Classics, English Movies, Recently Posted

Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? directed by Mike Nicols

Martha: Truth or illusion, George; you don't know the difference.

George: No, but we must carry on as though we did.

Martha: Amen 

 

Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf?Be warned: Watching Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton giving probably the performance of their lives will probably leave you emotionally drained, exhausted and breathless!

Adapted from the play with the same name, “Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?” has the tagline “You are cordially invited to George and Martha's for an evening of fun and games.”

Within the first five minutes, the tagline starts to feel ominous. George (Burton) and Martha (Taylor) bring an atmosphere that can be best described as chilling with a creeping sense of dread. An atmosphere in which nameless things are present but just out of sight.

The masterful thing about the movie is that this atmosphere keeps growing throughout, slowly, almost playfully in the beginning, reaching a deafening crescendo near the end and ending with an exhausted quiet – like a perfect symphony

George, a middle aged college professor and Martha, his wife, come back from a gathering and its already two in the morning. George realizes that Martha has called a young couple from the gathering over to the house for a few more drinks. Nick, the athletic good looking instructor, recently joined and Honey, his mousey wife. George voices his displeasure at which Martha launches into an angry tirade, giving us the first glimpse that everything is not quite right with the couple

From the minute that Nick and Honey enter the house, they and the viewer realize that they are mere pawns in a verbal and emotional duel between George and Martha. A duel that we realize is very old and has a devastating deep buried history.

And what an epic duel it is. If there was ever a movie that exemplifies masterful verbal dueling of the most violent kind, this has to be the one. Laced generously with expletives that seem somewhat tame by today’s comparison but which was scandalous for the time, the sparring between Martha and George is like watching an Ali-Frazer to the death. Martha is the termagant who lashes out with her tongue and body, George is menacing and pure acid. And oh the words! Who needs computer generated action when mere words can have the same effect? The dialogue can be so searing and the delivery can be so devastating that at times you have to fight the urge to close your eyes! If nothing else, a still image of Martha and George having a go at each other, mouth spewing venom, eyes wild and faces distorted will remain with you for a long time…

When two people have been married for a long time, they know enough about each other to know what will cause a deep emotional gash in the other. Martha and George know exactly what will hurt each other. And the level to which they are willing to hurt each other keeps going up. They are at each other’s throat throughout and quite suddenly you realize that they are doing it out of pure habit, as if its something that they have done many time before and they know their way around the fight ring. The decibel level just went up because of the presence of the young couple caught in the middle

And that’s where it gets interesting. Nick and Honey are not the straight arrow couple that we have been led to believe in the beginning. As the evening gets more and more ‘interesting’, dark secrets start tumbling out, a dribble at first, then a torrent. And by the time the end comes, when everything is one roaring pit of hell, it all comes to a full brim. But the end is well, theWho's afraid of Virginia Woolf? end. More on that later…

So the stage is set for a heady cocktail. Four people, each with their own demons and hidden mysteries. Each with quite distinct personalities. And none of whom are willing to let go. Its like watching a spiral unfolding in front of your eyes. A spiral of destruction that just keeps getting deeper and just when you thought it cant go on much further, the four people caught in the middle springs a surprise! Just four people in the whole film and what destruction they can cause…

Taylor and Burton as Martha and George are truly a force of nature. Watching them is like watching two masters at work. Its increadible how both had changed their appearances for getting into the skin of the role. Burton with his middle aged paunch and the hangdog expression and Taylor who put on thirty pounds for the role. Anybody who watches the pair in ‘Cleopatra’ before watching this will be in for a shock of their life.

A special mention for the contribution of Nick (George Segal) and Honey (Sandy Dennis). Without their understated but layered acting, the environment would have been punctured. The bewildered and unwilling pair, who, as the movie progresses become almost willing accomplices in the unfolding drama are a critical, though often overlooked, part of the whole structure. Starting off as plaything of Martha and George, the toys bring their own game into the drama.

