• David Parkinson

Parky At the Pictures (30/10/2020)

(Reviews of Cordelia; I Am Greta; Being a Human Person; Cutting It Short; and CzechMate: In Search of Jirí Menzel)


The majority of cinemas may be closed during these enduringly dismal days. And who, in all honesty is that big a film fan that they would risk contracting a contagious disease just to see something on the big screen as part of a well-spaced crowd? There are still ways to connect with some of the films on general release, however. In addition to Curzon Home Cinema. MUBI and the BFI Player, it should also be possible to access the titles under discussion below via iTunes, Apple TV, Amazon, Sky Store, Virgin, Microsoft, Vimeo, Google Play, Rakuten, BT and Playstation.


CORDELIA.


Antonia Campbell-Hughes has been a compelling screen presence since she stole scenes from Jack Dee as the alternatively logicked Sam Spleen in the much-missed BBC sitcom, Lead Balloon (2006-11). She has also proved edgily effective on the big screen in pictures like Kieran Evans's Kelly + Victor (2012), Sherry Horman's 3096 Days (2013) and Jamie Thrave's Pickups (2017), as her trademark impassivity often makes her difficult to read. Campbell-Hughes is equally enigmatic in one of the two roles she takes in Adrian Shergold's Cordelia, which she has co-scripted with the director. But this study of a woman on the verge lacks the intensity and suspense to enthrall and unnerve.


Aspiring actress Cordelia Russell (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) is struggling to come to terms with the recent death of her father and the lingering legacy of a terror attack on the London Underground. She feels guilty for having survived after offering her seat to a blind man who died. Identical twin Caroline (also Campbell-Hughes) tries be supportive, as they share the spacious basement flat they have inherited. But she is keen to spend a weekend in Bruges with her new boyfriend, Matt (Joel Fry) and assures Cordelia that she will be perfectly safe for a couple of nights.


Feeling a bit more positive after landing the namesake part in a Covent Garden production of William Shakespeare's King Lear, Cordelia chats to kindly, but eccentric neighbour, Moses (Michael Gambon), about how mice keep rats away. She also strikes up a friendship with Frank (Johnny Flynn), a cellist who lives upstairs and who insists on coaxing her out of her comfort zone by going for a drink. However, Cordelia keeps being bothered by anonymous phone calls when she's in the flat alone and she is deeply distressed when someone poisons her beloved cat, Hunter.


She carries the corpse in a carrier bag when she takes a train to bury the creature in her stepmother's garden in the country. But, while Frank provides a welcome with some booze and a kiss, Cordelia is sufficiently suspicious to ask him to play for her before they tumble into bed. He strikes up `The Swan' from Camille Saint-Saëns's Carnival of the Animals and keeps playing while Cordelia makes a shocking photographic discovery in his apartment. Returning downstairs, she stabs Frank in the chest when he accuses her of messing him around and refuses to call an ambulance and calmly talks to Caroline on her mobile. However, his body disappears and her landline starts ringing again.


Despite a steady start, this atmospheric chamber thriller soon runs out of ideas and struggles to string out its slender premise to feature length. Poor old Michael Gambon is saddled with a red herring cameo, while Alun Armstong and Catherine McCormack are blink-missable as part of Cordelia's theatre company. From the moment he accidentally bumps into Cordelia outside a café, Johnny Flynn feels too good to be true, although he does gel well with Campbell-Hughes, who makes the most of playing contrasting sisters. But, even when she's confronted by the specture of the blind man from the Tube, her imperilled heroine is something of a stone-faced cipher, who is nowhere near as complex as Carol Ledoux, the Belgian manicurist played by Catherine Deneuve in Roman Polanski's Repulsion (1965), with which the veteran Shergold's film has been somewhat flatteringly compared.


Much pre-release fuss was made of the fact that this was Oscar-nominated actress Sally Hawkins's first venture as an executive producer. But this is an unremarkable offering, in spite of Thomas Pearce's thoughtful production design and the placement of Tony Slater Ling's camera to suggest how Cordelia is as trapped in her plush apartment as she is in her fractured mind. In relying on cross-cuts to generate tension, Shergold laudably eschews cheap jolts. He also pulls off a couple of disconcerting dream sequences. However, the unfocused pacing draws any sting from the underwhelming denouement.


I AM GRETA.


