’s cool than you Sonny’, he tells to himself sitting and watching him on his stoop. Once he saved Sonny and soon becomes Sonny’s lucky boy. His upright bus driver father tries to make him out of it but his friendship with Sonny grows stronger day by day. Sonny wants to keep the boy away from the shit and but at the same time the boy’s got crush on black girl and is in the wrong company of some jerk off buddies.   

De Niro built slow but intense gangster drama around the boy’s struggling conscience and choices between the gangster who told him, ‘working man is a sucker’ and his working class father who told him, ‘working man is a tough guy’. Along with the drama he also successfully captured the mood of shifting and swinging sixties with street life of blues and doo-wop, baseball and boxing ring, cool money, violence, hippy bike riders and black power and racial confrontations. 

Two thumbs up for the cast and character portrayal, screenplay and dialogues, watch that scene where Sonny is explaining the young boy about Machiavelli’s ‘availability’. De Niro plays the concerning working class father and he’s okay in his act and the boy really looks like De Niro’s real life son. But the most impressive man of the film is played by Chazz Palminteri as Sonny and he’s the man who penned the screenplay of the film. If nothing one has to watch the film for his screenplay and act, must say worthy to watch.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Anthony Mann’s this classic technicolor cinemascope western was doomed at box office and didn’t get critical appraisal when released; it was only Jean Luc Godard who hailed it the best of Hollywood he’d seen that year.  Maybe audience didn’t like to see mid age Gary Cooper or the western macho hero who seems so helpless and non violent on screen until climax. 

Gary Cooper played Link Jones, the man who left behind his violent past with gang but he’s confronting them again after a train robbery. He’s civilized and non violent now but the brutal and ruthless gang lead by his old associate-uncle Dock Tobin is too hard to handle. His struggle to be human or turn animal is more pushed to the later side by sexual tension between a woman who loves him and Dock. Though Cooper is average on act, the film bears barn storming performance by Lee J. Cobb as grunting voiced Dock Tobin. Mann’s auteur camera encapsulates the ghost town of Lassoo in grand western style especially in the climax confrontations.

Must watch for all classic western fans.

Ratings- 7.5/10 


Mike Hodges made his presence felt with his shocking and hard hitting gangster film ever made in British cinema. But along with ‘Get Carter’, he made few other brilliant thrillers too which remained unnoticed for many cinebuffs. I’ve seen his ‘Croupier’ couple of months ago, which is an extraordinary film starring Clive Owen in one of his best performance. Owen is in lead here too and Hodges brilliantly executed this serious vengeance thriller with his unique style exploring sound and image rather than dialogue or narration and still built the tension so damn well. He brought to screen the striking uninhibited brutal side of crime world and indifferent seedy side of the city at night capturing those dark alleys, streets, walls, roads and other exteriors like classic noirs.

Will Graham is a fierce man who doesn’t talk to any living things for days and weeks, surviving as a wild drifter in his van like a ghost or vigilante trusting no single soul. He’s stepping back to the city and the world of crime he abandoned three years ago when he comes to know about his younger brother’s gruesome suicide death. Now he’s got one sole aim to discover the reason behind it which is disgustingly and disturbingly shocking one physically as well as psychologically. The plot is just peripheral, just watch the film how Hodges dealt with its treatment with style; the first half and hour is just establishing the mood and tone. Watching ‘Croupier’ and this one, I must say Clive Owen gave his two most memorable and stellar performances collaborating with Hodges. This is his fine minimalist act, just like Jim Jarsmusch and Jean Pierre Melville films.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

KES (1969)

Rarely do we find such kind of maturity and intense vision of the director in his first film telling the story of working class boy, but Kenneth Loach’s this debut film is absolutely worthy enough to enlist in some of the finest British films ever made. Based on Barry Hines’ novel ‘A Kestrel for a Knave’, it shows us the grim life of 15 years old lad named Billy Casper suffering from abuse and exploitation both at home and school. At home it’s his working class elder brother who’s bullying him and at school his strict and exploitive teachers and principal. One day he catches a glimpse of flying hawk and soon he raises, nurtures and trains the hawk, calling it ‘Kes’. The bird is the only positive high and motivation amid all his frustration and oppression meddling with job, school and family. How amid all darkness of reality the lad grows up following the intuitive bird that preparing him for the skill and spirit to fly against the wind.

Loach executed the film as natural and realistic as possible avoiding sentimental clichés, giving enough time and space to develop each scenes and documenting the postindustrial age and shifting social milieu and generation without being loud or overdramatic. David Bradley as Billy is one of the most memorable kid performance I’ve ever seen. There’s many memorable moments- the football game between boys, PT teacher’s frustration and sadist punishment, the boy caned by the principal, Billy explaining his hawk training in the class. And the hawk here isn’t just another silly pet that he’s rearing, he knows well that it’s an instinctive bird and like a mature young philosopher he’s explaining his teacher- ‘Hawks can’t be tamed, they’re manned. It’s wild and fierce and it’s not bothered about anybody. Not bothered about me and that’s what makes it great.’ The bird is nothing but a symbol of intuitive freedom that the kid yearns.