Sunday, February 26, 2017
Blog News 2/26/17: Crash
Due to some strange event earlier today, my laptop has been unable to work as I have no idea what is going on as I'm going to be offline for a few days in the hopes I can find out what went wrong. The timing of it really fucking sucks.
Saturday, February 25, 2017
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Directed by Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone and written and starring Schaffer, Taccone, and Andy Samberg, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is the story of a pop music artist who embarks on a world tour to promote his second album where everything goes wrong as he struggles with trying to be successful and popular. The film is told in a mockumentary fashion as it follows the life of a pop star who shares too much of himself as he does whatever he can to sell records and be in the spotlight unaware of the chaos he’s creating. Also starring Imogen Poots, Sarah Silverman, Joan Cusack, Maya Rudolph, Chris Redd, and Tim Meadows. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a hilarious and outlandish film from Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone.
The film is told in a documentary fashion about the pop star Conner4Real (Andy Samberg) and the release of his sophomore solo release Connquest and its world tour as his attempts to be a bigger star and stay away from the shadow of his old group the Style Boyz. Yet, Conner4Real would endure not failure but also becoming desperate to be in the limelight where he would lose sight of things. Even as he would take part in publicity stunts that went wrong while his opening act in the hip-hop artist Hunter the Hungry (Chris Redd) would overshadow him and more. The film’s screenplay by the Lonely Island trio of Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone doesn’t just play into the world of pop stardom where the individual is too open with his fans but is also so keen on becoming everything to all people that he’s kind of lost touch with reality.
Especially as there are people who are more interested in a Style Boyz reunion but Conner4Real refuses even though he has his former Style Boyz bandmate Owen (Jorma Taccone) as his DJ. The script’s narrative kind of moves back and forth with interviews from real musicians and other celebrity personalities with some such as Nas talk about how great the Style Boyz were and what broke them up as it relates to Conner becoming a bigger star than Owen and the band’s lyricist Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer) as the latter leaves the industry to become a farmer. The film also play into things that Conner does that are outlandish in his attempt to stay in the limelight as his goal is to perform at a pop music awards show.
The film’s direction by Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone is quite straightforward where it does play into conventional aesthetics of a documentary but it’s also not afraid to make fun of everything that is happening. Much of the compositions in the film are straightforward where they also use cellphones as cameras to play into the extreme openness of Conner. The concert scenes definitely have these massive wide and medium shots into how big Conner’s shows are but also have this element of being bloated to express Conner’s own ego and willingness to entertain as it makes fun of the many trends in contemporary music which also include Owen wearing some big prop on his head like other EDM artists. The film also has scenes where it makes fun of publicity stunts and other things where it does have an element of realism that is exaggerated but all for its humor. Especially as it goes into some offbeat moments as well as providing some satire such as a spoof on the celebrity news program TMZ as a lot of it is smacked on. Overall, Schaffer and Taccone create a fun and whimsical comedy about a pop star dealing with failure and his own ego.
Cinematographer Brandon Trost does excellent work with the cinematography as it is largely straightforward with some unique lighting for the concert scenes as well as some of the scenes set at night. Editors Jamie Gross, Craig Alpert, and Stacey Schroeder do terrific work with the editing as it largely feature some montage cutting into Conner‘s rise into stardom and some of the antics he does as well as some jump-cuts that are kind of common with documentaries. Production designer Jon Billington, with set decorator Lori Mazuer and art director Ramsey Avery, does amazing work with the look of the stage that Conner performs at with all of its lights and props as well as his tour bus and lavish mansion.
Visual effects supervisor David Niednagel does nice work with some of the visual effects that include some holograms and other weird shit that Conner uses for his shows. Sound editor George H. Anderson does superb work with the sound in the way the crowd sounds for the shows including that one fan at the upper deck during a non-sell out show. The film’s music score by Matthew Compton is wonderful as it is mostly low-key electronic music while music supervisors George Drakoulias and Randall Poster provided a soundtrack filled with pop and hip-hop include many original songs by the Lonely Island as music for Conner4Real, the Style Boyz, Hunter the Hungry, and other fictional performers.
The casting by Allison Jones is great as it feature some notable small roles and cameos from Danny Strong as a member of Conner’s entourage who is shorter than him, Joanna Newsome as Conner’s steam punk doctor, Bill Hader as a guitar tech, Will Forte as a bagpipes player, Will Arnett as a TMZ reporter, Kevin Nealon as a photographer, Ashley Moore as Conner’s personal assistant, James Buckley as a member of Conner’s entourage, and Weird Al Yankovic as a heavy metal singer. Other cameos with people playing themselves include Adam Levine of Maroon 5, Nas, Questlove, Jimmy Fallon, Snoop Dogg, Seal, Ringo Starr, Carrie Underwood, Usher, Pharrell Williams, Mariah Carey, 50 Cent, Win Butler and Regine Chassagne of Arcade Fire, RZA, and the Roots.
Joan Cusack is wonderful as Conner’s mother who joins the tour early on as well as be the one to give him his beloved turtle Maximus as a child. Imogen Poots is fantastic as Conner’s movie star girlfriend Ashley Wednesday as someone who goes along for the ride until a marriage proposal publicity stunt goes horribly wrong. Maya Rudolph is superb in her small role as Deborah as an executive for an appliance manufacturer that would sponsor Conner’s tour until a stunt to launch the tour goes wrong. Chris Redd is excellent as Hunter the Hungry as a brash up-and-coming rapper who becomes Conner’s opening act that started off as an ally only to overshadow and humiliate him. Sarah Silverman is brilliant as Conner’s publicist Paula Klein who tries to do whatever she can to get Conner for an appearance at an awards show while being a conscience of sorts who is aware that things aren’t going well. Tim Meadows is amazing as Conner’s manager Harry who also managed the Style Boyz and was a former member of Tony Toni Tone` that is trying to deal with the business and what is happening with Conner and the tour.
Akiva Schaffer is hilarious as Lawrence as a former member/lyricist of the Style Boyz who becomes a farmer as he feels underappreciated for his work while thinks Conner is going the wrong way with the music. Jorma Taccone is terrific as Owen as another former member of the Style Boyz who is Conner’s DJ that is trying to cope with the extravagance of the tour while being the one true friend that Conner has. Finally, there’s Andy Samberg in an incredible performance as Conner Friel/Conner4Real as a pop star who is embarking on a world tour for his second album unaware of how bad the record is as well as surrounding himself with too many people who aren’t honest with him as he loses touch with reality and literally exposes himself in the worst ways as it’s just so funny to watch.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is marvelous film from Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone that is a spot-on spoof on the extravagant world of contemporary pop music. It’s a film that isn’t just entertaining filled with a great cast, funny cameos, and some hilarious songs but it’s also a witty satire that showcases some of the drawbacks of 21st Century stardom. In the end, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a remarkable film from Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone.
© thevoid99 2017
Friday, February 24, 2017
Directed by Gordon Parks Jr. and written by Phillip Fenty, Super Fly is the story of a drug dealer who is trying to get out of the drug business and lead a straight life. The film is an exploration of a man wanting to get out of the dangerous underworld of crime and drugs as well as start a new life that will get him away from the troubles of the streets. Starring Ron O’Neal, Carl Lee, Sheila Frazier, Julius Harris, and Charles McGregor. Super Fly is a gripping and thrilling film from Gordon Parks Jr.
