India Song (1975) Poster


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India Song
jboothmillard30 June 2018
Warning: Spoilers
This remembered this French film as one being in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, I didn't know what it would be like, but critics gave it good reviews, and it got recognition at film festivals, so I looked forward to watching it. Basically set in India in the 1930s, Anne-Marie Stretter (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie's Delphine Seyrig) is the wife of the French ambassador. She married a French colonial administrator at the age of 18, travelling with him to Savannakhet, Laos, there she met her second husband who took her away to various place in Asia for 17 years. Now in Calcutta, Anne-Marie has grown bored with the oppressive lifestyle she leads, she begins compulsively sleeping with other men to alleviate her situation. The Vice-Consul of Lahore (Moonraker's Michael Lonsdale) fails in his attempts to begin a love affair with her. Her husband is aware of her promiscuity but is tolerant of her indiscretions. Also starring Mathieu Carrière as Attaché, Claude Mann as Michael Richardson, Vernon Dobtcheff as George Crown and Didier Flamand as Young guest. The story is told with very little dialogue, and the score by Carlos D'Alessio, mainly set in three or four parts of the mansion and the garden, with often random character voice-overs. The characters display peculiar behaviours, such as walking slowly, standing still, walking backwards, dancing together and lying on the floor, all dressed in tuxedos and glamorous dresses, hardly anything happens at all, it is both strange and fascinating to watch, but an interesting enough experimental fantasy drama. Worth watching!
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a long, slow, beautiful, different film about colonial Asia
dromasca31 October 2020
'India Song' written and directed in 1975 by Marguerite Duras can be either a mesmerizing or a painful cinematic experience. The French writer whose literary work largely reflected her life experience in Asia and her fascination with this continent has directed a number of films that bring to the screen or are inspired by her books. This is the case with 'India Song', which is probably one of her most extreme films to experiment with. The result is in this case a film that bears little resemblance to the films of the era in which it was created, being closer to what we call 'video art' today. Many viewers will probably not be able to overcome the barriers raised intentionally by the author and will abandon the viewing before the end or will complain about the wasted time if they resisted to the end. A few others will be excited. I confess that I was somewhere in the middle. I had a hard time watching. I didn't like the film, but I think that I understood why the author took the chosen creative paths that she took and why a minority of viewers have a good chance to like it.

There is a story in this film, but it is not what is happening that is central but the way the story is told. Anne-Marie Streyter (Delphine Seyrig), who is born in Indochina (same as the writer and director of the film), is the wife of the French ambassador accredited in Calcutta. Her life takes place in an atmosphere of boredom and decadence, sprinkled with extramarital affairs with young lovers, an attitude also attributed to Duras in her own private life. The only dissonant event would be the hopeless advances of the consul in Lahore (Michael Lonsdale) in love with the heroine, which when rejected will bring him despair. The set and the surrounding nature suggest the physical and moral erosion of the colonial way of life at its historical twilight. The echoes of the tragic events that were taking place in those years in different parts of the planet hardly reach this world suspended between dream and history, but the imminence of the tragedy is clear.

Viewers who dare to watch this film must be warned that they will witness a cinematic experience that is different than the usual. The long and slow frames have a beauty of paintings, and in them the characters move slowly, as if they want to freeze time in place. The heroes do not speak to each other, we rather have the feeling that we are visiting an art exhibition accompanied by a rich text, read off-screen, which replaces the interactions between the characters but also part of their feelings. The actors are merely silhouettes, they play their roles in kind of an almost frozen mimicry. I give a special mention to the performance of Michael Lonsdale, who is said to consider the consul in Lahore his favorite role. The filming was not done in India, but near Paris, in one of the mansions abandoned by the Rothschild family during World War II and since then fallen into ruin. The local color is therefore not the authentic one, but the one imagined by the author. The music, very appropriate, is stylish and obsessive. 'India Song' is a beautiful film, the atmosphere is dreamy, but the excess of method makes it difficult to watch. Most spectators, if they resist, will sooner or later look for the fast-forward button.
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To people who look for something else
Cristi_Ciopron7 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This was meant as hypnotic cinema for people who aren't hypnotized by watching junk, who aren't hypnotized by Spielberg; if you don't like it, leave it alone, it just wasn't meant for you, do not cheat—it's tricky not to cheat. What some claim it is boring only brings forth a person's own deficiencies. It only brings forth the garbage inside, your own inabilities and defects. Confronting those is certainly tough. It's the gist of the cinema to hypnotize; and it's not the storyline, or the plot, that which hypnotizes. Resnais, Robbe—Grillet, Mme. Duras, Tati do that. By asking less from the cinema, one cheats, and one feels it.

