Saturday, 31 May 2014

''Witness for the Prosecution'' (1957 movie)- Review

Directed by: Billy Wilder
Released: 1957
Country: United States

Genre: Thriller, Crime, Mystery

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Review

''Witness for the Prosecution'' is directed by Billy Wilder and is based on a short story by Agatha Christie- amazing, isn't it? And the film is amazing as well: well-written, well-directed, puzzling, grave, and witty. It has got such a bunch of memorable characters, and the entire film is really enjoyable. I think it was quite unpredictable and it had a really great twist and ending.

Sir Wilfrid Robarts, played by Charles Laughton, is a barrister who has recently had some cardiac problem, and has been strictly advised by the doctor not to take any criminal cases. Miss Plimsoll (Elsa Lancaster) is a nurse who is taking care of him, and strictly disapproves of his actions, including hiding cigars in his canes. However, he soon gets the offer to take a murder case: a man named Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power) has been accused of murdering a middle-aged woman, Emily French, and Vole wants Sir Wilfrid to defend him. Soon, it is revealed that Emily French left Vole a large amount of money, which becomes a possible motive for murder, and Vole is arrested.

 Though Miss Plimsoll wants Sir Wilfrid not to take the case as it may have drastic effects on his health, Sir Wilfrid decides to defend Vole, and takes the case. Things don't go quite smooth, as there are several evidences are against Vole, and most importantly, there is Christine (Marlene Dietrich), Vole's mysterious wife, whom Sir Wilfrid calls a ''remarkable woman''... 

The film was amazing! An extremely puzzling story, excellent screenplay, the mystery, the performances of Charles Laughton, Elsa Lancaster, Marlene Dietrich, and Tyrone Power- all these make the film such an enjoyable, entertaining, memorable journey. Sir Wilfrid and Miss Plimsoll are two characters I absolutely loved. It is strange that Miss Plimsoll did not really have any role in the case the film is about, she is just the nurse of Sir Wilfrid, yet she is one of the most memorable characters of the film. such an amusing, such a funny character that I really, really admired! Elsa Lancaster won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in this film, and she definitely deserved it! She gives such a memorable performance! Charles Laughton, as Sir Wilfrid, is really excellent as well! In spite of being discharged from the hospital only recently, he is eager to resume working, taking up murder cases, and is very intelligent, very devoted to his work. What an excellent performance! Marlene Dietrich is very memorable as well.

It is a thoroughly entertaining film: the courtroom scenes are enjoyable with the numerous twists and turns that happen throughout the film, culminating in an unpredictable and extremely memorable ending. Excellently-directed, ,acted, and written, witty, puzzling, twisted and entertaining, this is a wonderful gem of a film. (This is only my fourth Billy Wilder film, and he is now a favorite of mine. Two of his films, ''Sunset Boulevard'' and ''The Apartment'' are among my all-time favorite films).

4.5 out of 5



Thursday, 22 May 2014

''The 400 Blows'' (1959 movie)- Review

Directed by: Fran├žois Truffaut
Released: 1959
Country: France

Genre: Dtrama

Cast: Jean-Pierre Leaud, Albert Remy, Claire Maurier, Patrick Auffay, Guy Decomble

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Review

Francois Traffaut, in his first feature film ''The 400 Blows'', tells the sad, emotional story of a teenaged boy- a misunderstood, mentally tortured boy- his trials and tribulations, bearing all the tortures and injustice silently. It's an emotional, beautiful little film- amazing cast, beautiful cinematography, excellent screenplay, and overall, a great presentation and an emotional, touching story.

Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Leaud) lives with his almost indifferent parents- his mother is very harsh to him, behaves rudely with him, though his father (stepfather, as we come to know later), is softer and friendlier, and yet, more or less, indifferent. They don't hate him, yet they pay very little attention to him, and thinks that he is mischievous. At school, his teacher cannot stand him.

The film deals with the events of the young teenager's life, his difficult times at home, at school, indifference of his mother, cruelty of his teacher, and ultimately, running away from home (because his teacher suspended him from school, accusing him of plagiarism), involving himself in theft, leading to worse consequences...

