Wednesday, 6 June 2018

''The Snake Pit'' (1948 film)- Review

Directed by: Anatole Litvak
Released: 1948
Country: United States

Genre: Drama, Mystery

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


I have admired Olivia de Havilland since I watched Gone with the Wind. In the 1940s, she risked her career to fight for her rights. Back then she was under contract to Warner Bros. and the oppressive ''studio system'' required her to comply with every single demand made by the studio that employed her; the studios had the right to suspend the stars who refused to accept the roles they were offered. The period of time they spent in suspension would be added to the contract, extending the period they would have to work for the studio. Olivia de Havilland disliked the films she was offered- mostly period dramas and romantic comedies. In 1943, she sued Warner Bros. and it was a brave act against the studio system. She won the lawsuit and it weakened the control the studios had over the artists they employed. 

Freed from the contract system, Olivia de Havilland pursued her career on her own terms and starred in such classics as To Each His Own (for which she won her first Oscar), The Snake Pit (for which she won a Volpi Cup at the Venice Film Festival) and The Heiress (which won her a second Academy Award).

''The Snake Pit'', directed by Anatole Litvak, is a raw and honest portrayal of the difficulties faced by patients in mental institutions. The protagonist, Virginia Stuart (played by de Havilland), falls in love with Robert Cunningham (played by Mark Stevens) and gets married to him. The first few days of the marriage are happy and peaceful but Virginia soon starts behaving abnormally, forgetting important things and losing track of dates. Things eventually get serious and Virginia starts displaying violent behavior. Terribly concerned for her, Robert has her institutionalized. Dr. Kiks (played by Leo Genn) tries to find out the roots of Virginia's illness. He believes Virginia's illness is caused by something that happened in her past. Something really traumatic from her past must have been affecting her present life and he thinks he will be able to bring her out of the maze she is trapped in only if he discovers what exactly casts a sinister shadow over her life. 

Virginia encounters many people people on her journey towards recuperation. Some of them are kindly like Dr. Kiks. Some of the doctors she comes across are harsh and their actions have the ability to worsen her condition. Most nurses are kind; some of them are rude. She also becomes friends with some fellow patients. The most moving of the friendships she forms is, in my opinion, the one she forms with Hester (Betsy Blair), a violent patient who has stopped talking. Virginia is not intimidated by Hester and although plagued by troubles herself, she tries her best to make Hester feel better. I found this really touching.

''The Snake Pit'' was way ahead of its time. Mental illness was, in those days, not something you were supposed to discuss. The film defied societal restrictions and presented a deeply moving- and realistic- portrayal of mental illness and mental institutions. The film is brilliantly written and acted. Plotwise it's near perfect and I loved the gradual unfolding of the story. I loved how everything makes sense by the time the film ends.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

''Call Me By Your Name'' (2017 film)- Review

Directed by: Luca Guadagnino
Released: 2017
Country: United States

Genre: Romantic drama

Rating: 5 out of 5


''I have loved you for the last time
Is it a video? Is it a video?
I have touched you for the last time
Is it a video? Is it a video?

For the love, for laughter, I flew up to your arms
Is it a video? Is it a video?...''
- ''Visions of Gideon'' (Sufjan Stevens) 

Watching ''Call Me By Your Name'' I was haunted by the very same fear that bothers the protagonist, Elio (Timothée Chalamet), throughout the film: the fear of an inevitable parting, the fear of losing a loved one. What he goes through is so much more than a passing infatuation: it is the kind of love that one discovers only if they are lucky enough. As Chalamet mentioned in an interview, ''Call Me By Your Name'' does not focus on the social stigmas and taboos surrounding homosexuality; instead, it is a celebration of love for what it is. 

The story takes place over the course of a single summer. Elio lives with his parents in Italy. His life is fairly monotonous until his father employs Oliver (played by Armie Hammer), a graduate student, as his research assistant. Oliver moves in with Elio's family. Elio is attracted to him and at the same times finds him slightly rude. Over the course of time, however, he finds himself falling for Oliver and when he- indirectly- confesses his feelings to Oliver, the latter is initially reluctant to respond because of the stigmas surrounding homosexuality, bet eventually they start a relationship. While their love each other gets deeper with the passage of time as they share adventures and beautiful moments, they are constantly haunted by the knowledge that this is not going to last forever.

