Black Narcissus

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Powell & Pressburger’s Black Narcissus is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen, along with The Red Shoes, The Life of Pi, Cinema Paradiso, Amelie and Malena.

Shot in 1947, this film did not have the special effects that today’s films use and yet it still delivers.  Many directors and actors cite Black Narcissus as a great example of stunning cinematography.

Black Narcissus

Beautiful as the film is, the cast and story are wonderful too.  I grew up watching a lot of movies from the 30’s and 40’s and what I like about these eras are the number of stories written for women.  These were proper stories instead of women running around in short skirts being ‘ditzy’.  Personally, I feel this is the best performance Deborah Kerr has given in a film.

A group of Anglican nuns move into what used to be an old palace in the Himalyas to set up a convent. They want to run a school to educate the local children, as well as administer first aid and help the sick.  Tensions start to mount between Sister Ruth (Kathleen Byron), who is mentally unstable, and Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr), who has only recently become Sister Superior.  The nuns rescue a young girl called Kanchi (Jean Simmons) from a beating and take her back to the convent to live.  They seem part-horrified, part-intrigued by the young girl’s blatant sexuality.  Caught up in this is Mr Dean (David Farrar) who acts as an agent between the nuns and the locals.  Sister Ruth sees that Mr Dean likes Sister Clodagh and becomes irrationally jealous of their burdening friendship as she likes him herself.  Things escalate and lead to a dramatic conclusion.

Sister Ruth with Kanchi

Even though the air is fresh, the mountains/surroundings are vast, the flowers bright, and the sky is blue, as a viewer you can feel the intense claustrophobia that starts to effect the nuns’ behaviour.  The old palace has a brooding menace that haunts every shadow and corner.  You can see how somebody already unwell could lose their mind.

Mr Dean with Sister Ruth

If you love old movies, beautiful cinematography and a good tale, then I thoroughly recommend Black Narcissus.

Sister Ruth and Sister Clodagh

What is the most beautiful film you have ever seen?

 

Movies, Memories and Childhood: Part II – Spielberg

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I was lucky growing up.  Born in the mid-70’s, all the best children and family films were enjoyed by my generation.  These films have become part of pop culture and are still much loved today.

For me, one name is synonymous with my childhood: Spielberg.  My generation grew up with Steven Spielberg’s movies.  Without sounding too much like Dawson Leary, Spielberg’s films have a magic that other directors don’t have.  I think the closest directors in creating Spielbergian magic these days would be JJ Abrams and M Night Shymalan, the latter with Signs in particular.

ET and Elliot in the famous bike scene

Certain scenes in his movies really stand out for me; in Jaws, the mother of the little boy (killed by the shark) walks up to Brody and slaps him, Brody seeing the shark…..the opening scene of Raiders and Indy shooting the assassin in the market…..in ET it’s the scene with the bicycles and the goodbye….in Empire of the Sun it’s the scene with Jim and his Mother in the crowd…..there are too many moments to name, but I remember them all.

Empire of the Sun

Some are dismissive of his work for this very reason, but how can you dismiss a director who made Empire of the Sun, War Horse, Lincoln and Schindler’s List?  Every Spielberg film has at least one truly beautiful moment.  The light, the music (by the amazing John Williams), the emotion…..Spielberg is like a magician, turning scenes into iconic cinematic moments.

The Goonies

Spielberg has also written and/or been executive producer of other childhood favourites such as, The Goonies, Gremlins and Back to the Future.  One talented guy.

More recently Steven Spielberg directed the wonderful ‘The Adventures of Tintin’.  My 5 year old loved it.  It is so good that after 10 minutes, you forget it’s animated.

Jaws

I always feel Steven Spielberg underrates himself as a director in interviews.  Being humble is a very good quality, but if I ever had the chance to tell him, I would tell him how beautiful and inspiring his films have been and how he is still inspiring the next generation of children (my son).  I hope he keeps on making wonderful films.

“I interpret my dreams one way and make a movie out of them and people see my movies and make them part of their dreams” Steven Spielberg

images: IMDb

The Godfather 2

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“Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”

The Godfather 2.  Where do I start?  I love, love, love this film!  It is one of my favourite movies.  If I had to choose only five films, it would be in my top five.  Sweeping, epic, beautiful, thrilling, operatic, emotional….

The Godfather is a fantastic film, but The Godfather 2 has the rare talent of bettering its predecessor (like The Empire Strikes Back).  Francis Ford Coppola made a beautiful film that has stood the test of time and repeatedly sits in top ten movies charts.

Iconic Emblem

I wasn’t even born, in 1974, when The Godfather 2 was in the cinemas.  I first watched The Godfather films when I was a teenager and I was hooked.

Telling the story of the Corleone family, the trilogy could be watched individually by somebody who hasn’t seen any of the films before and be enjoyed.  However, if you have the time, definitely watch all the films.  It is in three ‘acts’ like an opera and like an opera, it’s protagonist, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) has his fair share of highs and lows.

