Thursday, 10 September 2015

RANGITARANGA: AN INCOMPLETE ENDING

It's been more than five days since I watched the movie 'Rangitaranga' - a Kannada movie which has been the talk of the town among the Indian cinema lovers. I was one among the 80 adults who watched the screening in a small Kino in Zürich. True to its hype, I loved the movie as it had a link to my childhood - a distinct theme that forms the basis for the movie which is recurring (on my mind) from the 90's tele-serial in Kannada, Gudada Bhootha. The movie was refreshing in many ways and my thoughts on the same.

SPOILER ALERT: I DISCUSS THE PLOT AND THE MOTIVES OF CERTAIN CHARACTERS...

'Rangitaranga' (Colourful wave) - a word that will soon find its way in the Kannada dictionary is a well-thought out movie and the title justifies to a large extent about how different moods of a human being is identified with certain set of colours. Songs with matching music and lyrics penned entirely in Kannada/Tulu remains the best side-kick of the movie. The background music mixes well with the visuals and we are in a maze right from the moment movie begins.

To get a psychological-mystery (thriller) right requires a master screenplay and attention to details as  various thought processes connect the characters with the story to take it forward. 

If 'why' isn't part of your thought process while watching the movie, then you have missed something!

When taken in isolation, every character has an element of 'mystery' barring the antagonist...until the dying minutes of the movie. 

The ending of the movie was abrupt and it left me with more questions than answers to those mystic puzzles found in the movie. The antagonist came in as a surprise element (kudos to that!) and credit to the writers to have treaded a unique path leading up to the climax!

Unlike most movies, I rate movies highly if it has the ability to make me think and have some strong discussions on the same. One such unsettling feeling I have from the movie is the way they revealed the antagonist and his role in the entire movie. In spite of very well penned sequences -  the shades and the background for the antics of the antagonist lacked material, sophistication and instead it was hurried upon to close the gaps the story had created thus far.

Was it a case of wearing a 'mask' all along or a medical case of 'bipolarity'?

I must admit, I am partial to this school of thought influenced by the quote from Jim Morrison - "The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask."

In the defence of the movie-maker - a movie isn't a great platform to explain things unlike say a 'book' or a mini-series. However, paying attention to the 'climax' must never be overlooked and I would say, instead of two back-to-back songs that comes after intermission, there could have been elements added in the movie that provided depth to the 'character' who's end meant, the puzzle was solved or was it?

Looking back, a great opportunity would have been when the Yakshagana scene was shot, an event which the hero Gautam attended. The antagonist could have been shown with fervour - a slight hint to his traits of being the 'Uttama Villain'. Instead, it can be seen, many deliberate attempts were made to conceal the 'truth' and plot frequently misguided our thoughts. While Gautam was engrossed in the show, our mask man was busy plotting something else.

Coming back to whether it was a 'mask' or 'bipolarity' - the antics of the antagonist is fine during the day time as he comes across as a poetic, jovial and even supportive on various issues. Was he wearing a mask to go by the day until the dusk beckons to unleash his 'dark side'? this is in spite of not recollecting 'the hero' whom he knew pretty well. 

Or did he give into his dark side and let his mind loose on hunting down pregnant women - and re-live his first killing each year? As stated, there is a pattern in the movie, July 7th each year and the eleventh day after that, when he unleashes his darkest weapon - his anger and satiates himself by killing the kidnapped pregnant woman. That's all for the year!

What happens to this dark side of his for the rest of the year? Does he wander (as shown in the movie, he does) when he has a bout of depression and the maniac in him takes over? or is it a case of hunting down his prey days leading up to July 7th? The more I think about it, I am convinced it was a 'mask' all along and the antagonist knew very well what ticked him towards his beastly side! 


There are many questions about the antagonist which made the movie incomplete and made me believe, there is a scope for a documentary in revealing the idiosyncrasies of this accused 'Gudada Bhootha'! Would the movie makers be interested in revealing the actual character? 

Saturday, 14 February 2015

MEET THE GREYS - FIFTY SHADES OF GREY & SECRETARY

MEET THE GREYS 
On the Valentine's day eve, Tripti and I decided to watch 'Fifty shades of Grey' - the movie release was hyped leading up to the release day. Tripti had read the three books, not once but twice and she was looking forward to see the 'film-isation' of this E.L James book. On the other hand, I have had discussions with her on these books, the character and the way story progresses at certain points in time. I have never managed to read the books (never bothered about it) and instead as a passive audience of this trilogy, I was looking forward to see how the story from the first book would unfold on the big screen.

