This is supposed to be the last really hot day for the summer here (or something), so I thought I’d mix up a batch of batida de mango and then watch six hours about India, as one does.
This is a documentary TV series Malle and his crewed filmed over some months in India and was shown by BBC in 1969:
Many British Indians and the Indian Government felt that Malle had shown a one-sided portrait of India, focusing on the impoverished, rather than the developing, parts of the country. A diplomatic incident occurred when the Indian government asked the BBC to stop broadcasting the programme. The BBC refused and were briefly asked to leave their New Delhi bureau.
I had expected something more like Humain, trop humain — with is basically silent, with the camera just registering things. But this is very different. I don’t think Malle has shut up for more than a handful of seconds so far?
I kinda get the feeling that Malle haven’t really talked to er anybody about anything here, because he keeps saying odd stuff. It’s like… an India from first principles? (Which is another way of saying “without knowing anything about anything”.)
But on some subjects he seems insightful, but perhaps that’s just because I know nothing about it.
Dude. Rude much?
I can see why people in Britain protested this series — it makes India seem like a really unpleasant place. I don’t think that’s Malle’s project, exactly? He’s flabbergasted by India? But critical, especially of all the particularly risible religious stuff.
As the series progresses, Malle’s narration peters out a bit, fortunately. The images are great and fascinating, and Malle’s narration is the least interesting bit.
I’m enjoying this rant against the caste system (and how hard it is to get Indian people to even admit that it exists).
I think some of this could have been edited down. The episode about the Bonda people was interesting, but seemed to have nothing to do with anything else. And now they seem to be just visiting some random ashram, and it feels like watching holiday snaps now.
The final episode is a bit like watching a news reel? Very different from the previous episodes.
This is a wildly uneven er film. Or TV series. There’s some gorgeous shots and some fascinating stuff in here, but there’s also a bunch of stuff that seems to be in here just because they’d happened to film it, and didn’t want to get rid of it. So it doesn’t really make that much sense as a film I mean TV series?
But is it worth watching? Sure. So:
Phantom India. Louis Malle. 1969.
This blog post is part of the Eclipse series.