Why I love ....

by Nuwan_Sen | created - 21 Nov 2012 | updated - 31 Dec 2012 | Public

My (Top 10) all time favourite movies Nuwan Sen's Film Sense

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1. Roman Holiday (1953)

Passed | 118 min | Comedy, Romance

78 Metascore

A bored and sheltered princess escapes her guardians and falls in love with an American newsman in Rome.

Director: William Wyler | Stars: Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Eddie Albert, Hartley Power

Votes: 137,311

A story about a princess who spends an entire day roaming around the streets of Rome as a commoner. Why do I love ‘Roman Holiday’ (1953)? Well it is one of the most beautiful modern day tragic love stories that I’ve seen. Contemporary tragic stories don’t have to essentially ape the style of classical Shakespearean tragedies, but could be a tragedy of different sorts. A tear jerking romance that truly pulls at your heart strings. Besides being a tearjerker tragic love story, it has various other components to fit into many a genres. For example it feels like a Romantic Comedy, but to me it isn’t, it’s a love story set within the span of 24 hours. But at the same time it’s journey up to it’s sad separation has many a moments of hilarity. It also has the feel of belonging to the genre of Art House cinema. But it isn’t. Art cinema became globally popular more towards the latter part of that decade and more into the 60’s & 70’s. But why did I say that ‘Roman Holiday’ has the feel of an Art House film? ‘Cause the whole movie involves a video camera following Audrey Hepburn in and around the city of Rome with it’s exquisite monumental backdrops. Hepburn plays a princess, Princess Anya, who, while on tour across Europe, feeling suffocated with Royal duties, runs away from the palace to experience life as an ordinary person for just one day. Following her en route happens to be an American journalist Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) who, aware that this is the missing princess incognito, and after his latest scoop, agrees to show her around Rome along with his photographer pal, Irving (Eddie Albert). Of course the Princess and the reporter fall in love. Such a simple story, told in a very minimalist style, just exploring an ancient city. Along with Audrey Hepburn’s lively aura and adorably vivacious and naturalistic performance, and Gregory Peck’s charmingly perky perks, it is interesting how the movie builds up the atmosphere for a believable budding romance, even though constricted to just a span of 24 hours, and then the sudden unexpected fall into the abyss towards a fascinatingly heart-rending finale. That touching last scene at the press conference where the two re-meet, where not one word is spoken, but their eyes, their facial expressions, the sad smiles, say it all, happens to be one of my favourite scenes ever. That alone made this my all time favourite movie, and aged 18, or rather week before I turned 19, I fell madly in love with Audrey Hepburn, whom I already adored since I was a little child, as much as the movie.

‘Roman Holiday’ was a movie that almost never got made, due to budget restrictions. Director William Wyler had wanted to make this movie in colour, but he had to choose, to either to make it in colour but inside the Hollywood studio’s where they’d reconstruct a replica of Rome; or to go on location to the city of Rome and film it in Black and White. Wilder made the right choice, and Hepburn’s debut performance won her an Oscar along with Oscars for the screenplay and costume design.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense (my blog www.nononsensewithnuwansen.wordpress.com) ‘No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen’

2. Gone with the Wind (1939)

Passed | 238 min | Drama, Romance, War

97 Metascore

The manipulative daughter of a Georgia plantation owner conducts a turbulent romance with a roguish profiteer during the American Civil War and Reconstruction periods.

Directors: Victor Fleming, George Cukor, Sam Wood | Stars: Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Thomas Mitchell, Barbara O'Neil

Votes: 311,710 | Gross: $198.68M

The greatest American civil war epic ever made till date. Why do I love ‘Gone With The Wind’ (1939)? This brilliantly crafted colourful epic is over 70 years old, and is still among the greatest movies ever made, with brilliant colour, an excellent story based on a novel by Margret Mitchell, and with the two main characters tilting more towards the darker shades of grey. What I mean is, well there is nothing as perfectly contrasting human beings being either black or white (good or bad), but here we do have an out an out Miss goody-two-shoes who’s almost saintly, Melanie, (Olivia De Havilland), who isn’t the protagonist of the story. The two main protagonists happen to be a devious conniving pair of heavily flawed imperfect human beings, Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’ Hara, played brilliantly by Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh respectively, yet they are not out and out black hearted souls, they do have a good side too, making them more believable and likable. I love this movie, essentially for the excellent character sketches, the civil war, the special effects -- especially that of burning of Atlanta, making it look so real sans CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) -- , the cinematography -- especially the symbolically significant twilight skies (focusing on what it means to have Tara, the land - in the beginning, middle and end of the film) and the aerially shot scenes of millions and millions of dying soldiers --, the recurring themes from one to another generation -- for instance the similarities of the horse riding accidents in two generations, the grandfather and later the little granddaughter --, and a zillion other reasons. Of course the book is supposedly better, as in many cases. Most people who blindly say ‘Books are better than film’ say it only ‘cause it’s a well known cliché by now and not as an original statement of self-discovery. Of course, being an avid reader myself I agree with this statement, but just because a book is better does not necessarily mean that the movie is bad. It is how well the subject matter has been translated into film that is relevant. What really matters is how good a movie it is. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve read the original material the film was adapted from or not. And just imagine what a boring movie it would make if every single detail from the novel was literally adapted into film. I haven’t read ‘Gone With The Wind’ yet. Hope to someday, not right now though. But I won’t let the book deter my adoration for this brilliant piece of cinema. This is the only movie in this list which is based on a novel I haven’t read, all the other movies in the list that happen to be adaptations from books, are from novels, novellas, plays and historical accounts that I’ve read and/or studied.

