The Red Balloon - Wordless Masterpiece

                             In 1956, a 34 minute short, and an almost wordless film came out in France, and immediately won the hearts of children and adults. It was the first short film to earn a Academy Award for original screenplay, and the first to receive a Palme d'Or ar Cannes. Fifty six years later, it still remains as one of the great children's films of all time. The key to its everlasting endurance is in its simplicity. The lack of elaboration of interpretation leaves it as something timeless. And yet behind its simple mindedness lies a mountain of metaphor that has kept critics, and fans talking for five decades. 

                       This 34-minute fable begins with the balloon itself, which looks like no other balloon you've ever seen. It's so shiny and tactile, so luscious in its utter balloon-ness. Pascal, a wee Parisian grade-schooler, frees a balloon that he finds tied to a lamppost; the balloon shows its gratitude by following the boy where ever he goes. The two go, inseparable. When the frowning headmaster tells the boy to leave his balloon outside, the balloon waits, bobbing in the air. With its many stairs and slanting alleyways, the blue-gray Paris is like a maze, constantly threatening to come in between the boy and his new pal, but like a magnet or a dog starved for attention, the balloon always comes back to him.

                     And that's pretty much it. But what a magic director Albert Lamorisse weaves with such a story. His crew used a variety of puppeteering techniques, most of which still remain invisible. The clarity of a blu-ray or dvd might reveal the thin string in few shots, but even then you have to be keenly looking for it. The balloon's behavior, created through mime leads us to opening our hearts to this lively creature. "The Red Balloon" is in Technicolor and was splendidly shot by Edmond Sechan. The special effects would be insignificant, however, without the elegant charm of the story they are serving. The 6-year-old boy was played by the director's son Pascal

                    A group of neighborhood bullies chase the balloon through a perilously narrow corridor, throwing rocks as it tries to escape. Lamorisse suggests that kids are always keenly tuned to the objects of the world around them: After the boy loses his red friend, a montage of balloons across the city shows them flying to his side and, in the final shot, launching him into the sky. For Lamorisse, then, the pleasures of childhood are as fleeting as they are ecstatic. 

                   Albert Lamorisse represents childhood as lonely and barren. The first time we see Pascal, he is alone. He ignored or taunted by his peers. His mother is elderly and fierce, remote in age and emotion. She drags him into church without looking at him. He sees in the red balloon the neglected child he is, tied to a post and alone. He finds the balloon is excluded as he is excluded, forbidden on the bus, home and in school. Pascal walks past gray buildings, gray streets, sidewalks. He himself dresses in gray  from his every day uniform to his Sunday suit So, Lamorisse metaphorically shows a red balloon, which adds some color to Pascal's life. 
                  When the bullying kids chases down the red balloon with stones, Lamorisse poignantly symbolizes the dreams and the cruelty of those who puncture them. And yet all of this remains for the viewer to decide. The director refuses to push any subtext, delighting instead in the chance to simply watch this story unfold. He captures the events with an eyes, that never questions, doubts, or nudges a point of view. It remains appreciated by movie-lovers as they age, not out of mere nostalgia, but out of a true respect for a marvelous work of art. 

                 Take the children away from their play-stations and make them watch this extraordinary film. And, there is no age limit to discover the marvelous effects of Lamorisse’s vivid and boundless imagination.

The Red Balloon - IMDb 

The Decade That Made A Star : Al Pacino In The 70s

                        With a unquestionable catalogue of iconic performances to his name, it’d be hard to argue against the fact that Al Pacino is the finest – and most coherent – American actor to ever grace the silver screen. From his first, small part in the 1969 independent movie, Me Natalie, Pacino’s career has always been eye-catching. Pacino's acting roots are evident in his earliest performances which emphasize improvisation, spontaneity, and flamboyance of manner and expression to a point where acting threatens to become the films' sole function.

                        This is precisely the case in his roles as the young junkie in Panic In Needle Park, the drifter who has abandoned his family in Scarecrow, the honest New York cop single-handedly fighting a corrupt police department in Serpico, and the would-be bank robber who desires to finance his lover's sex change operation in Dog Day Afternoon. It is his appearances in these films, and as Michael Corleone in legendary Godfather films, established Pacino as one of the 1970' most important stars. 

                  His performances in the first four movies i mentioned above, are a force of an almost crazed nervous energy combined with a deep strength and vulnerability. This energy appears at once as a positive trait, infectious and irresistible, and a mask, a defense against the constant threat posed by the other characters or forces at work in the story. 

                  Of all these classics, it was his work in the two Godfather films, required Pacino to create a far more complexly psychological characterization. Here, his acting style changes drastically, as he becomes more restrained and understated. His Michael Corleone starts out a young, all American war hero, a man with decent instincts and the type of guy one would expect to marry, raise a family, become a pillar of his community. As time passes and Michael finds himself becoming more deeply and inexorably involved in his family's "business." 

                 Pacino gradually and ever-so-subtly develops his character into a powerful but nonetheless tragic figure : a man who has allowed himself to seduced and ultimately corrupted, to the point where he is capable of instigating the most vicious and horribly evil actions. He is consumed by  a cloak of weariness which haunts him, overriding and defining his character more than any amount of power he has achieved.

                 Al Pacino dominated this particular decade with an blend of characters all driven by quite determination. It is the hallmark of a true actor to downplay theatrics to deliver an effective, breath-taking performance. Take his underplayed character in the movie "The Panic In Needle Park," where he turns in a naturalistic speed-ball performance. He was so believable as a heroin addict, which makes you almost want to reach out and help him. Many actors have found it hard to escape the shadow of a career-defining success, but Pacino instead used The Godfather’s acclaim as a beginning to other equally memorable and challenging roles. 