 Last scene - Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf? And it all comes together at the end. When everything has fallen apart, when Nick and Honey go back to pick pieces of their shattered life, when George has delivered the final blow to Martha, everything makes sense in retrospect. Lot of things are left unsaid, lot of things are left unexplained. Which is the best way to end. Watching the end is like seeing the world after a violent blinding storm.

Saying anything more or anything specific will be a spoiler. This is a film that is best experienced, preferably alone! Leaving you with the very last line in which Martha answers the title question with

“I am, George, I am”

 

Advertisements
Standard
dachau door man's search for meaning
Book Review, Non-Fiction, Recently Posted

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E Frankl

That which does not kill me, makes me stronger – Nietzsche

 

We have come to know Man as he really is. After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord's Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips. – Viktor Frankl

 

Man's Search for Meaning Viktor Frankl

 

‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ is a book that, at first, may put off a lay buyer by the title itself. “Another self help book”! is probably the thought that would cross the mind, as it did mine. Cynicism of commercialization of the problems of modern living runs deep. Each book that purports to provide a solution to the problem in career, marriage, relationships and to the general feeling of emptiness ends up providing pop stories that makes for light entertaining reading doubling up as inspirational stories – of how other people solved their issues (or how monks sold their Ferraris!). Psychology tells us that herd mentality works for humans. If I know that some other guy cracked the secret of happiness, the brain releases enough happy hormones to make us feel that we can do the same. So the temporary happiness. And then we forget what it was all about!

And that is precisely the reason that you need to pick up this book. And you may never again may need to pick up another book to ‘help yourself’. ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ written by holocaust survivor Viktor E Frankl is a book that I can safely add to the small list of books that I can say has changed the course of my life perceptibly.

Viktor Frankl is perhaps the one of the best persons to have written a book on the topic. He was a Holocaust survivor. But that is only the part of the reason. There were thousands of survivors and not only of the Holocaust – of various Gulags and other extermination camps run by other regimes and countries. Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist who was in the process of developing his theory of logotherapy – study of how people find meaning in life, before he was seized by the Nazis. In the concentration camps, in a situation that was unique to modern human experience, Frankl was able to become a dispassionate observer of the people around him. And of himself. And he observed and kept developing his theory.

And he discovered some startling discoveries about human behaviour that otherwise would have been denied to him had he been just given an university environment.

And it is these discoveries and observations that he has put into this slim book. Slim yes but I don't recall the last book that I have highlighted and made notes of so much. Right from the first page, you start feeling the power of the book. Power that can only come from the words written by a man who has seen hell and has, for the benefit of those who come later, was able to record how man behaves in hell. And why some men can come out of hell unbowed while most are annihilated.

Man’s Search for Meaning is divided into two parts. In the first part Frankl takes us through his experience in the concentration camps. Through his eyes we see the world that he had to survive. He notes the behaviour of people around him – of prisoners and of guards. And he notes some things that can be observed only in extreme situations. Hope, he realized was a cause for life. And of death. Frankl narrates how he saw fellow prisoners literally turn from healthy people to being a corpse within a couple of days. Just because they lost hope and therefore the will to live.

In the second part he expands upon his theory of logotherapy. And in the process gives a primer on how to live.

 

“One should not search for an abstract meaning of life. The more one forgets himself-by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love-the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself. What is called self-actualization is not an attainable aim at all, for the simple reason that the more one would strive for it, the more he would miss it.”

      is one of the first lines that I highlighted. Ah! good, no pop psychology, no mysticism, no universe is in you type of bullshit. And that's how ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ starts. Cutting through the bullshit. Viktor Frankl tells us the things as is. No sugar coating. An example. His wife, pregnant at the time the Nazis captured them, was kept separately in another camp. He was not to know till after the war that she was killed almost immediately after arrival at her camp. Yet he finds out one of the greatest revelations of logotherapy from this.

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth-that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire.

Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved

Viktor was able to pass some of his darkest moments by visualizing his wife and her smile and kept alive the love he felt for her. He drew strength from the hope that he would see her again. It is love, literally, that kept him alive

 

On finding out later that she had died, in the midst of his world crashing down a second time, Frankl did not sit down and die. For as he had learnt – even in the worst of time, life does not cease to have a meaning. As he was to tell his patients and students later on – the only thing that matters in the end is what response we choose to give.

Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms-to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.

So Viktor Frankl chose to choose life and find meaning in it.

He later posed a question to his students – to guess what his, Viktor Frankl’s meaning is life is.

One student got it right. Viktor Frankl’s meaning in life was to spread the message of his book

For as he wrote,

This uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes each individual and gives a meaning to his existence has a bearing on creative work as much as it does on human love. When the impossibility of replacing a person is realized, it allows the responsibility which a man has for his existence and its continuance to appear in all its magnitude. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the "why" for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any "how."

No one except Viktor Frankl himself could do what he himself could do. Therefore he had meaning in his life.

This above statement may be the single most important lines that I have read. What different people have poured tones of ink over, Frankl sums up in a paragraph. For what can be more powerful and more empowering than the realization of our uniqueness? That no one can replace us and what we feel. That our memories and experiences are our own and own alone. No matter what the conditions.

 

And Frankl is nothing if not practical to the point of dispassionate stoicism

If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.

Suffering will happen. Period. We need to know that it is as much a part of existence as happiness. What matters is our response to it

There are situations in which one is cut off from the opportunity to do one's work or to enjoy one's life; but what never can be ruled out is the unavoidability of suffering. In accepting this challenge to suffer bravely, life has a meaning up to the last moment, and it retains this meaning literally to the end. In other words, life's meaning is an unconditional one, for it even includes the potential meaning of unavoidable suffering

Suffering in and of itself is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to it

 

 

Meaning of life is not to be found in a particular episode or in a particular form of feeling or in the way we meditate. It is to be found by living and finding meaning outside of us – in someone or some work. Fulfillment and meaning is to be found in our actions an in the way we feel for others.

By declaring that man is responsible and must actualize the potential meaning of his life, I wish to stress that the true meaning of life is to be discovered in the world rather than within man or his own psyche, as though it were a closed system.

This particular part above suddenly opened up a small fresh window for me as I read it. I felt the truth of the statement instinctively. I think our modern self help gurus may have got it dead wrong. Its not in ourselves that we can find meaning but in others and in our work that has some meaning to the outside world I think we were never wired to be isolated happy beings…

 

There is another beautiful thought that Frankl keeps coming back in the book. That of the fact that each moment we live is something that remains with us forever. Our past is the only tangible proof of our existence. All that we have felt, each moment that we have felt and lived and cried and laughed is something that is unique to us and is life’s greatest treasure to us

What you have experienced, no power on earth can take from you. Not only our experiences, but all we have done, whatever great thoughts we may have had, and all we have suffered, all this is not lost, though it is past; we have brought it into being. Having been is also a kind of being, and perhaps the surest kind.

 

 

For me, Frankl tackles beautifully one of the most difficult question that I had. And makes it look simple. I, like so many, have often wondered about the question of meaning in a general way – as if there is supposed to be a general theory of meaning. A one meaning to explain it all. Frankl gives the answer while demolishing the whole notion of a grand theory

What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person's life at a given moment. To put the question in general terms would be comparable to the question posed to a chess champion: "Tell me, Master, what is the best move in the world?"

I am yet to see a more uplifting advice on how to live a life with meaning!

 

Viktor Frankl author Man's search for meaning In truth, Man’s Search for Meaning cannot be reviewed nor explained in detail. It has to be experienced. Reading it once is surely not enough. Its life changing enough to be read at various times in life. But reading it once is enough to change the way we think about ourselves and the way we live in the world. And I think that reading this book will be a different experience for every one. Just as we are unique individuals, just so we would take unique experiences from the book.

