- Despite director Benoit Jacquot’s experience, I was afraid to expect much from L’intouchable. The premise is that an actress runs off to India with only a name and a second-hand memory, seeking a father that may be hers. The results could have been absurd, the heroine merely silly. Instead, this film offers richness and authenticity, demanding that we pay attention and interpret what we see.
- The story begins with a slap and a daughter running out on her mother. We never know what was said but it is the end of the adult daughter’s birthday celebration and both women are drunk. In explaining herself, mother tells daughter that her father was an untouchable, from a Hindu family who burned the dead on the banks of the Ganges. She paints the release of the dead in poetic terms and shows her daughter her sari, before falling asleep.
- With this spare evidence, the actress tells her director/lover that he must replace her. When he won’t loan her airfare, she agrees to do an upsetting nude scene for a film director she despises.
- In the Q & A, both Jacquot and lead actor Isild Le Besco described the complications of shooting a film in India. Because they were shooting it after the Canadian film Water had been expelled from India, they worked in secret and tried to form personal bonds with the untouchables. These families burn thousands of bodies daily on pyres beside the Ganges. The scenes Jacquot captured of bodies burning, day and night, are arresting. The street scenes, airport scenes, Hindu wedding, hotel… all have an authentic, unrehearsed feel.
- This movie is reflective and beautiful but the ending does not satisfy at first – it only makes sense. Le Besco is searching for herself. With half a pair of earrings and her mother’s wild stories, does she expect the fairy tale ending? Will a long lost earring be found in India, like a glass slipper for Cinderella (Cendrillon). Is her father the a rich man whose family dresses her up like an Indian princess for a wedding? Does she deserve to be?
- On the plane to India, the actress sits next to an agreeable Indian man who explains that he is an untouchable, afraid the other passengers will hurt him for sitting near them. During the flight he is forcibly taken from his seat and sedated. When the actress asks the flight attendant where he is in the morning, she gets only smiles and lies. When the plane lands, she waits, anxious to see if he will get off the plane. But she doesn’t wait long enough. A real heroine would have made a fuss, demanded to know where he had gone. Instead, the actress waits a bit then gets her luggage and goes through customs. So ugly; so realistic. How many women would challenge the authorities in a foreign country on behalf of a stranger?
- Her journey reveals disappointing things about herself – about ourselves – which support the persistence of caste in India and racism at home.
- Nue Proprieté (Private Property) is a family story in which love comes out wrong. A divorced mother despises her ex-husband but lives in the family house and accepts money to support herself and her two adult sons. We know there is something too close about this threesome. The mother asks her sons to critique her lingerie and showers in front of them. The men act like boys and even bathe together, taking turns at washing each other’s hair. This is less shocking when we realize they are twins. They share the wordless bond of twins in a family so intimate that their only privacy is keeping secrets.
- Conflict arises when the mother, tired of serving her sons in an isolated farmhouse, decides to sell and start a new life with her lover, the neighbour. The boys are aghast but the crisis doesn’t reach it’s peak until the twins take sides. From their invective we realize that both father and mother have been pouring hatred into their favorite son’s ear for years. The end is a catastrophe that should have been averted through rationality, propriety and privacy.
Labels: French, TIFF Toronto International Film Festival