                 The first of these was his Academy Award nominated role in Sidney Lumet’s classic cop movie, Serpico.The movie was lifted into greatness by the quality and nuance of Pacino’s performance as the titular detective. Pacino once again joined forces with director Lumet for the equally magnificent Dog Day Afternoon (1975). This film once again featured a spell-binding performance from Pacino as he played another real-life character, the clumsy and twitchy first-time bank robber, Sonny. A fourth unsuccessful Oscar nomination came in 1979 for Pacino’s role in Norman Jewison’s court room drama And Justice For All

                With his intense and gritty performances in the 70s, Pacino was an original in the acting profession. His Method approach became the process of many actors throughout time, and his unbeatable number of classic roles had made him a legend among film buffs and all aspiring actors and directors. His commitment to acting as a profession and his constant screen dominance has established him as one of movies' legends. The 70's made Al Pacino, a icon, a star, and a focal point of memorable movies ever made.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - Wonderful Feel Good Movie With A Superb Cast

                          What a tedious and boring thing it is, to get old, especially for that generation that once went around singing and dancing. The irritating thing about getting older isn't so much the increased aches and pains, it is more about being ignored and marginalized. "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is about group of old people who are moving on into their retirement years, that frightening zone where you are ignored, but this particular group takes a leap of faith into a very different culture. A rich culture, with these senior citizens, takes outsourcing to the next stage. 

                          British senior citizens travel to India to either address or get away from their problems. Why should we care? As a matter of fact, the movie is rife with cliches and predictability. But when those people include veteran English actors, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith and Judi Dench, among others, it's almost impossible not to. Some movies like Marigold Hotel, are better off going easy on the surprises, and concentrating on a reassuring level of actorly craft.

        Evelyn (Judi Dench) lives in London and is adrift with troubles. Her husband of 40 years has died and left her drowning in debt. The desperately unhappy woman, Jean (Penelope Wilton) and her husband, Douglas (Bill Nighy), made a bad investment in their daughter's software company. Old Norman (Ronald Pickup) is still trying to pass himself off as a 40-something on dating sites. Muriel (Maggie Smith) is a long-serving housekeeper put out to pasture by her employers and now in urgent need of a hip replacement, which is prohibitively expensive or requires a long wait in England.

             Graham (Tom Wilkinson) is a retired High Court judge, who spent some time in India early in his life.He has a secret identity and a hidden agenda. Madge (Celia Imrie) has been married and divorced many times. She is still looking for romance and a man of wealth.These handful of people are brought together and are placed in a funky old hotel in the hectic city of Jaipur, India. The ad says "a luxury development for residents in their golden years," but once they get there, they find a crumbling old hotel, run with more enthusiasm than expertise by Sonny (Dev Patel), who inherited the place from his father.

               Everyone reacts differently to India, and to the place, and all do so in a predictable manner, but makes up for this predictability, with sheer British acting personality.

               Deborah Moggach's book, "These Foolish Things," is based on the premise of setting up a retirement home in Bangalore. Director John Madden switches the locale to Jaipur.  He ("Shakespeare in Love") and his screenwriter Ol Parker are way too schematic, and they keep far too much of the action within the crumbly confines of the hotel. Madden has no points for originality, but has a knack for character-driven films filled with people trying to decipher the meanings and the mysteries in their lives. Cinematographer Ben Davis puts a crisp polish on the Rajasthan locations, his cameras opting for energetic mobility as the immediate environment dictates.

                People who make movies and they will tell you that an actor can rise above a bad script, but a movie can't. These actors might not be doing groundbreaking work here, but Dench, Nighy, Wilkinson and the rest are doing what they are given to do very well. The heart of the film, is Judi Dench, who in voice-over provides a running commentary. Dench and Tom Wilkinson get to convey more melancholy tones of transition in the respective twilight's of their lives. Bill Nighy with his subtle acting, as a henpecked husband, shrugs off Jean’s shots until her unrelenting negativity causes him to explode in a terrific confrontation. 

               Maggie-Smith's turnabout is perhaps too abrupt to be believed, but the actress deftly handles sour Muriel’s gradual discovery of a new sense of purpose as she assumes a decisive role in the hotel’s survival. India is chiefly represented by the eternally optimistic young hotel manager, played by Slumdog Millionaire's Dev Patel. He pushes the insinuating, over-caffeinated ethnic stereotype. Old colonial habits dies, at least in a filmic vision of India that's woefully behind the curve of a country whose lively progress on many fronts far outstrips that of its former ruler.

               Although the movie is a comedy, it takes within its embrace a number of very relevant and important dimensions of this elder stage of life: health crisis, financial short-falls, disappointments, the brooding prospect of death, marital relationships, the continuing desire for companionship, and spiritual openness. Best of all is the message that you can learn new tricks, and embrace changes at any age. A change of atmosphere for some of the characters opens them up to new possibilities and for a few — total transformation. Irrespective of our age, for a magical change, all we need is a open heart, open mind, and patience. 

                 The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is good for most of the two hours, and is alright in the end. As Sonny Kapoor reminds us : "In India, we have a saying — everything will be all right in the end. So if it is not all right, it is not yet the end." 


The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - IMDb

Buster Keaton's Comic Masterpiece - An Analysis

                        Buster Keaton bestowed a superb set of assets to movies: an athlete's body, a performer's instincts and a mechanic's curiosity. His lean physique could answer to multiple demands -- dashing, leaping, catapulting, beatened by bullies and, in one case, slammed by the contents of a railroad water tank. 