In sum Frankl saw three possible sources for meaning: in work (doing something significant), in love (caring for another person), and in courage during difficult times. Since all three are unique to everyone at all times, then it follows, I guess that we will find different meaning in different times, uniquely.

Frankl offers readers who are searching for answers to life's dilemmas a critical mandate: he does not tell people what to do, but why they must do it. This is a small but crucial difference in the way we expect self help books to help us

 

In the end, all I can say is that not reading this book would have been a great loss to me. Its quite an unique book that is probably even more relevant in our times than earlier. A couple of quotes from the book that Frankl could as well be writing about this time

People have enough to live by but nothing to live for

Our current mental-hygiene philosophy stresses the idea that people ought to be happy, that unhappiness is a symptom of maladjustment. Such a value system might be responsible for the fact that the burden of unavoidable unhappiness is increased by unhappiness about being unhappy

Some things never change! Ah wait, I know Frank would have said to that – “Our reaction to the things can!”

 

Closing the post with a summation in Frankl’s own words. Who else to close it better?

 

Now let us turn to the question of meaning itself. To begin with, I would like to clarify that, in the first place, the logotherapist is concerned with the potential meaning inherent and dormant in all the single situations one has to face throughout his or her life. Therefore, I will not be elaborating here on the meaning of one's life as a whole, although I do not deny that such a long-range meaning does exist. To invoke an analogy, consider a movie: it consists of thousands upon thousands of individual pictures, and each of them makes sense and carries a meaning, yet the meaning of the whole film cannot be seen before its last sequence is shown. However, we cannot understand the whole film without having first understood each of its components, each of the individual pictures. Isn't it the same with life? Doesn't the final meaning of life, too, reveal itself, if at all, only at its end, on the verge of death? And doesn't this final meaning, too, depend on whether or not the potential meaning of each single situation has been actualized to the best of the respective individual's knowledge and belief?

Standard
Gold rush charlie chaplin
Classics, Comedy, English Movies, Popular

The Gold Rush directed by Charlie Chaplin

Gold rush charlie chaplin So, this was the movie that Chaplin wanted to be remembered for the most
 
Your own jury can be out on that one but one thing is for sure, along with his other great classics like “The Kid” or “City Lights”, “Gold Rush” would rank as one of the all time classics – a feast that can be enjoyed not matter what your age or what your mood for that matter.
 
Its a measure of Chaplin’s genius that he could sustain his audience through a full length silent feature movie, a length which many modern movies struggle to fill with any meaning, with all the tech wizardy in hand.
 
Much like “The Kid”, which came earlier, Chaplin is able to combine comedy, pathos, a keen sense of human nature and a social  non-judgmental commentary and a sense of irreverent frivolity.
 
Many people today mistaken Chaplin with slapstick or physical comedy, which is a tragedy of ignorance. Almost none of his works are of the kind that would make you laugh without making you think, however subtly. And that is where the power of something like “Gold Rush” comes into focus.
 


chaplin_goldrush_full

The Tramp is now in the middle of the infamous Gold rush in Alaska of the late 19th century. And as ever, he is bumbling along alone, with his trademark top hat, ill fitting coat and stick, all in the wilderness of Alaska. He is the lone prospector trying his luck in the advertised El Dorado, with only a map drawn with just north south arrows.
 
On the way to struggle to fame, he meets quite a few characters along the way – the thug, the prospector who finds the mountain of Gold and then loses it, the ladies man Jack, and the woman who he falls in love with – Georgia, a dancing girl in one of the prospecting towns.
 
With his inimitable charm and bumbling confidence, the Tramp does what he does best – makes you laugh and cry, sometimes at the same  dance-halltime.
 
Between fighting a bear, almost getting eaten after being mistaken as a chicken and escaping from a see-sawing house on an cliff edge, the Tramp is the dreamer who falls madly in love with Georgia, who only finds him a useful foolishness.
 
