A Girl From the North East Country


Village Rockstars (India,2017)

Director/Writer/Editor/Screenwriter – Rima Das
Starring: Bhanita Das, Basanti Das

” If I want something a lot, I will get it, right?”

Rima Das’s “Village Rockstars” is a film of ethereal grace and beatific tenderness – a coming of age film of a young girl who dreams of buying a guitar to start her own rock band. Mostly shot in natural light(by the filmmaker herself), the film gorgeously captures the bucolic life along the southern bank of Brahmaputra (shot around the villages of Chaygaon).The film has the spirit of Ray’s films,especially Pather Panchali,in its portrayal of resilient and rebellious female characters, astute awareness of human nature and in its sensibility to find poetry in the mundane.Wearing a Jaapi( A traditional Assamese conical hat),we see Dhuna(played by Rima Das’s young cousin,a terrific Bhanita Das) along with her pet goat running across the verdant farm fields.She possesses a strong independent spirit and her eyes are fraught with undying optimism.These qualities are something that she has seemingly inherited from her widowed mother who encourages her to be strong and fearless like herself.She and her friends spend their time enacting rockstars using guitar made of thermocol and painted with shiny glitter of blue and red, hanging on the trees like little bats and just unhurriedly sleeping in the lush green fields.Though, everything is not dandy with her life as we see her getting caught while reading comic books during classes or getting constantly rebuked by her neighbors for hanging out with the boys instead of girls.Water bodies and bamboo vegetation- prevalent in this region- are shrewdly used and are ubiquitously present throughout the film as important characters. Bamboo logs are used as money boxes as well as oars to row the boats while escaping from tragic floods.

“Village Rockstar” is centered strongly around an endearing mother-daughter relationship.The scenes between Dhuna and her mother are extremely poignant and one of the films major strengths. This is an irresistibly charming film and will definitely leave you beaming as you step out of the dark.

Blood and Sweat



 Director:Rahul Jain

Cinematographer: Rodrigo Trejo Villanueva

Rahul Jain’ s Machines brings to light an issue which no longer seems to be important enough for the TRP hungry TV news channels – the plight of workers in a private Textile Factory in Gujarat. The state of Gujarat was branded as a big “success” story with figures of its high industrial growth labeled across front page newspapers, hoardings, and television ads. Journalists became cheerleaders and guaranteed the success of the behemoth PR machinery of the state government.Documentaries like”Machines” are made by BBC and AL Jazeera all the time but such is the state of mainstream journalism in this country that it needed an independent filmmaker like Rahul Jain to debunk the false claims and show us that as far as rights for the proletariat is concerned, things have hardly improved.
“The only satisfaction I get is to know that everyone is going to die at the end, even the rich.” bemoans a factory worker.We get to know that these people work 12-14 hours a day at an exiguous pay of 210 rupees per shift.We see broken, tired bodies lay like corpses over sheets of white fabric which they painstakingly make.Illegal Child labor is quite rampant in the factory and the contractor, as well as the manager, seems to be deliberately oblivious to it.
The cinematography by Rodrigo Trejo Villanueva excellently captures each portion of the factory with understated elegance and poetry. The camera takes us through: myriad colors and patterns of fabric incessantly coming out of the printing machines like a sartorial waterfall, barrels of chemicals and dyes, huge rusty rollers and steam boilers.
“Machines” carries the central idea in its name which is that for the owners of these big factories, their workers are not humans but are not different to the rest of factory’s rusty metallic machinery. It’s nothing but harrowing to find out that the owner of the textile factory considers a well-fed worker detrimental to their productivity.He brazenly endorses even lesser pay and employee benefits for his workers. This film is quite depressing in the way it shows the helplessness of the indigent workers, most of them farmers coming from different states, struggling just to survive and hoping someone listens to their silent wails.

Picture Imperfect!


Kapoor and Sons(2016,India)

Director: Shakun Batra

“You know, you know how you’re always tryin’ t’ get things to come out perfect in art because, uh, it’s real difficult in life.”

                                                                                       – Annie Hall(1977,Woody Allen)

If we look at it, we all seem to be in a pursuit of perfection.Within us lies a strong desire to have a perfect life, a perfect childhood, a perfect career and of course a perfect family living in a perfect house of a perfect locality. Family photos are a great epitome of that desire. The large photographs encrusted with expensive frames adorning the living rooms of houses conceal so many secrets, lies, and scars. It’s designed to make us wonder in awe of the possibility that a group of people who somehow are destined to be together (not exactly by choice) can indeed live together and love each other. Sooner or later we tend to find out that it’s all an illusion. There’s nothing like a perfectly happy family.

