The Ramblings of a FILMMAKER - WANNABE
by ROHITAV SHARMA
If music be the food of love play on." Is it a crime to begin what I claim to be an original piece of writing with a clichéd, tried and tested quote? Or should I seek refuge in what Christian Slater says to Mary Stuart Masterson in Bed Of Roses - "Nothing boring about a classic"? Well my retort to Billy boy Shakespeare's words that have been etched in both time and stone would be a pale imitation, "If movies be the food for your soul read on."
Each one of these movies has been handpicked, these are movies that I've loved myself and I wish you feel the same way when you view them. When you watch a good movie, regardless of the genre that they are from, it has to move you, the purpose of a good film is for it to be able to alter the state of your mind.
I watched Boys Don't Cry and I felt uncomfortable (which is a good thing in case you're wondering, just as confusion is a sign that you're thinking) because I had never encountered a film that dealt with a sexual identity crisis with such bang, right on the target, bulls eye precision. On another occasion my flat mate woke up in the afternoon to find me with tears streaming down my face, my eyes transfixed on the screen. The film was Patch Adams. My purpose for saying all this is not for this article to be deemed as a match making classified advertisement for the sensitive sentimental single fool that I am but because like any other experience movies are also best appreciated and enjoyed in their entirety. The lingering feeling that a good film leaves you with is just as important, in one's quest to learn from our experiences in life to be a better person, as one shared with another living soul. So people feel free to feel, throw your inhibitions away, immerse yourself into the film, deal with this experience as you deal with any other…live it.
Papillon - Someone once told me that the best way to criticize a film based on a book or material previously published is to remark blindly "But the book was definitely much better", which is true on almost all occasions. A book has as many pages as is needed to tell its story, the film however must contain itself within approximately 90 to 120 minutes of screen time (the average length of a Hollywood production). When I sat myself down to watch the above mentioned movie starring Steve McQueen as the lead character and Dustin Hoffman as Louis Dega, a fellow inmate to Henri "Papillon" Charriere I was very apprehensive about taking this step; afterall I was only dealing with the book that I've read about half a dozen times and enjoyed immensely on successive visits to the autographical exploits of a man wrongly condemned of murder and forced to make his escape from the penal colony of French Guiana. McQueen shines throughout the film especially so in the sequence when he is bungled into isolation, forced to live on meager rations complimented with bugs and centipedes for additional nutritional values and is on the verge of losing his mind. Hoffman as the sophisticated educated thief upon whom the harsh prison life finally takes its toll is good but Steve McQueen clearly outshines everyone else in this character-ridden story as the soul of a man who's thirst for freedom that is wrongly denied to him will not go unquenched. Yes, while the book is better the film is certainly not a disappointment either.
Rebel Without A Cause It's amazing how a 1955 film coined a phrase that has become so relevant and is such an integral part of our language till date. The film stars James Dean as Jim Stark, a new kid in town, who's caught in between loneliness, frustration at the double standards that his parents live by and his father's own helplessness to stand up to his wife. The principle characters of the film Jim, Judy (Natalie Wood) and Plato are introduced in the vicinity of a police precinct when all three are brought in for questioning for various activities that they've been involved, late in the night (and I suspect way past their bedtime as high school students). Judy is a girl on the verge of her womanhood who craves her father's affection that she is denied and Plato a loner whose father is dead and a mother who has long ceased to love him. The movie traces the character development over the period of a little over 24 hours following an accident halfway through the film. One of the novelties of this film is the simplistic storyline it follows. The other thing that stuck out in my mind is the relationship that Judy shares with her father especially so now in times of sexual abuse by parents being such a topic of discussion. How does a parent actually express love to his or her child in these times? Staying distant might be perceived as unaffectionate whereas loving them immensely, physically, might on the other hand be viewed as abuse. Clearly this seems to me to be a no-win situation for the parent and a line that must be tread with utmost caution. Getting back to the film at hand which inspired the Keanu Reeves starrer Paula Abdul music video Rush Rush, the film was originally to be shot on black and white film stock and only after the few initial days of shooting did Warner Brothers realize that they had a potentially big film on their hands.
Hence the film was reshot on colour as well as James Dean's look for the film along with the initially proposed climax was changed. The film also stars a very young looking Dennis Hopper for whom old age has certainly been a blessing in disguise as far as his looks are concerned. Look out for a classic confrontation scene between James and his father and how James manages to communicate so much by saying so little, a sure sign of a good actor who employs his entire body to speak rather than his mouth alone.
Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid
Everything about this movie is a classic, the actors who play the lead roles; Paul Newman (Butch Cassidy) and Robert Redford (Sundance Kid), the song Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head by BJ Thomas, the screenplay of the film which won the 1969 Academy Award based on the exploits of Butch Cassidy & The Hole In The Wall Gang as well as the projector that is shown in the opening shot of the film. With so many classic aspects to the film is it any wonder that this movie to me is a classic film of all times? Wait, hold on there's more, there's much more.
The film begins as Paul is peering at the local bank, no doubt being the brain of the duo, planning a job to pull. Robert is introduced as he is engrossed in a card game and doing well for himself when an allegation of unfair play spurs him to fend himself and his honor. If tension was to be represented by a hot knife then in this sequence it is enough to slice through multiple slabs of ice and butter in one swift stroke. The other sequence that strikes out in the film is the one in which Paul is riding what was then a newly invented marvel of science, the bicycle. The school teacher Etta (Katherine Ross) and Robert's love interest in the film rides on the handlebars as Paul takes her for a ride to the nearby barn with the BJ Thomas track playing in the background. Here we see proof that to create magic on the screen it is not necessary to rely on expensive locales or an elaborate act. Some of the most magical sequences are also the most simple joys and personal moments of life. The montage of old black and white photographs fused with the period music and used as a transition of the three principal characters (along with Etta) from being on the run to their arrival in Bolivia was possibly a first in those film-making days. The film also injects humor into serious and crucial moments in the film thereby managing to strike a balance between the two without one being overbearing on the other. One of the many traits that separate a good film from a bad one is that a bad movie tries too hard to be good while a good movie is good naturally. It's actually a combination of the different elements of film-making but in the words of the late Alfred Hitchcock, and as an amateur script writer, "To make a great movie, you need just three things: a great script, a great script and a great script", and this is where Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid scores above everything else.
It's time now for me to make my exit for the month but not before I make a resolution to come back and share the wonders of cinema. "Grief is like happiness, it's just there regardless of whether you like it or not". So don't beat yourself too much if you are feeling down and out; just go and pop that vcd/vhs tape into the machine and let the magic take over.