Tag Archives: cinema

His Trust

A 1911 silent era film “His Trust” and its sequel “His Trust Fulfilled” directed by D.W. Griffith. Wilfred Lucas (George) is a black worker in his master’s employ who is a soldier for the Confederate Army. The master is called upon to war, leaving his family of wife and kid in George’s care. Soldier dies in battle leaving only his sword. Enemy soldiers then come upon their house to ransack it and set it on fire. George takes great risk to go inside blazing flames to rescue the kid and the master’s sword. George then takes them to his small ramshackle house taking care of their every needs, until one fine day the lady dies, leaving the kid infant. George then plows all his savings so that the little girl gets a foster home, goes to school, and marries off to an aristrocrat in Britain.

They have managed to restore the print of this film from the Library of Congress paper prints. Its a short movie set in two parts, fully silent. The production quality is rudimentary what you expect in 1911 but its a landmark movie of that era.

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Working Girl

What a beautifully tragic Antiguan film “Working Girl” (2009) directed by Nigel Trellis. Lotus (Terry Ann Price) is a school girl in a sad family background. Her mother is a prostitute and they are badly off. Lotus has a boyfriend who is rich but does not know her situation. Lotus’s mother is dying of lung cancer and they have no money to provide for her medicals. So Lotus sets out to sell herself but can’t bring herself to do it first time around. In the meanwhile, her house electricity is cut off due to non payment of dues, so she has to look around for other places to study. She goes to her boyfriend place, but his father drives her out. Then she is out hitchhiking, when she gets a lift from an old man, but that guy tries to be too cozy to her. The school master also tries to seduce her into his bed. But the girl is unable to do anything. Exams come and she tops not only in the school but the entire country. She comes home to tell her mother the good news but unfortunately her mother has already passed away by then. The funeral guys ask for lot of money in order to bury her. Again she sets off to do business in the night. Lot more suffering and tragedy in the end. Terry Ann Price has done a magnificent role as the sad, miserable girl who has no hopes for the future. The cinematography and music are very good.

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Tomka and his Friends

What a wonderfully cute Albanian movie “Tomka and his friends” (1977) directed by Xhanfise Keko. Tomka and his little friends in a small Albanian village like to play football in their village playground. All that changes when Germans come to occupy their village and set up camp in their playground. Tomka and his friends continue to play football in whatever is left of the playground. They are a bunch of cute little kids patriotic to their fellow country men and angry at the fascists. Tomka is a little older and wiser for his age. Tomka and his friends are called up to do small little things to help the Albanians in their fight against the Germans, like finding out where the canal ends in the German camp, feeding poison to the German dog etc. All very lovely young kids with their enthusiasm and playfulness combined. All of them have acted wonderfully in the movie. It is a tribute to Xhanfise Keko that he has been able to get such lovely acting from the kids in the movie. The cinematography, camera work, music, story, direction, photography and all are top class. Not much of complications in the movie, a simple movie of daring do by young kids against fascist forces. Must watch for the true movie connoisseur. It is available on youtube with English sub titles.

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The Raid

Indonesian movie “The Raid Redemption” (2011) starring Iko Uwais as Rama (of all persons!!) a special forces officer. He and his team are planning a bust up on a ganglord and there are moles on both sides. The raid goes wrong, horribly wrong with the commando team being badly ambushed. But few survive and fight and it is one endless fight after another. It showcases the Indonesian martial art of Pencak Silat and there are plenty of scenes on that. There is lot of violence in the movie and that too gore violence. There is no female interest in the movie. Not much of a story line in this movie, unending fighting and violence. There was English sub-titles but the dialogues were also rendered in English through voice over, so the magic of listening to Indonesian language was gone. There are serials also Raid 2 and Raid 3 but i will choose to ignore it.