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Let's go back in time - Tripti and I had seen another movie called 'Secretary'. Released in 2002, Maggie Gyllenhaal plays the secretary to a certain lawyer named 'Edward Grey'. (Spoiler Alert) It is a love story, unconventional with comic elements. In essence, it is a romantic-comedy, but not your usual type (you know what I mean). James Spader plays the role of Mr. Grey (well, well, well, is that a coincidence) who appears demanding, intimidating at times and instantly made us wonder, if he indeed was an inspiration for 'Christian Grey'? However, he is more open, subtle and less serious than Christian. And with Fifty Shades of Grey, there are traces of Edward every now and then.

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Coming back to yesterday's movie - we felt it could have been better. As a stand-alone movie, I would prefer 'Secretary' any day over this one. The title role lacked the 'masculine' touch and as Tripti pointed it out, Jamie Dornan didn't look convincing, be it the looks or the acting prowess. The reality hit her as the 'Christian Grey' of the book appeared nowhere close to the one on screen.

I am not sure if this was a book which had all the ingredients to make a movie out of it. The way movie panned out - it fizzed away and never had us hooked for a lengthy period of time. As a title character, the lack of emotical expressions became the weak point. On the other hand, Secretary evoked curiosity and that was not because of its lack of literary baggage. The characters played out their parts convincingly and showed why movie making is all about acting and convincing the audience the part actors portray. 

How will the sequels turn out in case of Christian Grey? 

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

12 ANGRY MEN AND THE THEORY OF CONSENSUS BUILDING


I believe 12 Angry Men to be one of the best scripted movies of all time. Looking at it deeply, it has a lot more to offer than just being a top ten IMDB movie. Henry Fonda's perspective and how he used words and words alone to turn the tide in his favour or to remove prejudice from a non-personal assessment. This has no drama, mystery, theatrics or special effects - a simple story that can be easily absorbed by any living soul on earth.

I have watched it in Hindi as well and the content serves justice to its Hollywood original and the screenplay justifiably written for Indian audiences.


THE PREMISE OF THE MOVIE

Twelve men from different backgrounds, cultural upbringing, personalities and of different temper levels are part of the jury - and they are in a room to come to a reasonable conclusion. The jury must be unanimous in its decision and until then it is all a consensus building exercise. The case in hand is to decide the fate of a teenager who is guilty of murder his father - and after having heard the testimonies and other 'supposed evidences', it is now in the hands of the jury to give the final verdict.

In the enclosed room are these twelve men seated and eleven of them are convinced the boy is guilty - and are surprised to see Henry Fonda's lone hand going in favour of not-guilty. It isn't a case of James Dean's 'To Rebel With a Cause', here the standpoint of Henry Fonda has a lot of sense. It is after all a matter of life and death and these 12 men cannot be haste in making such a decision. Henry Fonda has a 'doubt' and unless he is convinced otherwise he would present his arguments. There emerges a change in thinking of his fellow jurors - one by one convinced otherwise.  

It is interesting to note how time and discussions change opinions even among many learned ones. And one by one, the jurors are convinced it isn't a straight forward case. In the middle of intense heat, there were heated discussions with egos coming in the way of clear thinking and side arguments comes in the way of the main discussion. And by the end of it all - these 12 men have a considerable amount of doubt to deliver a unanimous 'not guilty' verdict.

HOW I SEE THE RELEVANCE IN TODAY'S WORLD
One of the patterns that emerged from 12 Angry Men is - that, one is never far away from expressing his personal standpoint be it on any matter. This is what I call as 'the interpretation syndrome' - where two different people or a group of people look at the same thing in different ways. Our world is no different - each one is able to express their opinions and plenty of them are available on the internet, newsroom and print media - and more so with the people I converse. Is it a life's mystery that we eternally fight for the ultimate truth? or there is no such thing as one truth? Or is life or society all about a series of consensus building exercise which over the years gave raise to systems, rules, practices, religions and their million interpretations. The world we live in is so huge - that there was means to run away from one group only to settle in other place and form another group. What if we bring in all the newsmakers (not just the leaders of the state) under a single roof and discuss till there is consensus building - to reach a common ground from where people from all the beliefs can move on with renewed perspectives and lead a life which humans deep down strive for.


