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Major Filmmakers in Hollywood - I

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Good morning. So, we will continue discussing New Hollywood period.And we have been talking about New Hollywood period for quite a while; Easy Rider, Dennis Hopper andseveral other people of that era. We also talked about the BBS, Schneider, Bob Rafelson and Steve Blauner.And what role did they play in bringing about a cinematic revolution.We also talked about certain socio-political-cultural happenings of that period, and what role didthose factors play on shaping the cinema of that particular period.We were talking about Bonnie and Clyde, and A Hard Day’s Night. So I am just helping you to revise what wehave been doing all this while.Today’s key concepts would be first wave of cinema that is Hollywood directors.So we have already talked about the first wave.Today, we will discuss two major filmmakers of the first wave; Hal Ashby and William Friedkin,and then we will move on to the second wave of directors. So, first wave includedFrancis Ford Coppola as well, Warren Beatty, Arthur Penn. We have done Bonnie and Clyde;at least understood what is it was all about. And key text would be Shampoo, directed by Hal Ashby.The French Connection and The Exorcist both directed by William Friedkin,Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown by Roman Polanski.Socio-cultural concept that we will be looking at. The music scenario; so Rolling Stones,Hell’s Angels, and Charles Manson who was serial killer, a dreaded serial killer andwe know what his place is, if you do not know much about Charles Manson or about any ofthese people, please look them up.So we have just watched a clipping of Martin Scorsese’s first major success;of course first movie was ‘Who is that Knocking at my Door’,but ‘Mean Streets’ got him into limelight. So, the scene that you just watchedhow does that fit into that entire scene of New Hollywood period?Student: It seems, the scene is captured through hand-held lightweight camera.Exactly; that is very good, hand-held lightweight camera.Student: The sound, the car in the background and sound of traffic.Real life, yes; so Harvey Keitel moves towards the window and it is a very stream of consciousnesskind of dialogue, you know very internal kind of monologue. He is thinking to himself, thinkingsomething is happening in his mind, there is some kind of conflicts, some kind of anxietieswhich he shares with us; so very stream of consciousness, very interior.So, that is what Scorsese meant by making personal films,very psychological and psychologically driven personal films.So you can hear the street’s sound, set in New York.What else?Student: The look, it is not polished. It is not a very polished look. Yes, the titlesare not very polish, but they give an impression of, give me the word.Student: Documentary? Not exactly like documentary; it is like.Student: Home video? Exactly, home video look, and it is deliberately done so.The home video look is deliberately given, so that you give the impression thatit is a very personal picture; and then Harvey Keitel going to through the motions.What is he doing?It is somebody’s baptism. So, Martin Scorsese again taking you back to hisvery Italian-American kind of background, that see this is the way I grew up.So Harvey Keitel is nothing but his own persona. Harvey Keitel channels Martin Scorsese at several levels;he is in fact if you look at him, he is a Scorsese whereas Robert De Niro whoplays the Johnny Boy, he is a complete opposite of Harvey Keitel. Have you watched the movie?You know the movie? We did screen it the other day. So, Bob De Niro something that he wouldlike to be; he is aggressive, he is impulsive, he can throw himself in a fight whereas;Scorsese always ran away from fight.Why, why was that?He was very shot to begin with.He was also sickly child; he grew up in a very strong Catholic-Italian-American household, and wherethe emphasis was always on following certain code of conducts, and the neighbourhood was vastly criminal.So he had grown up among guns and knives people, but inside people were extremely religious.So he is, there were no criminals in his family but he hadgrown up, his friends were all from that kind of background. His parents, on other handwere deeply religious and they wanted him to become a man of the cloth, but somehowbecause he was an asthmatic child, most of the time he was restricted at home;he was not allowed to play too much; he was always seen with a pump, inhaler and all.So he grew like most lonely kids, he developed the fascination for the moviesand then he started watching them.He did not come from a very educated background; there was no such cultural sceneat home that would introduce him to best of world cinema, he would just go to the neighbourhood theater.He attended NUY. So that generation, that second generation of filmmakers, were film literates.That is what you have to understand, and that showed in their films.Now