''Call Me By Your Name'' is such a deeply moving film, such a sublimely beautiful love story. The chemistry between Elio and Oliver is developed so beautifully, with such care that we start living the story with them. And Timothée Chalamet, oh Timothée Chalamet, he delivers such an extraordinarily powerful performance, I am more than sure that he will receive an Oscar nomination for his role in this film. He brings Elio to life, making it possible for us to feel his longing, his fears, his love for Oliver. Armie Hammer is powerful in his role as Oliver. Michael Stuhlberg, playing Elio's supportive and understanding father, is brilliant as well. I also liked the performance by Esther Garrel, who, although playing a rather minor supporting role, shares an emotionally overwhelming scene with Chalamet near the end of the film. 

''Call Me By Your Name'' is indeed a rare masterpiece, a simple yet breathtakingly beautiful film. The film left me shaken and in tears and I pondered several questions. Why do people come to our lives if they are not destined to stay there forever? Is it just how life works? Is it more important to just cherish the present, the beautiful moments that we spend together? These are questions that have always haunted me and this film provoked them in me all over again.

I will finish this review quoting a few lines from the song ''Visions of Gideon''- which plays a very important role in this film, reflecting Elio's longing for Oliver. I started the review with these lines and this is exactly how I will end it.

''I have loved you for the last time
Is it a video? Is it a video?
I have touched you for the last time
Is it a video? Is it a video?...''


Monday, 13 November 2017

''Mogambo'' (1953 film)- Review

The Wonderful Grace Kelly Blogathon is being hosted by The Wonderful World of Cinema, and the film that I have reviewed for the blogathon is Mogambo. 

Directed by: John Ford
Released: 1953
Country: United States

Genre: Adventure, Romantic drama

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Victor Marswell (played by Clark Gable) is a hunter working in Kenya. When a false promise by an Indian maharajah lands the lively Eloise Kelly (played by Ava Gardner) in Kenya, Victor initially doesn't take her seriously but over the course of time he comes to appreciate her. Donald Nordley (played by Donald Sinden), an anthropologist and his wife Linda (played by Grace Kelly) arrive (they are there for Donald's work, he hopes to study certain traits of gorillas there). Linda is sophisticated, simple and sensitive, completely different from Kelly. While it is evident that Victor loves Kelly, he finds himself falling in love with Linda as well. Thus starts a love triangle in the middle of wildness and jungles, wild animals and dangers. Over the course of the film we get to know more about the three main characters and realize that they are, in one way or another, looking for fulfillment. 

''Mogambo'' is a really good film. I really liked the way the characters were gradually developed, the way their emotions and feelings for each other was portrayed. Clark Gable, Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly are brilliant in their roles, and the setting (that includes  exotic jungles and wild animals) is simply great.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

''Jane Eyre'' (1943 film)- Review

 The Joan Fontaine Centenary Blogathon is being hosted by In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and The Wonderful World of Cinema. The film that I have reviewed for the blogathon is Jane Eyre.

Directed by: Robert Stevenson
Released: 1943
Country: United States

Genre: Romantic drama, Mystery

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Charlotte Brontë's ''Jane Eyre'' happens to be my favorite novel of all time. I have loved the novel since I was eleven years old. And I LOVED this adaptation. Starring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine, it is such an atmospheric, well-acted and well-directed film. 

Jane Eyre is an orphan who lives with her aunt, Mrs. Reed, and is treated cruelly by her relatives. Mrs Reed sends Jane to Lowood, a boarding school. Harsh conditions prevail in Lowood. Jane completes her education there, staying there for ten years. She then finds a job as a governess at a mansion called Thornfield Hall. Over the course of time she becomes really attached to Thornfield Hall and her student, Adele, and also starts feeling attracted to Edward Rochester, her moody employer who hides a tender heart beneath his rough exterior. Mr Rochester, however, is hiding dark secrets and Thornfield Hall itself guards secrets and mysteries...

