3rd I



Sunday, November 16
Castro Theater, San Francisco
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Director: K.M. Madhusudanan
Country/Year: India, 2008
Running Time: 94 mins
Format: 35mm
Language: Malayalam/Tamil with English subtitles

Fever nightmares in slow motion, shadow puppets in the candlelight, the unblinking gaze of cinema spectators—K.M. Madhusudanan concocts a dreamlike ode to the magic of early cinema in his languorous first feature, Bioscope. A painter and photographer, as well as a filmmaker, the director constructs such a trancelike array of imagery and sound that one cannot help but fall under its spell from the very first moments. This film is a hallucination that reawakens the eyes. It’s also a tribute to a more innocent world, a more innocent vision, beset by superstition, but on the verge of modernity.

The story, set in 1920s Kerala, follows Diwakaran (Murugan), a poor man entranced by the bioscope show, who buys the projector from its French owner and operator, and takes it back to his village. There, these new moving pictures are greeted with equal parts fascination and fear. While they gaze in awe at Lumière shorts and German expressionism, the townsfolk begin to gossip about the images’ wickedness, some even speculating that the bioscope box contains the ghosts of white people. Meanwhile, Diwakaran’s wife Narimi lies ill, and a disturbing dream replays itself over and over again, like a film loop, in her fevered brain.

Winner of this year’s NETPAC jury award for best Asian film at Osian’s Cinefan Asian and Arab Film Festival, Bioscope is the first part of a trilogy planned by Madhusudanan. -- Lucy Laird