In Shakun Batra’s Kapoor and Sons, we see people who are entangled because of this futile and tireless pursuit and as a result cause nothing but suffering to themselves and people who love them. It also poses an intriguing question whether it’s better to have a dysfunctional family or no family at all(Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom posed a similar question). We see members of a family, having a wonderful house surrounded by the magnificent Nilgiris in Coonoor (We rarely see any locals and the presence of only North Indian public in this South Indian hill station seems a bit jarring)who carry deep indignation within themselves for not getting the love or sympathy they feel they deserve.

Let’s start with the brazenly perverse Grandfather Amarjeet Singh(played by a prosthetic-laden Rishi Kapoor) who very well knows how broken his family is in reality but still forces everyone to pose for that perfect family photo. He wants to have that familiar comfort of falsity before his death. He seems to seek in it a way to preserve his legacy and even optimistically consider it as a panacea for all the problems that plague his family.

Unlike Noah Baumbach’s brilliant Squid and the Whale (2005),  where the father(played by Jeff Daniels) comes out as the most hypocritical and in a way the most pitiable character, in Kapoor and Sons, it’s the mother. Sunita(Ratna Pathak Shah) is angry and resentful at her husband for being a failed businessman(He left his stable job as a banker to start his own business), for not being supportive of her own entrepreneurial dreams and for possibly cheating on her with his former colleague. It seems strange to us that she comes out shocked later in the movie when his husband Harsh Kapoor(Rajat Kapoor) confesses about his affair because she seems to be totally convinced of it happening since forever. This lack of consistency in her character comes out as a peccadillo when one compares it with the emotional damage she inadvertently and (in the case of her younger son) intentionally causes. Her consistent desire to have a perfect son by putting all her idealistic projections on her elder son, Rahul (Fawad Khan) leads the latter to live a totally ersatz and dishonest life.Rahul to her seems to be less like a son or a person but a personal project.The success of which matters so much to her that she is adamant to even lie, betray and completely alienate her younger son, Arjun (Siddharth Malhotra) who wants nothing but to please her and be good enough for her love.

The final act of the movie is really underwhelming as it neatly resolves most of the problems in the family.Batra’s decision to end his film in an upbeat manner as if an unexpected death(I wish the maker hadn’t blatantly lifted Annette Bening’s breakdown scene from American Beauty) was all that was needed turns out to be an insipid one.There is a lot going on in the story but most of the time, it feels that the makers themselves are unaware of its presence or are deliberately avoiding it.Horrible casting decisions like that of Siddharth Malhotra(for arguably the most sympathetic character in the movie) who totally seems beside himself in scenes which are emotionally demanding doesn’t help the cause either. Bollywood movies generally ask its viewers not to think much while viewing or afterwards.“Kapoor and Sons” at least wants us to think and argue about it later and in that way, it somehow manages to redeem itself.

Under the Volcano


Ingrid Bergman in Stromboli(1950)

 Stromboli (1950, Italy)

Director: Roberto Rossellini

Starring: Ingrid Bergman (Karin), Mario Vitale (Antonio), Renzo Cesena (The Priest) and Mario Sponzo as The Man from the Lighthouse.

The Priest: “God helps those, who help themselves.”As the proverb goes

Karin: “God has never helped me”.

At the end of Stromboli, Karin screams and implores for the divine help in utter helplessness. Rossellini is only interested to see whether she cries or not. She does.

Roberto Rossellini’s first collaboration with Ingrid Bergman is an intriguing and fascinating character study of a flawed and an opportunistic woman. It works even better when you realize how shrewdly Rossellini correlates the predicament of Karin with the plight of a Hollywood star who is somehow stuck in the rustic and ‘filthy’ (The adjective used by Bergman’s character to describe her house in Stromboli) world of Italian neorealism. The comforts of the studio sets are a distant thing now and the aridness and desolation of the ‘reality’ are daunting. All of these are done with a tinge of dark humor and satire.

The movie begins in a refugee camp in Italy, just after the Second World War, where the displaced refugees are kept and it is surrounded by a military compound filled with battered and exhausted prisoners of war. The women in the refugee camp have nothing much to do, except to wait or find a way out .We are shown  that many of them are involved in romances with the soldiers through the barbed wire separating the two compounds. We are introduced to Karin here, who is trying to find a way out of this camp in any possible way .She has a reputation of a liar and so everything she says about her past is not exactly a credible one. We get an idea that she has been fleeing across different countries in Europe, chased by the Gestapo before finding her way here but we can’t really trust her narrative.

Karin too has a soldier, Antonio who says that he is crazy about her and proposes her to marry him. In an amazing scene, we see them trying to kiss each other across the barbed wire without getting injured and failing to do so. It works both as a symbolism for the particular period of time as well as a foreboding of the subsequent thorny relationship that they are going to share.

