The Last Lear ***
Directed by Rituparno Ghosh
It's ironic that I ended up seeing "The Last Lear" first thing in the morning, after last nights disaster screening of "The Voyeurs." I made a comment about it being my first real voyage into Indian cinema, and had I seen "The Last Lear" first, I would certainly have had a better first impression. "The Last Lear" showed at the festival as part of their Gala Presentation, and while I didn't see the big event with the stars and the red carpet, I saw a morning screening that was just as good. It's odd that this was a Gala as there is no release date for it here in the States, and no big company label before it. This is another that may pop up at Cinema Village in a year.
At the center of "The Last Lear" is a performance by a man named Amitabh Bachchan that is quite amazing. He has such a strong command of the screen, and whenever he is there you can do nothing but stare at him to see what he'll do next. He plays Harish, an aging actor of the stage who knows Shakespeare off the top of his head. Harish is ill-he got into an accident, and you'll find out more about that in the film. And yet the cast and director are still having their premiere, even though it falls during Diwali-the Hindu celebration of lights. The person who feels worst about the accident is Siddharth, and we flashback to when he first met the actor. He convinces him to be on the screen for the first time ever, and Harish ends up being casted in "The Mask." We follow up through filming, including the aid he brings to a young actress, all leading up to the climatic moment of truth where we find out what really happened to Harish.
Its funny how this film does have quite a lot of similar qualities to The Voyeurs" in their themes. There is this constant look at technology of the future and technology of the past, but instead of computers and audio here, it is done through actors and actresses. Harish is a man who is used to a medium and style that is different from everyone else. He claims that he is a powerful and great actor, but on the film he does things a little differently. And Bachchan does a terrific job here, really taking a strong presence every scene that he is in. The movie does lag a bit around the middle, including a side story with the actress and her boyfriend who thinks that she is involved with another man, when the other man is just the sick Harish. "The Last Lear" is a very good film, powerful and heavy and extremely well acted, and its changed my mind on Indian cinema.