Saturday, January 28, 2006

DE SICA films in Chennai

After my usual walk, I settled down to reading the newspaper over a cup of steaming hot fresh coffee. Thanks mom. Now that she is back, my life is going full swing. Nothing like drinking up mom's coffee on a lazy Saturday, except that this weekend I was working.
I find the morning newspaper mesmerising and get lost in it for hours. The Hindu Metroplus has a lot of interesting clips to offer, and this time it was the De Sica films being screened at Sathyam theatre. There were two 90 minute movies, "Umberto D" (1952) (in the picture topmost left corner) and "The Bicycle Thief" (1948), and passes were available at the theatre. The movies are being screened today and tomorrow. I decided that I'll take the morning off for the movie and join the gang for lunch at a nearby resturant. AFJ and Mru could not make it, so I decided to go alone.
So I left for the 10.00am show at 10.00 am. Found an auto guy who decided to show off his path breaking motor riding skills by getting me to my destination in less than 20 minutes. Well, you know what that means! From there, I proceeded to ask the movie-help for passes, but he simply asked me to enjoy the show less the pass.
Now, the theatre had a sizeable crowd much to my surprise. The last time AFJ and I went for the French film festival, it was not so impressive. I check with the lady seated next to me if I have missed anything. She replies with a grin, "The screening hasn't started yet". The time should have been 10.40 am now. Then suddenly the screen comes to life and the movie begins. Then a mild flicker and the entire theatre is a pitch black. Silence. Ten minutes later, we are on our way. I was expecting to see the Bicycle Thief , atleast that's what the papers said. But I could only understand Umberto's name being introduced everywhere and the subtitles did not help. I thought they were in Italian, until a voice boomed into the mike and apologised for the SLOVAKIAN sub-titles, and promised that tomorrow will be better. The sub-titles will be in English, which was a relief. (AFJ has consented to honor me with her company and her cousin managed to get her passes.)
The movie that I watched today, was Umberto-D. It traces the life of a retired civil servant who struggles to maintain his living standards with a dwindling state pension. His little dog, Flike is his only faithful companion through his hard times, and sometimes his pregnant neighbour, the housemaid, Mary (I think), keeps him company. During his spare moments, he teaches Flike little tricks, which is smartly carried out by the little guy. Umberto's landlady is a tyrannical woman who rents out his rooms to prostitutes and keeps demanding high rent, which the old man cannot afford. In between all this, he falls sick and admits himself into a hospital where he gets a biscuit and some soup, thanks to his neighbour who coaxes the sister to give him food. His housemaid brings him a banana, which Umberto excitedly yells out, "A banana". Times are hard, hence the scene was particularly evocative. Flike is left in the care of the housemaid. However all that changes when he returns to his room in the building.
His rooms are being ripped and none of the earlier occupants are around. The landlady ignores his questions. His faithful companion FLike is no were to be found, and the old man frantically searches for the dog. He takes a taxi to the dog pound. (The paper money of those days are very huge, and that was quite fascinating) At the pound, it is a gory scene. He sees several dogs being put to sleep in gas chambers. My heart was racing. Thankfully, he finds FLike and rescues him. Together they return to the building. But his room becomes inhabitable and, both man and dog leave the familiar comfort of the room in search of a living.
He is forced to beg, but is unable to come to terms with the situation. This particular scene, where Umberto cups his hand in a begging posture, and turns it away as if looking at someone, when a passerby offers change was simply brilliant. The scene was rewarded with a series of claps from an appreciative audience. Instead he makes Flike hold a bowler hat, and makes him sit with his front paws up in the air, to beg. Umberto hides behind the tall pillars of a building and while pretending to read a piece of paper, throws orders to Flike encouraging him to do his best. However, it is all too much for him and he tries other alternatives, but nothing works.
In the end, Umberto decides to end his life on the tracks, but is rescued right back by the faithful FLike.


Cheshire Cat said...

Yes, that's a great movie. But what is it with movies in Chennai? There isn't a single decent English one playing in theatres now; I was expecting at least Narnia or the Wallace & Gromit movie...

sanchapanzo said...


Review was neat.
Will try to see this one!

aklanta said...

I R O N Y!
I have read a lot about films by De Sica. Passed exams writing about them, but watched none of his movies...:D)

Rohit Talwar said...

I've heard a LOT about the biccle thief! i'm dying to find its disc somewhere..

Ashish said...

Sure wish they had some sort of movie festival here , the only movies that come out here are english movies that come out like months after their actual pirated release and hindi flicks most of which are better missed :D

Abaniko said...

too bad you didn't see the bicycle thief. it's a great movie. simply executed but extremely poignant. don't miss it.

aquamarine said...

Hi Cheshire Cat, I know what you mean, its quite pathetic. Maybe we should form a union and create some noise for good movies.

Thx. You must make it a point to watch both the movies.

You are incorrgible!:)))) It's not too late u know.

Rohit, I'm not sure where to direct you either. But will ask around. Mayb you could get in touch with the video stores and chk with them.

Ashish, yeah..i sucks na!We should start a movement, "Good movies for the like-minded" or sum such thing so that movie lovers like you are not disadvantaged because of a place.

Abaniko, u spoke too soon..chk my latest post:))))))))

Accidental Fame Junkie said...

The Slovaian subtitles things was very funny! I rolled on the round re!

aquamarine said...

hehe..yup me too...cant belive it..but it was a lot fun MOon