Saturday, 28 December 2013

DVD re-release alterations: Is it ever okay?

BEWARE! SPOILERS!

A few weeks ago I watched the original Star Wars Trilogy (1977-83) for the first time in my life. I'd caught glimpses of it when I was a child but I'd never watched it from start to finish before. I absolutely loved it! The characters, the locations, space, the music, and the story! Call it straightforward but it works. It is a great story and each episode was hugely entertaining. After watching the films I read that George Lucas had revisited the films and altered them in different ways for DVD re-releases. For someone like me, who never saw the original theatrical releases, I will forever be none-the-wiser about those changes - except for one glaringly obvious one.

At the end of Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983), Luke, Han, Leia, and all the gang are celebrating their victory over the dark side. Whilst everyone is celebrating, Luke turns away and has a little private moment of reflection to himself. He then sees before him the ghosts of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and... low and behold... his father. But the ghost isn't Darth Vader in his black helmet and cape, rather it is his father as Anakin Skywalker before he fell to the dark side. This isn't what shocked me though. Even though I was surprised to Luke's father standing side by side with his old friends, redeemed, I was very surprised to see that it was the Anakin of the later Star Wars films, played by Hayden Christensen. I knew instantly that there had been an alteration, because Christensen was probably a baby when the original Star Wars films were made. After the first shock, my eyes teared-up - it was a moving moment to see Anakin redeemed of his past and finally becoming the jedi he was born to be. Also the fact that his son Luke was now able to look on his father in his human/good days, and look upon him with pride. To see Anakin, next to Obi-Wan and Yoda, all three of them smiling back at Luke - their work was done, all is well. It's a beautiful if-brief moment, and I found it quite moving. 

Altered Anakin ghost with Hayden Christensen.
Once the film ended I did some research online. I wanted to know if Anakin was shown at the end in the original Return of the Jedi, and if so, what did he look like? Instantly, a plethora of reviews, blogs, articles, etc, came up that compared before and afters. Turns out that Anakin was shown at the end, and he was played by Sebastian Shaw. 

Original Anakin ghost with Sebastian Shaw.

Now, for me, a new fan of Star Wars and someone who hasn't seen the original releases, I wasn't bothered by this change. Personally, I felt that it showed continuation, and even though it is just a film, not a real story, I was moved to tears by the fact that Luke could see his father, Anakin, as he was before he was Darth Vader. That continuation and sense of authenticity gave the scene emotional impact. I even preferred the new music - it sounded like a happy celebration and had tearjerking power. However, I could see instantly that this was a big move and possibly a major error to fans of the original films. 

So, I asked myself - in this day in age where there are constant re-releases of films and DVDs and the ability to alter things digitally, when is it okay to alter the original format of a film? 

As I have said, I can't say much about Star Wars because I'm new to those films. But say in 20 years time, Peter Jackson released a new, altered version of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I would be absolutely furious. I would be so angry that he had changed something which I loved and knew second for second from the day it was first released. I hate the extended versions of LOTR, and am so relieved that we have the choice of original cuts on DVD. I love the flow of original LOTR, I think it all flows perfectly, so when I saw the extended versions I couldn't stand it. It didn't flow as well, and everything was wrong. It was ruined. 



Two other examples are the latest re-releases of Disney's Beauty and the Beast (1991) and Pocahontas (1995). Disney are making a habit of adding extra scenes into their classics. With Beauty and the Beast, you have the option of watching the version with the extra scene and without. I always choose without because I don't like the scene. Unfortunately, with Pocahontas you don't have that same choice. With Pocahontas you can watch only the new version and worst of all, not only are there added scenes, but the original scenes have been altered. The scene where Pocahontas meets John Smith in the tent now has a song in it - a lovely song - but it ruins the scene. What was once a romantic, tender, and heartwarming last goodbye turned into a cheesy singsong. The song isn't the issue - I love it, it's beautiful over the credits of the film, but here it doesn't work. The final scene where Pocahontas is saying farewell to John Smith is also completely altered, with that same song being sang. Both of these scenes had stunning, heartbreaking scores composed by Alan Menken playing over them. Both were mature and suited the mood of each scene. But Disney had to ruin that by inserting the theme song, changing the animation (which also stood out as different)... I mean why do that? You've ruined the original parts. At least enable us to skip new scenes. With altered scenes you ruin the film itself, and we, the fans, are stuck with it. 



With that in mind, I sympathise with Star Wars fans because they've loved the franchise for years,. When you know something so well and love it so much, it is horrible to have it changed. And it's not like you can ignore it. When you are a fan of anything you know it like the back of your hand, and even the slightest change is instantly recognisable. You can't ignore it. It is in your face.

So, even though I liked the inclusion of Christensen's Anakin in Return of the Jedi, I can completely understand why long-serving fans of the franchise are upset and annoyed. If you're going to do these things, give fans the choice of original theatrical release - always - and you're altered version alongside it. Never merge the two together. Take note all. 

Monday, 16 December 2013

A sad week for old Hollywood

These last couple of weeks have been pretty shocking in the world of old Hollywood. Even though that era ended decades ago, the films and people of that time still thrive in the hearts and minds of fans across the globe. From those who were alive during 1930s-50s, to someone like me who discovered them at the age of 15 back in 2006, there is still a massive following for the great films and legends of those golden years. There have been a few deaths recently, but I will only comment on those actors who's films I've seen. May they each rest in peace.


Joan Fontaine (1917-2013)


Beautiful Joan. Just the other day me and my sisters were discussing how many of the 'old stars' were left, and I commented on how both Joan and her sister Olivia de Havilland (respectively) were still going strong. How shocked I was today to hear of Fontaine's passing. She is so splendid in Rebecca (1940). Few can pull off naive, innocence, and sweetness - usually it just comes across as stupid or someone can't act. But Fontaine performed the role of Mrs. de Winter masterfully. She was adorable and totally convincing as the woman to save Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier) from the darkness of his previous marriage. Later in her career, she played the role of Rowena in Ivanhoe (1952) opposite Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor. She plays an older woman who loses the heroic Ivanhoe to the young and ridiculously beautiful Rebecca. For this she had to have dignity, class, and be gracious in defeat. Fontaine was perfect in this role.

I have yet to see her in Suspicion (1941) - the picture which won her the Best Actress Oscar and was her second outing with Alfred Hitchcock. Others in her filmography I am eager to see are Letter From An Unknown Woman (1948) and The Constant Nymph (1943). Thank you for the wonderful performances, Mrs. de Winter, it was always a pleasure.


Peter O'Toole (1932-2013)


I haven't always been O'Toole's biggest fan. He was never my favourite actor, but I respected him greatly and was blown away by his performance in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) when I watched it for the first time last year. Without a doubt his performance as Lawrence is one of the greatest by an actor in cinema. Absolutely outstanding.