                       Keaton made a heap of amazing shorts and features, but one has always risen above the rest by a way of its sheer scale. That film is The General, which consistently appears on critics polls as one of the greatest films ever made. The General is by far the most famous of the comedy features in which Buster Keaton starred, and in several cases directed or co-directed, between 1923 and 1928. It was one of the most expensive silent films ever made, and contains the single most expensive sequence in silent films.

The Story Pattern

               All of his silent features followed a basic story formula: a failed young man, finally displays prowess and wins the girl. In addition, his films demonstrated, in part or in whole, a striking cinematic imagination as well as superb comic acting. The story, like all his films is simple: At the time of American Civil War, Union spies steal an engineer's beloved locomotive. He pursues it single-handedly and straight through enemy lines. The film is distinctive for its civil war setting and location shooting. It was shot mostly in areas, where the necessary narrow-gauge railroad tracks are found. The unusually fine photography, the extensive action involving trains, the ambitious subject, based on history, and the serious element of the drama combined to give this film and epic sweep that is surely unique in silent comedy. 

                 In the typical Buster Keaton comedy the hero is at first anything but heroic: he is callow, bumbling, and even a decadent. Through perseverance, and luck he becomes a success -- sometimes as a bonus but usually as the original goal -- he is united with the woman of his dreams. In General, Johnnie Gray (Buster Keaton) is an expert in at least one field, rail-road engineering. In fact his competence at his job is what prevents him from being accepted into the army, setting the rest of the plot in motion. 

             Of course he must still demonstrate bravery to win the heart of Annabelle Lee: and, to satisfy himself, must succeed as a soldier as well. The unselfish heroism and expertise of Johnny Gray are simultaneously touching and amusing -- though much of his success is also due to good fortune. The heroine of the film, has a larger and more unusual role than in the other Keaton features. Usually a Keaton heroine is either haughty, or sweet, but in each case little more than the goal to be attained; There is some stereotyping of the foolish female in some of Annabelle's earlier efforts to block the pursuers and feed the engine, but the evolving of her role from the "unattainable goal" to a partner in action is still refreshing. 

Exceptional Cinematography
                   The General is filled with surprising moments: brilliant comic jokes, or fine touches of sentiment that never go on long enough to become cutesy. Perhaps the comedy is especially striking because it grows out of a serious melodramatic pursuit -- but it is particularly satisfying because it stems from the characters of the hero and heroine or from the ironic perspective of the camera. The point has often been made that the camera in Chaplin's films was used mainly to record the body of facial movements of its pantomime hero, while in Keaton's films the comedy often depends on special placement of the camera, or on special visual effects. 

                  A classic example in The General happens when Johnnie has accidentally caused the cannon attachment to be aimed directly at his own train. However, he and his train are spared, and it is better that, the enemy is convinced of the powers of their pursuer, when the forepart of Johnny's train curves left and the cannon fires directly ahead -- nearly blasting the black car of the train, on the track ahead. The elegance of the gag centers on the placement of the camera behind and above the cannon car, grandly recording the beautiful timed action in one shot. 

               Another famous moment in the film -- this one visually simple and emotionally complex -- occurs when Johnnie, rejected by Annabelle, sits desolately on the cross bar of the engine's wheels as the train starts up. The cross bar carries him up and down twice before he realizes what is going on. His forlorn, unmoving body posture is at once astonishingly sad and funny; and drift into sentimentality is avoided by Johnny's suddenly aware look as he passes into the train shed. The overall wit and irony of the shot  are dependent on the camera being placed at a sufficient distance to show the small size of Johnny's body against the sublimely indifferent machine.

                The General is Buster Keaton's ageless masterpiece. He was more interested in making a good film that was authentic than in making stacks of money. He spared no expenses while filming. As a result of the great expenses incurred, the film was more a critical success than a great moneymaker. Anyway, The General has to be seen to be believed. Those who love movies must see, Keaton in action. 

L.A. Confidential - An Unflinching Tale of Police Corruption

                                This is a movie about crime, violence, and corruption. In this film, loyalties shifts like sand in a windstorm. It's about a city called Los Angeles, and a time, the early 1950s. This is L.A. Confidential, one of the most absorbing, compelling, most thoroughly enjoyable crime thriller. "L.A. Confidential" takes place at a time when the celebrity culture, already in place, was about to link arms with the emerging media, television, and do a number on the last trace of human- scale values. There's nothing to believe in, except the moment. So the way is opened for people peddling the thrills of sex and drugs. Corruption was there, boiling and seething beneath a luscious, but very thin veneer.

                         Based on the novel by James Ellroy, co-adapted and directed by Curtis Hanson, this 1997 combination police procedural and underworld expose has already stood the test of time. As the opening voice-over kicks in we see a montage of gorgeous South Californian shots. The stage for what follows is set by a sleazy tabloid reporter : "Life is good on Los-Angeles. It's paradise on earth. That's what they tell you anyway. Because they are selling an image. They are selling it through movies, radio, and television.......You'd think this place was the garden of Eden, but there's trouble in paradise." And indeed there is.

    The film follows the lives of three Los-Angeles police officers, Bud White (Russell Crowe), Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey), and Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), as they try to unravel the mystery of the Night Owl Cafe massacre, in which several people, including White's former partner Dick Stensland, were shot dead during what was ostensibly a robbery gone bad. 

