I think of cinema and of images that move and of those which don’t. Thinking of a torn sari clad woman at the hearth under the sky. Blowing her life into the fire that refuses to quickly send the chapatis in the daughter’s plate lying in front of the little imp in a blackened frock with mickey mouse prints hidden beneath layers of dried mud, dried pulse stains and in places with remnants of coal lozenges that she played among since the yellow morning as the unyielding, sick sun rose today. The mother looks perturbed as the girl’s father is likely to come back from the town empty-handed. The brown of her dress reveals the dark of her blemish free dark face where a little black dot finds a neat spot to the right of the lower lip. She swears at the waiting girl who has a running nose while balancing the other infant lying carefree in the lap and positions her breasts for the tongue of the hidden tiny creature. She streamlines the fuel and makes it cross the bottleneck of the mud house of the hearth into flames as the flour ball kept in the wooden bowl to her side diminishes in size. Her hands twist over the round chapati on the hot plate till it steams off hot puff through the orifices left open in the body of the flat circle. A sudden stream of this puff aims at her fingers with the worn out silver ring and in disgust she utters ‘damn it’ while the wrinkle on the forehead too artificial for her vibrant visage appears to soon make way for the droplets of sweat that emerge from the crevices. An earthen pot falls behind her wooden seat and the water flowing out of it drenches the clay floor. Clogs stick to the protruding tiny feet of the infant in the lap. As the toddler tries getting rid of the glue with its other toe, the splutter muddies the floor further and spreads to the other toe making for a pair of muddy toes. Passes from the scene a village elder who pauses and asks the girl with the plate about her father while trying hard to get a glimpse of the woman’s face. The girl is too dumb to answer that. One end of the brown cloth gets clipped between the woman’s canines and she looks away. Whispering from that hidden angle to the child “Tell Uncle he is in the town and will be back soon”, she directs her to him. The child leaves the plate and walks briskly towards the man. Tries to pull down the red and white balloon that he has bought for his grand-daughter who is sitting with a plate in a similar kitchen elsewhere in the village. The old man raises his hand so that the balloon goes higher up in the air, beyond the girl’s leaps and bounds. The woman after a while yells out her name “Lalli” only to realize that Lalli isn’t around and two of those expressive eyes etched above whiskers and below the turban are still busy hunting for a glimpse. Lalli’s mother blushes and keeps the chapatis going as they were.
Needless to say that I am a huge movie buff and enjoy watching all kinds of films. This year was a great year on many accounts about which I will be writing about in later posts. To start this series I have chosen to mention the following ten films which I just appreciated so much that I would love to watch them again and again. Such films I felt, are a definite reminder of the amount of talent a team needs to possess in order to be able to deliver something which ultimately appears to be as marvelous as these.
1. Sunset Boulevard
Sitting huddled together on a breezy summer evening; I saw this film on my PC with close friends Lenin, Vikrant and Awanish. Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond, the forgotten star from the silent-movie days and William Holden as Joe Gillis, the struggling script writer, represent the two extreme aspects of the film industry- one, which salutes just the rising sun forgetting everything that is no more in vogue and the other glamorous side of it that holds immense attractions for those who aspire to be a part of it. The film takes the viewer to the Paramount studios and provides with a small but close and sensitive account of the forms of sociability prevalent therein. Swanson undoubtedly dominates the film with the accurate facial expressions every time. It is a sort of accuracy, I confess that I had never seen before.
2. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
I watched this very famous film after it was mentioned by my Professor in one of the lectures where she was talking about Erving Goffman’s classic monograph on the Asylums. Watching the film which is studded with a great performance by Jack Nicholson (of course!), I did realise the impact the novel and the film together must have had in shaping the anti-institutionalization discourse in the west. Louis Fletcher was however someone who was the most surprising in her role as the unyielding nurse. Hers was a mind blowing performance. I watched the film alone and was forced to repeatedly say this to myself “Wow!”
This was the last Hitchcock film I saw this year. What made the film brilliant for me was its acutely sensitive portrayal of the intimidating aspects of aristocracy as they are experienced by an orphaned young girl who marries a widower apparently still in love with his ex wife Rebecca. The lady who ‘hires’ this girl as a companion warns her of the consequences of marrying the rich, elite man and vanishes from the plot. The viewer is then taken to witness the anxieties that the new Mrs. de Winter faces while being in company of the servants attending to Manderley- the palatial countryside mansion. Mrs Danver took the lion’s share of all my appreciation for this amazing thriller.
4. The Untouchables
It was a film that I saw for the nth time again with Lenin, Vikrant and Awanish. Needless to say, we were all once again in awe of the magic that Sean Connery, Kevin Kostner and Andy Garcia created on screen. Robert de Niro as Al Capone mesmerised us all. After the film we actually went on to name each other after the characters of the film. I was Elliot Ness, Vikrant was named Stone, Lenin Capone and Awanish Malone! Definitely one of the best films I have seen till date. Wardrobe by Giorgio Armani added that extra charm to the entire impact the film continues to have on all of us! Can never forget Kevin Kostner’s order to Garcia “You Got Him?…..TAKE HIM”
5. Mr. Brooks
Another of Kevin Kostner’s masterpiece as an accomplished and talented actor. The film gradually grew on me and it wasn’t long when I was convinced of its amazing plot and narrative style. The detour through a personality infested with an obsessive compulsion to commit murders was thoroughly fascinating and made for an exciting watch. Till date this one is the only Demi Moore film I have seen. She seemed extremely impressive here.
6. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
This marvelous film introduced me to the genius that Humphrey Bogart is. The influence that gold is capable of exercising on the human soul forms the backdrop of the intricate storyline that revolves around three men who go digging for gold. Intensely psychological in its portrayal of the forms of relationship which grows among these men, the film has had a huge impact on the way I have come to look for the importance of meaningful dialogues in cinema.
“Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges! I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges!”
Extremely tempted to include Bogart’s Casablanca in the list as well. Hope one of his should suffice here!
7. The Heiress
This is one of the most magnificent romantic dramas I have ever seen. One of my most favorite actors, Montgomery Clift and Olivia da Havilland spin together this lovely tale of love and betrayal. As Morris Townsend, Clift delivers the best of his talent and for sure, I have no words for da Havilland’s acting prowess. Unforgettable line for me from the film was “She dominated the colour”. This was one film whose camerawork is likely to remain deeply etched in my memory. It is also a film with that quintessential dramatic ending- a scene worth watching.
8. 400 Blows
Truffaut’s masterpiece. I dont think anything from my side is needed to be said about this one. A beautiful film!
9. The Message
The challenging task of making a film on the life of the Prophet Muhammad seems beautifully accomplished by Moustapha Akkad. An extremely accurate and sensitive document, this film I feel should be seen by anyone who is interested in Islam. I plan to watch Lion of the Desert, another of Akkad’s masterpieces in the coming week.
10. Women In Love
What a wonderful adaptation of D H Lawrence’s masterpiece this one was! I really cannot decide if I liked the novel or the film more. Plan to watch more of Oliver Reed’s films as and when I get time. Rupert, when asked as to what does he really want says “I want to sit with my beloved in a field with daisies growing all around us”
Suggestions for good films that I should watch in the coming year are most welcome 🙂