Tag Archives: feminism

His Master’s Voice | Morgan Freeman

catherine-deneuve

Catherine Deneuve (born Catherine Fabienne Dorléac)  – 1943-present

French actress, singer, model and film producer

She gained recognition for her portrayal of aloof, mysterious beauties for various directors, including Luis Buñuel and Roman Polanski. In 1985, she was chosen as the official face of Marianne, France’s national symbol of liberty. A 14-time César Award nominee, she won for her performances in François Truffaut‘s The Last Metro (1980) and Régis Wargnier‘s Indochine (1992). She is also noted for her support for a variety of liberal causes.

Films of note: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)Repulsion (1965)Belle de Jour (1967), The April Fools (1969), Tristana (1970),   Hustle (1975), The Hunger (1983), Scene of the Crime (1986),  My Favourite Season (1993), Place Vendôme (1998), Dancer in the Dark (2000),  Potiche(2010),  The Brand New Testament (2015), Standing Tall (2015)

 

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A Shot of Short | Sidewalk – Celia Bullwinkel

New York animator Celia Bullwinkel uses animation and jazz and tell us a wonderful story in under five minutes about how women look at their own bodies. The movie starts with a young girl walking on the sidewalk, and corresponding with the changing seasons depicted in the background, she matures into an adolescent, an adult, and finally an old woman who is at peace with who she is.

The original jazz soundtrack is by Josh Moshier and it accompanies the whole sequence as the woman walks through her life, meeting with society in the process. There are several indicators of what this society deems attractive about women’s bodies and what really constitutes sex appeal. There is no dialogue at all, and yet themes like sexism, nonconformity with the way she looks, the desire to grow up fast when she is little, and the fear of old age emerge so beautifully.

Sidewalk has been exhibited in over 25 film festivals around the world, including Festival Anima Mundi in Brazil and the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France to much acclaim. This is a beautiful piece to reflect upon, and in helping women in current times to not fall victim to societal pressures to look a certain a way.

A Shot of Short: Meshes of the Afternoon | Maya Deren

The symbolism, representations of reality and fantasy and the interpretations that follow  in this Maya Deren film, all try to touch the base of this film but try as they might, this film is just untouchable. This multi-faceted short film is one that can never be fully understood.

It’s an experience more than a film. An atmosphere of mood and imagery tailor made to affect the viewer’s psyche. Co-directed with then husband Alexander Hammid, the duo crafted what is considered in many circles of critics, not only a transcended creation in the short film medium, but possibly ranked among the greatest films ever made. It is a surrealist tapestry woven with feminist metaphors and a repetitive visual narrative culminating in the downward spiral into the pits of insanity suffered by the film’s protagonist played by Deren herself.

An important piece of trivia to add is this film was originally intended to be viewed silent but the score that commonly companions it in most versions now was added afterwards by Deren’s current husband before her death Teiji Ito. The score is more than recommended and I would say essential to view the film.

Couple of the Year: Mr. & Mrs. ’55

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One particularly gloomy morning this week, I decided to wake myself up with songs from Mr. & Mrs. ’55. They prompted me to watch this Guru Dutt-Madhubala classic again after all these years. I remember watching it for the first time with my parents when I was just beginning to make sense of the world. The family used to watch movies together most nights, but this one stuck in my head because my mother used to refer to herself and my father as the titular “Mr. & Mrs. ’55”, courtesy the address we lived at those days.

At the outset, I must warn that most people in today’s day and age will find the anti-feministic and traditionalist view of women portrayed in this film quite unpalatable. But it is important to view this film more as an artifact of the era in which it was made. Barely eight years after India became an independent nation, a need was felt by the creative community to help uphold Indian values and ensure that society found a structure. In their minds, issues like the Communist movement, a deplorable job market and the “liberal” upper class trying to reform the entire society at large without any consideration for the cultural backgrounds that support/oppose these reforms in the West/Indian subcontinent were more important to address (most of the feminism shown in this film is clearly about aping the West) . I am not in full support of the views portrayed in this film, but I like it tremendously it for its technical brilliance, the witty dialogue, the performances of the lead and the supporting cast, the camerawork, the songs and for the simple fact that it is a story told well for the milieu it is set in.

The story is of a rich heiress, Anita (Madhubala) in love with the idea of romance. But her life is fiercely controlled by her feminist aunt, Sita Devi (Lalita Pawar), who considers her learnings from life in the US and Europe the ultimate life mantra, 55-3naturally, without any reference to any context whatsoever. To inherit her wealth, Anita must be married within a month of her 20th birthday. Her aunt organises a sham marriage with a brilliant out-of-a-job cartoonist, Preetam (Guru Dutt) so that an easy divorce can be filed within a few months. Unknown to Sita Devi, Preetam and Anita have met several times before and feel some chemistry with each other. Friends and relatives of Preetam (Johnny Walker, Yasmin, Kumkum and Tuntun) help him woo his miffed lady love. The obligatory confusion ensues, conflicts happen, the lovers have a spat, and are reunited at the airport (I am assuming this was the first of many times in Bollywood that the airport was used for a reunion of the “hero-heroine” jodi).

This is one of Guru Dutt’s comedies as director and lead actor. While he is more popular for his tragedies like Pyaasa and Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam, few know that he wove satire and social commentary very well into his comedies. The legendary V.K. Murthy was the cinematographer, and even now you will love the way the actors, the director and the cinematographer come together to create the most expressive and luminous close-up shots throughout the film. It’s not just the dialogue and the screenplay by the final of the trio, Abrar Alvi, or the lyrics of the songs, but the slight arching of an eyebrow and the mischief in the eye that do most of the talking. It is no wonder that the Dutt-Murthy-Alvi team is still talked about as among the most creative trio that made Bollywood of the 50’s light up the way it did.

55-1The songs written by Majrooh Sultanpuri, composed by O.P. Nayyar, with most of them sung by Geeta Dutt and Mohd. Rafi are a class apart. They are hummable, have charming lyrics  and are beautifully picturised. The variety, starting from “Ae ji dil par hua aisa jadoo” and “Thandi hawa kaali ghata” to “Neele aasmani” and “Udhar tum haseen ho” with a “Ab to ji hone laga” and “Chal diye banda nawaaz” thrown in, is quite nice. The actors are all brilliant. Even the supporting cast comprising of Lalita Pawar, Johnny Walker, Yasmin, Kumkum, Tuntun and a very young Jagdeep in a cameo execute their lines with panache and apt humour. What do I say about Guru Dutt and Madhubala? They are effortless and immensely likeable. It is a pity neither lived beyond 40 and it is sad we could not see them more than we would have liked to.

If you’re lover of old Bollywood classics, I am sure you have watched this movie. If you’re someone waiting to be inducted into Guru Dutt’s work, this may be the film to start with before you move on to his more sombre work.Even if you’re not much of an film aficionado, you will enjoy Mr. & Mrs. ’55 because it is a simple story and will appeal to everyone.

 

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