             White, is a "muscle" guy who believes that violence solves almost everything and is willing to bend or break the rules to obtain results. Jack, is the kind of officer who prefers the spotlight to a down-and-dirty lifestyle. He's the high-profile technical adviser to the hit TV series, and has a secret agreement with the editor (Danny DeVito) of Hush Hush magazine, a tabloid that publishes photos and stories showing Jack arresting celebrities in compromising positions.

              Finally, there's Ed Exley, a clean cop who thinks he can rise through the ranks without resorting to Bud's ill-mannered methods. Obviously, the tactics used by these three differ greatly, but, as they dig deeper into the murky mysteries of the L.A. police force, it becomes clear that their survival depends on working together. The deeper we get into the case, the more engrossing it becomes.

                Prior to L.A. Confidential, director Curtis Hanson spent nearly 30 years learning the movie business, working as an actor, producer, writer, and eventually a director. He made a big leap, from being a workman like director to film-maker par excellence; the result was a film that is widely considered the best neo-noir since China Town (1974). Curtis Hanson's elegant film, demands some concentration to keep with the subtle plot twists and coded dialogue. The difference between L.A. Confidential and numerous other, more routine films of the genre starts with the script. Smart, insightful, and consistently engaging, Hanson and Brian Helgeland's faithful adaptation of Ellroy's novel is a real treat for anyone who views film as a medium for both art and entertainment. 

                Confidently wielding an clumsy story, they strides through dozens of characters and subplots, and still makes sense of it all without losing the audience. Every scene and every line of dialogue is carefully designed for a purpose. Moreover, it's hard to recall a movie with a better ensemble cast. Muscular, and ruggedly good-looking, Crowe, Aussie, is every inch the image of a Southern California cop, but also brings credibility to his tender and well-motivated episodes. Pearce, lends Exley fierce moral, ethical and intellectual dimensions that considerably enrich the picture's texture.

                Kevin Spacey as the somewhat older homicide veteran who relishes his special status as a "Hollywood" cop, has cultivated a dry view of his own casual corruption but is not beyond rising to the occasion when something truly alarming occurs. Much of the strength of ''L.A. Confidential'' comes from supporting roles. James Cromwell, but best known as the farmer in the film "Babe," is superbly nuanced as the force's grand old man. Kim Basinger, portrays a prostitute, torn between Ed and Bud, won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role.

               Dante Spinotti's widescreen lensing does the rest to convey a growing city's moral contamination. While the day light scenes are awash in light, giving them a saturated look that contributes to the overall sense of decay, the nighttime scenes are shot in such a way as to highlight the contrast between light and dark. "L.A. Confidential" brings together everything that is great about the movies. With an involving story that keeps our attention from the first frame, the the movie brings the thrill of corruption crackingly to life. 

               L.A. Confidential had the misfortune of being released in the same year as Titanic, the second most financially successful film ever. However, even though it was Titanic that walked away with major awards at the 1998 Oscars, Titanic will be remembered as a well made special effects driven film, while L.A. Confidential will be remembered as a masterpiece for ages.


L.A. Confidential - IMDb

Deliverance - The Thin Line Between Civilization And Savagery

                              In the early 1970s, Conspiracy and paranoia had become a common matter in American culture, accelerated no doubt by Watergate, and Vietnam war. This paranoia was evident in diverse films of that period. Where ten years earlier movie protagonists routinely triumphed over adversity, the heroes of these 1970s films were increasingly to find themselves trapped and destroyed by relentless logic of events. This is the claustrophobic plight of Deliverance, an adventure story that transports us into a tough struggle for survival in the mountains.

                           The movie is based on the 1970 novel by James Dickey that tends to the ecological concerns of the author, who fears modern man has lost contact with nature and is erroneously relying completely on machines for his survival. "Deliverance" is not just about surviving the dangers of wilderness, it's about surviving and confronting one's own heart of darkness. 

        Four businessmen (played by Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, and Ronny Cox) from Atlanta decide to go canoeing in the rapids of the Cahulawassee River, a wild deep river. Lewis (Burt Reynolds), the leader of the four, a macho sports enthusiast sees the trip as a challenge to his survival abilities. He remonstrates the others for their physical softness and philosophizes that modern man must exercise his artistry against nature if he is to conquer the future: "I think the machines are going to fail, the political systems are going to fail and a few men are going to take to the hills and start over."

                 Drew Ballinger (Ronny Cox) is a  family man who's a sales supervisor for a soft drink company and a guitarist, and is the most decent of the four; Bobby Trippe (Ned Beatty) is an objectionable chubby bachelor insurance salesman; and Ed Gentry (Jon Voight) is meditative, sensitive, married with a son, and runs an art service. Ed and Bobby have pulled their canoe to the shore when they are waylaid by two mountaineers. While one holds a gun on them, the other ties Ed to a tree. Then the mountain man sodomizes Bobby. The scene is one of absolute terror — an ungodly confrontation between modern guys and primitive rednecks.

                The sound of an arrow pulled  pulled from the body of his attacker; the frenzied group as they dig a grave with their bare hands; Drew's body trapped against a boulder, his arm twisted behind his head. Such scenes are the constant remainders of the brute materiality of the wilderness. Then comes the deliverance part, the survivors seeking their animal instincts for survival.

                  Deliverance is a pessimistic and a absorbing piece of storytelling. Director Boorman makes you believe he's involving you in a nature-oriented male bonding tale, and then he hits you with disturbing and thought-provoking twists and takes you someplace else. It's true that he throws in perhaps a bit too much anticlimactic falling action, but it, too, works to introduce properly the film's memorable closing shots. Boorman suggests that it's too late for mankind to be concerned after all the years of indifference to nature; man has forgotten how to survive without tools in the "virgin wilderness" and will some day pay the ultimate price for this loss. 

