KIFF '18

Kolkata Film Festival

Abhijit Ghosh-Dastidar

The Kolkata International Film Festival (November 2018) explored cinema and camera as a means of expression. Diversity and representation extended to Indian Languages Films, Cinema International, Centenary tribute to Ingmar Bergman (Sweden), Special Focus on Australia and Tunisia, and Restored Classics of Orson Welles, Vittorio de Sica, Federico Fellini, Michael Angelo Antonioni and Satyajit Ray. The films crafted visually seductive sequences and captured their numerous world locations, emphasising vibrant diversity of lifestyle.

Jean-Luc Godard's "Le Livre d'image—The Image Book" (France/Switzerland, colour, 85 mins) is a cine-essay and an irony-mosaic of clips and fragments, with slogaised gnomic texts, puns in brackets, sudden fades to black, unpredictable and unsynchronised sound cues, which appear to have been edited without aural seemliness, and declamatory orchestral chords. The Godard bulletin on the state of the world has the aura of a horror film, with images of violence, entertaining old movies and new atrocities. The feelings of dread that build on things that Godard has been talking about for half a century : the stunting of emotion by capitalism, the assassination of language by mere words, that is, by advertising. In the last third of the movie, Godard retains his fixation on the  Middle East. The media's dehumanisation of the Arab World is balanced by Godard's sanctification of the Arab World. In the doom-laden dream, in a raspy low, sonorous and croaky voice, Godard means "War is here". The chapter title "I. Remakes" is followed by a retouched image of a nuclear bomb exploding. The reading "I. Remakes" appears three or four times. The film is an assemblage of film clips, news footage and random unidentifiable stuff with mysterious title cards inserted seemingly at random.

Footage of terrorist atrocities are jolting, and yet safely remote. They remain just things on screen, not things happening before our eyes. "The Image Book" is filled with pictures that speak to Godard, or may be just pictures through which he would like to speak. Many of the images are digitally altered and culled from movies, viz Hitchcock's "Vertigo", John Ford's "Young Mr Linlcon", Jean Cocteau's "Beauty and the Beast", the Weimar classic "People on Sunday", Buster Keaton's "General", Tod Browning's honour classic "Freaks", Lawrence Oliver in "Hamlet", and the naked torture victims crawling towards fresh humiliations in Pasolini's "Salo". 

The dialogue is taken away, and the viewer concentrates on the imagery instead. Images, ideas, jarring sound effects, cryptic voice overs and bursts of classical music like Bach and the soundtrack of Eisenstein's "Ivan the Terrible", are knitted by cinematographer Fabric Aragno camera into a free association mode of sound and image collage.

"Touch me Not" (Romania / Germany, colour, 122 mins), Adina Pintilie's first feature, uses bodies of all types of explore the boundaries of intimacy, and challenge notions of beauty, with a significant display of naked flesh. Fiction blends with reality, Laura (Laura Benson), an English woman grapples with intimacy issues. Real people enact in guiding Laura towards being comfortable with her body, and the bodies of others. A man crippled with spinal energy, Christian (Christian Bayerlain) leads the viewer beyond deformity to perceptions of beauty. Laura watches a hired hustler, (Seani Loue) as he showers in self-indulgence. A trans-sexual sex worker-cum-therapist (Hannah Hoffman) uses Brahm's music and her own body, as a therapeutic route towards client satisfaction. Tomas (Tomas Lemarquis) from the touch-yoga workshop is paired with Christian, and has a hyper-sexual relationship with his wife (Grit Uhlemann). Wit and humour break down preconcieved concepts of attraction. George Chiper-Litemack's camera uses textured lensing accents, and stark whites that act as neutral to faces.

Vol. 51, No.21, Nov 24 - Dec 1, 2018