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Calcutta (1969)

7.3
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 387 users  
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With minimal narration by the director and very little context this is a kaleidoscope of stunning visuals from Calcutta, a city of 8,000,000 in the late 1960's: rich and poor, exotic and ... See full summary »

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Title: Calcutta (1969)

Calcutta (1969) on IMDb 7.3/10

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With minimal narration by the director and very little context this is a kaleidoscope of stunning visuals from Calcutta, a city of 8,000,000 in the late 1960's: rich and poor, exotic and mundane, secular and religious, children and adults, animate and inanimate. Given only the images, the viewer can read any meaning she or he wants into the film. Written by Maple-2

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November 1971 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Calcuta  »

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(Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Colonial Glaucoma
25 May 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

It's not a matter of pride so much as it is insecurity which leads people to be so defensive towards this film. In sociological terms, they are still playing the role of oppressed subjects. It is an outright denial of reality coupled with a love affair with a myth of identity that never existed in reality.

Why must art be channeled into a half-baked political agenda? Louis Malle did not make it up, he just shot what he found. You must be ready to look at this film as a cultural artifact, as a work of art. Making a critique from a strict nationalistic point of view is less than superficial: it demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of what film-making is all about.

In fact, look at the craft Malle used in this film. He avoided narration and let the events carry the film in a direct and simple way. The fact that it avoids narration or music help it to become an open film, one that invites reflection and thought from the viewer. But I guess there is only so much technique can achieve when people refuse to listen.

Perhaps it is more comfortable to enjoy films about the nasty sides of other societies. Overwhelmingly, the reference for films is American Cinema. Look at polls of critics and directors: Citizen Kane is voted number one and often Godfather or Godfather II come in second. These films deal with the breakdown of American society in one way or the other, looking at it's most corrupt extremes. And in fact, both Godfather films are definitely among the most watched films in history, throughout the world.

However, for the sake of decency and if national pride is to be preserved, than we ought to ban films like the Godfather and Calcutta altogether. We should take the historical example of those few intelligent regimes who went through a tremendous effort to control art in their societies, not only films, but also books and music and even painting. It is too easy to cite Hitler's Germany as an example, but the Soviet Union, Cuba, China, North Korea and many others fall into this list.


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