tell me about this sound track. I am extremely interested in the sound track of that period,especially in Martin Scorsese, Be My Baby by Ronettes. Now, what kind of sound track is that?What?Give me the word for it;is it an OST; original sound track for this movie, then what is it?It is a Source Music. So this is one, that one expression that you have to remember,when you watch a movie, a musical like My Fair Lady; are you aware of that, My Fair Lady? No?Please do watch it. It is classic Hollywood, Classic Hollywoodcoming to an end it is that period; where people sings songs in their own voices andsongs are specially composed for that film. The Sound of Music, are you at least aware of the movie,even if you have not watched the movie; ‘The Sound of Music’.Now, the people would sing songs; songs would be composed specially for the film.The last movie that followed this pattern, you know, great Hollywood musical which bombed badly,and after that it was the end of Hollywood musicals for a very long time was, ‘Dr. Doolittle’,starring Rex Harrison. The other day, I got a mail from one of our student that,she is acting in a play ‘Blithe Spirit’ by Noel Coward and suddenly I was transported to those days.Blithe Spirit is a very, very interesting, very funny playby Noel Coward, staring Rex Harrison; a very young Rex Harrison, a great British actorwho starred in Cleopatra as Caesar. He also starred in My Fair Lady, Professor Higgins.He also starred in Dr Doolittle, where he would sing songs. So, that is an original sound trackbut people like Scorsese etcetera, they sourced music.Now, there are several instances of sourced music in a Scorsese’s particularly in Mean Streets.Taxi Driver has a background score by Bernard Herrmann; you remember that, right?But we do not have songs. In this movie, we have songs; ‘Please Mr. Postman’ is another scene;do you remember when it plays? Ranjith, you have watched the movie the quite recently.Student: There is background music with Rolling stone sound.Yes. Tell me, why? So there is a Rolling Stones soundtrack also, tell me why?When Harvey Keitel enters this very sleazy, shady bar, night club,and it is all bathed in reds and gold, and white; it is a devil’s colors.He comes from a very catholic background,so where everything is bathed in nice colors, and also lights, very bright lights butthe moment he enters the bar; it is all bathed in blacks and reds.And then you have standard Scorsese signature shot, which shot is that?Harvey Keitel entering the nightclub, yesand where is the camera focused,on the subject or on Harvey Keitel’s face or something else?At the back of Harvey Keitel’s head.So what is Scorsese doing?He is taking us along with Harvey Keitel. What is it? It is longshot and a very strong, and this you should know;now you are going to do presentations on key concepts, point of view shot.And what is the point of view shot? We are looking at this world from Harvey Keitel’s point of view,therefore back of his head.So, Scorsese wants us to see what our actor is seeing, this is important.In Taxi Driver, he takes it to another level;tight close ups of Robert De Niro’s eyes, eyes that mean again one way of showing his point of view.And what is his point of view? The world is disgusting; yes,‘Someday the rains would come and wash the scum away’, famous lines from Taxi Driver; remember those?Bernard Herrmann’s very intriguing music playing in the background, and when you aregiving tight close up of the actor’s eyes; what are you showing on the other hand apart from point of view?The inside of his mind. See, it is not a ‘Being John Malkovich’;it came much later where you are actually taken inside somebody’s head. Remember?Please, do watch ‘Being John Malkovich’. Coffman Brothers made the movie.John Cusack, actually we have John Malkovich, and we are taken inside John Malkovich’s head.And there is an opening in his head, and people would walk in and walk out;it is a very Metaphysical,you do not have to take it literally, you cannot jump inside Scorsese’s head and come out.But when you show a tight close up Bob De Niro’s eyes, you are actually been transportedinside his head, that is one way of showing that you are looking at this character’s psyche, psychology.So that is standard Scorsese shot.And then later on, he perfected it in The Goodfellaswhere there is a long take, the camera just tracks this couple.And while they are, while the man wants to show the women how powerful and how important he is;he is a gangster that is his life’s ambition,to be a gangster that is all he wanted to be. Remembered? That is all in Goodfellas,our hero wants to be nothing but a gangster; he was fascinated by glamorous life styles of these people,throwing about money, driving in Cadillacs and what not, and guns.So, he says this is life; I mean, who cares about my very lower middle-class parents,their hardworking ways, but you, you must be like them. So when he makes it big, so he takeshis girl through this passage, it is at the back of the restaurant