India Song (1975)


(director/writer: Marguerite Duras; cinematographer: Bruno Nuytten; editor: Solange Leprince; music: Carlos D’Alessio; cast: Delphine Seyrig (Anne-Marie Stretter), Michel Lonsdale (French ambassador), Claude Mann (Michael Richardson), Didier Flamand (Stretter’s guest), Vernon Dobcheff (Georges Crawn), Claude Juan (Servant); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Stéphane Tchalgadjieff; NTSC/Sunchild Films; 1975-France-in French with English subtitles)

“A static doomed lover movie that is meant to excite you stylistically as it bores you to death with its thin drama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

French writer-director Marguerite Duras(“Nathalie Granger”/”Baxter, Vera Baxter”/”Woman of the Ganges“) helms a static doomed lover movie that is meant to excite you stylistically as it bores you to death with its thin drama. It was filmed in a house just outside of Paris, as the fine aesthetic photography by Bruno Nuytten conveys the atmosphere of a metaphorical India and the numerous long slow tracking shots help create a leisurely pace while the evocative score by Carlos D’Alessio gives you an eerie eastern feel intertwined with a sense of colonial-era aristocratic decay. The lyrical pic, a visual poem, plays out like a doleful wishful dream for the mentally tortured heroine, suffering from a bad case of displacement over a colonial guilt at being enclosed in the stifling society world of the privileged while cut off from the world of squalor.

The protagonist, Anne-Marie Stretter (Seyrig), is a failed concert pianist now the pampered bored consular wife in ’30s Calcutta, India, of the disgraced former French vice-consul of Lahore (Michel Lonsdale). The attractive, well-dressed Anne-Marie has many affairs, all ignored by her hubby. Eventually her miserable empty life drives her to suicide, as her story is uniquely told by the spoken word, with off-screen voices talking through the unforgettable musical score and the classy visuals.

The unusually filmed lyrical melodrama about how boredom and alienation leads to the death of a bourgeois lady is hypnotic in ways that defy explanation, but is not for all viewers.