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France, 1968 (MIFF 1970, Programme 23)

Director: Louis Malle

Before the British came to India, a fishing village stood where Calcutta was established. The city evolved to meet the needs of colonialism: the growth of the East India

Company and the exploitation of Bengal. It now has a population of eight million, three times what it was when India became independent in 1947. More than half a million of its people live on the streets, and of the rest, some three million live in conditions classified by sociologists as sub-human. In twenty years, at the present rate of acceleration and with continuing immigration from the countryside, it will have a population of twenty million.

Louis Malle's improvised film was made by three people in February, 1968, and the director claims it represents a complete break in is film career. he wanted to return to a direct contact with reality, keeping himself in the background and simply registering the reality. He is concerned no less with the atrocious economic and social condition than with the dominant anglicised ruling class living upon a problem that seems insoluble.

The life of the city is revealed in it's hectic progression with bodies lying about and the ever-present sacred cows,... looks at morning ablutions in an oily port river front, unsanitary slums, rich people at play, business, leper colonies, marriage rituals and a whole panoply of Indian life. Commentary is terse, sets scenes well, and rarely tries to accuse or give glib solutions.


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