I just laughed reading at the last sentence about the level of optimism I am expecting! I think what I am asking is too far away from the banal lives we lead or am I? However, this was a recurring thought that comes to my mind whenever I hear and watch disturbing stories each day. Are we just plain reporting or doing something to end it?  What is the end that justifies everybody? Or have we already concluded - that this is the way... this is how it should end... 

The more I think positively, there is a hint of cynicism that creeps into that thought. So I am stuck... can we have some consensus building thoughts please!!!! 

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

FIRST INDIAN MOVIE IN SWITZERLAND - SANGAM (1964)


The above scene is from the the 1964 movie 'Sangam' - produced and directed by the legendary film maker Raj Kapoor. Sangam, the first ever color film of the late Indian film-maker Raj Kapoor, was a magnum opus in many ways. This movie had a screen time close to 200 minutes, filled with an emotional storyline and songs starring Raj Kapoor, Vyjayanthimala and Rajendra Kumar. 

Fifty years later, this movie is just one of the many hundreds of Indian movies shot in Switzerland. Here's a 50 years tribute marking the association between Indian movie industry and Switzerland. 

More on this article on Newly Swissed - http://bit.ly/1DL3hJP

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

SAME TALE FOR DIFFERENT TIMES: THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956) AND EXODUS (2014)

Same tale for different times - The Ten Commandments (1956) and Exodus (2014)
I imagine to be in a place where I can see the present and the origins from the past. I can see civilizations, the mighty empires of the yore and the developed metropolis of today. I can see the science of our ancestors and the technology of the present. While there are many points of change, there is one which I believe has stood the test of time -people and their interpretations to various beliefs.

It is in this premise I look at the epic, Cecile DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1956) and the recently released 'Exodus: Gods and Kings' (2014).

Both take on the same topic - the story of freedom of 'Hebrews' from the bondage of the Egyptian rulers, same backdrop, same characters and a similar conclusion; yet the treatment is miles apart. In case of DeMille, going by his strong interest towards religion and his inclination towards detailed scripting gives us the most accurate narration based on what has been written on the matter - whereas the 2014 movie does justice to what the current generation would be more inclined to believe.

CECILE VERSION
What is history? It is a record of what had happened, written by people who have witnessed or have recorded from other sources. While it narrates, it fails to give us a 360° approach on any matter. Take the story of Moses, books have been written based on evidence that has been unearthed so far. Who can validate the veracity of events that were recorded? The more we dwell in this matter, the more skewed the analysis. Instead, it is well acknowledged, evidence serves us a basis to comment on a topic, narrate and in this case make movies on screen.

It is fascinating to see in less than sixty years, our ways of looking at history has evolved immensely. I arrive at this from the way movies have been scripted. If you go back in time to 1923, when The Ten Commandments was released by Cecile DeMille,  it was well accepted, though it was considered inaccurate and the modern version was criticised while applauding the historical aspects of the movie it covered. That was 1923 where magic of moving pictures and that too on such a 'hot topic' would definitely be a hit.

In what turned out to be his last movie he ever directed and produced, DeMille keeping up with the technical advancements re-made his 1923 classic, adding sound and the colours to make it more appealing to the audiences. He went deeper, a place where even Bible has not been - to the early years of Moses, the first 30 years of his life which he spent as a prince of Egypt. The 1956 movie was 3 hours and 40 minutes long and every minute retained its essence, adding flavours to the continuity. The movie could have gone on and on if not for practical considerations. The movie ends in the period it started thereby reproducing the texts and artifacts into a movie. This epic of 1956 was as accurate as it can get to the source from which the stories are told, re-told on the life of Moses. There is no transportation to the 20th century to see how events have panned out as a result of history. The movie was history in itself and that to me was the most appealing part.

MODERN TAKE
What was once considered as miracles by external forces is unsurprisingly replaced by natural forces in today's world. While one looked at the father of all lords, the current crop turns to mother nature for answers. Idol worship, praying to forces of nature, following a person, humanisation of 'gods', turning men to gods men and dogmatic beliefs - all of it existed and exists even today. The situation has evolved - we attempt to look at it in a different way and have a tendency to believe the same set of stories when showcased in a different manner, a manner that is close to what we accept as a way of living and how life exists.

