Charulata ★★★★½

One of the most effortlessly edited and subtly directed films I have ever seen, presented with a delicate balance of private intimacy and public restraint, and filmed on gorgeous black and white, just before the mid-60s takeover of color. The cinematography is excellent, with very careful fades, pans, blurs, and close-ups that might loosely evoke Hitchcock. The plot is complex, weaving together no less than 3 different story arcs. They escalate, climax, and resolve so satisfyingly and so naturally that it's almost easy to overlook how intertwined they are, and how the consequences of each story affect the others. The score is pleasantly classical, with some modern minor-key twists for richness. But maybe most of all, this film is really carried by the immaculate acting of the main three characters. Guillermo del Toro is very outspoken about his philosophy of "acting is in the eyes" and I think this film is a key example of that. The subtlety of the internal dilemmas, the complexities of each character is expressed so clearly in their eyes and expressions that the full film could have been told with no dialogue at all. The pain and longingness of each character and their struggle to finally achieve what they have always wanted, only to lose it all in the most tragic way, this is told so brilliantly in the acting and visual direction alone, that no words are ever needed.

A graceful, delicate tragedy that would make an interesting companion piece with Cuaron's Roma.

My sole issue might be that the middle story with Charu's brother is the least substantiated. I feel it was too loosely set up to have full impact, beyond momentary shock and plot advancement. Perhaps, hopefully, it'll be more satisfying on rewatch. In general, I feel like I wasn't totally ready to fully appreciate a film like this, so I'm definitely looking forward to a rewatch in a year or two.

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