The film is beautifully presented. The cinematography is marvelous, and the score... it is simply so beautiful, so melodious. Jean-Pierre Leaud's performance really amazed me. The character of Antoine Doinel was so strong, so well-develop,  that once cannot but marvel. Amazing. It's not that his parents hate him. It's not that his teacher hates him. But he is misunderstood. He wants to be treated well, he tries his best, but he almost never gets the affection, the care that he wants, from his mother. There are scenes, though, when we come to understand that his mother, deep in her heart, loves him; she is worried because Antoine hadn't returned home the previous night, and comes to his school to take him home. At home, she talks affectionately with him, telling him of the importance of sharing his sorrows and worries with parents, and about the importance of education, and promising to reward him if he scores well in the class tests. The following few scenes are quite sweet, as we see him eventually getting closer to his parents, but even this is ruined after he is suspended from school- he runs away from school, leading to more dreadful consequences. The conversation between Antoine and his mother at the reformatory was not only shocking but also so saddening. And there is a screen where we see a conversation between Antoine and the psychiatrist (whose face we never see), and Antoine recounts his whole life, further making us realize what a sad life he has been leading since his childhood.

 The last few scenes are so wonderful, so memorable. We see him running, running away, and the camera moves with him- so wonderfully made, so thematic, so symbolic. And the very final scene, which shows him looking at the screen, is extremely unforgettable as well. Wonderful film, touching, emotional, with beautiful cinematography, score, screenplay, and an excellent performance by Jean-Pierre Leaud.

4.5 out of 5

Thursday, 15 May 2014

''From Here to Eternity'' (1953 movie)- Review

Directed by: Fred Zinnemann
Released: 1953
Country: United States

Cast: Burt Lancaster, Montegmory Clift, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed, Phillip Ober

Genre: Drama, Romance, War

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review

''From Here to Eternity'' mainly tells the story of two people, Private Robert ''Prew'' Prewitt (Montegmory Clift) and First Sergeant Milton Warden (Burt Lancester). Set during the World War II, the film starts when Prew is transferred to Oahu. He is an expert boxer, and Captain Dana Holmes (Phillip Ober) expects him to box for him, but Prew refuses, because he gave up boxing after he had accidentally wounded a friend. Holmes doesn't give up. He decides to persuade Prew to join his boxing team, using cruel method, trying to make life for Prew as miserable as possible. Prew befriends Private Angelo Maggio (Frank Sinatra), who frequently gets into fights with Staff Sergeant James Judson (Ernest Borgnine).

First Sergeant Milton Warden starts an affair with Karen (Deborah Kerr), the wife of Holmes. Holmes has affairs with several other women, and has never treated Karen well, causing Karen to feel lonely, neglected and depressed. Warden and Karen start loving each other deeply, in spite of knowing that if their affair is released, Warden will be sentenced to a 20 years' imprisonment. Karen suggests Warden to try to become a Captain, which will make it easier for her to divorce Holmes and marry Warden. This causes Warden to fall into a great dilemma- while he wants to be with Karen, he would never like to be a Captain. He thinks that being a Captain will cause him to become a cruel person like Holmes.

I'm not sure which of the two stories I felt more attracted to- the story of Prew gets more screen presence, but on the other hand, the love story of Warden and Karen is extremely  beautiful and touching. The kiss scene on the beach is perhaps one of the most unforgettable movie moments. Both the stories are equally touching and emotionally intense. Prew, who starts becoming a victim of torture, falls in love with Lauren (Donna Reed), a girl who works at a gentleman's club, yet sweet and deeply in love with Prew. The story of Prew also features Maggio, Prew's friend who gets into fights with Sergeant Judson and ultimately meets a tragic end.

''From Here to Eternity'' is a film emotional and touching--- the main characters are so well-developed that we feel them, we feel sympathy for them- especially the  characters of Prew, Warden and Karen. The cast is extremely strong as well: Montegmory Clift, Deborah Kerr, Burt Lancester, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed, and the others- give excellent performances (the supporting cast is mentionable). I loved this film, I really did. The ending almost brought tears to my eyes. The last scene that features a conversation between Karen and Lauren felt heart-wrenching and emotional to me- a short, but sad little scene. A deeply moving film- a story of torture, misery, loneliness, and the love that can overcome all  these things, and yet a love that is uncertain... Magnificent film.

5 ou of 5t

Saturday, 10 May 2014

''Fargo'' (1996 movie)- Review

Directed by: Joel Cohn
Released: 1996
Country: United States

Genre: Crime, Drama, Dark comedy

Cast: Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare, Harve Presnell

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review

''Fargo'' is the story of something that starts as a not-so-serious crime but then results into drastic, tragic, dreadful consequences that affect the lives of many people. A visual beauty with great atmosphere and cinematography, ''Fargo'' is a film that remains unforgettable; it's not easy to forget how beautiful, how atmospheric the film looks, and throughout the film, so many unexpected things, shocking things happen; there is the great screenplay, there is occasional humor, and of course, there is Frances McDormand, who undoubtedly gives an amazing performance. Unforgettable gem.