Eleanor Parker (1922-2013)



When I watched The Sound of Music (1965) with my best friend a couple of years ago, she commented on how attractive the Baroness was and asked me if she was particularly famous. Not knowing who the actress was, I replied no. How stupid I felt when the credits rolled and I saw that it was Eleanor Parker, an actress who's name I'd seen constantly in film studies, analysis, and on DVD covers. She was really brilliant in The Sound of Music. The two leads of Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer almost steal the show, but Parker really held her own and is as memorable as anyone else in the film. Her presence is strong and her character feels like a real threat to Maria and the Captain's chance of happiness. But Parker doesn't ruin the role by making herself a villainess, or acting over-the-top with jealousy. Instead she is very sweet, polite, decent, and proper, perfectly camouflaging the anger she probably feels at this nun contemplating her plans for marriage. What is so clever about Parker is that beneath that elegant facade, you can see the coldness in her eyes, like a viper, with her eyes carefully watching Maria's ever move. A wonderful performance.

I intend to watch more of Parker's films this coming year, including The Naked Jungle (1954), Caged (1950), Scaramouche (1952), and The Woman in White (1948 - a version I've been trying to catch for years).

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Looking back at 2013... and thoughts for 2014.

So it's that time where we look back on the current year and decide whether it was good/bad. Mine has been good... in the way that nothing tragic has happened, but I'm not where I was hoping to be a year ago. Basically I can't complain but it hasn't been great. Regardless, I do have hopes for 2014. I won't bore you with my personal ones, but here are my discoveries in film and other things that I am happy with, followed by what I hope to improve on over the coming year.

2013:

  • Discovered Woody Allen films - so far Hannah and her sisters is my favourite. 
  • Watched Band of Brothers, Sex and the City, and North and South TV dramas in full. 
  • Became a fan of Game of Thrones TV series.
  • Finally read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy by JRR Tolkien after being a big fan of the films since they were first released over a decade ago. 
  • Rediscovered my love for the actors Errol Flynn, Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Fredric March, and Richard Widmark. I have always loved their work but I rewatched their films recently and consider them in my list of favourite performers. 
  • Became a fan of the actors Charles Boyer and Vincent Price.
  • Found two actors of the present day whose upcoming films I genuinely anticipate. They are Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence. Both are very talented, speak beautifully, seem to focus on acting/script/film and not stardom, and have undeniable presence onscreen. 
  • Attended one of the BBC Proms - Hollywood Rhapsody Night, and consequently, became a fan of the supremely gifted conductor John Wilson and his orchestra. 
  • Watched The Seventh Seal for the first time. This has been on my to-watch list for years and I wasn't disappointed. It's going to need repeated viewings for me to fully understand it and be able to enjoy it properly, because my first viewing, although wonderful, I was too amazed and captivated by the film to truly comprehend it. 
  • Rediscovered my love for film in general. In my final year and a half at university, it was easy to get caught-up in the immense workload and the grasp-as-much-as-you-can-of-your-student-days fever. I'm glad I did make the most of it because I'll never get those happy days back again. However, it did mean that I neglected films, especially my classics and favourites. 
  • Got my YouTube channel up to date. 
2014:
  • Update this blog once a week - whether it be thoughts on a new film I watched or analysis of a scene - whatever it is the blog will be active on a weekly basis. 
  • Update my The Lord of the Rings blog once/twice a month.
  • Expand my knowledge of classic Hollywood - read more and watch more, fill the gaps with more films, actors, directors, studies, and analysis.
  • Watch more foreign films - I am really behind on the foreign front. I've never seen a Kirosawa picture (shame, yes I feel it). Recently I was added to a film forum on Facebook and it's been an eye-opener to all the films I haven't seen. Most of the members are quite a bit older than me, but still, they post about films I haven't heard of or ones I know I should have seen by now. I need to broaden my viewings.
  • Watch more Hollywood silent films. I have seen only a handful, and that doesn't include Chaplin, Keaton, or Lloyd. I intend to remedy that this coming year. 
  • Read the autobiographies of Errol Flynn and Gene Tierney, and the biography of Dana Andrews. Also read Truffaut's book on Hitchcock. 
  • Keep up the YouTube channel and never get a year behind again. 
  • Listen to more classical music. Get to know symphonies fully and explore the genre. 
  • See another BBC Prom. Attend the Bath, Bristol, and BFI Film Festival. 
  • Volunteer at an art gallery - learn more about art.
  • Read more history books - I loved history in school and miss learning about it. 
Obviously I have more personal goals involving friends, health, career, and places to visit - enjoying life and living it to the full blah blah blah - but they're not relative to this blog. I doubt anyone will read this and if anyone does read it then I'm sure they'll want their 5 minutes back. But I thought I would post it anyway.

I am sorry for the lack of activity on this blog. I hope that by Spring 2014, I will have gathered a good pace on this blog. I wish you all the best for the new year.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

BBC Proms 2013: Hollywood Rhapsody ( Prom 59 ) performed by John Wilson's Orchestra


This time last year I was watching YouTube videos on my lunch break, mainly live performances of soundtracks. Eventually I came across several BBC Proms film nights and immediately I wanted to see a Prom in person. For a very reasonable price I got two tickets for Prom 59 - Hollywood Rhapsody Night performed by John Wilson's orchestra on Monday 26th August. I had never heard of John Wilson, nor seen a live orchestra, or even been to the Royal Albert Hall for that matter. For months I anticipated the performance; it did not disappoint.


What a night. What an experience. I cannot believe I have never attended a Prom before and I am adamant that I will attend one every year for the rest of my life! In this blogpost I will attempt to describe the evening, the music, and the performance as well as I can (and try to make it interesting). The best way for me to do that is to describe the evening in chronological order. Below you will find the full concert on YouTube; I'll be using the times on this video in my descriptions so it should be easy for you to follow. The concert begins... BEWARE THERE ARE FILM SPOILERS IN THE FOLLOWING POSTS. 



Alfred Newman: 20th Century Fox Fanfare & Street Scene (1931)

0:00 - 08:44 mins
It was so weird hearing the Fox Fanfare live. Everyone knows this piece, wherever you are, if you hear that fanfare you feel yourself thinking, where's the popcorn?, like if you're about to enjoy a cinematic experience. It sets you on autopilot. Those military-like drums, followed by the booming brass, and distinctive strings, really wake you up and alert you to keep watching - you're about to witness something great.

As for Street Scene, I have never seen the film itself, however I have seen How To Marry a Millionaire numerous times (where it was re-used). Wilson's use of it to open the concert was interesting. It's a very dramatic piece and has a wonderful buzz to it - mirroring the idea of bustling streets and busy city life. It opens our musical senses and starts them turning readily for the rest of the show. It was the ideal appetiser.


Bronislau Kaper: Forever, Darling (1956) - Confetti 

08:44 - 11:27mins

Light and lively, this piece lifted the spirits and conjured images of romantic comedies from the golden era. A serene and jolly calm before the concert took a dive into darker tunes from murkier movies...


