Tag Archives: Academy Awards

The Truffles Of Truffaut

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French New Wave (FNW) is a celebrated dominating cinematic era crossed in the timeline of French film industry in which the films became equivalent to the art and literature in the state of free expressions and a break from conservative cinematic ideology. Among the peers of that golden era, François Truffaut (FT) is an ageless name who will always be remembered as one of the founding members of the historic movement and will be considered one of the greatest directors of the twentieth century.

Being a critic on my own judgment, I watched all his 21 directional works in 45 days to fathom his brain behind the camera and to dig the answer why is he a cultural and celebratory icon in arts and entertainment. I discover the answer compelling and I don’t know how to describe in the shape of the blog but will endeavor my best.

Mr. Truffaut became well-known and controversial for his acid film criticism in the pages of Mr. Bazin’s film magazine, Cahiers du cinéma, before turning his hand to filmmaking in the late 1950’s. To understand FT’s work, the viewer must understand the concept of FNW which I have defined in the very first lines. Due to his fabulous contribution to western technical and cinematic innovations, Satyajit Ray acknowledged his debt to him. His admirers had particular praise for his screen depictions of children, obsessed men, and women driven by strong passions.

Among all his films, one thread is common. In almost every film, FT is a keen observer of life and reaches towards the smallest details no matter if it is related to the story or not. Either you watch his quintuple set of Antoine Doinel (AD) series, or the skirt-chasing film L’homme qui aimait les femmes (The Man Who Loved Women) or child-behavior centered L’argent de poche (Small Change); FT fetches minor but rich details like the classroom environment, parents’ behavior towards their child, line pickings by a womanizer etc.

Every film has an attention seeking subject which compiles the viewers to watch. AD was a fictional character created by Truffaut himself and made five films in two decades. Being a realism-loyal, FT borrowed the time of Jean-Pierre Léaud to gift him the career highlight of his life, who played the character in all the films from childhood to adulthood. The character is often called FT’s own alter ego. It is about a disturbed and misunderstood boy in Paris who was sick of his parents and teachers, domestic and school life; and one day he ran away and his story continued in the next four installments.

The first part Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows) is considered among the greatest films of the last century and a gateway to the FNW movement. The film earned awards and nominations at many recognized awards functions like Cannes and Academy. Truffaut was so convinced with the character that his brilliance can be watched in next films of his series. The next installment was a short film Antoine et Colette (Antoine and Colette) which described his failed love affair with Colette in his teenhood. Baisers volés (Stolen Kisses) dramatized the building of Doinel’s character by struggling in the young hood and trying to settle in one job. Domicile Conjugal (Bed & Board) spoke about his marital life with Christine and superb depiction of society. L’amour en fuite (Love on the Run) showed Doinel in his thirties who is divorcing Christine but also in an affair with a record-seller, Sabine.

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As FT is widely recognized for the films on AD but his directional artistry is stretched and dilated to his other notable works on different subjects. Truffaut was sensitive and tactful to child behavior due to his own disturbed childhood. He lived with his parents for the first time when he was eight years old after being passed to various nannies and his grandmother who instilled a love for books and films in him. His love for books can easily be seen in his films like Doinel reading Balzac in The 400 Blows, or Ferrard opening the package of books he ordered in La nuit américaine (Day For Night).

Even his only English-language film Fahrenheit 451 was based on the books. The film shows a fictional world where some totalitarian government controls general people’s life by dissuading them from the books. For this purpose, the government employs a group of firemen who detect books from every corner and burn to ashes. Fahrenheit 451 and Small Change were among Truffaut’s best works after The 400 Blows.

Small Change is one of a kind when it comes to child behavior. It is about the kids from different backgrounds mostly lower and middle class, their social life, and behavior towards people from different ages. There is a sketch when a man catches a boy to send his letter to one of the buildings to a married woman for five francs. Then in another sketch, the boy’s manners in eating dinner are brought to our attention. My favorite aspect of the film is the depiction of children’s fascination and excitement in sexual behavior. It is a natural phenomenon but the cinematic presentation demands bold details on which the acting of child artists are subjected to sensitivity on their shoulders. It is easily one of the best coming-of-age films I have watched.

The same case is the film L’enfant Sauvage (The Wild Child) produced in 1970 based on a true and very tragic story of an unfortunate individual, Victor of Aveyron, who spent his childhood with no human contact and was caught by hunters in a nearby village. Although it looks like a documentary more than a feature film but Truffaut gives a remarkable insider of the boy’s development from the delayed general human behavior.

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Besides child-centered subjects, one of the FT’s biggest accomplishments was presenting a guide towards the making of a film and the complications of shooting it. He was so caught up in the technical as well as the artistic aspects of filmmaking that he made a film about filmmaking, Day for Night.