The film is the simple story of a drug dealer living in New York City who decides to get out of the business after too many run-in with junkies as he hopes to make some money and split it with his partner. It’s a film that explores a man who has made a good living dealing in dope and making some money but too many encounters with danger has forced to realize how small of a future there is in dealing. The protagonist of Youngblood Priest (Ron O’Neal) is a man that is quite flawed as he sleeps around with women and has a cocaine habit but is aware of the damage it’s doing around him as he’s got a lot of people working for him but some aren’t meeting their quota. The film’s screenplay by Phillip Fenty doesn’t just explore what Priest is dealing with as he’s aware that some of the people who are working for him are unreliable as they’ve got some bad drug habits.
Priest has a plan but knows he couldn’t do it alone as he turns to his old mentor in retired dealer Scatter (Julius Harris) for help as he hopes to make a million dollars in four months and split it with his friend Eddie (Carl Lee) and leave the game for good. Still, he has to deal with forces that want to stop which would include some corrupt police detectives that is led by its corrupt deputy commissioner Reardon (Sig Shore). While Eddie sees this alliance with the police as something that would help him and Priest become rich. Priest however doesn’t share the same view knowing that he’s still working for someone else and can never get out yet would eventually find a way to get out of their clutches.
The direction of Gordon Parks Jr. definitely plays into low-budget aesthetics where it is shot on location in the Harlem section of New York City as well as other areas of the inner city. Shot with mostly hand-held cameras for some of the chase scenes and some of the action, the film is definitely stylized which include a sequence of nothing but still shots photographed by Parks himself. The film does have Parks use some medium shots to capture the life at the clubs and in some of the locations in the inner city as well as use some extreme close-ups for a love scene involving Priest and his woman Georgia (Sheila Frazier). Parks does maintain something that is authentic not just in the locations but also in the chaos that is the ghetto where it is unruly but there is something about that is exciting as it has its own set of rules. Parks would use the locations to his advantage while creating something that play into ideas about the drug culture and how there are those outside of the ghetto that is really in control of the whole thing which would force Priest to be the man to stop all of that shit. Overall, parks creates a riveting and compelling film about a drug dealer trying to leave the game for a better life.
Cinematographer James Signorelli does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography as it has this grittiness in the camerawork to give it a realistic feel while its interiors are very low-key in its usage of light. Editor Bob Brady does brilliant work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts and montages for the stills sequence as well as some rhythmic cutting for some of the action. Costume designer Nate Adams does fantastic work with costumes from the clothes that the men wear as well as the style of clothes that the ladies wear. The sound work of Harry Lapham is terrific as it play into the chaos of the streets as well as the sounds of gunfire and such to play into the action. The film’s music by Curtis Mayfield is phenomenal as it is a major highlight of the film with its mixture of funk and soul with elements of orchestral string arrangements in the background is pretty much one of the finest music soundtracks ever made as it feature some incredible song with Mayfield also making an appearance in the film.
The film’s superb cast include some notable small roles from Henry Shapiro as a robbery victim who was robbed by one of Priest’s men, James G. Richardson as a junkie that tries to steal from Priest early in the film, Sig Shore as the corrupt deputy police commissioner Reardon who only appears in the film’s climax, Yvonne Delaine as the wife of one of Priest’s dealers, Polly Niles as one of Priest’s mistresses in Cynthia, and Charles McGregor as a dealer of Priest named Fat Freddie who owes Priest money as he would later get Priest into trouble. Julius Harris is excellent as Scatter as a former dealer turned restaurant owner who reluctant helps out Priest in giving him something that would give Priest a way out as he also copes with the corrupt detectives who want him out of the way.
Sheila Frazier is wonderful as Georgia as Priest’s girlfriend who is aware of what he’s doing as she also knows he wants out as she does whatever to help him. Carl Lee is amazing as Eddie as Priest’s partner who goes along with Priest’s plan to get out until he sees an opportunity to make even more money and be rich much to Priest’s dismay. Finally, there’s Ron O’Neal in an incredible performance as Youngblood Priest as a cocaine dealer who has seen a lot of trouble as he wants to get out of the drug game where he copes with his desire to make money to get out but also being forced to work with men who want to control him in every way.
Super Fly is a tremendous film from Gordon Parks Jr. that features an iconic performance from Ron O’Neal. It’s a film that isn’t just a fascinating film about the drug culture in the ghetto but also an anti-drug film that showcases some of the dark aspects of the drug culture where a man tries to get out of that world. In the end, Super Fly is a spectacular film from Gordon Parks Jr.
Gordon Parks Jr. Films: (Thomasine & Bushrod) - (Three the Hard Way) - (Aaron Loves Angela)
© thevoid99 2017
Thursday, February 23, 2017
Thursday Movie Picks (TV Edition): Superheroes/Superpowers
For the fourth and final week of February 2017 of the Thursday Movie Picks hosted by Wanderer of Wandering Through the Shelves. We once again go into the world of television as the focus is on superheroes and superpowers. An interesting choice despite the fact that I don’t watch a lot of TV shows but here are the choices that I pick:
OK, when it comes to Batman. There are only two men that have so far provided the definitive version of the Caped Crusader in Michael Keaton and Christian Bale in their respective film portrayals. Then there’s Adam West in the 1966 movie and the TV show during the 1960s. Yes, it’s quite campy and silly but it is actually a lot of fun to watch where it has superheroes in tights and fight off villains. Batman and Robin fighting the likes of the Joker, Penguin, the Riddler, and Catwoman (when it’s played either by Eartha Kitt or Julie Newmar) while riding the Batmobile. It’s a whole lot of fun and you get watch Batman… dance!!!!!
2. Super Friends
For anyone that was born in the late 70s and 1980s must’ve watched this show on Saturday mornings as it feature such great superheroes as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Cyborg, and so many other DC comic heroes. Who wouldn’t enjoy a show with all of these heroes? Yet, it is flawed due in large part to the Wonder Twins who would have the lamest powers ever as they just sucked the fun leaving Batman and Superman having to save their no-talent asses.
3. Captain Planet and the Planeteers
We go from the cool superheroes to the lame ones as this early 90s shit-fest came at a time when environmentalism was the thing. Yeah, we need to learn to take care of planet but not in this heavy-handed edutainment bullshit where you have five kids from different parts of the world wearing five rings as they would summon Captain Planet to help the world as it features a lame theme song which is a rip-off of New Kids on the Blocks’ Step by Step. It’s just lame as I often rooted for Captain Pollution. To think, people thought about making a film version of the show which won’t be as good as what Don Cheadle did with the character.
© thevoid99 2017
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Nanook of the North
Written, directed, shot, and co-edited by Robert J. Flaherty, Nanook of the North is a silent docudrama about an Inuk man named Nanook and his family living in the Canadian Arctic region. Considered to be one of the very first examples of the documentary, the film follows a man’s life in the course of three weeks as it play into the lifestyle of a man cut off from the modern world. The result is a fascinating film from Robert J. Flaherty.
Shot in the Canadian Arctic region north of Quebec, the film is a look into the life of a man named Nanook (Allakariallak) and his family living in the cold and unforgiving environment. Through the usage of inter-title cards, the film showcases the life of the Inuit people and how they survive through the harsh conditions near the Arctic such as trading, hunting, and building igloos. While it is later revealed years after its 1922 release that director Robert J. Flaherty would stage some scenes in the film for dramatic purposes such as the building of the igloos, the trade post scene, and a walrus hunting scene. It does show an idea of what life is as it play into the world that is removed from conventional society.