David Raskin: Laura (1944) - Suite


11:27 - 17:47 mins

I adore the film Laura; the plot isn't just captivating from start to finish but dotted with exquisite moments of humour, crime, and romance. Everyone remembers the villain, the detective, and Laura herself, but possibly the most memorable element of Laura was the title theme.

Wilson begins conducting the piece with a grimace on his face, and rightly so. The opening bars of the Laura suite are unnerving and haunting - ominous low notes play, reminding us that we are in the dark world of film noir and that there is murder afoot. Then the unmistakeable Laura theme is introduced quietly, a beautiful lady plucked from the dark depths of noir as if by magic. For anyone who has seen the film, we immediately see the painting of Laura, looking ever-so dreamy, and our detective falling slowly in love with her image and memory - as told to him by suspects.

Every man who encounters Laura falls in love with her. For the film they had Gene Tierney play the title role, which made it easily believable that all who met her would fall for her - she was ridiculously beautiful after all. But the film needed more than that. It needed music to enhance her beauty by creating added wonder, tragedy, romance, and the idea of obsession. Hearing the music without watching the film, you could hear the music as it was meant to be heard - it was the sound of Laura's spell which bewitched every man who knew her, with the unmistakable notes of doom lurking beneath that romantic sweep.


Bernard Herrman: Psycho (1960) - Suite for Strings


17:47 - 24:55 mins

The most recognised film score of all time? Possibly. Even if you haven't seen the film Psycho, odds are you've heard the theme. I had seen old Proms performances of Psycho online, but that didn't ruin the experience for me at all. Hearing the music live is very different and seeing the effect on people in the audience is unique. What I really remember from my seat so high-up in that hall was all of these violin bows moving frantically and briskly - as if in a frenzy. But of course that is the genius of Herrman the composer.

His music had to physically resemble the psychotic mind of our killer and frenzy of the killings themselves. Additionally, the piercing notes we hear from the strings are painful and make us uncomfortable, which is how we should feel. This isn't a pleasant tale and the film itself is disturbing. What is wonderful is that Herrman composed a suite that enhanced the films impact, and immeasurably so.

The opening title sequence is quite dizzying and there is this feeling of a chase, that we are running from something (like Janet Leigh in her car), but soon we come to a quick demise and the notes become slower and lower. This is the calm before the storm, because shortly afterm we hear the infamous theme for the shower scene. Watching it performed live, you see the violence of the piece. Even without watching the murder, the musicians themselves look as if they are murdering their instruments. Bows slashing down hard ferociously at the strings - the piece is very violent and a mirror image of the action of the killing. The entire audience would have felt unnerved at some point during this suite, and I'd bet money that most had hairs standing up at the back of their necks.


Citizen Kane (1941) - Salammbo's Aria


24:55 - 29:40 mins

I was slightly disappointed when I saw which part from the Citizen Kane soundtrack was being performed. I was hoping for 'Snow Picture,' but I had no need to be disappointed. This stunning aria escaped my notice with my viewings of Kane, and I have no idea why! It is a show-stopper! Super dramatic with its big notes echoing through the hall, all sung sublimely by soprano, Venera Gimadieva... it was a beautiful and wonderful piece. I've never seen an opera singer live before but it's quite an experience hearing such a strong voice fill the concert hall.


Erich Wolfgang Korngold: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) - Suite


29:40 - 46:50 mins

One of the first classic films I ever watched and definitely one of my favourites, I was always going to be biased when it came to this performance. The soundtrack from The Adventures of Robin Hood is one of the greatest and I feel so honoured and lucky to have had the privilege of hearing the suite performed live in all its splendour. The opening bars are full of life, colour, and the excitement of the film. You can instantly see Errol Flynn swinging around Sherwood forest, laughing in the face of danger, and surrounded by his Merry Men. But even more so, you hear the unmistakable sound of the Golden Era, Hollywood at her biggest and best. This soundtrack has everything and changed everything when it came to sound in film. Such an incredible blend of medieval sounds with that indisputably Hollywood sweeping of strings - this suite is to die for. I was over the moon when I saw that it was going to be performed, and thankfully, John Wilson and his orchestra exceeded all expectations.

34 mins - The love theme from The Adventures of Robin Hood begins. This is my favourite piece of film music, no competition whatsoever. No other piece is as romantic, magical, dreamy, or majestic. The opening bars seem to flutter higher and higher (just as we are going high up into the castle, into Maid Marian's chamber where Robin Hood will soon appear). A trumpet plays a few romantic notes but because it's a trumpet, it also represents the sound of good and justice (that which Robin and Marian are fighting for - it has already been noted in many studies how Korngold kept the idea of justice in every scene, even the romantic ones). And it goes on, with the whole orchestra sweeping round and round and up and up in this beautiful romance - as if we're walking on air like Maid Marian.

38 mins - Now the piece goes up another level. My favourite part of the whole love theme - where things get serious between Robin and Marian. They declare their love for each other and vow to fight for the good of England, no matter what danger they are in. The cello (?) at 38:10 mins reflects the seriousness of their peril. Marian is in danger in the castle, and Robin doesn't want to leave her there because he loves her, but he knows that she must stay for the good of the land. It is a very tender, serious moment between the pair, and the cello is the perfect sound for that. At 38:45 mins we have the sax popping in again - super smooth and soothing - reminding us that this is a romantic meeting and not a political one.

From there on, the music just gets fuller and bigger. The orchestra is on full power mode, and mirrors Robin sweeping Marian off her feet. Even Wilson's gestures look as if he is preparing for the final hurdle - the big finale of the piece. This is where Korngold outdoes himself. At 39:10 mins we are shown Wilson again, and his movements... he looks like a magician casting some sort of intricate, delicate spell - how much more beautiful can this music get? His movements are magic, and the camera zooms in to show him closer at 39:19 mins... He is completely caught-up in the music, and his gestures show the intense emotion of the piece. On the night I wasn't able to see Wilson closely, but watching the concert on television a week later was wonderful to see because it showed how into the piece he was, how even he, after god knows how many times of conducting it, was still affected by it.

The piece has reached its finale, and our orchestra/conductor go into overdrive. Never mind the Olympics, the next few minutes look like the world's hardest workout. The precision, effort, and strength needed to perform this flawlessly is unimaginable (the commentary on the televised version said how the musicians stated that this was the hardest piece they had to perform). The talent of these people and their focus/power is incredible, and seeing it all on stage in those moments performing the most genius and beautiful of musical works, was astounding. The final 30 seconds are quieter and softer - Robin is bidding Marian goodbye. Again this is a very tender, intimate moment, because they know that they are both in danger, and they don't want to leave each other, but they must. As Robin climbs down the vines in the dark of the night, Marian watches lovingly and proudly at our hero and her love... just the fact the Korngold knew to tone things down for that goodbye shows how gifted he was.