Coronavirus has rather silenced Greta Thunberg. Prior to lockdown, however, the teenage Swedish climate activist had the world's attention and documentarist Nathan Grossman had the acuity to be in at the start of her meteoric rise. For all its access and fortuitousness, however, I Am Greta feels like an officially approved profile that is not only restricted to anodyne revelations about Thunberg's personality, but actually goes into disappointingly little detail about what she believes and what she thinks needs to change if the planet is to escape an ecological calamity.


When Grossman first encounters the 15 year-old schoolgirl in August 2018, she has just started a sit-down protest outside the Swedish parliament. Her homemade fact sheets made an impact and the `School Strike For the Climate' slogan began to catch on with like-minded adolescents across Europe and the wider world. Suddenly, this beacon of judicious anger was being feted by green organisations who recognised that her youth appeal could only benefit their cause, especially when she came out with lines like, `How dare you. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.' However, her outspoken accusations that those in power weren't doing enough to reduce carbon emissions earned her some detractors in high places.


None was more vociferous and ill-informed that Donald Trump, who employed that typical tactic of the hectoring bully of taunting Thunberg because she has Asperger's Syndrome. The more he bleated, however, the greater her influence became (especially once she started claiming that her condition is a pigtailed superpower) and Grossman found himself at the heart of one of the most compelling news stories of the century so far. Doubtlessly, he would have wanted a free hand to capture Thunberg on and off the stump, as she became an iconic figure whose utterances at rallies and conferences went viral in seconds. But her parents, opera singer Malena Emman and actor Svante Thunberg (who invariably travels with Greta), made sure that they orchestrated the shoot to ensure that their daughter was seen primarily in a positive light.


This meant limiting the opportunities to show Thunberg as a young girl in a whirlwind. As she adopts a visage of unemotive gravitas and unwavering certitude when in the spotlight, it's nice to see her smiling and playing with her adored dogs. But, while she drives herself to fulfil her destiny against the clock, there are moments when she looks decidedly vulnerable. Indeed, one image of her suffering during the two-week sail voyage taking her across the Atlantic to a UN climate change summit in September 2019, makes her looks like Renée Falconetti in Carl Theodor Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928).


As he spends much of the assignment in Thunberg's slipstream, Grossman has a full-time job simply keeping up. Consequently, this often feels like a work of reportage rather than reflection, as was the case with Davis Guggenheim's He Named Me Malala (2015). He also shows understandable deference to the Thunberg family in respecting their privacy and not digging too deeply about issues of education, social normalcy and emotional well-being that shriek out for closer analysis. Moreover, he cleverly contrasts Thunberg's encounters with devoted acolytes of her own age and the concerted efforts of image-conscious leaders like Emmanuel Macron to get down with the kids.


Yet, while this serves as a handy reminder of a courageous young woman's willingness to sacrifice herself in order to inspire a generation and speak truth to power with her unique brand of candid exasperation, it leaves so many questions unanswered about the impact her campaigning is actually having when so many figureheads regard her as little more than a useful media opportunity and the extent to which she is being affected by the celebrity circus in which she has unwittingly found herself. One hopes that Grossman remains a trusted member of Thunberg's entourage and will be able to provide future updates. But he will need to offer much more insight and dare to be a lot less uncritical.


BEING A HUMAN PERSON.


For many years, Roy Andersson was Swedish cinema's best kept secret. Uncomfortable with having been feted for his debut feature, A Swedish Love Story (1970), he struggled to settle on an idea for a sophomore outing and beat a hasty retreat into the world of commercials when Giliap (1975) was accorded a cool reception. In 1981, he bought a building in central Stockholm and established Studio 24, where he could work at his own pace on his highly personal projects. Here, he produced the controversial AIDS educational short, Something Happened (1987), and the quirky World of Glory (1991), which set Andersson on the path towards the `Living Trilogy' of Songs From the Second Floor (2000); You, the Living (2007) and A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014) on which his reputation now rests.


In between features, Andersson has made commercials and it seems fitting that he is profiled by a fellow toiler in that field, Fred Scott, who recaps the above journey in his documentary, Being a Human Person. Made over three years, this is more a behind-the-scenes look at the making of About Endlessness (2019), which the 75 year-old Andersson admitted could well be his final feature. But, in addition to showing the painstaking precision required to produce one of his exquisitely homemade pictures, Scott also tries to fathom their maker's phlegmatic personality. He enlists the support of his closest confidantes like Kalle Boman and has generous access to the man himself. Yet, even when he appears to be at his most revealing, Andersson proves deliciously elusive and it wouldn't be beyond this master of deadpan irony to have stage-managed the odd interlude, including a truncated stay in rehab for his much-discussed drinking problem.