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A Life at Stake

A 1954 noir film starring Angela Lansbury, Keith Andes, Claudia Barrett among others. Edward Shaw (Keith Andes) is an out of work architect and having lost lot of money in his last business. He get a proposal to go into business with Doris Hillman (Angela Lansbury) of developing properties with his expertise and their money. She is married to a much older Gus Hillman who is ready to put up big money to finance the venture. Keith has some natural doubts about the venture, and that is buttressed when he meets Madge (Claudia Barrett) who spills the beans on Doris’s first marriage which ended when her husband drove off a hill and the insurance money came to Gus Hillman. From here on the story becomes interesting. Of the cast, Claudia Barrett has done a good role though even Angela has acted well for her part in the movie of a cool professional seductress. A good movie to watch.

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One Week

Brilliant 1920 comedy movie starring Buster Keaton & Sybil Seely. For a movie made in 1920 it is absolutely brilliant even by today’s standards. Buster Keaton has newly married the beautiful looking Sybil Seely and his uncle gives him a plot of land, in which he has construct his own house for which he has given him the wood as well. The challenge is to place the wood by numbers to get it right. But one dejected suitor of Sybil puts all the numbers wrong resulting in a lopsided house. There are lot of comic capers involving the house or ladders in which Buster excels. There is lot of Chaplinesque about him, minus the facial expressions of Chaplin. Then apparently he has constructed his house on a wrong plot no. 66 whereas it should have been at 99. They have to move the house across the railroad, but it gets stuck in the middle of the tracks. Whenever both Sybil and Buster appear on the screen together, it is pure magic. For a movie made in 1920, it is simply outstanding. This is rip-roaring comedy.

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Meshes of the Afternoon

Meshes of the Afternoon, (1943) a short film created by Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid. Its again a surrealist film just like Luis Bunuel’s “Un Chien Andalou”. A woman is seen as walking down a path, she goes to a door, finds it locked, finds the hidden key, the key falls down onto the stairs, then she goes inside the room, which is in disarray, the phone is off the hook, she finds a knife on a bread, a record player playing and then somebody is chasing her, she in turn is chasing a lady without a face but not able to catch her. The images and visuals keep repeating like in a dream. There is no meaning to the movie, its a dream sequence, and one can interpret it the way one wants. Later a man comes into the house, the same sequence keeps repeating, with the key and the knife and the lady. One can sum it as the character’s thought patterns in a time of crisis. 

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Open Water 2: Adrift

An open water adventure holiday gone horribly wrong. Open Water 2: Adrift is projected as based on true events, but with the kind of human stupidity depicted in the movie, i doubt if humans can be so stupid. Three pairs of couples go on a yatch holiday out in the open sea or ocean, far away from shore. One couple has an infant daughter also on board, which itself was a risky thing to take such a young one on a ship or a yatch cruise. Four of the members jump into the water to do a swim which i thought was another stupid thing to do, who swims in open ocean far away from land, maybe some do perhaps. Of the remaining, Amy (Susan May Pratt) has a phobia for water because of an incident in her childhood when her father drowned while swimming with her. The other guy Dan (Eric Dane) is ostensibly the owner of the yatch, but later reveals that he is a fraud and that the yatch is actually belonging to his boss. What kind of a boss allows his employee to take his yatch out to a cruise, beats me. Anyway, both of them also jump into the water, without realising that nobody has bothered to put the ladder down or keep the hatch down so that people can climb back. Dan is such an idiot that he does not realise the blunder he has committed endangering everybody’s lives. All of them are stuck down in the water with nary any hold or groove to climb back. Soon one after another start drowning. The movie advertised shark attack, but there was nothing of that sort, even though blood oozed from a couple of the guys. 