Of course, that is the end of the love theme but not the suite itself. We follow with the battle scene and the victory - all big, brash, and full of Hollywood vibrancy. But for me nothing comes close to the love theme. Words fail to describe it and do it justice. Hearing and watching Wilson and his orchestra is what you need to do to fully understand it's beauty, power, and Hollywood quality. Even someone who hated classical music and never wanted to even think of giving it a chance would be blown away by this part of the performance. It is one of those pieces that touches the heart and transcends the soul. I was moved to tears, not because of the fact it was my favourite piece, or because I loved the film, or even because it conjured images of Flynn and deHavilland in their prime. I was brought to tears because this orchestra had made that piece even more enchanting than I could ever have imagined. It was all rather overwhelming.


*INTERVAL 20 MINUTES*


Jerome Moss: The Big Country (1958) - Main Title


52:33 - 56:23 mins

Those strings are absolutely fantastic live in this piece. They fill the concert hall, illuminating in our minds the vision of great expanses of land far out in the Old West. Big, brassy, and loud, this was sensational. After a short interval, it threw us straight into the thick of things again.


Max Steiner: Casablanca (1942) - Suite


56:23 - 1:05:20 mins
The suite for Casablanca is so clever with it's layers and multiple themes. Bursting open with fanfare and then descending into an exotic melody that is both adventurous and dangerous, hinting that we are in a warmer, foreign lands for this film. But the vibrant, tropical tune soon dissipates into the Marseillaise and then into Deutschland uber alles - thus telling us that this is the Second World War, and here it is a case of the Allies and the Nazis. Just from those opening bars Steiner tells his audience the location, the era, and the political situation - genius! These two national anthems are dotted throughout the score of Casablanca and really provide enormous depth to the soundtrack and enhance the feeling of patriotism in the film. But they are usually only snippets, so as not to cloud the plot with too much doom. So before long, we have the exotic, adventure theme back in play. 

Two minutes into the suite and we finally hear the distinctive melody of As Time Goes By, a song that is interwoven in the fabric of the entire Casablanca score. Light, romantic, and memorable, the tune provides the backdrop for our romantic and tragic story - that of Rick and Ilsa. What is remarkable is that the theme of As Times Goes By gets stronger, more powerful, and fuller as the film progresses. When we first hear it, it's like an old memory - the long lost love that our lovers left in Paris. This is shown via a piano solo - replicating Dooley Wilson's role as Sam. But as they rekindle their affair and the love they felt is shared again, the theme goes from strength to strength, until it is played out in full throttle, loud and proud, at the end of the film... here's looking at you kid. It is at its strongest when the lovers show the ultimate gesture of love.

Casablanca is the perfect film and it has the perfect soundtrack. What Steiner did is combine all the elements of the plot into a beautiful blend of a score, but always keeping the theme of As Time Goes By at the forefront of it all. Wilson and his orchestra performed this suite masterfully. 


Movie Theme Song Medley

1:05:20 - 1:20:15 mins

The artists who performed the vocals for this medley were soprano, Jane Monheit, and vocalist, Matthew Ford, respectively. This was a real treat. A breather from the serious scores and suites we've had the pleasure of listening to for the past hour. An array of greats were sung and they were really brought to life. My favourite from this ensemble had to be the title song of Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing


Franx Waxman: A Place In The Sun (1951) - Suite


1:20:15 - 1:28:53 mins

If you want sensual romance, then look no further than A Place In The Sun. Again, one of my first films from the era, and very much a favourite, A Place In The Sun boasts the most beautiful couple in movie history and some of the most romantic moments preserved on film - all served with intense sensuality provided by a solo saxophone (here performed by the excellent, Howard McGill).

Like with most great romances, this one between George Eastman and Angela Vickers has a backdrop of tragedy. Waxman, as always, keeps the foreboding doom of George lurking beneath the score. Let's face it - the underlying theme of this film is unwanted pregnancy, dark waters, drowning, murder in mind, and accidental death... hardly romantic. Throughout the film George is anxious and in emotional turmoil - sometimes in the highest ecstasy as he dances with the lovely Angela, then plunging into the desperate depths of trying to shake-off his former life, and the girl he wants to leave behind. Not to mention later the guilt of his actions and the certainty of him being caught by the police and being lost to Angela forever. 

Of course, in Hollywood, our protagonist is allowed a breather, and so is the score. When we are not hearing those ominous notes of the sax alerting our hero, we are swept off our feet by a theme full of passion and as ravishing as our young stars, Clift and Taylor. There is no other word to describe the score of George and Angela's romance but dreamy. Dreamy, magical, and an eternal dance between young lovers in the height of summer. Our sax even makes an appearance to highlight the sexual tension of the pair and intense desire they feel for each other (it also hints at the heat of the summer). I love how in the film a sax solo is played when George first sees Angela - it's so simple yet speaks volumes. She looks immaculately glamorous, gorgeous, and completely out of his league. Like an angel. But he wants her. 

Wilson and his orchestra's performance were nothing short of majestic here. It's as if every note that came from that saxophone brought with it clouded images of Clift and Taylor dancing, declaring their love, and spending the best part of their time saying goodbye. Such a stunning score and from a stunning film, Waxman creates an immortal theme for those immortalised images of Clift and Taylor on screen. This was definitely a highlight of the evening.


Scott Bradley: Tom and Jerry at MGM

1:28:53 - 1:36:33 mins

Now this was a real surprise. When I saw Tom and Jerry in the programme my first thoughts were, that's a bit odd. Why has John Wilson chosen that? I seriously had my doubts. Like most kids I liked the cartoon, but I didn't think the theme was suitable for this concert. How wrong was I? From a general point of view, this was what people went home talking about at the end of the night. 

Where I was sat, very high up, I didn't actually see the percussion's performance until I saw the concert televised. But still, the sound was incredible, and hugely entertaining. I cannot imagine the amount of hours put into piecing this music together, nor the amount of rehearsal time. It was worth it though. The performance was spectacular and a thrill to see. 

The programme states, 'the cartoons are largely dialogue-free, yet Bradley's dazzling, wall-to-wall music passes almost unnoticed because it's so precisely expressive of the all-consuming action.' They've hit the nail on the head here because when you watch the cartoons you see the action, you don't notice the music. But when watching this performance you didn't have the action in front of you, all you had was the music, and yet every single performance by every instrument was so precise (kudos, Scott Bradley) that we could see the action in our heads. I could see Jerry being chased, Tom being the chaser, Jerry tip-toeing, Tom creeping, one of them banging into something and shaking from head to foot, one of them being knocked out and feeling dizzy, things flying through the air - all mixed in with a super-chilled, charming melody - this is the norm in the Tom and Jerry household! Jerry's moment sounded slightly softer, effortless, and sweet, whilst Tom's had a harsher, devilish ring to theirs. The percussion were armed with all sorts of strange instruments for this segment - multiple horns, and a dustbin where they would smash plates - replicating the chaos and destruction caused by Tom and Jerry's mischief. There are even a few screams thrown in there - nothing was left out!

