Thursday, 14 August 2008


We conclude this weeks war films with a film that could easily also fall
into the genre of comedy. This film takes place during the Second World
War and infact the film was released in America in 1940, i.e. 5 years
before the end of the war.


Charles Chaplin

Chaplin got the idea when a friend, Alexander Korda, noted that
his screen persona and Adolf Hitler looked somewhat similar. Chaplin later
learned they were both born within a week of each other, were roughly the
same height and weight and both struggled in poverty until they reached
great success in their respective fields.

When Chaplin learned of Hitler's policies of racial oppression and nationalist
aggression, he used their similarities as an inspiration to attack Hitler on film.

When he first announced that he was going to make this film, the British
government - whose policy at the time was one of appeasement towards Nazi
Germany - announced that they would ban it. By the time of the film's
release, though, Britain was at war with Germany and in the midst of the
blitz, so the government's attitude towards the film had completely

When this film was released, Adolf Hitler banned it in Germany and in all
countries occupied by the Nazis. Curiosity eventually got the best of him
and he had a print brought in through Portugal. He screened it not once
but twice. Unfortunately, history did not record his reaction to the film.
When told of this, Charles Chaplin said, "I'd give anything to know what
he thought of it."

Released 13 years after the end of the silent era, this was Chaplin's first all-talking,
all-sound film.



Apologies for the delay in updating the blog. As of today, information about all the screenings have been posted.

Happy reading/watching!

Film Club


This week, it's War.


Gillo Pontecorvo
This film was commissioned by the Algerian government. It is based on the 1962 memoire novel
Souvenirs de la Bataille d'Alger, written by Saadi Yacef, one of the military chiefs of
National Liberation Front The film shows the Algerian revolution from both sides. The French
Foreign L has left
Vietnam in defeat and has to prove something. The Algerians are seeking
independence. The two clash. The torture used by the French is contrasted with the Algerian's
use of bombs in soda shops. A look at war as a nasty thing that harms and sullies everyone who
participates in it.
In 2003, the New York Times reported that the Pentagon screened this film for officers and civilian
experts who were discussing the challenges faced by the
US military forces in Iraq. The flier inviting
guests to the screening read: "How to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas".
This is the  only film in Oscar history to be a nominee in two separate non-consecutive years. It was
a foreign film nominee for 1966, and then a nominee for screenplay and direction for 1968.


This Italian film which was directed in 1952 by Vittorio De Sica is part of the Itallian Neo Realist
film movement.
Italian Neo Realism is a kind of film making that came up after World War II as studios
were unable to afford large production. Films directors used unprofessional actor and shot
people in real location to cut cost. They also dealt with stories about the difficult economical
and moral conditions of post-World War II Italy.

Vittorio De Sica

Umberto D is a beautiful yet sad film that follows an old retired civil servant who is desperately
trying to maintain a decent standard of living on a rapidly dwindling state pension. But he's up
against his tyrannical landlady, who keeps demanding rent that he can't pay (while renting his
room out to prostitutes during the day), and his only friends are the pregnant housemaid and his
little dog Flike.
It is interesting to know that the director chose to name the leadcharacter of this
film after his own father.

"The high quality of this motion picture, brought to eloquent life in a
country scarred by war, is proof to the world that the creative spirit can triumph over adversity."


The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were nuclear attacks at the end of World War II against the Empire of Japan by the United States at the order of U.S. President Harry S. Truman on August 6 and 9, 1945. After six months of intense firebombing of 67 other Japanese cities, the nuclear weapon "Little Boy" was dropped on the city of Hiroshima on Monday, August 6, 1945, followed on August 9 by the detonation of the "Fat Man" nuclear bomb over Nagasaki. These are to date the only attacks with nuclear weapons in the history of warfare.

The bombs killed as many as 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 80,000 in Nagasaki by the end of 1945, roughly half on the days of the bombings. Since then, thousands more have died from injuries or illness attributed to exposure to radiation released by the bombs. In both cities, the overwhelming majority of the dead were civilians.