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Old Enough

Winner at Sundance Film Festival in 1984, Old Enough is a coming of age story of two young girls from contrasting backgrounds. Karen (Rainbow Harvest) from a struggling neighbourhood with a somewhat abusive father to boot, and Lonnie (Sarah Boyd) from a rich upper class society with all the comforts that her parents can give her. They meet and become friends and hang out together, Lonnie experiencing lot of things that she could never get with her rich upbringing and Karen overawed at the comforts and extravaganza of Lonnie household. Karen has a moral streak though, going to church, confessing and all that stuff   but she also has a knack of lifting things from a shopping mall. Karen’s brother Johny (Neill Barry) about the same age and showing some interest in Lonnie and she getting slightly infatuated with him and all that stuff. Johny in turn becomes infatuated with a new neighbour in their building. It all happens one summer. The kids discovering new things as they grow up and their friendship with each other coming as they are from different backgrounds, that is the sum of the movie. 

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The Song of Bernadette

Brilliantly made film on the life of Bernadette Soubirous (1844-1879) a girl who sees a vision in a grotto in Lourdes in France. Bernadette played by Jennifer Jones in an absolutely magnificent role befitting the Oscars for Best Actress given to her as well as the Golden Globe awards for that year. The Song of Bernadette (1943) directed by Henry King remains true to the story of Bernadette Soubirous. The film is beautifully made with superb camera work and cinematography, outstanding for that era. Bernadette sees a vision of a lady in white, while going to fetch wood for her family. Only she can see the apparition, nobody else and she communicates with the lady. Initially even her family doubts her story and so do the other villagers of Lourdes, but eventually one miracle occurs when a spring appears where there were only rock and stones and shrub, and the waters from that spring starts curing people of their illnesses. The church was initially against her, but the Dean of Lourdes starts believing her even as the higher authorities in Rome impose one commission after another to ferret out the real truth. The bureaucrats of Lourdes are totally against her and even want to arrest her on some old 1789 law. Jennifer Jones has done a splendid role, doing full justice to the character.  Eventually Bernadette is sent to become a sister. The climax of the movie is quite beautiful and sad and poignant. Worth watching for the acting of Jennifer Jones, the beautiful cinematography and camera work.   

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Bicycle Thieves

Iconic cult classic “Bicycle Thieves” directed by Vittorio de Sica in 1948, an Italian neorealist film ranked as one of the greatest films of all time. The film derives its strength from its beautiful story told in a simple style. Its a post world war II Italy and work is hard to find. Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani) gets an employment call to stick posters of an upcoming film, but he must have a bicycle of his own, otherwise he does not get the job. He has pawned his bicycle to meet ends of his family comprising of his wife Maria, son Bruno and a small baby. Maria manages to sell some quilts and get some money to release the bicycle. Antonio is happy with his bicycle and dreams of a big future giving comforts to his family. Unfortunately on the first day of the job itself, some one steals his bicycle and then its a desperate struggle to get it back, because he knows what it means to him and his family. Antonio does not give up the search and enlists the help of his friends to find the bicycle. The police is not of much help and neither he can spot his own bicycle in the second hand bicycle mart. As he gets one rejection after another, Antonio gets frustrated and sometimes angry at his son, for the bad luck that has befallen him. Lamberto has done a brilliant role as the angst ridden Antonio looking for his bicycle. The climax is very poignant. Both Lamberto and Enzo Staoila (Bruno, the boy) were non actors when they played this part. de Sica has used poor neighbourhood to shoot most of his shots and none of his shots were in studio. It was all realist portraying the poverty, grime and unemployment of the city in post war Europe. Many Indian film makers have been influenced by Vittoria de Sica including Satyajit Ray, Bimal Roy both of whom showed poverty and angst in their movies. The film won the Golden Globe in 1949 for best foreign language film

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Coco

Wonderful animation movie Coco (2017) from the Pixar Disney combination, produced by Pixar and released by Walt Disney studios. Its a story of a young kid and his love for music but his family forbids from playing any music or even going near a musical instrument, because his great great grand father was a musician and left his family to pursue his musical career and the family to fend for themselves. From then on the family has no music in its household despite having passed through so many generations and having a successful business to boot. Then there is a Mexican festival the Day of the Dead, in which apparently the dead members of the family are remembered by keeping the food that they loved and celebrating with them. The story has beautifully taken off from there into the Land of the Dead where young Miguel goes on to find his great great grand father and seek his blessings to play music. The interplay between the living and the dead has been wonderfully made during this phase with lot of adventure, daring, innovativeness, creativity with a murder plot, a suspense and a reunion thrown in, all around a deep rooted culture and a family life. Pixar’s animation has been absolutely magnificent to say the least. Awesome movie to watch for all generations. 

