Saw the colorized version of the Bollywood classic Mughal-e-Azam at the Imaginasian theater after last minute heads up from Sandhya. Arrived a half hour early to excited party vibe in lobby, wine and cheese, video interviews etc. Filed in early, used to NYC competition for seat real estate. The early crowd was pushed to the back of the theater, rather than middle, the reason for which became clear soon enough: the volume of the film was the loudest I'd ever heard, rock club loud. Pulled out my spare earplugs.
The Prince's love of a handmaid dancer threatens King/father's (Rumsfeld?) military dictatorship succession plans. Love threatens class structure. Does this translate to: amorous love = working class power? Familial love = authoritarian power?
Mainly developed into the prince's power struggle with his remote, absentee father who values social power over love. Also -- reaction against arraigned marriage? The affect of the love affair is intense, but it is left without any substance or development, not so the father/son dynamic.
Crazy combination of vibes: like a Disney / Busby Berkeley / Ken Russell collaboration with a soundtrack provided by Ravi Shankar/Butthole Surfers. Insane and beautiful and poetic and odd.
Strangely two-dimensional three dimensional spaces of the sets, like a video game or a pop-up book. Extremely psychedelic colors.
Increasing intensity of affect from actors using, cartoon-like melodramatic set-ups. The father king's neck swells up like a frog when overcome by rage, which is often.
The Prince is introduced as a warrior/poet, complete with frilly feather pen, but the poet thread is dropped from the character. The figure of the sculptor who introduces the dancer handmaid into the picture knowing the Prince's love for her will be a creative subversion of the authoritarian social structure he hates. We know the Prince is not truly subversive, or else he would flee with the dancer and give up power. The sculptor (director?) is the one reacting against an imbalance in the social order.
Interesting, persistent sound textures throughout the soundtrack. Constant ringing of ankle bells reminds the audience of the corporeality of the actors apart from the drama. Chains dragged across surfaces -- the inflexibility and inhumanity of oligarchy.
Beautiful sound moment outside during the Prince's execution scene. Outside but with an indoor-sounding small-room reverb. Exceedingly strange and compelling -- as though the outdoor public drama were taking place inside your head.
Crazy dance song sequences with poetry as lyrics -- corny, absurd, but also magisterial and with an odd intensity. Carl Dryer-grade close ups.
A few moments where still photos are used for shots -- the most amazing being the moment the dancer maid gives herself up to save the Prince -- time seemed to stop at that moment in the film, and even though the movie continues, there is a lingering feeling that time never re-started for this character, because the self-sacrifice for love was her defining moment of consciousness.
The movie ends on a reactionary note, though Gary says this has to do with attitudes about the family and the fact of censorship at the time....
Script shot through with poetic metaphor, and an intense feeling of fused dramatic arts increasingly felt as the dance /poetry song sequences build within the dramatic framing.