I am starting this blog to be able to write to my heart's content. I dont want to advertise this blog but I would want people to chance on it and give their comments. This is the first of many contradictions that will make up this blog

Location: India

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Citizen Kane

I am on a movie watching spree. So, there will be a lot of movie-centric entries on this blog.
Watched 'Citizen Kane' for the 4th time the day before yesterday and 'The Motorcycle Diaries' for the first time yesterday. I loved both of these movies but I might need one more viewing of 'The Motorcycle Diaries' before I venture to comment on it.

So, this post will be about 'Citizen Kane'

Directed, co-written & lead role played by Orson Welles - at the ripe old age of 25.
The movie is supposedly based on the life of William Randolph Hearst, a publishing tycoon of that time. 'Supposedly' was a term that did not rest easy with Mr Hearst. He was convinced that it was based on his life and got to know from the previews of the movie that it was not a very flattering portrait that had been painted. So, he refused to advertise the movie in any of his newspapers (and he had a lot of them). He also refused to carry advertisements put in by any theatres (for any of their movies) if they showed Citizen Kane. So, in spite of receiving rave critical reviews, Citizen Kane was shown in very few theatres and was a box-office dud.

It started gaining recognition and almost cult status after a few years (particularly after its re-release in the 1950s). Before going into my experience of watching the movie, here are two interesting nuggets on Orson Welles that I got from the DVD.

Orson Welles was supposed to address a gathering. When he arrived at the meeting, he found that practically nobody had turned up to hear him. So he starts off
"I am Orson Welles; playwright, theatre director, radio presenter, radio director, film writer, film director, actor, painter, magician, political thinker.....(and he in fact was all of these)..'
Then he continues,
"Why is it that there are so many of me and so few of you?"

The next one is a conversation that the reviewer has had with Orson Welles where Welles is telling the reviewer how much he likes Greta Garbo, her mannerisms, her acting, her aura and her mystery. The reviewer replies that he doesn't agree because she has acted only in two magnificent movies and the rest are nothing to write home about. Welles looks at the reviewer for a long time and says,
"All you require is one"

For the world, Citizen Kane was that one movie of Orson Welles.

The movie is about the moral decline of Charles Foster Kane. From the idealism of his 20s to his degeneration (both physical and moral) into his 70s.

I saw the movie for the first time and did not like it.

The movie starts off with Charles Foster Kane's death scene where he says 'Rosebud' and dies. The rest of the movie is an attempt by a reporter to find out what Rosebud is. It is a series of flashbacks by people who knew Kane and the flashbacks are in no particular chronological order. So you have a young Kane, an older Kane, again a young Kane and so on which makes it difficult to piece together the movie. To make it easier for the viewer, there is a newsreel shown right at the start (which is being watched by a team of reporters) which describes the life of Charles Foster Kane, who has just died.

When I saw the movie first, I could not understand what that newsreel was being shown for. At the end of the movie, I still did not know what Rosebud was.
So, I watched it again and things started getting clearer. I watched it again with Roger Ebert's commentary as an accompaniment. Things started getting a lot more clearer and the cinematic brilliance, the technical perfection of the movie started coming through. I watched it again, this time to purely revel in the performances of the actors and the brilliance with which the movie has been crafted.
All this effort for a movie made in the year 1941.

My favourite scene involves Charles Kane (Orson Welles) showing the 'Declaration of Principles', a document that he has written to his best friend Jedediah Leland.
At this point, Kane has just taken over the newspaper. The 'Declaration of Principles' is all about Kane's idealism at this point (things like the honesty of the printed word, the care for the poorer sections of the society etc). Kane wants it to be the editorial for the next day's edition

His friend asks him for the original copy of the document.
Kane asks him why he wants it.
Jedediah replies," I believe this might become an important document; like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution....or my first report card at school"
For me, it showed the cleverness of handling a very pivotal point in the movie to show Jedediah's skepticism about whether Kane's moral righteousness would triumph or whether the document would become as useless as Jedediah's first report card.

The dialogues in the movie are there because they need to be. And its a movie I will not get tired of watching...

I am making a list of my must-have DVDs in life. Right now, 'Citizen Kane' is No1 and I have a hunch, it will be difficult to dislodge.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Netflix tales

I am a huge Aamir Khan fan (I even enjoyed 'Mela'). I have liked 99% of his movies (excluding two of his biggest blockbusters 'Raja Hindustani' & Fanaa')....For me..He rarely does something wrong.

I have watched almost all his movies. One of them was 'Ghulam'. Ya right...I loved 'Aati kya Khandala' and Rani Mukherjee and definitely not in that order. But I loved the movie too. I thought Aamir Khan had done a tremendous job and was highly impressed with the director Vikram Bhatt. I believed it to be the dawn of a fresh new talent in the Hindi movie industry. I waited for him to shine. But he disappointed. Time & time again. I formulated a theory that you don't have to be a genius to make one really good movie. But I kept track of Vikram Bhatt's career waiting for that spark to shine through. 'Come on', I said to myself...You could not make such a 'hatke movie' and just fade away....

I have registered for netflix here and have been watching the English movies and some Hindi ones that I have always heard of but have never had the opportunity to see. I have gone through 'To Kill a Mockingbird', 'Silsila', 'Kabhi Kabhi' and 'Citizen Kane'. Yesterday I watched 'On the waterfront'.

Its a movie made in 1954 and stars Marlon Brando. In the year of its release, it got 8 oscars and was a box -office success. These were the things I knew before I saw it. What I did not know until I saw the first two scenes of the movie was that Ghulam is a very faithful rip-off of this classic. Of course, there is no 'Aati Kya Khandala' here (and that's where Ghulam still scores) but there is absolutely nothing original in the Hindi remake. There are some classic scenes and immortal lines (or so the special features on the DVD tell me) in this movie.

you don't understand..I could have had class..I could have been a contender..i could have been somebody'
Its a line that Marlon Brando says to his brother who is the accountant of the big boss, towards the end of the movie. It is brilliantly done. I enjoyed the movie and am realizing that it doesnt really matter how old a movie is, whether its in colour or B&W (and I am actually liking B&W a lot)....if it is a good movie, it will always remain enjoyable...

But I felt betrayed too. With Vikram Bhatt for having made me feel that he was making something new. Its one thing to be Ram Gopal Verma and say very openly that Sarkar is a Godfather remake....I think in some ways its even alright to be inspired from other movies and stories.

But its quite another thing to copy so blatantly the plot, the scenes, sprinkle some masala and claim a unique dish. Now I know where Ghulam came from and I know why Vikram Bhatt makes the movies he does......

Makes me a little bit scared to watch more movies from Netflix. There are some movies and scenes which inhabit a very private sanctuary of my mind...a scene like the one Aamir Khan enacts in 'Rang De Basanti' after Madhavan's character dies....the one in which he is sitting with Sue and he is eating & crying at the same time.....performances which i still believe are extraordinarily moving and original.

I am scared that I might find a 'Dil Chahta Hai' in one of these movies one day. That is when my heart will really break!!!


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