Truffaut leaves no space to reveal the smallest of filming issues like a love affair between the two artists, producer/director dealing with insurance company, forgetting dialogues, using the animal in a scene, hiring people on the spot, re-takes and rehearsals etc. It shows a further reality that sometimes due to some reasons, the dialogues and the scenes are changed or the artists are convinced to do a scene so and so. These are small but very important and interesting details.  

In 1974, the film won BAFTA for Best Film and Oscar for Best Foreign Film. In addition to winning the Academy Award, it was named the best film of 1973 by the National Society of Film Critics in the United States, which also voted him the year’s top director. Easily one of the best films in filmmaking docudrama.

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Romance has always been a prestigious and distinguished subject in the French cinema and Truffaut’s directional excellence shares same artistic heritage. Les Deux Anglaises et le continent (Two English Girls) and Jules et Jim (Jules and Jim) were the films focused on love triangle both based on Henri-Pierre Roché‘s novels of the same titles. Two English Girls is a sublime blend of fluctuations of romantic affairs, exchange of emotions, description of capriciousness and very jeopardized harmony. Whereas Jules And Jim is a cinematic innovation to be always remembered for Truffaut’s marvelous efforts in bringing the best outcome in the film’s cinematography. Such qualities of camera work like panning shots, newsreel footage, photography stills or freeze frame were not common in cinematic business those days. Freeze frame was also done at the end of The 400 Blows.

The other romantic film which comes in my mind is the true story based on Victor Hugo‘s daughter, Adèle. A British army officer loved and proposed her which she refused. Later she had a change of heart and traveled Halifax during American Civil War to declare but the soldier loved her no more after the refusal. That drove her insane and made failed attempts to win him. Her obsession increased and began showing signs of mental illness.

L’histoire d’Adèle H. (The Story of Adele H.) brought the actress Isabelle Adjani in the limelight and earned a nomination for Best Actress in the Academy Awards. Truffaut’s direction was again hard to ignore. It was his remarkable presentation of dropping of emotions by Adele Hugo picturized on Adjani. The translation of mental collapse was very defining and tragic as overall FT produced a profoundly beautiful, tragic and dark film.

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After watching all his films, one of my most important observations is that his films were more centered/inclined towards the story than the character. Through his films, he brought subjects to the attention of the viewers and didn’t focus a lot on the overall performances of the actors and their characters who mostly displayed average performance.

 Almost all the films were based on literary works of many famous novelists but the message precise among all his films was the subject. La peau douce (The Soft Skin) and La femme d’à côté (The Woman Next Door) were subjected on an extramarital affair, Fahrenheit 451 was on books burning, Small Change on child abuse, Day for Night on filmmaking, The Man Who Loved Women on skirt-chaser and Vivement Dimanche! (Confidentially Yours) a murder-mystery. It is no hiding to the fact that character-centered films also made a huge name in French cinema like Léaud as AD and Isabelle as Adele.

In the smallest of details, the viewer will notice Truffaut’s love for animals especially cats. Two of his films had identical shots of cat nosing a lunch tray outside the door. Truffaut in Day For Night did show his fascination with cats by shooting the same cat-eat-lunch scene and went on describing how hard is it to convince a cat to eat the food during the shot.

Among other details, we will often witness one common scene in many of his films depicting the domestic life of couple i.e., the couples reading books together in bed before sleeping. Repeating the same scene might give us a clue of Truffaut’s personal life and some portion of his relationship with his wife and partner.

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Out of his 21 full-length directional works, my five personal favorite films are The 400 Blows, Small Change, Day For Night, Jules And Jim, and The Wild Child.

In 1963, FT was approached to direct famous American film, Bonnie And Clyde. Truffaut showed his interest only in script development but later declined. FT admired the works of Alfred Hitchcock and two of his films, La mariée était en noir (The Bride Wore Black) and Confidentially Yours were a tribute to him. In 1981, Vincent Canby of The New York Times called Truffaut ”one of the most continuously surprising and accomplished directors of his day.”

His headquarters for years was the Paris office of his production company, Les Films du Carrosse, which he named after La Carrosse d’Or (The Golden Coach), a film by the French director Jean Renoir. As an actor, he played roles only in his own films. Later in his career, he went on to play the role of a French scientist in Steven Spielberg‘s Close Encounters of the Third Kind which was his only outing as an actor.

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Truffaut was married to Madeleine Morgenstern from 1957 to 1965, and they had two daughters. He had affairs with many of his leading ladies. In 1968 he was engaged to actress Claude Jade who starred in AD series. He and leading actress of his last two films Fanny Ardant lived together for three years. During his relationship with Ardant, he had a stroke and was later diagnosed with brain tumor. On 21 October 1984, Truffaut passed away at the age of 52.

