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L'Intouchable/The Untouchable - art house and international DVD / foreign film DVD / French language DVD / drama DVD review
L'INTOUCHABLE/THE UNTOUCHABLE Unrated by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 2 stars
Actors: Isild Le Besco, Marc Barbé, Bérangère Bonvoisin, Manuel Munz
Director: Benoît Jacquot   Studio: Pyramide International
DVD release: 06 December 2006   Runtime: 82 minutes (1 disc)
Format: Widescreen, Color, Import, Subtitled
DVD Features: Subtitles (English, French)

A suitable alternate title for this film could have been "How to make a film on India." And since India must obviously be exotic, this could only imply that the film be set in a place like Varanasi, or the forts of Rajasthan or the Taj Mahal. For those filmmakers who can't afford these, there is still hope. Any random place will do, as long as the Taj can be kept in the every alternate frame.

And no, you can't simply say Varanasi. Each utterance on the screen must be to the accompaniment of soft strains of sitar in the background. For better effects, the sitar-tabla drill can be substituted by a deep OM that must seem to emanate off a sadhu from the depths of his dark cave.

Of course, with a subject like India, can words like "caste", "half caste," or "untouchable" be far behind? Never mind that, in public spaces, nobody goes around checking people's castes. For instance, when was the last time an airliner checked the passengers' castes, as they show in this film? One can only guffaw at the idea of Air India hostesses serving the twice-born better. In fact the mere thought of those hostesses serving anyone well is worth a lot of guffaws.

Cut to the story. When young French actress Jeanne learns that she was fathered by an Indian man whom her mother met years ago on the banks of the Ganges, she makes a dash for India - Varanasi, to be precise.

From then on, it's time to dunk the screen in nirvana, moksha, karma and dharma. But luck is on Jeanne's side. In a nation of a billion-plus people, she bumps into a a member of her father's family while watching funeral pyres by the Ganges.

Lady Luck is still smiling on her and, by extension, on the audience, for though they turn out to be untouchables (in reality, untouchables form the poorest of the poor in Indian society; those who are relatively better off are hardly Westernized or English speaking), her father's people are Westernized, speak fluent English, and live amidst wealth and luxury. However, they are also traditional which gives the audience a chance to see an arranged Indian wedding.

And if it is India, can elephants be far behind? They are shown as well, with some cell phones thrown in for good measure, ostensibly to show the ancient-modern dichotomy.

After all these shallow attempts at introduction to India, nirvana and untouchability, Jeanne barely gets a glimpse of her father before it's time to head back to her own world - but not before that mandatory vedic oil massage with a bunchful of incense sticks going hyperactive in the background. The soundtrack in the meantime has been handed over to our sadhu from the depths of the cave.

A better handling of the characters and a knowledge of the social and cultural setting would have made L'Intouchable into a good piece of work. More's the pity.
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reviewed by Shampa Chatterjee
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