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Varied experiences

BIBHUTI MISHRA

The selection of movies featured, ranged from delightful to romantic to grim.

The film society of Bhubaneswar hosted a two-day festival of foreign films that featured a Chinese film, a Polish film by Krzysztof Kieslowski and two films by François Truffaut.

The films varying hugely in theme and treatment nevertheless were a rewarding experience for cinema lovers since most of them have been acclaimed celluloid classics.

The opening film Beijing Bicycle is about a man trying to reclaim his bicycle that has been stolen. But under the veneer of this simple story is the story of contrasts - between the city and country folk, between the classes, between the rich and the poor.

Wang Xiaoshuai's film also offers an interesting look at the rapidly changing face of Beijing, a city of widening class differences where gleaming high-rises face ramshackle housing blocks and dingy alleys.

The protagonist is Guei (Cui Lin), a young man who moves from the rural countryside to urban Beijing. He gets a job as a bicycle courier. But somebody steals his bike.

Getting his boss to agree that if he finds the bike, he can have his job back, he tracks down the bicycle to Jian (Li Bin) a top student in a family that is struggling with finances. To him, the bicycle represents acceptance by his peers, all of who ride bicycles including Qin (Zhou Xun), the girl he has a crush on.

Although Guei manages to track down his bike, getting it back is not possible as Jian had paid for the bike fair and square in the flea market and not stolen it.

The boys reach a fascinating agreement and the film comes to a moving climax with Guei walking on carrying a battered bicycle against the backdrop of the slow-but-sure moving life of the city.

The second film on the first evening was a contrast with its pervasive gloom. Krzysztof Kieslowski's relatively simple story about a young man, sentenced to death for the murder of a cab driver, makes an important statement about capital punishment and the fine line between victim and murderer.

The cast has Miroslaw Baka, Krzysztof Globisz and Jan Tesarz. Based on the fifth commandment `Thou shalt not kill' A Short Film About Killing, is Kieslowski's powerful examination of the nature of murder and it is wrenching in its uncompromising indictment of capital punishment.

In the director's words, "It's wrong no matter why you kill, no matter whom you kill and no matter who does the killing... Inflicting death is probably the highest form of violence imaginable; capital punishment is an infliction of death." Dark and grim unremittingly the film owes a lot to cinematographer Slawomir Idiak who captures the perfect tone for an autopsy of its subject matter.

The second evening featured two films by François Truffaut. The 400 Blows represents childhood and its turbulent knife-edge ambiguous emotions and situations.

Autobiographical in nature, The 400 Blows (1959) is the first of the Antoine Doinel cycle of films and the second film of the evening Stolen Kisses (1968) the episodic romantic comedy was the third in the cycle Antoine (Jean-Pierre Léaud) is reunited with his sweetheart Christine Darbon (Claude Jade) after a series of trying situations in his profession and love life.

The film's light-hearted air of spontaneity contributes to its appeal.

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