The credit goes to Truffaut who redefined the ‘Auteur Theory‘ and criticized the quality of French cinema by further hitting with the statement that the worst of Jean Renoir’s films would always be more interesting than the best of the films of Jean Delannoy. Truffaut aimed to retire from direction after completing 30 films and write books later but he wasn’t destined to what he planned. But still left the world with a global recognition in filmmaking. He is a huge cinematic inspiration and alive in the hearts of cinephile, sensible filmgoers, and the film critics of the highest quality. I regard and consider him among the greatest filmmakers of the twentieth century and personally one of my favorites. I wish if we would have seen more of his work instead of knowing his passing away so early.

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Film Review: L’histoire d’Adèle H. (1975)

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L’Histoire d’Adele H. (The Story of Adele H.) is a French film directed by François Truffaut based on the true story of Adele Hugo, daughter of Victor Hugo. Victor Hugo was one of the leading names in literature who is considered France’s greatest asset in poetry, novel and drama in Europe’s age of Romanticism. As much as father had earned a name of honor and respect in his field, his daughter met tragic fate for which she is known.

A British army officer loved and proposed her which she refused. Later she had a change of heart and travelled Halifax during American Civil War to declare but the soldier loved her no more after the refusal. That drove her insane and made failed attempts to win him. Her obsession increased and began showing signs of mental illness.

Yes François is hard to ignore in my reviews but first, the biggest plus was Isabelle Adjani‘s leading performance as Adele. It is hard to describe but she was very impressive in depicting different phases of one-sided affair. Her facial reactions, her eye-contact, her speaking to herself, her writing letters and so many demanding elements of this specific performance! The beginning of Adele’s frustration after the first scene of his refusal is the moment where her body language was so realistic, natural and with time, began to increase the level of astonishment. She was inclined towards the misery and more did she prove to be showstopper.

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Now the second credit goes to François, whose marvelous direction just propels you. With her quest of lost love, you are more obsessed than her to find out to what limit she will drop herself in hunger of winning his heart. The case is not only his direction but François’ collective belief on the-then 19yo Adjani. Keeping in mind, she wasn’t a popular name with very short number of films to her credit before making this. That is the quality and one of the most successful features of a director how he builds and maintains his trust on the leading actor for a certain film and that was the case of François himself. Take an example of his Antoine series in which he believed on Léaud‘s abilities to function the age-crossing role of Antoine Daniel to an extent that he went on to make five films in 20 years on his beloved character.

To my knowledge, this is the only known film based on Adele’s tragic story. You won’t see the character of Victor Hugo in the film but listen, and I think it makes sense. Besides Isabelle, all performances are below par but the viewers have no business to take a look on other performances than beautiful Adjani as Adele. The-then teenager Adjani was nominated for Best Actress in Academy Awards for this role despite being the role from a non-English film. She was the youngest to be nominated in the category by that time.

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A profoundly beautiful, tragic and dark film. Well done François/Adjani.

Ratings: 8/10

THE DOLLARS TRILOGY

340326Need a rich exploitation of cinematic brilliance among Western films? The only piece of advice I will forward you is to watch Sergio Leone‘s Dollars Trilogy (DT) which will easily erase your memories of John Wayne films. These films are A Fistful Of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and all these films were produced in consecutive years without any gap.

Why DT? Because these three films were trend-setters and Western films had a new dimension from the age of 60s. All three films were the landmark of ‘BAD-ASS’ fashion of Western genre. Legendary actor Clint Eastwood played the leading role of a fearless bounty hunter ‘The Man With No Name‘ and brought a new style of heroism among the leading actors of future generations.

Eastwood’s character had an all-round attraction; his gestures of inclining his hat, smoking cigarette, walking, shooting and dialogues delivering were super excellent. I can now easily figure out from where Amitabh Bachchan got influence for his famous ‘Angry Young Man’ persona in 70s. Another prominent feature of his character was that he had no name which is unusual. He had been given nicknames Joe, Manco and Blondie in respective films but the viewers were not entertained with his real name. His cowboy stature had a different persona than what the viewers had experienced in past Western films. I like the character’s costume especially green poncho.

Director Leone re-introduced the art of film-making ‘Spaghetti Western‘ (SW) from this franchise. The general explanation to the term is that such Western films were produced by the European production companies or in collaboration between European companies. In case of this franchise, producers from Italy, Germany, Spain and US were involved as per Wiki source. So in short, this trilogy has the honor to become the most influential Spaghetti Western film which laid its foundation here. Over 600 SW films were produced till the 80s.

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The beauty of all the three films not only lies in Leone-Eastwood combo but also the storytelling. The flow of the story grows on your nerves and it fires you at the most critical point. Few of the scenes demand your full attention especially the last scene of trilogy, that epic Mexican Standoff scene won’t allow you to move your eyes here and there. Dialogues are brilliant and it is a sin to miss Eastwood’s dialogues who rarely talks in all the three films.