In today's generation, science has allowed us to access more answers than our previous generations were privilege to. A chant of a man to clear out the waters from the sea is replaced by the science of tides. The origins of plague is not one's creation but as a result of imbalance in the eco-system. Mere words do not serve the purpose, one needs to be equipped to defend the might of the strong even if it ends in a war. Such is the world we live where we blindly do not accept unless there is rationale behind it. In such an environment, it is suffice to say, a blind remake of the 1956 classic would have been 'misplaced' or even rejected by the very people, who would have believed if they were living in another generation.

Keeping this in mind, I was extremely pleased to the treatment given to the story of Exodus by the film makers. It does not take away the factor of 'hope' by miracles alone; the freedom is sought through preparation, willingness, hard work and by fighting it out - all and many such qualities which the current generation can associate with. With time being the essence, a movie over 200 minutes would not have made any business sense in today's market, no matter how good the narration is.

END NOTE
We truly live in a great era where access to information has never been this simple. While there are many sources to confuse people, movie makers who go to great heights to research a topic and present it keeping in mind the relevance is much appreciated.

What we believe is what we see; what we see is what is shown; for there are no boundaries when it comes to expression! Perceptions are a mere indicator of a story, an idea and how it has flown through time, tampered by scholars from different eras, narrated to the best of their understandings.. straying here and there while ensuring the essence to last.. only to be carried on to future generations with more discoveries and additions. That to me is the beauty surrounding the various stories, myths, and the creative works that surrounds them! There is no truth but recording of facts based on evidences! It would be interesting to re-visit the same topic in a decade's time or maybe in 50 years time.


So let it be written, so let it be done! 

Friday, 9 January 2015

RIP ROD TAYLOR


Rod Taylor with Teppi Hedren in the 1963 movie Birds


Actor Rod Taylor passed away earlier in the day at the age of 84. Let's get it straight.... I have not watched a lot of movies starring Rod Taylor and yet I write this because of the only movie I have seen of his - Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Birds'. The other movies, Sunday in New York with Jane Fonda and The Time Machine is pending and I hope to watch them sooner than I thought I would.








Coming back to the Birds, yes, the movie was all about Tippi Hedren and those 'birds' - zillion of them gone crazy. However, playing a lawyer, Rod Taylor as 'Mitch Brenner' enacted really well, protecting the ladies in spite of the birds taking the limelight.

The fascinating part of the movie was that it had no real motive at the end of it all. This was a movie that showcased what birds, lots of them can achieve if they go bonkers. I will write another post on 'Birds' and what I felt about it; for now it is time to bid goodbye on the life of this talented Australian actor who could have achieved much more and was last seen playing the role of Winston Churchill in Inglorious Bastards. 

RIP Rod Taylor 

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

FANTASTIC VOYAGE - AND HOW ISSAC ASIMOV ENDED UP A WINNER


There are many people who think alike - so much so that there was a need to patent one's ideas and further copyright them. In the entertainment industry, scripts were safely guarded for this purpose, though once in a while it did go out of hands just like it did in the case of Fantastic Voyage and I Dream of Jeannie. People who have watched the show 'I Dream of Jeannie' in the mid-60's and at a later stage would recall a certain episode 'The Moving Finger'  (watch the episode) - in which Major Nelson, an astronaut is approached by a movie production to consult on a science-fiction movie. The plot goes this way: *"An American astronaut, shrunken to the size of a pinhead, is injected into the bloodstream of a Soviet astronaut, works his way to the brain and retrieves information vital to the defense of the country."

While the concept is indeed mind boggling and interesting, there was none of it which happened in that episode. It remained just a scene and nothing more. Few months later in 1966, a movie which had its plot based on the above idea was released. However, Fantastic Voyage as an idea was made on screen based on a story by Otto Klement and Jerome Bixby much before the episode of 'I Dream of Jeannie' aired.

HOW IT ALL BEGAN
The screenplay for the story included few details that would add drama and what better than 'the Cold War' angle. This time the battle between United States and Soviet Union was not on 'outer space', but 'inner space'. Movie on this idea was on and at that time Bantam books had bought the rights to novelise the screenplay. Enter Issac Asimov, the science fiction expert, who was approached to write the novel based on the script. There was hesitation on his part before being offered complete freedom in writing the novel. As it turned out, he was quick to draft on the idea and completed the novel by the end of July 1965.

The hardcover edition was published in March 1966 with Otto Klement entitled to royalties as it was his script in the first place irrespective of the fact it was Asimov who pushed for 'hard cover' edition. It was happy conclusion at the end of it all when Klement managed to serialise the story for 'The Saturday Evening Post' and the payment of which was agreed to split into two between Asimov and Klement.

