Monday 27 March 2023

India Song [1975]

 Marguerite Duras was a complex, multi-faceted and non-conformist individual, avant-garde artist, left-wing intellectual and defiant feminist, whose eventful life was defined by her diverse lived experiences, progressive politics, activist involvements and polyphonic artist pursuits. India Song, Duras’ most celebrated work – which she herself adapted from her unproduced play, which in turn was based on her novel Le Vice-Consul – provided a fascinating manifestation of her multi-dimensional identity and voice. This was, on one hand, a haunting, hypnotic and aesthetically splendorous work that pulls one in with its beauty, melancholy and mise-en-scène; portrayal of a lavish, decadent and doomed world; tactile evocation of ennui, existential torpor, overpowering memories and oppressive ambiance; and crafted a confounding house-of-mirrors reminiscent of Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad. On the other hand, it was an abstract, dense, distancing and highly experimental exercise that eschewed narrative elements, radically decoupled image and sound, and interlaced seething critique on the alienating, dehumanizing and rotting effects of colonialism. Delphine Seyrig – in the same year as she starred as a disaffected single mother and reluctant prostitute in Akerman’s devastating masterpiece Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles – played Anne-Marie Stretter, the bored, lost, detached and promiscuous wife of the French colonial Ambassador in 1930s India, who’s spent her life across different colonized nations. Set within the premises of the diplomat’s luxurious embassy in Calcutta, she’s seen in a slow, dazed and bemused tango involving multiple paramours who she’s having affairs with – albeit, with real and dreams blurred – including the disgraced Vice-Consul of Lahore (Michael Lonsdale). Carlos d'Alessio’s intoxicating score provided a parallel tango with the magnetic visuals, various voices reflecting on a myriad digressive topics, and the film’s poetic ambiguity.

Director: Marguerite Duras

Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Experimental Film

Language: French

Country: France

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