''Jane Eyre'' is such a great film! I loved the Gothic atmosphere prevailing throughout the film! Thornfield Hall was portrayed just the way Bronte had meant it to be: a mysterious, shady manor. Jane and Mr. Rochester were brought to life and fleshed out. Their chemistry is beautifully developed and believable. Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles are excellent in their roles, playing two lost souls with sheer perfection.  Margaret O'Brien (playing Adele) also delivers an excellent performance and (surprise!) a young Elizabeth Taylor also appears in this film, playing Jane's childhood friend, Helen.

I loved the screenplay as well. It does take liberties with the source material but I had no problem with it. The changes it makes are tender and well-crafted and I really liked them. It is an adaptation, after all, and these subtle changes are something that, in my opinion, we should welcome in adaptations. There are adaptations in which certain alterations seem odd because they drift too far from the plot- sometimes even ruining the overall story- and I, of course, don't support them. But when it comes to the alterations that this film makes, they are well-balanced and appreciable. 

I loved ''Jane Eyre''. I loved the Gothic atmosphere, the chemistry between Jane and Mr. Rochester, the performances by Fontaine and Welles, the beautiful cinematography and the screenplay.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

''On Golden Pond'' (1981 film)- Review

 The Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn blogathon is being hosted by In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. The film that I am reviewing for the blogathon is On Golden Pond, the film for which Katherine Hepburn won her fourth Oscar.

Directed by: Mark Rydall
Released: 1981
Country: United States

Genre: Drama

Rating: 4 out of 5


''On Golden Pond'' is a gentle and deeply moving film, filled with warmth and emotional depth. Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda play Ethel and Norman Thayer.  Ethel is in her sixties while Norman has just turned eighty and for the summer they are visiting their cottage which is situated on a lake called Golden Pond. For them, Golden Pond is a place that brings back a lot of memories. The loons that swim gently on the lake- and their calls- make them nostalgic and ponder about life. Ethel is cheerful and optimistic and although she is well aware of the fact that anything drastic can happen to them- particularly to Norman- any time because of their age, she tries staying cheerful. She helps Norman stay positive and active.  

They are visited by their daughter, Chelsea (played by Jane Fonda), who is accompanied by her boyfriend, Bill, and Bill's teenage son, Billy. Chelsea has never really had a smooth relationship with her father and is filled with bitterness about her childhood. She feels that her father never paid her enough attention when she was a child. As Chelsea and Bill are about to visit Europe, they decide to leave Bill's teenage son, Billy (played by Doug McKenon) with Ethel and Norman. The elderly couple agree, and after Chelsea and Bill leave for Europe, Ethel and Norman eventually develop a strong bond with Billy, something that not only invigorates Norman but also, eventually, goes on to strengthen several relationships.
This is such a beautiful film, completely unpretentious yet powerful and moving. Its simplicity gives it a beauty of its own, the emotional content being perfectly balanced. The title sequence is gorgeous: the way sunlight is reflected from the rippling water of the lake,  is amazing; the warmth and charm reflected in the sequence can be felt throughout the film. Both Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda are excellent in their roles. Jane Fonda, Doug McKenon and Dabney Coleman are great as well. I loved the character development, the performances, the story, the screenplay, the beautiful cinematography, the score- well, I admired everything about this movie!


Saturday, 30 September 2017

''Gosford Park'' (2001 film)- Review

Directed by: Robert Altman
Released: 2001
Country: United Kingdom

Genre: Mystery, Drama

Rating: 5 out of 5


What a perfect film ''Gosford Park'' is! I loved every minute of it.

The events of ''Gosford Park'' take place over the course of a single weekend in 1932. Sir William McCordle (played by Michael Gambon) is a wealthy industrialist, although he comes from a humble background. He is married to Sylvia (played by Kristin Scott Thomas), who comes from the titled aristocracy. Sylvia is snobbish, and although she married Sir William for his money, she looks down on him as he wasn't born into wealth. Sir William and Sylvia invite a number of people for a weekend hunting party which they will be organizing at Gosford Park, an estate they own. Among the people invited to the party are relatives of Lady Sylvia's, a couple of distinguished men from Hollywood and other acquaintances. But there are other people as well. All these distinguished guests have brought with them servants- lady's maids and valets- and the servants will be staying ''below stairs'' with the servants of the household. It is a typical British country house and below the stairs, servants occupy a world of their own, a world that has its own hierarchies. Over the course of the weekend, we get to know a lot about the hosts, the guests and the servants. Quarrels and little problems arise and after Sir William is found murdered in the library, Inspector Thompson (played by Stephen Fry) comes to Gosford Park to investigate. Several of the people present in Gosford Park during the party had motives to kill Sir William...