My favourite sounds were those like at 1:30:44 (Wilson even shows a little grin when we first hear that sound). It's a funny sound anyway, and even though I can't place exactly where it appears in the cartoons, I imagined it would be where Tom encounters a trick left to him by Jerry, or vice versa. I could be wrong but that's why I'd laugh. 

Wilson and the entire orchestra really looked like they had a blast with this one. The whole piece expresses the chase of Tom and Jerry and how they endeavoured on a perpetual battle of wits. You couldn't help but smile whilst you watched this, and laugh at all the hilarious sounds the musicians recreated. The whole theatre was smiling and cheering by the end, not just because of the fabulous show, but for the action-packed, remarkable nature of the performance. And not forgetting, the genius of Scott Bradley.


Miklos Rozsa: Ben-Hur (1959) - Suite


1:36:33- 1:44:00 mins

Now at the very beginning of the concert I noticed that behind the stage was an enormous organ. I don't know why but I'm always fascinated by organs - whether it's in a cathedral or theatre, they just always dominate the structure with their huge pipes and imposing size. The one in the Royal Albert Hall is a monster and I was thinking throughout the entire concert - I hope they play that! They saved the best for last, and probably with the best soundtrack to showcase the power of an organ. Ben-Hur is an epic film in every sense - it's story, it's length, and it's hero. You need one hell of a soundtrack to carry those chariot races and the physique of Charlton Heston, and Miklos Rozsa really pulled it out of the bag with this one. 


As is pretty obvious if you read this blogpost, you'll notice how picky I am with opening bars of scores. This one is exceptional. Talk about dramatic. You feel as if you've opened some ancient chest lost in the sands of some faraway desert. Those opening bars tell us that Rozsa means business - this is a tale of epic heroism, bravery, and unmatched entertainment on the largest scale. The organ, that I'd had my eye on for the past hour and a half, is finally in use - thundering through the theatre and shaking the building from head to foot. During an era where Hollywood churned out Roman epics (or rather, sword-and-sandal pictures), Ben-Hur stood head and shoulders above them all. The score is equally as show-stopping as the film and it's Oscar-winning star, Heston. It's one of those scores where the orchestra are put on overdrive, and the composer pushed the boundaries on writing a film score. What a way to end the set. A brilliant choice by Wilson and performed flawlessly by the orchestra - you wouldn't think that they'd been playing extremely difficult, intricate, scores for near two hours straight. 


Franz Waxman: 'The Ride of the Cossacks' from Taras Bulba (1962)


1:45:44 - 1:51:00 mins
A total surprise - this was not in the programme! I haven't seen or even heard of Taras Bulba, but I definitely knew the theme. What a wonderful treat to not have the show end just yet!

As you can imagine, the sold-out audience gave a standing ovation and determined applause to those exceptional musicians and that wonderful conductor. Everyone was on their feet, everyone had a beaming smile, and everyones hands were probably sore after the amount of clapping. I'd had a great day in London and was overly happy anyway because I was on a mini break, but this concert elevated my mood even more. Nothing could get me down for days afterward. I had one of the best nights of my life, and all for £21?


So, what did I learn from my first experience at BBC Proms?
Firstly, book tickets on the day they are released. Even though I had a great evening and the sound was superb, sitting right at the top of the Royal Albert Hall was uncomfortable, cramped, and warm. Plus I missed seeing the conductor and musicians up-close and had to wait for the televised version to see any bits I'd missed (this was very noticeable in the Tom & Jerry segment)

Secondly, I dressed fine. We experienced a very warm summer in the UK this year, but I wasn't cold in the theatre. I'd advise having a cardigan or a light jacket/blazer with you just in case. 

Thirdly, make the most of the place. During the intermission I thought I don't need refreshment but I bought some Haagen Dazs iced cream (vanilla - amazing!) and loved it. Sometimes we can be a bit stingey when we've spent money on tickets, travel, meals that day, and other touristy things, but so what. You're there now and you won't get this evening back. Odds are you won't have a proper break like this for another year, so buy the programme, buy some refreshment, have a drink at the bar. Make the most of your surroundings. 

I had the absolute best time at Proms and intend to go next year - especially if John Wilson's orchestra are playing. I love classic Hollywood and it's so rare to actually get a chance at hearing music from that era live. But that's what is so great about BBC Proms, it gives you the opportunity to hear all that wonderful music and see that incredible talent - something you may not have considered doing before. I highly recommend Proms. Take a day trip to London and stay overnight, or spend the weekend in the capital - there is so much to see, do, and enjoy, and Proms will just be the cherry on the cake for you. 

A final word on John Wilson - as with anything I watch or hear I look up the actor/film/etc online afterwards. There are interviews with him on YouTube and this man works really hard. The amount of effort he puts into arranging these concerts is unreal, especially when you consider how most of the music he works with was destroyed decades ago. For someone to spend their life piecing together lost music and trying to get the music just right, is incredible and I admire Wilson enormously. His gift for music and passion means that people like myself get to enjoy wonderful concerts like the Prom he put on this summer. His orchestra are supremely gifted and talented - the sheer skill they demonstrated on that stage was breathtaking and made me pretty jealous - I wish I could play an instrument and play as well as any one of them. It was an honour, privilege, and pleasure to be present that evening. From what I understand John Wilson's orchestra tour every year and they have an album out. Fingers crossed they perform at Proms next year!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The Night Porter: Weirdly touching

BEWARE! SPOILER ALERT!

I had no idea what to expect when I sat down to watch this film, nor did I know if I would like it (considering the controversial themes). I follow the Sir Dirk Bogarde group on Facebook and although the group owners post images and other interesting facts about Bogarde daily, every Saturday they have a tradition of only posting aboutThe Night Porter (1974). Seeing Bogarde in Nazi uniform caressing a beautiful young woman, I wondered what on earth this film was (a Nazi romance?). After researching on Google and IMDB I was actually horrified at each synopsis I was reading. Not because of the sadomasochistic relationship but rather because of the background of that relationship - a concentration camp. Why on earth would you want to make a film documenting such a thing happening in one of those terrible camps between a Nazi officer and one of the camp prisoners - a victim of the Holocaust? Why would anybody want to even watch it? Regardless I was intrigued. Being a huge fan of Bogarde and wanting to witness the depth of the controversial story, I decided to watch it.

Before I go any further: I've found myself confused and unsure of what to think whilst writing this post. I'm not intelligent nor eloquent enough to break down and analyse this film as it should be. If you want a proper analysis that covers all bases with real knowledge/insight then I suggest you read Matthew Dessem's blogpost and the late Roger Ebert's review. They really know what they're talking about and discuss aspects of the film that went over my head. I highly recommend reading those instead of mine, if you're looking for a really good article on the film.

