RETRO RADIO RHAPSODY

FROM THE MGM STABLE

You know there was a time of transistor radios and the good old memories that we spun out of the airwaves. Those idyllic voices and entertainment we lapped up by the dozen, wondering about the personality of those who minted such impressive wordplay couched in those very tones. Almost like a disembodied presence that we were content in listening to, in the process relishing the craft that went into holding our steadfast attentions.

The medium is still extant and kicking in this multimedia world and suffice to say there are still those select personas gliding by the power of their voices. So in recognition of the profound radio universality of yore, the best years in which it impacted a whole social consciousness, I am lucky to present my original views on two MGM films that faithfully capture the rhapsody of radio and its parallel with life of the common man. I discovered them randomly and their commonality and setting still occupy pride of place for me. So here we go. Adjusting frequency to An Awadh Boy’s Megahertz.

*****

TUNE IN TOMORROW (1990)

DIRECTION : JON AMIEL.

CAST: BARBARA HERSHEY, KEANU REEVES, PETER FALK, PATRICIA CLARKSON.

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ON 19TH MARCH, 2014.

*****

Picture this. It’s New Orleans, that famed and fabled American mecca, playing host to the radio boom of early 20th century.

In the auburn sunshade of the 1950s, young Martin ( Keanu Reeves) makes sweet surrender to love here . His object of affection is his distant and much older aunt ( not related by blood) Julia. She is played by a wonderfully natural Barbara Hershey. Both, sooner rather than later, become peas in a pod whereby their sincere mutual lilt and bohemian attributes covertly warm the cockles of the local radio scene.

All thanks to the manic genius of a radio writer ( Peter Falk). He is quite a character and plays a consistent loony tune as he specialises in pulp fiction for the radio espousing an admixture of scandalous trash, camp and high octane emotional soap operas which, if you look closely, are all the same. His output has listeners dropping their jaws and hooked to every dramatic crescendo.

In the recreation of his scripts, two veterans make their mark. They are ELIZABETH MCGOVERN, so radiantly identifiable as an aristocratic darling on this generation’s classic series DOWNTON ABBEY and featuring in the critically acclaimed Glenn Close starrer THE WIFE which released a week ago and PETER GALLAGHER, who I loved on the equally popular GRACE AND FRANKIE most recently.

The vignettes shuttle between typically melodramatic recreations of these extreme scripts and the lead pair. On the other hand, these lovebirds create a furore within their immediate circle, who look down upon this ‘incestuous’ coupling. Flouting social norms – and the script is callously replete with time bound jibes at Armenians by Falk – Jon Amiel’s execution is far from being easily digestible to some but he brings a grace, pointed humour and wonderful lightness of being to the issues writ large. The coupling of Martin and Julia is more than a storm in a teacup( I reiterate she is just an acquaintance and they are not blood relatives) but not enough of a catastrophe to mark this script down with ideological touch ups. It’s tastefully done by Amiel.

At the same time, Amiel and his team’s clear eye for detail is inescapable. Cue the music by Wynton Marsalis, editing by Peter Boyle, writing by Mario Vargas Llosa and William Boyd, production design by Jim Clay, costumes by Betsy Heimann and cinematography by Robert M. Stevens. The 50s era is lovingly created anew in the mannered touch of lighting, music of New Orleans and a classic tinge to the whole atmosphere. Then there’s Falk with his creative entreaties, his persuasive quality at inspiring one’s innate artistic temperament, his collective of stories with scandal and marking an escape from regimented social do’s and dont’s, following which is the vicarious thrill at picking up the strings of his characters’ predicaments. His presence compounds its wacky and simultaneously romantic frequency.

Above all, Reeves and Hershey’s individual performances are note perfect. While Martin’s desires of turning a writer and courting his own Parisian romance saga- ala AN AMERICAN IN PARIS – prompts him to take to uncharted waters, Julia is a picture of infinite grace and unceasing rapture.

Flimsy on many counts of pace and humour too, TUNE IN TOMORROW boasts of a novel screenplay and transports us back in time a little too realistically to the hysteria and ubiquity of radio and the central trio’s funny romps.

Also, look out for a cameo by the ever graceful Patricia Clarkson in one of her earliest performances.

TUNE IN TOMORROW is refreshing and moody. It entertains unlike other comic pieces set in a particular era rarely do. PETER FALK is pure gold here.

*****

THE NEXT POST WILL BE ABOUT ANOTHER DELIGHTFUL FEATURE RADIO DAYS(1987)

*****

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