Shooting in Riyadh when Arabia Was Poor: American film crew accepts Arabian hospitality and lunch with Saudi King

I’d flown into Riyadh from Bahrain as one of a film crew; about twenty of us travelling the world in a Pan American Airways DC-4 airliner shooting scenes for the huge screen Cinerama production of Seven Wonders of the World (1956). We were there to film one man’s idea of a world wonder, the Arabian king, ‘the richest man in the world’. Our invitation was pried loose by Lowell Thomas, a famously regular American guy, who made movies his own way. He had chartered our airliner to fly anywhere, anytime, and also a World War II bomber with a Cinerama camera in the nose and then he winged it. No script, no plan, no prep, no budget, but it worked for him.

Sixty years after the first Cinerama film premiered at The Broadway Theatre in New York, James Morrison remembers working in Saudi Arabia with the Cinerama crew.

Harry Palmer, Michael Caine & The Ipcress File, Part 2

We’re talking about a film that crystallized a pragmatic, dynamic point in time, between the beginning and the beginning of the end… after the New Wave and before Swinging London… before the party but after the invite… from Tom Jones to Tom Jones… before mini-skirts but after the Pill… between Christine Keeler and Germaine Greer… before Mod went to pot and LSD OD’d on psychedelia… between John Lennon and John Lennon MBE and John Lennon… after rebellion, before it all ended in tear gas… between This Sporting Life and If…

Gary McMahon returns to the sixties one more time.

Deep, Deep, Down: The social satire of Mario Bava’s Danger: Diabolik

In Italy, the word for comic book is ‘fumetti’, which translates as ‘little puff of smoke’, referring to the speech balloon which communicates the dialogue in the comic to the reader, thereby implying the integration of images and words. Until the early-1960s, Italian comic books were aimed exclusively at children, but this changed with the publication of the first issue of Diabolik. The character was created by the sisters Angela and Luciana Giussani while both were working as schoolteachers, and his stories initially appeared on a monthly basis in black-and-white booklets. Perhaps in response to the conformist climate of the period, the Giussani sisters created the character of a master thief who was bold and brave, yet at odds with the state in which he lived.

John Berra brings out the social-political satire lurking beneath the comic book veneer of a misunderstood cult movie.

Erotic, Silent, Dead: The concept of women in the films of Stanley Kubrick

In the context of violence, always captured on film in its most extreme brutality, it is striking that women are, in sharp contrast, nearly always depicted as delicate, graceful figures. As a viewer, one often feels – in spite of oneself – the urge to intervene, to give a warning, to protest at the filmic deployment of the female body; and yet one is as helpless to change the events on the screen as the women themselves, who are unable to defend themselves against the circumstances in which they are trapped.

Sabine Planka on Stanley Kubrick’s women.

Room to Rent: Sexual dissidence in the films of Khaled El Hagar

Controversy is a defining aspect of the Egyptian film-maker Khaled El Hagar’s reputation in Egypt. This, one can argue, is due to the dogmatic nature of the Egyptian film industry as is outlined by the six legal statutes, which exist to prevent cinema from instigating dissidence. Arguably, El Hagar has endured more public criticism than almost any other Arab film-maker of the last two decades. El Hagar, which translates roughly as ‘The rock’, is an apt moniker considering the sheer resilience that the film-maker has had to endure in order to continue producing narrative pictures. His films have been banned, censored and the film-maker himself has survived a period of exile from Egypt after his graduation film A Gulf Between Us (1991) was shown to an Egyptian audience in 1995, instigating a media stir.

Omar Kholeif wonders whether El Hagar is ‘unique [within Egyptian cinema] in the methods of his visual portrayals of queer acceptance’.

Rethinking the Female Voice and the Ideology of Sound: On Stanley Kwan’s film Center Stage (Ruan Lingyu, 1992)

Center Stage, by Hong Kong director Stanley Kwan, offers a retrospect of the life of the Chinese cinema legend Ruan Lingyu (1910–1935) and the events leading up to her suicide at the age of 25. Ruan’s legendary life stirred Kwan to make a film based on the scant remaining sources of Ruan’s life and career. In discussing Kwan’s representation and reproduction of the female voice, I wish to examine the extent to which Kwan’s film does or does not revive the female subject’s voice, paying careful attention to the restrictions on such revivification which inhere in the cinematic apparatus itself.

Li Guo on the disempowered woman’s voice.

The Heroic Laughter of Modernity: The life, cinema and afterlife of a Bengali matinee idol

Uttam Kumar had a rewarding artistic career as the leading figure in the Bengali film industry – doubtlessly once the most critically discerning and artistically progressive fraternity among the few language-based film industries that comprise Indian cinema, its all-pervasive Hindi (now Bollywood) industry included. Actually it would be an understatement to say that he was a leading figure. He, much to his own dismay, virtually colonized the industry. In fact, Atlas-like he carried an entire industry on his shoulders, and like Prometheus, gave the industry’s underclass as well as its shenanigans, the fire of livelihood for three decades.

Sayandeb Chowdhury on the ‘greatest screen legend ever to grace Bengali cinema’.

The Globalized Avatar of the Hindi Cinema Hero: Hrithik Roshan’s ‘double role’ in Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai (2000)

In 2000, veteran director Rakesh Roshan directed his son Hrithik in his screen debut, Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai (‘Say This Is Love’) to enormous box-office success. It is a classic example of what is termed a masala (spice) film, one with a furious mix of all manner of plot elements: a love story across class lines (with requisite opposition from a disapproving parent), leering villains, choreographed dances and action scenes, and a catchy soundtrack. Yet the film’s success rested not only on its familiar masala but also on its innovative use of a cinematic device called the ‘double role’ or ‘dual role’ in order to revamp the blueprint of the desirable romance hero.

Jayashree Kamble looks at how the Hindi cinema hero has changed in the era of neoliberal globalization.

Rethinking Russian Ark

Because Sokurov mainly selects only those parts from Russian history that pertain to the country’s flourishing era, history in Russian Ark (2000) is in Nietzsche’s terms ‘beautified’. If one argues that the film is about the Russian Empire and its emperors from Peter the Great to the last emperor Nicholas II, then what about all those other emperors in between? For example, Russian Ark leaves out Paul I, the successor of Catherine the Great; Alexander the Blessed, the successor of Paul I; Alexander the Liberator, the successor of Nicholas I; and Alexander III, the successor of Alexander the Liberator. If Russian Ark is about Imperial Russia, which followed the Tsardom of Russia, why are these emperors not included?

George Sikharulidze finds ‘covert propaganda’ in Aleksandr Sokurov’s celebrated one-shot film.

A Conversation with Baldvin Zophoníasson

‘I wanted the film to be claustrophobic. I wanted it to show their world, nothing else. When you are a teenager, the whole world is the world that circles you. That was the feeling I wanted to capture in the frames.’

Icelandic director Baldvin Zophoníasson talks to Tom Ue about his successful first feature film Jitters.


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