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Adoor's latest film is a visual treat. The movie is comprised of four vignettes: of women in different social roles - the prostitute, the virgin, the housewife, and the spinster. A fragmented narrative that allows Adoor a kind of liberating space in terms of story-telling. The movie has no linear plot, and staves off closure in different ways, giving the director freedom to explore women's differing positions under different times and in different social strata in Kerala society.
For students of Adoor, there is much to discuss - the use of food, representations of men, male desire, female sexuality, conceptions of women's honour and virtue, the use of elements and so on. For Adoor fans, this and the last film, Shadow Kill, will come as special delights for the sheer brilliance in visuals. For far too long, Adoor's powerful movies have also been bleak and unremitting as spectacle. 'Four Women' in particular, capitalizes on the best of sound and cameras, on cutting-edge technology in digital movie-making, and presents a face of Kerala that is truly breathtaking. The last vignette, in particular, has haunting images and sounds of the Kerala backwaters where nostalgia mingles with tradition and feminism in a heady brew of celluloid brilliance.
Adoor's women present typical versions of patriarchal domination as well as feminist rebellion, and therein the four vignettes miss out on an opportunity to make any radical statement. Perhaps, Adoor could have looked at women as women - excessive of their social roles, but then that would have gone against the premises of the film as it stands, which want to show women IN their social roles. In any case, I have no complaints, and have utterly enjoyed the master whose craft, method, and implements make cinema art!
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