She obliges to Antonio’s proposal after her plan to migrate to Argentina goes kaput. This marriage is born out of circumstance instead of love. Rossellini builds intrigue and suspense by telling us as little about the newlyweds as he can before they arrive at the volcanic Stromboli Island-It is a part of the Aeolian Islands, along the Tyrrhenian sea- in the Northern Sicily. The volcano is active and threatens to erupt anytime. We are introduced to the other significant characters like the Island’s priest and trustee, the man working at the lighthouse and Antonio’s aunt and nephews.

The priest tells us a little about the Island and how most of its inhabitants have either left or waiting to leave. Karin is horrified listening to all of these and is infuriated after seeing Antonio’s derelict house. She mocks Antonio’s life and insults him for his lack of wealth.

We get to know that she has always been around riches all her life in the Baltics region and this sudden change of fate is something which is totally unacceptable to her. Karin hates her life on the Island and finds herself more trapped than she was at the refugee camp.

Still, Karin tries to adjust in Stromboli after seeing Antonio’s devotion and relentless efforts for keeping her happy but is unable to cope up with the overall conservative of society of the place, who consider her flamboyance and sensibility as immoral and shameful. Karin through a series of not so thoughtful and scandalous actions -going to the prostitute’s house of the island or getting embarrassingly close to the lighthouse keeper in front of the entire women folks of the island – makes the situation worse for herself and for Antonio.

It is astonishing to see how far Rossellini and Bergman were subverting the so-called traditional morality of female characters of that time, and one can only imagine the scandal it must have caused as we see the married Karin seducing not only the lighthouse keeper but also the Priest to get what she wants- a way to escape from the Island.

Ingrid Bergman plays an extremely demanding role in a not-so-comfortable territory and shows enormous courage to shatter her image of morality, purity, and righteousness that was built over years due to her roles as Joan of Arc or as Sister Benedict in The Bells of St.Mary’s with a wrecking ball.It’s ironic to see her character plead for courage at the end of the film. Ingrid Bergman is at her best when she plays characters who are full of secrets and conceal much more than they reveal.After Stromboli,she ended up doing two more movies with Rossellini-Europa ’51(1952) and the masterpiece Journey to Italy(1954). All three movies are an essential and exciting watch,all the more because of how it tries to blur the gap between real and reel life.

Karin is a selfish,not-so-wise opportunist who would go any far to get what she wants,and still, we feel empathetic to her. A woman who had lived in high-class societies and had been pampered all her life isn’t able to accept Stromboli as her own, and in return, Stromboli doesn’t accept her. Antonio is – as the Priest said- a simple and a good man – and does tries to stand up for his wife , even when his wife’s actions makes him an outcast in his own land.Though, he is intellectually inept to understand Karin’s behavior and this leads him to react in a brusque and violent manner.

There are many reasons why Stromboli works whether it’s the assured direction of Rossellini, the amazing background score by his brother Reno or the excellent black and white photography of the great Otello Martelli (“La Strada”,”Paisa”). The main reason for its success though obviously lies in the brave performance of one of the finest actresses in the history of cinema. Ingrid cares for Karin and so do we eventually.


This post is part of the Ingrid Bergman Blogathon hosted by the Ingrid Bergman devotee Virginie Pronovost of The Wonderful World of Cinema.




All About Mitch


Rock Hudson and Lauren Bacall in Douglas Sirk’s Written on the Wind

Written On the Wind (U.S, 1956)
Director: – Douglas Sirk
Screenplay: – George Zuckerman, Robert Wilder (based on his novel)
Starring: Rock Hudson (Mitch Wayne), Lauren Bacall (Lucy Moore), Robert Stacks (Kyle Hadley) and Dorothy Malone (Marylee Hadley).