Two words come to mind when I describe this picture: sickening and touching. It's impossible not to be repulsed by it, and yet I found it equally impossible to not be moved. Director Liliana Cavani has created a film that constantly shifts from the horrific to the beautiful. She and cinematographer Alfio Contini have been very specific in the creepy, depressing feel they wanted to give to each scene. The muted blues and greys of the camp office and the rainy streets of Vienna are both chilling and romantic. This palette changes to dirty browns and yellows when scenes take place in the camp showers, prison quarters, and Bogarde's flat. Cavani and Contini have ensured that colour enhances the gloom of the story, reflecting the moods of each individual scene.


If one thing's for certain it's that The Night Porter makes for particularly uncomfortable viewing. Max (Bogarde) is hateful from the very beginning. He may seem like a 'church mouse' working quietly at a hotel but the flashbacks of him as a concentration camp officer are horrific. Lucia (Charlotte Rampling) is very young when she is imprisoned at the camp. Her first encounter with him is when she has arrived with a queue of others to the camp, assumedly terrified at where she has been brought. And what does Max do? He films everyone but makes a particular point of filming her as close as possible - shoving the camera in her face. Later he will shoot at her in the showers, force his fingers into her mouth, present her with the severed head of an inmate who bothered her - basically he abuses and traumatises her throughout their years at the camp.

As if watching a young girl looking gaunt, starved, and malnourished in a concentration camp isn't bad enough, we have these scenes of abuse that develop into a sadomasochistic relationship (I would give more information on this but I don't know enough about it - forgive me). But it isn't the pain inflicted on her that is the most disturbing, rather it is the horror of the Holocaust that lurks in the context of the scenes. For example, the scene where Max visits Lucia in her bed chamber (shared by other inmates) and he starts forcing his fingers into her mouth, you can see the emaciated faces of fellow concentration camp prisoners in the background - watching. Seeing these despairing, rotting prisoners whilst this Nazi officer is abusing his "little girl" is disgusting. It's sick. To us, Max is the lowest of the low.


However my opinion changed quite drastically as the picture progressed. My feelings went from viewing Max as a cold-blooded, perverted Nazi, to sick abuser, to nothing more than a pathetic old man. As Lucia's abuser/lover for so long, and to have been parted from her for years after the end of the war, his reunion with her seems to genuinely bring him happiness. Of course this is on a sexual, controlling level but also, I like to think, one of genuine affection. He even says towards the end of the film 'I love her'. I have to give full credit to Bogarde here; his skills as an actor enable us to latch onto something about a barely developed character.

One aspect of the film which I really enjoyed and thought was done well were the first meetings between Max and Lucia at the hotel. They are over-flowing with tension. Max clocks Lucia before she clocks him. When she arrives at the hotel, looking much more grown-up, glamorous, even more beautiful, Max immediately recognises her but he looks as if he wants to disappear - in fact, he hesitates about hiding. We do not know how she will react. Will she scream? Will she reveal his true identity? 'This is the Nazi warden who abused me whilst I was at the concentration camp?' We have no idea, and neither does Max. He looks apprehensive. The meeting is far from what we though it would be though. Lucia looks shocked to the core, giving Max an ice-cold stare, followed by a confused 'What the hell are you doing here?' look. No dialogue is exchanged. But the tension is there in abundance. If Lucia's husband was paying more attention he would have noticed the fright on his wife's face instantly and the recognition between the two.


Later, Lucia attends one of her husband's concerts. Sat just a few rows back is Max, a shadowy, lurking figure (like her past that she has ignored for so long, its lurking). Lucia has no idea he's there but she feels somebody is staring at her, and the expression on her face tells us that she guesses who it is behind her. She looks back and there he is. Max gives a little smile because he can see that she keeps looking back at him' he knows that she is curious. Not long after this she avoids leaving with her husband, making up an excuse to stay at the hotel. We begin to realise that actually she wants to see Max.


Their reunion is memorable to say the least. All alone in her hotel room with the lights off, Lucia waits nervously. Now that her husband has left she believes Max will pay her a visit. He does. Greeting her with questions and accusations - why have you come here? what are you doing here? - he slaps her around and throws her on the floor violently. He is furious, convinced that she has come here to expose him. She tries to run away from him but he keeps pulling her back, until finally, against the hotel room door, they embrace. Lucia pulls Max onto the floor and they caress ferociously. Clinging to each other desperately and euphorically, they rejoice and laugh at the fact they are finally together. This almost insane show of affection has a constant undertone of sadness, for the pair, now that they are together, appear to have been lost without each other since they parted.


From this moment onwards, they pick up where they left off and continue their sado-masochistic relationship in Max's flat. Dark, dingy, and murky, they cut themselves off from the outside world (Max tries to hide Lucia from his Nazi friends). Even though Max's human side is shown more to us now that he is reunited with his lover, there's no doubt that he is a sick man. He kills the former camp chef in fear that he will expose him, he ties Lucia up in his flat so that she can't escape... he hasn't changed at all. It is indeed a very murky business between him and Lucia, but beneath that they both seem deeply attached to each other, making for a very sad viewing.

Of course, the most famous, even iconic scene from the film is the flashback to Lucia's dance at the concentration camp. Wearing an SS cap, suspenders, and completely topless, Lucia performs a seductive dance to Marlene Dietrich's song, 'Wenn ich mir was wünschen dürfte.' Mouthing the sad and gloomy lyrics, there is a disturbing truth to her performance:


'I would like to be a little bit happy,
Because if I were too happy,
I would have yearnings for my sadness.'

Compare these lyrics to her reunion with Max; years apart from him, being free of him and his abuse, meant that she yearned for him when they were apart - is this what she's saying? Rampling is a beautiful woman, with razor sharp cheek bones and piercing eyes. Playing a camp prisoner, she is made to look gaunt, pale, and deathly, but in doing so the make-up made her beautiful eyes and incredible cheek bones stand out even more. Do I dare say it... there is a deathly sexiness to Lucia? The thought makes me shudder but it's true. In this scene she performs for the whole office of SS wardens, but her eyes always find their way back to Max - it's all for him. The scene is well set-up and choreographed, even if it doesn't make any sense.

As the film nears its end, the central characters of Max and Lucia become more and more pitiable. Locked away, starving, and weak, all that they have is each other. Constantly clinging, holding, and teasing one another, we see that they cannot be separated again. Max even says, 'I love her' referring to Lucia. Can this man, guilty of some of the most despicable acts a human being can ever commit, be capable of such feelings? And towards the girl he abused? Probably. The two are attached to a degree where it seems impossible to keep them apart.

The final scene is about as disturbing as any other in the film. Weak from lack of food, Max dresses Lucia in a dress he made her wear during her time at the camp (or at least one very similar). He too dresses in his old Nazi uniform (he's been saving it all these years) and the two drive to a picturesque river. Arm in arm, holding on dearly to each other, the pair stroll along the bridge together. Within moments they are shot and killed.