Bantam Books who had the rights only for the paperback edition, released the book coinciding with the release of the film.

IT WAS ASIMOV'S GAIN
There were delays in completing the movie on time due to various production issues and all this only ensured Issac Asimov to be the biggest gainer at the end of it all. The public were aware of the novel authored by Asimov before the movie being released, and this contributed in believing that Asimov to be the 'genius' behind the idea of the movie.


It doesn't matter who was behind what, the movie was well appreciated and for incorporating the special effects inside the human body - a place where no human has ever been to. Fantastic Voyage is indeed 'fantastic' and apart from the outdated on-screen special effects, concept wise, it is an ever green classic! 

Thursday, 23 January 2014

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947)

Signs of modern chivalry - the protagonist lives in a world, imagines himself to be the saviour and all the adjectives that can be used to describe the man known as a 'hero'. Walter Mitty comes across as a simple guy laced with innocence and a penchant to escape from reality; putting himself in extraordinary situations, lost in a world woolgathering with focus entirely on his escapades involving a woman caught in a web of helplessness. In an event of hopelessness and adversity, Walter is their go-to man; displaying guts of a bravado, prowess in entertainment or just about any field - he is a master of it all.

The story was presented last December to the audience repackaged, keeping in mind of today's generation. In the past week, I have the opportunity to retro-analyse this theme of Walter Mitty. Having got impressed with Ben Stiller's direction, I watched the 1947 version of 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty'. Both these movies were based on the character created by 'James Thurber'. It all started as a short story in 1939 for a New Yorker edition, became popular with the readers which led to few radio adaptations and a major motion film in 1947. 


Watching Ben Stiller and his secret life becoming public with each scene was an unbelievable experience. I was impressed by the screenplay and the breathtaking cinematography - which captured the essence and conveyed the story effectively. He is shown in America, Greenland, Iceland and Afghanistan - all this a real visual treat. Though the story was adapted for the present audience, it does a remarkable justice to this literary creation.

Comparing two movies of the same theme sixty years apart is not fair. I would have been disappointed if the story had no difference between the two versions. The former movie suited the audience sentiments and the preference of producers post WW II - keeping in mind movies were business in the form of entertainment to public. Though the business element has not changed much, the preferential treatments of the same subject across different eras have evolved immensely.

Right from the scene one in the original movie, the storyline and characters introduced are different from the short story. Barring for few dream sequences, the small plot of the original story has been stretched to suit the major feature film standards and the constant connection that holds the book and the movie is the adjective -Mittyesque, a condition given to unrealistic flights of fancy and escapist day dreams which the title character suffers from, possibly due to his profession of being a editor for a book publishing firm.

The narration is simple, interwoven with Walter's frequent tendencies to dream about him being a symbol of heroism. Be it any profession - captain of the sinking ship, a multi-faceted surgeon, a WWII fighter pilot, a gambler, a French designer or a rodeo - he wins the heart of all and in particular a woman, who is his 'dream girl' and by coincidence turns out to be real and ends up being Mrs. Walter Mitty. 


The movie is an entertainer and the managment in tandem with script writers ensure there is a constant supply of comedy, idiosyncratic pantomimes and songs most suited for a actor like Danny Kaye. It is his journey in the real world - where he is constantly bossed around by his mother Mrs. Eunice Mitty, his idea-stealing boss Bruce Pierce, his kid-wit fiancée Getrude Griswald, her loud-mouthed mother Mrs. Griswald and Tubby Wadsworth, who woos Getrude constantly and shamelessly. His daily life revolves around them. Not to forget his habit of straying away to a  dreamland, lost in the thoughts and actions, creating his heroic tales only to be climaxed by his transportation back to the real world.

His mundane life takes an interesting turn when he meets a mysterious woman, Rosalind van Hoorn who coincidentally fits and resemble the girl of his dreams perfectly. Rosalind works with her uncle to recover the lost treasure of Dutch from WW II and Mitty accidentally becomes an important part in this rescue mission. His boring life becomes interesting and adventurous - stuff of his dreams. With all the courage previously unknown to him, he helps Rosalind and also ends up marrying his 'dream girl'.

Author James Thurber based his character Walter Mitty on his friend, writer Robert Benchley. Thurber said that he got the idea for Mitty from the character created by Benchley in a series of shorts that he made for Fox and MGM, respectively, in the 1920s and 1930s.