Shot on black-and-white with some colored filters, Flaherty’s direction would feature a lot of wide and medium shots to capture the location with some close-ups to get a look into Nanook and his family as they’re also played by actors. Still, he captures something that does feel authentic in the way he films the life of Inuit settlers and how they manage to endure the harsh cold weather of their environment. Though there’s some moments in the film where the pacing is sluggish due to scenes that do go on a little long and it gets repetitive despite some nice editing by Flaherty and co-editor Charles Gelb. Still, Flaherty gets a very engrossing look into the life as well as how they kill seals and catch fish to feed their families. The film’s music by Timothy Brock from its reissue in the late 1990s is mostly piano-based music that has a sense of melancholia to play into the hardship that these characters endure.
Nanook of the North is a marvelous film from Robert J. Flaherty. Whether or not it can be truly defined as a documentary, it is still an important historical piece that showcase the ideas of what a documentary does in revealing life as it is no matter how foreign it can be. In the end, Nanook of the North is a splendid film from Robert J. Flaherty.
Related: Louisiana Story
© thevoid99 2017
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
2017 Blind Spot Series: Hoop Dreams
Directed and narrated by Steve James and written by James and Frederick Marx, Hoop Dreams is a film that follows the lives of two high school students from Chicago and their dream to become professional basketball players. Filmed in the course of five years as it was originally meant to be a thirty-minute short film made for PBS. The film showcases the journey of two boys in William Gates and Arthur Agee and their hopes to make it so they can use their skills in basketball to give them a better life away from the violent-ridden streets in the poor sections of Chicago. The result is a rapturous and intoxicating film from Steve James.
The film follows the lives of two kids from the inner-city areas of Chicago who both dream of making it to the NBA as a way to get themselves and their families out of the ghetto. Shot in the course of nearly five years through the entirety of these two boys life in high school where they both start out at St. Joseph High School in Westchester, Illinois where Isiah Thomas had attended. Throughout the entirety of the film, the parallel lives of William Gates and Arthur Agee would showcase the many ups and downs they would endure in their high school career with a lot of expectations laid upon them. While they both start out as freshman at the prestigious private school, only Gates would play in the varsity team, under the leadership of coach Gene Pingatore, where he would display a lot of promise into the first two years while getting financial aid and such to be at the school despite ninety-minute commute from Chicago to Westchester.
Agee would arrive at the school in a similar manner yet would only be at the school for nearly a year-and-a-half due to rising tuition as his family were unable to pay for his sophomore year as only he only played for the school in its freshman team. Despite meeting his idol in Isiah Thomas, the experience at St. Joseph was bitter forcing Agee to attend the more public Marshall High School in Chicago. The film does have this air of a rise-and-fall or fall-to-rise scenario as it relates to both Gates and Agee, respectively, in the way they would encounter their own environments and personal situations. The latter would endure his own family breaking up with his drug-addicted father struggling to be clean and would leave for a time before redeeming himself during Agee’s junior year and be there for him in his senior year.
Both Gates and Agee wouldn’t just struggle with academics but also the demands of living up to their potential as basketball players. Gates would be able to balance both as he was well-liked at St. Joseph but when he injured his right knee in his junior year. Things began to change as he struggled to get back in the game as he also had hard time living up to Pingatore’s demands. While Agee would go through a harder time academically where he would attend summer school during his junior and senior years. He would eventually succeed in basketball where he would take Marshall to the semi-finals of the state championship in his senior year where they finished third. Though Agee’s academics were good enough to get him to a junior college, it was Gates that would go to Marquette in Wisconsin yet he would question a lot of things in the course of the last two years of his high school tenure.
Steve James’ direction is very intimate in the way he capture the four years in the life of these two boys as it’s shot largely in hand-held cameras often inside cars or at the school with the aid of cinematographer Peter Gilbert and several camera operators in the course of the shooting. James, co-writer/co-producer Frederick Marx, and editor William Haugse would gather more than 250 hours of footage as the editing is a highlight of the film. Notably in the usage of slow-motion and other stylized cutting to help tell the story and move it back and forth in the different stories of Gates and Agee. James’ direction help add a lot to the story where it also showcases the dangers of the inner city as that dream of making it to the NBA is something that is a gateway out of the idea of possible death in the streets.
The sound work of Adam Singer and Tom Yore would help play into the world of the ghetto as well as the raucous atmosphere of the games including the state tournament games in Champaign, Illinois while Yore would create some score music with main music producer Ben Sidran as it‘s music soundtrack largely consists of hip-hop and jazz music. The music at times is somber as it relates to the struggle that these two boys endure but also have something that play into where they come from and the need to do something great.
Hoop Dreams is an outstanding film from Steve James. Not only is it a riveting sports documentary but it’s a whole lot more as it follow the lives of two boys trying to make it out of the inner city through their skills playing basketball. It’s a film that covers so much yet manages to do with such humanity as well as an understanding of where these boys come from and the struggle they have to endure to reach the impossible dream. In the end, Hoop Dreams is a magnificent film from Steve James.
© thevoid99 2017
Monday, February 20, 2017
The Sound Barrier
Directed by David Lean and written by Terence Rattigan, The Sound Barrier is the story of a test pilot who takes part in an experiment with aircraft designers to try and break the sound barrier where its owner is hoping for the experiment to succeed. The film is a mixture of drama mixed in with documentary footage about the attempts to break the sound barrier in the aftermath of World War II. Starring Ralph Richardson, Ann Todd, Nigel Patrick, John Justin, and Denholm Elliott. The Sound Barrier is a riveting film from David Lean.
The film follows the son-in-law of a wealthy aircraft design company owner who becomes a test pilot as they embark on breaking the sound barrier. It’s a film with a simple premise yet it is more about a man’s obsession with wanting to do the impossible just as World War II is about to end as he sees that his daughter’s new husband might be the right person to break the sound barrier. Terence Rattigan’s screenplay explore the sense of ambition as well as the desire to do something new and see if the impossible can be overcome. Yet, there is also some conflict over these ambitions where the protagonist in the owner John Ridgefield (Ralph Richardson) who is looking into the future as he is already on board on the emerging jet engine at the time.
Though he had plans for his son Chris (Denholm Elliott) to be the test pilot, it would be his new son-in-law Tony Garthwaite (Nigel Patrick) that would take on the role but becomes conflicted as he has just started a blissful life with Ridgefield’s daughter Susan (Ann Todd). The heart of the film is this conflict between Susan and her father as the former disapproves of her father’s ambitions just as she and Tony are making a life of their own with a child on the way. Tony is caught in the middle of this conflict as he wants to do the things as a test pilot but is also aware of the risks when he reads about a test pilot’s death in the second act. Even as the events in the third act where Susan and her father become estranged due to the former’s disdain for what her father wants showcase some of the fallacies of ambition despite Ridgefield’s good intentions.
