‘Twenty First’ A Film Festival At Faculty of Fine Arts: Review of Hong Kong Drama Chungking Express

220px-Chungking_ExpressHi, as part of Ourvadodara.in, am covering the film festival currently taking place atFaculty of Fine Arts at MS University. Reviewed Chungking Express, a Wong Kar-Wai Film. Link here: http://ourvadodara.in/ms-university-faculty-fine-arts-film-festival-chungking-express-review

Om Puri, Juhi Chawla Hit It Big – To Work With Oscar Winner Helen Mirren In Spielberg Produced ‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’

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Actor Juhi Chawla

Bollywood has been even more welcoming towards foreigners in the past few years. No doubt, high-budget mainstream Bollywood films have always been fetishistic towards foreign flesh, usually white guys from any corner of the world (‘if you’re fair and lovely, you are right. Foreigner and white? Even better!’), be it Germany or France or America or Russia or Poland or Chzekhoslovakia. A German friend of mine told me once his two buddies were approached by a casting director while on a trip to Mumbai. Too bad they chose to sleep at the wrong time – it would’ve been the best mememto ever once they returned to Munich.

 

Anyway, speaking about the contribution of foreigners in Indian cinema, notable names pop to mind (some are part-Indian): the shimmering, sexy item girl (although the term ‘performer’ would be more appropriate in her case), diva, vamp, the evergreen Helen, the daring action heroine Mary Evans, popularly known as ‘Fearless Nadia’, Salman’s former flame, the plastic beauty who’s sometimes pretty, Miss Katrina Kaif, the bubbly American dancing queen Lauren Gottlieb, who won the fifth season of the reality show ‘So You Think You Can Dance’, shone in a Remo De’Souza film titled ‘ABCD’ and then came runners-up in ‘Jhalak Dikhla Ja’, the desi Dancing with the Stars (in which she was the contestant! I still couldn’t digest this part – didn’t anyone peruse her profile?), straight out of Barbie’s factory Elli Avram, a Swedish Green actress who first snagged a role in the mediocre Mickey Virus (and didn’t amount to much) and then entered Bigg Brother’s Indian counterpart Bigg Boss (and spent her days quietly until her eviction after a considerable time; guess the ‘If you’re silent in a reality show, you’re useless’ rule doesn’t apply to firangi babes), to name a few: “Phew!”.

 

Lesser known facts: Prem Sanyas, a silent film on the life of Gautam Buddha made in 1925 was directed by Franz Ozten, a German director. Well-known fact: stars like Shahrukh Khan, Manoj Bajpai and (disgraced has-beens like) Shiney Ahuja got their training under Barry John, a British theater director and actor who’s established his acting studio in Mumbai. Another British actor, Jennifer Kendal married Shashi Kapoor and acted with him in a number of films and also without him in a few memorable ones like 36 Chowringee Lane.

 

Dutch actress Sippora Zoutewelle chose an alternate path by opting for television serials over films. She now plays the lead role of (Take a guess. There’s 96% probability you’ll get it right) a firagi bahu in an Indian family; the serial’s also titled ‘Firangi Bahu’ and is currently running on Sahara One (my advice: if its foreigners you want to see, you better watch them in better things. Oh well, you’re never gonna listen, are you?). Alexx O’Nell, ex-husband of television starlet Shweta Keswani also has a good track record: an opportunity to shake a leg at ‘Nach Baliye’, a few films both in Bollywood and in the South (saw a poster featuring him during my internship at a Chennai multiplex) and now a role in Jhansi Ki Rani.

The whites (be it American or Russian or even a Swede) are usually kept to play baddies who’re more than willing to humiliate ‘those bloody Indians’ and grab their land, or to learn some Indian dance moves and perform as backup dancers (who remain absent for the rest of the film, and so you’ll basically watch a movie set entirely in India that’s sporadically invaded by white men and women turning out of nowhere during song and dance sequences). African-American actors are usually seen less; the last time I remember seeing one was in Fukrey where the guy played a boneheaded henchman. A couple of films give surprisingly meatier, more layered roles to foreign actors. For example, the character of Sue in Rang De Basanti doesn’t just play Aamir Khan’s love interest but is also a pivotal force for furthering the plot; in the film, she plays a director who comes to India to shoot a film on the life of Bhagat Singh. I also loved Mehdi Nebbou’s performance in English Vinglish because he’s given an actual, truthful character to portray, something foreigners seldom get in Bollywood.