I really don't know what to make of this film. Unfortunately there is a definite tacky quality to it, and there is an undeniable feeling that the makers were exploiting the ideas the film presents. Without exploring the reasons behind Max's actions or Lucia's means that it film lacks any depth it had the potential to show. Even though I began to pity the pair, that was only because of Bogarde and Rampling's outstanding performances. They give the film depth - nothing else. But even their acting cannot save the problems that make this film so heavily criticised. You can call Cavani's use of the concentration camp an insult to the Holocaust because it is simply used for show, not to explore any meaning. Why does Lucia go back to Max? Why does she stay? It is frustrating that more was not done to make this picture better. When you read any synopsis you see the words 'sado-masochistic relationship between Nazi officer and concentration camp victim' - it grabs the attention. It shocks. Even today it is shocking that a film would have this as it's plot line. Was that the whole point of Cavani's choice? To attract attention? And consequently have a film that is style over substance?


Aside from its many flaws, I did actually enjoy it. Minus the horrible images of the camps, the abuse Lucia receives, the silly caricature Nazis, I was actually touched by Max and Lucia. Is this primarily because of the superb actors in their roles? Possibly. Nevertheless I was moved, especially with their reunion and the final scene. It's such a pathetic sight...

Many dislike this film and I can understand why. But I'd say it's definitely worth a watch. Not for the themes but for some of its nicely choreographed scenes, and undoubtedly for top performances from Bogarde and Rampling.

Rampling & Bogarde off-set.
The more I read about this film the more I realise I'm not intellectual enough to really pick it apart, nor to understand it's positives and negatives fully. For that I'm afraid you'll have to read elsewhere. I thought I'd share my thoughts anyway.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Now, Voyager vs. Titanic: Making an entrance

We've all seen James Cameron's Titanic (1997) countless times; whether it was during it's initial release in cinemas, on VHS, or catching it on television at Christmas, we are all fully familiar with the film and it's star-crossed lovers, Jack and Rose. I rewatched it the other night after a few years of not seeing it and I happened to notice a similarity between the blockbuster and the Bette Davis classic Now, Voyager (1942). It has nothing to do with ships or the romances that take place in both films but rather a similar entrance given to both of our leading ladies, Davis and Kate Winslet.




















I don't know whether James Cameron had seen Irving Rapper's Now, Voyager, because the scene looks very much like a tribute to the famous revelation of Davis' transformation. To clarify, yes the scene I am referring to with Davis isn't her entrance in the film but it is her entrance to us after she has had her makeover. Winslet's scene on the other hand is her first appearance in the film, and you cannot deny that both certainly have a wow, movie-star factor about them that will undoubtedly be used in documentaries about their legacies in the future. Here are some screenshots comparing the two. 

Shot 1) A glimpse of our leading lady, whether it be her shoe or her glove - both are obviously expensive, beautiful things, and hint at our ladies wealth. Although Winslet shows us her hand first, her foot soon follows. Notice already similarities in colour use - white/navy/purple - clean and classic.




Shot 2) Pan of the outfit - we now get a glimpse of what else our actress is wearing. For Davis we see that she is wear a figure-hugging dress which is simple yet elegant, and very flattering. Her slim figure and the sophistication of her outfit vastly contrasts her frumpy, granny look previously. Winslet is in a very flamboyant boarding dress/jacket, which really emphasises the wealth she has, but also shows just HOW rich you had to be to sail 1st class on the Titanic. She stands out from the other thousands in the crowd. NOTE: both are wearing white gloves.




Shot 3) A large and glamorous hat - excellent for concealing the face and also teasing the audience as to who is beneath it, the shot helps to highten to mystery and anticipation of how beautiful Davis look, or in Winslet's case - who is behind the hat?



Shot 4) Partially revealed - the hat still hides half of our actresses faces but offers a glimpse of her mouth. By focusing on the mouth the camera is immediately telling us that this is an attractive woman, and the use of red/dark lipstick on both women adds a sense of sex appeal/youth.



Shot 5) The unveiling - both Davis and Winslet have lifted their heads enough so that their faces are fully revealed. Both are looking their best, with exquisite make-up used to enhance their best features. With Davis, we already knew that she was a star, this shot simply solidifies her legendary status. However, Winslet back then was not yet a star - Titanic had made her a global star. Therefore for Winslet this shot is her star entrance; as soon as the world saw her lift her head and gaze up at the enormous ship in front of her, she was forever immortalised on film and would be recognised by millions throughout the world.



Two very different films from two very different eras. Davis is getting off her ship, Winslet is about to board hers. Davis was already a huge star at the time Now, Voyager was released, Winslet was an up-and-coming starlet with solid roles behind her but no superstar status - yet. You can even go as far to compare the journey's both actresses take on this ship as a bildungsroman - an educational trip that empowers both women and ultimately helps them to detach themselves from their controlling mothers. As far as entrances go, you can argue that this scene is the entrance both actresses are most remembered for. You cannot argue with the similarities in these scenes - did Cameron want to pay hommage to this moment from Now, Voyager? Who knows. Whatever the reason or inspiration behind it - it worked. Both Bette Davis and Kate Winslet are at their most beautiful in these films, and these two scenes give them a mythical quality in tip-top Hollywood fashion.


NOTE: I am in no way comparing Davis and Winslet as actresses. This blogpost purely analyses the two scenes and their connotations. 

Monday, 8 July 2013

Cruel Intentions: The Train Station Scene

One night a few months ago I was bored online and decided to look up some of the cutest or most romantic movie moments. Whilst many famous and even iconic scenes came up there was one that I hadn't seen before. It was from Roger Kumble's Cruel Intentions (1999) starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, and Reese Witherspoon. Having studied film noir at university and in particular - evil women in film - I had read about Cruel Intentions before but had never actually seen it. So when my google search came up with Sebastian & Annette love scene, I decided to look it up on YouTube. Sure enough I was impressed with what is undoubtedly a cute scene but also one of the most romantic movie moments I have ever enjoyed. Eventually I watched the film; the context kind of makes the scene less cute because even though Annette seems to convert Sebastian, I think the film could have developed their relationship more before this scene so that it seems more realistic. I still really enjoyed it though.

Regardless of context and my nitpicking, here I will do a short analysis of the scene at the train station. Below you find the clip from YouTube - the uploader has mistakenly called it the airport scene, but it is supposed to be at a train station. The clip is very short and it is worth watching (for the first time or recap) if you're interested in reading this post further. IMDB have a brief synopsis available if you haven't seen this film yet.


So, here goes my shot by shot analysis as well as my attempts at explaining the deeper meanings of the scene. We start with Sebastian speeding his way to the train station after hearing that Annette has returned home. She felt rejected by Sebastian in a previous scene and feeling rather stupid, she returns home to avoid him. He hates that she has gone away and is now on his way to the train station to tell her how he feels and hopefully make her stay. 