                 Boorman and his writer were criticized at the time for showing mostly the tough, deplorable sordidness of the mountain people, and some claimed that the film was exploitative rather than exploratory in terms of its violence and de-emphasized issues of ecology. The film's downbeat mood is sustained in its cinematography. photographed by Vilmos Zsigmond, the film was shot in threatening grey-greens. Although the big panavision images of river, cliffs, and forest are impressive enough, the desaturated color always ensues that they do not become merely picturesque. 

              "Deliverance" made the then TV actor Burt Reynolds a major movie star, a position he would hold for another decade or so. The first half of the movie is dominated Burt Reynolds, who swaggers and about how we haven't lost that impulse deep within ourselves for connecting with nature. Jon Voight impresses as the moral center of the story, struggling between plain survival and being a law abiding citizen. Ronny Cox has the most memorable scene, when he plays guitar with a child's banjo. the two disparate individuals engage some sort of contest, that builds momentum until both go at a frenzied pace while bringing out an mountain song. Ned Beatty goes through some really messed up situations, and does a good job.

              Deliverance insinuates its way into your mind, nut it is not without flaws. The treatment of the mountain folk in the early sequences seems patronizing and stereotypical. Despite these faults, the film is a chillingly brutal and a poignant tale. 

           When the survivors emerge from the last rapids onto the lake, it is not a comforting expanse of calm water that greets them and us. It is the rusting bulk of a wrecked automobile, water lapping around its fender. The survivors cry, "We have made it,"  grateful for this ambiguous symbol of civilized society.


Deliverance - IMDb

Best Director/Actor Collaborations : Martin Scorsese And Robert De Niro

                        A director should be blessed to find a actor, who is akin to them. A actor, who is so tuned in, to give everything a film-maker wants from a character. Successful actors and directors have paired throughout the history of film, but few have formulated so many works of enduring value as these two artists. From 1973 to 1996, for more than two decades De Niro and Scorsese have given us eight features, including the classics Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas.

                       The emotionally fraught and visceral works of these cinema legends have consistently fascinated movie-goers around the world. From the jittery Johnny boy(Mean Streets), to Travis Bickle, a tightly wound ball of hate(Taxi Driver), to a cocky saxophone player Jimmy Doyle(New York, New York), to a violent boxer Jake Lamotta (Raging Bull), to the under-appreciated comedian Rupert Pupkin (The King of Comedy), to a monster mafia man (Goodfellas), to a convicted rapist, who is hell bent on revenge on the lawyer (Cape Fear), to the ruthless casino owner Sam "Ace" Rothstein (Casino), their truly creative partnership have given us a remarkable, collaborative art form. 

 Mean Streets

               Mean Streets is the film that established Martin Scorsese's reputation , and it is often considered his most personal and emblematic work. In comparison with his later films, Mean Streets seems like a rough sketch than a fully realized achievement, despite the film's distinction when viewed as an isolated work. At the center of the movie is Charlie (Harvey Keitel). Of all Scorsese's male protagonists he is arguably  the least mentally unstable and the least prone to movement and action. 

            But, the presence of Johnny Boy (Robert de Niro) suggests Scorsese's later protagonists with their propensity towards physical and emotional violence that they are unable to fully comprehend. In Scorsese collaborations with De Niro after Mean Streets the two men were able to fuse the masochistic Charlie with the violent, inarticulate Johnny Boy. 

Taxi Driver

            It was during the 1970s-- the period of Vietnam and Water gate-- that American society appeared in imminent danger of collapse. The confusions and hysteria of the social climate were reflected in the products of Hollywood. Taxi Driver is an outstanding product of this cultural situation. Its rich and fascinating incoherence has a number of sources. De Niro's Travis Bickle is  a alienated loner, a psychopath, and an unintentional hero. And Scorsese made things easy for Travis, conjuring up a hellish urban surroundings that would drive even a sane man to the brink.

New York, New York

               Many De Niro fans might feel that New York, New York is not one of the best offerings for the Scorsese and De Niro pair, but the film breaks the traditional mold established both before and after this film. As the egocentric, artistically uncompromising sax player Jimmy Doyle De Niro wins and loses Liza Minnelli, in a stormy affair that ends up as an emotional twister.

Raging Bull

            Raging Bull is a profoundly ambivalent film which refuses to fit easily into Scorsese's schema. To play the role De Niro got into the best shape of his life, training to achieve the look of a boxer at the top of his game. And then he ate his way into the worst shape of his life putting on 60 pounds to portray the post boxing life of the older La Motta. In 1981 De Niro won a Best Actor Oscar, for this role. Built upon its bloody fight sequences, and its equally ugly domestic confrontations, Raging Bull is a brutally brilliant work that remains a career high for both men.

King of Comedy

          The King of Comedy is more relevant now, which was under-appreciated at the time of release. Scorsese and De Niro present Rupert Pupkin, a lifelong loser whose fantasies of fame take him dangerously close to the edge. This is very much an actor’s movie driven by character, dialogue and a simple plot, rather than Scorsese’s usual frantic camerawork and editing. The film also provided a juncture point in Scorsese and De Niro’s careers. The pair were not to work together again until 1990 with Goodfellas. Along with Sidney Lumet’s Network, it’s one of the most insightful movies about the power of television and its effect on the TV generation.