 

Now, the East also has a few achievements to boast of. We’ve had esteemed actress Shabhana Azmi working alongside legendary Shirley Maclaine in Madame Sousatzka. We’ve seen Amrish Puri as a demonic thuggee opposite Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Irrfan Khan and Tabu played husband and wife in Meera Nair’s The Namesake as well as Ang Lee’s Oscar winning Life of Pi. Dev Patel and Freida Pinto became a household name after their appearance in Slumdog Millionaire; Pinto has gone on to work with the likes of Woody Allen, Michael Winterbottom and Tarsem Singh, while Patel has worked in Shyamalan’s disastrous The Last Airbender and John Madden’s charming The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. And Roger Ebert was so bewitched by Aishwaria Rai’s beauty in The Mistress of Spices and Bride and Prejudice that he called her the ‘most beautiful woman on the planet’ in both his reviews. It should be noted that a number of foreign films featuring Indian actors in major roles are usually made by Indian-origin directors. Indians rarely get the best parts, and the only way they can gain recognition is by shining in supporting roles or working with an Indian-American/British director. Archie Punjabi did a wonderful job in ‘The Good Wife’ and deserved the Emmy she won in 2010. Now we wait to see whether an Indian’s talented or lucky enough to win the Oscar (i.e. in the acting categories. We’ve already seen Bhanu Athaiya, A.R. Rahman and Satyajit Ray honored with the ‘naked glimmering golden guy’ for Costume Design, Original Music and Lifetime Achievement Respectively)…

 

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Actor Om Puri

Well, it could happen next year. Oscar winning British actress Queen Elizabeth II, oh I mean Helen Mirren, is going to team up with Manish Dayal, Om Puri and Juhi Chawla for the film ‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’, based on Lasse Hallstrom’s novel of the same name. The film is about a displaced Indian family settled in the village in France which decides to open up an Indian restaurant just hundred feet across the street from a Michelin-star French restaurant. Om Puri has already worked in foreign productions such as East Is East, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Code 46 and British Television dramas ‘White Teeth’ and ‘Second Generation’, while Manish Dayal has done guest appearances as well as played recurring characters in shows like 90210 and Rubikon. Juhi Chawla, on the other hand, is working for the first time in a Hollywood film. Fortunately, she may have a strong team to back her up. This includes not just the cast, but also the producer and director. Lasse Hallstrom, the director, has made a number of music videos for ABBA. His achievements in cinema include ABBA: The Movie (duh!), What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Cider House Rules, Chocolat, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, Salmon Fishing in The Yemen and (the poorly made) Safe Haven. The producers are big: there’s TV mogul Oprah Winfrey, Hollywood royalty Steven Spielberg and billionaire Indian business tycoon Anil Ambani. Here are a couple of things spoken about the film: Om Puri speaks of his experience working with Helen Mirren. He says he ‘fell on his knees (when Mirren entered) in front of her and confessed he was a fan’. He also speaks of his satisfaction watching the film’s rushes. Manish Dayal, who plays the protagonist Hassan Haji, hasn’t made a statement about the film yet.

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Hundred Foot Journey’s Producer Oprah Winfrey (left) along with British acting icon Helen Mirren

Whatever the outcome, its still a welcoming change to see collaborations that transcend national, cultural, ethnic boundaries and stereotypes slowly slipping away. I don’t usually appreciate films which stamps traits on characters based on their nationality. Not every Russian is a cold-blooded Commie with ties to the Mafia. Not every African American has to be cantankerous and oafish. Indians aren’t always doctors or scientists, and not everybody is unsporting towards ethnic jokes; many urban Indians in fact can handle jokes at their expense. And not all Americans and Englishmen are racists and white supremacists.