Amazingly, Eastwood had no acting recognition nor had ever played a leading role in his career before this franchise. For the first part, he was paid $15k which later increased to $50k for the sequel. For the last part, he received percentage-based salary. Same case with the financial budget which was only $200k in first part, $600k in sequel and $1.2m in the last part.

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Another impressive aspect in directing this film is its depiction of violence. Gunshots are loud, noisy and on your ears. But by violence I mean Leone’s theory of presenting a Western film which differs with the Western films of the past. If the viewers carefully notice, the ideology of heroism in Western culture was changed here. The trilogy was more of amigos whose nature was more of anti-hero. In final part, all three major characters were antagonist to each other. These three films changed the thinking towards the Western by focusing more on capitalism and greed which weren’t their critical subjects in past Western films.

It will be incomplete to give my review of this trilogy without its scores. One of the most versatile composers of the 20th century, Ennio Morricone, raised the curtains of his illustrious career from this franchise. With very impressive scores in the first two parts to his credit, his iconic coyote-howling opening theme for the final part is easily considered one of the greatest instrumental film scores of all time. The world-famous theme is still alive and often listened in many different mediums and sources. Hard to believe Morricone didn’t win Academy for this score which seemed to be a unanimous decision. He had to wait 50 more years to win his first and most possibly last Oscar for the Best Score in the last Academy Awards function for The Hateful Eight.

Personally, my favorite film among the three is the second one which introduced a brilliant villain El Indio. Also among the trilogies I have watched so far, the DT is only second to ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ Trilogy to be considered among the greatest. The DT is one of the greatest achievements in global cinematic village. The trio of Morricone’s score, Leone’s direction and Eastwood’s character will remain one of the most iconic moments of the 20th century cinema.

Overall Ratings: 9.2/10

THE GRAVITY OF HONOR

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My good morning happens with the shocking news of Qandeel Baloch‘s murder! I am not a frequent visitor nor am I her fan but I have seen her earliest videos on her Facebook page and came to understand that she was one of those human species who chose to post silly nonsense videos to get a swift popularity. Her popularity brought the same arguments about downfall in society’s moral collapse with the repeated questions of “Where is Pakistan going?” and now is reigniting debate about honor killings in the country.

Yes indeed it is a morale collapse among the individuals doing naughty and silly stuff nowadays. Eyes of us men are no innocent to the videos we are fond of. Nope not talking about the videos of the adult industry but generally speaking, female individuals of different ages in South Asian societies have done way more than what the deceased used to do on social media. We have seen them making and forwarding amateur home videos like stripping behind the close doors, naked selfies, courtships in front of continuously adjusting camera and God knows what else for the sake of the demands coming from their seasonal boyfriends despite knowing the fact that there is every chance of the books from her storehouse to be transferred towards the library. But that morality can be corrected, vanishing her from earth is not the solution. Was QB a bigger threat than ISIS’?

Let me justify definition of ‘Moral Collapse’ prevailing in this country by four understood phases of this tragic life cycle.

  1. QB posted silly videos for popularity, many of those alarmed if she had mental issues.
  2. The viewers have/had different opinions and every opinion doesn’t make sense like her. Some turn out to be perverts and some become bonerfide seasonal mullahs who watch the whole video and then declare her ‘gandi’. Some females in the comments recruit her in adult industry or curse with a rolling-pin in hand.
  3. Instead of correcting or ignoring her (because her’s is/was none of our folking business); people all of a sudden become responsible for their khandaan or become patriotic and mullah and begin delivering threats to her. And one day someone kill her and the killer is none other than her brother whose so-called gherat was sleeping all these years.
  4. Most of the people who come to know the news of her death are actually glad, happy and excited as if they have passed some exam.

All four phases explain the collapse in morality. We have no business to what an individual does. I can fully understand from what ‘shame’ her brother has gone through, how his friends, neighbors, kins and society has been treating, teasing and scolding her. But but but committing crime and taking her soul is the most dumbest and disgusting idea. Whatever she was, taking the human soul is not in our hand and Islam teaches us that killing a human is killing humanity.

It is irrelevant, very very irrelevant and nowhere in any condition or space of judgment to kill her just because of your hatred or her business. Just because you don’t like her or she expose her skin too much, does it make you think that she brought shame to your family and your country? And does this reasoning power give you license to kill her?

The regular boners of the deceased’s videos who are now happy for her being killed by her brother under the name of ‪‎honor killing should from now on mind their own business and should not speak shite about‪ ‎Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. The lady won us not one but 2 Academy awards for her documentaries on acid attacks and honor killings in Pakistan and many people from her country criticized her for presenting ‘bad’ image of Pakistan.

