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Nuit noire, Calcutta (1964)

History of the writer who has arrived to the coast to finish the novel about the French vice consul in Calcutta. He faces a problem - very much tries to find adequate words for the history ... See full summary »


Marin Karmitz


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Cast overview:
Maurice Garrel ... L'écrivain
Natasha Parry ... La femme
Nicole Hiss Nicole Hiss ... L'amie


History of the writer who has arrived to the coast to finish the novel about the French vice consul in Calcutta. He faces a problem - very much tries to find adequate words for the history everywhere. Convinced as he has said that these words really somewhere exist, he writes, erases offers, tears pages. The history which he writes is developed in the outside world which seems parallel to what he invents though it isn't clear what of them reflects what.

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Release Date:

1964 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Темная ночь, Калькутта See more »

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

Sparse, raw study of folly and delusion
7 December 2016 | by federovskySee all my reviews

An introductory card states that the film is an experiment in pitting the creative artist against the psychologist. Can a fictional film throw more light onto the human condition - in this case, alcoholism - than documentary - than science? It's an interesting and perfectly valid idea.

However, the film sets itself a challenge: alcoholism is a tedious topic because alcoholics are tedious people, especially in the movies, when they spend the whole time shuffling around desperate for a drink. Here, it is Garrell (father of director Philippe) stumbling around Trouville with the alcoholic delusion that he is writing a novel set in Calcutta.

Scripted by Marguerite Duras during her 'India' period, the screenplay is the precursor to The Vice Consul. This project also apparently inspired Duras' to direct her own films.

The contrast between the squalor of Calcutta, constantly invoked, and the genteel seaside aura of Trouville lends a touch of irony that would be amusing if it didn't represent so pathetic an ambition. There are plenty of droll juxtapositions, such as when the writer muses on the pestilential Ganges and then fishes a fly out of his glass of white wine with a finger. Credit for these things presumably go to the director because Duras' original screenplay was apparently some way off the finished film. In her original screenplay, she wanted to make the man appear happy throughout. That was ditched for something much more darkly intense. Indeed, it would have been ridiculous. There are plenty of Durasian elements though, shot as it was in the town where Duras lived. Garrel is shown trying to write at Duras' own desk.

The ambient soundtrack is quite beautiful. At one point seagulls are heard while a woman is in her hotel room - the window is open, but it creates a surreal overlay effect that may well have been lifted by Godard in King Lear.

The sometimes-odd juxtaposition of narration and image throws up some subtle suggested meanings, and pondering the intended significance is quite satisfying, because of the assuredly sophisticated sensibility with which both were created.

A terrific accumulation of darkly intense style with some fine melancholy lines in the best Marguerite Duras fashion, such as these:

"He will let any chance for happiness slip by." "Calcutta: infinite city of the lassitude of being." "Words exist somewhere, hidden for the moment. But I know them all. All!" "How do you start to describe emptiness?" "Alors. Quoi dire? Quoi faire?"

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