24 March 2013

Film review: Namesake (2006), by Mira Nair, ****


Namesake is a Bollywood drama by Mira Nair, based on the best-selling novel by Jhumpa Lahiri. Ashoke (Irfan Khan) and Ashima (Tabu) are a young couple who are brought together in an arranged marriage and soon leave Calcutta to seek their fortune in America. Before long, Ashima gives birth to a baby boy, and pressed to choose a name, they dub the infant Nikhil (Kal Penn), though he soon picks up the nickname Gogol, after Ashoke's favourite author. By the time the child is old enough to attend school, he insists upon being called Gogol at all times, and he displays little interest in his Indian heritage.

Several years on, Gogol has decided he wants to be called Nick (and is now played by Kal Penn) and has become a thoroughly Americanised teenager, openly rebelling against his parents, smoking marijuana in his room, and dating Maxine (Jacinda Barrett), a preppy blonde from a wealthy family. Ashoke and Ashima are uncertain about how to deal with their son's attempts to cut himself off from their culture, but Nick begins expressing some uncertainty himself when he meets Moushumi (Zuleikha Robinson), a beautiful girl who also comes from a family of Indian expatriates.


Multiple stories in this film. Indian immigration in the 1970s, with a bright young engineering student who finds opportunities at M.I.T., the dream university for many scientists around the world. What a coincidence, I went to M.I.T. in the seventies, same university and same decade! Some of my classmates and best friends were just like Ashoke!

Also a touching family love story, with the problems faced by parents of adolescent kids in every country.

The strong role of the family bonds in Indian culture is a message not to be missed, and from which we in the West have much to learn.

I found the puzzlement of the American born kids when they go back to visit India the most entertaining and amusing part of the film.

Everything rotates around the quirky name that Ashoke has chosen for his son, and the meaning of this name which only becomes clear to the son after his father's death.

See more of my reviews of films about India in this blog.

Buy your European Region 2 DVD here

For the US buy or download here

Buy the book here

21 March 2013

Film review: The Proposal (2009), by Anne Fletcher, *****


When high-powered book editor Margaret faces deportation to her native Canada, the quick-thinking exec declares that she's actually engaged to her unsuspecting put-upon assistant Andrew, who she's tormented for years. He agrees to participate in the charade, but with a few conditions of his own. The unlikely couple heads to Alaska to meet his quirky family and the always-in-control city girl finds herself in one comedic fish-out-of-water situation after another. Stars Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Malin Akerman, Betty White, Craig T. Nelson, Mary Steenburgen et al.


This is funny, fast, even moving. While the ending is predictable (what else could it be after all?) the way it's worked up is not. A feel good movie for sure, but there is also a moral of the story. I don't know if the author of the director Anne Fletcher of The Proposal meant it, but for me it is: always keep an open mind on what life might bring to you from the most unexpected corners, and be ready to catch it on the fly.

European version DVD

US version

19 March 2013

Film review: Casablanca (1942), by Michael Curtiz, *****

Buy the poster by clicking here

Casablanca: a French colonial city during WW II: still governed by unoccupied Vichy France, with a daily flight to neutral Portugal, from where ships sailed regularly to America. A city easy to enter, but much harder to leave, especially if you're wanted by the Nazis. Such a man is Resistance leader Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), whose only hope is Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), a cynical American in love with Victor's wife Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), the ex-lover who broke his heart. Ilsa offers herself in exchange for Laszlo's transport out of the country and bitter Rick must decide what counts more...

The film is bursting with memorable quotes!


So much has been said about this film that it would be presumptuous of me to add anything. I will try to sum it all up in one question, however. Casablanca is about a fundamental choice some people have to make at some crucial point in their lives. The question this film leaves us with is a difficult one. What is more important: finding love or fighting for freedom? 

Rick, the eternal cynic who did not stick his neck out for anyone, chose to fight for freedom. I am not sure what I would have done. Perhaps I would have chosen love. Maybe I am a wimp, or maybe I take freedom too much for granted, as I never had to fight a war for it.