Some of the most indelible imagery of “Gold Rush” is of the Tramp being a misfit even among misfits. The image of him facing the dance hall, back towards us, with people dancing gaily around him, while he just watches with us seeing his face is one of the most enduring image.
 
And of course who can forget the simply hilarious dance of the rolls – charliegeorgiazwone of the most famous scenes of all times. A scene that combines a comic timing, comic expressions, a virtuoso skill at the pantomime of dance using rolls, all happening at the backdrop of it taking place in a dream where the tramp is imagining a happy place with a reality quite different. If one scene can define the whole movie, it would have to be this one
 
What finally happens is something that you have to find for yourself as telling the ending is spoiling the fun. But unlike many of his earlier movies, I found the ending to be a bit equivocal.
 
The beauty of “Gold Rush” and probably why Chaplin wanted to be remembered for this is that this movie works so well on different levels. It depends on what how the viewer wants to take it. On the surface is a classic Tramp caper with his inimitable style.
 
Dig a bit deeper and you  catch glimpses of social satire – on human greed, on human frailty, on vanity, on capriciousness, of pride and of love based on material and physical aspects. And the ending with the kiss, with the Tramp acting the imperious millionaire, is an ending you can take in more ways than one.
 
Easy to see why the Tramp is such a loved character, even after almost a 100 years after he came on the screen and also easy to see why “Gold Rush” would remain one of the most well-loved of Chaplin’s movie.
 
images

The roll dance

 

 

 

 

Roll Dance Gold rush

 

Standard
World Cinema

Shoeshine directed by Vittorio De Sica

51zb4ZVLnYL._SL500_AA300_ This is one movie that I have been wanting to see for a long time. I had seen “Bicycle Thieves” before by Sica, which is one of the rare movies that haunt you even by the mere mention of the name…And one thing that I realized after seeing these two movies by Sica is that he gives the killer blow right at the end – the silent walk by the father and the son in “Bicycle Thieves” and in this case Pasquale’s shattered cries as the horse, the hope, trots away, almost in despair…

 

Sica has a special touch with children and this movie really brings it out…
 

The heart of this story is, I believe, about innocence and how fragile it is. Its post-war Italy, a society trying to find new meaning. Children, as is always the case, become the hidden victims. Giuseppe and Pasquale, 453777390_587229a337 are two gamins in our story, who are shoeshiners and fast friends. Their only ambition in life is to own a horse that they love, for which they saved for some time. They get involved in a crime without realizing it, but which enables them to buy the horse. Their dream is short-lived though, as they are soon caught and thrown into juvenile prison.

And so starts their slow dehumanization. They valiantly attempt to keep up their humour and their strands of friendship together but a system which bothers only with incarceration and not with justice just does not allow that.
 

a image shoeshine image  2906 In an almost Dickensian atmosphere, children are treated as adult criminals, which then makes them into one and in an ironical self-serving judgement, the authorities turn around and say – “I told you so”

It has its own elements of dark humour and there is a faint underlying theme of absurdity in the cinematography as if the story is telling you how absurd the world is that makes children end up in prison and how absurd it is that we are able to rationalize it somehow.
 
The end of this story is both visceral and darkly poetic at the same time and as I said, is a hallmark of Sica’s movies. And it is an end that would haunt the viewer for a long time.
 

You become so close to the two boys and to some other inmates of the PDVD_035 prison especially Raffaele that in the end you almost feel like crying at the utter waste of it all…

This is one classic that you miss at your own peril. This is a movie to cherish and pass on. No review is enough until you actually see it…

 

I cant wait to see the rest of Sica’s movies – “Umberto D” and “Children are watching us”, next on list…

Standard
Drama, English Movies

Dogpound Shuffle directed by Jeffrey Bloom

10876919_det Before writing a review of the movie, a little note on how damn difficult it is to find it!!!
 