In its way, this movie by Mme. Duras is exquisite; I have seen it a quite long time ago, more than 6 yrs ago. Its leading actress, Mme. Seyrig, is certainly exquisite.
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Far too experimental.
Amyth4727 June 2019
My Rating : 2/10

So this is just 2 hours of slow, painful images followed by a voice-over between two people.

I don't get it. Not meaningful. Avoid.
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Duras bends the rules of cinema
ReganRebecca20 March 2017
If you're looking for a typical movie India Song is definitely not for you. The highly experimental movie is both long and smashes a lot of the rules for conventional cinema. It teaches YOU how to watch IT.

The plot, such as it is, is about the wife of a French Ambassador living in Calcutta. Bored she engages in a series of love affairs. This information is provided completely in narration that plays over a series of ghost like images in which we see the ambassador's wife dance and walk and flirt with a handful of other people in a mostly empty and abandoned looking mansion. It's essentially a ghost story.

I have nothing against slow films or unconventional ones but this simply wasn't for me. Delphine Seyrig acts out the part of Anne- Marie Stretter, the wife, but watching her I was reminded of that OTHER famous movie she did in 1975, also experimental and unconventional and also directed by a woman who was a cinematic powerhouse: Chantal Akerman. In terms of plot there's not a lot to tie Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielmann to Marguerite Duras' India Song, but the two feature a similar style of long shots and repetition. That said I find Jeanne Dielmann by far the easier of the two to watch. While that movie is hypnotizing and entrancing Duras' movie feels stale, like a book of hers that was never quite able to come to fruition.

A movie that perhaps only Duras devotees or Seyrig fans will love.
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Interesting for about 15 minutes, and then it just kills you
raidatlanta26 November 2017
Duras is a good writer, but a terrible film maker. When you watch one of her movies - and I have imposed a few to myself - you know you will watch somethings that has some interesting ideas, but that lacks any movie making skill.

This film which is supposed to take place in India, but which was filmed in France, does good efforts for a virtually no-budget film. I love the opening scene, and the silent, narrative atmosphere led me into thinking this would be a good film for about 15-20 minutes.

The main problem is that it gets old quick. at first it's a bit captivating, some original way to make a movie, etc. After 20 minutes you just want anything to happen, you want it to be well filmed, you would like the actors to do more than what a wax figure could do. After an hour and a half I wanted to shoot myself. You need some guts to finish this film, if you want my opinion, mostly because of how long it is, but also because of how bland it gets.
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This film transcends everything.
sleepsev19 January 2001
I was completely hypnotized and paralyzed while seeing this film. The first time I saw it, I was so deeply moved that I couldn't even move my fingers, let alone any other parts of my body. I sat very still and tried to breathe as quietly as possible. This film has a profound effect on my state of mind. It seems to be beyond any definitions, any explanations, any limits, any boundaries. There is nothing ordinary from the first image to the last image. Nearly every image in this movie makes my heart want to stop beating:the sunset, the shadow on the ground, the smoke lingering in the air, the ballroom, the mirror, etc. "Time" and "space" in this movie were transformed into something undescribeable. Every movement of Delphine Seyrig is sublime. Nearly every shot, scene, and detail of each scene, is full of a kind of feeling--and I hardly get this kind of feeling from other movies. I'm not even sure if I should call it "feeling." But it's full of "something" very strong, something that I feel, but that something is very different from "feelings" I usually experience. The music is very beautiful, but it is the voice-over in this movie which brought me to the strange and unique state of consciousness, and uplift this movie to the realm of the unknown. The voice of the crazy woman in this movie somehow makes me think about the radio announcement of murderers in "Nathalie Granger." I have seen "India Song" in a cinema here four times but I still can't get enough of it. This movie is my friend's most favorite film of all time and it is one of my top ten favorites,too.
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a threat
ANCHINN1 June 2008
She's great, it's her vision which is superb. She made this film cos she wanted us to be a poet. No wonder India Song is very unique among all other films. I watched a lot of films, but I've never been met a picture like this. Which threaten you to be a poet. No action, no story, no climax, just her vision. To watch these art house flicks, process of understanding and analyzing is most important, it will sharpen up your vision, then you can use it in your everyday life, and it will definitely makes your life richer mentally.