I highly recommend this excellent movie, with an excellent cast, made over 70 years ago, about a whole civilization of the American South, which, due to the civil war of 1861-1865 was ‘Gone With The Wind’. ‘Gone With The Wind’ won ten Academy Awards out of thirteen Oscar nominations, and it held on to it’s record as highest amount of accolades for a movie for twenty years until ‘Ben-Hur’ (1959) super preceded by winning one more Oscar. Some other movies depicting the ‘American Civil War’ that I love happen to be ‘The General’ (1926) from the silent era, and more recently ‘Sommersby’ (1993) and ‘Cold Mountain’ (2003). ‘Glory’ (1989), is one movie on the civil war that I’m not so crazy about. Though a good story, it’s very slow boring movie. Slow does not have to be boring, but ‘Glory’ sure is. Some movies on the civil war I’d love to see but haven’t yet got a chance to do so, would be :- D. W. Griffith’s silent epic ‘The Birth of a Nation’ (1915), ‘Raintree County’ (1957) and more recently ‘Gods and Generals’ (2003).

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense (my blog www.nononsensewithnuwansen.wordpress.com) ‘No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen’

3. Casablanca (1942)

PG | 102 min | Drama, Romance, War

100 Metascore

A cynical expatriate American cafe owner struggles to decide whether or not to help his former lover and her fugitive husband escape the Nazis in French Morocco.

Director: Michael Curtiz | Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains

Votes: 562,529 | Gross: $1.02M

1942, a love story. They’ll always have Paris. Why do I love ‘Casablanca’ (1942)? ‘Cause this beautiful love story from 1942 happens be a movie with the most amount of iconic quotes in the history of Cinema. Practically every other line or phrase has been quoted by someone or other at one time or another till date. ‘Gone With The Wind’ (1939) had ‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn’, which is the most quoted line ever, but thanks to various expressions and sayings from ‘Casablanca’, this movie happens to have the highest number of phrases ever quoted that exist within one movie. It’s another beautiful love story, set and made during the second world war, which started production with an unfinished script, was almost abandoned, in a mess, yet once completed and released, it ended up being one of the greatest movies ever made. I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t love this movie. With a great cast including Humphrey Bogart, the bewitchingly beautiful and charming Ingrid Bergman illuminating the screen with her presence, Paul Henreid, the very likable negative shaded Claude Rains, the minuscule appearance of Peter Lorre and of course the adorable and naturally Grandpa looking S.Z. Szakáll ; and of course with a director like Michael Curtiz at the helm; this fab movie had to work. And it sure does, besides all the problems it faced. Another great thing about this flick is, that it wasn’t filmed on location in Morocco, but in the Warner Bros. studios, but it works. And this movie actually believably feels like you’ve been transported into the streets of Casablanca, and of course the famous, and very much loved, ‘Rick’s Café’. There is nothing artificial about the movie, besides being filmed inside the Hollywood studios. And even the storyline, they made it as they went along making the movie and finally decided how to end it, only after making most of the movie. With misunderstandings, being stranded in Paris, and the dilemma of Bergman’s indecisive Elsa whether to choose her husband, who needed her for the cause, or the man she was truly in love with, the understanding husband, the war, the exit passes etc etc.., it’s amazing how well they sync together into making it a great movie, would such a movie made today be saved in the last minute into being a great future classic that would age so well. I doubt it.