 

 

Bullett Raja Review

Bullett_raja-207x300My latest job for the site ourvadodara.in. Click the following link to read my review of 2013 Bollywood Film ’Bullett Raja’, AThigmanshu Dhulia Film Starring Saif Ali Khan, Jimmy Shergill, Gulshan Grover, Sonakshi Sinha  : http://ourvadodara.in/bullett-raja-review . Also, do visit the site for any updates about Vadodara life. I shall henceforth post the latest Bollywood & Hollywood Movies releasing in cinema halls in Vadodara on http://ourvadodara.in/

My Question To Playwright Tracy Letts For August Osage County Live Q&A With Cast and Crew

weinsteinsponsoredlivex600.png.600x287_q1003-Time Oscar winner Meryl Streep, the Grande Dame of Acting,  is about to land again in theaters across US this December (and at award ceremonies next year wearing frumpy, wedgie-gifting dresses. Meryl’s hunch seems absolutely right – the people who select her wardrobe and hairstyle – including her longtime hairstylist  J Roy Helland – do their best to destroy her ‘naturally good looks’ )  with her latest film August Osage County, adapted from stage to screen by its Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Tracy Letts himself,  already turning heads at film festivals and screenings. The moment it debuted at Toronto, reviews by renowned publications hit the internet emphasizing two or three common observations/contentions: a) that it was going to be an All-Meryl-Some-Julia-Little-Others Show (ironic as the play only credits the Native American character of Johnna as ‘others’; I guess the film is even more discriminatory than the play!)  b) that the altered ‘less depressing’ ending was a weak, ‘sell out’ move by Harvey Weinstein and c) that Meryl was a lead character and not supporting (another sly move by Weinstein to snag Meryl another Oscar; this decision was quickly changed after award screenings and Meryl’s now in competing for Best Lead Actress).

Its almost two months since the Toronto film festival and as August Osage County is drawing closer to its theatrical release, the cast and crew are quickly turning up to promote the films at interactive Q&A sessions, press conferences and even online. There is a fifteen minute B-roll  footage of the crew filming some of the expository scenes outside the Weston family’s ‘House of Pain’. There are press junkets in the form of videos where each actor gives an insight into the characters they portrayed. The film’s director John Wells, known mainly for his work on television, shares about his experience filming the intense dining table scene and his experience with the entire cast. All these videos can be found here.

8ba94bdf-36bf-4104-aed7-ee60fde5a8d4_august-osage-county-dinnerStreep may be the most honored actress of all time, but fellow cast member Chris Cooper, who’s worked with Streep before in the Oscar winning ‘Adaptation’, suggests ‘you have no idea just how talented she is… She’s the Master!’. Streep’s best known for improvisations during rehearsals, which is quite a feat considering the level of precision she achieves in defining her character both internally and externally. Cooper as well as the others were astonished by the ‘level of variety she brought take after take’; she’s ‘once playing a drugged version (of her character Violet), then a comical version, then another’, and her changes ‘rippled across the dining table’ and each actor ‘played his/her character slightly differently in each take’. This impressive observation was made by Dermot Mulroney, who gets to hear ungracious welcoming remarks like “Who are you?” and “That’s peculiar Karen to bring a date to your dad’s funeral’ (Mulroney’s character Steve is actually Violet’s youngest daughter Aug2ustOsageCounty-Stills-045Karen’s fiance) from Violet. English actor Benedict Cumberbatch’s praise was even more ecstatic: “Meryl was extraordinary. The hardest thing with her is to actually act. You just want to sit and watch her. You want to be in the audience”. I’m unsure, however, whether Meryl would find this remark complementary, as the actress once said that in retrospect, she found her performance in French Lieutenant Woman to be less satisfactory as she always felt her co-star Jeremy Irons was busy observing Meryl’s performance rather than focusing on the character. Some critics have accused her of ‘outshining the film itself even more with age’, and even I noted in one of my reviews that in some films, I found myself getting a twofer: a) the film itself and b) Meryl’s own film within the film. In case of great films, this becomes quite an experience to savor, but in case of mediocre ones, it feels like the film and Meryl are two distinct entities put together in a chaotic mess.

