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It's difficult to argue with Gabridl's remarks about the film - and I'm sure Renoir would have pleaded guilty as charged. Of not making a civics lesson. So, if that's what you want out of art, then this is not the film for you. At all. You will learn nothing of Indian politics, the "exoticism" will drive you mad, and you'd do better to go back and re-read Said's "Orientalism," as Gabridl suggests.
Renoir went to India, and made a film from the perspective of an entranced outsider looking in, creating his own, personalized world - not India, but Renoir's world, where everything is transitory, including beauty and death, and where every sight and sound becomes that much more precious.
I am glad that we have come so far since I've been a kid, when so many ideas and prejudices carried over from the colonial era were still floating through the air, and it's true that no one except that most naive among us would make a film like THE RIVER today. But Renoir was alive in 1950, not now, and he made his film for his time, and that time attaches itself to the film, just like it does to every artwork. I doubt that even Gabridl would suggest that it was the work of a craven exploiter of the masses, and that its "faults" are not the faults of a corrupt man, but of a generous and compassionate one. It's one of the most generous films I know of.
Finally, I would add that while this is a film made by a westerner for other westerners, it was certainly inspirational to Satyajit Ray, who worked as Renoir's assistant.
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