The most beautiful love story from the second world war that I’ve seen and best movie from the 1940’s. It won a trio of Oscars including for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense (my blog www.nononsensewithnuwansen.wordpress.com) ‘No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen’

4. Rebecca (1940)

Approved | 130 min | Drama, Film-Noir, Mystery

86 Metascore

A self-conscious woman juggles adjusting to her new role as an aristocrat's wife and avoiding being intimidated by his first wife's spectral presence.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, Judith Anderson

Votes: 135,785 | Gross: $4.36M

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. Why do I love ‘Rebecca’ (1940)? Nostalgic reasons among many others. ‘Rebecca’ - ‘Daphne Du Maurier’ and ‘Alfred Hitchcock’ !!! The trio mentioned above have played a pivotal role in my life. When I watched Hitchcock’s ‘Rebecca’ when I was about 10 or 11, I fell madly in love with the movie and this crucial scene where Maxim De Winter (Sir Laurence Olivier) confesses to the second Mrs. De Winter (Joan Fontaine) as to what really happened the night Rebecca supposedly drowned. At that young age I had no idea why I loved that scene, but I kept rewinding to that scene and we all (I watched it with my family) re-watched that sequence again and again several times after having watched the movie. It would be years later that I would realise what a genius Hitchcock was. What a superb director he was and what superb camerawork that sequence had. The character of Rebecca is never shown in the movie, not even a flicker, or a breeze or anything to represent the character, not even a flashback scene. In the scene where Maxim spills out the beans in detail of what went on prior to Rebecca’s death, the scene and atmosphere is so well masterfully crafted along with the excellent camera movements, one cannot help but feel Rebecca’s presence within oneself. As Maxim details the events of the night, the camera moves from the sofa, to the cigarette ashtray, glides towards the door and finally the camera does a drop to closet/store room floor, and Hitchcock makes us, the audience, imagine Rebecca sitting on the sofa, smoking a cigarette, walking towards the closet and etc etc…, without even once showing us a shadow, a camera trick or any other sort of movement in front of the camera on the screen. Hitchcock was a genius of such psychological thrillers, and ‘Rebecca’, his very first Hollywood venture, ironically the only non-Hitchcockian Hitchcockian thriller, happens to be his best movie ever, so far as I’m concerned. For that sequence alone makes that movie a brilliant piece of cinematic magic. But the whole movie is hauntingly well crafted, this ghost story without a ghost. Around the same time (or an year later - depending on how old I was when I watched it - 10 or 11), at school; when I was in S-1 (Senior One) aged 11, studying at ‘The British School’ in New Delhi; for my ‘English’ class we had to write a Film review. ‘Rebecca’ being fresh in my mind, and, though unaware, it most probably being my favourite film at the time, I wrote about ‘Rebecca’. I remember writing the heading, the name of cast and director on the left hand side and then the review. Not the brightest student when it came to essays (though I was really good when it came to writing short stories - sometimes longer than required as I use to let my imagination fly- and poems), I loathed writing essays, I did very well on my film review. So ‘Rebecca’ ended up being my very first film review, and it would be years later that I would end up writing a film review again, and at that time I would have never thought that I would be writing the kind film critiques that I do today. My nostalgic section doesn’t end here. When I was 12½/13 years old, I ended up reading Daphne Du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’, the novel this movie is based on. It was my first big book/Adult literature, as until then I was reading Famous Five books. And ‘Rebecca’ became my favourite book ever (till I ended up reading Dominique Lapierre’s ‘City of Joy’ aged 20), and till date the first line from the novel (which was written in the first person), and the movie, narrated by the protagonist of the novel, i.e. “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again”, happens to be one of the best tag lines for a book or a movie that I’ve heard till date. Years later, well into my 20’s, when I worked as a journalist, I wrote an article of Alfred Hitchcock. Then when I ended up in England doing a Master of Arts in International Cinema (at the University of Luton), a decade ago, my final dissertation was a complete psychoanalysis of various characters’ from Hitchcock films along with the movie themes, based on his best Hollywood films only from his first 25 years in Hollywood aptly titled ‘Marriage in Hitchcock Films: From Rebecca To Marnie’. Then, six years ago, for my second Masters, i.e. M.A. in Painting, at COFA(College of Fine Arts), UNSW (University of New South Wales) in Sydney, Australia. I started off my first semester by paying a tribute to Alfred Hitchcock. (Check them out at the COFA Annual 07’ website). And since then I’ve watched ‘Rebecca’, along with most of the movies in this list, about a zillion times and is part of my movie collection.

‘Rebecca’ earned Hitchcock a place at the Oscars for the very first time, besides the fact he had been making great British gems since 1925, it was his ‘Rebecca’ which finally won the Best Picture award along with an Oscar for the cinematography, out of the 11 nominations it received. I’ve spoken about this movie in past lists as well, Check it out, especially my lists titled ‘No Name’ and ‘Joan Fontaine (1940 & the 40’s) Top-5’. Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense (my blog www.nononsensewithnuwansen.wordpress.com) ‘No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen’

5. Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)

Approved | 115 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

76 Metascore

A young New York socialite becomes interested in a young man who has moved into her apartment building, but her past threatens to get in the way.