It all starts when Jerry (William H. Macy) urgently needs some money, and gets in touch with criminals Carl (Buscemi) and Gaear (Stormare), and asks them to kidnap his wife, Jean. He will ask his wealthy father-in-law to pay the ransom for Jean, and will keep some of the ransom money, and after Carl and Gaear get the rest of the ransom money, Jean will be released. Simple, it sounds. Really simple. And Jerry doesn't worry much because he knows that Jean won't be hurt; as soon as the ransom money is paid off, Jean will be released.

Jean is eventually kidnapped, but, then... the idea had been simple, quite harmless, but nothing goes according to the original plan. ultimately, this crime leads to murders, bloodshed, tragedies, and more murders... the crime results into more crimes, drastic consequences... and the police has to intervene. The investigation is done by Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand), a pregnant police chief, and in spite of her pregnancy and health, she is extremely dedicated to her work, calm, hardworking, and witty. She looks into the horrible crimes that take place throughout the film, and ultimately, none but her can solve the case.

Jerry had meant it as a harmless little venture, but who could have guessed the drastic consequences of this, of the crime that had been meant to be so simple? 

Frances McDormand gives an amazing performance, as the amusing, intelligent and hardworking police chief, dedicated to her husband, dedicated to her work, dedicated to figuring out the reasons for the inhumanity and tragedies that take place over the course of the film. She definitely deserved the Oscar she won that year! 

Steve Buscemi is quite amazing too, and so is Peter Stormare. Buscemi's performance as Carl, the one can understand that his life is falling apart because of the crimes that they are committing. Gaear, on the other hand, is the impassive one; I can't remember if he ever smiled or showed much emotion throughout the film. Impassive and never displaying his emotions, yet violent and cruel.

Another performances that I must mention is that of Kristin Rudrud, as Jean. The role is quite small and has very little screen presence, but during the scene the character is chased by Carl and Gaear, Rudrud's performance was so strong, as the scared and innocent Jean that I felt so much pity, so much sympathy for the character. Amazing performance by Rudrud.

The snow, and the cinematography, and the locations, create a very beautiful atmosphere and looks throughout the film. There is humor, too, and there is the overall tragedy, the overall severity of the situation. It's a film that shows us how dreadful things like this can be, how a simple crime can result into serious tragedies, graver crimes. It is an unforgettable film, atmospheric, shocking, saddening, and thought-provoking.

5 out of 5



Wednesday, 7 May 2014

''Dr. Strangelove'' (1964 movie)- Review

The titular character
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Released: 1964
Country: United States

Genre: Dark comedy, War

Cast: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review

I didn't really expect to love ''Dr Strangelove'' as much as I did. It is a bizarre film, there is no doubt in that, and yes, a great film; very entertaining, dryly and darkly humorous, and though it deals with a grim and fatal situation, the severity of the situation is overshadowed by the dry humor, the bizarreness and comedy that prevails throughout the film due to the actions and words of the characters and their behavior. The film never tries make us forget the serious situation that it deals with, but the dry humor, weirdness and wackiness definitely keeps us entertained and amused; I ended up loving this film!

Set during the Cold War, General Jack Ripper (Sterling Hayden) orders the airborne bombers to attack Russia with nuclear bombs. He does this without the permission (and knowledge) of his superiors. When they come to know about this, everybody, including the President, Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers), are very concerned. They plan to call the bombers back, but the only way in which they can communicate with them is through a code that is known to none except Ripper himself. They think that it would be ridiculous to try all the possible codes, as it would take hours to try all of the codes. Worried and concerned, the President calls the Russian ambassador and informs him of the situation. The Russian ambassador informs them of something even more drastic: if any attack is made on Russia, a particular device made by the Russians will be triggered on automatically, which will cause the destruction of the entire plant and animal life of the world, leading to the destruction of life. Hearing this, everybody is scared and worried, but what steps can they take? For consultation, they have Dr. Strangelove (played by Peter Sellers), an ex-Nazi with an uncontrollable hand...

On the other hand, back in Ripper's office, Group Captain Mandrake (another role played by Peter Sellers) tries to convince Ripper to tell him the code, but to no avail...

These are the three major locations that we see throughout the film: the War Room, Ripper's office, and inside the aircrafts. In the War Room, there is an increasing amount of tension as the people inside the room start worrying about the drastic situations that will arise if Russia is attacked. In Ripper's office, we see Ripper and Mandrake, as Mandrake (unsuccessfully) tries to convince Ripper to call the bombers back, or to give him the code. And in the aircraft, the bombers keep approaching...

