Swells to a drama that is riveting

A Passage to India (1984) ***** Starring: Judy Davis, Victor Banerjee, Peggy Ashcroft. Director: David Lean.

A Passage to India is a fine film. One becomes immersed in the grand sweep. One surrenders to it and hopes it doesn’t become spoiled by some off-putting scene that ruined the lot. The characters, their lives in the old British India, the roles the actors play, and the handsome production swells to a drama that is riveting.

Central to it is young British woman Adela (Judy Davis) who is meeting up with her fiancé in India, who is a magistrate. Along with Adela is his mother Mrs. Moore (Peggy Ashcroft). Adela is caught up in the romanticism of the country and is keen to discover more—details like this are so natural and true to life that one can immediately relate.

The Indian country is keenly observed and wanting to be discovered by Westerners. Adela and Mrs. Moore are immensely involved in the search. They are not proud that they are English and don’t look down on the locals. They don’t consider their privileged place in India because of her son being a magistrate as much to be boasted about.

The young woman is distraught, though, when she claims rape by an Indian guide, in a moment that seems uncertain and vague. The guide, Aziz (Victor Banerjee), who is a respected doctor, has the Indian people behind him who are upset by the claims.

East and West meet romantically, but also comes with a hefty dose of realism where East and West clash–the doctor is caught up in a scandal and controversy erupts, casting a blight on the British. The result of the scandal is grief and soul searching with a more abstract issue to consider, but also quite real: forgiveness.

A holiday which turned dramatic and where no one wanted it to. The larger meaning is the relationship between England and colonial India. The human meaning is underlying prejudice and fear of the unknown.

A Passage to India is based on the E.M. Forster novel of the same name, which was published in 1924 during the days of colonial England. The film is beautiful and grand, wonderfully acted, and larger than life-like characters engage vividly and vitally. It is especially recommended for thoughtful audiences and fine film aficionados.


When strangers at the same school get together

The Breakfast Club (1985) **** Starring: Emilio Estevez, Paul Gleason, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy.

We may not be entertained by teens saying meaningless and pointed things in real life, but if they are played in film, then it’s okay, isn’t it? Most entertaining is the role playing in The Breakfast Club. The Breakfast Club has lots of smart ‘teen talk’, but also interesting characters. A Saturday High School detention brings them together with different reasons for being there.

Set in a high school for most its running time, it stars Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy, who were all recognizable Hollywood names in the 1980’s, with this film landing many of them into the limelight.

As students on detention, their tough supervisor, played by Paul Gleason, assigns them to write an essay on “who they are” which gets predictable results and blank stares. Instead of writing, they talk, and the teacher gets on their nerves and vice versa.

Judd Nelson as John Bender (bent by name and game) is believable as the bully who has been bullied. Firing off one-liners, he doesn’t hold back, words which have an unbridled ring of honesty, and underlining humor.

The five grate each other, which has a ring of truth about it, and the whole event is saying something about transience, friendship, and healing—unusually so for detention. The real-life stuff that they hide gets shared eventually.

There is coarse language at times. A scene where the students get ‘high’ on drugs is handled less than meaningfully, but with a touch of humor.

However, I laughed only a couple of times, but I was entertained all the way.

I appreciated the banter between the students, the always amusing role playing, the human connection, and the acting’s good. The Breakfast Club may even touch the cockles of your heart.

It seems that when strangers at the same school get together there is stuff they can talk about and connect with, despite all the other stuff that goes on.


Life can be ‘blue’ or ‘red’, but in between is how one copes

The Color Purple (1985) ****½ Starring: Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, Margaret Avery, Oprah Winfrey Director: Steven Spielberg. Warnings: a profanity, domestic violence, and sexual situations.

Based on Alice Walker’s diary-formatted novel, The Color Purple is well translated to the screen. It all cohesively comes together. The performances are memorable—Whoopi Goldberg as Celie is outstanding in her subtle and nuanced delivery, Danny Glover is, as always, convincing, this time playing Albert, Celie’s husband by arrangement. Great support comes in all directions, especially Margaret Avery as a singer who shows Celie affection for the first time and Oprah Winfrey storms her way through her role like a powerhouse.

