Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Computer engineers are India's biggest export. - Lalit Verma in 'Monsoon Wedding'

I have a thing for old soulful Hindi songs playing in the background in any movie, like for example in ‘Ishqiya’ , Vidya Balan and Naseer argue about the music composer of ‘Kuch Dil Ne kaha’ (which happens to be one of my all time favorite songs) , but then I digress.

There is a scene in Monsoon Wedding where the soulful lyrics of ‘Aaj jaane ki zid na karo, youn hi pehlu mein baithe raho’ waltz through the rainy breeze while a would-be bride has a tryst with her married lover. And this is not the only thing I love about this movie.

Much like ‘Rachel getting married’ has a melancholic undertone in an otherwise happy wedding; ‘Monsoon Wedding’ has its mix of gloom among the colorful and vibrant Punjabi wedding. This movie works for me on many levels especially the portrayal of urban Indian families. It captures the exact mix of westernized yet traditional Indians, the cigarette smoking mother, the father who wants to have an extravagant wedding for his daughter but at the same time is concerned about the spiraling costs, the Australian visiting cousin who tries to make out with another girl and the bride’s younger brother who dreams of becoming a chef.

It also shows the realism of arranged marriages, just like that of the Vermas, who may have separate beds but when it comes to a common problem do not fail to come together in a passionate embrace.
There is also the simple love story of the maid with the wedding planner, who lives in a single room with his old mother.
While the story does focus on the rich family, the camera also zooms over the narrow by lanes of Delhi, showcasing the shops, the streets and the one bedroom tenements. A darker story is also revealed in the form of a pedophile uncle whom Mr.Verma boycotts from the wedding once the truth is out.

A wedding is always a melting pot for immediate and extended families and there are a lot of traditional ceremonies in the Indian wedding – like sangeet (where henna tattoo is applied to the bride’s hands amidst singing and dancing by women), the actual baraat (the arrival of the groom) and finally the marriage itself.

An American friend recently asked me ‘Don’t Indians marry the partners picked by their parents?’ and I replied saying ‘The difference is that the partner then is an unknown devil instead of a known devil!’
While most young people in India today go for love marriages, there is still a vast populace who go the ‘arranged marriage’ route.

This movie touches on this topic so subtly when the would-be-bride realizes how futile her affair with a married man is and confesses the truth to her fiancé. And after sleeping over the matter, the groom is able to accept the bride including her past, which is a giant leap from the notion of virginal brides going the arranged marriage route!

All in all, a joyful ride of a good old Indian wedding set in urban India and includes music, dance and not to mention drama.

Friday, October 15, 2010

I love robbing the English, they're so polite. - Otto in 'A Fish Called Wanda'

Who recently said ‘Life does not imitate art, Life imitates bad television!’ (Woody Allen, of course). Imagine if the eccentricities of a single person are to be the focal point of a movie, then it would be nothing but hilarious and ‘A Fish Called Wanda’ has heightened focus on the eccentricities of several individuals – an animal lover with a stutter – Ken(Michael Palin), a Nietzsche loving stupid American – Otto(Kevin Kline in his Oscar winning performance), a woman who would seduce the pope for money –Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis) and lastly a stiff upper lip English lawyer, Archie (John Cleese).

And the eccentricities do not stop there, Otto hates being called ‘Stupid’, Wanda gets into a passionate tumble whenever a man speaks Italian and Ken loves his fish so much that he names one of them as ‘Wanda’.

There are many things in ‘A Fish called Wanda’ that makes you laugh, and the thing that most tickled my funny bone was a character named ‘Otto’.
I was so smitten by him that I wished that he was the one sitting next to Wanda on their final flight to Rio instead of Archie.

Otto and Wanda, two American petty thieves, are engaged by British henchmen George and Ken to help in robbing a bank. After the heist, Otto and Wanda rat on George to the police. But George has his tracks covered by hiding the loot. Wanda attempts to seduce George’s English barrister, Archie in an attempt to discover the hidden loot.
What follows is a series of goofy events involving Archie and Wanda and her possessive lover, Otto.

Some of the best jokes are Wanda’s takes on Otto’s stupidity,

Wanda: Oh, right! To call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people! I've known sheep that could outwit you. I've worn dresses with higher IQs. But you think you're an intellectual, don't you, ape? Otto West: Apes don't read philosophy.
Wanda: Yes they do, Otto. They just don't understand it. Now let me correct you on a couple of things, OK? Aristotle was not Belgian. The central message of Buddhism is not "Every man for himself." And the London Underground is not a political movement. Those are all mistakes, Otto. I looked them up.