“Are you looking for laughs or are you soul-searching?” asks Mitch Wayne to Lucy Moore in the beginning of the movie. The question seems to be thrown at us-the audience. Is the film a satire mocking the genre or is it uncompromisingly flamboyant in its treatment? I still don’t know the correct answer. Maybe it’s both. (Film critic Roger Ebert makes a compelling argument for it being a satire in his review)
The best thing about the romantic melodrama “Written on the Wind” is that it sprints relentlessly right from the start, and it seems not to care whether we buy its contrived plot or not. It makes no effort to pretend that the world it shows or the characters that inhabit it are ‘real’. Rather, it seems to be playful of this fact. The lack of effort to hide the artificiality of the set is evident everywhere, especially through the use of bright colors. Douglas Sirk loved to open his movie by introducing the major players along with the credits. He did the same in his next film “The Tarnished Angels”, also starring Hudson, Stacks and Malone.
The movie begins with an over the top scene, where we see a drunk Kyle Hadley driving his bright yellow colored car (Allard J2X Le Mans), with leaves flowing all across the frame indicating an impending storm as the title song by “The Four Aces” plays in the background .The movie then goes back a year, as we see Mitch as an employee of Hadley Oil Company meeting Lucy Moore, an executive assistant of an advertising company that works for the Hadley’s. Eventually Mitch takes Lucy to meet Kyle in a restaurant. Kyle is floored by Lucy from the outset and tries every move on her that he can think of. Lucy, even though doesn’t seem to be much impressed, tends to go along with it. Mitch all these time, has supposedly fallen for Lucy as well, and responsibly follows her and Kyle to the private plane. As Kyle takes her to his private plane, he opens up in front of her almost mechanically, talking about how he and his sister Marylee along with their dead uncle were the black sheep of the family, and how Mitch-the son of his father’s legendary hunter friend-was the good son that his father always wanted to have. We later come to know that this conversation makes Lucy fall for Kyle but it never seems really convincing. Later on, when she deserts Kyle in Miami to go back home, Kyle manages to persuade her that his feelings for her is genuine and eventually they end up getting married.
As the film proceeds and we are introduced to the promiscuous Marylee, we realize that the film is actually about the siblings, who as kids were in love with Mitch and probably still are. Kyle’s love for Mitch is more subtle than that of Marylee. Even though, Kyle and Marylee are grown up now, they are still the same kids at heart who used to play together by the lake with Mitch. They are rich spoiled kids pretending to be grownups. As a result, they are the characters who are the most interesting ones and also the ones who we feel more sympathy for. It can be argued whether Kyle would have been a disappointed alcoholic or Marylee the way she is now if Mitch wasn’t in their life.
As several things happen along the way, Sirk makes things interesting by placing a gun just about everywhere -under the pillow, inside the drawers of the study or hidden in the bookshelf.

As far as performances go, I wasn’t particularly impressed by Rock Hudson. Except for a few scenes, he plays the character of Mitch Wayne mostly single note. Lauren Bacall is really good especially in her earlier interactions with Robert Stacks. You can’t help yourself from smiling when she drops the line” “Don’t look now, but you’ve dropped your friend.” with an effortless ease of a pro. Bacall had the quality of bringing depth to her character even if it doesn’t seem to be provided by the plot. Bacall’s Lucy seems to know more than she says. Like how she stumps her father in law by asking him whether he considers her a gold-digger or when she tells Mitch that even though she didn’t like Kyle to begin with, she decided to go along only because she couldn’t resist being tempted by the adventure like situation. Robert Stacks is superb too as the alcoholic insecure Kyle, but the film belongs to Dorothy Malone (in her Academy Award winning role). She is a revelation here. While unashamedly seducing Mitch or smiling nonchalantly at the consequences of her actions, Malone brings the child like impulsiveness of her character to the fore. The final scene alone, in which she confesses the truth in front of the judge before intending to do otherwise is a testament to her brilliance.
In the end, we hardly feel upbeat as the film draws on to its supposedly happy conclusion. The Hadleys weren’t really bad people but their riches weren’t enough to overcome their failure in their personal lives.


This post is part of the Lauren Bacall Blogathon hosted by the amazing Crystal of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood.





Haunted by the Past


Essie Davies and Noah Wiseman in Jennifer Kent’s “The Babadook”

 The Babadook (2014, Australia)
Director: Jennifer Kent
Screenplay:-Jennifer Kent
Starring: Essie Davis (Amelia), Noah Wiseman (Samuel), Benjamin Winspear (Oskar) and Barbara West (Mrs. Roach)

“If it’s in a word or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of The Babadook.”

**Spoiler Alert: The following text contains major plot points. Please avoid reading it if you haven’t seen the film.

Jennifer Kent’s debut film “The Babadook” has a ticking bomb in each scene. There is urgency in the proceedings and inevitably bad things happen, but in a manner which annihilates our presumed expectations.
Horror movies generally do not seem to care about the lives of its characters. They are generally poorly written, and are there just to justify the special effects, and all the text book horror tropes that proceeds thereafter. That’s why it was so refreshing to see a movie which has characters which we care about and sympathize with, even when they begin to spiral down in madness.“The Babadook” plays out more like a psychological drama about a mother and a son struggling to cope up with their lives in the aftermath of a tragedy. It transcends the genre and feels extremely moving as you think more about it.
The mother, Amelia (Essie Davis in a tour de force performance) has finally repressed her insurmountable grief of losing her husband Oskar, seven years ago in a road accident, while traveling to the hospital to have their son, Samuel. She has stopped talking about her husband’s death with people including her son(who can’t stop mentioning him).She hasn’t moved on from the tragedy as her sister Claire rightly points out. She has had no relationship since Oskar’s death. This strategy is making things worse for her. She is haunted by the event and is unable to find sleep in weeks.
The son, Samuel is having tough times himself. He has no friends. He is becoming aggressive. He accidentally breaks her cousin’s nose,and thereby making his and her mom more isolated from the society. Like every year, his mom is not celebrating his birthday because it coincides with the day Oskar died. It’s an interesting point, rarely seen in other films. It also shows how Amelia prioritizes the death of her husband more than the birth of her son, something which unravels more powerfully at the end. Samuel seems to be preparing himself for a battle with some kind of a monster. Learning magic tricks, making weapons. He makes promises of protecting his mother. Does he know something more than we think he does?