If you can only watch one film, make it part 2.

Beginning in 1901, in Corleone, Sicily, we follow Vito Andolini (who will become Vito Corleone) and find out how he came to be in America and how he became head of a crime family.

We then switch back to the ‘present’ day of 1958, where Michael Corleone (Vito’s youngest son) is throwing a communion party for his own son, Anthony, whilst holding meetings in his new role as Don of the family.

Michael, Kay, Anthony and Mary Corleone

The film sweeps easily back and forth between the young Vito as a boy and a young man (a role played to perfection by Robert de Niro) and his life in Little Italy in New York to Michael Corleone and his own family in the 50’s in Lake Tahoe.

Vito Corleone

Vito: [in Italian] “Do me this favour.  I won’t forget it. Ask your friends in the neighbourhood about me.  They’ll tell you I know how to return a favour.”

Michael started off as a ‘good guy’ in the first film.  He wanted to make his own way and did not want to be involved in the family business.  Something changes this, eventually leading to him becoming Head of the Family.  We see the change in him in part 2.  He becomes the man he always said he would never be.

The supporting cast around De Niro and Pacino are flawless.  My particular favourites are Diane Keaton as Michael’s wife, Kay, who is fantastic.  She tries to be the supportive wife, but can’t bear seeing the man she loves turn into a monster.  Talia Shire is also wonderful as Michael’s sister, Connie.  John Cazale is a delight as Fredo, Michael’s older brother.  He portrays him beautifully and his character is key to Michael’s descent into a cold, unlikeable man.

Fredo with Michael

Senator Pat Geary: “I despise your masquerade, the dishonest way you pose yourself.  You and your whole fucking family.”

Michael: “We’re both part of the same hypocrisy, senator, but never think it applies to my family.”

 

Little Italy and Sicily are great in their supporting role too.  Coppola lovingly films these places and somehow, even amidst the violence, keeps the beauty intact.

vito

The Godfather 2, won 6 Academy Awards including; Best Picture, Best Director and Best  Supporting Actor (Robert de Niro).

If you like really meaty stories with strong characters, beautiful music and epic cinematography, then you will love this film.

Trivia:

The Godfather 2 is the first sequel to win an Academy Award

It took 104 days to film

In the flashbacks, the language spoken is a combination of [mostly sicilian] southern italian dialects

Method actor Robert de Niro lived in Sicily to prepare for his role of Vito

Young Vito is marked with an ‘X’ when he arrives at Ellis Island as an immigrant.  Apparently, immigrants were marked with this if the inspector thought the person was mentally ill

Images: IMDb

 

 

Blade Runner

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Blade Runner.  My husband’s favourite film ever.  No pressure there then.  I was a bit ‘meh’ about watching this when I first met my husband back in 2001, but I am so glad I did.  This is cinematic art.

Directed by Ridley Scott, Blade Runner is based on the novel by Philip K Dick, ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’.  Released in 1982 the film performed disappointingly at the box office.  That Summer was dominated by Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.  Many popular films have started this way; Austin Powers and The Bourne Identity by example.  After home viewing and word of mouth, along with Blade Runner’s re-release in 1992, the film achieved cult status.

Set in 2019 (which must have felt very far off back in 1982), in a dystopian LA, the androids, called replicants, are organic engineered robots, created by the Tyrell Corporation, who look like humans.  Their function is for work or pleasure, on other planets (colonies).  They are banned from Earth.  Any replicants who return to Earth are hunted down and ‘retired’ by blade runners.  Replicants also have an ‘expiry’ date.

Harrison Ford plays Deckard, an ex-blade runner who is asked to retire a group of four very dangerous replicants (Pris, Leon and Zhora) led by Roy Batty (played by Rutger Hauer).  Sean Young plays a replicant called Rachael who works for the Tyrell Corporation.  Her gorgeous wardrobe/look is 40’s in style and she is reminiscent of screen sirens such as Hedy Lamarr.  It’s her character that makes Deckard (along with Roy later) question what he does.

If you love sci-fi, this film is for you.  If you love design and amazing cinematography, this film is for you.  It has all this in spades.  Visually, this future world, although dark and almost permanently raining, is stunningly beautiful in it’s sci-fi noir theme.  Ridley Scott’s films have a very distinct style and this is no exception.

I will leave you with a quote from the most famous scene, improvised by Rutger Hauer, which is Roy’s speech to Deckard:

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.  Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.  I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate.  All those moments will be lost in time…like tears in the rain…”

Trivia:

When Pris (Daryl Hannah) runs away from JL Sebastian and skids into his car, breaking the window with her elbow, it was a genuine accident and it was real glass

The first cut of Blade Runner was 4 hours

Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott had a disagreement/falling out for years over the Director’s Cut, which implied that Deckard was a replicant

This is Rutger Hauer’s favourite of his own films

Martin Scorsese met Philip K Dick in 1969 to discuss a film adaptation, but it fell through

All these fantastic images courtesy of IMDb