Fantastic Voyage India

Like my colleague Melissa, I too recently purchased a house and have been spending my current vacation packing, mending, gardening, painting, and fist-shaking. I need a vacation from my vacation. Luckily, before leaving the library last Sunday I had the foresight to check out a few DVDs to watch during needed packing breaks. In anticipation of the new Wes Anderson movie coming out soon, I decided to re-watch his 2007 film The Darjeeling Limited. Then after reading the short essay accompanying the disc I decided to check out Mr. Anderson’s inspirations for the film: The River by Jean Renoir, Kanchanjangha by Satyajit Ray, and the documentaries Phantom India & Calcutta by Louis Malle.

The Darjeeling Limited was not one Anderson’s best reviewed films, but along with the short film Hotel Chevalier that precedes it (side note: it’s probably the only film in which I’ve ever liked Natalie Portman), it is full of charming sets and lovely music. Like his other films, delight can be found in the details, such as a carefully laminated trip itinerary, a can of pepper spray, a matching set of animal print suitcases, an escaped tiger, and Owen Wilson’s face covered in bandages for the entire film. It is definitely worth a viewing–or re-viewing, if you’re like me.

The River is also worth checking out, if for no other reason than the striking Technicolor visuals. Filmed entirely in India in the late 1940s and released in America in 1951, it was a highly unusual movie for its time. Not only was it shot entirely on location using a mostly nonprofessional cast and crew, but it also had a nontraditional plot for its time. The India in this film is not full of action & adventure, or tigers & elephants. Instead it tells an almost mystical tale of love, death, and rebirth, and meanders from here to there in much the same way as the river of its title. The acting from the nonprofessional actors is a little odd and stilted, but there are some lovely scenes in the film, my favorite being a fantasy sequence that tells the story of Krishna:

I still have four days of vacation left, and plan to continue my travels through India with the films of Satyajit Ray and Louis Malle, and one of my favorite radio programs, Music From India.  How about you? What foreign countries do you like to visit through film?

Packing and unpacking,


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3 responses to “Fantastic Voyage India

  1. I really loved The Darjeeling Limited . It was really a fresh and funny. I would like to see Scotland/Ireland through movies . I mean exclusively shot in Scotland or Ireland. Usually I find only period movies of that kind but I do want to see a story set in Modern Day.

  2. Bridget

    I like movies set in England, France, and Italy. I wouldn’t mind seeing a film set in Prague, but I’m not sure I know of any.

  3. ZZMike

    While it’s not in the same league, it’s at least in the same country: “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, based on the novel by Deborah Moggach.

    I just read a few Amazon reviews of the book, and came to the conclusion that not only is the term “based on” more than accurate, but the screenwriters and director have turned a bit-of-a-downer novel into a quite fine movie (much like “Devil Wears Prada”).

    The movie is more about the English retirees coming to terms with themselves rather than with India, There is a fine ensemble cast, including Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, and Maggie Smith.

    Bridget: Movies filmed – at least in part – in Prague:

    Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
    (OK, I’ll skip that one, on general principles)

    Red Tails
    (I haven’t seen that one)

    Casino Royale (2006)

    The Bourne Identity (2002)

    The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
    (“Adrspach National Park, Trutnov, Czech Republic”)

    Amadeus (1984)
    (How could we forget that one??)

    Oliver Twist (2005)

    Slaughterhouse-Five (1972)

    I Served the King of England (2006)
    (I heard that that one was quite good)

    Cunning Little Vixen (2012)
    (The story involves the Janacek opera. Not out yet.)

    Here’s one that’s actually filmed in the city:
    Prague (2006)
    (Danish production)

    There are many more.

    One thing I remember Czech film studios for is their absolutely brilliant animation. They’re at every international animation film festival (as is the National Film Board of Canada).

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