David Lean’s direction is definitely stylish in some respects where it has some gorgeous compositions for the dramatic moments in the film while the aerial scenes are exquisite in its mixture of documentary footage and in re-created fashion. Much of the film is shot at Shepperton Studios with some of it shot on various locations in the British countryside near airfields as the scenes set in the ground have an intimacy in its close-ups and medium shots in how some look into the way planes are being flown as well as the meetings between the family. Especially in scenes where there is tension looming between Susan and Ridgefield as it play into this conflict of Susan wanting something where men in her family don’t have to live under the shadow of her father which is something Chris struggles with. The aerial scenes definitely have this vast look where Lean would use not just documentary footage of Britain’s own experiment with jet engines but also try and create moments where it could happen as some of it is inspired by actual events. Notably the film’s climax where a test pilot would try to break the sound barrier as it proves into what could be done. Overall, Lean crafts an engaging yet thrilling film about an aircraft owner’s desire to see the sound barrier broken.
Cinematographer Jack Hildyard does brilliant work with the film‘s black-and-white photography for the gorgeous look of some of the aerial scenes including the shots overlooking some of the locations as well as some of the interior scenes set at night along with the exterior nighttime scenes. Editor Geoffrey Foot does excellent work with the editing as it is straightforward with some intricate rhythmic cutting for some of the aerial sequences. Art director Joseph Bato does amazing work with the look of the airfield including Ridgefield‘s office and his home which is quite lavish as it play into his big personality. Costume designer Elizabeth Hennings does nice work with the costumes from the air force uniforms and suits as well as the clothes that Susan wears. The sound work of John Cox and sound editor Winston Ryder is incredible for the way jet engine sounds as well as some of the sparse moments at the homes of some of the characters. The film’s music by Malcolm Arnold is superb for its orchestral score that is bombastic with its string arrangements as well as in some of the somber moments for the dramatic aspects of the film.
The film’s wonderful cast include some notable small roles from Joseph Tomelty as aircraft designer Will Sparks, Dinah Sheridan as one of the test pilot’s wife in Jess Peel, John Justin as an inventive test pilot in Philip Peel, and Denholm Elliott as Susan’s brother Christopher who is reluctant to be his father’s premier test pilot. Nigel Patrick is excellent as Tony Garthwaite as an accomplished war pilot who is hoping for a great life with his new bride Susan while given the chance to do the impossible where he isn’t sure about taking such a grand risk. Ann Todd is brilliant as Susan as the daughter of an aircraft design mogul who is eager to start a new life with her husband while coping with the massive expectations and ambitions of her father as it relates to her husband and brother. Finally, there’s Ralph Richardson in a phenomenal performance as John Ridgefield as an aircraft design mogul who is eager to look into the future as he hopes he can give the British air force something new as well as break the speed barrier unaware of his faults in his thirst to see the impossible become possible.
The Sound Barrier is a remarkable film from David Lean. Featuring a great cast, exhilarating aerial sequences, and a compelling story of ambition and glory. It’s a film that explore the emergence of the modern world as well as man’s desire to do make the impossible possible. In the end, The Sound Barrier is a sensational film from David Lean.
David Lean Films: In Which We Serve - (This Happy Breed) - Blithe Spirit - Brief Encounter - Great Expectations (1946 film) - Oliver Twist (1948 film) - The Passionate Friends - Madeleine (1950 film) - Hobson's Choice - (Summertime) - The Bridge on the River Kwai - Lawrence of Arabia - Doctor Zhivago - Ryan's Daughter - (Lost and Found: The Story of Cook’s Anchor) - A Passage to India - (The Auteurs #70: David Lean)
© thevoid99 2017
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Chile, Obstinate Memory
Directed and narrated by Patricio Guzman, Chile, Obstinate Memory is a documentary film in which Guzman returns from exile to Chile to screen his trilogy of documentaries in The Battle of Chile for the first time in his home country while reflecting on what Chile has become. The film is a reflective look at a man returning home as he also talks to those who lived in the time when the country was under the rule of Augusto Pinochet. The result is a somber and evocative film from Patricio Guzman.
Returning to his home country nearly twenty-three years living in exile where only a few of his relatives have survived, the film has Patricio Guzman follow several individuals who were part of the Unidad Popular party, Salvador Allende’s personnel, and individuals who try to look back at the events of September 11, 1973 when a coup d’etat emerged and overthrew Allende in favor of a darker regime. The film has Guzman not only reflecting on that period when he made his trilogy of documentaries but also coming back to a country that is trying to suppress memories of those times as well as the rule of Augusto Pinochet following its coup which ended in 1988 following a referendum. With the help of cinematographers Eric Pittard and Paolo Saura, Guzman would have the camera all over Santiago, Chile including a sequence at the Presidential palace where Guzman have one of Allende’s former guards in the place pretending to be a crew member holding a tripod.
Interviewing bodyguards and Allende’s chambermaid at the palace, they all talk about what happened on that day of the coup as it would also include discussions about Unidad Popular and why it fell apart. Even as students debate over what it succeeded to do but also what it failed to do as some of them are conservative but not in an extreme way. Guzman would also feature some archival TV interview from Allende’s widow Hortensia Bussi who had to wait 17 years for her husband to receive a proper funeral that she could attend while still waiting for personal effects including photo albums to return to her. Guzman also touched on the disappearance of many people in the aftermath of the coup where many of Allende’s supporters were never seen again including members of Guzman’s own family as well as Jorge Muller Silva who was the cinematographer in Guzman’s trilogy of documentaries.
With help of editor Helene Girard in showcasing footage from his documentaries as well as a news footage and photos of the events of the coup, Guzman also showcase things in which some of the survivors of torture camps and such would look into. Even filmmakers and professors would talk about what happened where the film would culminate with private screenings of the trilogy of documentaries in four universities in Chile since public screening for the films is something that couldn’t be done then due to distributors’ fear of upsetting the people of Chile. Especially as Guzman would use sounds of the events with the aid of sound editor Leopoldo Gutierrez as the aftermath of the screening is quite devastating considering that a generation of kids who hadn‘t known much about the events of the coup are forced to face the reality of what happened. The film’s music by Robert Marcel Lepage is low-key as it play into traditional woodwind music of Chile yet its soundtrack is largely dominated by a performance of Moonlight Sonata by Ludwig Van Beethoven that is performed by Guzman’s uncle who also talks about what happens as he’s one of the few relatives who had survived the awful events during Pinochet’s reign of terror.
Chile, Obstinate Memory is an incredible film from Patricio Guzman. It’s not just this very personal and engrossing film about a man returning home to his home country but also reflect on the events that shaped his country and allow a group of people to see the documentaries he made about those events. In the end, Chile, Obstinate Memory is a phenomenal film from Patricio Guzman.
Related: The Battle of Chile Pt. 1 - The Battle of Chile Pt. 2 - The Battle of Chile Pt. 3
© thevoid99 2017
Saturday, February 18, 2017
The Battle of Chile Pt 3: Popular Power
Directed by Patricio Guzman, The Battle of Chile Pt. 3: Popular Power is the third and final film of a trilogy of documentaries chronicling the events of the September 11, 1973 coup d’etat as the film explore the Unidad Popular movement from March of 1972 and how it managed to defy the odds against conservative forces before the end of Salvador Allende’s rule as president of Chile. The film follows the same visual format but it is more about the rise and fall of Unidad Popular and how it managed to connect with the people at a time of conflict with the conservative and bourgeoisie as it’s narrated by Abilio Fernandez. The result is a compelling and somber film from Patricio Guzman.
