Mumbai Film Festival

Abhijit Ghosh-Dastidar

The Mumbai Film Festival (October 2014) hit artistic strides in its excursions into classical and contemporary cinema. Celebrations of 90 years of Mosfilm Studio (USSR/Russia), Restored Classics, Tribute to Catherine Deneuve (France) and recent world cinema struck worthy images all, including selections from Indian Cinema.

Jean-Luc Godards’ ‘‘Adieu au Langage—Goodbye to Language’’ (France/Switzerland, 2014, colour, 70 mins) or alternatively ‘A dieux, Oh language—To gods, oh language’’ can be interpreted to having two film titles, which though contradictory in meaning, fit in marvellously. The 3-D film bids on agonised farewell to types of language and the language of film. Godard has always maintained that language and communication have always been a delusion. The cine-collage unfolds as fragments of ideas and shards of disillusionment, caught in a swirl of deep focus imagery and multiple visual layers. The debut dark screen glides to images, with a remark that those lacking imagination take refuge in reality. A war scene in colour, thereafter a black/white sequence of a girl calling out to a dog. A ship with lots of people on board, an attempt to produce a concept of Africa, a girl drinking water, clips from b/w films books on sale on a table at a petrol pump, Solzhenitsyn’s ‘‘Gulag Archipelago’’ with a sub-title ‘‘Essays on literary investigations’’ are fragments with vigour. In 1933 a Russian, Zwashin invented television, and Adolf Hitler was elected in Germany’s elections. There are cries to wage peace, as war is waged. The state was given absolute power in 1945. Atomic bomb, Nano technoloy, terrorism, unemployment, blaming the state for anything wrong, writings against the police and welfare socialism come into view. Memories recall the terror of 1933, Hitler’s manufacture of steel, the music conservatiore, and the concept of the produce of Africa. Metaphors spring in leaves on water, gunfire of battle scene, an African with hand on head, title card ‘‘Oh language’’, and suggestions of the old world ending, and a new world being reconstructed. In Europe, happiness is not a new idea, but not so in Africa.

Random images of a ship in motion, society as a means to fight unemployment, the difference between idea and a metaphor become murders of the present. A bath tub flows with blood and water, a girl with a hat is pulled away, and a man carries a gun on the road. Myths recall golden flowers. Cars, roads covered with snow and a dog chewing a bird underline that the right and left were invented, but not top and bottom. A SS officer enters the chamber of a mother and child. Infinity and zero are grand inventions. Sex and death never disappear, but only free beings can be strangers to each other. A dog on marshy land, grain harvests, a huge river, fire, valleys, mountains, pale death, Kinhasa and a ship approaching a harbour remain metaphors. In Russia, ‘Kamera’ means prison. Russians will never be kept out of Europe, but if Russia becomes part of Europe, they will no longer remain Russians. A road, cars rushing at night, a ship at sea with furious waves, and people on deck glide. Showing a forest is easy, but showing a room near a forest is difficult. A woman can do no wrong, but can kill. All are equal in toilet. Title card ‘‘Oh language–Ah Dieux’’. There is a shoot out, and acid shatters memories. Naure does not have nudity. Characters in film face dilemma to live or to tell. Puppies listen but do not say a word. Man, city, war, great talk of revolution, German soldiers, dead bodies, boats in a river, and a tragic history flash by. Demostrations and a rail station, lead to a mother and daughter seized on a rail-bridge.

The human figures sonorously address each other, as if talking to themselves. Classic movies play on TV in the background. Rock Hudson and Ava Gardner emerge in Henry King’s ‘‘Snows of Kilamanjaro’’. A man (Kamel Adeli) and a woman (Heloise Godet) live together, but are profoundly alienated. The canine star is Roxy (dog Mieville). Fabrice Aragno’s camera lens watch from a great distance, as in a telescope. While language, classical art and the act of love offer a unity, making sense of things remains agonisingly impossible. The brevity and aggressively of the film leaves every spectator with his own dreams and memories.

Vol. 47, No. 51, June 28 - July 4, 2015