Saturday, August 30, 2008

Watching, Listening

The movie reviews will contain spoilers.

Last night I watched Roman Holiday, starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. It was Audrey Hepburn's first starring role in a movie, and she was already - perfect. What a lovely, perfectly feminine woman. Watching and listening to her is such a pleasure that she can make even a movie with a boring plot worth watching, just to see her. The story is about a princess who breaks away from her handlers for a day to live like a normal human being. Gregory Peck is the reporter who is fortunate to be the one she falls in with for the day. The movie ends with the princess going back to her royal duties, wiser and more self-confident, but also sad for having to give up her budding relationship with the American reporter. She sacrificed her happiness to her duty.

I suppose if she considered being the princess of her country a higher value, this would not be a sacrifice. But through most of the movie it was made clear that she considered her duties as princess to be boring and unimportant. So I see her decision as sacrificial. The movie was based on a story by Dalton Trumbo, a blacklisted writer. Perhaps he considered sacrifice a good thing. I don't. The princess should have pursued her own happiness, and abdicated her title in favor of living for herself.

Recently I watched The Deceivers (Merchant Ivory, 1988), a movie set in India during the period of British rule. It is about the attempts of the British to eradicate the criminal Thuggee sect that committed ritualistic murders by strangulation of travellers, and then robbed them of all valuables. Supposedly this was done in the name of the Goddess Kali, the four armed goddess of death and destruction. The movie stars Pierce Brosnan as a British officer who disguises himself as a native to infiltrate the group to gather evidence against them. While he succeeds in getting the evidence, the movie ends with Brosnan throwing away a cross, the symbol of his own faith, and repeating a Thuggee mantra about worshipping Kali. In other words, he seems to have succumbed to the "ecstasy" of strangling people for Kali. Which makes this a very stupid movie.

A few weeks ago I watched a better movie on the same subject, called The Stranglers of Bombay, from Hammer Studios, 1960. Hammer is known mostly for horror movies, but they also produced some straight adventure films, of which this is one. It is basically the same story as The Decievers, except that the British officer does not succumb to mysticism, and upholds rational justice. Which makes it a vastly superior story.

I've been listening to a lot of WWII era music, especially Helen Forrest singing for Harry James and His Orchestra. Easily my favorite is I've Heard That Song Before. She has a very personal way of singing that makes the song seem like it is about her own life (even though she didn't write the song), and she means what she's saying. I Had the Craziest Dream and It's Been a Long, Long Time are also beautiful songs she sings perfectly.


Edelweiza said...

hi chuck!

i like to watch old movies, too.i used to have my boyfriend download old movies using torrents...ssssshhh.but now, i don't have the time anymore.i'm just too busy with work and blogging.and getting a

Chuck said...

Old movies are generally better than modern movies. Although of course there are exceptions. There aren't any actresses today like Audrey Hepburn, though. She was one of a kind.