James Thurber, the author of the short story acted as a consultant for a brief period to contribute significantly to the plot which ended up in a bitter fight and the script was modified as the producer Samuel Goldwyn demanded the movie to be written to showcase Danny Kaye's talents.

Thurber, who by this time was unhappy went on record saying that he hated this film and that Danny Kaye's interpretation of Mitty is nothing at all like he intended the character to be.

How would he have reacted to Ben Stiller's portrayal of Walter Mitty? The 2013 movie was well made and I was mighty impressed with the treatment given to the subject. However, the 1940's was a different era and personally some of the dream sequences involving Danny Kaye were a bit of a drag and the editors could have kept it short, keeping in mind this wasn't a musical in the first place.

Nevertheless, Danny Kaye performs remarkably throughout the movie displaying his repertoire as an entertainer while Virginia Mayo's presence as Rosalind and as 'dream girl' will not go unnoticed.


If you can spare 110 minutes of your time and have a hint of inclination towards musical-comedies of yesteryears, then I suggest this movie to be entertaining, if not a master piece! 

Friday, 6 December 2013

The Petrified Forest (1936)

Leslie Howard, the soothing actor and the enigmatic Bette Davies were the top billed actors in this Robert E Sherman's adapted play and my question was - Where was Bogie?

Humphrey Bogart's name appeared much later. There was talent, no doubt and before this role there were ten other productions he was part of; though none of those roles stood out. He was present - playing a second fiddle or a character role and I bet the top billing status was a long way ahead.
   
I belong to a generation who have seen a lot of Humphrey Bogart movies in which he has been the main draw. The descending order of his filmography I have gone about watching made me realise how far I was getting away from his stardom. He was at the peak when I watched him first and now after a lot of movies, I have seen merely a reflection of his future status or under the shadows of other stars, namely James Cagney.

 And when I watched 'The Petrified Forest', I somewhat knew this was where it all began for him. Since then he has grown as an actor slowly moving away from being the gangster to being a hero and a star of whom there is a rich legacy.

The movie itself is a journey - a conversation between individuals about their pasts, experiences, dreams and their shortcomings. Set in the backdrop of a region where the scientific process of 'permineralisation' is evident where trees mostly found in the form of fossils - petrified wood highlighting the years of reaction turning the wood to stone like structures. This is 'The Petrified Forest' in Arizona and the story begins and ends at the little service station called 'Petrified Forest Bar-B-Q' on the edge of nowhere. 
Petrified Forest BAR-B-Q
A battered intellectual nomad formerly a writer is shown walking on the dusty roads of Arizona. From his looks it seemed his best days were past him - Alan Squier played by Leslie Howard ambled through the roads on a mission to explore and find a purpose to his well-equipped brains. He recognises the triumph of his thumb and its sideways motion with which he travelled lengths and breadths of America. He was hungry, penniless and among his possessions were a rucksack with his passport, insurance papers and a map.

By the time he had got himself to the embarrassing situation of having no money, the movie was half-way through and by this time he had an admirer - no, a lover in form of Gabrielle Maple played by Bette Davies which left her blue-collared employee and former football (American) player Boze in distaste and jealous of Alan. 
Alan, Gabrielle and Boze (right)
Gabrielle is the daughter of the diner owner Jason Maple and of Gramp Maple, who was not shy in telling to the customers about being missed by 'Billy the Kid' once. Gabrielle was born to a French mother who currently lived in Bourges, France after getting bored of her life in Arizona. Gabrielle assists her father and dreams of being an artist in France, someday! 

Words have their own magic and the power of attraction towards human beings. When these words flow constantly in any conversation, one can fall in love hopelessly. 
Gabrielle showing her the poems of François Villon
Alan was eloquent in what he thought about life and the poetry collection of François Villon, a 15th century French poet which Gabrielle was hooked onto. He requests her to narrate some of the lines -

Such good I wish you! Yea, and heartily
I am fired with hope of true love's meed to get;
Knowing Love writes it in his book; for why,
This is the end for which we twain are met. 

An awkward silence followed by more lines -

Seeing reason wills not that I cast love by
Nor here with reason shall I chide or fret
Nor cease to serve, but serve more constantly;
This is the end for which we twain are met. 


While she showed him her art works and the paintings, he talked about his experience, past life, his strange marriage to a wealthy woman, writer's block while living in Riviera and the separation. 

