Wednesday, February 29, 2012


‘All people ever see is Marilyn Monroe. As soon as they realize I’m not her, they run.”

Here’s one of the sweet and sentimental, light and nostalgic films of the last year that got its attention after it’s nomination in Oscar race. Agree that there’s lot of cliché in plot and the film gains its draw from somebody so iconic and tantalizing beauty like Marilyn but than the film has certain moments where Marilyn breathes so much human off the screen. Kudos to Michelle Williams; she really worked hard here and successfully evoked Marilyn's oozing boldness, charm and personal doom to screen. 

The film is narrated by a young man named Colin Clark. Though born in rich and overachiever family, he is dreaming cinema day and night and too desperate to work in film business that he’ll go by any means. He got a chance to work as third assistant director in Sir Laurence Olivier Productions making a film with the blonde goddess of all-time. Colin’s job on set is to follow the orders from his seniors but than he has many roles to play i.e. - He has to save Mr. Olivier from the blonde’s charm; a responsibility offered by Mr. Olivier’s wife Vivien Leigh. He has to follow his heart with that dress managing girl, he has to follow Mr. Olivier’s instant orders and at the same time he has to do his job on sets. But among all this he shares the company of Marilyn from distance except that Oops! A moment of lifetime to see her bare body and share some of the most private hitchhiking moments to cherish as film progresses.

Marilyn is at the peak of his career where big studio and Producers danced on her tunes. But behind the external glory, fame and oomph on the screen, here’s fading unfortunate poor soul whose private life is personal tragedy. She grew up not knowing who’s her real father, watching her mother went asylum and brought up at other’s home…than Hollywood made her star and icon…in pursuit of love and happiness, she married three times at thirty and still not find a happy home, life or a man to love any further! Marilyn’s constant nervous breakdown and her erratic and insecure behavior on/off the set is testing Sir Lawrence Olivier’s patience real hard. Her personal speech-acting coach is quite a mess too. One has to accept the world’s most beloved blonde beauty on her own terms! ‘Try to change her and she’ll drive you crazy’, advised her production partner to staunch perfectionist Mr. Olivier.

Colin is the innocent young witness and victim of Marilyn’s charm and her crumbling world where even her newly wed hubby and famous playwright Arthur Miller told Olivier that she’s devouring him. Though naïve to filmdom, Colin grasps the messy situation between two legends; it’s expressed when he says to Marilyn in a sweet and memorable scene, “It’s agony for him because he’s great actor that wants to be a film star, And it’s agony for you because you’re a film star who wants to be a great actress. And this film won’t help either of you.” Quite a learning lesson to all wannabe Bollywood/Hollywood stars trying hard to count as an actors, isn’t it?

In features Michelle Williams is not an absolute match for Marilyn and so is Kenneth Branagh as Olivier but both of these players gradually made their impressions on screen. Especially Williams who vividly portrays the mannerism of Marilyn, the body language, the voice over is something so near to Marilyn that let us forget the other small loopholes. The film scores points in fine periodic production and dress design, background score and camerawork.

Recommended one-time watch.


Monday, February 27, 2012


“Film is a disease,” Frank Capra said, “when infected your blood streams it takes over as number one hormone.”

This is collector’s piece either you’re interested in American history of cinema or simply love to watch those popular and lesser known golden classics of last century. Made for British Film Institute (BFI), the volume is consists of three parts with more than three and half hours material and it was brought to screen by none other than Martin Scorsese and Michael Henry Wilson. Scorsese who making his active presence felt regularly by making topnotch motion pictures ever since 70s and 80’s powerful New Hollywood cinema also has been making brilliant documentaries about American cinema and music. No wonder many of the films he mentioned here remained his inspirational material as he grew up in 40s and 50s as matinee obsessed boy.

It’s constant dilemma for a Hollywood director to have a tug of war between his personal expressions and commercial imperatives. From iconoclastic names of film grammar like D W Griffith and Munrau to legends like John Ford, Hitchcock, Orson Welles. Elia Kazan, and Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick and lesser known like King Vidor, Samuel Fuller, Nicholas ray, Anthony Mann, Arthur Penn, Raoul Walsh and John Cassavates. Marty talks about the films that impressed him and moved him and intrigued him as a cinephile and brought an urge to direction. Sometimes even lesser known directors’ films remain more inspirational one than the prestigious and popular ones. One can see interesting footages of many silent classics to talkies ranging from various genres like noirs, westerns, gangster films, epics and musicals- i.e. ‘Duel in the Sun’, ‘The Naked Kiss’, ‘The Searchers’, ‘Scarface’, ‘Intolerance’, ‘Sunrise’, ‘Murder by Contract’, ‘The Red House’, ‘The Phenix City Story’, ‘The Bad and The Beautiful’, ‘Colorado Territory’, ‘On the Waterfront’ and many more including those impressive low budget B movies like ‘Detour’ (shot in just 6 days!) and ‘Cat People’.  