Six days after the detonation over Nagasaki, on August 15, Japan announced its surrender to the Allied Powers, signing the Instrument of Surrender on September 2, officially ending the Pacific War and therefore World War II. (Germany had signed its Instrument of Surrender on May 7, ending the war in Europe.) The bombings led, in part, to post-war Japan adopting Three Non-Nuclear Principles, forbidding that nation from nuclear armament.


Isao Takahata

In the waning days of World War II, American bombers drop napalm canisters on Japanese cities, creating fire storms. These bombs, longer than a tin can but about as big around, fall to earth trailing cloth tails that flutter behind them; they are almost a beautiful sight. After they hit, there is a moment's silence, and then they detonate, spraying their surroundings with flames. In a Japanese residential neighborhood, made of flimsy wood and paper houses, there is no way to fight the fires.

"Grave of the Fireflies" (1988) is an animated film telling the story of two children from the port city of
Kobe. With the fall of the fire bombs, they become orphans and homeless. This film, based on ‘Hotaru no Haka’, the semi-autobiography by Akiyuki Nosaka, relates the tragedies of war as Seita and Setsuko struggle to survive with only each other to hold onto.


Isao Takahata is a long-time colleague of Miyazaki and a co-head of Studio Ghibli. Unlike Miyazaki, Takahata started his career as a director from the beginning. Born in 1935, he graduated from the most prestigious university in Japan, Tokyo University, and joined the newly founded animation studio Toei Doga in 1959.

He and Miyazaki became friends through the animators' union at Toei Doga, which he vice-chaired and Miyazaki chaired. His first movie, Horus: The Prince of the Sun (1968) is still considered one of the greatest examples of Japanese animation. Miyazaki worked as an animator for this movie, providing numerous ideas. Takahata and Miyazaki continued working as a director-animator team for many great animated masterpieces, including Lupin III, Heidi, 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother, and Anne of Green Gables


Guru Dutt

Kaagaz ke Phool has been considered Guru Dutt's finest film by many. A
cinematic masterpiece that went over the audience's heads and sank like
the Titanic so to say.

Technically the film is perhaps his best film. The camerawork with
its use of light and shadows is magical. The frames have been
beautifully composed keeping in mind the cinemascope format. ( It is
India's first ever film in cinemascope and got cinematographer V.K.
Murthy the Filmfare award ) The relationship between the director and
his protégé is delicately handled on a very human plane. The film
making scenes are shot with meticulous attention to detail. The
ambiance of the film studios is most effectively created. (Although
audiences could not digest this breaking down of the myth surrounding
the film world, its aura and glamour ) And song picturisations, as
mentioned already a strong point of Guru Dutt, are taken to new heights
particularly Dekhi Zamaane ki Yaari and Waqt ne Kiya Kya Haseen Situm
the latter perhaps the best ever song sung by Geeta Dutt.

Today, Kaagaz ke Phool enjoys a cult following and goes house full whenever re-released.


More than anything the phenomenon of song and dance gives Indian Cinema its unique identity. Unlike Hollywood, where the 'Musical' was a separate genre by itself, song and dance has been an integral part of the narrative in Indian Cinema be it in any language or genre.



Shankarabharanam deals with the character, of Sankara Sastry, who devotes his heart and soul to Sangeetham. At the height of popularity, he meets Tulasi -a prostitute, who is also very interested in classical arts. Being impressed by Sankara Sastry's mastery over Carnatic music, she tries to devote her entire life to learn and practice under his guidance. She murders a man who tries to misbehave with her, and is sent to jail. Sastry fights for her and gets her out. But as the caste-ridden society does not accept the Guru-sishya relationship that they share, she leaves Sastry's home.

Several years later, Pop music is the ‘in-thing’ and Indian classical music takes a back seat with classical musicians finding it hard to earn their daily bread. At this point, Tulasi enters the story again, with her son…

Vishwanath's musical hit, Shankarabharanam, is often presented as the film that transformed the Telugu film industry in 1980s. It borrows extensively from the classical Carnatic music to tell the story of a relationship between a Carnatic guru and a prostitute. It led to the revival of Indian classical music in Andhra Pradesh. The movie deals with 2 relevant topics-

Decline in popularity of Carnatic music and the Guru-sishya relationship.

