Restoring Classics

Mumbai Film Festival

Abhijit Ghosh-Dastidar

The Mumbai Film Festival (October 2017) celebrated cinema with great moments from contemporary cinema and digitally restored versions of films from earlier decades. Tilted to discovery, the formally adventurous and the challenges of old history, the festival reflected great prize winners and restored classics.

On Body and Soul
Ildiko Enyedi’s ‘‘On Body and Soul’’ (Hungery/Germany, colour, 116 mins), based on an original screenplay by Enyedi, is set in present-day Hungary. The debut is a sound of bells, snowfall, deers in a wood, and cows and buffalos in a shed. Based mostly around an abattoir in Budapest, where the slogans of 1956 are now guide-lines. Commercial violence emerges in the stunning opening sequences, full of explicit shots of animals being chopped up. The work place scenes hardly carry the implausible weirdness of human behaviour. Endre (Geza Morcsanyi) is the manager, a middle aged man with a disabled arm. His only friend is the human resources supervisor, Jeno (Zoltan Schneider), forever in disagreement with his wife, Zsuzsa (Zsuzsa Jaro). Endre once had a brief relationship with Zsuzsa. Andre’s attention in the office is caught by a beautiful and shy young woman, Maria (Alexandra Borbely) who is the new hygiene inspector, examining the slaughtered beasts for signs of disease or excess fat. Maria radiates anxiety and loneliness. Slowly Endre and Maria begin to fall in love. Love springs in the alternative universe of dreams, which they share nightly, where a deer wanders in the snowy forest.

Someone in the slaughter house has been stealing a special Viagra power for cattle. Each employee is interrogated by sexy police psychologist Klara (Reka Tenki), questioning them about their dreams. Endre and Maria describe identical dreams, where a stag wanders through a wintry forest, with a doe. The intriguing dreams cause Endre and Maria to spend time together. In the disconnect between mysterious dreamy visions of deer and gruesome scenes of cattle slaughter Laura Marlings’ ‘‘what he wrote—forgive me, here I cannot stay’’, fills up the soundtrack, and the space in the plot. After an attempt at suicide by cutting her wrists, Maria goes to Endre’s flat, where they make love. Next morning both admit, they had no dreams. The woods and rivulets are empty of deer. Mate Herbai’s haunting camera captures the blood, the dreams and the deer. Enyedi’s film is never wilfully obscure, and the visuals are full of lyrical and elliptical charm.

Lover for a day
‘‘L’ Amant d’un Jour—Lover for a Day’’ (Franch, b/w, 70 mins) by Philippe Garrel is constructed on a screenplay by Garrel, Jean-Claude Carriere, Caroline Deruas and Arlette Langmann. A young woman, Jeanne (Esther Garrel) sits on a Paris sidewalk, crying to the point of being breathless. Her father, Gilles (Eric Caravaca) an attractive philosophy teacher in his early fifties makes love to a student Ariane (Louise Chevillote) in a university toilet, leading to gasps of pleasure from the new lover, Arianne. The romantic drama srings between sorrows from personal relationships and the respirations from pleasure, in re-telling the story of two women, of the same age, 23. Ariane is introduced by Jeanne, to an attractive friend. Love triangles are built and configured with the professor’s homeless daughter and the new lover of the professor, under the roof of Gilles. A recipe for unhappiness is the juggling between a regular lover, and ‘‘a lover for a day’’. The editing of successive scenes and an off-screen voice speaking achieve an immediate cause and effect relation. Arianne poses on the cover of a pronographic magazine. Jeanne attempts suicide from a window. In the background, one speaks of war. Renato Berta’s camera, in black and white lensing is luminous, and virtual paintings.

Vol. 50, No.22, Dec 3 - 9, 2017