Shot from March of 1972 to the summer of 1973 before the coup d’etat of September 11, 1973, the film is an exploration into the Unidad Popular party and its methods to keep Chile going despite the strikes and shortage of supplies led by the more conservative Christian Democratic party with the aid of U.S. government. The film follow not just the events where Unidad Popular would defy the odds and create a system for themselves but also find ways to create a community amidst the political turmoil in the country. While many of the views in the film definitely lean towards Marxism/socialism, it does showcase what the working class in Chile are dealing with against the opposition that is largely bourgeoisie.
The film is more structured than its predecessors where it focuses on what is going on in the streets and in working class areas in the first half while the second half is more about land owned by rich landowners that aren’t being used as well as the plight of the miners and workers at repair shops. The first half focuses on an attempted trucker’s strike which was driven by both members of the conservative/bourgeoisie members of congress with the aid of the U.S. government as they try to stop supplies from being reached to the people in an act of defiance against its president Salvador Allende. The second half showcases the movement against landowners who refuse to have their land used to create crops and resources for the country where workers do whatever they can to fight the landowners.
Patricio Guzman’s direction is definitely straightforward with its usage of hand-held cameras as it’s shot in black-and-white with the aid of cinematographer Jorge Muller Silva (whom the film is dedicated to) as it play into the events that is happening with Guzman talking directly to the people in their plight. Especially as they try and support Allende as much as they can. Editor Pedro Chaskel would gather some news footage and interviews that play into the situations where Guzman and Silva would go inside the mines or see how workers do whatever they can to get the needed supplies to the people. The sound work of Bernardo Menz would capture the sound of those protest marches during those times as it play into the growth and power of Unidad Popular and the influence it would have in various industries all over Chile. The film’s music by Jose Antonio Quintano is mostly low-key as it largely consists of traditional woodwind music to play into some of the quiet moments where the movement had succeeded despite the dark times what was to come.
The Battle of Chile Pt. 3: Popular Power is a remarkable film from Patricio Guzman. While it’s a more somber documentary that is focused on the people who are part of a movement against the more traditional and bourgeoisie society in Chile. It is still a fascinating film that explore the ideas of socialism as well as a country’s attempt to maintain a sense of community during a tumultuous time in Chile’s history. In the end, The Battle of Chile Pt. 3: Popular Power is a marvelous film from Patricio Guzman.
Related: The Battle of Chile Pt. 1 - The Battle of Chile Pt. 2 - Chile, Obstinate Memory
© thevoid99 2017
Friday, February 17, 2017
Based on the play by Harold Brighouse, Hobson’s Choice is the story of a boot shop owner in Victorian England who copes with his eldest daughter’s decision to live her own life and marry his boot smith. Directed by David Lean and screenplay by Lean, Wynyard Browne, and Norman Spencer, the film is an exploration of a man coping with changes as he tries to maintain his own ideas while his daughters would rebel against the old rules. Starring Charles Laughton, Brenda De Banzie, Daphne Anderson, Prunella Scales, Richard Wattis, Derek Blomfield, and John Mills. Hobson’s Choice is a riveting and delightful film from David Lean.
Set in the late 1800s at Lancashire, the film revolves a boot shop owner whose life is about to change when his eldest daughter decides to marry his best boot smith and start her own business after hearing that she is considered too old to be married. It’s a film that play into this man who is quite pompous and often quite selfish as he pays more attention in going to a pub to drink rather than give his daughters the freedom to make something of themselves. Even as his best boot smith is feeling unappreciated for his work when a posh customer commends his work but still gets underpaid. The film’s screenplay doesn’t just explore the ideals of Henry Hobson (Charles Laughton) but also someone that wants to operate everything from his business to his life at home a certain way. Even as he wants his two youngest daughters to be married but with men of his choice rather than their own choice while his eldest daughter Maggie (Brenda De Banzie) is thirty-years-old as he think she’s too old to get married and would rather have her run the business and household which she’s good at.
When Maggie hears what her father has said about her to his friends at the local pub, she realizes that she has to do something for her own independence where she forces her father’s best boot smith in Willie Mossop (John Mills) to marry him and take part in a partnership where he would make the boots and she would sell them and run the business. It’s a move that shocks her father who tries to move on without her but both Alice (Daphne Anderson) and Vicky (Prunella Scales) have a hard time trying to run the household and the business. One of the unique aspects of the script is the developing relationship between Maggie and Willie where even though it’s the former that is doing all of the decision-making. It’s Willie who would become much smarter and more confident as he starts off as someone with little ambition but through Maggie’s patience in educating him and learning bits about the business.
Willie would come into his own while Maggie finds an equal in her life which would inspire Alice and Vicky to find men that they want to marry in their own terms. It’s something that Hobson would struggle with but also his own negligence towards his daughters and the fact that he’s an alcoholic. Hobson is a very unique character who is either oblivious in his selfishness or stubborn in his refusal to accept the changes around him. Especially at one point where he goes to the pub because the dinner Alice and Vicky made for him wasn’t satisfactory to his liking as it would play into the fact that times are changing and all of his bad vices and behaviors is catching up with him.
David Lean’s direction is definitely mesmerizing not just for its sense of theatricality since much of the film is shot in soundstages with some of it exteriors shot in old areas in Manchester where the film is partially set. While there are some wide shots to establish some of the locations, Lean would go for something that is more intimate in its visuals in the way he captures life at the shop as well as the raucous world of the pubs. The direction also has Lean create some moments that are quite surreal as it relates to Hobson’s alcoholic state late in the film such as a scene early in the second half where he sees the moon reflected on puddles and tries to stomp them out. The direction also has a theatricality in some of the wide shots such as the very first time one of Maggie’s sisters sees Maggie with Willie as well as the day of their wedding dinner where Maggie’s sisters are with the men they want to marry.
The direction also has Lean create moments that are quite humorous but in a very low-key way as it relates to Willie and the situation he’s forced into. Yet, even as he is developed into a more educated man with ideas of his own. There is still aspects of him that is quite simple where Lean would create a simple shot as it has something that is also very enjoyable. Notably the sequence of the wedding night where it’s about Willie trying to figure what to do while Maggie is in the other room. The film’s climax isn’t just about what Maggie and Willie had achieved but also a fall of sorts for Hobson who is forced to face reality about himself and the situation he’s in as it relates to his business. Overall, Lean crafts a witty yet whimsical film about a boot shop owner trying to deal with changing times and his own faults.
Cinematographer Jack Hildyard does excellent work with the film‘s black-and-white photography from the gorgeous exterior shots in the park and in the day to some of the interior scenes at night including at the home/shop that Maggie and Willie live/work at. Editor Peter Taylor does superb work with editing as it is largely straightforward with a few rhythmic cuts for some of the film‘s surreal moments. Art director Wilfred Shingleton does brilliant work with the art direction from the look of Hobson’s boot shop and the basement where the boots are made to the pub where Hobson frequents at.
Costume designer John Armstrong does fantastic work with the period costumes as well as the design of the boots that are made and the ragged suit of Hobson. The sound work of John Cox is terrific for the simplicity of the sound as well as the raucous atmosphere of the pubs. The film’s music by Malcolm Arnold is wonderful for its low-key yet playful orchestral music while music director Muir Matheson provide a soundtrack filled with the traditional pub songs of the times.