where the best table is laid out for them,although there are no tables free at that point. But he wants toshow her, show off actually and the camera will just track them, this is so again a point of view shot.And the girl is as awestruck as this man; so they fit, they complement each otherbecause she is as fascinated by the lifestyle as him.Scorsese’s favorite shot, point of view shot. He followed it again in his next movie, The Age of Innocence.There is a scene where Newland Archer as played by Daniel Day Lewis, he walks inside a huge ballroom,and its camera again focuses at the back of his head, and by that time the movie was released in 1993;I had watched enough of Martin Scorsese, and I felt yeshere it comes again, because that is Martin Scorsese. So, we were talking about auteurism.And yes, so auteurism; directors deliberately tried to develop a personal style.In, Mean Streets, one of his very first movies, he tries to develop a deeply personal style byshowing, by showing the credits in a home video format; he did it again in Raging Bullthat is the only part in the movie which is shot in color. So look at all these things,you know there is always a pattern there. Anything else you would like talk about?Student: I remember those lines where he say, where he refers to George Memmoli and he says;whatever happens to George is, then he goes back to the baptism.Yes, you pay for your sins; in streets and not in the church, no matter what anyone tells you.But then he is like Scorsese; he is a man torn between Mean Streets and his deeply catholic upbringing.That is Scorsese, thus the way he always he make.And films offered him a heaven to escape these two contradictions where he can combine the best of two.So, see, all his movies are about this resolving a conflict and dichotomy between religion and crime.So that is about Mean Streets, and we will do Scorsese again in detail.We will take a particular movie from him, by him and then we will discuss it later.But then let us look at what was New Hollywood all about.So we have been doing it for quite a while, and let me take you to something that happenedon December 8th, 1969; where Rolling Stones were doing the show, somewhere near San Francisco,and Mick Jagger famously sang, performed to ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, now this isquite telling, Sympathy for the Devil. Have you watched the?Student: I have watched, it is called ‘Gimme shelter’.Exactly, and we have already talked about the makers of ‘Gimme Shelter’, the Maysles Brothers;we were talking about, they were the people who developed this documentaryand handheld, lightweight equipment, which were very conducive to making documentaries.And Hell’s Angels were invited to augment the security quotient for the Rolling Stones.And they came on the Harley Davidson’s, and they would wear brass knuckles, and carrytheir usual accoutrement that knives and sticks etcetera, sometimes even guns.So, a riot broke out, and a young black man was knifed; he was killed.So that was the,so all this was caught on film and as Ranjith was saying a Maysles Brothers made a documentary called,Gimme Shelter, based on these events. So, what are we talking about?‘Sympathy for the Devil’ and somebody is killed on the spot by Hell’s Angels; so what are wetalking about, that America was caught in some kind of a cultural revolution.So, therefore this sudden interest in demonic possessions,I am just giving you a background for someof the great movies which were made, and all movies based on novels.So, The Godfather, of course is not a super natural thriller,but people taken over by something extremely demonic; demonic forces, right.Not exactly, super natural. Do you understand me, what I am trying to say?The way Michael Corleone’s character, the way his character grabs stage;he is slowly taken over, you know, he is possessed by demonic forces not necessarily super natural,but this hunger and obsession for power is also a kind of satanic force.So, in other words, America was ready for creepy tales of demonic possessionand William Peter Blatty wrote his novel, The Exorcist in 1971.Earlier we had Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby.So Polanski had already made a moviebased on people who are taken overbythe demonic possession, forces, but before we go on to do The Exorcist and other works by Friedkin,I just wanted you to get introduced to Hal Ashby. Hal Ashby had already made amovie called, ‘Harold and Maude’ which was very experimental and avant-garde.Do you remember, we were talking about Harold and Maude?Maude is 80; Harold is 20, and both of them are in love.So, that is, that is a very, very unconventional love story.So, Hal Ashby who started his career as an editor, he made a couple of great movies.