The Brief Conversation
On the other hand, his words cast a spell on her to an extent that she was ready to run away with him taking all her cash, he declined and refused and decided to part ways. He was on his way on a car with a wealthy couple only to be stopped mid-way by Duke Mantee and his men, who took the car and spared their lives. Few moments later, Alan was back at the diner. Why?

Duke Mantee encounters the intellect Alan 
The next half of the movie is about Humphrey Bogart - his guile, rugged looks and the manner he was introduced made him the most terrifying character movie audience had seen at that time. He engages in a conversation with rest of the crew at the service station.

The customers held hostage at the diner 
After a series of thought provoking conversations between Alan and Duke - the movie concludes with Alan Squier having found his purpose. He knew his life was of no worth and his death could buy Gabrielle the tallest cathedrals, and golden vineyards, and dancing in the streets. He dies through a prior arrangement with Duke for killing him thereby leaving her the insurance money. Alan was in search of a purpose - to live and to die for. He knew he was in love with Gabrielle, someone worth living for and worth dying for. 
Alan dying in the arms of Gabrielle 
The movie like I mentioned before took Humphrey Bogart to the next level and this was possible because of Leslie Howard's insistence of Bogart playing the part of Duke Mantee in place of Edward G Robinson. It has a happy negotiation which gave Bogie, his first break in Hollywood. It was a mere co-incidence that the real-life criminal 'John Dillinger, on whose life is the character Duke Mantee is inspired from resembled Bogart.

When Bogart's daughter with Lauren Bacall was born in 1952, he expressed his friendship and gratitude by naming her Leslie Howard Bogart. She is named after Leslie Howard, who was a close friend of Bogie, after Howard refused to appear in 'The Petrified Forest' unless the studio (Warner Bros) signed Bogart to play Duke Mantee.

Sign they did and rest is history! 

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Major and the Minor (1942)

There is something serene and assuring for the entire duration of any movie as long as there is Ginger Rogers in them. I have watched quite a lot of her movies - excluding the famous musicals which she appeared with Fred Astaire.

She comes across as a simpleton in many of her roles and usually plays the characters with vibrant expressions, which makes you fall in love with her. My wife was beside me and yet I could not stop admiring her beauty and telling my wife about the same.

Susan Applegate played by Ginger Rogers is witty, homesick, short in cash - running out of excuses and patience at the train station until she sees a lady who is buying a half-ticket each for her two children.

One moment - Susan appears as a perfect young lady, someone with whom you always wished to dance at a ball. And in the next scene she disguises herself as a 12-year old and manages to board the train with a half ticket. The newly found disguise and her antics would be short lived as the conductors soon find out she isn't a kid from the Swedish stock, which she claimed for her excessive height. Even the Greta Garbo's famous line 'I want to be alone' from Grand Hotel doesn't impress them and is chased away when they catch her smoking while breathing in fresh air. 

Major Kirby played by Ray Milland comes across as gentleman who offers refuge to the 12-year old Su-Su, her alias. He is on his way to his military institute and to his fiancée Pamela.

In spite of these coincidences, twists and turns to the plot -the movie retains the humour without a dull moment. Billy Wilder after being in industry for close to 14 years and having written stories and screenplays for around 40 movies makes his debut as a director with this movie and keeps the crowd entertained without any dull moments throughout. 
Other characters who play a significant part in the movie are Kirby's devious fiancée Pamela played by Rita Johnson, Lucy - the science freak and the sister of Pamela played by Diana Lynn; the six cadets from the military school who take turns in impressing Su-Su and Lela Rogers as Mrs. Appleton.

This 1942 movie was later made in another version as You are Never Too Young in 1955 - which starred Jerry Lewis disguising as a 12-year old. 
The 1955 movie's plot also inspired the Hindi comedy movie Half Ticket which had Kishore Kumar playing the kid supported by Madhubala and Pran.

When I remember of The Major and the minor - all I can think is Ginger Rogers and her different avatars in this movie. A beautiful scalp treatment lady; a 12-year old kid; alone girl wanting care and affection in the train;  a confused love struck belle who plays the centre of attraction to those hundreds of young cadets in the institute; a doll who resembles Judy Garland from The Wizard of Oz; a maiden of the prom night; a young woman hopelessly lost and in love; a matured and elderly Mrs. Appleton or the lovely lady Susan who waits at the train station for Kirby towards the end. Take your pick and rest assured you will be left mesmerised with the ease in which she has portrayed all the above mentioned roles. 
Ginger Rogers and her different avatars in the movie