The film released in only one theatre and opened to empty hall. But it later turned out to be one of the biggest hits of 1979. The success of this film triggered a sequence of other art movies in Telugu, including Thyagayya, Meghasandesam (by Dasari N. Rao), and Viswanath's own follow-ups to Sankaraabharanam: Saagara Sangamam, Sruthi Layalu, Swarna Kamalam, Sirivennela, and Swathi Kiranam.

The film was remade in Hindi as Sur Sangam (1985) with Girish Karnad and Jaya Prada.


National Film Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment (1980)
National Film Award for Best Music Direction (1980) - K. V. Mahadevan
National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer (1980) - S. P. Balasubrahmanyam
National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer (1980) - Vani Jayaram


It's time to celebrate the Musical.

Robert Stevenson

This film is a heart warming comedy that tells the tale of Mary Poppins
who is a kind of Super-nanny who flies in with her umbrella in response
to the request of the Banks children and proceeds to put things right with
the aid of her rather extraordinary magical powers before flying off

The movie combines a diverting story, songs, color and sequences of live
action blended with the movements of animated figures.

for more


Next in line in this week,

Jacques Tati

Jacques Tati’s gloriously choreographed; nearly wordless comedies about confusion in the age of technology reached their creative apex with Playtime. For this monumental achievement, a nearly three-year-long, bank-breaking production, Tati again thrust the endearingly clumsy, resolutely old-fashioned Monsieur Hulot, along with a host of other lost souls, into a bafflingly modernist Paris. With every inch of its super wide frame crammed with hilarity and inventiveness, Playtime is a lasting testament to a modern age tiptoeing on the edge of oblivion. This was also the only film that Tati shot on 70mm.

Paris’s treasured monuments are but a fading memory, seemingly incongruous with the new ethos of cold conformity. The Eiffel Tower, the Arc De Triomphe and numerous other icons of antiquated French culture are spotted in reflections as people pass through the clear glass doors, as constant reminder of what has passed. In order to facilitate his vision for Playtime, Tati had an entire scale-city built on the outskirts of Paris. Dubbed “Tativille” it featured moveable, cut-down models of skyscrapers that could be positioned accordingly and large ground-level street sets custom-made to suit the directors’ pre-planned intentions.


Tati introduced his most enduring character, the near-silent and bumbling Monsieur Hulot in 1953 with Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday. Tati’s unfussy plot decisions simply constructed the necessary unfamiliar environment within which Hulot could be best placed to act as the comedy stooge in relation to the strangeness that surrounded him.

In Playtime, Hulot is a passenger ambling through a fully modernised Paris of sleek glass and steel office towers, now transformed to resemble every other major city in the world, as depicted in numerous tourism posters.


Jacques Tati was born in Le Pecq in 1907 as Jacques Tatischeff, the son of a Russian father and a Dutch mother. He once said famously that he endeavoured to produce films that would make people smile. On reflection, his body of work proves that he went much further; subtly encouraging people to observe more intently and to think more astutely about social concerns through a gentle form of humour. As a filmmaker, Tati has recurring themes (the leisure class, modernisation, children at play, mass entertainment), and his compositions seem mathematically calculated yet spontaneous and vibrant.

July 22, PUSHPAK

Laughter is the best medicine, it is said. This week Film Club presents comedy films.
First up,

Singeetham Srinivasa Rao

...Kamal Hassan is an updated little tramp for 1980s India, a young unemployed man who searches for a job in a desultory and hopeless manner, and is a bit of a pushover. After a chance encounter with a millionaire who is a drunkard, Hassan kidnaps the man and replaces him at Pushpak, a swank five star hotel that he is booked into...

Pushpak is a black comedy Indian film released in 1988. Set in an large unnamed Indian city (shot in Bangalore), the film is based on the king-for-a-day story.

At a time when only very self consciously art house films eschewed songs, Pushpak went a step further and did away with dialogue as well, creating one of the most sincere silent films ever made. There are very few scenes of characters in conversation and no cue cards — a staple of even Silent Movie, Mel Brook’s tongue-in-cheek tribute to the era.