hqdefaultMeryl turned up along with Wells, Letts, producer Jean Doumanian and the cast including Cooper, Mulroney,  Julianne Nicholson, Margo Martindale, Abigail Breslin, Juliette Lewis (Roberts remained absent) for a live Q&A in New York on November 25. Twitter and Facebook users were given an opportunity to post their questions, a few of which would be chosen for the interview. I excitedly framed about five/six questions pertaining to the film (a lot many users asked silly questions like: Meryl, where are you coming to Italy? as if it has anything to do with the film). One of them, quite a simple one (and yet, its usually the simple ones that are picked for interviews to relax the interviewees), got selected; actually, the first part of the question got selected. This question was asked to Tracy Letts, and although the interviewer doesn’t reveal the user name, I’m pretty sure based on the wording that it’s my question.

The selected question: “In the process of adapting this play to cinema, did you find yourself looking at a particular character or scene (I used the word ‘situation’) in a new light? ” (The second part of the question wasn’t asked)

Mr Tracy Lett‘s Response: Well, they’re robots! (a peal of laughter from the audience; the robots thing is an extended joke from the interview) (the interviewer: We can’t wait to see your next movie!)… Dermot’s very good, yeah… in Magnificent Seven Robots (a cackle from Meryl)… um ah I.. I.. did I see any of them in a new light? No I did not, but I tell you what, I had an opportunity as a result of the ability of cinema not only to show the place in which it is set but the scene in which Barbara pursues Violet across the field.. uh allowed me to encapsulate in a.. in a.. few very short images and lines something thematic that I was trying to get at it at the heart of the piece, something about the.. the uh… even though you can see fifty miles to the horizon, there’s nowhere to go…a kind of claustrophobia that is felt in the Plains as it turns in a lot of other places as well. So I don’t know about an individual character I saw in a new light (Meryl nods looking towards him) but I certainly enjoyed uh… seeing them explore their boundaries, a little bit.

tumblr_mwvz3uRrCF1t23se4o1_500Towards the end of the 45 minute interactive question, an interesting question was asked to the entire cast: ‘What was your favorite line of Violet?’, which yielded funny answers such as ‘Why don’t you f-ck a f-cking sow’s ass?’ (Julianne Nicholson; this line is spoken by Violet to her husband Beverley when he introduces her to Johnna), ‘You look like a magician’s assistant’ (Margo Martindale; Violet’s remarks about her daughter Ivy’s appearance in a suit at her father’s funeral) ‘Hide-a-burrr…What?’ (Juliette Lewis; Violet is unable to pronounce Karen’s fiance’s German surname) and ‘It burns like ‘a’ bull-sh*t! ‘ (Margo again; spoken by Violet to Barbara while talking about her mouth-cancer). It was certainly a refreshing forty-five minute session with this cast, topped by Meryl’s infectious giggles and perky personality. Guess this girl just can’t help stealing the spotlight!

The entire interview can be found here.

Film Louvre Treasures: United 93 Review

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Summary: . The final moments of the film are very tough to stomach, and it’s possibly one of the most brilliant endings I’ve seen in films. I shed man tears.

Rating: AAA / 100%

Director: Paul Greengrass

Cast: Khalid AbdallaChristian ClemensonCheyenne Jackson, J.J. Johnson, Sarmed al-Samarrai,
David Alan Basche

Journalist turned director Paul Greengrass, best known among fans for his Bourne trilogy, has been repeatedly accused of overusing jump cuts and shaky effects on handheld cameras, his beloved device for shooting both high-voltage action and drama sequences. Bourne Supremacy would cut every 1.9 seconds, while Bourne Ultimatum, the final installment featuring Matt Damon, wouldn’t hold continuity beyond 2 seconds on an average. Mr. Greengrass also loved to shape up his things with ‘squinty’ zooms (he focuses on the person speaking and then zooms in immediately as if the camera is pricking its ears to listen along) and unsteady motion that perhaps broke a hefty amount of traditional continuity rules – film classicists were not amused. After Damon bid goodbye to Bourne post Ultimatum, Greengrass followed suit and cast the actor in his next film Green Zone, a war thriller based on the non-fiction book Imperial Life in Emerald City by journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran. Despite some glowing reviews (Roger finally embraced Greengrass’ style unconditionally and awarded the movie the maximum 4 stars), the film proved disappointing at the box office.