A series of short poems designed to expose human vulnerability, About Endlessness typifies the tableau approach to film-making that connects Andersson to such pioneers as Georges Méliès, who similarly created the magical world of his féeries in a controllable studio environment. Longtime producers Johann Carlsson and Pernilla Sandström and set designers Anders Hellström and Frida Ekström Elmstrand buy into this meticulous methodology and Scott shows how the team make use of the painted glass process that was invented by cinematographer Eugen Schüfftan in the 1920s to create trompe l'oeil spaces. It's charmingly simply, but Scott recognises the effort and craftsmanship required to achieve the illusion.


Basing his style on dreams and memories, Andersson concedes that all of his characters are extensions of himself. He often casts non-actors who are moved around the sets in a Bressonian manner. However, he tends to work on instinct as much as intellect and, consequently, a test shot that enchanted him one day will dismay him the next. This can make him difficult to work for, although his crew is pretty much used to his unique technique. But the themes of anxiety, nostalgia, dignity and death and the realisation that this could be the end of the line have prompted Andersson to hit the bottle harder than usual and colleagues are becoming increasingly concerned for his artistic integrity and physical and psychological well-being.


At this point, Scott reflects on how the 28 year-old Andersson considered going into the hotel business because the success of scooping four prizes at the Berlin Film Festival with his debut didn't bring satisfaction or happiness. To an extent, he is suffering from the flipside of that disillusion at the opposite end of his career and it was the determination to finish the job and make plans for a new project that led to him quitting rehab after 10 days and returning to the sanctuary of Studio 24 and the embrace of the people by whom he needs to be surrounded. They are dubious about his decision, as is daughter Sandra, who brings him a healthy smoothie for lunch. She reveals that he isn't much of a family man and is often insensitive to the feelings of those around him. But she accepts that he will always go his own way, as autonomy is the only way he knows.


Actors Martin Serner and Ola Stensson fret about being up to standard, while Thore Flygel grumbles that he doesn't really understand Andersson's worldview. But Ekström Elmstrand notes that the new enterprise isn't as funny as its predecessors and Andersson reflects on the fact his films are rooted in the guilt and shame he feels about humanity's behaviour during the Second World War and the sense of sadness he feels about his father's alcoholism and the depression he endured when he sobered up. Carlsson points out that Andersson has been tetchier since giving up the booze, but cuts him slack, as he knows he is under extreme pressure to complete the picture and confront the prospect of a future without an outlet for his creativity.


Andersson identifies with the struggles faced by Francisco Goya and takes time out during a trip to Spain to receive a festival award to see the Black Paintings at the Prado in Madrid. He declares that art's purpose is to defend the human being and his own oeuvre has done that, even when it has so much to atone for that it feels like an impossible task. The strain shows, as he starts to walk with a cane and he states to camera that About Endlessness obsesses him 24 hours a day. In a bid to achieve perfection, he misses a competition slot at Berlin to reshoot a scene, but pulls things (and himself) together to make Venice, where he wins the Silver Lion for Best Director after attending the premiere in a wheelchair. He entrusts the trophy to his favourite Meno Male pizzeria across Sibyllegatan, whose menu he reads daily with binoculars from his office window.


Despite Carlsson explaining that Andersson is a talented liar with a knack for hiding the truth from others and himself, there does seem to be a raw honesty about Scott's portrait. In many ways, it feels like a `making of' movie. But it goes deeper because it catches Andersson unawares, as he is forced to confront his demons and the dread that he would be left sleepwalking towards death without another project to preoccupy him (and fend off the boredom that drives him to drink) and keep his loyal staff gainfully employed.


The ongoing pandemic reduces the odds of Andersson making another feature. After all, he has only made six in the last 50 years. But we shall live in hope, even though this affectionate, if rarely immersive or penetrating study has the valedictory feel of Agnès By Varda (2019), especially as the perennial underdog signs off with the Hippocratic maxim, `Ars longa, vita brevis.' Long may he continue to find inspiration in the art of others, so that he can help us poor humans make sense of this increasingly unfathomable world and our place in it.


CUTTING IT SHORT.