            This Scorsese and De Niro collaboration sets the groundwork for most fans in 1990 with the plot revolving around organized crime figures.With Goodfellas, Scorsese extends and refines his examination of those shadowy figures at the edge of collective media consciousness who seem both to shun exposure and to covet a dubious celebrity. Scorsese wise guys are the "real," marginalized characters of criminal biography but also parodic figures who adopt the centralized values of an American business ethos which prizes individualism, ruthless self-interest, and bold opportunism. Scorsese's obvious message in this film, is that the American dream feeds upon those it enthralls, that even the "success" story, however perilous, replicate the image of mainstream cultural beliefs. 

Cape Fear

           Martin Scorsese’s decision to direct a remake of an old 60s thriller, a adaptation of 1957 novel, The Executioners, was a surprising one. It  was a tale of good versus evil: maniac convict Max Cady gets out of jail and begins terrorizing the family of lawyer Sam who he believes was responsible for his time in prison. Robert De Niro’s wild, ranting performance as Max Cady is among his finest. Scorsese’s retelling of Cape Fear is bewildering and at times remarkable. The early scenes of suspense are more interesting than the concluding scenes of violence, which are almost comically sharp.


       Based on a true story, Casino is the tale of Sam Rothstein (Robert De Niro), who is hand-picked by his mob bosses 'Back Home' to go to Las Vegas to run the Casino. Scorsese directs with his characteristic style, creating a film that is at once surreal and full of gritty realism, particularly when the violent Nicky (Joe Pesci) plies his trade. The film has many glued-to-the-screen sequences, the best of which is when Sam and his crew bust a couple of blackjack cheats.

                           The Scorsese/De Niro relationship has proved one of the most fruitful director/star collaborations in the history of the cinema;  its ramifications are extremely complex. De Niro's star image is central to this, poised as it is on the borderline between "star" and "actor" - the charismatic personality and impersonator of diverse characters. It is this ambiguity in the De Niro star persona that makes possible the ambiguity in the actor/director relationship: the degree to which Scorsese identifies with the characters De Niro plays, versus the degree to which he distances himself from them. It is this tension between identification and renunciation that gives the films their uniquely disturbing quality.

Marin Scorsese Presents Robert De Niro With The AFI Life Achievement Award

Monsieur Lazhar - Crystalline Perfection

                           The grief inflicted by suicide may be the hardest of all to bear. Although the pain is over for the one who died, and his problems, in their way, answered, the survivor is left only with questions. Suicide is the cruelest death of all for those who remain.  . . each day the survivors face the gut-wrenching struggle of asking themselves why, why, why?" That is the wrenching setup for "Monsieur Lazhar," a film that offers a very specific story about a universal question: How do we get past tragedy?

                          Movies about teachers are supposed to be inspiring, and uplifting, just as we crave inspiring teachers. The immigrant teacher takes over troubled class, may sound like a simple story, but director Falardeau's alternately charming and troubling drama is far too complex for easy reactions, or conclusions. Based on the 2002 one-man stage-play, Monsieur Lazhar is tender and sincere, frequently striking a fine balance between the orders of the “inspirational teacher” genre and a more mundane kind of realism that presses down easy sentimentality and strives for something more genuine. 
       After a teacher hangs herself in a Montreal middle school -- the reasons are vague -- the previously unknown Bachir Lazhar (Mohamed Fellag) applies for the job. Presenting himself in the office of the principal, Lazhar say he's a naturalized Canadian citizen who taught for 19 years in his native Algeria. His French is impeccable, his caring nature and love of children unmistakable, and the job is suddenly his.
             The  teacher's suicide seems to have had an especially hard impact on two children, Alice (Sophie Nélisse) and Simon (Émilien Néron). They are friends, but the death causes a rift between them. It's not an easy fit fro Lazhar. When he gives one misbehaving student an absent-minded smack on the back of the head, he’s brusquely informed that no touching is allowed, in anger or in affection. Monsieur Lazhar struggles with his students’ need to mourn their former teacher and to give voice to their careening emotions. 
               As the film moves forward, we learn that Lazhar has his own tragic past, one that makes him both uniquely suited to help the eight-year-old's in his charge, to say, “move on.” 
                Even though the movie is adapted from a stage play, writer/director Philippe Falardeau makes sure there's no sense of staginess here at all. As is typical of classroom films, we get to know students by their individual quirks — the fat kid, the sickly boy — but Falardeau manages to make such introductions feel organic. He also develops his minor characters just enough to make them feel alive. 
                Falardeau has done an astonishing job in finding child actors to portray the wise and immature kids in Lazhar's class, especially Sophie Nelisse and Neron. They both stand out as Alice and Simon. Algerian refugee Mohamed Fellag harbors his own pain in the role of Lazhar. The pain in his eyes, even when he is smiling, is always evident. The empathy he gives Lazhar is practically heroic, ultimately heartbreaking.
              Falardeau doesn't offer up easy platitudes or chummy resolutions. The film just isn't that Hollywood-convenient. Monsieur Lazhar and the kids all do seem to move forward, but nothing is ideal and nothing is guaranteed. The film is not only willing to take on thorny issues of violence, ethics, and how adults keep faith with children, but has the courage not to lie about them. 'Monsieur Lazhar' sort of achieves a crystalline perfection by simply telling the truth.
               It's a touching story for showing us the aftereffects of such a tragedy and what wonders can be done by caring and compassionate souls like Lazhar. In Monsieur Lazhar, we learn emotional honesty, a lesson never too old to learn. 


