WINDOW TO THE WORLD
DEC 1, 2009 – IT’S PERHAPS TOO FACILE TO LABEL Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s Janala (Window) as, well, a window to the world – but it is, at some level, a porthole to musings about the fluid nature of relationships, the value of the selfless deed in a selfish universe, and above all, the worth of art (namely, cinema) in a market-driven age that values salability above all else. Dasgupta’s characteristic intertwining of the real and the surreal infuses this story of a dreamer who wants to repay the school he studied in, the school now gone to ruin. He opts to fashion a window to replace the very one that he looked out of, long years ago – but the world he imagined then was welcoming, while the world now is harsh, unforgiving. These truths are arrived at with minimal emphasis and maximum empathy.
ANYONE DRAWN BY THE POSSIBLY RISQUÉ pleasures suggested by the title of Giuseppe Piccioni’s GiuliaDoesn’t Go out at Night was put firmly in place after the first ten minutes. The reason is simply that Giulia is a prisoner, and the film explores – in telling, tender detail – the beginnings of a redemptive relationship with an author. He has a family, a wife and a daughter, while she murdered her partner and subsequently lost her daughter. These parallels run along nicely, and this is the sort of minor-key, relationship-movie that the Europeans know how to make better than anyone else – it’s in Italian – but that said, the devastations of the characters don’t break out of the confines of the screen. Their anguish is discernible yet distant, as if separated from us by a wall of glass.
THE POWERFUL (AND OFTEN HARD-TO-WATCH) Blood & Wine: A Brazilian Story is, as the title suggests, a political horror story that spills over a warm celebration of family. As the former gradually permeates the latter, we are shown how Brazil changed over the years and how hundreds of innocents fell prey to the manipulations of the police. A mere change of setting could have rendered this tale Indian, for there exists, here, a cacklingly corrupt police chief who butts heads with a principled businessman who refuses to buckle. In other words, it’s another version of man versus monolith, a singleton versus the System – a scenario which, sadly, seldom seems to change, at least in the Third World.
AS IF CHARLIE CHAPLIN’S MERCILESS MOCKERY of the Third Reich weren’t enough, further amusement was to be found on the face of my ticket, which proclaimed, in capital letters, The Grate Dictator, as if its protagonist were merely the führer of the fireplace. Why did I choose this much-seen classic over other as-yet unseen curios slotted, in other screens, at the same time? I suspect it was simply the attraction of watching Chaplin on screen again after what must be, in my case, almost three decades. (If memory serves me right, that was Modern Times, at Midland Theatre, Madras.) Needless to say, after nearly a week of blisteringly bleak film-viewing, this was a welcome opportunity to unwind. The slapstick is still delicious – and the pantomime with the Hitler-clone playing with a globe, like a dreamy child with a balloon, is still chilling.
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