Those who are laughing and enjoying her death from now on should also not criticize and emphasize on extreme feminism either people encouraged towards extreme feminism are right or wrong. Because if you can laugh on the death of a girl who was expressing her good or bad freedom in her videos, it makes no sense to speak how much your country cares about women’s rights because I don’t see that happening in this country. Just a month ago, one lady was abused live on TV speaking of women’s rights by a JUI guy while a lady was called a name in the assembly.

We Pakistani nation are just like pleasure-house visitors who enjoy every inch of solicitor’s skin in the courtship and lovemaking and help her strip her clothes. But once we are done, we leave her just over there and even talk dirty about her the other day. Even accuse her for being a public property or root of all evil. World has gone so cruel and planet Earth is no more a safer and peaceful place to live.

Members of civil society and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan hold placards during a protest in Islamabad May 29, 2014 against the killing of Farzana Iqbal, 25, by family members on Tuesday in Lahore. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has demanded to know why police apparently stood by while Farzana Iqbal, a pregnant woman, was stoned and beaten to death by her family in front of one of the country's top courts, his spokesman said on Thursday. She was attacked on Tuesday, police said, because she had married the man she loved. Her husband said that police did nothing during the 15 minutes the violence lasted outside Lahore High Court. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood    (PAKISTAN - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS CRIME LAW) - RTR3REE6

Sometimes I wonder why honor killings happen more in Asia specifically in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Jordan. Even when such crime happens in America and Europe, most of the cases associate with the immigrants, or Muslim families mostly coming from Pakistan and Iran. Remember Belgium’s first ever honor-killing trial few years ago? She was 20-year-old Sadia Shaikh, a Pakistani girl who was fatally shot three times by her brother for not accepting an arranged marriage with her cousin to whom she had never met in Pakistan.

Back in 2005, there was an honor-killing case in Denmark that involved 7 members of Pakistani family and friends. 18-year-old Ghazala Khan escaped from her home and married the guy to whom she loved after her declaration of wish towards her family was exchanged with their harsh beating. Two days after the wedding, Ghazala’s brother shot the couples on the order of her father to save the family ‘honor’.

In Brescia, Italy, a Pakistani father slit throat of his daughter 28 times! The reason of murder? His father state that his daughter Hina Saleem had turned from Asian girl into a Western woman who refused an arranged marriage and lived with her Italian boyfriend! Hina’s family buried her body in their house garden.

Honor killing event in Switzerland was more horrifying when a father killed his 16-year-old daughter Sawera by striking axe on her head a dozen times. Reason? A Christian boyfriend!

Britain has many cases of honor killings among the immigrants and Asian Muslim families. Bradford-born British-Pakistani Shafilea Ahmad‘s murder was a much talk in Britain a decade ago when she all of a sudden disappeared from home but months later, her dead body was found. Her parents were found innocent until Shafilea’s sister broke years later. She admitted that the parents killed her due to the reason of not accepting arranged marriage by force resulting in bringing ‘shame’ to the family.

Samaira Nazir’s case was her wish to marry an Afghan immigrant which was rejected by her family due to different caste. After argument, her brother and cousin stabbed her more than a dozen times using 4 knives in front of her family.

I highlighted only Pakistani cases because that is my concern in the blog as there have been many tragic events from Arab and Iranian families in West as well as Indians. So many tragic events of honor killings I mentioned above have one thing in common i.e., the parents feeling embarrassed that the daughter may/will bring ‘shame’ to her family and entire khandaan. Despite the fact many of the cases which happened in the West, the parents with such pathetic ideology and preferring their pride and shame over their daughter’s life and her choice is beyond my understanding. Living in the west or any country where multinationals live together bring a lot of cultural and religious understandings but such parents in that same atmosphere confuse me with their ideologies. Why on earth the parents do not see what her daughter wants, what she desire and with whom she find her happiness? Why bother judging her instead of giving your blessings? Girls would never run away to make you think of family’s pride and shame only if you accept her what she want. How come killing your own daughter becomes an ultimate solution? Are these type of parents psychopaths or what?

QB’s case is not that different. Just few days ago, she admitted she was married ‘by force’ back in 2008 and also had a son. After the beatings, she divorced and never contacted the man Ashiq Hussain of Kot Addu who first appeared on TV to claim that he is QB’s husband. And today she is killed by her own brother with some sources saying that she had received threats from Mufti Abdul Qavi with home she made some popular selfies a month ago. If the whole chapter of her forced marriage is true then she fell in same category as above-mentioned cases. We have watched girls with such mad cases who met tragedies in the past. Further investigations will clear and let us know further.

