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Showing posts from May, 2014

Bollywood at Cannes 2014: of Red Carpets and Gold Dresses

As the hoopla bubbled on over Sonam Kapoor and Aishwarya Rai standing on a carpet in France, Twitter/blog pal and general opinion-haver on films, celebrity, and glamor Bogey No. 2 and I had a chat about celebrity, cinema, and the world stage.

Bogey: Chalo, shall we begin our discourse into the Bollywood presence at Cannes 2014? 

Beth: Somehow this year, the hoopla around Sonam and Ash made me realize the difference between "walking on the carpet at Cannes" and "being part of a movie at Cannes," and I want to know what other people think about that. I don't mean to be curmudgeonly and I don't mean to under-value what "Cannes as world cinema stage" means (or could mean). I understand why ANY kind of presence is perhaps potentially useful, either to individual stars/directors/producers OR to a whole industry, but also I cannot pretend I think modeling is the same as acting/filmmaking, and it seems to me that Ash and Sonam were primarily modelin…

Akash Kusum and Manzil

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[This piece contains vague spoilers, especially if you have only seen one of the two films, because their endings are different. The pertinent discussion is multiple paragraphs and will be marked SPOILER and END SPOILER.]

Akash Kusum (Mrinal Sen, 1965), a Bengali film I truly love, and Manzil (Basu Chatterjee, 1979), its also excellent Hindi remake, are very similar to look at—and I have included a lot of photos to show just how similar the scenes are. But the titles make clear the contrast in their tone. Bengali friends have told me that the original title translates to "flower bud of the sky," meaning "daydreaming," "improbably imaginations," or "building castles in the air" (mrinalsen.org calls it Up in the Clouds in English), whereas the Hindi version sounds much more resolute: "destination." Even if the sense of "manzil" is more like "stage," a stage is a measurable, sometimes very long-lasting or real place, w…

May mini-reviews

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Things I've seen in the first two weeks of May 2014, presented in chronological order.

Calcutta 71
After about ten minutes of Calcutta 71, I had a sudden realization that this, not Ray's films, is what people are (unjustly) referring to when they stereotype Bengali films as impenetrably, ossified-ly arty. The contrast between this particular film and Ray—a comparison whose relevance I do not mean to overemphasize, but also one that occurs to me simply because Ray is the Bengali filmmaker I've seen the most of—arises as we see Madhabi Mukherjee's segment. In Calcutta 71, Mrinal Sen introduces her as a disembodied head surrounded by blackness talking about the dire situation of her family and living unhappily at her in-laws' house, whereas in Mahanagar Ray surrounds her with the warmth and chaos of her crowded family home. It's that slight difference between a situation feeling like "struggle" instead of "challenge."

I will not claim to have u…