The film deals with a severe and drastic situations, but oh, I don't think I have ever seen a film like this one, a film that, without making us forget the severity of the situations, makes us so amused; it's such a hilarious, darkly comedic film. Stanley Kubrick is indeed one of the greatest directors ever (I am going to watch his most famous movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey, soon). Some very unforgettable bits from the film: General Turgidson and the Russian ambassador start fighting; they are interrupted by President Merkin Muffley, who says "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!" A perfect, amusing example of irony, isn't it? Dr Strangelove, a bizarre and odd character, a knowledgable scientist, is himself an extremely amusing character. The way he speaks, his expressions, and most notably, his uncontrollable hand- all these are all unforgettable. Peter Sellers's performance is AMAZING, as the three characters, Dr Strangelove, President Merkin Muffley, and Group Captain Mandrake. The ending... I didn't really expect it; it was so sudden and so unexpected!

And now a few words on the technical aspects. The cinematography is excellent, and I also loved the humming score; it's very memorable.

Overall, this film is unforgettable; though the story deals with a severe, dangerous situation, it never stops to be hilarious and is dryly, and darkly, comedic throughout. A really great film, one of the best films Kubrick made!

5 out of 5

Monday, 5 May 2014

''Gaslight'' (1944 movie)- Review

Directed by: George Cukor
Released: 1944
Country: United States

Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Drama

Cast: Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten, Dame May Whitty, Angela Lansbury, Barbara Everest

Rating: 4 out of 5

Review

George Cukor's ''Gaslight'' has a great atmosphere; there is suspense, there are puzzles, and most mentionably, there is the wonderful performance by Ingrid Bergman. ''Gaslight'' isn't one of the best mystery films I have seen, but it is a wonderful film, a wonderful, atmospheric film, an entertaining film that I'd highly recommend.

After the mysterious murder of her aunt in her residence at Thornton Square, young Paula (Ingrid Bergman) is sent to a man who will teach her opera music. Years pass, Paula has now grown up, and her teacher starts noticing that she is not paying much attention to music. He correctly guesses that Paula is in love. She is in love with Gregor Anton (Charles Boyer), and they plan to get married. Gregor desires to live in one of the ''squares in London'' after their marriage, and Paula then tells him that they can live in such a square, as her aunt had left her a house in the square. Paula never returned to that house after her aunt's death, being afraid of the memories in that house. Anyway, after their marriage, they move to the house, and Gregor persuades her to move all her aunt's furniture to the attic, so that they can live in the present, not in the past. The first few days of their marriage seem to be perfectly happy, but then... Gregor tells Paula that she has started getting ''forgetful'' and ''absent-minded'', that she has started losing small things, and that she has started forgetting facts. With the passage of time, these things get more intense, and Paula starts worrying about herself. Gregor, on the other hand, doesn't let anybody meet Paula, he doesn't let anybody to visit them, and he doesn't want to attend any invitations or parties, and it seems like he is keeping Paula a prisoner. At night, Paula can hear strange footsteps, and the gaslights turn off, and she starts wondering if she is okay, if this house is okay; she starts fearing about the house, she starts fearing herself. What is going on?

There are several other characters as well. There is Brian Cameron (Joseph Cotten), a man who gets interested in the mystery of the murder of Paula's aunt, and ultimately succeeds in solving the mystery. There is Nancy (Angela Lansbury), the maidservant, a somewhat strange girl; Paula thinks that Nancy despises her, that she looks at her with very strange eyes. And there is the unforgettable Bessie Thwaites (Dame May Whitty), a neighbor, a warm woman who is extremely interested in the mysterious house where the murder had taken place so many years ago, and would like to get more acquainted with Paula.

Ingrid Bergman's performance is strong and powerful; she certainly deserved the Oscar that she won for her performance in this film. Throughout the film, her performance remains excellent: she plays a young, innocent woman deeply in love, then a woman worried about herself, worried that she is probably going mad, worried about everything going on around herself. Ingrid Bergman brings to life the pains, the sufferings, the confusions and miseries that her character is going through. Charles Boyer, as the dominating, mysterious, detestable husband gives a powerful performance as well. I really liked Joseph Cotten and I appreciated his character for the steps that he takes to solve the mystery, his firm determination and courage.

