Louis Malle called his gorgeous and groundbreaking Phantom India the most personal film of his career. And this extraordinary journey to India, originally shown as a miniseries on European television, is infused with his sense of discovery, as well as occasional outrage, intrigue, and joy. —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
Fascination, engagement with the Indian lifeblood, yet contrasting Rossellini’s fixation is Malle’s bemusement, bordering on cynicism, to the societal inequity, exposing what in India: Matri Bhumi was seen as purity as but poverty. Thus openly seeking an objective frame in grappling India, to not renew past physiognomies but to paint life, albeit life imperfect, yet of a vitality that endures, if not freely in reality, then in the rich heritage and landscape. In oscillating between scintillating self-awareness and diegetic panorama, an incisive document forms.
Orientalist, historicist, fetishistic, exoticizing, colonial, racist. If it wasn't for the occasional break spent looking at cat pictures on the internet, this film would have broken me.
What an unforgettable film! If it's testimony to its grandeur: I am traveling to India (seven thousand something miles away), almost solely because of and after seeing this film, which at six hours, and three minutes, is worth its every second. The colors, the culture, the music, the people!