When he was cutting Phantom India, Louis Malle found that the footage shot in Calcutta was so diverse, intense, and unforgettable that it deserved its own film. The result, released theatrically, is at times shocking—a chaotic portrait of a city engulfed in social and political turmoil, edging ever closer to oblivion. —The Criterion Collection
Louis Malle (born October 30, 1932, Thumeries, France—died November 23, 1995, Beverly Hills, California, U.S.) French motion-picture director whose eclectic films were noted for their emotional realism and stylistic simplicity.
Malle’s wealthy family resisted his early interest in film but allowed him to enter the Institute of Advanced Cinematographic Studies in Paris in 1950. After studying at the institute, he worked as an assistant to filmmaker Robert Bresson and codirected the documentary Le Monde du silence (1956; The Silent World) with underwater explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
Malle’s first feature film, Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (1957; Frantic), was a psychological thriller. His second, Les Amants (1958; The Lovers), was a commercial success and established Malle and its star, Jeanne Moreau, in the film industry. The film’s lyrical love scenes, tracked with exquisite timing, exhibit Malle’s typically bold and uninhibited treatment of sensual themes. Social alienation… read more
I can't believe people accuse such a humanistic and obviously apolitical film of bigotry or ideological inclinations. The user below me, for instance, is totally out of line with his "poverty porn" remark, and this isn't an "interpretation" of anything either. One of the film's virtues is indeed that Malle is very careful with his camera and the minimal narration, never condescending or exploitative, instead letting the images speak for themselves (and the viewers do their own biasing, apparently).
Poverty Porn: The Movie. I suppose after seeing Phantom India I was not expecting much from Malle, and again his colonial gaze dominates this film. Perhaps I am biased, for I truly do not care about Malle's interpretation of India. At the same time I believe that as a white European he has no place telling this story, while his ignorance of the impact of colonialism is astounding.
Unlike the other chapters of Phantom India, Malle seems unable to collect and vocalize his thoughts in front of this huge unpredictable city; only occasionally making some essential commentary, but for the most part letting the city speak for itself. It seems that walking through this dizzyingly diverse Calcutta of '68 for a day, you could experience beauty, wonder, shock, some pretty brutal and hard stuff.. a bit of everything; and I just have to reiterate my appreciation for Malle never once pretending to understand any of it.