Last of all, I condemn the honor killings of QB and victims of all the above-mentioned and not-mentioned cases. I condemn all the crimes and abuses happening in Pakistan and other countries which little children and females of different ages are paying a heavy price for that. It is also terrible to see tortures and killings of Black Americans in recent days.  I feel hurt for all the terror attacks happening in the world and extreme pain for the massacre and holocaust suffered by Palestinians and Syrians, and people in Kashmir, Myanmar and many places. The remaining lives you and me are breathing is polluted now and it has become a terrible terrible world. May God answer our just calls, appeals, requests and prays and give patience to the friends and families of those who lost their lives for good Amen.

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Film Review: The Miracle Worker (1962)

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First thing first. I was watching Davis-Crawford starrer What Ever Happened To Baby Jane few weeks ago. Bette Davis’ scintillating performance made me curious to check the results of Academy Awards of that year. I was flabbergasted to see that she didn’t win for the character Baby Jane which qualified to become a memorable cult classic in coming years and decades. More painful for Davis was that the recipient of the award was none other than the film’s co.star and her biggest rival, Joan Crawford, who accepted the award on the winner’s behalf in her absence. Why? That is the other story.

So who was the winner? She was Anne Bancroft who played Anne Sullivan in The Miracle Worker (TMW). That earned my attention and made me watch the film so here is the review.

A short history of the film is that it actually was William Gibson‘s three-act play based on Helen Keller‘ autobiography “The Story of My Life” which was premiered on Broadway at the Playhouse Theater between 1959 and 1961. The production of entire 719 performances were directed by Arthur Penn. Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke performed leading roles of Anne Sullivan and Hellen Keller respectively.

Play-writer Gibson, director Penn and both leading performers Bancroft and Duke reunited in 1962 for the film version. United Artists, the production company for the film version, put the condition on the director to offer the budget of $5m if he choose Elizabeth Taylor for the role of Anne Sullivan but $500k if he insist to continue with Anne Bancroft. Penn decided the choose the latter and the rest was history.

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A very sensitive subject was brought to the screen with plenty of promises in the story and the dynamic duo. All focus was on Bancroft/Duke which for them was a routine outing after their hundreds of performances together at the Playhouse Theater. But the film was what defined a plague of emotions and distortions resting on each other’s shoulders.

 

TMW was about two unparalleled people who had to understand each other throughout the film. It was a suicidal attempt of a teacher to control an ill-fated hopeless spoiled child who was not able to hear or see since birth. So the teacher Anne was established with blindness of visions who recently lost her brother while the student Hellen was gutted with muttered eyes and mumbled ears, lost in her mother’s echoes. The magic began when both came to same frame and wonders happened. Anne’s strictness towards the spoiled child rose alarm towards her parents as doubts began foiling whether bringing teacher Anne for their child was a careful decision or not.

There were numerous scenes of the silent duo displaying a bravura performance but the jaw-dropper easily was the dining room battle scene. That was a 9-minute sequence which required 3 cameras and was shot in 5 days.

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Overall, TMW was an honest portrayal of emotional violence and the desperation of escaping from the dark world to the other dark world was insane. I liked the violence in the melodrama; the face-slaps, breaking of plates, throwing objects which was very natural.

43 years later, Sanjay Leela Bhansali made Black on the same tone as TMW based on Hellen Keller’s life. Gender of teacher was changed as Amitabh Bachchan played the role of Anne Sullivan while Ayesha Kapoor and Rani Mukherji played Hellen Keller’s young and adult versions. That year, Time Magazine of Europe chose Black five of the best films around the globe.

Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke played unforgettable roles and won their acting awards in the Oscar the following year. Superb film.

Film Ratings: 8.4/10

Movie Review: The Revenant (2015)

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Ok first gold diggings in Grasberg!

Did grizzly bear folked Mr. Hugh DiCaprio???

 A big NO. The real event propels you that Hugh Glass, the leading character of the movie played by Leonardo DiCaprio, was attacked by a female bear.

Now why did I begin my review this way??? Because many of us were actually concerned that we will watch sex-scene between Baloo and Mowgli but the rumor was awful.

Now what makes the movie special? I would rather replace the word ‘special’ with superior. The answer is EVERYTHING!!! Consider DiCaprio/Hardy performances, AGI’s direction, fighting sequences, cinematography, costume designing, bear attack, Frontiers vs Native Americans and many more. The movie is superlative.

The only concern pushing towards minus is its accuracy, the accuracy of Hugh Glass’ legacy, the accuracy of bear attack, the accuracy of Glass’ survival, the accuracy of attack by Native Americans on the expeditions team. There has been a lot of confusion over the legacy of the story. There are not a lot of authentic sources to prove what part of story is true or false. Most specifically the tragic bear attack which was witnessed by no buddy but the victim himself.