3:10 To Yuma - An Exciting Western Powered By Characterizations

                             Bristling with heroes and anti-heroes, lawmen and outlaws, family men and ferocious killers, "Western" is one genre that can never be blown off, especially when it's so full of characters and morality issues. Some 40 years back, before Sci-fi movies, western movies were used for allegorical approach to explore themes and ideas that might not fit well within the scope of a traditional motion picture. It's not a popular genre nowadays, but, when one is well-made, it can still arrest the attention and transport the viewer to another place and time. 3:10 to Yuma is one of those complex 'western' film that twists morality and plays with the notion of the outlaw as a folk hero. 

                             Based on the 1953 short story by Elmore Leonard, (which was previously filmed in 1957) 3:10 to Yuma is a potent psychological showdown between a charismatic outlaw, and a humorless family man. There are gunfights, stagecoach crashes and dynamite blasts in this movie, yet the real conflict of the piece is emotional. The movie constantly teases us with the question of what is good, what is evil, and, most importantly, what resides in the messy middle between those two convenient poles. 

       Dan Evans (Chrisian Bale), a hard-working rancher who has been struck with a three-year string of bad luck to go with his lame leg, a reminder of his days fighting in the Civil War. Evans has been struggling to make a living and provide for his wife (Gretchen Mol) and sons, but times are hard, especially when the local businessman sends hoodlums to burn down his barn because of unpaid debts.

          In a subsequent bracing scene, a wild bunch led by the outlaw Ben Wade (Crowe) attacks a payroll coach. Numerous bloody deaths ensue, but so does a big payoff for Ben, who, after his men take off, loiters too long in a nearby town and is arrested with Dan's help. To regain the respect of elder son, Will (Logan Lerman), who regard Dan with contempt and Wade with mesmerized respect, and to pay of his debt, Dan signs on to help deliver Wade to feds.

          This, however, will involve transporting him to the railway town, contention, where in two days' time, Wade can be put on the train to Yuma, to feds. Thus begins a war of nerves that plays out in tasty ways across a vivid landscape. Although handcuffed and surrounded by several armed men, it's Ben who sets the tone and exerts the power. 

                 Working from a script by Michael Brandt, director James Mangold does everything he can to reinvigorate the Old West for modern times. The script have given Mangold a solid thematic structure by adding depth and weight to what could have essentially been a simple thriller. Under his direction, the action is secondary to character development and the highlighting of moral dilemmas. That's not to say the action isn't well choreographed. The 30-minute finale, which includes a tense stand-off with Ben's gang, is masterfully executed. Mangold has resisted the urge to try to inflate the action, in order to put his own personal stamp on it.   Keenly photographed by cinematographer Papamichael, Yuma keeps characters and conflicts in extreme close-up while thrilling in the majesty of the Western panorama.

                Russell Crowe is sadistically attractive as the suave desperado. He betrays no effort in conveying the masculine confidence, psychological sharpness and manipulative power of his alluring bad guy. Crowe's is the kind of role that can overly dominate a film without an equally strong opposite number and Christian Bale more than fits the bill. There's nothing showy in playing a stubborn, rigorously just man, but,  Bale brings intensity to the role. Russell Crowe plays the bad guy, but it's hard not to like him. The real bad guy we dislike on screen is the creepy Ben Foster, who plays as the Wade gang's crazy second-in-command.

              Other best performance in this movie,belongs to veteran actor Peter Fonda. Tough, terrific, and totally unrecognizable as a bounty hunter, Fonda invests the role with the kind of authority that few other actors could convincingly pull off. 

               By amplifying the father-son dynamic, 3:10 to Yuma becomes as much a story about the power of role models as it is a thriller. William, Dan's elder son, can't help but hide his admiration for Wade; when he witnesses Wade gun two men down, his words are breathless: “He's so fast.” Evans, on the other hand, is struggling to make a legitimate living, and for that he suffers in his son's eyes, something he aims to correct by bringing Wade to justice. In the end, William realizes that his father's decency is ultimately more dynamic than all of Wade's stagecoach-robbing exploits. 

             3:10 To Yuma delivers an absorbing mix of strong storytelling, exhilarating action sequences and powerful performances. Watching a movie like this, you can't help but wish that the Western genre would come back into favor again. 


3:10 To Yuma - IMDb 

Masters of Cinema : David Lynch

                          The disquieting and painterly films of David Lynch defined the evil underlying suburban life in the 80s and 90s. The director's vision depicts forces at work behind the innocent facade of small town America. In films such as Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Lost Highway, and Mulholland Dr., Lynch has proven adept at evoking terror and loss through the isolation of all the particulars of every day life, fusing the common place with an undeniable energy. 

                        The undoubted perversity that runs throughout the works of David Lynch extends to his repeated and unexpected career turns; coming of the semi-underground Eraserhead to make the respectable Elephant Man with a distinguished British cast; then bouncing into a mega-budget science-fiction fiasco, Dune; creeping back with the seductive and elusive small-town mystery of Blue Velvet; capping that by transferring his uncompromising vision of lurking sexual violence to American network television in Twin Peaks; and alienating viewers with more bizarre movies, and also surprising with stupefying road-movie like Straight Story, Lynch has proven awesomely difficult to pin down. 