Director: Blake Edwards | Stars: Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Patricia Neal, Buddy Ebsen

Votes: 178,288

Holly Golightly, Travelling! Why do I love ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ (1961)? Because this timeless classic is till date the most beautiful romantic comedy ever made. It’s aged very well, and it’s very contemporary approach towards life gels well with any post-50’s generation. Being independent, lonely, unsatisfied with life, flawed yet good-hearted individuals, entrapments of modern living et al. This one romantic comedy battles out all modern day issues relevant even today in the 21st Century. And the setting of New York, it’s busy competitive city lifestyles haven’t changed till date. I’ve never been to the States, but from what ever I’ve heard and read and seen on screen on New York, it seems just as busy as it always has been.

I managed to watch this movie, a decade ago, on the Big Screen at Cineworld multiplex in Luton, UK, where they use to show a Classic every Monday for ‘Monday Classics’ time slotted at one in the afternoon. It instantly became my second favourite Audrey Hepburn movie and definitely felt it was the best romantic comedy I’d ever seen, especially since I don’t consider ‘Roman Holiday’ (1953) a romantic comedy. Then three years ago, while I was living in Paris, I went to watch a movie at one of the Gaumont cinema’s located at the Champs-Élysées, my favourite hang out in Paris as we use to watch movies quite regularly at either one of the two Gaumont cinemas located on either side of the road on the Champs-Élysées. I remember the date as well, it was 11th of August, 2009. After the movie, my friend and I decided to check out the basement Bookshop at the Virgin Stores, where I had actually no plans of buying any books that day. There was even an old unused Vault there, well polished and gleaming. None the less, I did end up buying a couple of books, and one of them was Truman Capote’s ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, on which this movie is based on. And if I remember correctly, I started reading this charming novella, of about a 100 pages, that night itself, as soon a I reached home. And this modern classic instantaneously ended up being my favourite novella and among my favourite books ever.

Love the Book! Love the Movie! The movie and book are nothing like each other. The book is written in the first person and set in 40’s, while the movie is set in the early 60’s itself. Mr. Yunioshi in the novella has only a bit part early on, while in this big screen adaptation, actor Mickey Rooney, who plays this eccentric Japanese character, exists throughout the movie. The novella is definitely not a romantic comedy, and no where near it. But director Blake Edwards has successfully managed to transform this story line into the most beautiful romantic comedy ever, keeping intact the essence of characters in the book. As I mentioned before, the main thing about a movie is, not how true it is to the novel it is based on, but how successfully it works as a movie immaterial of the original subject matter it’s based on. I’ve seen plenty of films based on novels that might be very true to the literary works, but could fail as a cinematic showpiece. In the book there is no love story. It starts with Holly Golightly missing, and nobody has a clue as to her whereabouts. The nameless narrator, a writer, meets his old neighbour Mr. Yunioshi in a pub, who had discovered a carving that looked a lot like Miss. Golightly in Africa and there was a possibility that at some point she had passed that way. Then the narrator reflects on the past, firstly coming across her mailbox with a card slit into the slot that said ‘Holly Golightly, Travelling’, significant of the fact that she won’t stay at one place too long; his meeting Miss. Golightly and her loose lifestyle, her parties, her café society, her insecurities, and he sort of becomes her confidant. And by the end of the book he actually sees ‘cat’ through a windowsill, having found a new home and owner, relaxing comfortably. I love the book as book, and I love the movie as a movie. Truman Capote had initially wanted Marilyn Monroe for the role of Holly Golightly, it made sense once I read the book, as her character is described as having a short cropped hairdo with ‘albino blonde’ and ‘golden’ highlights, goes with the image Capote obviously had in mind when he wrote the book.

With an excellent cast featuring Patricia Neal, Martin Balsam, Alan Reed, Buddy Ebsen, Mickey Rooney, and Hepburn playing call girl Golightly along with George Peppard playing Paul Varjak, the nameless narrator in the novella (in the movie the writer is neither nameless nor the narrator), with Orangey the cat as ’Cat’ and a guest appearance from John McGiver; ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ won two Oscars, one for Henry Mancini’s score and one for Best song - ‘Moon River’, to which Audrey Hepburn lent her vocals. Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense (my blog www.nononsensewithnuwansen.wordpress.com) ‘No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen’

6. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

R | 136 min | Crime, Sci-Fi

77 Metascore

In the future, a sadistic gang leader is imprisoned and volunteers for a conduct-aversion experiment, but it doesn't go as planned.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates, Warren Clarke

