I’ve spent the past month—and more—focussing solely on Indian cinema. Time for a change, I thought.
This, therefore. Director René Clément’s Plein Soleil (literally, ‘Full Sun’, but known as Purple Noon) is a French adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley, and was the first major film of Alain Delon, who really does dominate the film. In more ways than one.
Serendipity: noun. plural: serendipities. The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident; the occurrence of such a discovery. Coined by Horace Walpole in 1754, based on a fairy tale called The Three Princes of Serendib (‘Serendib’ being present-day Sri Lanka)—the three princes in question often making such lucky discoveries.
And what does this have to do with Chaowa-Pawa (‘To Want and To Have’)? Simply that, while I had set about watching this film because I really, really like the lead pair—Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen—I realized, within the first half hour of the film, that it was a remake of one of my favourite old Hindi films, Chori-Chori (which, as many of you would know, was a remake of It Happened One Night). Serendipity? Absolutely.
When I’d decided to dedicate this month to regional Indian cinema, I’d also decided that I wouldn’t restrict myself to only the grim, stark ‘real’ films that win awards (Chemmeen, as you will see over the next few films, was an exception rather than the norm). After all, it’s not only the films which win awards that are remembered and loved. There are also films that may not be award-winning material, but are enjoyable and prove to be hugely popular.
Pathala Bhairavi—originally in Telugu, also dubbed in Hindi and Tamil—was one of these. Although the research I’ve done doesn’t seem to indicate any awards won, this film was a superhit, which ran to packed houses for weeks on end. It was also the only South Indian film to be selected for screening at the first International Film Festival in Bombay in 1952. And—this was what made me want to see it—it was a fantasy film, one of my favourite genres.
When I first began searching the Net to find landmark regional films to review for this special ‘100 years of Indian cinema’ celebration, Chemmeen was one name that cropped up again and again. It sounded impressive. This was one of the first Malayalam films to be made in colour; more importantly, in won the President’s Gold Medal for Best Feature Film at the National Film Awards in 1965. It was screened at both the Cannes and the Chicago Film Festivals, and was greeted with much critical acclaim (not to mention commercial success)—it was even released, dubbed, in Hindi as Chemmeen Lehren, and in English as The Anger of the Sea.
All it needed was for me to discover that the music director of this film was an old favourite (Salil Choudhary) and that Manna Dey sang in it, and my mind was made up: I had to watch Chemmeen.
Continuing in my endeavour to devote February to my blog readers, a film that was not just recommended to me by a reader, but actually gifted. Bawa, who was one of the first people to encourage me to watch and review international cinema on this blog, gave me an English-subtitled DVD of this classic Spanish film a couple of years ago. I’ve been meaning to see it ever since, and finally got around to watching it this week.
La Tía Tula (‘Aunt Tula’) is one of those films where not very much actually happens in the way of story. Or, rather, the story rests not so much on a series of events, but on a slow, subtle progression (which, by contrast, makes the handful of important events in the plot even more dramatic than they would otherwise have been).
In the years this blog has been in existence, I’ve watched and reviewed films in several foreign languages—but never Chinese. Then, some time back, I came across this film, and discovered that in 2005, it was named—by the Hong Kong Film Awards Association—the best Chinese film ever made. That (coupled with the fact that Xiao Cheng Zhi Chun is available in the public domain) made me eager to watch it.
I saw a mention of this film for the first time on Richard’s blog a couple of years ago. Richard had mentioned that Dupatta (or Dopatta, as it’s referred to in some places) was available for viewing online. I’d stored away that snippet of information somewhere in the back of my mind, and forgotten about it later. Then, recently, Richard published an unusual (and interesting) post on his favourite filmi nurses, and Noorjehan’s character in Dupatta topped his list.
My original plan had been to watch and review Neecha Nagar, and follow it up by watching and reviewing Kurosawa’s Donzoko (also based on The Lower Depths). By the time I’d read Gorky’s play and seen Neecha Nagar, that plan had changed a bit—because I was feeling sorely in need of a funny film. La Grande Guerra was what I chose, because it had come highly recommended by friends whose judgment I trust.
While writing my review of Piccadilly Jim—and comparing it to P G Wodehouse’s book—I was struck by the fact that most of the time, when I watch a film based on a novel I’ve read, I end up feeling let down. What is it, after all, that makes it difficult to recreate the magic of a book onscreen?
No, I’m certainly not saying all cinematic adaptations of books are bad; some are very good, as you’ll see in my list of ‘Goodies’, below. But there are Baddies too, and they, to my mind, far outnumber the Goodies.
When I began thinking about this topic, the first thing that came to mind was: I’m a purist. I like my books to be retained as is even on screen.
This Satyajit Ray film had been lying in my to-watch pile for a long time. Then, I learnt a few days back that the Indian government had finally decided to award a Dadasaheb Phalke to Soumitra Chatterjee for his contribution to Indian cinema. Better late than never, I guess (even though a number of people have said that it’s too late). The announcement, however, did give me a solid reason to watch Charulata (aka The Lonely Wife). And I ended up wanting to hit myself for not having seen this masterpiece earlier.