Someone once said, to read Duras's books, it's just like writing a book. So, maybe, to watch her movies is like co-creating a film also.

Old memories is like a ghost story. I once read Mrs. Stretter really exists and India Song based on Duras's memory. It's fun to look at the beautiful ghosts singing and dancing
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Death in Calcutta
sveinpa2 February 2012
When a worn 16mm copy of India Song hit our town in the early, post-punk eighties, it created an immediate sensation among the local cinefiles. Several people watched it again and again, and of course some clever bastards started writing articles about its aesthetics, "The aesthetics of absence" or something like that. Almost at the same time, the first solo LP by Richard Jobson of The Skids appeared, with its opening track repeating the hypnotic theme of India Song and Mr. Jobson himself reciting his version of the plot of the movie and making a homage to Duras at the same time. Then the recorded voice of Duras herself also appeared on a double album released by the fashionable Belgian label Les disques du crepuscule. It felt almost as Duras was as contemporary as New Order or The Birthday Party.

Myself, I watched the movie twice and was as hypnotized by its voices as by its visuals. I remember the instant effect of the opening scene: A long, static shot of the hazy, setting sun accompanied by two off screen, female narrators. In a very musical manner they took turns telling the story of the beggar woman who walked from Indochina to Calcutta, followed by the song-like voice of the woman herself. The way the narrators talked in forms of short questions and even shorter answers, as if they were also spectators commenting the visuals (or making up the non- visuals), was something I never had experienced in a movie before, and something I immediately felt as "a shock of the new" or whatever, anyway as something beautiful beyond my understanding, or lack of understanding as the plot started getting more complicated, with even more narrators joining in. I gave it all up but loved it anyway. It remained for years a special cinematic memory, on par with discovering Tarkovsky's Mirror at about the same time. But then, unlike the films of Tarkovsky, which were shown over and over, India Song completely vanished from the local screens. The other films by Duras never even appeared.

Now, about thirty years later, with none of my then fellow watchers around, I have seen and heard the DVD of India Song some more times, as well as a handful of others by Duras. It is without doubt still a very special movie indeed, and I guess the best of the bunch, although Nathalie Granger comes close. But I am still also almost at a loss trying to understand why this movie is so powerful. I admit that the dark and grainy 16mm look is nothing special. And no, the french settings around the Château does not look much like the heated delta land in India mentioned in the dialogues. But no, it does not matter. So what is it? Well...

The music and the voices! It captures me every time; the way the bewildering narration and the slow piano blues or the upbeat orchestra waltzes blend together with the static or slowly panned visuals. I may now begin to unravel the plot, but hope never to come to a full understanding; the theme of the "Lepers of the heart" caught in their colonial abyss playing out their hopeless love affairs sets the tone, but the finer points of the narrative will forever elude me, I hope.