And yet there was a lot more to Pushpak than just a gimmick. It may have done away with some of the trappings of commercial cinema but had all the elements that make a great mainstream entertainer — a love story, a crime caper, a thriller and a comedy — with plotlines blending together seamlessly. The primary narrative pays tribute to Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights.

July 17, ABHAYAM

The next film in the Childhood package is,



Eight-year-old Vinu is an imaginative child, who is locked within the pressures of the urban education system by his ambitious parents. Tied to his daily routine, Vinu keeps seeing his small table clock in a nightmare, where he is little and the clock is colossal, where he is eternally trying to hold back the hands from sticking 6 in the morning and always failing.

Tried of battling with the daily routine, Vinu runs away from home one day. He roams the city in the hope of reaching the bus stop where he can find a bus to take him to his village. He encounters many adventures and finally reaches his village as a stowaway in a boat. The he finds that his anxious parents have reached before him, having suspected his destination from what his closest friend told them.

About the director

Sivan began his career as a photo journalist and won several awards for his photographs. In 1959 he set up his own film studio, and soon after that an art gallery for new artists and photographers. Through the years, Sivan has produced over twenty documentaries and short films for the Films Division and other institutions. Swapnam (1972) was the first feature film to be produced by him, which won four state awards. Yagam (1980) and Abhayam (1991) too won him several awards.

July 15, 400 BLOWS

From today, we get back to our weekly themed screenings. This week's theme is childhood.

Francoise Truffaut

tories of childhood have often been tempered with the melancholic yearning of lost innocence (as in Louis Malle's Au Revoir Les Enfants) or the profound weight of human misery (as in Robert Bresson's Mouchette). In The 400 Blows, François Truffaut introduces his alterego, Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Leaud), a young man attempting to break from the confines of his unremarkable life through escapism and mischief. Antoine's vacuous, neglected life unfolds before us with dispassionate objectivity: a misunderstood, underachieving student invariably caught red-handed with the pinup centerfold or scribbling on the classroom wall; a selfish, adulterous mother attempting to reach her son through bribery; a crude, distant father flaunting his generosity in giving the illegitimate son a name. But the pensive Antoine is hardly the incorrigible delinquent that everyone has destined for him, and his fascination for cinema and literature provide a fleeting distraction from his ennui. Attempting to conceal a failing grade on a Blazac-inspired essay (which the teacher is convinced he has plagiarized), he runs away from home, an act which exacerbates to theft, and inevitably, sends him to a camp for juvenile delinquents.

Truffaut's assured camerawork never wavers in this highly influential and relevant film of adolescence. Successive, montage shots of children watching a puppet show emphasize their innocence, and sharply contrast with the disillusioned Antoine in jail, seemingly detaching himself from his inextricable situation by pulling his turtleneck over his nose. Fluid camera tracking pervade the film's exterior shots, reflecting the humor and vitality of youth. Note the lightly paced, overhead shot of the outdoor exercise scene, as the boys slowly splinter off in different directions until no one is left. In contrast, Antoine's flight from the reform school is slow and labored, reaching an uncertain conclusion. Ending with the infamous stop motion zoom of Antoine at the shoreline, he is at a proverbial crossroads: unable to keep running away, looking back at a familiar, hopeless fate.




“I used to believe in many things, all of it! Now, I believe only in dynamite.”

The last in our Spaghetti Western package, this film, despite its name, is not a spaghetti western. It is what is called a "Zapata Western", after the famous Mexican revolutionary. These films are characterized by the simultaneously friendly and antagonistic relationship between a local bandit, and a foreigner who is an expert at revolution.

In A Fistful of Dynamite , Juan Miranda (Ron Steiger) is a Mexican bandit who runs across Sean Mallory (James Coburn), who is an IRA terrorist on the run. After some initial hostility and a few explosions, Juan convinces Sean to rob the Bank of Mesa Verde. Sean, however, arranges things so that Juan frees hundreds of political prisoners while looking for the safe in the bank. After that, Juan slowly turns into a full- fledged revolutionary, while Sean loses his revolutionary fervor.