Votes: 814,496 | Gross: $6.21M

Forced to be good. Free will!! Not an option. Why do I love ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971)? Weirdest of weirdest, surrealist of the surreal, it’s one of the craziest fanatically fantastic fantasy films I’ve ever seen. Set in the future, it’s a sort of twisted Utopia in the psychosomatic world of Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell), where he finds a sense of calm in committing crime, rape and Beethoven’s Ninth. But once caught, he is brainwashed through unorthodox methods into being a good human being, questioning the notion of free will. Brilliantly directed by Stanley Kubrick, based on the 1962 dystopian novella by Anthony Burgess (another crazy work of literary genius I love), it’s definitely the best science fiction/fantasy film ever made and one of the most unique, in terms of surreal films, made in the English language. The Best of the Brits no doubt. Ironically it’s based on the American edition of the Burgess’ novella though, where the last chapter apparently was removed. Luckily the modern classic I possess happens to be the original British edition, all 21 chapters intact 7-7-7. Thus the endings of the film and the book differ. Yet - I love the novella, and love the movie. I’d known of Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’ since I was a teenager back in the 1990’s, then in late 90’s, while I was studying in Delhi University, there was a film fesitval of sorts (Delhi is famous for it’s great festivals related to art and culture) where they were showcasing Kubrick’s famed black comedy, ‘Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’ (1964), I couldn’t go, travelling all the way from North Campus to South Delhi was such a hassle those days, and I had already gone all the way for a previous film fesitval (on Ingmar Bergman) and stood in line since 1p.m. in the afternoon to get in for the show that starts at 6 p.m. and watched the brilliant ‘Scener ur ett äktenskap - Scenes from a Marriage’ (1973), but missed out on ‘Autumn Sonata’ (1978) on another day (the films were always free, but it was first cum first basis, and hundreds of students from both DU and JNU would flock to these events and queue hours early), thus I didn’t travel south on a regular basis besides being a crazy film enthusiast. But a senior film buff (a PhD student, I was just mere undergrad back then) couldn’t help rave on and on, on what a great piece of cinema I had missed out on. So back then the only Kubrick movie I ended up watching was his worst flick ever ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ (1999), after completion/editing of which he passed away thus he wasn’t able to witness the finished product. Had he seen the end result he might have made the necessary changes and polished it up to meet the required standards keeping up to his past filmography. T’was only after I ended up in England a decade ago and post that I finally got a chance to see some of his best works such as ‘Lolita’ (1962), ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968), ‘Full Metal Jacket’ (1987), and of course ‘A Clockwork Orange’, which I watched while I was studying Painting in Sydney, in 2006. Being a great admirer of the surrealist movement, and as most of my artworks are inspired by surrealist genius, Salvador Dalí, I loved the movie’s visual antics as much as the subject matter. Since then I had been hunting for the novel by Burgess, and I finally located it last year at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, Departure Terminal, New Delhi. I fell in love with the book, and it became my second favourite, after Capote’s ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, so far as novella’s are concerned. It’s one of the toughest books I’ve ever read, especially due to the inventive language. And it took me a while to realise what some of those futuristic non-existent words meant. I’ve read/studied Dickens, D.H. Lawrence, Sophocles, Wilde, Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’, Virgil’s ‘The Aeneid’, you name it; but this was crazy. Initially I was wondering what have I got myself into, but Burgess does manage to brainwash us, the reader, into loving the book, pretty much like he does with the character of the novella itself. One of the most significant changes in the movie from the book happens to be the ages of the various characters for obvious reasons. In the book the protagonist happens to be just 15 years of age, and the girls he rapes as young as 10. It’s simply grotesque, yet a remarkable insight into teenage gang mentality. It’s interesting how they explain that a gang shouldn’t have less than four members and more than five, ‘cause if less than four that could weaken them as a gang and if more than five, one of them could get caught. It’s interesting to see these gangs who outwardly seem fearless, but once in the receiving end, how they beg and plead unable to bear the agony, especially when Alex, a.k.a. Alexander ‘The Large’ (Alex DeLarge in the movie, pun intended) is being tortured into being a good human being. Unlike the movie, which finishes with the book’s second last chapter (In the movie the sociopath anti-hero happens to be an adult throughout the film and the victimized girls are under aged teenagers, not children, and there is one adult married female, who is brutally raped, that exists in the book as well), in the novella the protagonist grows up in the last chapter, aged 18-21, by now having formed a new gang, self realisation kicks in and he starts to transform himself into being a better person, by his own choice. The concept of ‘Metanoia’, the process of self-healing, didn’t appeal to American publishers back then.