Fast-forward to 2013: Greengrass’ Captain Phillips starring two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks is performing superbly at the box office. Again, the director chooses to cover a real life event; this time, it’s the 2009 abduction of merchant mariner Captain Richard Phillips by Somalian pirates. The film has been acclaimed not just for its verisimilitude and the performances but also for developing the Somalian pirates into three-dimensional characters instead of stereotypical caricatures. A lot would probably say it’s his best effort yet, and the film is top notch in staging the entire event realistically. It’s far better than the Bourne Series, but between Supremacy and Ultimatum, Greengrass made another movie called United 93, which had a good run at the box office and was a critical darling. I caught this movie on television today, and boy oh boy, its brilliant! If I were told to pick one film that defines Paul Greengrass’ contribution to cinema, my choice shall be United 93. The final moments of the film are very tough to stomach, and it’s possibly one of the most brilliant endings I’ve seen in films. I shed man tears.

The situation is grave here. It’s September 11th , 2001, a date that needs no introduction. Two flights crashed into World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon. The fourth, United 93, crashed into a field near the Diamond T. Mine in Pennsylvania near Shanksville. That didn’t go according to the terrorists’ plan – they were heading either to the White House or the Capitol Building. So how did they end up missing their target when the other three hijacking went according to plan? The entire credit goes to the courageous force comprising of thirty three passengers and seven crew members. I tear up again thinking about the final shot in the film – it’s still lingering in my mind. Those brave forty men and women knew the chances of survival were minimal. All they could do was avert a portentous disaster that could result in more deaths – they gave up their lives to save the people who would’ve been killed had the plane crashed into a building. To have this magnitude of selflessness while hoping for the better is something that makes these people heroes forever in our hearts. And Greengrass is a hero for steering clear of any false sincerity or earnestness that usually hampers films dealing in subjects of great cultural, social, political and historical significance. He shoots it straight, and gets it right. Perfect.

While Captain Phillips slowly shifted focus from Captain Phillips and the hijacking pirates to the Navy’s attempts to rescue them, United 93 covers greatly the Federal Avatiation Admistration’s unsuccessful attempts to avert the disasters for the first hour or so. There are tough decisions to be made in situations like this. National Operatives Manager has to decide whether to shut down all the airspace in the United States or not – a billion dollar matter. He is suggested to shoot down the aircraft – a matter of human lives. The radar shows flights diverting from original course and congesting the entire air traffic. The word ‘hijack’ pops up now and then, along with signals that flights are to crash. The World Trade Center goes down first, and the FFA watches in horror on large screens. Then the Pentagon goes down. There is panic. Another flight – United 93 goes off-course and shouts of help are heard in radio transmissions. Its soon realized this flight could go down anytime. While shooting these scenes, the camera seems to be as curious and involved as the actors and the spectators. Greengrass includes a number of profile shots with characters looking upset or shocked, but he isn’t a director to stop too long to ‘capture the beauty of every moment’. Instead, he surges forth with the action – stopping the camera may be a mark of falseness to him, perhaps.

Then he shifts to the passengers’ ordeal once the terrorists take over the flight, killing the pilot and co-pilot and injuring a

Director Paul Greengrass at the Bourne Ultimat...

Paul Greengrass is one of the best modern filmmakers; his work as a journalist in the past is evident in the stories he picks to film(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

passenger. Two take charge of the cockpit, while the other two keep the passengers in check. Similar to United 93, the passengers here have some advantages over the two terrorists: they can speak English, they make calls to their loved ones, and then they decide to do something. The terrorists too have their strengths: the communication between them cannot be understood by the passengers, one wields a knife while a bomb is strapped to the other, and they are in control of the cockpit. Their names are Ziad Jarrah, Ahmed al-Haznawi, Saeed al-Ghamdi and Ahmed al-Nami – Muslims. None of the passengers mention Al Queda, the terrorist organization responsible for most attacks on humanity. Greengrass wisely chooses to convey the difference in religions obliquely through utterances of ‘Allah O Akbar’ from the terrorists and ‘Jesus Christ’ from passengers. My only quibble here is that unlike Captain Phillips, United 93 doesn’t elaborate on the terrorists’ motives or their state of mind: this is perhaps deliberately done to act as a prelude to the ‘us vs. them’ mentality that soon caught up in the States. Greengrass avoids subtitles for many of their dialogues, which further helps in raising the level of tension.

