Festival of Fire (Holi) | Chicago Reader

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This dumbfounding Indian film, directed by Ketan Mehta, is a sort of musical Animal House, with anarchist sentiments borrowed from Vigo's Zero de conduite and a formal ambitiousness inherited from Max Ophuls and Sam Fuller. Shot in entirely continuous, amazingly prolonged and elaborately choreographed takes (only 40 shots make up the film's 120-minute length), it's set in a dusty, backwater university, where the students spend their time avoiding classes and coping with the run-down facilities. When a visit from a government minister causes the cancellation of the spring holiday, the students' resentment explodes—they declare a holi, a festival of fire, and put the torch to everything in sight. The unbridled energy and impulsiveness of the students is played in ironic counterpoint to the meticulously planned and controlled mise-en-scene; at the climax, Mehta withdraws to a more distanced moral perspective, asking us to contemplate what this passionate restlessness means for the future of India. It's safe to say you'll never see anything like it, so take a chance.

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