The mother and the son are both struggling from nightmares in sleep as well while awake. They are in a perpetual state of mourning. Kent wonderfully creates a wounded family already struggling with reality and dreams,even before the monster arrives. The book “Mister Babadook” (illustrated by Alex Juhasz) finds its way to the story book shelf of the kid. Kent shrewdly avoids telling; how it reached its present location (It’s pretty obvious if you think about it).
The book indicates the events that are supposed to follow. At this point, I felt that the film was entering in a more predictable territory, only it doesn’t. It is not a coincidence that the Babadook wears the same clothes and hat as that of the deceased Oskar. The whole movie runs from the point of view of Amelia and she is not a reliable narrator.
Scarily we realize soon, how deep the trauma of Oskar’s death runs within Amelia. It’s tearing her from inside. She is resentful towards everything that exists in her life- her son, her dog, even her job. She feels that she got all these at a huge price and would love to barter it if she could.
It’s not difficult to recognize that Kent seemed to be inspired from “The Shining”. I must say that Essie Davis does a terrific job channeling her inner James Cagney. It’s an extremely demanding role, and Davis does an excellent job.

At the end,we discover that the monsters get to us only if we let them in. We all have our demons, and we have to live with it, accepting it’s presence but locking it somewhere deep down. The acceptance of the present along with the agonizing past makes the ending extremely gratifying. Notable film critic, Anthony Lane of “The New Yorker” argues that there should be a law passed that all horror movies should be made by female directors. After watching this film, I think people will find it hard to disagree with him.

P.S: The word “Baba” means father in Persian and Hindi.

Liebster Award


I was pleasantly surprised to find out that two of my blogger friends: Virginie Pronovost of “The Wonderful World of Cinema” and Summer Reeves of “Serendipitous Anachronisms” nominated me for the Liebster award.I want to thank them for their kindness and support for this new blog.

So,according to the rules I am answering the 11 questions asked to me.

My first set of answers are to the questions asked by Virginie and the second one is for Summer.

1- If you had the chance to play any movie character, which one would you have choose?

Newland Archer in Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence.

2- Which movie made you discover the world of classic films?

“Casablanca(1942)” by Michael Curtiz

3- What are your three most favorite decades in films?

My favorite decades are :1930s,1940s and 1970s

4- With whom do you watch your  films?

I love watching films alone.

5- What movie star do enjoy the most listening to their interviews and why?

I love watching the interviews of Tina Fey,she is funny and awesome.

6- What do you think was the best screenplay ever written and why?

This is a difficult one.I think the screenplay of “The Apartment” by Billy Wilder and I A L Diamond will one of the contenders.The characters,the lines,almost everything was top-notch.Even props like “the broken mirror” was used perfectly.

7- You have the chance to visit one movie set during an entire day and discover its secrets. Which set do you choose?

I think it would be fascinating to spend a day on Stanley Kubrick’s 2001:A Space Odyssey.

8- You try to convince someone to watch classic films. What is your major argument to convince him or her?

I think a major reason for why some people are not attracted to watch classic films is because they are in black and white but I think the plot synopsis is a great way to make it more appealing.People are attracted to good stories.The classic films are repleted with good stories.

9- Is there a movie everybody has seen you are ashamed to admit you never saw it?

Yeah, I haven’t seen “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy yet.

10- Do you own some movie posters? If yes, which ones?

Yes,I have posters of “My Man Godfrey”,”Full Metal Jacket” and “Letter From An Unknown Woman”.

11- You are invited to a costume ball and you have to dress up as a movie character or a movie star. Which one do you choose?

I think Alex from “A Clockwork Orange” only because white shirts and trousers are easier to get and so is fake eyelash.

