Category Archives: Movies

Have You Seen It?

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Poster

This evening we went to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  As I said yesterday, it is the story of a group of English retirees who decide to spend their retirement in a hotel in India.  None of them now has a place in the world ; none is rich.  One couple have invested their retirement savings in their daughter’s IT company which is not doing well; one woman has had to sell her apartment to pay her late husband’s debts; one is a retired High Court Judge; another woman is  looking for a rich husband/boyfriend; another woman is there for a hip replacement that she cannot afford in England, and a flamboyant man is there to find himself a woman. So we meet Muriel, Evelyn, Douglas, Jean, Norman and Graham as they set out on their journey to India.

This unlikely group of strangers are enticed to India by advertisements offering cheap accommodation in a grand hotel.  What they find when they arrive is far from what has been depicted in the advertisements.  Penelope Wilton playing Bill Nighy‘s wife, demands to be put into “the other one that was shown in the brochure”.

Arriving at the Marigold Hotel

The movie is full of colour and movement and the retirees each find something different during their time in Jaipur.

The movie is based on a novel by Deborah Moggach, These Foolish Things.  The cast includes such notables as Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson and Penelope Wilton.

It is a lighthearted film certainly worth seeing if one is looking for entertainment.  Click here to see the trailer.

And if you are entranced enticed by the idea of and by the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, then look no further.  There is a Marigold Hotel in Goa –  but it looks in rather better shape than the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

The movie is opening in the US in May so if you want an easy to watch movie and if it comes to your area, I recommend that you take yourself off to see it.

“It will all be all right in the end and
if it’s not all right it’s not the end.”
Sunny Kapoor, Manager, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel


An Intriguing Movie

The Italian Film Festival is on in Wellington at present and once again we are spoiled for choice.  So many good movies to choose from. We chose Sea Purple.

Sea purple picture

source Brochure Italian Film Festival 2011

Imagine.  It is Sicily in the 19th century.  Women were controlled by their menfolk.  Girls were given in marriage to ‘suitable’ partners and had no say in the choice at all. Wives were at the beck and call of their husbands. A totally male dominated world.

Imagine still more – a house made of turf at the top of a cliff and a scandal hidden from the villagers but an open secret.

The main female protagonist is Angela who refuses to conform and even when her tyrannical father promises her to one of the boys in the village she really rebels and tells him that she will not marry the man.  She wants to marry Sara her soul mate and lover.  Can you imagine the tyrants response to that.  He throws her into a dungeon and leaves her there in the belief that she will change her mind.

I don’t want to give away the whole story but will tell you that she is eventually rescued by her down-trodden mother who convinces the parish priest to change her daughter’s name and gender in the parish register.  The story is that a mistake was made at the time of registering the birth.

So Angela becomes Angelo and takes over from his father as manager of the mines.  Unlikely in today’s world but it could possibly happen in the backward villages in Sicily in the 19th century (but I am happy to be put right by anybody who reads this).

sea purple

source Brochure Italian Film Festival 2011

The two lovers are married and set up home in the house made of turf at the top of the cliff. Disaster overtakes them when they decide they want a child.  No IVF then so this child had to be conceived in the time-honoured way.  The mother of the child eventually dies leaving the other with the baby and leaving us with unanswered questions such as

  • Did the men of the village really accept that Angelo was a man – there is a scene of somebody attempting to rape Angela/Angelo presumably because he didn’t believe that a mistake had been made at the time of registering the birth.
  • Why did Angelo revert to Angela and turn up to the christening in a dress?
  • Did the village accept this reversion?
  • Who now would run the mines seeing as Angelo has become Angela?
  • Did the wife of the father of the child know of his part in this further scandal?

This is an intense and scandalous love story, with great scenes of raw beauty of the village in Sicily.  I was left feeling that some people have to make their lives in the most inhospitable parts of this world.  And people survive amidst this landscape.  They also survive under tyrannical rulers as shown here.

Another movie well worth seeing if it comes your way.

Taken for Granted

Those of us lucky to have been born and raised in first world countries accept that education is a given.  But imagine what it is like in some other countries where people are not offered education in any form and where some have to fight to obtain even the most basic education.

Yesterday I went to the Wellington premier of the movie The First Grader.  as a fund raiser for my favourite charity The Mary Potter Hospice.

The movie tells the story of a Kikuyu man who had been a soldier during the Mau Mau Uprising against British Rule in Kenya.  This was a bloody period between 1952 and 1960.   The movie showed flash backs to the time when he was captured and tortured by the British.

