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Films you must see at the Kolkata Film Fest

The focus of the festival is on the retros because these are probably films you might not get to see on the big screen again.

Shoma A Chatterji
Mon, Nov 11 2013

About Shoma A

Shoma A. Chatterji is a freelance journalist, film scholar and author based in Kolkata. She has authored many books and won several prestigious awards.

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Every Film Festival has its highlights. The Kolkata Film Festival (KFF) is no exception. In fact, it is flush with films from India and abroad.

What does the 19th KFF have to offer by way of possible pulls? The focus is on the retros because these are probably films you might not get to see on the big screen again. A retrospective features some outstanding films by a single director that shed light on his evolution as filmmaker, the reason why the director is celebrated with a retrospective dedicated to his films, his signature marking the director as auteur.

Though this year, the KFF has given different nomenclatures to different directors, the fact remains that the lowest common denominator that binds them is that the screenings define a retrospective of their films.

Billy Wilder, the Austrian-born Hollywood filmmaker who died last year, falls under the Great Master category with seven outstanding films picked from his mind-blowing oeuvre. The films are – Sunset Boulevard, Stalag 17, The Apartment, Some Like it Hot, Ace in the Hole, Sabrina and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

Wilder won six Oscars in different categories and drew out milestone performances from his actors. This writer had the good fortune of having seen The Apartment, Some Like it Hot and Sabrina, each different from the next like chalk is from cheese.

The Apartment (1960), one of the sweetest love stories starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley Maclaine, offered insight into the double lives led by the rich and the powerful, enriched with tongue-in-cheek satire and tremendous performances by the lead pair and Fred MacMurray.

The film bagged ten Academy Award nominations of which it won five! Sabrina ( 1954) starring a very young Audrey Hepburn, William Holden and Humphrey Bogart is a touching, triangular love story treated with feather-light touches of comedy and turned out to be a real entertainer.

If you look closely enough, you will find how the director has subtly taken potshots at the snobbery of the affluent vis-à-vis the naïveté of the people out of ‘class.’

Bowsley Crowther of the NYT wrote “the story was “is as light as a feather and as old as yesterday's news, as transparent as a society column item and as smug as a foreign-made car.”

If you want to see Marlyn Monroe trapped between two men, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis dressed up as women, then Some Like it Hot (1959) considered ‘hot’ when it was released, is the film for you.

It is an adult comedy that turned out to be a box office hit – almost all Wilder films were hits, a remake by Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond of a 1935 French movie,film Fanfare d'Amour, from a story by Robert Thoeren and Michael Logan. It is at best a bawdy ‘sex’ comedy by the standards of the time and teenagers disguised themselves as adults to have a dekko at the film.

Stalag 17 (1953) was a war film about a group of American airmen held in a German prisoner of war camp during World War II, camp, who come to suspect that one of their number is an informant. It was adapted from a Broadway play.

The selection has been carefully and well-designed to offer a glimpse into the tremendous versatility of William Holden as a filmmaker who crossed genres effortlessly between and among his films yet refusing to compromise on the commercial formula.

Other must-watch filmmakers are Adoor Gopalakrishnan (9 films) Nagisa Oshima (7 films) who graduated from B & W to colour without jerks marking a tremendous evolution in his choice of subject noted for his explicitly graphic depiction of sex, Austrian filmmaker Ulrich Seidl’s “Paradise” series of three films, Rituparno Ghosh (8 films), and Amos Gitai who has flown in for the fest.

Here is to happy viewing folks!

This article is published in collaboration with India Blooms News Service (IBNS)

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