Otto makes fun of Ken and his love for animals, he says

“Nice fish, Ken. You know what Nietzsche said about animals? "They were God's second blunder."

and Archie for being so ‘snotty, stuck up, intellectual British faggots’

The screenplay by John Cleese (of Monty Python fame) makes it one helluva laugh riot without it being on the face slapstick.

Here I would like to stop and pose a question: ‘There is a link between this movie and two of my other movie posts’ Can you take a shot at what they are? I promise to give away virtual prizes :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Good and evil, right and wrong were invented for the ordinary average man, the inferior man, because he needs them.- Brandon Shaw in Hitchcock ’Rope'

Hitchcock’s ‘Rope’ reminded me of Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’. Just like Raskolnikov, Brandon and Phillip commit murder to get rid of worthless people of the world.But that is where the analogy ends.

While Raskolnikov was filled with remorse, Brandon and Phillip are proud of this crime and present a macabre setting of a dinner party, to which the victim’s parents and fiance are invited, while the body lies inside a chest on which the dinner is laid.

Much has been written about the fascinating way in which the film is shot, supposedly in a single long take with only eight cuts. But then I’m ignorant about the techniques of film-making and can only recognize the film for what it is worth – the dialogue!
Included in their guest list is their old professor, Rupert Cadell, who although was a sound believer in Nietzche, did not approve of murder. You literally hang to the edge of your seat while Brandon and Phillip play cat-and-mouse with their professor before he can unravel the truth.

The modern viewer today would have seen multiple flicks which present a slick chase scene , car chases or plain old chase by running (‘Casino Royale’ anyone?) but this movie presents a chase scene in 1948 like never before, chase by conversation, a thriller with words.

Brandon:The good Americans usually die young on the battlefield, don't they? Well, the Davids of this world merely occupy space, which is why he was the perfect victim for the perfect murder. Course he, uh, he was a Harvard undergraduate. That might make it justifiable homicide.

Rupert Cadell:By what right do you dare to say that there's a superior few to which you belong?

As the professor suspects his ex-students and grills them about murders, you wonder why would Brandon and Phillip invite him to the dinner. The answer to that lies in what Agatha Christie has often written about ‘The pride of the murderer showing off his skills’.

I hear that the movie is loosely based on a real life incident on the case of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, the sons of two very wealthy Chicago families; in 1924 Leopold and Loeb, in part under the sway of Leopold’s rather reductive and simplisitc reading of Nietzsche, decided to prove themselves Nietzschian supermen by committing a perfect murder, an act for which Nathan Leopold, in his autobiography, Life Plus 99 Years (1957), expresses remorse.

Like every Agatha Christie addict, I thrive on unearthing the murkier nature of the human side, where the murder itself is not half as fascinating as the reason behind it.Watch this amazing thriller if you are a fan of murder mysteries, after all it is the month of Halloween.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A heart can be broken, but it will keep beating just the same. - Ninny Threadgoode in ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’

If anyone called ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’, a chick flick, I would totally freak out. It is as bad as calling ‘The Color Purple’ a chick flick.
Fried Green Tomatoes is about women who are old and frail, women who are struggling with their marriages, women who are insecure about themselves, women who are not bigots, women who are capable, women who are strong and lastly women who inspire each other.

Evelyn Couch, an insecure house-wife befriends a frail old woman, Ninny Thread Goode (Jessica Tandy), during her visits to a nursing home where her husband’s aunt is.
As Ninny narrates an old story about two women, Idgie and Ruth, set in good old south in a small town of Alabama.

Idgie and Ruth are two diametrically opposite but strong women. Idgie goes into a cocoon after the death of her brother and Ruth tries to avoid her physically abusive husband, Frank. Together, they open the ‘Whistle Stop Cafe’, which becomes famous for their fried green tomatoes and barbeque. They patronize the local Black people including employing them as cooks at the café.
When Frank suddenly disappears, the local police suspects Ruth and Idgie but they are unable to prove them guilty.
The dénouement of the disappearance of Frank makes for a chilling story.
Evelyn finds herself looking forward to her weekly visits to the nursing home and finds that the story has a positive impact on her life.

This is as much about human bigotry as ‘To Kill A mocking Bird’. Idgie and Ruth are not liked by the people of Whistle Stop because of their friendship with the local Black people. When Ruth's husband ,Frank disappears, their Black cook is arrested and Idgie and Ruth are prime suspects.But without any evidence they are let free.Ninny then tells Evelyn the secret behind Frank's disappearance.

It is also about eternal friendships.Although there has been widespread criticism about the relationship between Idgie and Ruth being that of lesbians, i think that it more to do with friendly affection, which can be easily mistaken and is ambigious.

I remember watching this movie on Star movies about 10 years back, i had never heard of it and loved every bit of it.It was later I came to know that it was nominated for nearly 6 Oscars.