The Czech Centre marks the passing of the great Jirí Menzel with a rare screening of his 1980 feature, Cutting It Short. This was one of the six pictures that Menzel based on the writings of Bohumil Hrabal after their first collaboration on `The Death of Mr Balthazar' in the 1966 anthology, Pearls of the Deep, which heralded the arrival of the Czech Film Miracle Most famously, they teamed on the Oscar-winning wartime dramedy, Closely Watched Trains (1966), before incurring the wrath of the authorities in the aftermath of the Prague Spring with Larks on a String (1969). Eleven years were to pass before Menzel turned to Hrabal again for the autobiographical story of a small-town brewery in the early days of Czechoslovakia and they further renewed their partnership with The Snowdrop Festival (1983) and I Served the King of England (2006).


Published in 1974, Postrižiny was inspired by the antics of Hrabal's parents in the early years of their marriage in the small town of Nymburk. In the film, they are Francin (Jirí Schmitzer) and Maryška (Magda Vášáryová), who move into a large apartment in the grounds of the brewery where the former has been hired as an accountant. While he is good at his job, he's something of a dull dog and the flaxen-tressed Maryška decides to boost his prospects by hosting a pig roast to impress board members like the formidable Dr Gruntorád (Rudolf Hrušínský) and Pán de Giogi (Petr Cepek), who is in charge of the local volunteer fire brigade.


Quaffing ales with the best of them, Maryška quickly becomes the toast of the brewery. But she finds a new cause when brother-in-law Pepin (Jaromír Hanzlík) comes to visit and forgets to leave. Having been shell-shocked and partially deafened during the Great War, Pepin tends to talk at the top of his voice and Francin has to bellow to the board in a meeting across the courtyard in order to drown him out. In storming into the kitchen to lecture his sibling, however, Francin gets glue on his hands and finds himself sticking to the papers he is trying to distribute to the board members. Furious at being humiliated, he barges back into the kitchen and stuffs the glue pot into the stove. However, Maryška is dismayed by his tantrum and Francin's mood is not improved by the fact that he gets stuck to a chair and the wicker seat remains attached to his trousers after Pepin cuts away the wooden frame.


Left alone with his ledgers while Pepin shares war stories with the fascinated coopers and Maryška bathes by moonlight in one of the brewing vats, Francin curses his luck. He is still in Coventry the next morning when he sets off on his rounds of local bars on his smoke-belching motorbike and sidecar. Maryška follows on her push bike and has the menfolk gaping when she emerges from the barber (Oldrich Vízner) having had a shampoo. She downs a beer with gusto and cycles off with her hair shining in the sun and Menzel and editor Jirí Brozek pull off a match cut of pure comic genius when they shows us a daydreaming stablehand (Rudolf Hrušínský III) stroking a horse's tail that's every bit as golden as Maryška's locks.


Returning late after going round in circles for several hours in a field, Francin presents Maryška with a glow-in-the-dark massage kit and nails a plank across the bedroom door to prevent Pepin from disturbing them. The sensation only makes Maryška more mischievous, however, and she challenges Pepin to a duel with broom handles while hanging out the washing. Francin is annoyed by the spectacle distracting the workforce and his wife and brother respond by climbing the brewery chimney. Feeling as free as the bird circling over her, Maryška is amused when Pán de Giogi clambers up the ladder to rescue her. But she needs no assistance and cheekily smears Gruntorád's face with soot and laughs when Pán de Giogi takes a tumble and besmirches his white fireman's uniform.


In a bit to make amends, Maryška tries to coax Francin into dancing. But, when the gramophone needs rewinding, Pepin steals her away and Francin is relieved when she injures her ankle and is confined to bed. She knows there's nothing really wrong, but allows Francin to nurse her and notes that the responsibility makes him feel more virile, as he is suddenly able to work the chest expanders. However, Gruntorád uses the injury as an excuse to practice his bedside manner and Maryška humours him while trying to alleviate his hay fever. Singing at the top of his voice, Pepin also remains in high spirits and helps Maryška saw the legs off the dining-room table so that it's lower (and lopsided).


Francin is determined to improve the brewery and buys a petrol-fuelled van to replace the dray horses. Entering into the spirit of modernity, Maryška has her hair cut into a flapper's bob and she cycles back to the courtyard to show off her new look. Rather than compliment her, Francin puts her over his knee and spanks her in front of the board and the workers. However, she rather likes this display of masterfulness and sits in the front basket, as he cycles her to a nearby field. But, as he stoops to seduce her, Maryška reveals that she is pregnant and the film ends with Pepin singing a loud song of celebration with the stable boy, who is on crutches and is covered from head to toe in bandages after all the accidents that Pepin has caused.