He segmented all of the directors and their films in parts such as ‘The Director as story teller’, ‘The Director as illusionist’, ‘The Director as smuggler’, ‘The Director as iconoclast’. He extensively talks about filmmakers from silent era to almost early 70s excluding the era of his career and fellow contemporaries. How filmmakers over the period of time emerge as independent filmmakers, how from fiction and narrative techniques they start exploring and documenting reality, how they break free from studio foundations and set conventions; well Marty shows us certain pioneers of that too. As it ends, I found many great filmmakers sidelined with mere mentioning but as Marty mentioned there are numbers of documentaries books and other materials available on them and so he has highlighted those quite relegated geniuses.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Meet the most wanted fugitive feline of San Ricardo! Puss is western outlaw cat who prefers drinking milk in a saloon and he’s in quest of magic beans under possession of terrible Mr and Mrs Jack & Jill. Soon we see enchantress female match Kitty Softpaws to romance that led us to know the fascinating flashback where baby Puss in basket made his entry in orphanage, how his daring adventure made him famous winning that honorable pair of boots and also showing his happy and sad history with brainy amigo egg Humpty Dumpty.

This is quite a fresh and delightful animation entertainer of the last year where Dreamworks again successfully collaborated with his ace animation director Chris Miller who gave us ‘Shrek’ and ‘Madagascar’ series. Set in Spain, the land of adventure, romance and revelry, the film is rollercoaster ride packed with fun, action, adventure, romance, drama and a wonderful fantasy. I expected more from story and that exciting fantasy journey in cloud castle of golden goose but it won’t last longer! Perhaps a lone hero battling for his damsel plus friend in distress is more important to prove the hero’s worth and for regaining his lost honor in hometown. Maybe they come up with second part too as one may get clue how while watching it. Ah! That street cat’s purring sond ‘awwwww’ is just fun unimaginable! J


Sunday, February 12, 2012

TENEBRE (1982)

The infamous bathroom slasher scene of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ served as a lifelong preoccupation for this Italian Master of B genre Horror that he’s regarded as undisputed ‘Slasher Master’. So far I managed to watch many of Dario Argento’s famous and not so famous giallo films and I would rank ‘Tenebre’ as one of his finest in the league of ‘Suspiria’, ‘Deep Red’, ‘Opera’ and ‘Phenomena’. Its slick and gripping thriller mystery dipped with trademark Argento traits of bloody stabbing scenes, fluorescent use of red with typical Argento soundtrack in the background.

So a best selling murder mystery author visits Rome to promote his new released book and finds himself surrounded by a series of homicide inspired from his novels. After every murder, he gets a letter on his suite room quoted with one of his lines from novel. Though two cops were appointed to investigate the case and ready to help him, the author tries to seek the truth in his own way and the rest is not a thing to tell. Those who’ve seen Argento films, may find brilliant use of mise en scenes here. Besides this is one of those Argento films where suspense of killer is kept intact till last scene and the Master kept you busy shifting your doubts on different characters. Even after revealing the killer in those final moments one may feel ‘wow…now that’s not what I thought going to happen!.’

Highly recommended for all those who love mystery, thrill and murders.     

Saturday, February 11, 2012


During his second phase of career, Luis Bunuel made certain brilliant Mexican-Spanish films with his trademark wicked and irreverent sense of humor and satire implied to eternal human irrationality. Compared to his last post-modernist textbook like French bourgeoisie satires, this second phase of his films dipped with themes aimed at repressive sex, religion and politics. Based on Octave Mirbeau’s novel, Bunuel’s this screen adaptation almost remained faithful to the original except its confused and digressive ending guided by his personal and political tone.

The film begins with arrival of a beautiful, smart and sophisticated young Parisian dame Celstine to work as a private maid to a rich old man. She was invited by the daughter of an old man who soon becomes a constantly nagging lady for Celestine. The old Master and his son-in-law privately started taking advances to her. Bunuel used the beautiful dames as objects of male gaze like none highlighting the repressed human sexual fantasy and fetish and this film is no exception. Compared to angelic victim as in ‘Viridiana’, revenge seeking ‘Tristana’, he used woman’s beauty here as her power tool in male dominant patriarchic society. The old man indulges in his whims and the son unsatisfied in his needs from wife, wants to share his instinctual urges with this young maid but Celstine smartly managed to escape being their victim. There’re two other men to watch here and rather an interesting ones in form of the rough and brutish head servant named Joseph where we can see trademark Bunuel aggressive male. Compared to her two sick Masters, it is his presence that becomes constant survival threat and tension to settle in the house for Celestine. The other supportive male for her is the next door neighbor working in army. Suddenly the rape and murder of an innocent girl becomes an issue of the town and Celestine decided to prolong her stay to solve the puzzle.      