The story centres around this old man – 84-year-old Kimani Ng’ang’a Maruge.  The Kenyan Government announced free education for all in 2003 and this old man decided to take up the offer.  But hundreds of children were jostling for a few places in the school nearest to his  village and his application was rejected.  He was desperate to learn to read at this late stage in his life and  felt he must have the chance at the education so long denied to him and his generation—even if it means sitting in a classroom alongside six-year-old children.   As he said he fought for freedom and now he feels entitled.

Moved by his pleas (he attended and tried to apply several times after walking from  his even more remote village) the Head Teacher takes on the establishment and the parents of some of the children to allow him to attend the school.  Maruge is eventually enrolled and proved to be an apt pupil, so much so that in 2005 he became Head Boy of the school.

Kimani Ng’ang’a Maruge made headlines in media around the world and still holds the Guinness Book of Records record  as the world’s oldest primary school pupil. He said he thought that he was born in 1920 but of course, there were no records kept.

In 2006 he was invited to attend and address the United Nations on the importance of free primary education for all.

This is an inspiring movie, but also a challenging and thought provoking one.  I remember as a teenager and a young wife and mother, hearing about the Mau Mau uprising but of course, only from the British point of view.  In this movie we see that the British were not strangers to the use of  torture to gain their way.  I need to do some more research on this period to gain a better understanding of what actually went on.

But back to education.  Our young people, and I speak particularly of the young in New Zealand here, take the fact that the education is there,  free and available to everybody.  Many leave school with only a very rudimentary knowledge of even the basic reading and writing skills. Some people do go back to complete their studies as adult pupils, taking advantage of evening classes and there are a few schools that offer adult education where adults learn alongside the other pupils.  But not many.

How shaming then is it, that this elderly man wanted so much to be educated even just enough to read, that he was prepared to sit in class with babies?

When Maruge died in 2009 there were many tributes paid to him.  Click here for one from another wordpress blogger.

PM John Key and children

PM John Key and children

Here in New Zealand (and I think in the US too), September was National Literacy month.  This picture shows a meeting in the Beehive*  between our Prime Minister and a group of young school children.

In an interview at the time, he said:

“I am simply not prepared to tolerate up to one in five New Zealand children leaving our schools without the literacy and numeracy skills they need to succeed”  Rt Hon John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand.

* Note – The Beehive is the name we use for the Executive Wing of the New Zealand Parliament Buildings.  It does rather resemble a beehive doesn’t it?

The Beehive

Via Wikipedia

So what do we have to do to get this desire to learn ingrained into our young people.  Oh I know that many learn and do well.  My grandchildren are lucky in that they live in homes surrounded by books; hear adult conversation about things other than what’s on TV today and are generally encouraged to do well.  But what of the others?  These are the children and young people we should be concentrating on.  It’s no longer enough to say they must go to school every day.  In some areas the classes are large (some 30 or 35 children) and so undoubtedly some will fall off the edge.  I feel that there should be more help for the learning challenged kids.  Education of our young should/must be a bigger priority than it has been up to now.

read write think

“The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think – rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, than to load the memory with thoughts of other men.”
Bill Beattie
, American manager and coach

My Week

After yesterday’s rant I thought I would move onto something less heavy.  But what?  I am having one of those moments when I sit in front of the blank screen and my mind screams “write, write” but nothing comes forth.  So I now shall go back and look at some of my frogs.  But there is a paucity of ideas there.

So what have I done this week?  It’s now Friday here and so there have been five days since Sunday.  How can one get through so many days and not have much to show for them?

  • I have had walks with Lotte each day as recorded in my blog.
  • I went to a movie on Monday evening and saw ‘The Help”.  I strongly recommend this movie.  I had read the book and this is probably a faithful rendition of the story.  In case you haven’t seen this movie, it tells the story of three women who dare to defy convention and get together to tell the stories of the way coloured women servants were treated in the 1960s in the south.  Well worth a trip to your local cinema.  An added bonus for me was that it was showing at our local bijou cinema so we took our wine in with us and had a meal afterwards.  A very pleasant unexpected evening out.
  • Yesterday I was taken out for what was described as high tea.  Being English I know that traditionally, high tea was a working class meal served on a high table at the end of the workday, shortly after five pm. It was a heavy meal of meat or fish dishes, vegetables such as potatoes and baked goods such as crumpets, vegetables  and other  foods such as baked beans and cheesy casseroles.  Afternoon tea What we had yesterday was afternoon tea at Martha’s Pantry.  Beautifully served with a great selection of teas.  I chose the blend called Paris and my partner had Pomegranate.  Mine was delicious a blend not unlike Earl Grey but with subtle undertones of various other blends.  I tried to purchase some as we left but unfortunately, they only had teabags available and being English, I drink real tea.  They did try to get some from their suppliers (they use leaf tea in their shop) but the smallest amount I could buy was apparently 500 grams (about 1lb) so it would be stale long before I used it.  Hard luck!
  • Oh I forgot.  I picked up my new i-Phone on Tuesday and have lots of fun finding my way around that.   But being blonde I have to go to the phone store to have them show me how to connect the Blue Tooth. Watch this space!  Oops, another exclamation mark.