‘The Last Detail’, which was an honorable flop, staring Jack Nicholson.Then ‘Shampoo’, staring Warren Beatty, Goldie Hawn and Julie Christie.So, Shampoo is also a reworking of a restoration comedy;restoration period was an important period in the British historyand the theater of that period was marked by drawing room comedies, the so-called comedy of manners;life style of the rich and famous as we see today. So drawing room comedies,where ladies and gentleman of that period would act out, you know their loves, and their dreams, etcetera.So, Shampoo is partly based on William Wycherley, who was a prominent writer,playwright of the restoration period and his comedy, ‘The Country Wife’.Does anyone know what it is all about?What is Country Wife all about?Wycherley’s ‘The Country Wife’?What is Shampoo about?See Wycherley’s, The Country Wife is all abouta gentleman,who pretends to be impotent,and why does he want to do that,so that other men do not feel threatened by him. So, a very bold theme,particularly for those periods; I mean we are looking at restoration period.So, yes that is the period we are looking at, and a theme like that.Shampoo is all about a hair dresser played by Warren Beatty. Now, generally what are hairdressers known for?Of course, they have, they are experts but in their own craft. But there is also a cliché about hairdressers;that they are, yes, most of them are gay. Warren Beatty’s characterplays on this cliché, this stereotype, and he spreads a gossip about himself that he is gay.And then all men, all men, all the Beverly Hill types; you know what is Beverly Hill?Very posh, very rich area and all men entrust their wives with him,because they feel, yes what can he do after all? And then he has a string of affairs with everybody’s wife;so that is Shampoo. Shampoo was scripted by Robert Towne,and it was a huge, smashing success, directed by Hal Ashby. He also directed ‘Coming Home’ in 1978.Shampoo is considered a classic; just ignore all these raunchy stuff about itand watch it as a serious piece. It is a comedy but it does have very strong politicalsubtext about the Nixon era.So watch the movie, Warren Beatty after all, after all was a very political kind of an actor.Now, we were just talking about ‘Sympathy for the Devil’and then William Friedkin, he arrived on the scene. He was born in 1935.He had made a couple of documentaries and art house films. So he was stuck with that image,he is an art filmmaker; most of the films were huge flops and while he was makinghis television shows, he had also done work on a program called, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour,sometimes it is also called Alfred Hitchcock Presents. So, it was a TV show which began in 1965.Success came in the form of ‘The French Connection’, starring Gene Hackman.I think we did the French Connection in one of our earlier courses. This was followed by The Exorcist.Then he made a movie called, ‘Sorcerer’. Sorcerer is based onHenri Clouzot’s movie, ‘The Wages of Fear’, a French movie. Remember, we are talking aboutthe New Hollywood directors who were heavily influenced by Europeans, so that influenced remained.The Sorcerer was a reworking of ‘The Wages of Fear’ by Clouzot.Later on, he made ‘Rules of Engagement’; it is a pretty recent movie, and then ‘KillerJoe’, as recent in 2011. But his reputation rests on The French Connection and The Exorcist.So, he was also influenced by the film, French films like Diabolique and The Wages of Fear.We have just talked about by both by Clouzot. And ‘Citizen Kane’ changed the way he perceived films.He said, okay this is like, you know, James Joyce’s Ulysses.It is as important a text as; Joyce’s Ulysses is to literature.He admired European cinemaand some of his all-time favorite films were, Blow-Up, we have often been talking about‘Blowup’ by? Student: AntonioniYes, Antonioni. ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ the Beatles’ picture, Juliet of the Spirits and La Guerre Est Finie.So these were his films; these were his favorite films that went on to influence him deeply.He has been quoted as having said that,‘The plotted film is on the way out’. You know what is a plotted film? A movie with a strong plot;the other day we were talking about, does ‘Easy Rider’ have a strong plot?And we agreed, no it does; no it does not. So that is what; so style is more important,substantial style, should take over the plot that was the idea. Plot was important in Classic Hollywood period.So it is no longer of interest to a serious director. A new theater audience,which is who is under 30, and they are largely interested in abstract experience; that is what he believed in,that audiences, the age, demography has changed and they are interestedmore in abstract experiences rather than give them more concrete, more plotted stories.However, at that period, at that point he was also seeing the great Howard Hawks.So, you people know who Howard Hawks was, right? And he was seeing his daughter Kitty Hawkswho was a model, and they met the great Howard Hawks.And Howard Hawks said that, what kind of movies you people make?They do not make much sense to me; in my time, there were thegood guys and the bad guys and the good guys would always win, and it brought us a lot of success.So, why