I first saw this movie when I was somewhere around class IX or even earlier. Like so many gems, it was coming at an odd time – late afternoon or so and I just chanced to see it after it had already begun. I remember being mesmerized by the simple yet touching story about a man and his quest to free his dog. I found out the name later (from one of those TV guides that I used to pore over). I think I saw it once more but I am not sure…
 
The movie stayed with me for all these years as one of those childhood movies that you saw but which you want to see again. The internet age came and the download speed slowly increased so now we are now able to download videos effortlessly where we could download images painfully ten years ago.
 
This movie however remained elusive even after extensive searching. There were other hard to find movies that I eventually pounced upon – like “Silent Night”, “The Scarlet and the Black” etc but this one wasmoodysouldogpoundshuffle182 tough. Real tough…
 
So I get into these fits of energy when a notion seizes me and I keep searching for whatever catches my fancy like a maniac. The “Dogpound Shuffle” mania kept hitting me every second year. And this time I was ready to buy from Amazon if necessary.
 
But wonder of wonders!!! Amazon has only a VHS tape of the movie (obviously used!!). I mean, VHS? After having reeled a bit from this sort of a letdown from the god of online shopping, I searched like a maniac for any torrent that might even give me 1Kbps speed!!!
 
And just when I had almost given up, I found it!!! Where? In a DVD lending website based in India – 70mm!!! I had to kick myself more than a dozen times before I could actually believe that a movie that the awesome power of Internet and Amazon combined was not able to deliver was lying nonchalantly in a DVD lending library that is just a phone call away!! Irony of modern technology, no less!!! Anyway, so  thats how I got this movie…Phew!!!
 
index So about the movie. I watched it after almost 12 years and it still  retained the magic that I had felt then. The story of an old tap dancer who teams up with a failed prizefighter who plays harmonica to raise money to free his dog from the Dogpound is a story that O Henry could have been proud of.
 
It has all the qualities of an excellent short story – You get fleeting glimpses into the lives of the characters but all the story is told in action, in the dialogues and the story is one which is lived in present. And like the best of stories, this is about relationships between people – in this case between people who start off being together to survive, in order to gain something from the other and end up forming a kinship that is difficult to put a name to.
 
It has a old literature feel that gives it a certain feeling of old romance – of two drifters finding friendship and purpose in and from each other, in a story that is beautiful and touching in its message of friendship. This is a movie that gives off a warm snug feeling and leaves you wetfilm-dogpoundshuffle-eyed and laughing at the same time…
 
Its quite a wonder to me how this movie is not at all popular as it should be – a sentiment echoed, as I found, on Amazon and Imdb.com. This is a movie for all ages and for the whole family…
 
Well, I dont really care about others but I do know this – this is one movie I am making multiple copies of. This is a movie that is rare in every sense of the world…
 
I wish I could tell you to go and see it…Unless you get it from 70mm, good luck to you in the whole wide world!!!
 

 
Standard
ran kurosawa
World Cinema

Ran directed by Akira Kurosawa

ran01rv6 One is usually very careful when writing a review of a movie that you have heard of for years and which is generally considered a masterpiece. You are already prejudiced by what has been written and spoken of before by people who have supposed superiority on these matters…

I however, have tried to see this as objectively as possible, trying to drive out of my mind that it is a Kurosawa film i am seeing. Its not easy but i try anyway…

Its a film that is inspired by King Lear – in this case the story of the fall of a fearsome but ageing warlord (Hidetora Ichimonji) who gives up power and divides it among his sons. However he soon finds himself an outcast and at the receiving end of the ambitions of his two sons (he banishes the third, Saburo, when he opposes the plan of division). Humiliation and indignity follows…

He soon finds himself alone, defeated in treachery, his bodyguard killedcastleburnranev4 and is himself not killed because he is considered insane. Beset by horrors of the ghosts of his past actions, the fearsome warlord at the start of the movie becomes a helpless senile invalid, who regains his sanity at times only to fear the unseen ghosts around him and relapsing into the gibbering safety of insanity.