''Gosford Park'' is not merely a mystery film. It is so much more than that. The mystery is an element of the film, but what is much more engrossing is just how complex and layered the story is. There is such a vast array of characters; at first I was worried I wouldn't be able to keep track of all of them but eventually, over the course of the film, each character turned out to be unique. Many of the characters are hiding layers of secrets and lies. Within a single weekend life fully changes for some of the characters we meet.

As for the cast, it was such a joy to see Michael Gambon, Eileen Atkins, Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith,  Stephen Fry, Charles Dance, Geraldine Somerville, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emily Watson, Kelly Macdonald, Clive Owen and Ryan Phillippe (to name but a few) in the same film! Like I have already said, every single character was unique and fleshed out, and these great actors brought their characters to life.

''Gosford Park'' is a social commentary as well, depicting how life was like in those great country houses. The employers and the servants lived in the same house, but occupied two completely different worlds. The employers did not have to worry about anything; the servants were there to take care of the needs. The servants, in their part of the house, maintained a hierarchy as well. The housekeeper and the butler reigned supreme; how they would sit at the dining table would be based on how senior the servant was. Lady Sylvia looks down on those who weren't into money- which includes her own husband. She looks down on Mabel, a guest who does not from an aristocratic background. On the other hand, she is in friendly terms with her lady's maid. I guess that was because the division between the employers and servants was so clear, so conspicuous that her lady's maid would never be a threat to her and as such Lady Sylvia (and others of her class) found it fully acceptable to be in friendly terms with her lady's maid but not with someone like Mabel, who would be staying in the same part of the house as an equal. However, in the eyes of someone as snobbish as Sylvia, people like Mabel could never be their equals.

I really loved ''Gosford Park''. Everything I love about a great story was present there: complex characters, intertwined subplots and hidden twists. 

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

''Terms of Endearment'' (1983 film)- Review

Directed by: James L. Brooks
Released: 1983
Country: United States

Genre: Comedy-drama

Rating: 5 out of 5


'Terms of Endearment'' left me emotionally overwhelmed. This gentle film explores the complexities of human relationships and the unpredictability of life with sublimity and perfection.

Aurora Greenway (played by Shirley Maclaine) is a strict, no-nonsense middle-aged woman who hasn't had a romantic relationship in years. Her daughter, Emma (played by Debra Winger), falls in love with Flap Horton (played by Jeff Daniels), although Aurora disapproves of the relationship because she thinks Flap has no ambition. Emma, however, gets married to Flap and they move to Iowa. Time flies and Emma finds that her relationship with Flap is getting strained with the passage of time. Aurora, on the other hand, starts a relationship with Garrett (played by Jack Nicholson), a quirky astronaut living next door. The film follows the lives of these people, of the twists and turns, joys and heartbreaks, happiness and tragedies that they go through and how their relationships stand the test of time, misunderstandings, problems and tragedies.

''Terms of Endearment'' does not tend to sugarcoat anything. It presents a realistic portrayal of life. It shows just how strong human relationships can be, how unpredictable life can be. . Although it initially appears that Aurora and Emma are not really close, over the course of the film we get to discover just how much they love each other, just how important they are to each other. They share the tiniest details of their lives with each other; Aurora is Emma's biggest confidant and vice-versa.The characters we see are fleshed out and realistic.  As for the performances, they are great: Shirley Maclaine, Debra Winger, Jack Nicholson and Jeff Daniels are magnificent in their roles.

 ''Terms of Endearment'' made me smile with the characters, laugh with them, sympathize with them. Some parts were truly heartbreaking. This is exactly why I loved this film so much. It took me right into  its own world, making it possible for me to fully understand the characters and appreciate them. This is a simple yet breathtakingly beautiful film.