Let me reflect and justify my very first line of this review. A huge focus in the movie has been on antagonist John Fitzgerald played by Tom Hardy killing Hugh Glass’ son Hawk, which leads him to revenge upon survival attempt. The whole movie grows on his miracle survival from a likely death so that he finishes him. Sadly the core of the story is pure fiction. Forget Fitz killing his son, there is no proof that Hugh Glass had any child. Hawk being of mixed-race is an invalid question or typing error. Glass’ marriage with Native-American woman also has doubts because historic details are still unsure if Hugh Glass really was once captured by Pawnees where he found her, loved and married.

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So if there is no evidence of Hawk being Hugh Glass’ son then with simple understanding there is no revenge on Fitz for killing his son. In fact the legacy is that when Glass received mortal wounds after bear attacks, expedition leader Captain Andrew Henry, played by Domhnall Gleeson in movie, pays two men to stay behind the soon-to-be-dead body of Hugh Glass until his death to give him a Christian burial. To add the spice, movie further shows Hawk volunteering the payee leading to his murder by agitated Fitz.

Some scenes agreeable with the facts are;

  • Hugh Glass was a fur trapper and the bear attack occurred near the banks of the Grand River of South Dakota. He did come across two bear cubs until big momma had her say. The female grizzly bear did break his leg and punctured his throat.
  • Hugh Glass was indeed dropped behind to die by the two men, Fitz and young Jim Bridger, played by Will Poulter due to the harsh fact that he wasn’t breathing his last for several days. Further confirmation is that both guys placed him in a grave, collected his weapons and off they go.

Further diggings confirm that the Native Americans depicted in the movie are the tribe of North Dakota, Arikara who suffered a high rate of fatalities from smallpox epidemics resulting in drastic fall in their population back in 18th century. Years later they moved between South and North of Dakota.

Enough of history!!! Now let me strive to focus on the movie….

What makes Hollywood cinematic industry so special than the others??? No not that Hollywood belongs to the United States. Actually, Hollywood introduces you to people from different diversities and backgrounds that cook and bring their ingredients in their kitchens to display a delicious food and bring a change in taste for the consumers. Now ‘The Revenant’ shows United States of the early 19th century and the story is based on a frontier legend who met his sorry fate after attack launched by Native Americans. And this movie is directed by a guy who has lived all his life in Mexico. Some great minds present great movies in great ways.

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Alejandro González Iñárritu was the first Mexican-born director to have won Best Director in Cannes Films Festival for Babel. Years later he became only third director after John Ford (The Grapes of Wrath 1940, How Green Was My Valley 1941) and Joseph L. Mankiewicz (A Letter to Three Wives 1949, All About Eve 1950) to win back to back Academy Awards (Birdman 2014, The Revenant 2015), and the first since 1950.

AGI had a splendid vision to present The Revenant and is obvious in his powerful direction. Many scenes are eye-opener like I am repeatedly mentioning attack on the expeditions team by Native Americans and Hugh Glass many phases of survival. But the best among all is the bear attack which will easily shut you up. This scene is built on your nerves. The human abuse is shot in a way that you would feel if the beast is skinning you.

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I must say the VFX team has done magnificent choreography of this attack. It is not only that the viewer has a look at this brutal beating; the whole animal behavior is carefully read. Watch step by step, the way cubs are made feel unprotected, the way momma bear responds and attacks the gunman, the way the beatings begin i.e., stepping over and throwing all mighty weight on Glass, grabbing by mouth and swinging, then throwing on ground and gashing him. This shows the bear-behavior was carefully studied by all the involved makers.

The ‘sympathy’ factor for both human and animal is challenged because the attack scene has two consecutive parts connected in one-shot frame. First the mother bear attacks with understanding that gunman will kill the cubs and leaves later. But then the gunman tries to survive by shooting at mother bear and turning the other face of coin with sympathy where mother bear and gunman becomes villainous in their ways concluding with animal killing while trying to save her cubs. One of the best dramatic scenes I have watched in recent years!!!

One of the most remarkable aspects of the movie is that the whole movie is shot in natural light without the use of CGI which made the life of working crew worse than hell as some parts of shooting in Canada met unexpected fall in temperature to -25C. During the times when Canada met shortage of snow, the whole shooting was in fact shifted to Argentina. This showed life-and-death commitment to present ‘REALISM’ in the picture for which they crossed most of the limits.

The director himself stated in one interview to prefer natural light over CGI this way, “Everybody was frozen, the equipment was breaking; to get the camera from one place to another was a nightmare. If we ended up in green screen with coffee and everybody having a good time, everybody will be happy, but most likely the film would be a piece of shit.”

There is no dispute after hard sacrifice in the beauty of making this movie. When the viewers watch this in one frame, the presentation is natural and folking brilliant. Like Birdman, we will again watch some spectacular lengthy one-shot scenes confirming AGI directional class.