Excellent adaptation of a brilliant piece of fiction, ‘A Clockwork Orange’, my first British film on this list, thus my favourite British flick, banned in Britain for 27 years on the Big Screen, though it was available via VHS, DVD et al, was nominated for four Oscars, but didn’t garner a single accolade. One beautiful little addition in the movie, which doesn’t exist the book, is McDowell’s Alex lending his vocals to one of my favourite songs, Gene Kelly’s ‘Singin’ in the rain’ from one of the few musicals I love, the movie, ‘Singin’ in the rain’ (1952). Though the song was originally from an earlier movie, I haven’t seen yet, i.e. ‘The Hollywood Revue of 1929’ (1929). Check out my older lists, especially the list titled ‘My 70's Top 5’. Am yet to watch Stanley Kubrick’s, Peter Seller starrer, i.e. ‘Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense (my blog www.nononsensewithnuwansen.wordpress.com) ‘No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen’

7. Jules and Jim (1962)

Not Rated | 105 min | Drama, Romance

97 Metascore

Decades of a love triangle concerning two friends and an impulsive woman.

Director: François Truffaut | Stars: Jeanne Moreau, Oskar Werner, Henri Serre, Vanna Urbino

Votes: 41,193

Viva la France! The French New Wave. Why do I love ‘Jules et Jim’ (1962)? Being a bit of an ‘Art House’ snob (although majority of the films in my Top-10 happen to be out and out commercial ventures), this is one of my most favourite art house films. And the best thing about this piece of Art Cinema is that it’s also an epic spanning three decades. It’s starts pre-World War-I and ends post the war. We see the changing times and ideals from the Edwardian period towards the 1930’s. We see Jeanne Moreau (who plays the cheeky, mischievous, fun loving Catherine); the affection of two men; change from the Edwardian garb with a lots of white lace and hats (as a young lady) early on in the movie, to knee length short skirts (as a more mature person) towards the latter part of the film. ‘Jules et Jim’ tells us the story of two friends, Jules (Oskar Werner) and Jim (Henri Serre), both of whom form an admiration towards the amusing and somewhat tomboyish, Catherine. Though it’s hard to figure out whether either of them is in actuality in love with her, or just enjoys hanging out with her. The trio form a very close friendship, and she ends up marrying one, having a kid, separated and then living with other. Meanwhile the First World War breaks out and we see the two friends fighting for opposite sides, being from two different countries. What is most interesting to see, is the fact that neither the great war nor a woman could tarnish their friendship. This tragic epic love triangle, testing boundaries of war and friendship, is beautifully, and uniquely crafted by one of the two famous directors behind the nouveau phenomena (at the time) called ‘The French New Wave’, that spread across the globe in the 60’s and 70’s. The fad, in France, was started by both Jean-Luc Goddard and François Truffaut, who collaborated in making ‘À bout de soufflé’ (1959) a.k.a. ‘Breathless’, with it’s new style of filming with the method of Jump cuts and a realistic approach. François Truffaut went further with ‘Jules et Jim’ combing newsreel footage, photographic stills, freeze frames, panning shots et al. Soon Art Cinema was in vogue, especially in Europe, with Truffaut & Godard in France; in Italy with Michelangelo Antonioni’s ‘L’Avventura’ (1959), surrealist director Fellini’s ‘La Dolce Vita’ (1959), along with directors like Pasolini, Visconti and Bertolucci (all of them in Italy alone); and Ingmar Bergman in Sweden. But this wasn’t the start of Art Cinema, such films had existed dating back to the silent era. If you take Sergei Eisenstein’s ‘Battleship Potemkin’ (1925) and Dalí &Luis Buñuel’s collaboration on ‘Un Chien Andalou’ (1929), to Roberto Rossellini’s neo-realism in the 40’s and Satyajit Ray’s ‘Apu’ Trilogy in West Bengal, India in the 50’s. But it was more towards the end of the 50’s , and then exploding into the 60’s and 70’s that mainstream cinema ended up making Art films, and a lot of commercial cinema goers globally started viewing Art flicks as well. Hollywood, which already had ‘Cat on a Hot tin Roof’ (1957) although it veered more towards mainstream cinema, started off with ‘Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ (1966), and soon Bollywood (India’s mainstream) got into the game with ‘Aakhri Khat’ (1966), Shyam Benegal’s ‘Ankur’ (1974), Girish Karnad’s ‘Utsav’ (1984) and Ketan Mehta’s ‘Mirch Masala’(1986), and other regional films in India (which already had Art films coming out of West Bengal thanks to Ray and Gosh), too weren’t far behind. Though yet again it was the Bengali’s that brought out the best of parallel cinema in India, the like’s of Ritwik Ghatak’s ‘Meghe Dhaka Tara’ (1960), Ray’s ‘Nayak’ (1966), and Aparna Sen’s debut directorial venture, made in the English language, ‘36 Chowringhee Lane’ (1981).