I can see why the movie is so much discussed in academic circles and why it is hated so much by the average movie fan. Despite its complexities, it seems quite simple. Love it or leave it. A complexity: As with other work by Duras, there is a lot of discrepancies between what we hear and what we see. The actors does not speak, yet we hear their voices. They move off screen, yet we still hear their voices. They all seem to deceive one another, yet the attraction of the central Anne Marie Stretter is never in doubt. But we cannot see why; is it because she is the only white female around? The only remains of a white, piano-driven elegance among the (never seen) beggars and lepers and the smell of death (incense). She is a mystery I guess, and that is her attraction. The simplicity: Long, static shots and characters moving ever so slowly or just posing as a still life. Even fans of Marienbad might lose their temper. But for me, India Song is the better of the two. It goes right to my heart. Perhaps it is its female quality.
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How does he dare???
Binoche15 January 2007
It's incredible how people dare to write things like this: " Look, some film has got to the be worst ever. I suggest it may be India Song."... And this is just the beginning! Some viewers (but did he SEE anything???) think that their lack of emotion or thinking is an automatic rule for everyone on earth. I don't care if A, B, or C doesn't recognize Marguerite Duras as one of the great experimenters of all the history of movie making. But I care about the fact that IMDb gives so much evidence to words of pure indifference to the cinema that tries to discuss the obvious ways of representing the world. Why the evidence to a commentary that is only a childish protest of someone who thinks the world ends in his own state of boredom?
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the eternal dance of marguerite
ricardo-morel-oliveira5 February 2019
Cult films, with a slow speed, filmmakers have produced a lot in Europe, many in Brazil and Asia, and some even in Hollywood, industry that excels by the narrative cinema of fast cuts and action and comedy and adventure without complications in the plot (and now increasingly chroma key due to the billionaire success of the superhero movies Marvel & DC Comics). And why such a huge phrase?! To contrast, my friends, to contrast (this i learn in the brief workshop "Creative Writing for Comments on YouTube"). Because Marguerite Duras masterpiece apparently fits the cult movie label that no one watched because they collapsed from boredom. But they made a mistake. Hassle is a missing element in this good piece of film. The off-screen narration is the perfect guide to the dance of characters flowing across the screen and above all to the coming and going of the protagonist Anne-Marie Stretter (Delphine Seyrig) in doubt about what love she would choose. Pure cinematographic poetry (man, this deserves a hashtag ... #PureCinematographicPoetry... okay, I liked it).

ps: translation brazilian portuguese/english made by Google (blame on it)
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A 'silent' movie permeated by the ghosts of a colonial past
regvernon1 March 2007
I was taken aback at first - the complete absence of spoken dialogue from the cast was a bit unnerving - instead, the film consists of two strands, visual and aural. Visually, the film is slow, languorous and visually sensual. It is almost a 'silent' film. Aurally, the film consists of voices over, providing not so much a narrative as recollections. The voices over (not being a fluent French speaker I had to rely on sub-titles) are telling a story of events that happened in the past whilst the cast act out the events as though they are the ghosts of the buildings in which the events were played out. But there is a story - of a woman married to a French diplomat, living for the time being in Calcutta, who takes lovers to relieve the tedious boredom of social niceties (and the heat, dust and flies). This story is punctuated by one scene in which someone who has fallen in love with her makes his feelings known to her and then, betraying the norms of his society, declares his feelings and his despair, by getting emotional about it - very emotional. I was transfixed. Fortunately, I watched it on DVD having recorded it from BBC4 - so I've got it to watch again, as I shall most certainly do.
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No Sir, I did not like it.
chancyr7 January 2008
I'm not sure what drug one would have to be on to enjoy this film... but it's complete poo if you're sober. I admit that I liked the music and the main character's dress (a lot), but otherwise it was a waste of a beautiful Miami Sunday afternoon.