The notion of a wife enjoying being put in her place with her skirt hitched up may not sit easily with modern sensibilities, but this is a depiction of another time that was made in another place. And after all, the BFI has just released Charles Crichton's The Battle of the Sexes (1959) - an adaptation of James Thurber's 1942 story, `The Catbird Seat' - which is no more enlightened in its depiction of gender politics in a Scottish Tweed mill. The affectionate manner in which Hrabal presents his parents should also be taken into account, as should the fact that Menzel makes it perfectly clear who will keep wearing the trousers in this particular relationship.


Having already demonstrated his fondness for the early days of cinema in Those Wonderful Movie Cranks (1978), Menzel slips several moments of silent slapstick into his story, with Francin's struggles with a set of chest expanders and the pedal-powered starting mechanism of his motorcycle recalling the slow-burning manner in which Jacques Tati allowed gags to develop. The pratfalls involving Pepin and the stablehand are more Sennettesque, while the arrival of the fire brigade has a distinct whiff of the Keystone Kops about it. But Jaromír Hanzlík and Rudolf Hrušínský III's timing is impeccable, as is the former's foghorn declamation.


Despite the long-suffering Francin being something of a stuffed shirt, Jirí Schmitzer makes him tolerable. But he faces an impossible task in trying to compete with the radiant Magda Vášáryová, who sweeps back her mane to chomp on sausages and guzzle beer with an exuberance that draws gasps of smitten admiration from workers and toffs alike. Intriguingly, any political messge is buried beneath the pantomime, but the idea that change is inevitable would assume a very different meaning at decade's end when the Velvet Revolution swept away half a decade of Communist rule.


Relishing both the characters and the period setting, Menzel directs with the customarily quiet acerbity that is reflected in Jirí Sust's jaunty score. Cinematographer Jaromír Sofr casts a nostalgic glow over proceedings that is reinforced by the Zbynek Hloch and Michal Poledník's production design and Theodor Pistek's costumes. In many ways, this would make for a fine double bill with Walter Forde's pre-Ealing comedy, Cheer, Boys Cheer (1939). But the Czech Centre has found something a little more magisterial for its Menzel double-header.


CZECHMATE: IN SEARCH OF JIRÍ MENZEL.


It's fair to say that cinema is Shivendra Singh Dungarpur's passion. Having profiled Indian archivist PK Nair in Celluloid Man (2012), he embarked upon the mammoth 430-minute CzechMate: In Search of Jirí Menzel, which chronicles the decade that saw Czechoslovakian film-makers take on both their home state and the wider Communist system in a series of subversive pictures that have proved every bit as enduringly influential as those produced during the nouvelle vague. Both documentaries are available on disc on the splendid Second Run label. However, the latter is also being shown with Cutting It Short (1980) as part of the Czech Centre's tribute to the late Jirí Menzel, who died on 5 September 2020.


Sadly, there isn't time to do full justice to this exceptional study, which is vastly superior to such recent cine-documentaries as Mark Cousins's conceited act of mansplaining, Women Make Film. Dungarpur appears the more uncompromising of the pair, however, as his epic isn't broken down into chapters that might make it easier to view than in a single sitting. However, time rarely hangs heavy in this in-depth assessment of the Czech Film Miracle by those who helped perform it.


At the outset, Dungarpur was set to focus on Menzel, as he had been deeply affected by his Oscar-winning masterpiece, Closely Watched Trains (1966). However, Menzel was not in a communicative mood following an unwelcome and uncomfortable moment in the spotlight relating to his relationship with producer Olga Menzelová. But, having travelled from India in 2010, Dungarpur discovered that persistence could pay off and he made a sufficiently good impression during a brief conversation to earn an invitation to talk at length the next day.


Although the resulting documentary doesn't actually revolve around an actual search for Menzel, his sometimes contentious career proves its fulcrum. Polish director Agnieszka Holland questions the way in which Menzel and fellow Czech screenwriter Bohumil Hrabal handled the occupying Nazis in Closely Watched Trains, which leads to an intriguing discussion about the contrasting approach taken in such Slovakian films as Jan Kadar and Elmar Klos's The Shop on the High Street (1965), which had taken the Academy Award the previous year. The sight of Menzel back at Lodenice Station for the first time in half a century suggests how sincere his treatment had been.