If you would like to see a story set in the 1930s set in the South, which includes the famous barbeque and fried green tomatoes, then this would be the ideal one.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Perhaps he knew, as I did not, that the Earth was made round so that we would not see too far down the road.-Karen Blixen in 'Out of Africa'

So, the conversation went like this… my friend was trying to describe my eclectic taste in movies and she was quoted saying ‘she likes movies with a lot of dialogue’, to which my other friend immediately replied ‘like “Out of Africa”???’
I said ‘Yes, that is one of my all time favorite movies’ and of course I had to write about it.

The movie opens with the following wonderful lines ‘I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills. The Equator runs across these highlands, a hundred miles to the north, and the farm lay at an altitude of over six thousand feet. In the day-time you felt that you had got high up; near to the sun, but the early mornings and evenings were limpid and restful, and the nights were cold.’, by a Danish writer, Karen Blixen(a wonderful Meryl Streep) .

Having returned to her native Denmark, Karen writes her memoirs of her stay in Africa. She goes to Africa to join her husband, Bror Blixen, who promises to open a dairy farm; instead he buys a coffee plantation.
From then on, it is a long and arduous journey for Karen. She works hard on the plantation, takes care of the natives and in between falls in love with a white hunter, Denys Finch (Robert Redford). But she still does not get what she wants. While her husband is a womanizer and alcoholic, Denys is a hunter who leaves on long hunting expeditions. Neither of the men give her what she is seeking – constant companionship.

I think the movie is more about Africa than about Karen. The stunning visuals captured by David Watkin won him an academy award for Best Cinematography. At some point in the movie, you would stop and wonder if you are watching a movie or the National Geographic channel!! It is a wonderful tribute to the beauty of Africa starting from Kenya to Mt.Kilimanjaro..

It is also about a strong woman, Karen, who seeks love, first in her husband who fails to give anything in return and later turns to Denys, who also does not offer her a committed relationship. The death of Denys in an accident does make her melancholic and finally when the coffee plantation catches fire, she is forced to return to her native Denmark.

The one scene that I strongly remember is when Karen asks Denys if he ever feels lonely on his expeditions. And there in essence lies the story, Karen’s desire for companionship which never gets fulfilled by either of the men in her life!
Here is a video of it :

But let me warn you first, ‘Out of Africa’ is a long film running for 161 minutes and moving at a slow pace like in Africa ‘"Natives dislike speed, as we dislike noise..." but it does offer the ethereal beauty of Africa!

Monday, October 11, 2010

I'm like cat here,a no-name slob.We belong to nobody,nobody belongs to us.We don't even belong to each other-HollyGolightly in 'Breakfast at Tiffany's

There are many reasons why I love ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ but the most important reason is that I identify myself a lot with Holy Goliaty.
Her free spiritedness, the loneliness, the need to escape to a faraway place, her joie de vivre, and lastly her love for Tiffany’s which translates to my love for shopping. And just like her, I’m ‘a wild thing that cannot be kept in a cage’.

Audrey Hepburn is the second reason I love Breakfast at Tiffany’s. She is so graceful and elegant that nowhere would you even remotely guess that she is an ‘escort’!
She brings about her an innocence and solitude that you would feel a compelling need to hold her in your arms and comfort her.

This is what Paul Varjack, the writer neighbor of Holy writes about her:
“There was once a very lovely, very frightened girl. She lived alone except for a nameless cat”. As simple as Holy appears, she comes with a complicated past, she was married to a Texas farmer when she was 15, she has a brother, Fred who is in the army and she sees the ‘mean reds’ sometimes.
Paul is both intrigued and fascinated by her and Holy mistakes his protectiveness as a brotherly affection and addresses him as ‘Fred’.
While Holy searches for a rich husband for herself among what she calls as ‘rats and super rats’, Paul is a paramour of a rich woman, ‘2E’.
Paul and Holy connect in the vast loneliness of New York City and have fun ‘shopping’ at Tiffany’s or stealing masks at the dime store.

The movie is as much about escapism as it is about free-spiritedness.
Holy refuses to name her cat or decorate her apartment in the hope of marrying someone rich. She is as melancholic on the inside as she is cheerful outside. Paul sponges off of a rich woman in order to maintain his poor publishing record.
This hypocrisy is what brings them together.

Another iconic statement of ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ is the stylish and sophisticated look that Audrey brought to the silver screen. There are many signature statements of Audrey – the long cigarette lighter, her black Givenchy gown are only two important ones.

Of course, I cannot help but mention that Truman Capote (the writer of the novella on which the movie is based on) had wanted Marilyn Monroe to act in it and felt ‘cheated’ by Paramount Pictures. I initially thought that maybe Marilyn wouldn’t do justice to this role, but one never knows. She might given the movie a different perspective altogether!