The images were dark and the characters interchangeable. The story was unclear and uninteresting. I feel sorry for the film school guy who introduced it who probably had to watch it several times and try to make it sound interesting. I was crossing my fingers throughout the film, hoping that it wouldn't be a full two hours... but it was. Two hours of watching people look at themselves in the mirror and dance slowly in circles. Two hours of confusing and pointless off screen dialog (I never saw a lip move on screen). Two hours of strange noises and dark images. TWO WHOLE HOURS of absolutely nothing.
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Maybe the worst film of all time
tdemarco27 December 2000
Look, some film has got to the be worst ever. I suggest it may be India Song. When I saw the film in 1976 it was playing at the Carnegie Hall Cinema, a place frequented by people who care a lot about film. From about the halfway point, people were simply flooding out of the theater. My girlfriend wouldn't let us leave, but by the end, the theater was virtually empty. I kept telling people as they left that "the good part is still to come." And it was. The good part was the screen at the end that said "fin." It was the only good part. I am still annoyed by this film 24 years later. It was pointless, stupid and derivative (Marienbad, part 2). See it only if you want to spend an endless two hours learning to distinguish between merely bad and simply awful.
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At least it made me laugh
AnderD20 December 2001
Imagine watching a slide show where the projector lingers on every slide long enough for you to completely memorize it three times over. Now imagine that the images in the slide show consist entirely of mundane scenes – a small park; and empty tennis court; a piano. Now imagine that the people running the slide show are having a frustratingly slow, semi-lucid conversation about events that only occasionally relate to the slides they're showing you. Great – you've just imagined the entirety of the film `India Song.'

The film is an agonizingly slow montage of images that do little except to simply scream out `Look at me! I am PROFOUND!!' with such blatant self-importance that the images themselves and the movie as a whole are rendered not merely bereft of profundity, but COMICALLY bereft of profundity. The visuals could easily have been replaced by a series of static images as described above, since it is so rare that there are actually people on screen, and even when they are, the people actually move only slightly more often than the furniture. They never speak or interact in any meaningful way – they just stand there looking at each other, and occasionally crying. The most energetic moment in the entire first hour of the film is when three people walk across a parking lot in slow motion. In fact, the visuals could easily have been left out entirely, as the story is told completely through narration. The story is about a woman who hates India because it's hot, and hates people don't hate India because it's hot (this point is covered several times). It is also about a man who feels that he is entitled to sleep with the aforementioned woman, since she will sleep with anyone who asks her to, but he doesn't get to sleep with her simply because he never asks, and he's very upset about this. So he stares at her as a single tear runs profoundly down his cheek. Later on, he stares at his bicycle, as a single tear runs profoundly down his cheek. Actually, you don't get to see the single tear running profoundly down his cheek when he's staring at his bicycle, but you know it's there anyway, just because that's the sort of film this is.

At best, the narration becomes background hum, serving as a perfect compliment to the coma-inducing visuals. Simply staying conscious through the entirety of this film would require a supreme act of determination. To watch it and actually come away with a serious and meaningful idea of what it was supposed to be about would induce the same sort of migraine as trying to read lengthy technical documents in the dark. This film is perhaps the greatest monument of pseudo-artistic pretension that man will ever know.
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I now have a better understanding as to the nature of eternity
bebere9927 December 2001
I felt as though the two hours I spent watching this film may have been better served by perhaps going to the local used bookstore and looking for old fashion magazines and Halston ads. Or perhaps by watching paint dry. Those two employments would have at least engaged my mind a bit more than "India Song." The most frustrating part of sitting through this was that I could see what moods/atmospheres were trying to be created and the notion of these could have been interesting if they had been fleshed out more. Instead, what happened was a presentation of an incoherent, silly chain of nonevents - with the same scenes rehashed over and over to beat some sort of point into our senses.

I was loathe to devote more time to this film by writing any sort of review, except to perhaps warn other folks against this waste of time.
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India song VHS-Secam video
pixie74721 May 2007
This film was a real surprise when I discovered it in the early '90s and it became one of my favorites. I enjoyed the general slow pace of the film, its dreaminess and yet its inner violence.It's exactly what I imagine tropical climates do to influence your mood .In the same vein Marguerite Duras made "L' Amant ", a semi autobiographical film.

