The issue of imperialism is one of the "big themes" that will be on display this autumn; From the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq to films like Micheleange Quay's story of Hatian race consciousness Eat, For This Is My Body (more on this film in a couple of days), the cultural collisions and power relations between the haves and have-nots has always been an inspiration for film artists. Santoish Sivan's Before The Rains, which is having its World Premiere at Toronto, catches the eye for a single sentence in the festival's catalogue;
" A sweeping film full of striking vistas, Before the Rains has the look of a fine period epic, but as it binds its characters tighter and tighter within their dilemmas, it reveals the gears of a good film noir."
A colonial noir? The film that comes to mind immediately is Betrand Tavernier's Coup de Torchon and if Sivan's film comes close to matching the tone of that great classic, I will be thrilled. Obviously, I think Before The Rains promises something much different (particularly the perspectives of his Indian characters in the colonial moment), but as things stand in the world around us, a colonial noir sounds note perfect and a terrific antidote to some of the more literal-minded approaches to the stories of domination in our own times.
Santosh Sivan's Before The Rains
The film has a few other things that drew my attention; I am a big fan of Sivan's 1999 film The Terrorist, which blew me away (pun absolutely intended) when I saw it at the old Screening Room on Canal St. A moody, atmospheric story of a young woman who trains as a suicide bomber in the jungles of India, it remains a prescient story about life and the madness of political certainty. I also have loved Jennifer Ehle since I saw her on Broadway in Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing; She is a magical actress, but I have yet to see a film that truly captures her abilities. I was lucky enough to have spent a day at Lincoln Center this past spring, and I saw Ehle again in Stoppard's three-play The Coast Of Utopia marathon and again, she was tremendous. If anyone can capture her prowess, maybe Sivan is the man to do it. Looking forward to this one.
Santosh Sivan's Before The Rains is playing at the 2007 Toronto Film Festival in the festival's Premieres section.
Tomorrow: Grant Gee's Joy Division