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Chorus

Posted by martinteller on February 6, 2015

Mrinal Sen’s 1975 film has some similarities to Satyajit Ray’s Pratidwandi (1970).  Both are concerned with the unemployment crisis in India.  In this story, a firm announces 100 job openings and is confronted by 30,000 applicants.  The executives start to panic as the desperate job seekers outside the gates get more and more unruly, and an angry revolution is sparked.  Both also utilize unusual techniques, with a new wave sensibility.  Sen employs onscreen titles, mirroring, split screen, freeze frames, sparse sets, miniatures, displaced sounds, addresses directly to the camera, and multiple flashbacks.  The film also includes three sequences — at the beginning, middle and end — with Robi Ghosh in different costumes singing to the audience.

There was something of a language barrier here as much of the dialogue was not subtitled.  However, I felt the film was too broad and didactic.  I’ve never seen Sen in such a satirical mode, but I don’t think it suits him.  In other films he effectively demonstrates that the personal is political.  Here the best parts are personal — the stories of the desperate applicants and bitter strikers — and as the film got more overtly political, I lost interest.  It’s just trying too hard to make a statement, and movies like that tend to push me away.  Let the statement be made by the human drama, not sloganeering and caricature.  There are some great moments and a cast with many faces familiar to fans of Sen, Ray and Ghatak.  But overall it left me pretty cold.  Rating: Fair (68)

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