do not you people go back to making that kind of cinema?And those words remained with William Friedkin. He said, yes this is an advice which comes from one ofthe great auteurs, so perhaps there is something to it. So later on he said, after condemningthe plotted films and all that he said,‘American films of that 30's and 40's had clear storyline and strong characters.The new wave of European filmmakers took over and we haveall went out and copied Godard and Fellini, forgetting where our routes are’;that means, going back to our routes. So, how many of you are familiar with ‘The French Connection’?Only one or two? Please do watch it. Watch it as your necessarily viewing.So, The French Connection was a result of all these golden pieces of advice by Howard Hawks;starring Gene Hackman, and also Fernando Rey who is the antagonist, Gene Hackman is the protagonist.And this is a still from The French Connection, where after a famouscar chase scene, Gene Hackman shoots downs the person who is escaping.So, what is the French Connection all about? This is one of the key texts of the New Hollywood period.So, it is a facts-based thriller; it is based on real life events about a drug ring busted by the NYPD.It is adapted from a novel by Robin Mooreand contrary to whatGodard’s and Fellini’s were doing all along; Friedkin stuck to whatever Howard Hawksadvised him to do and followed a linear narrative story. Earlier he had planned it in a non-linear,more experimental style but then he met Howard Hawks fortunately, who advised him to followthe Classic Hollywood style of making; but it is not Classic Hollywood, if you watch it,it has his experimental moments, it is quite avant- gardish but basically followeda traditional, linear, more accessible kind of storyline.‘Bullitt’, a movie starring Steve McQueen; please watch it, you can take it down whichwas released a few years earlier.It has one of the most breath taking car chase sequences;a very lengthy, very dare-devilry, devilishly shot scene;Steve Mcqueen on a chase.And that movie, that scene was one of the contributing factors in making Bullitt such a smash hit.And the producers of The French Connection insisted that since you are making a cop drama,you know, there is a subgenre of action adventure movies, the cop drama, so Friedkin was advisedby the producers to insert a scene. It is like today our filmmakers are advise to insert ?Student: Item number.Good, an item number. If you have a Kareena Kapoor or Katrina Kaif doing something,you know, an item number in middle of a very serious film, a very gloomy film like ‘Agneepath’,then the chances of success automatically increases. So let us have a car chase sequencein The French Connection, and then let us see. The French Connection, if you Google it,if you look it up; and just type in top ten car chase sequences of all time,Bullitt is number one, followed by The French Connection.So it became very popular,and of course, The French Connection was his homage to the French masters,who he admired so much.Fernando Rey, as we were just talking about actor was The Frog; The Frog is the code given,name given to these drug dealers, to these European drug dealers by the NYPD cops.Does he mean anything to you?Have you watched him in any of his European films?He was a favorite of Bunuel; he appeared in many of his films - Fernando RayThe car chase scene which was actually shot on location; it was not something that wasshot on the sets or a studio thing but it was a real scene, shot on real locations,and William Friedkin was recently you know, there is a documentary, William Friedkin takesyou again, you are walking towards of those exactly those areas, those locations where this scene was shot.So, Friedkin had seen ‘Z’;Z is also our ‘Shanghai’, our Shanghai, Dibakar Banerjee’s great movie Shanghai is also based on Z.It is basically a 1966 novel by Vassilikos and which was filmed by Costa-Gavras, in Greek,in 1969.It is a movie about political decay, corruption, intrigue and it is, it is basedon hard facts but then a film, after all, is not a not a documentary.So, in spite of being based on hard facts, you can always give it a fictional twist, so that is whatCosta-Gavras did to Z and that is what Friedkin wanted to do. So, follow a documentary’sapproach but still give a strong storyline and some strong characters, give it that touch of fiction.At the same time, he used or captured strong street reality; you know very grittystreets scenes, captured through handheld camerathat was the sort of the rigor of that period.Gene Hackman plays a hard-boiled Cop, Popeye Doyle, Popeye Doyle that is his nickAgain, there are no clear-cut heroes or villains; the villain is a, he is an aesthete,he is extremely sophisticated. Popeye Doyle or Gene Hackman is very gritty, very real life,like cop, given to base or instincts and all whereas,the villain, the so-called villain is very polished, very sophisticated.There is no effort to sentimentalize or romanticize Hackman’s character;he is just shown