  1. What movie have you seen more times than necessary?                                                                                                                      “The Royal Tenenbaums” by Wes Anderson.I have seen it countless number of times.I totally love this film.
  2. What movie scared you?                                                                                                                                 “Carrie” by Brian De Palma
  3. What do you wish they would adapt or re-adapt to cinema?                                                                                                                            I wish the novels of “Graham Greene” is adapted and re-adapted properly.
  4. Are there any forthcoming films or TV shows you are excited about?                                                                                                                              Alyssa Rosenberg has made me excited about the new tv show “Survivor’s Remorse.”I am looking forward to that.I am really looking forward to watch “Carol” starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara and the new Tarantino movie only for Ennio Morricone’s background score.
  5. What are your favorite Shakespeare-ish films (Derivative work)?                                                                                                                              I would say Kurosawa’s “Throne of Blood” and “Ran”
  6. What’s your favorite movie about show business?                                                                                                                        Fellini’s “Eight and A Half”
  7. What’s your favorite documentary?                                                                                                                  Steve James’s “Hoop Dreams”
  8. What’s your favorite movie score?                                                                                  “Cinema Paradiso” by Ennio Morricone.Here is a sample.
  9. Why did you start blogging?                                                                                                                          To express my love for movies,to participate in the dialogue about them.
  10. What do you think is the nicest thing you’ve discovered about blogging?                                                                                                                          The blogging community is extremely kind and the love many people have for movies is inspiring.
  11. What are your other interests?I love reading fiction,rock music and traveling.

My nominations for Liebster award are:-

  1. The Sporadic Chronicles of a beginner blogger by Zoë.
  2. Smitten Kitten Vintage by Rhonda
  3. Girls Do Film by Victoria
  4. EmmakWall by Emma
  5. Defiant Success by Anna
  6. Le of Critica Retro
  7. Ramblings of A Cinephile by Marta
  8. Pfeiffer Pfilms and Meg Movies by Paul S
  9. I Heart Ingrid by James Miller
  10. Moon in Gemini by Debra Vega
  11. Goose Pimply All Over by Tonya

My 11 questions are :-

  1. Which is your favorite film of the 70s?
  2. Which is your favorite adaptation of a novel?
  3. Which is your favorite Western?
  4. Which film have you seen the most number of times?
  5. Which is the first film that you have seen in a theater?
  6. Which are the five DVDs/Blu-rays in your personal movie collection which you will never give to anyone?
  7. Which is your favorite animation film?
  8. Which movie star you’d love to go on a dinner with?
  9. Which is your favorite movie soundtrack?
  10. Which is a film that you will recommend that you think not many have seen?
  11. Who is your favorite film critic?

Reaching for the Moon

Isn’t it Romantic? -  Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart in Sabrina.

Isn’t it Romantic? – Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart in Sabrina.

Sabrina (1954, US)
Director: Billy Wilder
Screenplay: Billy Wilder, Samuel Taylor (based on his play), Ernest Lehman.
Starring: Audrey Hepburn (Sabrina Fairchild) Humphrey Bogart (Linus Larrabee), William Holden (David Larrabee), John Williams (Thomas Fairchild) and Martha Hyer (Elizabeth Tyson).

“Don’t reach for the moon, child, ” says the chauffeur, Thomas Fairchild to his daughter Sabrina. The moon is used as a metaphor for something beyond one’s reach. Though, as pointed out later in the movie by Baron St. Fontanel in Sabrina’s cooking class in Paris, “You young people, you are so old fashioned. We are building rockets to reach the moon.”
Sabrina’s father has worked as a chauffeur for the wealthy Larrabees family for 25 years. He is one of the many servants who work on the Larrabees extravagant estate, which has both an indoor and outdoor tennis court as well as an indoor and outdoor swimming pool. Maude Larrabee, the matriarch of the house and his husband Oliver has two sons: – the workaholic and solemn Linus and the irresponsible playboy David.
Sabrina has a huge crush on David since her childhood. When she was nine, David kissed her while they were playing on the roller-skates. David seems to be forgotten all about this and has since had been part of three failed marriages.
The movie begins with a party taking place at the house of Larabees. David and his date (having a really annoying giggle) for the evening dance to the tune of “Isn’t it Romantic?” as a teary-eyed Sabrina watches from a tree at a distance. David remains quite ignorant of her presence as she later on childishly attempts suicide by inhaling carbon fumes, only to be rescued by Linus, who happened to be passing nearby.
Billy Wilder’s ability to build characters in complex situation which we end up caring about strengthens the film. The characters in the film are quite intelligent and aware of the complexity of the situation they find themselves in.

