Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A Passage from India

Indian summer. Riz Ahmed (left) and Freida Pinto
Trishna (2011) is the most intelligent sort of literary adaptation—a luminous resetting of Hardy’s Tess of the D'urbervilles that transforms externals into inspired new forms and retains the sweeping sexual power of its source. I have no end of admiration for Michael Winterbottom, the director, who paints vividly in short takes. He builds momentum using the techniques of classical montage (one scene, of an auto accident on a dusty road, builds until the portentous edits feel like something out of October), and pays homage to movie antecedents ranging from Vittorio De Sica to David Lean. Winterbottom knows where to put actors in the frame and how to structure cuts to give the excellent dialogue its due.

Winterbottom’s palette is as mature and varied as that of any other big director working today in English-speaking movies, including Mike Leigh and Wes Anderson. A Cock and Bull Story (2006) is one of the freshest and most innovative comedies of the new century, and Genova (2007) dabbles in mystical sentiment. Like both of those movies, Trishna gathers power in the telling and casts an uncanny glow over the memory.

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