In the Thrall of Duras

Ivone Margulies at The Current:

Marguerite Duras’s India Song is a hypnotic chant d’amour, a release system for the author’s polyphonic writing, and one of the most beautiful films in cinema history. In its extended central scene, at a French Embassy reception in Calcutta, four Cerruti 1881–clad men dance with and flit around a beguiling red-haired woman (Delphine Seyrig). Mesmerized, we join an unseen audience that speaks for and about these characters as they glide silently into the realm of legend. Filled with haunting rumbas and pierced by scandalous cries, this mirrored salon and its ghosts stay with us long after the film’s end.

Upon its release in 1975, Duras’s tale of doomed passion defied conventional cinema with its antinaturalist aesthetic, anachronistic setting, and unrepentantly Romantic stance. With its glamorous and compact theatricality, Duras’s work shared with her contemporaries Jacques Rivette, Manoel de Oliveira, and Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet a disregard for generic borders.

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