Sabrina always believed David to be the love of her life, but after spending some time with Linus and getting to know him more,she can’t help herself falling for the latter.In an amazing scene,Sabrina asks David to kiss her,after returning from her date with Linus.Her conflict is depicted superbly.
Linus, on the other hand tells everyone, including his father that his intentions to spend time with Sabrina is just to get her away from Long Island so that the million dollar merger with the Sugarcane Industries remain intact. David is supposed to marry the daughter of the Sugarcane tycoon as a condition for the merger to take place.
Though, Linus is not the cold-hearted businessman we think he is. He is just a heartbroken man, who keeps working long hours to forget his loneliness and sorrow. He is as romantic at heart as Sabrina.This is the reason why his tenderness and empathy towards her makes so much sense.
Even, the younger brother David has more to him than we realize. He understands that his brother has fallen in love and helps him make the decision towards the end.
The film is beautifully shot in Black and White by the one of the greatest cinematographers of Hollywood’s Golden era, Charles Lang Jr. He worked with Wilder previously on “Ace in the Hole”. Lang was superb with his masterful use of light and shade (Chiaroscuro) and was adored by Hollywood stars like Marlene Dietrich and even Audrey Hepburn because how gloriously he shot them. Hepburn’s beauty comes right at us in “Sabrina”. He also worked with her in Stanley Donen’s “Charade”.
It was wonderful to see, the use of several long tracking shots in “Sabrina” like in the earlier scenes as we see Sabrina climbing the spiral staircase running to her room above the garage.
At the end, “Sabrina” is all about its leading lady and one of the most loveable Hollywood icons-Audrey Hepburn. This was her second film after her debut in William Wyler’s “Roman Holiday”. This film is one of her less talked about films and often overlooked when you compare it with “Roman Holiday” or “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” which is a bit unfair because of how crucial the impact of this film was both in her life and career. This was her first film where we see her transforming from a normal girl to a glamorous style icon. Audrey had the quality to play both kinds of roles effortlessly, something which we see her do it again, most notably in “My Fair Lady”. Watching her in these films makes us realize how unique she was,and why her popularity never seems to cease even 60 years after the dawn of her fame.

This post is part of the Billy Wilder Blogathon hosted by the amazing @Irishjayhawk66 of Outspoken & Freckled and @CitizenScreen of Once Upon a Screen.


Of Sinners and Saints

mean streets

Harvey Keitel and Amy Robinson in Mean Streets

Mean Streets (1973, US)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenplay: Martin Scorsese and Mardik Martin.
Starring: Harvey Keitel(Charlie),Robert De Niro(Johnny Boy),Amy Robinson(Teresa),David Proval(Tony),Richard Romanus(Michael) and Cesare Danova(Giovanni).

I mean, if I do something wrong, I just want to pay for it my way. So, I do my own penance for my own sins.”, says Charlie in the initial scenes of Mean Streets, and this theme of guilt and penance, runs throughout its 110 mins running time ending with Charlie sitting on his knees on the streets bloodied and defeated.
Charlie’s character is different than other protagonists in Scorsese’s later movies like Henry Hill in Goodfellas (1990) or Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) in the way that he has a conscience which the latter characters lack.
Charlie comes out as more naive in comparison, having a strong sense of morality and righteousness which these guys didn’t have. The only thing they regret is that they were unable to keep on doing the same things. Charlie’s inner turmoil is more relatable perhaps because he is in a constant state of conflict between doing what he wants to and of doing what he thinks he should, something which most of us struggle with. We see him spiraling down to his inevitable doomed fate as his dreams crash and burn.
Mean Streets is kind of a root film from which all later Scorsese movies can be traced back to. The themes and ideas in this film paved way for his later work. It’s all there.
Charlie’s character seems closer to Scorsese than any other. We all know that when he was young, Scorsese was planning to become a priest, and maybe so did Charlie. In one scene Joey Clams calls him St. Charles asking for benediction which is probably how Scorsese would have been mocked by his friends in Little Italy of New York where he grew up.
Mean Streets gives a pretty stark depiction of the life of the middle class Italian American community living in New York city in the 60s and 70s.The mannerism, the lifestyle, the accents, the moral obligations, everything which Scorsese knows like the back of his hand strengthens the proceedings. It is a character in itself- the claustrophobic buildings, narrow alleys and old restaurants and cafes.
Charlie works as a “collector” for his Uncle Giovanni, who is the local capo. He is probably going to be given the charge of a restaurant by his Uncle from its broke owner who is unable to pay him. His uncle doesn’t want him to be involved with his best friend Johnny Boy,”Honorable men go with Honorable men”, he says, and with Johnny’s cousin Teresa with whom he is having an affair with. Teresa suffers from epilepsy which Giovanni condescendingly describes as being “sick in the head”.
The tragedy with Charlie is that even though his intentions are good, he always keeps doing the things he feels guilty about. He is terrified of the eternal fire of hell, and so is always looking for an instant penance, burning himself either by a matchstick or putting his hand over the fire in the kitchen. A similar scene can be seen in Taxi Driver, where Travis raises his hand over a kitchen stove.
He tends to keep disappointing everyone. Whether it’s Teresa, Johnny Boy, Michael, his uncle, even the African American dancer whom he stoods up on a date. The racial discrimination against the black people here is less subtle than “Taxi Driver“. Scorsese obviously doesn’t condone it, but he never shies away from portraying truthfully the attitude of the community towards them. Whether it’s racism or misogyny, it’s shown as it is.