He has an ensemble to help in creating a highly convincing scenario of panic and fear. This isn’t a one man show, and Greengrass allows the camera to freely move among the passengers. The actors here act as naturally as if they were sitting on a real plane. The same thing is seen in case of the headquarters of FAA, and it’s obvious Paul and his cast has worked really hard to create a feeling of documentary realism. This makes why it becomes intensely difficult for us to watch the final moments – a heartbreakingly wonderful display of fortitude, mettle and heroism, but alas, without a happy ending.

Hitchcock Film Review: Alfred Hitchcock’s Biopic Starring Anthony Hopkins And Helen Mirren

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Rating: CC / 40%

 

Summary: Bereft of the build-up Hitchcock’s films were famous for, this biopic fails to thrill.

 

Director: Sacha Gervasi

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Toni Collette, Jessica Biel, Michael Wincott, James D’Arcy

 

Sacha Gervasi’s narrative directorial debut film ‘Hitchcock’ is perhaps the sloppiest and most trifling motion picture with the name of Alfred Hitchcock associated with it. A biopic on the Master of Suspense, Hitchcock is bereft of the build-up that made his pictures such a thrill to watch. Its writer John J. McLaughlin, whose screenplay is based on Stephen Rebello’s punctiliously researched ‘Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho’, gives us deconstructed tidbits brushing up each aspect of the book – his obsession with murder, the ups and downs in the relationship between him and his wife Alma Reville, his fetishistic fascination with young and strikingly beautiful women, the difficulties faced during the making of Psycho, his dreams and hallucinations (featuring dreaded murderer and body snatcher Ed Gein) and even Alma’s creative escapades with writer Whitfield Cook. The failure here is that these components don’t add up to much when put together – there is disconnect and no surprise. Had Alfred Hitchcock been alive, he’d have dismissed this film outrightly; it is neither Hitchcock in wit nor spirit nor artifice.

 

It opens with the director’s trademark introductory address to his audience. After the blockbuster success of his previous film North by Northwest, Hitchcock (played by veteran classical actor Anthony Hopkins in a hammy, unmemorable performance) now aims to make a youth-oriented low-budget horror thriller. ‘Why?’ question his friends, the press, the critics and the producers; to this, the clear-headed, cocksure Hitchcock replies ‘Because this time it’s I who is making it’ (not quoted verbatim so don’t bother looking for such a dialogue). The actual reason may be that he wants to prove he’s still got it in him. And so he takes up Psycho, the story of a ‘queer dressed up in his mother’s dress killing women’ as Alma (Helen Mirren) puts it. He finances the film himself when Paramount back out as producers; they simply refuse to fund a movie that kills its leading lady before interval (within the first thirty minutes to be precise). He stands his ground against the prudes at Motion Picture Production Code, who squirm at the violence and nudity Hitchcock intends to show in Psycho – the famous shower stabbing sequence and Janet Leigh’s nipple. He casts Anthony Perkins (James D’Arcy), Janet Leigh and Vera Miles (Jessica Biel) for the lead roles, and begins shooting immediately after a funny little oath ceremony with his cast and crew that no movie secrets would be divulged.

 