However the third son comes back to claim his father and take him back, thereby triggering a war of intrigue, which in the end results in the complete destruction of the Ichimonji family.

But what is a Kurosawa film if not constantly grey in its outlook. There are no black and white characters. The cruel becomes victims of cruelty, the betrayer is betrayed, the victim of yesterday mimics the oppressor. There is no moral absolute.

“Who is to be pitied?” is something that you wonder by the time the movie ends…the ones who are being carried to the pyre, the one who is ran2 left alone and helpless on the fort top or the one is who executed after her revenge is complete…and then you realize the answer is in the movie itself – this is the just the way it is or as the jester says – “Man is born to cry…when he has cried enough, he dies”…

There are some wonderfully complex characters – Lady Kaede, Kyoami and Hidetora himself, who gave flesh to the story, the theme of which is as old as ambition itself.

And what is a Kurosawa samurai film without the action? The film dwells on the increasing power of firearms, which in turn heralded the ran01 end of face to face combat and which foreshadowed the end of the Samurai as the  master of the field. As the climax showed, it doesn't matter who you are, as a peasant with a gun can kill you from afar. War, itself, as a force that destroys everything is something that is shown again and again – in action, in words and in parables…and the action sequences are incredible even by today’s computerized cinematic standards…

 

 

Standard
Charlie-Chaplin-in-Modern-Times
Classics, Comedy, English Movies, Popular

Modern Times directed by Charlie Chaplin

mo There are some movies that you can enjoy immensely as a child and then realize how much more there is to enjoy in the same movie, years down the line…

Perhaps that is why movies of Chaplin are ageless. You laugh and cry with him as a child and as a ‘grown up’, but as the latter, you realize the true genius of the man.

Art without commentary on things around it is worse than useless, a mere trinket, soon forgotten. This movie proves that the medium can provide entertainment and make a profound political statement as well, while never becoming preachy or descending into propaganda.

And the best way to make a statement, especially a political one, is to make it through a satire. And this is what this movie does brilliantly…

The very first scene gives a clear indication of what is to follow – a herd of sheep morphs into people coming out of a factory while the  voice over narrates the joy of pursuit of happiness via modern capitalism.

Chaplin is a worker in a factory, a place where literally everything ischaplin modern_times_2 controlled and the worker is no better than another cog. The boss is a like Big Brother, appearing on TV screens (even in the bathroom) and commanding the work to be speeded up (all the while himself doing nothing except work on jigsaw puzzles). There are many memorable scenes in the factory sequences – that of Chaplin trying to keep up with his work of screwing nuts, being force-fed by a feeding machine which is supposed to increase productivity (by cutting down on lunchtimes) and of course of Chaplin having a nervous breakdown.

This was made at the time of the Great Depression and Chaplin proves his genius by weaving into the story all the tensions, the helplessness, the dehumanisations that the common man went through in trying to chaplin_moderntimes_01 maintain his dignity. Right from trade-unions to robbers trying not to starve, to street-smart yet vulnerable gamins trying to get by, Chaplin brings in every aspect of society at that time – all the while, never losing his comic touch. He pairs up with an doughty orphaned  gamine girl (Paulette Goddard) – making a team of two, a team that is determined to survive at all costs.

Amidst all the gloom of the times, the two are refreshing in their innocence and their unwillingness to let go of their small dreams. The scene where the two dream of a home together is hilarious as it is touching.

The film ends with them walking towards the horizon, not giving in to failure. The last lines of the movie pretty much sums it all up –

Gamine: What's the use of trying?
Chaplin: Buck up – never say die. We'll get along.

chaplin6

As simple as that…

When it ends, you realize that you have laughed with abandon at the all of the crazy scenes (the waiter scene, Chaplin’s nonsense song, the roller skating scene among many many others) and have also been touched profoundly.

It is a movie that makes as much sense today as it did seventy years ago. Except the superficial looks, nothing much has changed really…

A movie not to be missed. Chaplin and film-making at its absolute best…

 

 

Standard