Sunday, July 12, 2009


James Whale's Frankenstein (1931) is the stuff that a Gothic horror film is made of. While it is loosely based on Mary Shelley's 1818 novel of the same name, it is by no means a faithful adaptation. In fact, it is probably closer to Peggy Webling's play. The plot is tweaked, names are changed, a distinctly German look and feel is added - but leaving all that aside, the movie is truly an impressive one. Frankenstein is one of my favourite books, and I can say that while Whale's movie is quite different from the original text, it is by no means nothing short of a cinematic achievement.

Frankenstein has gone down in history as one of the greatest horror films ever made, and while modern audiences like us may not run out of the movie viewing with shrieks and screams, all of us will feel a chill or two, up and down our spines, at Boris Karloff's amazing portrayal of the Monster. While Colin Clive puts in a great performance at Henry Frankenstein, the man obsessed with creating life, the show truly belongs to Karloff, and perhaps Jack Pierce, for his make-up effects. For how many of us can say that image of the Monster, with its flat head, drooping eyes, and neck-bolts, is not striking, to say the least?

This movie has endured the test of time, and is a favourite with us even after 75 years. Initially, though I felt a little sore because I expected the movie to stay absolutely faithful to the text, I got over my resentment quickly- after all, which director truly stays faithful to a text? And how can all of the touching story of Frankenstein and his monster be compressed into a film that is just an hour long? No, it is useless to dwell upon these trivial details - Frankenstein must be seen for what it is - a horror film that stands apart from the rest, one that despite being made 79 years back, would still give all the horror films of today great competition.

While Shelley's novel raises many thought-provoking questions about life and creation, parenting and childhood, nature vs. nurture - the movie too, makes one think, though in entirely different ways, because of the plot changes. Did the Monster become violent simply because he was given a criminal brain, or was he made into one by Fritz's constant torment and torture? Or was it both these factors? To think about all this, you must watch the movie, but not just because of the issues it raises in your mind - but because it is next to impossible not to admire such splendid direction, such classy acting, and such chilling horror.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Evita (1996) is one of those rare masterpieces that takes a while to sink in. The musical adaptation follows the life of Eva Duarte, an illegitimate child drawn to fame and fortune - who leaves no stone unturned to ensure that hers is a 'rags-to-riches' story to remember, and she eventually becomes wife to Juan Peron, President and dictator of Argentina. Her charisma and glamour wins the people over, but it's left to the viewer to realise that her life is a sham, and her marriage one of mutual benefit.

I have always liked musicals, and if you give me a Lloyd Webber one - well, all the better! Full credit for Evita's music goes to him, but especially more so because his music somehow never gets monotonous. Each musical's tones are different from the last. For instance, while Jesus Christ Superstar has a new-age-rock sound to it, Cats has more of the typical classical twang. Evita, on the other hand, is slightly jazzy, dramatically Latina, and fiery in parts - the music plays a vital part, in a movie where there is precious little dialogue.

The songs are without a doubt, absolutely great - and I must say that the lyrics are very strong - credit for that goes to Tim Rice. In fact, this is one of Rice and Lloyd Webber's many collaborations. Watch out for songs like "Another Suitcase In Another Hall", "The Money Kept Rolling In", "High Flying, Adored" - those three being my personal favourites. Evita is different from other Lloyd Webber musical adaptations I've seen in the sense that it's not as stylised. There are not many elaborate dance sequences, the costumes aren't overtly theatrical - instead, Evita has somewhat simple sets, but the choreography makes its presence known in other forms - like the scenes of the singing of the butchers and the marching of the soldiers.

There is no doubt that Madonna's singing is great, but perhaps she was a little too old for the depiction of a 26 year-old. But that apart, she does full justice to the role of Eva Peron, and depicts her as a woman bent on making it to the top, at whatever cost. On the one hand, you sympathise with her hard-luck story and you grow enthusiastic as she makes her way to success, but on the other, you wrinkle your nose in distaste as you realise that this woman has hidden agendas. Kudos to Madonna for portraying a flawed woman perfectly. She is a screen presence to reckon with.

Antonio Banderas, as Che, completely blew me away! Who knew he could sing? Who knew he could dance? He is the high-point of the movie, both dramatically and musically - and complements Madonna perfectly. I've always thought that he was mere eye candy, but now I realise I'm wrong. Che was a difficult part to play, but Banderas manages perfectly - his part as the Narrator left me stunned. Jonathan Pryce, as Peron, was good too - another brilliant voice, great facial expressions, especially in the song "You Must Love Me". A pity he didn't have more singing to do.

is a political musical that leaves a lasting impression. I've always been a big fan of Lloyd Webber's work, and Evita now joins the list of Cats, The Phantom Of The Opera, and Jesus Christ Superstar as another favourite. It remains with you for its catchy music, its splendid direction and mindblowing lyrics, its period look of 1940's Argentina, and its stunning scenes of Eva's funeral and political instability. And you know what else? Right now, I'm humming "High Flying, Adored" as I'm typing this.

Watch Evita. Take my word for it - it's a movie worth watching, not just for the stars' names, but for the depiction of a true story that leaves you rather moved. And if you appreciate Lloyd Webber's music, all the better for you!