The film’s incredible cast feature some notable small roles from John Laurie as Dr. MacFarlane, Dorothy Gordon as Willie’s original fiancée, Julien Mitchell as the pub owner, Gibb McLaughlin and Philip Stainton as a couple of pub regulars who are friends of Hobson, Jack Howarth as another boot maker at Hobson’s shop, and Helen Haye as the posh customer who appreciates Willie’s work as she would play an integral part in Willie and Maggie’s new business. Derek Blomfield and Richard Wattis are superb in their respective roles as the corn merchant Freddy Beenstock and the solicitor Albert Prosser as the two men whom Vicky and Alice, respectively, want to marry while they would also be involved with Maggie and Willie’s business.
Prunella Scales is excellent as the youngest daughter Vicky who often does the cleaning as she also tries to cook for her father while Daphne Anderson is fantastic as the middle daughter Alice who knows how to run and manage the business but is aware that it’s not enough for her father. John Mills is brilliant as Willie Mossop as a boot smith who is good at what he does while he finds himself being in a business venture with Maggie where he realizes that he has a lot more to offer. Brenda De Banzie is amazing as Maggie Hobson as a 30-year old woman who decides to go into business by herself with Willie as she is someone with a lot of brains while realizing there’s more to Willie as she falls for him. Finally, there’s Charles Laughton in a phenomenal performance as Henry Hobson as a boot shop owner who prides himself in being the best at what he does but is often very selfish and often drinks himself unaware that he’s done a lot to hurt his family as well as be a fool to himself.
Hobson’s Choice is a sensational film from David Lean that features tremendous performances from Charles Laughton, Brenda De Banzie, and John Mills. It’s a film that has a lot of wit but also a compelling story about changing times and a man’s selfish refusal to accept it. In the end, Hobson’s Choice is a spectacular film from David Lean.
David Lean Films: In Which We Serve - This Happy Breed - Blithe Spirit - Brief Encounter - Great Expectations (1946 film) - Oliver Twist (1948 film) - The Passionate Friends - Madeleine (1950 film) - The Sound Barrier - (Summertime) - The Bridge on the River Kwai - Lawrence of Arabia - Doctor Zhivago - Ryan's Daughter - (Lost and Found: The Story of Cook’s Anchor) - A Passage to India - (The Auteurs #75: David Lean)
© thevoid99 2017
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Thursday Movie Picks: William Shakespeare Film Adaptations
For the third week of February 2017 of the Thursday Movie Picks hosted by Wanderer of Wandering Through the Shelves. We turn to William Shakespeare and the many film adaptations of his body of work. There have been many versions of his stories adapted into film as picking three itself would be tough as there’s so many.
1. Macbeth-1948 film - Throne of Blood - 1971 film
The story of ambition and betrayal set in the Scottish highlands is definitely one of Shakespeare’s most celebrated stories as it’s been adapted time and time again. Yet, two of its film adaptations are told in a traditional fashion but with different ideas by two cinematic masters. The 1948 version by Orson Welles is definitely more theatrical in terms of its setting and mood while the 1971 version by Roman Polanski is definitely more cinematic visually while not being afraid to be graphic in its approach to sex and violence. The best of those three adaptations is from Akira Kurosawa whose adaptation in Throne of Blood definitely takes it to new heights not just in its visuals but also translating the story into feudal-period Japan with Toshiro Mifune in one of his best roles as the film’s climax remains one of the most intense moments in film.
2. Romeo & Juliet-1968 film - William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet - Warm Bodies
Easily the most popular adaptation of Shakespeare’s work about two kids from feuding families who fall in love with other and tragedy ensues. Another story that spawned numerous adaptations, there are so many to choose one as it’s hard to say which is the most definitive. Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film version is definitely the most traditional in its narrative but the music of Nino Rota as well as the visuals and Laurence Olivier’s narration makes it a very faithful adaptation. The 1996 version by Baz Luhrmann that stars Leonardo diCaprio and Claire Danes definitely uses Shakespeare’s language but it is given a modern-day setting that is very lively and filled with gorgeous visuals. The third and most unconventional picks of the three in Warm Bodies sets in a post-zombie apocalypse where a zombie falls for a young woman despite the conflicts between humans and zombies. It is definitely very funny but also give Shakespeare’s tale a new twist.
3. Othello-1951 film - 1995 film
While there are many adaptations of this tale of a Moorish general who is deceived by his captain claiming that his beloved is having an affair. Much of it often features white men in blackface playing the titular character with the most famous was Laurence Olivier in a 1965 film version. The 1951 version by Orson Welles which also has him playing the titular role is definitely very stylish in terms of its usage of slanted camera angles and improvised tone. It’s a messy film but certainly intriguing while the 1995 film version by Oliver Parker starring Laurence Fishburne in the titular role is probably the most faithful. Especially as it has Fishburne playing the character the way it’s meant to be played though he’s not the first African-American actor to play that role. With Kenneth Branagh, Michael Sheen, and Irene Jacob in key roles, the 1995 is definitely the more traditionally-based version of the story but it is certainly a film to seek out as it is a very underrated film.
© thevoid99 2017
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Based on the play by Noel Coward, Blithe Spirit is the story of a novelist who invites a medium for a séance in the hopes he can find inspiration for his next novel only to receive an unexpected visit from his deceased first wife. Directed by David Lean and screenplay by Lean, Ronald Neame, and Anthony Havelock-Allan, the film explores a man who gets more than he bargains for in his quest to find inspiration where he is reintroduced to his late first wife. Starring Rex Harrison, Constance Cummings, Kay Hammond, Margaret Rutherford, Hugh Wakefield, Joyce Carey, and Jacqueline Clarke. Blithe Spirit is a witty and whimsical film from David Lean.
The film revolves around a novelist who is looking for inspiration for his next book where he invites friends for a séance that would unfortunately unleash the spirit of his late first wife who would haunt only him. It’s a film that play into idea if ghosts are real where a man gets more than he bargains for as he doesn’t just have to deal with the presence of his first wife but also cause trouble in his current marriage. Even as his old wife doesn’t like the new wife at all as she will do whatever to get her husband back. The film’s screenplay which features some narration by Noel Coward play into a man dealing with death in a humorous way as he’s made a new life for himself with a wife that is actually supportive of his work. The séance was meant to be a chance for Charles Condomine (Rex Harrison) to get an idea of what goes on thinking either nothing or little will happen.
Instead, the appearance of his late first wife Elvira (Kay Hammond) would appear as his current wife Ruth (Constance Cummings) think it’s all in his imagination as he had drank a lot that night and was behaving erratically. While the script did make some changes from Coward’s play, it does retain some of its dialogue where it quite racy as it relates to the many things Elvira says and her commentary towards Ruth which Ruth cannot hear. Ruth would eventually turn to the medium Madame Arcati (Margaret Rutherford) who is this very eccentric individual yet knows what she is doing no matter how many skeptics refuse to believe her. A series of odd events occur where it would be Madame Arcati would be integral to the plot in not just summoning the spirit of Elvira but also the dead to leave Charles alone.