So quite a busy week for a retiree almost retiree.  (almost  to yet another exclamation mark here but stopped just in time.  Have things to do this afternoon with and for my Real Estate friend.  and looking forward to tomorrow’s brunch with my French conversation new friends.

“If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself alone.  A man should keep his friendships in constant repair.”
Samuel Johnson

A Love Story

“One belongs to New York instantly.  One belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years”  Thomas Wolfe – short story writer and novelist, 1900 – 1938.

Masha - Love Story

Photo - NZ Film Festival

I have just returned (10.30pm) from seeing yet another movie.  This one is by NZ Director, Florian Habitch.  Habicht is an Auckland film director who took up the Arts Foundation’s Harriet Friedlander Residency in New York in late 2009.  We are told ‘He  was under no obligation to do a jot of work, let alone return with the opening night movie for Auckland’s 2011 Film Festival. But return he did with this strangely odd movie ”  Habitch was the inaugural recipient of the award and has justified the Arts Foundation‘s choice.

The film is a love story but really not in the sense one would expect.  It embraces documentary, fiction, New York city and many of its inhabitants always gregarious and ready to be filmed, summer, sex, romance and just about everything else one can imagine in a movie.

The movie opens with a scene of a young woman walking along the pavement carrying a piece of cake on a plate.  She then hops onto a train where she is seen by Habitch who follows her when she gets off.  They take off in separate directions with the plan to meet up halfway.  But of course, this doesn’t happen. In a conversation on Skype with his father back in New Zealand, he decides that she must be Russian and as many Russians apparently live in Coney Island, this is where he decides to spend his energy and his time looking for her.

Masha and Florian

Photo - NZ Film Festival

They do meet up again and the rest of the movie is spent filming his Love Story.  It is a strangely moving film, interspersed with conversations with a wide variety of New Yorkers, from many walks of life, each of whom gives him a different slant to put into his movie.

I don’t know that this is one I would recommend.  We had tried to see it at the NZ Film Festival in August but unfortunately, it was on only for two days and sold out early.

The movie was quirky, interesting and different but dragged a little in the middle and seemed to be trying too hard.  It was a very low-budget movie and at times this showed.  However, if you do get the change to see it, let me know what you think.

And dinner at a local Indian restaurant rounded off the evening very nicely.

And click here to listen to Sinatra singing New York, New York.  The video has a selection of great scenes of New York too.

“If I can make it there
I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you
New York, New York.”

New York Skyline

© Tomasz Szymanski |

And Yet Another Movie

Coolest little capitalWellington is a lively place with activities to suit everyone.  It proudly proclaims itself “Absolutely Positively Wellington” and is known as the cultural centre of New Zealand.  Although this  latter is often loudly disputed among other cities in the country.  It has been named “The Coolest Little Capital In the World” by Lonely Planet.

We are currently in the final weekend of the International Film Festival and according to their website “This year’s haul of films direct from Cannes is the Festival’s best and biggest ever. New Zealand audiences will be the first outside Europe to see an overwhelming number of the films that saw this year’s Cannes Festival widely regarded as one of the most dynamic and exciting in years.”

And indeed we have been spoiled for choice over the past few weeks.  I have seen several of the movies and have posted on “The Cave of Forgotten Dreams” a truly amazing and wondrous experience to be allowed to see inside the caves that are not open to the public.

And the third movie I saw this week was entitled”Incendies”. The film opens in Montreal where, following their mother’s death, the twins are set the quest of finding both their father and a brother whom they didn’t even know existed.

The twins

At the reading of the will

The daughter embraces the quest and sets out to find her father.  The brother is dismissive of the whole thing and only gets involved when he thinks his sister is in danger.  So this film concentrates on the perspective of Jeanne and Simon, the twins, their place in history and their mother’s story.