Though this film is quite abstained from common surreal and striking bizarre Bunuelian images, it didn’t remained untouched from his certain common traits i.e. - his fetish for legs (Viridiana, Tristana, La Joven), use of insects, birds and animals. Watch just the way he used boots at motif throughout the film here…just awesome! The film is significant one for bringing another shift to Bunuel’s career, served as breaking his old collaboration with Sylvia Pinal and Mexican low budget, quick productions. Instead of his wish to case Pinal as lead, he had to cast happening French actress of its time Jeanne Moreau as lead on producers’ insistence. Though Bunuel later claimed her as one of his personal favorite actress and though she gave here one of her memorable performance, it is quite strange and unfortunate that they never worked together as in case of Pinal and Catherine Deneuve. But what is most significant is his another new collaboration with screenplay writer Jean Claude Carriere who worked with almost all of his later films and added punch to Bunuel’s cinema of 60s and 70s; especially his last three brilliant post modernist bourgeois satires. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012


“…Since we are all apt to believe in the reality of our fantasies, we end up transforming our lies into truths.” – (My Last Sigh: The Autobiography of Luis Bunuel)

A mid age stranger sharing objectionable photos with little girls in a park…a young man wishing to see her aged aunt naked… a group of priests sharing wine, card game with a pretty young dame... cops training class room session frequently interrupted by immediate outings for one or another emergency…a missing school girl’s search in her full presence…a man randomly aiming and killing pedestrians in all possible directions with a sniper gun on top of a skyscraper…a commissioner of police caught for meeting her dead sister at mausoleum… an unforgettable dinner table scene where men sitting on toilet tubs sharing their routine chat about art, city and concerning big issues of world at general and privately eat and drink in a small chamber!!! Ah…I can’t get over this absolutely unexpected absurd mind-blowing affair!

This is an unusual trip for me as well for anybody who’s watching it for the first time to get you hooked into the unpredictable, bizarre and wicked sense of humor created by the most unconventional and stimulating modern artist of last century named Luis Bunuel. The film is Master provocateur’s boisterous laughter pointed on the universal bourgeoisie face. Bunuel used his influence of Goya’s famous painting ‘The Executions of the Third of May’ as prelude of this film. That 18th century artist in his series of drawings ruthlessly exposed the deceit and hypocrisy of society; no wonder why the artistic expressions find it resonance even centuries later in a modern cinematic medium where two radical geniuses shared same echo.

As Bunuel got older his sense of humor grew stronger and more stimulating affair to witness and the man brilliantly played here with fragmentary absurd anecdotes of several characters that frequently punctured the narrative playing the gallery. It consists of stereotype characters belong to different situations and locations that brought them closer, shocks us and departs to led us to introduce several others in the same league. Throughout the film it constantly pokes fun and making statement at hidden hypocrisy of religion, society, human morality and mannerism showing us our mirror reflections of deceptive dark façade driven by illogical human desire and behavior-The Freudian id, ego and super-ego triangle.

So far this is one of the best Bunuel I’ve ever seen. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


‘I also believe in God the Father Almighty.’  - Satan

For days, weeks and years an ascetic stood on a column in a desert blessing humanity. He was offered a new column by a wealthy man. With Christ like spiritual miracle his prayer returns a handicap man’s hands. Enters ‘Satan’ in a form of intriguing temptress trying to seduce him with facades and temptations luring him towards earthy pleasures. In almost bizarre climax we see a moving coffin, seductress, flying airplane and the burning candle of spirituality led into a modern night club disco!  

Ah! It’s damn difficult for modern hermit to remain occupied with conscience and moral solitude in a mad mundane and decaying world of worldly pleasures and continue his individual spiritual journey. Its one thing standing on a barren desert pillar and  another on club where young damsels go wild on ‘Radioactive flesh’!

Just forty five minutes in length, this is one of pure Bunuel gold with his trademark wicked satire. It’s revealing thing to know that the movie is incomplete one that Bunuel had to wind up and edit as the producer of the film become bankrupt after promising to sponsor the whole film and that’s the reason the sudden jump of climax seems too awkward on first view. Those who have seen Silvia Pinal as angelic ‘Viridiana’, may find her in three sixty degree reverse role of seductress ‘Satan’. The B&W camera work of the film is sheer poetry of visuals, kudos to Bunuel’s long collaborator Mexican cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

LA JOVEN (1960)

A colored man with a charge of raping a white woman ran away from town landed up on an island with a signboard stating- ‘Trespassers on this island will be prosecuted to full extent of the law’. Hiding himself on island he witnesses a rough and tough white man and a twelve years old orphan girl living in cabins adjacent to each other. The drama is pushed through tension between pedophile bigot, an innocent girl and racial prejudice. The arrival of preacher adds the drama complex turn towards climax. 

Devoid of his trademark surreal frames, this middle period and lesser known Bunuel film is not one of his best, but it surely packed with enough stuff of taut thrill and Bunuelian dark humor. His fan may witness his outsider stand against man’s euphemistic social animal status in complex characters and their behavior. There are certain unexpected developments between three characters and Bunuel brilliantly maintained his satiric punch on racial and sexual hypocrisy giving us moments of dark, sensual comedy. One may notice certain symbolic traits of Bunuel films here but not much- his fetish for legs, the degenerative images of animals (hanged rabbit in the kitchen) and religious satire (watch ‘baptism’ scene between the girl and the preacher).  

Recommended to all Bunuel fans/beginners.