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.
I am not a party animal. I do not drink. I have two left feet. Loud music makes my head throb. I find it difficult to keep awake after 11 PM. So when friends ask, “What’re you doing on New Year’s Eve?” I say, “Watching a movie at home.”
And what better way to say goodbye to a bad year with a film that you hope will be a sign of things to come? A movie that embodies all the joy you want for the dawning year?
Don Camillo (Le Petit Monde du Don Camillo in French – it was a Franco-Italian production) is the story of a little town in the Po Valley in Italy. Even though it is named for its lead character, the Catholic priest of the town, the film is not just about the hot-headed Don Camillo and his arch-enemy, the communist Mayor Peppone, but about the little town itself.
I was – at least as far as emotional maturity is concerned – a baby when I first saw High Noon, and I didn’t care for it much then. Not that I wasn’t fond of Westerns; I adored Westerns. In book form, in cinema, in song. For me, the genre was all that was gloriously outdoorsy and never-say-die: cowboys and Comanche, Monument Valley, smoking barrels and rearing horses, the good versus the bad in that final gunfight. High Noon turned all of that on its head, and left me feeling uncomfortable and disappointed.
I didn’t realise till much later that that disappointment was not the disappointment of watching a film that was bad. Rather, it was the disappointment of discovering that what I’d been rejoicing in till then was not the ultimate in a genre. Some growing up had happened.
I have rewatched High Noon since then, and I’ve come to appreciate this film deeply. I still do like hard-core Westerns like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Stagecoach and The Magnificent Seven a lot – but High Noon is in a class all by itself.
While I was writing the review of Ek Saal last week, I was reminded of this film. And that for what might seem an obscure reason to some: I S Johar was the man who suggested the story idea for Ek Saal, and he – now as actor, not writer – plays one of the important characters in this superb adventure film.
When I was raving about Alan Arkin’s bloodcurdling performance as a ruthless killer in Wait Until Dark, memsaab—classic Bollywood aficionado, the inspiration for this blog, and font of knowledge of all things cinema—recommended this film as another Arkin showcase. And, my goodness, what a film. What a fabulously rollicking, hilarious, heart-warming film. I can’t believe I’ve spent so many years on this planet unaware of The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming.
Strangely—considering that Errol Flynn is best known for his swashbuckling roles—the film I most vividly remember of his is this one, an unusual war film. I first watched it years ago as a teenager, and ever since—in spite of having notched up The Prince and the Pauper, Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin Hood and other blockbuster Flynn hits—this remains my favourite Errol Flynn film. Touching, thought-provoking, and utterly memorable.
My mother was brought up in a family ruled by a very orthodox old curmudgeon—sorry, gentleman—who believed cinema was inherently evil. This was my great-grandfather, and thanks to his restrictions, the only films my mother and her siblings were allowed to watch were The Ten Commandments and Quo Vadis. After his death, though, the family let themselves go to seed. No, they didn’t start watching all the porn they could lay their hands on (I doubt there was much floating around in the Calcutta of the 60’s, anyway), but they certainly began seeing some films that, while not evil by any stretch of imagination, would probably not have won great-granddad’s approval. The Innocents. The Three Faces of Eve. And this one, a thought-provoking, disturbing film that raises a lot of questions.
I first heard about this film when I was a child—The Magnificent Seven was being shown on TV, and one of my parents said it was based on Seven Samurai. End of story, for then.
I’ve grown up since. I’ve heard about the brilliance of Akira Kurosawa. And I’ve recently read that Shichi-nin No Samurai (Seven Samurai) was supposedly the first film ever to use the concept of a group of unconnected people being brought together for a common cause. It therefore seemed high time to finally see the film for myself.
Having just finished watching it, I’m still stunned. This is a mind-blowing film, colossal and profound, gut-wrenching and brooding and action-packed and funny and romantic and… Well, simply unforgettable.
After all the lightheartedness of the past few posts, time to get back to serious stuff. I had three none-too-cheery films lined up: Khamoshi, Andaz, and this one. Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam had been popping up in some recent posts (one song was part of the daaru list, and a discussion on Jawahar Kaul—one of the leads in Dekh Kabira Roya—ended up with a general wondering of what role he played in Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam). So Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam it was, a rewatch of a memorable film with some fine performances and superb music.