I love this shot of Sebastian (Phillippe) - he slams the phone down with a look of frustration and guilt on his face. He hopes that he can get there on time. At this very moment the beautiful beginning of Colorblind by Counting Crows starts to play, and becomes the perfect backdrop for the scene that is about to unfold. The camera cuts to a shot of Sebastian in his car, whilst zooming back to reveal the city of New York. The expanse of the big city with it's skyscrapers and many buildings looks ominous and large, but we know that Sebastian will go and find Annette regardless of the size and numbers. 



Now we cut to Annette who has just got off her train. Looking a little glum but also attractive in a simple way (her costume colours make her stand out from the crowd) she boards the escalator in an autopilot fashion. She doesn't expect to be met by anyone here at all, she is simply making her way home. Little does she know that Sebastian is waiting for her. Some interesting camera angles are used to really home-in on Annette, perhaps to make the camera/audience find her like Sebastian is trying to do. 




This is now one of those knight-in-shining-armour moments, or at least a modern version of it. As the escalator rises and the various stairs begin to disappear at the top, Sebastian's head makes an appearance as he moves towards the oncoming passengers. Again in a brightly coloured shirt (makes him stand out from the crowd like Annette) with immaculately styled hair, a heart throb pose, and an almost moody expression on his face, he looks like a tragic, romantic hero. With the camera being in Annette's point of view, and the sides of the escalator pointing towards Sebastian, there is no questioning where our attention is focused. - directly at him. We can see Sebastian clearly, waiting for her, and we know that Annette will soon notice him as soon as she looks up. 



In a world of her own and still oblivious to what is going on, Annette glances around her until finally she looks ahead. Her eyes fix upon Sebastian. Almost as if her dreams have come true (or at least her teenage thoughts) Sebastian has come all the way to New York to meet her, and hopefully tell her what she wants to hear.





Interestingly, there is no look of surprise or shock on her face. Her gentle (loving) stare hints that she is happy to see him and perhaps even nervous (butterflies in your stomach when you see the person you like?) Their last meeting ended on bad terms, there were things left unsaid - and she looks at him as if she was hoping to see him but didn't expect to (if that makes sense). As she ascends higher to the next floor Sebastian comes fully into our view. Stood motionless and not saying a word, he is simply waiting for her (cute, huh?)



As she reaches the top of the escalator and walks off of it, there is a look of apprehension and awkwardness in her face. Is she wondering why he is there? What he is going to say? Is she hoping he will say certain things?




He still doesn't say anything, he just stares at her - pondering on how to say or show her how he feels, or perhaps he's just relieved to have found her and nervous about what to say/do.



With a satisfied smile Annette says, "I'm impressed."Enjoying her remark but wanting to say why he is there and how he feels, Sebastian responds with, "Well, I'm in love," and moves in to kiss her. Half-stunned by his declaration but also reciprocating his feelings, Annette makes no protestations, and the two kiss in a totally romantic, cute, young-love smooch.



By cutting to a shot of Annette, we see her reaction to Sebastian's advance. The camera is pretty close-up so it becomes a very intimate moment between the pair, but not too close so that it loses its pure feel. The camera then cuts to behind Annette and moves it way around the two actors; by making the camera turn around them it shows the hustle and bustle of the world around them but these two are oblivious to their surroundings. They are so caught up in the moment, this special moment, that time has stood still for them, and anything that happens around them will go unnoticed because at this moment belongs to them alone.





What I adore about this scene is its modern take on romance. Even though Sebastian isn't the most endearing character, the fact that for the first time in his life he has gone out of his way to help someone and genuinely cares about another makes us warm to him. He redeems himself. We see him speeding away in his convertible to prevent Annette from leaving, to tell her that he loves her... it's old school romance. A teenage dream.

I also really love the intimacy that the camera shows. The use of grey, muted tones at the train station surroundings and the extras contrasts the bold colours worn by our protagonists who really stand out from the rest of the "world." Following Annette leaving the train and then having the camera zoom down the escalator to see the innocent/sad expression on her face. The way that the camera then cuts up to Sebastian gradually coming into full view - we are Annette looking up at him. And of course the twirling kiss is to die for. Alfred Hitchcock knew how circling the kissing couple with the camera made for a much more intimate, passionate moment that isolates the star-crossed lovers from the rest of the world. Here Kumble uses it to great effect. 

A major ingredient in the beauty of this scene is the song choice - Colorblind by Counting Crows. Hauntingly sung by lead singer Adam Duritz, the song magically mirrors the feelings of Sebastian. Like with so many songs, the lyrics can be interpreted in numerous ways, but somehow the song fits this scene like a glove. Duritz sings about the deep, emotional torture he is currently feeling; he is colorblind and so is Sebastian because he has gone through life cruelly using women for his own sexual needs. Degrading and humiliating those whom he uses, he went about doing as he pleased without seeing what he was doing wrong - therefore he was colour blind:

I am colorblind
Coffee black and egg white

But after falling for Annette (when he was really just trying to make her another of his sexual conquests) he sees what he was doing wrong. He doesn't want to use her or hurt her - he wants to actually love her. He begins to see the changes he wants to make. This is reflected in the following lines from Colorblind:
I am ready (x3)
I am taffy stuck and tongue tied
Stutter shook and uptight
Pull me out from inside
I am ready (x3)
I am fine

It amazes me when I hear the lyrics and when I see the perfect editing of the scene to the song... it was as if Counting Crows wrote the song specifically for this scene (they didn't). Luritz's singing really comes from the heart, you hear the pain and internal battle his feelings are going through, which makes this song ideal for Sebastian and the scene. Colorblind is in fact one of my favourite songs because of this film. A brilliant choice of music; to be fair there were other music choices in the film that were powerful and made the scene memorable. For example, the use of Bittersweet Simphony by The Verve in the finale - a very clever choice that made the finale even more poignant. 

Cruel Intentions is an entertaining film. Even though some of the lines are corny and verge on the over-dramatic, it's enormous fun with plenty of comedy involved. Sarah Michelle Gellar is wonderfully evil and although some have called her acting here wooden and OTT, I think it suits her character well. She is sexy and beautiful, but her manipulation of others and evil qualities make her cold, bland, and uninteresting. Selma Blair is hilarious as the dorky, naiive victim of Kathryn and Sebastian's plans.

Nevertheless, it is Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon who touch your heart in this film. I would really have liked more development of Sebastian and Annette's love to have been shown previous to Sebastian declaring his love but it is redeemed by the magical, teenage dream set-up of the train station scene. Undeniably the offscreen romance between Phillippe and Witherspoon comes across onscreen; you feel as if you're really witnessing two young people falling in love. It's really quite beautiful. 


I hope that you enjoyed this brief analysis of the scene and if you haven't seen Cruel Intentions then give it a go. It's good fun but with some really touching, powerful scenes thanks to a great cast, Kumble's direction, and a tremendous soundtrack.