He manages to freak Leigh out twice with the frightening intensity of his direction. In the shower sequence, he pushes Perkins aside, takes the knife prop and thinks of everyone he hates while making violent stabbing motions inches close to Leigh. After he yells cut, she looks shaky and distraught. He neglects Alma, who spends her time collaborating with pal Whitfield on his script. He suspects she’s cheating on him, and she bursts out he’s being unreasonable; she’s always been supportive of him, but he may not be far from the truth this time. Their relationship reminded me of Helen’s earlier film The Last Station, which was about the last days of Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. That film too lacked in terms of content, but unlike Hitchcock, The Last Station proved enormously entertaining and engrossing because it had a clearly planned concept and narrative. There is little justice done to Alma and Hitchcock’s relationship here, partly because of the lack of chemistry between Mirren and Hopkins, but largely due to McLaughlin’s fluffy, casual and perfunctory treatment of the film’s script. In fact, the film could and should have done without the unnecessarily hallucinatory scenes involving Ed Gein (Michael Wincott). It should’ve developed Janet Leigh’s character, played by Scarlett Johansson with conviction and sincerity, further instead of shoving her into the picture every now and then like a poorly written character who was only included the actress playing it was the producer’s daughter or girlfriend. It should’ve been majorly about the filming of Psycho, which surprisingly has a thoroughly marginal role in the entire movie.

Hitchcock offers little insight into the mind of the master. Its actors merely try to entertain us with wild impersonations hoping that they find some truth in the performances. But how can that happen when the script itself rings so false?

Mickey Virus: It isn’t a crashing bore, but it’s neither smart nor exciting enough to work as a thriller. Strictly for TV viewing.

Mickey_Virus_Official_Poster_2013-207x300My fourteenth job for the site ourvadodara.in. Click the following link to read my review of 2013 Bollywood Film ‘Mickey Virus’ Starring Manish Paul and Elli Evram : http://ourvadodara.in/mickey-virus-review . Also, do visit the site for any updates about Vadodara life. I shall henceforth post the latest Bollywood & Hollywood Movies releasing in cinema halls in Vadodara on http://ourvadodara.in/

 

Vertigo Review: Alfred Hitchcock’s Superlative Tragedy

Vertigomovie_restorationRating: AA / 90%

 

Summary: The maestro plays with the elements of lust, love, deception, guilt, truth and loss in fabricating a doomed love story that’s built on a plinth of deception. Vertigo is a brilliant tragedy from the master of suspense.          

 

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Cast: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes, Tom Helmore

 

Alfred Hitchcock is known to evoke a sense of dread and paranoia through the narrative device of a disturbing déjà vu, repeating actions and events in the lives of his films’ and series’ characters albeit furthering the plot’s complexity each time. In an episode of ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’, a television series produced and presented by Hitchcock that aired for over three decades after making its debut in 1955, a woman who is found to have killed her husband in the climax appears has the scene at a grocery store thrice, once in the beginning only to buy certain items, then after a fight with her husband in which she has bruises on her cheek, and later to take a large ‘storage carton’. We, the audience members, don’t follow this woman – she is a mystery to us. We watch from the perspective of her neighbors, a ‘happily married’ couple. The wife believes something (sinister) happened to the woman’s husband after their violent argument. We agree with her, and follow her, and later her husband in finding out what really took place that night. We feel what they feel – paranoia.

 

For about ninety minutes in Hitchcock’s classic Vertigo, the director stokes our paranoia and intrigue by limiting our knowledge of the plot’s events to the protagonist James Stewarts’ perspective. After the opening credits, a hypnotic mixture of imagery and sound itself, we soon find Stewart’s character John, better known as ‘Scottie’, hanging from the rooftop ledge. A police officer in pursuit of a criminal, he is unable to save another officer, who falls down the building to his death, after acrophobia (fear of heights) and vertigo get the better of him. He retires, spends time with his ex-fiancé Midge Wood (Barbara Del Geddes), and hopes to get over his fear soon. He tries getting up a small-stepladder, goes dizzy and falls into Midge’s protective arms. She still loves him very much.

 

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Kim Novak as Madeleine

He on the other hand is soon fascinated by Madeleine, the mysterious wife of Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore), a wealthy acquaintance. Gavin approaches Scottie, tells him his wife might be possessed by the spirit of one Carlotta Valdes, and entreats him to follow her. With Midge’s help, Scottie learns that Carlotta was the great-grandmother of Madeleine who committed suicide. Madeleine has no knowledge of this fact, but she’s found visiting her grave, and then an art museum where a portrait of Carlotta is hung. Carlotta’s got an expensive red necklace on, and an imposing look. Later she leaps into the San Francisco Bay. Scottie dives in, rescues her and brings her to his home. He recounts the incident to her, probes her with direct questions, but she remembers little. After excusing himself for a moment, he calls up Gavin and informs about the incident. Madeleine suddenly gives him a slip. He locates her the next day, and takes her out. She is distant, reserved and otherworldly – the fascinating creature you’d usually find in Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry, perhaps. We too are intrigued and tantalized by her mystery, yet not without sensing something ulterior, something sinister – its Hitchcock after all. The guy gave us Rebecca, where the young protagonist and her husband are haunted by the memory of his dead first wife. In Psycho, he gave us Norman Bates, a motel-owner who is found to be suffering from split-personality disorder, where he is dominated by his mother’s (manic) personality especially when he is attracted to a woman.