  • David Keith Lynch was born January 20th, 1946 in Montana. He grew up in the same kind of small town environments he has used a central theme in almost all of his films. Lynch aspired to be a painter from a young age; it was until the age of 13, when he met the artist Bushnell Keeler, that he realized how difficult it was to making a living as a painter.
  • He moved to Boston and attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. After visiting the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Lynch decided that he had found a school more suitable for his needs and studied painting there from 1965 to 1969. 
  • Lynch's early paintings included street scenes and a series of complex geometric arrangements of mosaic tiles. Painting proved too limiting a medium, and during the second year at the Academy of Fine Arts Lynch embarked upon a series of "film paintings." Then he made a variety of short films like Six Figures, The Grandmother.  
  • In 1972 Lynch began work on Eraserhead, a surreal black-and-white nightmare concerning familial responsibility that took place in a industrial wasteland. Partly inspired by his disgust of industrial and violent Philadelphia, and expressing many of his anxieties over having just become a father, Eraserhead remains Lynch’s most personal film.
  • The production of Eraserhead took about 5 years and the film was released in 1977. It was never a box office success but was an instant cult hit. Both Stanley Kubrick and Francis Ford Coppola are amongst the huge group of fans of this film.  
  • One of Eraserhead‘s biggest fans was comic writer/director Mel Brooks. Brooks introduced Lynch to Hollywood by having him direct The Elephant Man (1980), the beautifully sad true story of grotesquely deformed John Merrick (John Hurt).
  • Again the film never made a lot of money but seemed to find an audience anyway.  Lynch’s second Hollywood film, Dune, adapted from the cult science-fiction novel by Frank Herbert was a commercial and critical disaster. Dune is a folly by any standards, and the re-cut television version, is no help in sorting out the multiple plot confusions of Frank Herbert's unfilmable science-fiction epic.
  • In excahnge for the directors work on Dune, producer Delaurentis agreed to produce Lynch's next project, Blue Velvet, albeit with a considerable small budget of $6 million. Blue Velvet is a tale of misogynist violence hidden beneath the face of idealized small town middle America. The movie gained Lynch his second Academy Award Nomination for Best Director.
  • This time the project was completely in Lynch's hands. He did not have to adjust his style or methods in any way and this resulted in a film that not only made more money but also introduced the character, Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper), that is still high on the all time top five of movie villains.   
  • The success of Blue Velvet, allowed Lynch to join forces with renowned television writer Mark Frost to develop the television series, Twin Peaks. Twin Peaks is an exploration of a small town whose dark secrets are revealed during the murder investigation of high-school prom queen.  Combining characters and story-lines straight out of detective stories, science fiction, and horror, Twin Peaks was a huge hit with its post-modern humor, and supernatural themes.
  • Wild At Heart, based on the novel starred Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern as young lovers on the run; the funny and terrifying film featured witty references to 'The Wizard of Oz.' Lynch was forced to trim several seconds of hyperbolic violence from the film in order to achieve an R rating. Wild At Heart received the prestigious Golden Palm Award from the Cannes Film Festival. 
  • Although the Twin Peaks series had finished, Lynch was not ready to leave the town of Twin Peaks. He returned by making the prequel film, about the last seven days of Laura Palmer’s life in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992). The film was a commercial and critical flop hated by fans who missed the humor of the series and were expecting explanations to the mysteries left behind by the series.
  • Lynch went back to the raw and sometimes incoherent stories that his audience loved him for, like Wild at Heart and made Lost Highway (1997) and Mulholland Drive (2001). Lost Highway was a surreal nightmare from the perspective of its lead character, Fred Madison. 
  • Backed by French company Canal+, and Disnney Lynch made The Straight Story (1999). It was a G-rated movie based on the true story of a man who drove a tractor across two states to visit his dying brother. The film showed that Lynch's quirky sensibility was translatable to more mainstream family fare and  earned actor Richard Farnswoth, an Academy Award nomination.
  • In 2001, Lynch once again won Best Director at Cannes, and gained a Oscar nomination for Mulholland Drive. Mulholland Drive combines actual events that happen to struggling actress Diane (Naomi Watts) and her imagined idealised interpretation of events. Mulholland Drive is also an attack on the artificiality of male-dominated Hollywood where everybody has a hidden agenda, and anything that appears to be beautiful or genuine is simply an illusion that will eventually collapse.
  • For the next few years he focused on the comic strips he drew for newspapers like The L.A.Reader and different animation projects. In 2006 the film Inland Empire was released. The story was similar to the older ones like Blue Velvet and was David Lynch's first venture into the world of digital video. Parts of the movie were shot by Lynch himself.   
  • Trade Mark : Has a taste for low/middle frequency noise, dark and rotting environments, distorted characters, a polarized world. Use of slow-motion during key scenes of violence. Red Curtains. Films are often sexually charged & graphically violent. Extreme surrealism.
David Lynch Quotes
"I don't think that people accept the fact that life doesn't make sense. I think it makes people terribly uncomfortable. It seems like religion and myth were invented against that, trying to make sense out of it."
"I like to make films because I like to go into another world. I like to get lost in another world. And film to me is a magical medium that makes you dream...allows you to dream in the dark. It's just a fantastic thing, to get lost inside the world of film."
"My mother refused to give me coloring books as a child. She probably saved me, Because when you think about it, what a coloring book does is completely kill creativity."
"Absurdity is what I like most in life, and there's humor in struggling in ignorance. If you saw a man repeatedly running into a wall until he was a bloody pulp, after a while it would make you laugh because it becomes absurd."
"In Hollywood, more often than not, they're making more kind of traditional films, stories that are understood by people. And the entire story is understood. And they become worried if even for one small moment something happens that is not understood by everyone."
                       David Lynch brings a painterly sensibility to his work, creating unforgettable images that meld dream and reality and expose the darkness behind even the most innocent seeming aspects of our culture. By abandoning objective realism, and making visuals and music dominant over narrative, Lynch has generated a body of work that captures a unique emotional reality, reflecting dread, sorrow, and, sometimes, hope.
* Quotes are from David Lynch biography on IMDb