Besides deserving award-winning direction, the whole movie is also build on two powerful performances. Tom Hardy’s character of Fitzgerald is foxy and full of rage who opposes Glass’ advice to abandon the vessel and march on foot after Native Americans’ attack. He digs reasons to oppose him and watch for a better moment to kill him. I would say Glass/Fitz are the bestest combination of plus and minus whose characters are made to oppose each other. Despite many inaccuracies in the movie, Hardy’s character gives reasons of bringing balance between the two. Being in limelight of his career, Tom Hardy has another well-reputed performance in his CV. Due to much change in locations and shooting dates, Tom Hardy left a well-fitted Suicide Squad role of Rick Flag character to complete The Revenant without delay.

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Leonardo DiCaprio ended his long-curse in Oscar functions by finally winning an Academy Award for Best Actor for his leading role in the movie. He has many marvelous performances to his acting credits and easily is one of the greatest actors of his generation to have worked with many great directors like Scorsese, Spielberg, Tarantino, Nolan, Eastwood, Mendes, Scott, Allen, Boyle and Cameron which is quite rare in any filmography.

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Keeping his whole acting career under scrutiny, it is easy to pick this role as the toughest of all the roles he has done in the past. The portrayal is highly physical than his dialogues. All judgment is based on his survival mode where he drops himself into icy water, eating raw bison liver (LDC is vegetarian btw) and sleeping in horse carcass. He even wore that bear skin in most of the scenes which was real and brought from a park department in Canada. More to a misery, the skin weighted over 100 pounds. And while attempting all such dares, he maintained his acting stance. Full marks to his performance.

The Revenant is the answer to the finest filmmaking. Decades later, critics will easily pick this movie among the best things happened in cinematic industry. I would like to congrats the whole crew for the perfect and deserving outcome. Also I would like to pay my special thanks to the readers who reached here reading a whole lengthy review till the conclusion. Perhaps some special movies deserve a lot of writing.

Ratings: 9.2/10

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Movie Review: Zorba the Greek (1964)

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Life | Lust | Mine | Crete | Dance | Widow | Sirtaki | Zorba

Greek island of Crete and two gentlemen from different walks meet one rainy day. One is Basil (Alan Bates), a half-British half-Greek writer who has arrived all the way to this island from Britain to look after his father’s property and reopen lignite mine. The other guy is Zorba (Anthony Quinn), a very enthusiastic Greek Santouri musician who offer Basil to help him in his mine mission.

Basil and Zorba lives in a hotel run by French widow and very romantic crazy lady, Madame Hortense (Lila Kedrova). Zorba is a lively romantic character as he first persuades Basil to make love with her but rejects, then Zorba takes the opportunity.

Zorba is the central character who makes Basil believe that his dream will come true, he will achieve what he want. Despite a failed persuasion of making love with aged Madame Hortense, he offer another help to Basil to make chance with another widow (Irene Papas) but young and attractive woman which somehow becomes successful.

The widow (whose name never come to notice in the whole movie) has a tortured life living alone but surrounded by many men in the Crete village attempting to win her.

Like every soulful human who wish to stay happy and graceful with life, Zorba also has his tragic fate on his back. Zorba is no different, he also has a dark past who fought for his country against the Turks and Bulgarians. As he tells Basil that he killed people, burnt villages and raped women. But he put all this in his tragic past to restore peace in his life. He is married but dropped his family behind.

Basil and Zorba makes a fantastic on-screen friendship and ‘TRUST’ remains the only element hanging around in the whole 142-minute drama as they are perfect strangers to each other. With such a storyline, things could have concluded in the easiest way but last half an hour made a dramatic bravura to end the movie in an unreachable journey. I may say the conclusion was the happiest sad-ending or the saddest happy-ending to watch.

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Zorba the Greek is one of the finest movies produced in the sixties, based on Nikos Kazantzakis‘ 1946-novel with the same title. The core character Zorba is based on real life character George Zorbas (1867-1943) who was a miner, later a monk. George Zorbas did meet tragedy when his wife died and he fought war. Later he befriend with the writer.

The movie was nominated for 7 Academy Awards and winning three of them specially Lila Kedrova for Best Supporting Actress for Madame Hortense. Ironically Anthony Quinn nominated for Zorba lost Best Actor award to Rex Harrison for My Fair Lady despite on of his career’s best performance.

Zorba the Greek is a culture-influencing movie because of that remarkable dance performed by Anthony Quinn. Those steps became known as ‘Zorba Dance’, and then ‘Sirtaki‘ which become part of Greek culture. Music score by Mikis Theodorakis is inspiring which brings more charm in the movie.

This movie can be easily watched by a specific group of sensible and cinematic history digging moviegoers who will take this movie to different height. We all know the acting institution Anthony Quinn is and this Zorba role will make you think twice. A magical movie…

Ratings: 8.7/10

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