 

The foreboding moment in Vertigo comes right after Madeleine and Scottie kiss passionately. She suddenly wrests herself from his arms and runs up a bell tower, saying ‘This was not supposed to happen’. Scottie pursues her, but his acrophobia weakens him and he’s unable to stop her from jumping off the tower. With his reputation tarnished completely, Scottie remains in a hospital for months suffering from acute melancholia and guilty consciousness. Midge, supportive as always, wistfully remarks that Mozart won’t heal him, as the doctors suggest; Madeleine will, but alas she’s dead. She retreats from the story thereafter. After his release, Scottie meets a Madeleine lookalike.

 

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James Stewart as Scottie and Kim Novak as Judy

This woman is coarser, streetwise and less posh than Madeleine – her name is Judy. She has been ‘picked up’ more than once, she says. He tells her Madeleine’s story, and her heart melts. He invites her on a date, and she reluctantly accepts. He wants her to dress like Madeleine, to wear the same grey suit Madeleine wore, tie up her hair the same way. Judy has her own little secret, and it’s the first time Hitchcock shifts the film from Scottie’s perspective to Judy’s. We enter her mind, see a flashback that clears up the entire film for us. Now it’s time to wait and watch till the smoke clears.

 

You spend the last twenty minutes of Vertigo holding your seat tightly – it is uncomfortable, uncompromisingly disturbing and hard to digest. Hitchcock may be the master of suspense, but his Vertigo excels as a tragedy. By confronting the deception and guilt of his characters in the film, Hitchcock is able to draw out an emotional response from us – we pity these characters, and the tragic consequences of the (wrong) decisions they make. There is poor Midge, waiting fruitlessly for Scottie to return to her. But he’s fallen in love with Madeleine, who’s nothing but shoosh… won’t tell it! What I can say is that she is a character of great complexity, so much so that Meryl Streep would love to get her hands on the character (the actress has expressed slight resentment towards her performance in the 1982 psychological thriller film Still of the Night, because ‘the movie was just about her hair’). The part played by Kim Novak is not a one-dimensional ‘mysterious lady’; it’s much more than that. As Roger Ebert puts it, ‘she is one of the most sympathetic female characters in all of Hitchcock’.

 

The maestro, helped greatly by composer Bernard Herrman who creates the haunting background score, plays with the elements of lust, love, deception, guilt, truth and loss in fabricating a doomed love story that’s built on the plinth of deception.

Review of Captain Phillips: A spectacular film with engaging, funny, nail-biting and emotionally complex moments to cherish! One of the best Hollywood films of the year!

My twelfth job for the site ourvadodara.in. Click the following link to read my review of 2013 Hollywood Film ‘Captain Phillips‘, Starring Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi: http://ourvadodara.in/captain-phillips . Also, do visit the site for any updates about Vadodara life. I shall henceforth post the latest Bollywood & Hollywood Movies releasing in cinema halls in Vadodara on http://ourvadodara.in/

 

Elysium Review: The Hollywood Studio Version of Blomkamp’s Superior District 9 is an Unmemorable Affair.

Elysium_Poster (1)My ninth job for the site ourvadodara.in. Click the following link to read my review of 2013 Film Elysium, A Neill Blomkamp Film Starring Matt Damon, Jodie Foster. : http://ourvadodara.in/elysium-review. Also, do visit the site for any updates about Vadodara life. I shall henceforth post the latest Bollywood & Hollywood Movies releasing in cinema halls in Vadodara on http://ourvadodara.in/