On a cold winter night, when you cannot go out because of snow, try to catch this on TCM or better still on Netflix , because this bitter-sweet story will make you want to wrap yourself in a blanket and reach out for a cup of coffee.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

"You're going to hand them a business card saying, 'I'm CEO, bitch' - Sean Parker in 'The Social Network'

I did notice the presentation of women in poor light in ‘The Social Network’ but I also tried to pat down my feministic head which raised in anger, because women are not central to the theme of this movie and they happen to be there in the light that the protagonists see them and not how we wish to see them.

Now, that I have gotten that point out of the door; let me move on to the best part of this movie – crisp dialogue. Never before have I seen contemporary film have such good ‘blink your eye and you would miss it’, dialogue and thanks to Aaron Sorkin who makes a dull theme of internet programming come to life.

There is a shot in the movie when Mark Zuckerberg(Jesse Eisenberg), the nerdy creator of ‘Facebook’ is in the middle of a lawsuit and he notices that it is raining and stares outside the window and the lawyers in front of him get annoyed;

Lawyer: "Mr. Zuckerberg, do I have your full attention?"
Mark Zuckerberg: "No."
Lawyer: "Do you think I deserve it?"
Mark Zuckerberg: "What?"
Lawyer: "Do you think I deserve your full attention?"
Mark: "I had to swear an oath before we began this deposition, and I don't want to perjure myself, so I have a legal obligation to say no."
Lawyer: " You don't think I deserve your attention."
Mark Zuckerberg: "I think if your clients want to sit on my shoulders and call themselves tall, they have the right to give it a try, but there's no requirement that I enjoy sitting here listening to people lie. You have part of my attention - you have the minimum amount. The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing. Did I adequately answer your condescending question?

Look at it this way, do you not in your daily life meet people who are arrogant because they are so knowledgeable! And if you are the creator of an algorithm, similar to the one used in chess, to build a social networking site, the condescending attitude is understandable, if not entirely justified.

The story of ‘The Social Network’ is about how a guy, who has only one best friend in the world but builds a social network of more than 1 million users. It is also the story of a genius who although is a narcissist, is insecure about not having a very active social life, whether it is being in a relationship or getting membership into exclusive clubs of Harvard.
Also when you are a genius who wants to be ‘wired’ to your laptop most of the time, you fail to relate to the mundane things of life and that is how he gets sued by 2 different sets of people , first by his best friend Eduardo Saverin and second by the Winklevoss brothers(Cameron and Taylor).

The camera cuts back and forth from the scene of Zuckerberg’s trial to the dark dorms of Harvard. Having broken up with his girl friend, Erica, Mark creates a network to vote for the hottest girl on the Harvard campus, which makes him notorious and gets him probation. The Winklevoss brothers contact him to build an online website exclusively for students of Harvard.
This sets Mark thinking and he hits on a better network than that, one which starts off at Harvard but soon spreads to Yale, Stanford and then moves on to the rest of the world. Mark also relies on finance from his friend, Eduardo Saverin, who is made the CFO of the project. Enter smooth talker, failed entrepreneur - Sean Parker(Justin Timberlake), who makes Mark move to California as well drop ‘The’ from ‘The Facebook’. Sean and Eduardo do not see eye-eye and that is when the fall out of Mark and Eduardo begins.

And I don’t think that this movie should be watched because we are riding high on the wave of ‘Facebook’, because even if eons from now Facebook falls off the face of the earth, you would still want to watch it because it is a story well narrated and is entirely strung by good dialogue just like ‘Before Sunrise’ !

Saturday, October 09, 2010

You can never help anything, can you? You're like a leaf that the wind blows from one gutter to another. -Jeff Bailey in Out of the Past

If you watch too many of the film noir genre, you are likely to get confused, because classic film noir has what is called a 'formula' - a rich and manipulative dame (goes by the name of 'femme fatale'), an anti-hero who is willing to go to any extent just for the pleasure of the 'femme fatale' and a final twist in the tale where 'the best-laid schemes of mice and of men often go awry!'.

But having watched a good chunk of them the past few years, if someone were to ask me to pick my favorite, I would say 'Out of the Past' without batting an eyelid.'The lady from Shanghai', 'Double Indemnity', 'Big Sleep', 'The postman always rings twice' are in the list of contenders but 'Out of the Past' wins hands-down.I think as film noirs go although Out of the Past sticks to the formula, it also provides a slight variant in the form of more sensitive characters and I am very partial to sensitive characterization.

Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum) works at a small town gas-station and wants to live a quiet life with Ann but he is mistaken. His past catches up with him in the form of his wealthy former employer, Whit Stirling. This is where the narrative turns to the past; Jeff (a private investigator) was once employed by Whit to find the whereabouts of Kathie(Jane Greer), his girlfriend, who steals forty thousand dollars and escapes.Jeff’s pursuit of Kathie leads him to Mexico where he finds himself falling in love with her.

I think Jane Greer as Kathie Moffat, is the best femme fatale, film noir has ever produced. Her demurring smile and her look which oscillates between being crafty and innocent even had me fooled that she wasn’t the one who stole the forty thousand dollars!!! Like Jeff says ‘"... and then she'd come along like school's out..." But both Jeff and me were proved wrong. Kathie not only steals but also kills Jeff’s partner.Cut to the present, she is back with Whit and Jeff’s once again entangled in a mess with Kathie and Whit.

In between the muck, are two characters, Ann (Jeff’s current girlfriend) and a deaf and dumb helper at Jeff’s gas station. Ann is the opposite of Kathie, when she hears about Jeff’s past, she says (about Kathie) ‘: She can't be all bad. No one is.’
And when Jeff and Kathie get killed in the car accident, she asks the deaf and dumb kid if they were running away together and the kids nods his head in the affirmative so that Ann can move on with someone else without guilt.
I think another notable difference is that most of this film is shot in bright sunlight unlike most film noir flicks, driving home the point that 'noir' need not be shot in the dark to get the chills.

And don’t even get me started on why I like film noir, not only does it have crisp dialogue, it also does not go didactic about what is right and wrong! The hero is just someone caught in the twist of events in his attempts to please his lady love, even if it means murder!!!
Is this a good enough reason for you to watch this one?

Friday, October 08, 2010

But captain, to obey - for obedience's sake... without questioning... That's something only people like you do.-Doctor in Pan's Labyrinth

A child's world is more confused than happy especially when they are unable to comprehend some of things that go on in the adult world. But their fertile imagination more than makes up for it. I do remember as a kid, wondering what the adults are fighting about and then letting it not bother me by locking myself in the world of 'Enid Blyton'.

Ofelia, in Pan's Labyrinth,is no different.As she faces the world of her step-father,pregnant mother in the grim backdrop of Spanish Civil war, she escapes into her imaginary world.
She follows a Faun in the quest for eternal life which leads her to a labyrinth with mythical creatures.
Spanish writer-director, Guillermo Del Toro, excels in spinning a tale which is at once dark and enchanting.He has a unique and indigenous voice, his creatures are frightening - like the Pale man with eye-balls in his hand , the faun, a giant toad and Pan(a creature that is half goat and half-human)- as well as fascinating.

Like any fairy tale, there are allegorical references with philosophical undertones.The faun is an ambiguous creature whom we feel Ofelia should not trust but Ofelia undertakes adventurous tasks ordered by the faun.
When she asks him “Who are you?”, he replies “I’ve been called so many names that only the wind and the trees can pronounce. I am the the mountain, the forest, the earth. I am … a faun.” He then continues: “It was the moon that bore you. And your real father waits for your return, but first, we must be sure that you have not become mortal”.

This is the allegorical reference to the choices we make in life and the consequences of it.Also Ofelia believes that she is the reincarnation of a princess and she must re-discover herself in order to achieve immortality.Inspite of a foreboding ending, the belief of an after-life is what keeps the spirit positive.

Even if you are someone who does not like to watch fantasy film, you must watch this because the fantastical world appears to be an extension of the real world until they get interlinked and present a mosaic of an amazing fairy tale

Thursday, October 07, 2010

You said you 'n' me was gonna get out of town & really let our hair down. look out 'cause my hair is comin' down! – Thelma in Thelma and Louise

The bad thing about stereotypes is that it is true at least 60% of the time.
So Thelma and Louise might be panned by many people as a movie with stereotype males like negligent husbands and molesters but, it is sad but true that life is filled with such men and 'Thelma and Louise' are not the only one who face them.

This flick is as much of a road trip story to women as ‘Sideways’ is to men.
Thelma(Geena Davis), a bored and neglected housewife and Louise(Susan Sarandon), a waitress at a small-town restaurant, want to escape their humdrum lives by taking a road trip to nearby county.
What starts as a fun trip turns adventurous as Louise kills a man, who attempts to molest Thelma and the two women take off to escape the cops.

While this might come across as a tale applauding two women taking to the gun, I tend to disagree. I think this is about friendship between two very different women; Louise is strong, has a firm head on her shoulders while Thelma is the demure and romantic one. A twist of events in which Thelma gets duped by a guy JD (Brad Pitt in a minuscule role) makes her realize her folly and she suddenly takes charge of the situation.
She starts a series of robberies to make up for their lost money and thus have police on their hot pursuit.
The way the wind blows their hair when they drive their Thunderbird, the carefree attitude as they try to frighten a truck driver who makes lewd remarks at them and the background music as they fly over the Grand Canyon is joy to watch.