David Lean’s direction is quite straightforward as it maintains a sense of theatricality for a lot of the interior scenes as much of it shot at Denham Studios with some exterior locations in the British countryside. There aren’t a lot of wide shots in the film as Lean would favor intimate shots with some medium shots to capture multiple characters in a frame and a few close-ups. Lean’s camera movements and the way he would capture some unique special effects in how Elvira would appear in some scenes or how she would prove that she is a ghost. Lean would create some unique camera angles while trying to find ways to maintain the liveliness of the humor. Especially in the film’s climax where Madame Arcati tries everything she can to reveal Elvira and send her back to the world of the afterlife. Overall, Lean creates a fun and charming comedy about a novelist who deals with the ghostly presence of his late first wife.
Cinematographer Ronald Neame does incredible work with the film‘s Technicolor cinematography as it‘s rich with vibrant colors for many of the interiors as well as some of the exterior scenes in the film as it is a major highlight of the film. Editor Jack Harris does excellent work with the editing as it‘s very straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into its humor. Art director C.P. Norman and set decorator Arthur Taksen do fantastic work with the set from the living room where the séance is conducted to the home that Madame Arcati lives in. Costume designer Rahvis does brilliant work with the dresses that the women wear including the clothes that Charles wears.
Makeup artist Tony Sforzini and hair dresser Vivienne Walker do amazing work with the look of Elvira in her ghostly state as well as the hairstyle she had to add to her unique presence. The special effects work of Tom Howard is terrific with its usage of backdrops for some of the exterior driving scenes as well as some other effects to play into Elvira‘s ghostly appearance. Sound recorders John Cook and Desmond Dew do superb work with the sound as it play into the things that Charles would hear as well as some of the things that happen at the séance. The film’s music by Richard Addinsell is wonderful for its score as it’s very upbeat in its light-hearted orchestral setting to play into the film’s humor.
The casting by Irene Howard is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Hugh Wakefield and Joyce Carey as the Bradmans who are guests at the séance that wonder if anything happens is true and Jacqueline Clarke as the maid Edith who would play a crucial role for the film’s climax. Margaret Rutherford is phenomenal as Madame Arcati as a medium who is quite odd yet so full of charm and wit as this weird woman who is able to communicate with the dead. Kay Hammond is delightful as Elvira as Charles’ late wife who has been brought back as a ghost to try and win him back as well as provide snide commentary toward his new wife.
Constance Cummings is remarkable as Charles’ current wife Ruth as a woman who is baffled by her husband’s behavior as she wonders if Elvira is alive wanting to haunt her as it’s a very fun role that has her the butt of all jokes. Finally, there’s Rex Harrison in a sensational performance as Charles Condomine as a novelist whose attempt to have a séance in his home leads him having to deal with his dead first wife where Harrison provides some dry wit in his commentary as he just exudes charisma and a sense of command in his performance.
Blithe Spirit is a phenomenal film from David Lean that features a great cast and a very entertaining story based on Noel Coward’s play. It’s a film that play into the idea of the dead coming back as well as what a man does to try and move on with his life while working on a novel. In the end, Blithe Spirit is a spectacular film from David Lean.
David Lean Films: In Which We Serve - This Happy Breed - Brief Encounter - Great Expectations (1946 film) - Oliver Twist (1948 film) - The Passionate Friends - Madeleine (1950 film) - The Sound Barrier - Hobson’s Choice - (Summertime (1955 film)) - The Bridge on the River Kwai - Lawrence of Arabia - Doctor Zhivago - Ryan's Daughter - (Lost and Found: The Story of Cook’s Anchor) - A Passage to India - (The Auteurs #75: David Lean)
© thevoid99 2017
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
The Battle of Chile Pt. 2: The Coup d'etat
Directed by Patricio Guzman, The Battle of Chile Pt. 2: The Coup d’etat is the second part in a trilogy of documentaries that explore the 1973 coup d’etat in Chile led by Augusto Pinochet against Salvador Allende. The film showcases the events leading to the coup following its first attempt in late June and how it would be successful as well as the horror that would impact the country for nearly two decades. The result is a fascinating yet visceral film from Patricio Guzman.
Picking up where its predecessor left off, the film chronicles the ten weeks of the summer of 1973 in Chile during a period of social and political unrest under the rule of its president Salvador Allende. The film, that is narrated by Abilio Fernandez, showcase the events that begins with the June 29 coup attempt as well as the attempts for a peaceful resolution between Allende and the more conservative Christian Democrats. During the course of the ten weeks, director Patricio Guzman and cinematographer Jorge Muller Silva (whom the film is dedicated to just like its predecessor) would film the many events that is happening including more protest marches and meetings that showcase the political disarray between the working class and poor against the middle and upper-class.
With this usage of hand-held cameras in black-and-white footage that include some TV footage collected by editor Pedro Chaskel. Guzman chronicle many of these events that include a strike from trucker owners driven that was partially funded by the CIA who would be instrumental in the coup d’etat on September 11, 1973. Guzman would also go in the middle of the marches and protests talking to regular people as well as showcase footage of the growing tension including brief moments of peace talks that included a funeral for naval officer Arturo Araya was assassinated by right-wing extremists as it set the tone for what is to come. With some wanting Allende to resign or to transfer power to the Christian Democratic-led congress, Allende would refuse as he would try to create another vote for September but that would all change on September 11, 1973.
The sound work of Bernardo Menz would capture the sounds of protests and violence including the film’s climax that feature footage of the coup d’etat on September 11, 1973. Most notably Allende’s final speech before he would kill himself at the Presidential palace though it was reported that he was killed by either gunfire or bombs from the jets attacking the palace. Featuring pictures including some of the last pictures of Allende hours before his death, Guzman would reveal the chaos of that day and how it would affect Chile in the course of twenty-four hours with Augusto Pinochet and members of the junta talking about the end of three years of Marxism in the country.
The Battle of Chile Pt. 2: The Coup d’etat is an incredible film from Patricio Guzman. It’s a haunting documentary that explore the events that lead to one of the most horrific uprisings in world history as well as the division in a country that nearly destroyed it. In the end, The Battle of Chile Pt. 2: The Coup d’etat is a sensational film from Patricio Guzman.
Related: The Battle of Chile Pt. 1 - The Battle of Chile Pt. 3 - Chile, Obstinate Memory
© thevoid99 2017
Monday, February 13, 2017
A Passage to India
Based on the novel by E.M. Forster and a play by Santha Rama Rau, A Passage to India is the story of class conflict in colonial India where a false charge of rape trouble relations between the British and Indians. Written for the screen, edited, and directed by David Lean, the film is a study of class and racial identity in 1920s India where a woman copes with her actions and how it affects change during a tense time in Indian history. Starring Peggy Ashcroft, Victor Banerjee, Judy Davis, James Fox, Nigel Havers, and Alec Guinness. A Passage to India is a rich and majestic film from David Lean.
Set during a tumultuous period during British-colonial India, the film revolves around a young woman who arrives to the country wanting to discover India with her beau’s mother as they befriend an Indian doctor whom the young woman would later accuse of rape during an outing. It’s a film that play into events that would shape a country and its relation with the British during a time when British was ruling India as there is this divide between them. Especially when it’s in the hands of a woman whose interest in India behind British influence would eventually get her into a world of the unknown where she becomes confused and lost. Even as there are forces in both the upper-class British and the people favoring India’s independence from Britain would use this woman and this kind doctor in a trial.
