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Family life - American style

Five films were screened at the American Film Festival held in the city recently. S. R. ASHOK KUMAR reports.


THE OFFICE of Public Affairs U.S. Consulate General, Chennai, and The Madras Film society, jointly screened five choicest films from their library, where the theme was `The American Family in Hollywood'. Each one was a gem in its own way. Each had some of the best-known faces of Hollywood.

Balu Mahendra, who inaugurated the festival, talked about his experience of watching American films and particularly how the American Centre library has helped, as he could read more about them and how it was useful to him in his career. Mr. G.Venkateswaran presided over the function.

The inaugural film was "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946) directed by Frank Capra. The director has some of the best movies to his credit. The film starts on a note of joy and ends the same way. Both the flashback and the present bring the viewers ample enjoyment as the film centres round a family and its problems. And the problems are shown in a mild, comical way. Acted by Hollywood veterans James Stewart, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore, it also has Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers, H. B. Warner, Gloria Grahame, Frank Faylen, Ward Bond and Todd Karns.

The story revolves round the protagonist George and the way his life moves. How he sacrifices his own studies for his brother and also saves the town from Potter, the banker. and how his family helps him afterhe marries his sweetheart and becomes a family man is also shown in an interesting way. Capra has done the screenplay in an absorbing way.

If one wants to see a cowboy film with lots of drama then "Old Yeller" is the right stuff. The antics of the dog Spike, who saves the lives of various people at different points of time, will stun viewers.

Although Spike may be the talking point for the audience, it is Jeff York who does most of the talking and makes people laugh.

The story revolves round a family working in a ranch where the head of the family is away most of the time.

Director Robert Stevenson with Dorothy McGuire shows how the other family members cope, in the father's absence, in an effective way. It stars Fess Parker, Tommy Kirk, Kevin Corcoran as Moochie, Chuck Connors, Jeff York and Beverly Washburn. The film is a comedy, which also has good stunts. "Mr. Mum", will remind viewers of some of the old Tamil `husband and wife' comedy films. Here it is Michael Keaton and Teri Garr who make us laugh throughout. But one must give credit to the script of John Hughes, which Keaton makes full use of.

It is all about the wife going to work, while the man takes care of the house and the children. Director Stan Dragoti has made it enjoyable by stirring in comedy with drama. Both Keaton and Garr leave the audience laughing.

The other artistes are Frederick Koehler, Taliesin Jaffe, Courtney White, Brittany White, Martin Mull, Ann Jilian, Jeffrey Tambor and Christopher Lloyd.

"Baby Boom" is about a young Diane Keaton who gets an infant from a distant relative. She wants to leave the child in an adoption centre. But slowly gets involved with the baby. As her love grows deeper she forgets her job and the other things in her life. The script makes the the heroine's life with the child interesting. Then comes the climax in which Diane Keaton comes to know how she can earn her livelihood. But whether she does or not is to be seen on the silver screen.

Harold Ramis, Sam Wanamaker, James Spader and Pat Hingle also co-star in the film, directed by Charles Shyer.

Will an arranged or love marriage work in today's life? This is what director Joan Micklin Silver questions in the film "Crossing Delancey" in a different way.

Isabelle has a wonderful job and good friends. She is contented with life. She is not bothered about having a constant companion in her life. But her grandmother thinks otherwise and with the help of a marriage broker tries to get a good match for her. .

The director makes her heroine face the conflict between her modern way of life and her grandmother's traditional values.

The result may not be acceptable to all but is done in a neat way. The cast includes Amy Irving, Peter Riegert, Reizl Bozyk and Sylvia Miles.

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