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Thaniyavarthanam

Brilliant malayalam psycho drama movie “Thaniyavarthanam” (1987) directed by Sibi Malayil and starring Mammootty, Thilakan among others. Its a subtle take on the deep rooted orthodoxy and superstition prevalent amongst some families in Kerala. Their strong belief in rituals to the exclusion of scientific temper and medicine, which is disdained. It is also a strong commentary on how Goebbel’s propaganda works – keep telling a person he is mad, until he also believes he is mad. Mammootty (Bala Gopalan) is a school teacher in a small primary school in which his daughter also studies. They have a traditional house in the village but not so much money. There is one relative in the household who is supposedly insane and apparently that is bought about because of an age old curse coming down from generations, affecting the male members of the household. Balan’s younger brother Gopi (Mukesh) is a staunch opponent of all these mumbo jumbo rituals but all the elders are deeply rooted in that belief. They have a sister who is unmarried and not getting any proposals because of this curse apparently. Balan’s relative dies and it is predicted that Balan will be the next in line. So just one wayward dream of Balan and people start doubting it and react funnily to him. Balan himself does not believe anything is wrong with him but the village folk, his school colleagues and family members slowly start poisoning his mind. Mammootty’s slow descent from a normal fun loving family into a person affected by all these accusations is brilliant. The family has no money at all, but still go ahead with making arrangements to perform another round of rituals to appease the devis to arrest his decline. Brilliant climax by the Director, which no one saw coming.

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Shyamchi Aai

A timeless classic made in 1953 which won the first ever National film award in 1953 portrays a simple story of a love between a mother and her child. Very beautifully directed movie by Prahlad Atre, it depicts the struggle of a small family in rural Maharashtra indebted as they are to money lenders, they lose everything twice over. An idealistic family with ample love passing between the family members, it is the mother’s love for her small son which is overwhelming throughout the movie. Both the mother (played by Vanamala) and the kid (played brilliantly by Madhav Vaze) have performed beautifully throughout the movie. The mother teaches all the right values for the kid and wrongs and even smacks when he makes a wrong choice. In turn the son turns out to be an ideal son for the mother. The son once helps a dalit women who has fallen down due to heavy load which she is carrying, for which the temple priest upbraids the kid, but he narrates that his mother has taught him to do it. Great watch for the true movie connoisseur.

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Danton

A dense historical fiction movie “Danton” directed by Polish director, Andrzej Wajda in a French Polish joint production. It won the Bafta in 1983. The story takes place in 1794 during the Reign of Terror in France with Maximilien Robespierre pitted against Georges Danton. Robespierre is the fiercest advocate of the liberty of people but he has apparently turned to be a dictator. Danton is a popular figure of those times and the people are with him. Both sides have their own set of supporters. The story details that part when Danton and his friends are accused of plotting against the Republic and made to stand trial. The trial in those days were more farcical than today’s which says a lot. Basically Danton is accused of sedition in today’s times. But he says i conspired for peace and amnesty for the people. Some gems from the movie “The final safeguard against despotism is a free press”. The press guys are not allowed inside the court room and take notes. “A defendant’s right to be heard is not a privilege, it is simply justice”. This is uttered by one of his party members in a kind of Parliament of those days, called the Committee. “Politics has nothing to do with justice” which sadly we are witnessing in today’s times as well. “We send you Republic’s enemies, your duty is not to judge them but to eliminate them” this is uttered by Robespierre to the judge, shades of what we are seeing today as well. Wojciech Pszoniak as Robespierre has done a brilliant job and Gerard Depardieu as Danton with his usual theatrics. There is not many female interests in the movie. 

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