David Lean’s screenplay doesn’t just explore this cultural and social divide between the British and India but also a number of intervals with an interest towards each other’s cultures. The film’s first act is about the arrival of Adela Quested (Judy Davis) and Mrs. Moore (Peggy Ashcroft) as the latter is arriving to see her son Ronny (Nigel Havers) who is engaged to the former. Upon their arrival, they’re surrounded by many British expatriates who live in posh and lavish homes that is very clean which is a direct contrast to the poor and shabby condition of the people in India. It’s something that Mrs. Moore notices as she wants to see India as it is as does Adela where they both wonder why Indians are not allowed to enter British country clubs. Mrs. Moore would meet Dr. Aziz Ahmed (Victor Banerjee) who is hoping to be accepted by the British as he is intrigued by the kindness of Mrs. Moore as he would also find a friend in the local school superintendent Richard Fielding (James Fox). Fielding would introduce Mrs. Moore and Adela to a scholar in Professor Godbole (Alec Guinness) who is an eccentric with unique views on the world and life.
The second act is about this journey to the Marabar Caves in the country where Fielding misses the train leaving Dr. Ahmed to accompany Adela and Mrs. Moore to the caves. It’s the moment in the film where Adela’s own interest towards India, that included an earlier solo journey to ruins, would come to ahead as her own sense of emotional anguish towards Ronny and the blistering heat of the country would create chaos. Especially when Dr. Ahmed becomes a victim of a lie with Fielding and Mrs. Moore knowing that he’s innocent but the British residents already have opinions that Dr. Ahmed did rape Adela because he’s Indian. The script doesn’t just showcase this cultural and social divide but also the beginning of Britain’s rule on India as the third act is about the aftermath of the trial. An aftermath that does have some serious consequence for those involved as well as revelations about the identities of its characters.
Lean’s direction is definitely vast in its setting as well as the scale of the story for its tumultuous time period. Shot on the Cinemascope film stock on a 1:85:1 aspect ratio and largely on various locations in India with some interiors shot at Shepperton Studios in Britain. Lean definitely uses a lot of wide shots to capture the gorgeous locations with great depth of field of the mountains and forests while creating something that is also intimate for some of the scenes in the streets with the medium shots. The scenes set in the country clubs and British residences have this air of space and openness that is beautiful but also quite stuffy to play up the sense of arrogance of those residents. The scenes set in the streets and slums in India are definitely more crowded and shabby to play the contrast of the world of the British living in India. The character of Dr. Ahmed is someone who is Indian but wants to be part of that world of British society as he is dressed early in the film like many of the British residents as it kind of represents this conflict of identity.
Also serving as the film’s editor, Lean would go for something straightforward with some dissolves and montages for scenes in the trial where Adela tries to remember what happened. It adds to a lot of the drama and elements of suspense where it is about the event that would put the relations between Britain and India on the line. The scenes set on the actual Barabar Caves as the Marabar Caves would have this air of mystique that would play into Adela’s own mind as there is something about that couldn’t be explained. The film’s third act that revolve around the trial’s aftermath play into this further division between the British and Indians with a few of them in the middle who aren’t happy in how things played out. Especially as some reject their own identities with some grudgingly accept their own roles in the world. Overall, Lean creates a ravishing and riveting film about a young woman’s encounter with Indian culture and the trouble she unknowingly causes over relations between Britain and India.
Cinematographer Ernest Day does brilliant work with the photography in capturing some of the gorgeous exterior scenes in the day including the interior in the caves with natural light as well as some of the beauty of some of the exterior scenes at night along with some of its interiors. Production designer John Box, along with art directors Cliff Robinson, Leslie Tomkins, Herbert Westbrook and Ram Yedekar as well as set decorator Hugh Scaife, does amazing work with the sets from the club houses and homes of the British residents to the shabby look of the home of Dr. Ahmed. Costume designer Judy Moorcroft does fantastic work with the costumes from the clothes that the British women wear as well as the clothes of the men including the suits that Dr. Ahmed wear as well as the clothes that many of the Indian citizens wear.
The sound work of Graham V. Hartstone, Nicolas Le Messurier, Michael A. Carter, and John W. Mitchell do excellent work with the sound from the way many of the raucous sounds of the street is captured as well as the eerie tension that is heard during the trial scene. The film’s music by Maurice Jarre is incredible for its mixture of bombastic and serene orchestral flourishes with some lush string sounds as well as bits of traditional Indian music to play into the setting of the Indian landscape.
The casting by Priscilla John is superb as it include notable small roles and appearances from Sandra Hotz as Mrs. Moore’s daughter Stella, Art Malik and Saeed Jeffrey as a couple of Dr. Ahmed’s friends who try to represent him on trial, Roshan Seth as Dr. Ahmed’s attorney with pro-Indian independence ideas, Richard Wilson and Antonia Pemberton as a rich British couple in the Turtons who are very prejudiced toward the Indians, Ann Firbank as Mrs. Callender, and Clive Swift as Major Callender as a British resident who tries to manipulate Adela over what happened. Michael Culver is terrific as British official Major McBryde who serves as the prosecutor for trial of Dr. Ahmed while Nigel Havers is fantastic as Mrs. Moore’s son Ronny Heaslop as a magistrate who is engaged to Adela as he is also very prejudiced towards Indians as he doesn’t think they have a lot to offer socially or politically.
Alec Guinness is excellent as Professor Godbole as an eccentric spiritual figure who is a friend of Fielding as he serves as someone that is just trying to stay away from the political turmoil of India as he’s more about concerned about spirituality. James Fox is brilliant as Richard Fielding as a British school superintendent who is a friend of Dr. Ahmed as he tries to figure out what is going on while being disgusted with the prejudice of many of his British colleagues as he is this very kind person that represents the best aspects of humanity. Victor Banjeree is amazing as Dr. Aziz Ahmed as a kind Indian doctor that is hoping to be entered into British society and be accepted while understanding the tension that is looming where he later finds itself in the middle of this conflict where he becomes an unknowing pawn all because of a false accusation.
Peggy Ashcroft is radiant as Mrs. Moore as an old woman traveling to India to see her son as she is amazed by the intoxicating beauty of India but is also aware of the prejudice from the British towards the Indians as she is disgusted by it while not wanting to be involved in the trial knowing that it will never play fair. Finally, there’s Judy Davis in a remarkable performance as Adela Quested as a young woman who is eager to see India as it is where she copes with being engaged to Ronny while dealing with an accusation she unknowingly made as it’s a very chilling yet ravishing performance from Davis.
A Passage to India is a phenomenal film from David Lean. Featuring a great ensemble cast, beautiful images of the Indian locations, an enchanting score, and a riveting story. It’s a film that definitely bear a lot of the hallmarks of epics but also play into India’s unique history and the seeds to be independent from the British empire. In the end, A Passage to India is a sensational film from David Lean.
David Lean Films: In Which We Serve - This Happy Breed - Blithe Spirit - Brief Encounter - Great Expectations (1946 film) - Oliver Twist (1948 film) - The Passionate Friends - Madeleine (1950 film) - The Sound Barrier - Hobson’s Choice - (Summertime (1955 film)) - The Bridge on the River Kwai - Lawrence of Arabia - Doctor Zhivago - Ryan's Daughter - (Lost and Found: The Story of Cook’s Anchor) - (The Auteurs #75: David Lean)
© thevoid99 2017
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