So all you women out there and the men who are brave enough to watch a good flick about women, do rent this movie since I think this movie has more to offer than just American cultural stereotypes.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers. - Blanche DuBois in 'A Streetcar Named Desire'

Suddenly a thought crossed my mind, that there is a parallel between "Breakfast at Tiffany’s' and 'A Streetcar Named Desire'.
Both represent women who are fragile and do not know what they want in life. Also both of them share a troubled marital life and have run far away from it.
But that is where the similarity ends.

When the film opens, Blanche DuBois(Vivien Leigh)is visiting her sister, Stella and her husband Stanley(Marlon Brando) in New Orleans. The real intent of the visit is that Blanche could not keep up their family home in Laurel, Mississippi and having lost her job has come to stay with her sister.

Blanche is forlorn and desires everything that she has lost forever - youth, riches, suitors and lives in an elusive world of her own.
Although her sister lives in a working class neighborhood, Blanche attracts the attention of Stanley's friend, Mitch by lying about her age and interests.
Stanley (a very hot Marlon Brando), is another interesting character - dominating, violent, full of animal sensualities. He and Blanche are at loggerheads always. Stanley does not like Blanche's pretentious behavior and tries to insult her in every possible way. He digs into her past and learns that she has been dismissed from her job as a schoolteacher because of her promiscuous behaviour.He makes sure Mitch learns the truth about Blanche and breaks Blanche's hopes.

Viven Leigh was supposedly going through a mental breakdown herself during the making of this film, so to play Blanche, who likes to live in the world of unfulfilled dreams until she forgets to differentiate the real world, seems to have come easily to Leigh.
It is tragic to see that Blanche had to be finally instuitionalized for something that was really not her fault.

'A Streetcar Named Desire', is once again based on the works of my favorite playwright, Tennesse Williams.
You must watch it just for Marlon Brando , who had never seemed more handsome than he was in this movie.If you don't believe me, here is one of the posters of him, you wouldn't believe he is the same old man in Godfather and Apocalypse Now!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Only one is a wanderer; two together are always going somewhere. – Madeleine in ‘Vertigo’

The highest compliment a person has ever paid me was this ‘if I meet another woman in my life, I would dress her up just like Scottie tries to dress Judy to resemble Madeleine’.And if you watch Vertigo , you would know why.

One cannot forget the theme music of Vertigo; it is at once compelling as well as mysterious that you associate it with the haunting tale of Scottie and Madeleine.
Scottie (Jimmy Stewart), a retired police officer who suffers from vertigo is employed by a man to follow his wife, Madeleine’s ((Kim Novak) movements.
Little does Scottie realize the trap he is getting into.

I used to think ‘Rope’ is my most favorite Hitchcock movie, but then I was mistaken. Vertigo has totally knocked it off to the second place. While Rope is all about good dialogue, Vertigo takes the cake for cinematography and the misty way it has been shot. It has dream-like elements especially in scenes where Madeleine (Kim Novak) seems possessed by a woman long dead.
The scene in the redwood forest where you find her in a state of trance actually makes you jump for minute. The dreamy eyes of Madeleine would make any man go crazy and so it is no surprise that Scottie falls for her.

You are now at the edge of the seat to see where this leads to until you are led three fourths of the movie and you find Madeleine killing herself by jumping off from the tower of a convent, which she always used to dream about.
Scottie is heartbroken and is hospitalized for a while, he comes out of the hospital unable to forget Madeleine, until one day he bumps into Judy, a look-alike of Madeleine. It is at this point you realize what an obsessive and controlling man Scottie has turned into.
He tries to make Judy dress like Madeleine, he even tries to make her color her hair and knot it the same way that Madeleine used to.
But the truth of the matter is much darker than you would guess!

The cinematography along with the music almost makes you feel you are watching an illusion especially those moments where Madeleine remains so lost and you are lost looking at this mysterious woman who seems so vulnerable at the same time holds dark secrets.

Like I said, I am a huge Hitchcock fan and I do have many favorites including ‘The Birds’, ‘Rebecca’ , ‘Shadow of a doubt’ and ‘Rope’ , but yes I think ‘Vertigo’ now rates as my favorite Hitchcock movie.
Do watch it if you would love a thriller on a cold October afternoon.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn! – Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind

When I first watched the movie version of one of my most favorite books of all time, ‘Gone with the Wind’, I thought how in the world people liked this movie, since according to me it is nothing but the tip of iceberg of the tome.

But the movie grew on me.