With ''Gaslight'', I have seen several films starring Dame May Whitty, and I have to say that I have taken a particular liking to this sweet, wonderful actress. She is absolutely amazing! She remains unforgettable playing such characters as the kindly-old-woman-who-has-disapperead in ''The Lady Vanishes'' and the proud aristocrat in ''Mrs Miniver'', and in ''Gaslight'', she plays the curious neighbor. Her character, Bessie, has always been interested in the house where the murder had taken place years ago, and she adds a certain amount of comic relief and warmth to the overall suspenseful and atmospheric film. She loves flower and wishes her dear daffodils and other flowers a good morning whenever she sees them. It was such an amusing, warm character! 

I loved the cinematography, and the overall atmosphere that prevailed throughout the film. Overall, it wasn't a great mystery film, and I agree that it was not entirely unpredictable, yet the atmosphere, the suspense, the performances, and the way it is presented make it a wonderful, entertaining, memorable film!

4 out of 5

Saturday, 3 May 2014

''Hannah and Her Sisters'' (1986 movie)- Review

Directed by: Woody Allen
Released: 1986
Country: United States

Genre: Comedy-drama

Cast: Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey, Dianne Wiest, Michael Caine, Woody Allen, Carrie Fisher

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Review

Woody Allen's ''Hannah and Her Sisters'' is the story of, well, Hannah (Mia Farrow) and her two sisters, Lee (Barbara Hershey) and Holly (Dianne Wiest), their lives, their relationships, the troubles that they have to come across in their lives. It is definitely a memorable, a charming little film.

The film starts with Elliot (Michael Caine), one of the major characters of the film, describing how much he loves Lee. He explains that he loves Lee, but then he says that Lee is the sister of his wife. Elliot is Hannah's husband, and though they are deeply in love with each other, Elliot is also infatuated with Lee, and the latter can sometimes guess Eliot's behavior that he has a crush on her.

The film deals with several subplots, all of them connected with Hannah, Lee, and Holly. Over the course of he film, Eliot tells Lee that he loves her, and the two start an affair. Elliot is clearly guilt-stricken knowing the fact that he is cheating on her wife. He explains that Hannah had come to his life when everything had been ''empty'' for him, and though he deeply loves Hannah, he does not have the heart to break his relationship with Lee. Lee lives with her boyfriend, Frederick (Max von Sydow), a man whom she describes as being ''superior'' to her in everything, including age and intellect. Frederick lives a solitary life, and, according to him, Lee is his only connection with the outside. Lee is tired of living such a life, having such a partner. She only wants to start everything all over again, and continues her relationship with Elliot.

Then there is Mickey Sachs (Woody Allen), Hannah's ex-husband, a hypochondriac who keeps worrying about everything. When he is relieved from a worry, he starts worrying about something else. He starts doubting that he has brain tumor, and he is relieved when he comes to know that nothing is wrong with him; but then he starts worrying about something else: what is the point of living on if everybody has to die one day?

Another subplot deals with Holly, who has had an unsuccessful career in stage and thinks that her life has been a failure. She is worried as she thinks that everybody thinks her to be a ''loser''. A major portion of the film deals with Holly trying to make something of her life.

The story and theme of the film is reflected in it's title: ''Hannah and Her Sisters''. It deals with the lives of Hannah, Lee, and Holly, and somehow, their lives, feelings and the incidents they come across are quite interconnected. Hannah is the eldest sister, very supportive of her sisters. She always tries to encourage Holly, persuades her not to give up hope, and is always ready to help her financially. On the other hand, Holly thinks that Hannah always wants to make her think that she is a loser, that her entire life has been a failure, that she has got no potent. The scene where the three sisters get together for lunch is really memorable. Farrow, Hershey, and Wiest all give extremely strong performances in this scene. We come to know Hannah as the emotionally stable, supportive, strong sister, who is having a hard time with her husband, but still tries to solve the problems of her sisters, giving both emotional and financial support to Holly. Holly, the unsuccessful actress and former cocaine addict, suffers from complexes as she often thinks that her total life has been a failure.

The others are also great in their roles. Michael Caine gives a great performance, and so does Woody Allen.  Allen's performance is pretty great, funny, and memorable as well.Max von Sydow plays Lee's boyfriend, an artist who prefers isolation and to whom, Lee is the only contact with the outside world.

This is a wonderful film from Woody Allen; I'm trying to get to know Allen's works better. Prior to watching this, I had only watched a few other Woody Allen films. Early this year, after watching ''Blue Jasmine'', I decided that I had to get more acquainted with the works of this man, whom Roger Ebert referred to as a ''treasure of the cinema''. I loved ''Hannah and Her Sisters''; the film has a great cast, a great screenplay, it has combinations of both comedy and serious drama, and overall, it's a lovely, highly enjoyable film.

4.5 out of 5