The mother also has a quest: to find the son that was taken from her at birth.

To follow out her mother’s dying wish, Jeanne has to retrace her footsteps from a small village in a land that closely resembles Lebanon, to Montreal.  We see this in a series of flashbacks to the mother’s life during the nation’s long and gruesome civil war, then returning to the daughter who  travels in a relatively peaceful and functional 21st-century.  We are shown scenes that shift from hillside villages to cities and refugee camps, from the verdant north of the country to its dusty south.  Those of us who haven’t been in that part of the world know the scenes well from TV Newscasts and movies.

The traumas of the mother’s life are unimaginable to this young woman brought up in the safety of present day Montreal and to some may appear overwhelming.  Indeed, I wondered how this woman could make a new life for herself and her children in Montreal after all that she had suffered.

Burning bus

Saved by the Christian faith that she had repudiated

The daughter has only an old passport, a photo and a cross of her mother’s and these are the things she uses to trace her mother’s journey.  She discovers that as a young woman, Nawal (her mother) provoked the violent disapproval of her family after falling in love with a Muslim.  After giving birth to a son,  she fled the village of her birth for the capital. There as a student she becomes an activist, a militant and eventually a political prisoner.

Jeanne in the desert

Jeanne after learning some hard truths

It is a fascinating, and at times, harrowing story but one that is well worth telling even if it is not entirely factual or entirely fictional.  If it comes to a cinema near you I urge you to see it.

“Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will.” Vernon Howard, American spiritual teacher, author, and philosopher.  1918 – 1992

The Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Drawings on cave wall

A frieze of horses and rhinos near the Chauvet cave’s Megaloceros Gallery, where artists may have gathered to make charcoal for drawing. Chauvet contains the earliest known paintings, from at least thirty-two thousand years ago.

I have become quite addicted to movie going of recent times.  Just this last week I have seen Oranges and Sunshine, Incendies a French film about twins searching for their father and brother (more on this movie in a later blog) and yesterday I saw The Cave of Forgotten Dreams.  Click here to see the trailer.

The International Film Festival is on at present and we are spoiled for choice.

But back to yesterday’s movie.  It is a documentary about the finding of the cave in 1994 by three spelunkers and it takes us into the cave to see the fantastic drawings made by primitive man; but drawings that are not at all primitive.

Directed and fronted by Werner Herzog. the acclaimed German film director and producer,  it is a powerful insight into a life so far removed from ours in time and distance.  On the subject of the art Herzog says “Art … as it bursts on the scene 32,000 years ago, is fully accomplished. It doesn’t start with ‘primitive scribblings’ and first attempts like children would make drawings,” Herzog says. “It’s absolutely and fully accomplished.”

Herzog was first alerted to these cave drawings by Judith Thurman who wrote about them in her Letter from Southern France in the New Yorker in June 2008.

The cave has been named the Chauvet after one of the three men who discovered it, and it  is in the Ardèche valley in Southern France.  We are told it is about 400 metres long with many huge  chambers. The floor of the cave is littered with archaeological and palaeontological remains, including the skulls and bones of cave bears, which hibernated there, along with the skulls of an ibex and two wolves. The cave bears also left innumerable scratches on the walls and footprints on the ground.

Of particular interest in the movie, is when Dominique Baffier, archaeologist and curator of Chauvet Cave, tours the drawings . Each one tells a story.  She points us to a hand print that clearly shows the owner has a bent little finger on his right hand.  Further into the cave she shows this same print at one of the drawings.

In another mystery, only one human form was drawn. On a rock pendant, the bottom half of a woman with Venus of Willendorf proportions appears. The team mounts its camera on a stick to reveal the upper half of the image for the first time. It is a bison head.

The cave is not open to view and Herzog considers himself particularly lucky to have been given this opportunity.

The 3-D camerawork brings viewers more deeply into the cave. Herzog’s offbeat narration and  metaphysical musings keep the film lively. A sacred feeling is evoked in kinship with the ancients.

Only a small camera and four small, portable panel lights were allowed. Filmed under strict limitations to protect the delicate ecology, the scenes inspire awe.

Pont d'arc Arch

Pont d'Arch Arch below the cav

I have spent all day so far, on the internet fining out more about this cave and the drawings and now I leave it to you to further research if you are interested.

More on the cave by Craig Packer and Jean Clottes – When Lions Ruled France. and here’s a link to the official Chauvet Cave site