‘Jules et Jim’, my first French film on this list, happens to be the best French film I’ve seen. When it comes French films of 60’s & 70’s, both Truffaut & Godard happen to be my favourite directors.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense (my blog www.nononsensewithnuwansen.wordpress.com) ‘No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen’

8. Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)

PG | 145 min | Biography, Drama, History

King Henry VIII of England discards one wife, Catharine of Aragon, who has failed to produce a male heir, in favor of the young and beautiful Anne Boleyn.

Director: Charles Jarrott | Stars: Richard Burton, Geneviève Bujold, Irene Papas, Anthony Quayle

Votes: 7,443 | Gross: $2.07M

Anne Boleyn’s 1000 day rein over Henry VIII’s heart, soul and country. Between May1533 & May1536, She was Queen for exactly a thousand days. Why do I love ‘Anne of The Thousand Days’ (1969)? It’s one of my favourite periods in the history of England, the Tudor & Elizabethan rein, which also happens to be one of the most notorious. Henry VIII’s life feels like an ancient Greek tragedy, where the killer must be killed by the nearest and dearest. Yet vengeance wasn’t the agenda behind the slaughter of all those innocent lives, King Henry VIII’s frustration was more to do with not being able a bear a male heir. As Henry VIII (Richard Burton) states in the movie, ‘England has never been ruled by a woman, and never will’. But ironically starting from his own daughters (Bloody Mary & Elizabeth-I), England has been ruled by many a women within the last 500 years, even today, Great Britain’s head of the monarchy, for almost 60 years, happens to be a very gutsy lady, Queen Elizabeth-II. In fact Britain was, just 30 years ago, governed by a woman. Yes they’ve already had a woman prime minister, Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher, and what a ballsy woman she was; greatly admired (and detested by some) for her toughness. All this, so far as England is concerned, has a lot to do with the bold Anne Boleyn (played by Geneviève Bujold in the movie), back in the 16th Century. She was King Henry VIII’s second wife (he married six times), Queen Consort of England for three years, and the mother of Queen Elizabeth-I. She was hanged, in 1536, under false charges, due to not being able to produce a male child. She was only about 35 years of age. I’ve always admired a bold woman, especially those who existed pre-feminism movement of the last century. From Cleopatra and Nefertiti in ancient Egypt; to the likes of Queen Victoria, Jhansi ki Rani (i.e. Rani Lakshmibai), Florence Nightingale, Marie Curie, Amelia Earhart, Simone De Beauvoir, and many others, in the 19th & 20th centuries; these women paved the way for the post-1960’s feminist. Of Course today the term feminism has been twisted and abused to one’s liking. True Feminism is about Equal rights, not overpowering men. I don’t think either sex has the right to overpower the other.

‘Anne of The Thousand Days’ is the best, and only accurately retold, movie based on the life Anne Boleyn. It was nominated for ten Academy Awards, but won one Oscar for ‘Costume Design’. I’ve previously written at length about ‘Anne of The Thousand Days’, in the list titled ‘The Late 60's (1966-1970) öö’, Check it out.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense (my blog www.nononsensewithnuwansen.wordpress.com) ‘No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen’

9. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

Not Rated | 131 min | Drama

75 Metascore

A bitter, aging couple, with the help of alcohol, use their young houseguests to fuel anguish and emotional pain towards each other over the course of a distressing night.

Director: Mike Nichols | Stars: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal, Sandy Dennis

Votes: 74,771

Lost Hope, Eccentricities and Marriage. Hollywood’s answer to Art Cinema. Why do I love ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ (1966)? Because it’s one of the first and best of Hollywood Art flicks that I’ve seen till date. It’s a very good insight into a marriage gone wrong, when all hope is lost, expectations they had when young shattered, and neither had achieved what the other had hoped they would. Based on the play by Edward Albee, ‘Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?’, set in one night, is the story about an eccentric middle aged couple, who invite a young married couple for drinks. Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? Well nobody, really. It’s a game the older married couple play, and they’ve kept adding to it over years, adlibbing as they go along. On this night, as the evening progresses, they keep improvising, dragging the taunted couple into their game of cat and mouse, leading to a catastrophic ending. The play, and the excellent adaptation of it on film, is an outstanding psychological drama, which features only four characters, and nobody else. Though I watched the movie a decade ago, I only read Albee’s modernist play back in July this year. Loved the play as much as the movie, and it was almost word to word the movie. Of course it’s easier to translate a play onto cinema, than a novel, as the script is already given. Yet some changes have to be made, otherwise the style of the play could end up being a bore as a feature presentation. The most significant difference was that, in the play, the entire action takes place in George and Martha’s Living room, while in the movie, as the events unfold, we are taken from the house, to the garden, to a pub and finally back in the house where their game, and the movie, come to an unexpected crashing end. In both the play and the movie, this is where the self-realisation kicks in for us, as well as the younger couple, Nick and Honey.