as a hard-hitting cop and which is what he is.At the end, he also ends up killing his own partner, an FBI agent whereas, the villain escapes.They manage to get the drugs, they manage to bust the drug deal but still The Frog escapes becausehe is, he have that kind of you know, evolved and more sophisticated intellect, and he isable to outdo, and outsmart all these and NYPD cops. That is the difference;that is the class difference between them which shows. So, at the end he is able to escape and theycannot do anything about it. So, the villain does not get arrested at the end of the movie.Give me some instances. Focus on her, yes.Student: The good, the cop’s indifference,are not we stuck to the characterization? And even the idea of the master thief andthief escaping at the end. You know, Dhoom is a very glamorous movie.Do we agree? Both Dhooms, part one and part two, and of course now we are having the third part as well.So, Dhoom happens to be a very stylized, very glamorized version of sub-genrecalled the cops and criminal kind of cinema.And the fact that invariably our top star plays the role of the master thief,that also says, says a lot bit. Dhoom falls not underthe category of a gritty hard-core, hard-hitting movie but something called, and that somethingwe will do quite later on in this course called High Concept Cinema.High Concept Cinema, and what are the qualities of a High Concept Cinema?Student: Use of free-style? Not, exactly free-style; stylized cinema.Dhoom, by the way is inspired by ‘The Saint’.Val Kilmer’s The Saint, where the master thief is a master of disguises.Saint is also a comic-book character and later on it wasa TV series, and then almost like ‘Ocean series’; Oceans also began where, it wasduring the 60's and the early 70's, it was a very successful TV series.You do not know that?Yes, Ocean was a TV series during the earlier decades, then we hadGeorge Clooney and Brad Pitt, Matt Damon all of them coming together and making it;it is a very good example of High Concept Cinema.Now I am giving you two instances, one from our own background,from our own scene Dhoom and one from the Hollywood scenario, Ocean series;Clooney, Brad Pit, etcetera, and this is a good example of High Concept Cinema.Now give me what, what do you understand by High Concept Cinema?Louder.Student: It stylizes the crime like robbery and etcetera.Not necessarily robbery. Student: It is like pre-planned or very thoughtbrought of things. Experts coming together and doing stuffs like, robbery.Not necessarily about robbery or heist; it is not a heist movie.High Concept Cinema is where the look of the movie is planned before. High Concept Cinema is where the starsare signed before, and then the actual shooting begins; that you know, we are going to spendunlimited amount of money on this particular movie, just get us all the stars togetherand the story will revolve around the stars. So, get Hrithik Roshan and Amir Khan and John Abraham,story will come later; that is the way many producers in India make movies.Now, in aboard this concept of having sequels and franchises,do not you think that is also one way of, another category of High Concept Cinema?Mission Impossible; you need to havea mega star like, Tom Cruise, and then publicize, look Tom Cruise is going up to Burj Khalifa, that is it.So, there are set pieces, there are episodes which are breathtaking.So, that is High Concept Cinema not necessarily heists or robberies movie; that is Reservoirs Dogand you know Bob le flambeur which Jean Melville did it, it was one of the earliest heist movies.Ocean is the heist movies but Oceans' idea is to bring together all these stars together,shoot in exotic locations, and give them exotic leading ladies. So everything you know,so you are starting with a blockbuster, you are planning a blockbuster, you are not looking at art.High Concept is purely commerce.Cleopatra must have been a High Concept movie for those days;they were definitely not making it for artistic satisfaction, it was look ElizabethTaylor is this Egyptian queen and cover her in beautiful garments and beautiful jewelry,and present her this way to the audience that is High Concept Cinema.So, star is more important, stardom is more important.Therefore when we think of High Concepts Cinema, we thinkstardom, and cores and millions and billons of money spent onwhereas this kind of cinema is pretty different.So, Dhoom; to answer your question is High Concept rather than French Connection kind of movie.Student: Avengers?Pardon meStudent: The avengers, is it a High Concept Movie?Pretty, you know, it is capitalizes on what? On a formula. So, High Concept Movies alwaysmanipulate a particular formula;X-men, you bring together James McAvoy, and all these Michael Fassbender.Student: Hugh Jackman?Hugh Jackman is in the earlier movie, but I am talking about the sequel, yes, X-men First Class;that is much more glossy, much more lavishly mounted, do not you agree?Because they have made so much of money in the first series, that they