Anyway, you CAN find the video VHS-SECAM . I "stumbled" on it in a bookshop in Montpellier a couple of years ago. Here are the details :

India SONG Ecrit par Marguerite Duras

Entretiens Dominique Noguez Réalisation Jérôme Beaujour et Jean Mascolo Benoît Jacob Vidéo 2001
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It makes me sleep but I like it.
ollebon2 April 2002
I've seen India Song two times. The first time I saw it I fell asleep after thirty minutes or so. There's a scream somewhere in the film that woke me up for a while, but it didn't last. Anyway I was intrigued by the way the images and the narration was juxtaposed, they don't really play the same tune. The images are soft, cool and slow, while the narration was telling us about strong emotions. A pretty good picture of the angst of the priviliged classes in colonial service. I sort of missed the details of the plot, but I think I got the essence of the film. The second time I saw it I stayed awake for five reels (I was counting the shiftmarks) but it was still beautiful and I truly enjoyed it. It's a one of a kind movie and I think it should be credited for that.
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a challenging piece of modernist filmmaking.
foureyes-217 May 2002
It's unfortunate that this film is not available in vhs or dvd form for the viewing public. India Song is a great example of Duras' reworking of the traditional relationship between sound and image. The emphasis on the sound track is a crucial aspect of the film as the viewer is actively challenged to figure out which voice belongs to which character and the chronology of events in the narrative. Ofcourse, this separation of sound and image can be troubling for some and unfortunately Duras' films are often labeled "difficult" . But for those up to the challenge you won't be disappointed.
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Jouissance féminine
ajsevo17 May 2008
This film is a landmark in feminine avant-garde aesthetics. Because of its painfully slow rhythm throughout the film, the spectator is forced to take a certain distance and a critical position to the way the film has been constructed: she/he can no longer reconcile with an illusion pretending to reflect the world as we are used to seeing it being represented ( > conventional aesthetics of cinema ), but is on the contrary obliged to take an active, intellectual position thinking about the narrative structure of this work of art - and furthermore - what might this characteristic of the film represent. In fact, the slow rhythm along with the sensual colours, shapes, perfumes and sounds transmitted through the film could easily be seen to reflect Duras'conception of "jouissance féminine".
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very, very boring -you will not enjoy this film.
hal_in_europe30 December 2004
Extremely boring..I don't care how many avant-garde bones you have in your body, this baby sucks...and don't go and see it because I mentioned that, save it for Warhol's "Empire", it's far more entertaining!! I have seen other Duras films that were far better, so I am dumbfounded why this is considered a "Masterpiece". As an Art Historian, I have had to consider radical works by Marcel Duchamp, Chris Burden, and Damien Hurst, and in these artist I can still see artistic intent , even quality, and an entertaining aspect in the rendering of their art. As for "India Song" -it's not even soft-porn- Anias Nin was almost here - G-rated slide show of sex- and a voice-over that does not relate to the slide show / movie......pure crap and not even campy...sadly just a bore and a waste of 2 hours. To add insult to injury, the print I saw was faded and scratched to hell!!! (Harvard Film Archive), If I want to see "entertaining boring" I watch Bunuel!! Yes "India Song"- hold your head high to late modernism and be truly bored!! Watch a 70's porn film with all the good parts cut out and turn the sound down, you'll get "India Song" but with better cinematography and none of the annoying music or the screams of the Vice Consul!!!.
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the definition of Synesthetics
adrichicken21 February 2006
Don't ask me what this movie is about! I don't have a clue. the plot and the characters... it's all a blur...But that's besides the point. India Song is like a visit to a museum, when you're only interested in admiring the beauty of the works of art. you can smell the deep scents of each scene. the incense, the dew on the grass at dawn, the perfume, the cigarette smoke. the musky smell of old curtains in a locked up room, next to a stagnant swamp, full of mosquitoes buzzing about. you can taste the wine. the music is like a trance. a very rewarding synesthetic work of art, if you're patient enough to really see (i nearly wasn't). just don't ask me what it's about! (and personally, I found the main actress really ugly and don't know why all those men saw in her)
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