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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Movie: From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler (1995) - Starring Lauren Bacall

The adaptation of E.L. Koinsburg's book of the same name, From the the mixed up files of Basil .E. Frankweiler, is an entertaining story of two precocious children running away from home and getting a new look at life. The movie is directed by Marcus Cole and stars Lauren Bacall as Mrs Frankweiler, Jean Marie Barnwell as Claudia and Jesse Lee Soffer as Jamie. The movie made for television was released in 1995 and also had a older version which released in 1973 staring Ingrid Bergman. The book penned by the great E.L Koinsburg is the winner of the Newbury medal for the best in children's literature.
Claudia, a spunky 11 year old feels neglected in a family of three and decides to run away. After weighing options she settles on the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art as the destination. She also enlists the support and savings of Jamie, her younger brother. Now Jamie has a steady head and is renowned for his frugality / money management practices. So all set, the pair draw out well etched plans and “escape” from home. They reach the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art and soon blend in with the endless stream of visitors and make the bath room their hideaway.

Soon the routine sets in as Claudia and Jamie mixing in with the museum crowd never giving out any suspicions to the caretakers. Claudia also vets her interest in art and passes time studying the exhibits. Soon a sculpture of an Angel fascinates her. Transfixed by its beauty she wants to check out whether the angel was sculpted by Michelangelo. By checking the records they find that the piece of art was sold to the museum at an absurdly low price by Mrs Basil. E .Frankweiler
So the adventure continues as the duo goes in search of Mrs Frankweiler. She being a kind lady takes them under her wing. Mrs Frankweiler, Claudia and Jamie undertake the journey of getting the identity of the sculpture creator established. They have small troubles but make lot of friends and enjoy life anew. Claudia starts appreciating her family and Jamie sick of their separation calls up Mom and Dad. A grand reunion is achieved bringing the curtains down.
The movie may be a tad too slow for the young viewers and many nuances of the books are not properly experienced. In fact this movie considerably deviates from the book to satisfy current technology changes like the telephone which was not so ubiquitous when the book was written. Some of the characters have been given a bye which might cause some heartburn to Koinsburg's fans. Lauren Bacall is well cast as the eccentric but lovable Mrs. Frankweiler. The kids, Jean Marie and Jesse Lee perform admirably and end up winning the maximum accolades. But still the book is more enjoyable. Just watch the movie first and then definitely reach for the book. You may end up having the best of both worlds or else the movie may not satisfy your senses.

Movie From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler (1995) - Starring Lauren Bacall

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Movie: Pret A Porter or Ready To Wear (released in 1994) – Directed by Robert Altman

Pret A Porter is a movie which takes a satirical look at the chaotic fashion industry. It follows almost forty odd famous faces including top actors, designers, models and their supporting crew for the fashion show in Paris. Directed by Robert Altmann, it stars Lauren Bacall (Slim Chrysler), Kim Basinger (Kitty Potter), Linda Hunt (Regina Krumm), Sally Kellerman (Sissy Wanamaker), Sophia Loren (Isabella de la Fontaine), Marcello Mastroianni (Sergei), Stephen Rea (Milo O'Brannagan), Tim Robbins (Joe Flynn), Julia Roberts (Anne Eisenhower), Danny Aiello (Major Hamilton), Anouk Aimee (Simone Lowenthal), Jean-Pierre Cassel (Olivier de la Fontaine), Teri Garr (Louise Hamilton), Richard E. Grant (Cort Romney), Tracey Ullman (Nina Scant) and Forest Whitaker (Cy Bianco).
With these number of stars the film is like a all flavored cake which does not impart any taste. As far as I could identify there are three plots running through the film. The first being that of two American Journalists, Joe Flynn and Anne Eisenhower, who lose their luggage in the flight and are forced by circumstances to share a hotel room. So with no clothes on and twin beds there is much more happening than news mongering. Another happenings include Isabella De La Fontaine is a widow who has inherited a great fashion label and hardly misses her philandering husband.

He is more mourned by his mistress Simone Lowenthal. Sophia is followed by Sergei who is in-fact her one true love. Simone on the other hand tries hard to keep her company from being pirated away. Another group like Regina Krumm, Nina Scant and Sissy Wanamaker are all rival fashion Magazine editors trying to get ace photographer Milo O'Brannagan on their side. Milo specializes in baring the celebrities to their ineptitude self and catches many a socialite at their most vulnerable self.
So among these unconnected story lines each of which can be a film in itself, other characters weave in and out. This meandering of actors through the plots gives the viewer severe migraines. So you have the color blind socialite Slim Chrysler, cross dressing buyer Danny Hamilton and his wife along with a melange of real life designers, like Issay Miayake Gianfranco Ferre, and Sonia Rykiel and models looking equally flabbergasted as the others. The only saving grace is news reporter Kitty Porter who is a ditsy journalist who nails the industry with some sly one liners.
This movie could have been a scorching satire, but is reduced to a also ran as the vicious zing is missing. The all bared attack and the real realities of the obsequious and coquettish industry is not presented robbing the film of its meat. The screenplay brings confusing plots together to stitch a garment which neither fits nor floats. This ill fitting presentation deprives Pret a Porter the greatness it could have attained. The film also has lot of sex scenes and full frontal nudity during a catwalk scene. In fact being a film about Fashion there is nothing much to look forward to about fashion or models, even the clothes horses and the clothes featured are insipid and the fashion shows, a rip off from fashion TV. As the film mentions “it is all about looking good”, but this one advice the movie itself never takes. Nothing much to recommend as its confusing and boring.

Movie: Pret A Porter or Ready To Wear (released in 1994) – Directed by Robert Altman