I paid a tribute to Mike Nicholas and his debut movie, ‘Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?’, starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal and Sandy Dennis, along with his most recent movie at the time, ‘Closer’ (2004), through 6 panels of Boxed painting. The paintings depict various expressions of the characters involved in ‘Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ and contrasting that to ‘Closer’, the characters of which are devoid of expressions and any human emotions (love both the movies). Check them out on the COFA Annual 07’ website.

With the sexual revolution on the rise, the year 1966, was dubbed as the year ‘Nineteen Sexty Sex’, and ‘Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ was released the same year. Nominated for thirteen Oscars, this movie was the first film to have its entire credited cast be nominated at the Oscars. Elizabeth Taylor and Sandy Dennis won the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress trophies, respectively. ‘Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ bagged a total of five awards altogether. I’ve spoken of this movie in my past critiques, check them out in the lists titled, ‘My Top 10 Cinematic roles of Dame Elizabeth Taylor’ and ‘The Late 60's (1966-1970) öö’.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense (my blog www.nononsensewithnuwansen.wordpress.com) ‘No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen’

10. Modern Times (1936)

G | 87 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

96 Metascore

The Tramp struggles to live in modern industrial society with the help of a young homeless woman.

Director: Charles Chaplin | Stars: Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman, Tiny Sandford

Votes: 238,659 | Gross: $0.16M

Sir Charles Chaplin. The silent tramp and the sound of the machines. Why do I love ‘Modern Times’ (1936)? Well because it’s the best silent film that incorporates sound. Yes, it technically is not a silent film. Initially silent films were called thus, as movies back then were just moving pictures and sound didn’t exist, the technology wasn’t advanced enough to incorporate sound. Back then audiences were treated to these films with, either, a piano player, or (depending on the status of the Cinema/Theatre and one’s affordability) a whole symphony Orchestra. Hence the term ‘Silent Movie’ is not a genre in itself. T’was only in the latter half of the ‘Roaring 20’s’ that Talking Pictures came to be. The first movie with sound was ‘The Jazz Singer’, a musical released in 1927. Thus the short time period for silent film was just over 30 years, 1895-1927. Although there were some silent films, made during the late-20‘s, that were still being released after 1927. ‘Modern Times’ is not one of them, it came almost a decade after the first talking picture. Purposely made to resemble the silent films of the past, that Chaplin’s Tramp has been associated with for more than two decades, yet integrating the latest technology of sound, it to me is my favourite Chaplin piece of cinematic artwork. Written, directed and acted by the genius himself. What is most interesting about ‘Modern Times’ is the fact, that whatever voices we here come via some sort of mechanical communicative device, yet not a soul in the movie speaks. Isn’t it true to the ‘modern times’ of today. The world we live in today is full of high tech mobile phones, tablets, laptops et al. And most of world today use these methods to communicate through chatting, texting or gossiping over the mobile. We’ve become so dependant on technological devices, that if there were to be a sudden cyber meltdown, we’d be at a loss. This brilliant slapstick comedy, with body movements and facial expressions to covey a message, minus today’s dry, cheap humour (which is what is being mostly passed on as slapstick now a days), makes this amongst the greatest satires ever made with a deeper hidden meaning. And Charlie Chaplin definitely is till date the king of such comedies and the greatest actor from the silent era. He started his acting career in 1913, can’t believe it’s almost a hundred years since. Earlier this year, ‘The Artist’ (2011), a silent movie with sound, playing tribute to the heydays of cinema, bagged five Oscars; including for Best Picture, Best director and Best Actor; at the Academy Awards 2012. Check out my critique for ‘The Artist’ in my list titled ‘Oscar winners … and then some 2012’. Recently Bollywood actor Ranbir Kapoor, played tribute to Chaplin in ‘Barfi’ (2012), a Hindi film about how a deaf mute, Kapoor, and an autistic girl, played by Priyanka Chopra, survive on their own in the streets of Calcutta in the 70’s. Of course there is a lot more to the story. ‘Barfi’ is one of the best Bollywood flicks I’ve seen in ‘modern times’.

I’ve spoken of Chaplin and ‘Modern Times’ in my past lists as well. Check them out, in my lists titled, ‘No Name’ and ‘These are a few of my Favourites 2’.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense (my blog www.nononsensewithnuwansen.wordpress.com) ‘No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen’

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