History revisited
Ervell E. Menezes

Don't miss a chance to watch Olivier Danah's Grace of Monaco and Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty. The two films allow the audience to get a feel of the not-so distant past

Jessica Chestian as CIA analyst Maya Lambert in Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty

Nicole Kidman in a still from Grace of Monaco

For me and a host of others of my generation Grace Kelly is a Hollywood icon in the best tradition of Greta Garbo and Elizabeth Taylor and I clearly remember her roles in the three Alfred Hitchcock films Rear Window, Dial M for Murder and To Catch a Thief so, as a cinema buff, not critic, I just wouldn't miss Grace of Monaco.

That it has been financed by Yash Raj Films is a bit of a surprise. Why wouldn't American or European film companies come forward to do it? Also, it's quite a while after her death in a car crash. That it received a cold welcome from the Rainer family (the family she married into) is part of the answer.

One would compare it to Bandit Queen where the historical figure Phoolan Devi was never shown the script.

With Princess Grace dead, the producers should have at least shown it to the family. The correctness of the political overtones is also a matter of conjecture,

That she is surrounded by a plethora of celebrities like Aristotle Onassis, Charles de Gaulle, Robert McNamara and singer Maria Callas gives it a further thrust though The Hollywood Reporter has its own take on it "Shriek movies deconstruct fairytale conversations with much more depth and wit than this dreary parade of lifeless celebrity wanabees." Wasn't it Einstein who spoke of relativity?

Coming to Grace of Monaco, it must have been a tough decision Grace (Nicole Kidman) had to make. And Rainer (Tim Roth) was none too supportive for starters. Then, there was Princess Antoinette who threw her Regent son's hat in the ring of succession. The very propah aide Madge (Parker Posey) provides some dramatic relief.

Director Olivier Danah can scarcely be recognised as the one who made La Vie En Rose on the life of French singer Edith Piaff, which won an Oscar for Marion Cotillard. Here he drifts aimlessly between a plethora of inconsequential issues to take us to the doldrums of inactivity among smoking and politicking men.

And if he takes ever so long to give us a face-on of our heroine, he virtually goes overboard in the climactic scene with that speech at the Red Cross charity meet that has drawn world leaders like bees to a honeycomb. As for this daughter of Philadelphia bricklayer, you may love her or hate her but she just could not be ignored.

So, it's back to those spiral notebooks and the one that strikes me most is Zero Dark Thirty, and history's greatest manhunt for the world's most dangerous man, Al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. This 157-minute thriller zeroes in on the mastermind of the September 11 attacks on New York's Twin Towers.

Its director Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to win a Best Director Oscar for The Hurt Locker, a 2008 American war film set in the Iraqi war. Zero Dark Thirty is centred on a young CIA analyst Maya Lambert (Jessica Chestian), whose early career was focused on entering the psyche of the dreaded Osama.

Scripted by Mark Boal, who also worked with Bigelow on The Hurt Locker and also picked a Best Screenplay Oscar, was an "embedded journalist" during the Iraqi war, which means those allowed to cover the war by the United States Government." So much for American democracy.

Maya is helped by CIA Intelligence analyst Dan (Jason Clarke) and US Navy Seal Patrick (Joel Edgerton) and it is a long and winded path they have to traverse before they come across the few leads that could eventually make them heroes.

But it is the vice-like grip she exerts on the viewer that has to be felt to be believed. Virtually cinema at its best in what was earlier termed "Hitchcockian suspense." Aman (Reda Kateb) is a suspect from the Twin Towers bombing who provides some important leads. It is like peeling off layers of an onion. Bigelow does what she does best. Docu-drama may have been "invented" by Costa-Gavras but Bigelow has surely given it a new dimension.

Jessica Chastian virtually re-lives the part and is ably supported by Jason Clarke and Jennifer Ehle turns in an effective cameo as a senior analyst.

The Hurt Locker is about a three-man Explosive Ordnance Disposal (bomb disposal) team that goes to work during the Iraqi war. They are Sergeant First Class William James (Jeremy Rennier). Sgt J.T. Sambam (Anthony Mackie) and specialist Oliver Sledge (Brian Geraglity) and their task is immense. Yet they stick to it mainly with Ralph Fiennes providing an excellent cameo as leader of a private investigative unit.

Ironically, Grace of Monaco has been followed by two very realistic docu-dramas that shook the world. Isn't that what cinema is all about. Don't miss a chance to see these two films it will be re-creating history.