31 January 2012
30 January 2012
There are a lot of British films I haven’t seen simply because I’m always persuaded by the argument that they are not artistically profound or aesthetically accomplished as films from either France or America. Of course, such a view is totally false and rubbish. And the more I revisit examples from the past, the more clearer it becomes that over the years British cinema has produced films that not only stand up today but understand the subtleties of genre cinema. Director Alberto Cavalcanti’s They Made Me a Fugitive in fact belongs to three genre categories: the urban crime thriller, the gangster pic and film noir. Set in London after World War II, ex-RAF pilot Clem Morgan (Trevor Howard) becomes sucked into the criminal underworld when he takes on a job that involves narcotics. He is subsequently framed for the death of a police officer and ends up serving time in prison. Clem manages to escape from prison and sets on a narrative trajectory to avenge his wrongful imprisonment. Clem’s adversary is Narcy (Griffith Jones), a gangland crime boss who uses his funeral business as a cover to smuggle guns and drugs. Narcy is a brilliantly realised screen villain and exudes an outright nastiness linked to post war corruption and more significantly as a symbol of urban violence. Although Cavalcanti was never really an outsider especially considering his important role within the British documentary movement in the 1930s, his gaze is distinctly uncharacteristic when compared to British crime films of the post war era. His feel for locations particularly the streets of London are evocative and resolutely urban. Trevor Howard was just one of the many British film stars of the post war era and finding out more about the actor told me he refused a CBE and was predictably enough theatrically trained. The anti establishment side to Trevor Howard seems to be perfectly reflected in the way Clem is positioned as an outsider who does not fit into the new post war Britain. Trevor Howard is terrific as Clem and from the charisma he exudes it’s easy to see why he was such a popular British film star. Key to the film’s definite realism is the cinematographic contribution of the Czech D.O.P Otto Heller who was trained in the silent era. For a film made in the post war era, Cavalcanti and scriptwriter Noel Langley took a real gamble with the ending that concludes in an unconventionally downbeat manner with Clem attaining minimal personal closure. And it is in the bleak ending that They Made Me a Fugitive finds its purest expression of the film noir genre as the figure of the doomed male comes through with startling clarity.
29 January 2012
19 January 2012
14 January 2012
Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali makes extravagant romantic melodramas that take place in an alternate heightened reality. With Guzaarish, mainstream Hindi cinema takes on the much debated issue of euthanasia but unfortunately Bhansali's efforts come undone by an unconvincing story, hyperbolic performances from the main leads and an overworked production design. Bhansali's fondness for romance recalls the tragic melodramas of old Indian cinema and although his visual mastery of the frame is impressive, his films including this one always disappoint largely because the script, pacing and performances are at odds with the central idea or concept. Bhansali is a commercially oriented mainstream film maker and his films regularly sweep the major award ceremonies in the Indian film calendar. He is a much adored figure in the industry and most of the major stars have or are desperate to work with him. It's odd because Bhansali's oeuvre to date is somewhat underwhelming yet he has managed to cultivate a false image of himself as an auteur. What Guzaarish proves is how emotionally empty his films really are - the romance enacted by the characters does so on a rich canvas but it is a stylisation which reeks of self indulgence. If only he could rein in such self indulgence and spend more time with the scriptwriting process then maybe, just maybe, he might one day deliver a quality film. As for Hrithik Roshan, what can I say, he is apparently a star and an actor, but in reality, he is neither. In fact, he is nothing more than a mannequin who has sadly spawned an industry of similarly unresponsive mannequins.
12 January 2012
O ho ho ho, Khoya Khoya Chaand, Khula Aasmaan
Aankhon Mein Saari Raat Jaayegi
Tumko Bhi Kaise Neend Aayegi
8 January 2012
7 January 2012
6 January 2012
2). The lucid dream sequence experienced by father Karras taps into a prescient western guilt with abandoning parents to care homes. The dream imagery is potent, merging the medallion, dog, dead mother, demon and Karras into a truly nightmarish montage.
3). Father Karras is one of the most benign heroes I have come across in a horror film. Not only does he repeatedly question his faith but even when he finally meets the possessed Regan, he does so without any sort of trepidation. It is only later does he become convinced of the demon's powers and makes a decision to intervene. Although Karras meets with a grisly death, the exorcism martyrs him and his soul. Regan is saved yet ideologically Karras has already damned himself by the guilt he harbours about his mother.
4). Lee J. Cobb as lieutenant Kinderman investigating the death of Burke Dennings is a strange anomaly and his sudden appearance in the film, without any kind of formal introduction, positions him as a symbol of old Hollywood. Kinderman is a traditional figure of authority who would show up in old Hollywood thrillers but given the metaphysical nature of the dilemma, his investigative rational thinking is rendered obsolete.
5). The Georgetown Steps is a visual image that for me is the most frightening in the entire film. The steps become the setting for the death of Denning's and more importantly Karras who is violently thrown down the steps in the final climactic sequence. The image of the steps are used sparingly by Friedkin and their eeriest magnifications occurs through the point of view of Kinderman.