You know how it is when you read a book and you paint a mental image of the characters and the places, this is brought to life before your eyes on the screen.

No one would have done more justice to the scheming yet attractive, trademark Scarlett O Hara traits than Vivien Leigh.
The naughty glint in her eyes, the manipulative looks or the sweet romance brings Scarlett out of the pages of the book.

The tale of how the American civil war alters a small town in the South and how the Southern belle, Scarlett manages to come out of it stronger than before, is well captured.
Scarlett loves Ashley, who marries Melanie, a sweet and innocent cousin of Scarlett. Enter Rhett, the flashy rich suitor of Scarlett. He is the only one who can match her passion to live life, although Scarlett never really realizes her love for him.

Clark Gable is both dignified at the same time brings out the cynical smile of Rhett Butler very well. He matches the energy of Vivien Leigh and both make a handsome couple.

The film also works because it does not try and just stick to Scarlett and Rhett but also focuses on the numerous other characters like Scarlett’s nanny, Mammy.
The image where Mammy wears the taffeta dress gifted by Rhett and is embarrassed when Rhett notices it, is priceless and Hattie McDaniel, won the best supporting actress for her role as Mammy.

The technicolor images of the old South, the ball room dances, the dresses at the parties, Atlanta burning are very vibrant with color. One might think that it is slightly over the top with the drama but the setting is also the American Civil war of the 1860s, so it is well within the limits of a well made epic saga.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Hey, don't knock masturbation. It's sex with someone I love. - Alvy Singer in 'Annie Hall'

I can’t believe I’m attempting to write Annie Hall after downing 4 martinis and 2 vodka shots on a Sunday night. But this is the type of movie that I would love to write about whether drunk or sober especially after watching it for the n+1th time last night.

Annie Hall is not about Annie nor is it about Alvy Singer, it is about relationships.

Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) says ‘I thought of that old joke, y'know, this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, "Doc, uh, my brother's crazy; he thinks he's a chicken." And, uh, the doctor says, "Well, why don't you turn him in?" The guy says, "I would, but I need the eggs." Well, I guess that's pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y'know, they're totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and... but, uh, I guess we keep going' through it because, uh, most of us... need the eggs.”

So Annie Hall is yes, about the relationship between Alvyn and Annie but maybe it is also about relationships between people who think too much, who look for ‘mental masturbation’.

Alvy (Woody Allen) meets Annie (Diane Keaton) at a tennis match, a friendly match between two New Yorkers. Annie is sweet, dresses sexy and is a girl who calls her grandma as ‘Grammie’ and says ‘la de da’!
Alvy Singer reads books featuring Death and watches ‘Sorrow and the Pity’, a documentary on the holocaust and the Nazis.
You do not know if Alvy is right or Annie is as both of them have their moments of irrational behavior. Alvy insists on Annie attending adult education classes and Annie cannot make love until she gets high on grass.

If you are a person who is not into dialogue and that too of the pseudo-intellectualism variant then this is one flick you would want to run away from.
Where else can you hear words like ‘making love to you is a Kafkaesque experience and I mean that as a compliment’!

Watching Mr. and Mrs. Smith is so much easier than watching Annie Hall by millions of people worldwide because one cannot understand intellectual stimulation as easily as you understand chemistry between two beautiful people.

Annie is an aspiring singer and although Alvyn is a successful television comedian, he is jealous of Annie and her success when a California agent wants to sign her up for a recording.
He does not get a chance go by without making fun of California
[In California]
Annie Hall: It's so clean out here.
Alvy Singer: That's because they don't throw their garbage away, they turn it into television shows.

It is funny only to people who can get the jokes,
[Alvy Singer does a stand-up comic act for a college audience]
Alvy Singer: I was thrown out of N.Y.U. my freshman year for cheating on my metaphysics final, you know. I looked within the soul of the boy sitting next to me. When I was thrown out, my mother, who was an emotionally high-strung woman, locked herself in the bathroom and took an overdose of Mah-Jongg tiles. I was depressed at that time. I was in analysis. I was suicidal as a matter of fact and would have killed myself, but I was in analysis with a strict Freudian, and, if you kill yourself, they make you pay for the sessions you miss.

But then i really can't do justice to the dialogues of Annie Hall in a blog post of 1000 or 2000 words, you have to watch it because almost all the dialogues are quotable.Not to mention, the unique way of direction!

Also don’t tell me I didn’t warn you. It is not a movie with a happy ending, it is not a movie where there is action and a handsome hero, it is not a movie of the Ben Stiller type of romantic comedy and lastly, it is no Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

But yes if you know what ‘mental masturbation’ is, do watch it and thank me for the reco’.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Cats jump off roofs and they land uninjured - Brick in 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof'

Mendacity is a word you would hear often if you watch ‘Cat on a hot tin roof’.
What would you say about a rich guy who has a drinking problem? That he is shallow and empty and drinking would come easily to him? Then you would be mistaken,
Brick (Paul Newman), the dipsomaniac has too many thoughts going on, most important of them is ‘Mendacity. You know what that is. It's lies and liars.’