Many of the pictures mentioned are available on disc from Second Run and are discussed in worthwhile detail in an article on the Cinema Paradiso website (https://www.cinemaparadiso.co.uk/films/collections/top-10/top-10-czech-films) by a writer who seemingly has to remain anonymous. Clips from several of them are included here, with Juraj Herz on hand to reflect upon The Cremator and Juraj Jakubisko dressing for the occasion to revisit Birds, Orphans and Fools (both 1969). This was the year that features like Vojtech Jasný's All My Good Countrymen (1968) were `banned forever' during the backlash against Alexander Dubèek's Prague Spring, along with Jan Nemec's The Party and the Guests (1966), Miloš Forman's The Fireman's Ball (1967) and Evald Schorm's The End of a Priest (1969).


The irony, of course, is that the makers of these denunciations of the Soviet-imposed system had been trained by the state at FAMU, the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. Moreover, they had been funded by the very appatatchiks they sought to castigate and mock. Nemec was reluctant to speak to Dungarpur and was rather doorstepped into sharing a few insights. Schorm, Ivan Passer and Véra Chytilová proved more forthcoming, as did performers like Magda Vášáryová, the star of Menzel's Cutting It Short, who had also headlined František Vlácil's Marketa Lazarová (1967), which was once voted the best Czechoslovakian film of all time.


Another veteran who caught the mood of the new wave was Otakar Vávra, who had co-founded FAMU and annoyed the new Communist overlords with The Silent Barricade (1949), which dared to suggest that the Czechoslovaks had resisted the Nazis before they received the assistance of the Red Army. Sadly, the centenarian died before Dungarpur could catch up with him, but he includes a clip from his 1931 abstract short, The Light Penetrates the Dark, which contrasts starkly with Witchhammer (1969), a fearless account of the last witch burnings in 17th-century Bohemia that suggested he had been coerced into signing a letter supporting the Warsaw Pact incursion in August 1968.


Slovak director Štefan Uher, whose pioneering Sunshine in a Net (1962) prompted Miloš Forman to proclaim him the John the Baptist of the Film Miracle had also died before Dungarpur started work. The same is true of the underrated Karel Kachyna. But he did get to meet Czechs David Ondrícek, Jan Hrebejk and Zdenek and Jan Sverák, as well as Slovak Dusan Hanak, whose acclaimed documentary, Pictures of the Old World (1972), presents a disconcerting study of the fate of the elderly under a totalitarian regime. Dungarpur also interviews compatriot Martin Šulík, who is something of an expert on this period in Czechoslovakian culture himself, having worked on the 26-part TV series, The Golden Sixties (2009), and having directed his own documentary, 25 From the Sixties or the Czechoslovak New Wave (2011).


In an effort to spread his net, Dungarpur also interviews Polish auteur Andrzej Wajda, Bosnian maverick Emir Kusturica (who was at FAMU with Croatian Rajko Grlic), Hungarian Oscar winner István Szabó, French cinematographer Raoul Coutard, British social realist Ken Loach, New York cosmopolitan Woody Allen and the US-based Ivan Passer, whose Intimate Lighting (1965) is one of the decade's masterworks. Among Dungarpur's other coups was a rendezvous with Véra Chytilová, who remains best known for Daisies (1966), even though works either side like Something Different (1963) and Fruit of Paradise (1970) deserve to be spoken of in the same vein.


Dungarpur wisely resists the temptation to be wise after the event and maintains an admirable perspective throughout a journey that required 13 trips to Europe to complete. Cinematographers KU Mohanan and Ranjan Palit were his constant companions, as he sat down with 85 interviewees in all. Editor Irene Dhar Malik was confronted with so much footage that the rough cut ran for almost 15 hours. However, she managed to halve the running time and ensure that longueurs rarely intrude upon the circuitous route, as Dungarpur learns on the stump.


He is not perhaps as instinctive a critic as Martin Scorsese in A Personal Journey Through American Movies (1995) and My Voyage to Italy (1999) or Bertrand Tavernier in My Journey Through French Cinema (2016). But his enthusiasm, reverence and readiness to acknowledge that he doesn't know it all makes him an astute and affable travelling companion.


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