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Vittorio De Sica
Harriet, now an adult, narrates the story of her coming of age growing up as a British national and a daughter of a jute press manager in the Bengal region of India, they living in the big house on the banks of one of the holy rivers. At the time, she is the eldest of six siblings - five girls and one boy - with another on the way and with she being significantly older the rest of her siblings. As such, she spends much time with an honorary member of their family, a late teen - not quite an adult - named Valerie, also a British national and the daughter of the jute press owner. Another friend, who recently arrived home from her western schooling, is Melanie, the biracial daughter of British national Mr. John and his then deceased Hindu wife. Both Mr. John and Melanie realize her difficult position, straddling both the Hindi and western cultures. Their small world is shaken up with the arrival of Captain John, Mr. John's cousin and an American ex-military man who has one prosthetic leg... Written by
Esmond Knight, who plays the one-eyed Father, did actually lose his eye in the war, during the battle to sink the Bismark. He served on the Prince of Wales, and later starred as the Captain of the Prince of Wales in the film Sink the Bismarck! (1960). See more »
Harriet's arms change position when lighting Captain John's cigarette on the boat. See more »
This is a little known film, but well worth watching if you're lucky enough to find it on Video or TV. The director Jean Renoir is the son of the French Impressionist Painter Pierre Auguste Renoir ( the cinematographer Claude Renoir is Jean's nephew ) and the family talent shines throughout this film, which is beautifully shot. Whether showing the amazing landscape of India and the river itself, the colours and intricacies of the many Indian festivals, or even a close up of Valerie's face as she gazes at Captain John, every frame displays grace, beauty and style that film rarely captures.
The plot itself, how a troubled outsider affects three teenaged girls, is a simple tale, and all the more powerful for it. We've all had a crush, and know the river of emotions that are awakened by one. Each of the three girls, the irrepressible and dramatic Valerie, the talented but awkward Harriet, and the stoic Melanie ( who despite schooling in the West is somehow more Indian in nature than her friends who've been brought up in India ) vie for Captain John's affections in their own way.
However, the real love of this film is India itself - it's fascinating people, beliefs, festivals, and the constant River that runs through them all. It's a slow paced film, not in a hurry to get to any kind of conclusion, and you are immersed in the country, and what it's like to live there. Like relaxing on one of the many river boats, as its floats gently downstream, the film meanders along, showing us different scenes along the way, from the local postman's route to the house gates to the son's fascination with Cobras, with the story always moving on, though always interwoven with more day to day life. This brings a familiar reality to the film, it doesn't just skip moments that might not immediately concern the main characters - like life, other events happen, and they have their place in this film too.
Actually getting to watch this film will be hard, it's not well known ( and not even considered one of Renoir's best ), but if you ever come home one night, flick on the TV, and see this starting, then get comfortable, and enjoy a lovingly made film about a country and the people, both native and foreigners, who live there.
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