Two for the Road (1967)

Life has been very hectic the past few months. I’ve been working on several writing assignments, switching from one novel to another; the LO, now poised to leave kindergarten and progress to Class I, requires a good deal of attention, and various lit fests or other book events have entailed (and are going to entail) some travelling.

So, when British actor Albert Finney passed on February 7th this year, while I did notice the news article about his death in the newspaper, I passed it by without it really registering who Albert Finney was (Poirot, in the 1974 version of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, just in case, like me, you were clueless too). It was blog reader Hurdy Gurdy Man who, a few days later, reminded me of Finney’s death and asked me if I was meaning to review a film of his by way of tribute. I thought I would: Two for the Road, I told Hurdy Gurdy Man in an e-mail.

But, the sad irony of fate: just a couple of days back, I got another e-mail from Hurdy Gurdy Man, informing me that the director of Two for the Road, Stanley Donen, had passed away as well. Stanley Donen (who died on February 21) had directed some of Hollywood’s most popular musicals, such as Singin’ in the Rain, An American in Paris, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, before he directed Indiscreet and then moved to the UK, where he directed (among other films) The Grass is Greener, Charade, and Two for the Road, an important landmark in the history of British cinema—a classic film of the British New Wave.

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The Holly and the Ivy (1952)

I get the impression, every time I happen to read anything related to Hollywood around Christmastime (or, as the politically correct term these days seems to be, ‘the holidays’), that there’s a plethora of Christmas-themed films churned out every year. From comedies to romances to lots of themes that you wouldn’t think really fitted with what is, at its heart, a religious festival, there’s no dearth of Christmas films.

I’ve seen lots of them too, from heart-warming stories about the essence of Christmas to frothy fluff that uses tropes like strategically hung mistletoe and families coming home for Christmas.

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A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

Blog reader Hurdy Gurdy Man gave me a slew of Beatles-related information some weeks back. More specifically, information related to a film—A Hard Day’s Night—which starred the Beatles and was about them. Not a bio-pic, not a completely fictitious story (as many of Elvis’s films were, with him playing characters in no way related to his real self). But something in between. Fact and fiction.

Hurdy Gurdy Man informed me that the Beatles’ album A Hard Day’s Night had released in the UK on July 10th, 1964. Just four days earlier, on July 6th, 1964, the film of the same name had also been released in the UK (it was released in August in the US). Also, other than Paul McCartney (whose 76th birthday was on June 18th), the only other surviving Beatle—Ringo Starr—has his birthday today.

In celebration, therefore, a review of this very watchable little film about four wildly successful young men who—in the course of a mere decade (they teamed up as a quartet in 1960, and fell apart in 1970)—changed the way pop music sounded and was perceived. The legendary Beatles, acting as themselves, in a film about themselves.

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A Matter of Innocence (1967)

Aka Pretty Polly.

I had had no intention of watching this film—in fact, to be honest, I had forgotten all about it until someone mentioned it when I posted a review to mark the passing of one of my favourite Hindi film actors, Shashi Kapoor. I was well aware of the fact that besides acting in Hindi cinema, Shashi had acted in several English-language films (in particular, Merchant-Ivory productions like The Householder and Bombay Talkie, but I’d forgotten this one (which, by the way, isn’t Merchant-Ivory). A sweet, sometimes comic, sometimes poignant coming-of-age film about an innocent young miss who falls in love while in Singapore.

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Adam and Evelyne (1949)

This film has been on my to-watch list for years, one major reason being that it stars one of my favourite actors, the very attractive Stewart Granger. It also stars, opposite Granger, the beautiful Jean Simmons, whom he was to go on to marry the year after Adam and Evelyne was released. Plus, what I’d read of this film sounded enticing—romantic, somewhat Daddy Long-Legs style, just the sort of film that would appeal to me.

Stewart Granger and Jean Simmons in Adam and Evelyne

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The Woman in Question (1950)

Aka (in the US) Five Angles to Murder.

The last English-language film I reviewed on my blog was Anatomy of a Murder, which, while not strictly a multiple narrative film, was one of those that peeled back layers of a character and a story as the film progressed.

Then, last weekend, I finished Ngaio Marsh’s Died in the Wool, where the detective arrives on the scene of a gruesome murder a year after it’s been committed. He ends up learning all about the victim from those around her—and there are some very conflicting opinions there. Was she a saint, a saviour? An opportunist, a neglectful wife, what?

A few hours after I finished Died in the Wool (since it was Sunday night), I decided it was time to watch something on Youtube. I was looking for nothing more specific than ‘50s suspense films’, and The Woman in Question was among the search results. I began watching it simply because it starred Dirk Bogarde (whom I like a lot)—and then suddenly it took an interesting turn, and there I was, faced with multiple narratives, multiple perspectives, all over again.

Jean Kent in and as The Woman in Question

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Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

I’ve just finished reading what’s considered to be the finest work by one of science fiction’s greatest writers: Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Set in a dystopian future where literature is outlawed, this is a classic novel of tyranny, insecurity, and yet defiance and hope. In 1966, more than a decade after Bradbury wrote his novel, Francois Truffaut adapted it for the screen.

The firehouse

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Escape (1948)

It’s my birthday today, the 8th of January. Every year, on this day, I post a review of a film that features someone born on January 8. This year, it’s William Hartnell. Born on January 8, 1908 in London, Hartnell was best-known, in the early decades of his career, for his role as Sergeant Grimshaw from the popular Carry On films. In 1963, however, came a breakthrough that was to immortalize Hartnell on screen: he became the first Doctor Who.

In 1948, however, Hartnell acted in this somewhat unusual film about a fugitive, the girl who helps him, and the police inspector who’s on his trail. Hartnell was not the protagonist; that role went to Rex Harrison—but Hartnell put in a nuanced and restrained performance as a cop who’s not infallible, not hard-bitten and cynical, not incompetent or corrupt. A human being, and a cop.

William Hartnell as Inspector Harris in Escape

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The Innocents (1961)

My mother grew up in a family ruled by the iron hand of her grandfather, a strict disciplinarian who thought dining out, nightlife, and cinema were a waste of time. Not to mention immoral. As a result, while he was alive, about the only films the family went to watch were The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, and Kismet.

Mummy once told me that the first film she happened to watch after the old gentleman (and his controlling ways) had passed on was The Innocents. And that she liked it. When I discovered that it starred Deborah Kerr—a favourite of mine—I was curious. I watched this film shortly after I began blogging, but decided I’d postpone a review (and a rewatch) for after I’d read the story on which this film was based: Henry James’s famous The Turn of the Screw.

Deborah Kerr in The Innocents

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The Mouse That Roared (1959)

What is a country to do if its economy suddenly takes a nosedive? What if the country’s sole source of income is a product that’s suddenly no more in demand? Are economic reforms in order? Or a smart political move?

No; I’m not talking a 1950s tale of courage and enterprise in the face of economic disaster (not in the way one would’ve expected, at any rate). Not when you know that the star of this film—in a triple role, too, one of which is a woman—is the inimitable Peter Sellers. And not when you know that it revolves around a fictitious country, supposedly the smallest in the world, which decides that what its economy needs for a turnaround is to declare war on the United States of America.

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