The story begins with the young Celie giving birth to a son and a daughter, caused by incest. When older, Celie is given as the housewife of Albert (Danny Glover), who needs her to look after all the household chores. Though Albert would sooner have married Celie’s sister Nettie.

Celie, they say, is ugly, but knows how to work hard, and Nettie isn’t for “sale”. The hardest thing for Celie to take is when Nettie is thrown out of Albert’s house when she’s visiting Celie. A powerhouse scene shows their separation in its raw emotion.

When I looked closely at the first half of The Color Purple, it is bleak. Hardship abounds in black lives in the South during the early 1900’s. Manhood and masculinity are equated with aggression and abuse to show who’s boss, but it leaves the women in their lives hurting and fighting for survival.

If you look at what’s happening to their lives, which is bleak, it’s not an easy watch in the first half.

However, it shows people doing the best they can in a difficult world. This is someone’s story. This is real.

I looked up the deeper meaning for ‘purple’ and couldn’t find what I was looking for. Basically (and we may find meanings at the most basic level) purple is an intermediately colour between blue and red. This sums up the effect of the first half for me. Life can be ‘blue’ or ‘red’, but in between is how one copes, it’s not flash, but somehow one gets through. It’s the ‘colour purple’. Though purple has other meanings that are transcendent and are better expressed in the second half.

The second half is punctuated with the theme of redemption and confronting the abuse and coming to terms with a relationship with God in their almost hopeless world. The second half is dramatic relief. It’s thoughtful, thematic, dramatic, and transcendent.

As well, the second half broadens the scope of the film, to how black and white interact. Sofia, played with spunk and fire by Oprah Winfrey, comes out worse for ware in her interactions with whites, but Sofia is not one that is easily walked over.

At the forefront of the film, though, are the rich characters and performances.


Caught in a mind bending totalitarian world

Brazil (1985) ***½ Starring: Jonathan Pryce, Kim Greist, Robert De Niro. Director: Terry Gilliam. Warnings: occasional profanity, some violence and sexuality.

Brazil does have moments and stretches that are more engaging than the flat patches (of course). The ending is best—it leaves you with something shattering and thought-provoking.

The brilliant ending resonates as it sinks its teeth into a system gone awry. It’s about the danger of going to the extremes by becoming totally controlling and the need to be human in such a soulless existence.

In this retro-future, human beings must submit to the prevailing authorities to get along and have a “life”. Jonathan Pryce plays Sam Lowry, Sam works in a precise, regimented, bureaucratic department. Sam’s world is dark, morbid, and colourless. Norman Garwood’s production design of the department is hardened, labyrinthic, insular, and cold, and conversely eye catching which heightens our response: should we even like this world? We shouldn’t. In this world, there is not a purpose to live, except what one does for the system.

But Sam does have a reason to live. His reason to live is in his dreams.

Yet reality is around the corner at every turn.

Sam does not want a promotion, but his preening mother (Katherine Helmond) manipulates it that he will.

Overly focused and business formalities are another dose of reality, unwelcome tradesmen (one played by Bob Hoskins) make a problem worse, and the dead-end consumer culture which you’ve seen somewhere before is a nuisance.

Work, and the system that props it up, is not what it’s cracked up to be. Sam plays the game to get along.

Then the woman he’s dreaming of is real. He tries to get her into his life. Wishful thinking perhaps.

Pryce is brilliant as the frustrated, obedient worker in an autocratic world. Sam’s frustration is hidden behind subtle reactions that are crying out to scream.

The satirical edge is good and the thought that people could one day be caught in a mind bending totalitarian world is thought-provoking and maybe luminous and by the end it’s staggering. Although Brazil’s delivery doesn’t always hit the bulls-eye.



Observation for me can be a discipline to concentrate on the world around me and write from that.

Observation is useful in writing, though.

I may relate my observations to my writing foundations and build a story out of it, that’s part me, part other.

At the extreme is complete detachment on behalf of the writer and it is interesting where this may lead. Does one see it from someone else’s perspective completely?

Observing someone or something else or observing some other “world” invariably requires research to understand that someone or something other.