The use of color red especially for Tony’s bar represents how Charlie looks at the place in comparison to the outside world. The entire place replete with cigar smokes, drinks, drugs and lust is a place for the sinners, of which he becomes a part of ,every time he enters there.
The entire film’s plot revolves around Charlie trying to save his reckless friend Johnny Boy from a vicious loan shark Michael who he owes money to.
Johnny Boy reminds me more of the fool from Fellini’s “La Strada” who makes poor choices and makes up his own fate and that of the people around him. He just can’t help himself and does and say things one too many.It also showcases Scorsese’s affinity towards characters who are willing to self-destruct.

The things that I love the most in Mean Streets are the quieter scenes, like the scene where he dances with an intoxicated girl after protecting him from a war veteran because sometimes all you want is a hug, or the scene where he walks with Teresa on the beach nervously looking everywhere hoping not to be seen with her. Scorsese masterfully uses the popular music of the late 50s and the early 60s, with the likes of The Rolling Stones(‘Tell Me’), The Chantels(‘I Love You So’), The Aquatones(‘You’), The Ronettes(‘Be,My Baby), The Paragons(‘Florence’), The Nutmegs(‘Ship Of Love’), etc.There is a wonderful scene in which the gang watches a clumsy fist fight scene in John Ford’s The Searchers, which they later kind of imitate in the wonderful pool-fighting sequence perfectly synced with “Please, Mr.Postman” by the Carpenters.
There are several slow-motion shots, which will eventually become a Scorsese trademark. The feeling of paranoia, of being trapped from all sides, having nowhere to escape, something which he will again masterly use in the climax of “Goodfellas”, exists here as well.
Charlie struggles to balance his feelings for Teresa, his Uncle, his responsibility of protecting Johnny Boy, his lust for the black dancer. At the end he looks at his fate grimly at the price he had to pay for the things he did. Scorsese brilliantly cuts the scene showing all the characters as Charlie is eventually put into the ambulance.
The entire cast is superb.De Niro brings about the right amount of recklessness and aggression. We watch him with shock as he starts to dance during a tense moment at the end of the film rather than worrying about getting killed. Harvey Keitel’s performance, for me, was the most impressive. He makes us care for a character who many a times act like a jerk, especially towards the women in his life.
The film’s imperfections, helps it in bringing a distinct rawness and energy that a more polished film would have lacked. If you haven’t seen this film, before reading this post, you probably are thinking how solemn the film is, which is totally incorrect.The film has a great sense of humor, and has several scenes which are just laugh out funny making it a really entertaining fare. Whether the viewers today will be able to appreciate this early film by Scorsese is something that I am unable to say, but the film that heralded the arrival of one of the greatest filmmakers of all time is definitely worth a watch.

Me and Orson Welles!


A young Orson Welles

“A film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet “-Orson Welles

As a person born in the 90s and growing up in 2000s,I was initially more attracted, influenced and inspired from the work of Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan and of course the Movie Brats of the 1970s.Though,there was one movie whose greatness I was constantly reminded of from the countless numbers of lists made by film critics,articles written by film historians as well as in the interviews of great filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg(Obviously not Ingmar Bergman who hated the movie and called Welles a “hoax”) .The movie topped the Sight and Sound Poll decade after decade finally being dropped down to the second place by Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece “Vertigo” in 2012. It is placed number one in the American Film Institute’s list of 100 greatest movies of all time. The movie which I am talking about is the 1941 movie “Citizen Kane”. I never really felt like seeing it even after hearing so much praise about it from everywhere. Citizen Kane has a ubiquitous presence and is a work which cannot be ignored. Though, I am guilty of avoiding it for a long time. I never really felt the urge to watch it. I felt that it was too much hyped for me to watch at that time and the expectations may ruin the experience of watching this great American Classic. Orson Welles is synonym with the word “audacity”. He was one of the boldest risk takers ever and by taking those risks he changed the cinematic art form for years to come.He took forward the cinematic elements several notches above from were it was left from the silent film generation. While he was making Kane, he told the cinematographer Gregg Toland, ‘Let’s do everything they told us never to do”.  He took the risks and made the camera movements aware to the audiences with  brilliance and became responsible for inspiring so many people to be filmmakers.