Brick and his wife Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor) are visiting Bid Daddy (Burl Ives), Brick’s rich father for his 65th birthday as also are Brick’s brother Gooper and sister-in-law, Mae.

The story is nothing fancy and you would wonder how different, an age old yarn of greedy kids eyeing their father’s riches, can be?
This electrified drama is not only about it but also the relationship between Brick and his father, as well as Brick and Maggie, his wife.

Maggie is the cat, sometimes soft and mushy as a lovey-dovey wife of Brick, other times ferocious when she fights Mae and tries not to lose her hold on Big Daddy’s money. Her moods are as fluctuating as Scarlett O Hara and her reasons no different.

“Maggie: That I've gone through this horrible transformation, that I've become hard and frantic and cruel...Oh Brick, I get so lonely.
Brick: Everybody gets that.
Maggie: Living with somebody you love can be lonelier than living entirely alone - if the one you love doesn't love you.
Brick: ...Would you like to live alone, Maggie?
Maggie: No! No, I wouldn't.”

But the highlight is the way Big Daddy tries to explore the reasons behind Brick’s drinking problem, he asks Brick

Big Daddy: Son, you know you got a real liquor problem?
Brick: Yes sir, I know.
Big Daddy: Is that why you quit your job, sports announcin', because of the liquor?
Brick: I guess so, yes sir, that's it.
Big Daddy: Don't guess about it, son, it's too important.

Brick: Somethin' hasn't happened yet.
Big Daddy: What's that?
Brick: A click in my head.
Big Daddy: Did you say, 'click'?
Brick: Yes sir, the click in my head that makes me feel peaceful.
Big Daddy: Boy, sometimes you worry me.
Brick: It's like a switch, clickin' off in my head. Turns the hot light off and the cool one on and all of a sudden, there's peace.
Big Daddy: Boy, you're, you're a real alcoholic!
Brick: That is the truth. Yes sir, I am an alcoholic, so if you'd just excuse me...
And when Brick mentions Mendacity, this is what Big Daddy has to tell him

“Mendacity. What do you know about mendacity? I could write a book on it...Mendacity. Look at all the lies that I got to put up with. Pretenses. Hypocrisy. Pretendin' like I care for Big Mama, I haven't been able to stand that woman in forty years. Church! It bores me. But I go. And all those swindlin' lodges and social clubs and money-grabbin' auxiliaries. It's-it's got me on the number one sucker list. Boy, I've lived with mendacity. Now why can't you live with it? You've got to live with it. There's nothin' to live with but mendacity. Is there? “

During the course of the conversation, it becomes clear that the main reason of Brick’s drinking lies in his relationship with his now-dead, best friend, Skipper.

It is endearing to see how the father tries desperately to reach out to his unruly son and the open conversation is a show-down between the father-son duo until the barriers break down.

Like any Tennessee Williams play, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ is not about movie, it is the dialogues that keep you going.

And I would really not do justice to this, if I do not mention Paul Newman. How can one man who is so good-looking also act so well? Did someone not say, ‘One can’t have everything in life?? look at Paul Newman in ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ and you can prove them wrong!

Updated on 2/06/2012 :

We often see movies that depict stories in various periods of time.Flashback (too many movies to quote) and random chronological order (Pulp fiction, Memento et al) but how many movies are there where the characters and time are built through dialogue? Not many I guess.

Cat on a hot tin roof cleverly uses dialogue to build entire characters and reveals stories across time periods. At the heart of the story is the relationship between Maggie and Brick (who fight like cats) and then the relationship between Brick and his father, Big Daddy. Intertwined with this is the story between Brick and his dead buddy, Skipper. Although we never see Skipper the conversations between Maggie, Brick and Big Daddy builds us not only a very colorful image of Skipper but we can actually fathom the deep relationship between Brick and him. 

In my first review, I did not do justice to Liz Taylor at all. If there is one woman who can act catty as well as soft and sexy, it is Liz. She is almost like Scarlett-o-hara, albeit a little softer. In her resolve never to face poverty she puts up a good cat fight against the other obnoxious daughter-in-law, Maue. Her love for Brick is expressed in multiple ways, but the one where she narrates the story between Skipper and her is the best. Here is a woman, whose loyalty is questioned in front of her father in law and she faces it with grace. The candid narration of the incident between her and Skipper, makes Brick mock her but I think it is this candidness that brings him back to her at the end.