17 March 2013

Film review: Escape from Alcatraz (1979), by Don Siegel, *****


One of Clint Eastwood's two most important filmmaking mentors was Don Siegel (the other was Sergio Leone), who directed Eastwood in Dirty Harry, Coogan's Bluff, Two Mules for Sister Sara and this enigmatic, 1979 drama based on a true story about an escape from the island prison of Alcatraz. Eastwood plays a new convict who enters into a kind of mind game with the chilly warden (Patrick McGoohan) and organises a break leading into the treacherous waters off San Francisco. As jailbird movies go, this isn't just a grotty, unpleasant experience but a character-driven work with some haunting twists. --Tom Keogh for Amazon


This is a great movie that entertains with lots of suspense while telling the real story of three inmates who pulled off the only successful escape from the notorious Alcatraz prison.

Eastwood is his usual self: cool, smart and cynical to the extreme, but also human. Highly recommended. Other supporting actors contribute to a great film.

Buy your European disc here

Buy your American disc or instant video here (PAY ATTENTION NOT TO BUY REGION 2 DVD FOR US)

16 March 2013

Film review: The Burmese Harp (1956), by Kon Ichikawa, *****


A rhapsodic celebration of song, a brutal condemnation of wartime mentality, and a lyrical statement of hope within darkness; even amongst the riches of 1950s' Japanese cinema, The Burmese Harp, directed by Kon Ichikawa (Alone Across the Pacific, Tokyo Olympiad), stands as one of the finest achievements of its era.

Mizushima taught a Burmese boy to play his harp
At the close of World War II, a Japanese army regiment in Burma surrenders to the British. Private Mizushima is sent on a lone mission to persuade a trapped Japanese battalion to surrender also. When the outcome is a failure, he disguises himself in the robes of a Buddhist monk in hope of temporary anonymity as he journeys across the landscape but he underestimates the power of his assumed role.

A visually extraordinary and deeply moving vision of horror, necessity, and redemption in the aftermath of war, Ichikawa's breakthrough film is one of the great humanitarian affirmations of the cinema.

Nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar and honoured at the Venice Film Festival. You can watch a trailer here.

10 March 2013

Film review: Outsourced (2010) by John Jeffcoat, ****

Time magazine cover, 2006

Todd Anderson (Josh Hamilton) spends his days managing a call centre in Seattle until he gets the bad news from his boss his job has been outsourced to India. Adding insult to injury, Todd must travel to India to train his new replacement. He expects the worst experience of his life, and it certainly begins that way! As he navigates through the chaos of Bombay and an office paralyzed by constant cultural misunderstandings, Todd yearns to return to the comforts of home. But it is through his team of quirky yet likable Indian call centre workers, including his friendly and motivated replacement, Puro (Asif Basra), and the charming, opinionated Asha (Ayesha Dharker), that Todd realizes that he too has a lot to learn - not only about India and America, but about himself. He soon discovers that being outsourced may be the best thing that ever happened to him.

02 March 2013

Recensione: "Il mio cuore è più stanco della mia voce" (2012 postumo) di Oriana Fallaci, ****

Fallaci in Vietnam

Prima il Vietnam, poi Città del Messico e infine la storia d’amore con Alekos Panagulis, eroe della Resistenza greca, simbolo dell’opposizione a qualunque regime liberticida. (Puoi leggere le sue poesie qui.) Dopo la pubblicazione di Un Uomo, Oriana riesce a creare un incantamento globale: vorrebbero essere come lei i tanti giovani e molte donne, per le quali la scrittrice rappresenta la realizzazione di un sogno.

In quegli anni Fallaci accetta i sempre più frequenti inviti a incontrare i suoi lettori stranieri, nelle città e nelle università del mondo. Questo libro raccoglie alcune delle sue conferenze di maggior rilievo, pagine rimaste finora inedite che rivelano il suo rapporto con la scrittura, la sua passione per la politica e per l’impegno civile, la sua “ossessione per la libertà”.

È il suo autoritratto più autentico, una sorta di manifesto in cui Oriana rivendica e difende con vigore il diritto a “stare dalla parte dell’umanità, suggerire i cambiamenti, innamorarci dei buoni cambiamenti, influenzare un futuro che sia un futuro migliore del presente” (dalla sovracoperta del libro)

Ad Oriana Fallaci  è dedicato un sito web.