Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Fantastic Fest ’16: Original Copy
Alfred Talkies in Mumbai might just be the closest thing left to the old school
grindhouse experience left in the world. However, the genteel owner Najma
Loynmoon would not want to hear that. She insists on running a clean and
orderly establishment, for the sake of the friendly spirits haunting the
building. Under her protective stewardship, the Alfred operates much the same
as it did when her stern grandfather was in charge. Most notably, that means
they still employ Sheikh Rehman to hand paint banners for each week’s feature.
Frankly, his grandly lurid murals are much more visibly pleasing than the
scratchy prints the theater screens. Rehman reflects on his supposedly obsolete
profession in Florian Heinzen-Ziob & Georg Heinzen’s Original Copy (trailer here), which screens during the 2016 Fantastic Fest.
Mumbai’s construction boom has altered traffic patterns in ways that are not beneficial
to the Alfred Talkies. Their dwindling clientele now comes more for the
air-conditioning than a second run Salman Khan film (or more likely an
explosion-heavy chestnut from the 1970s or 1980s). Yet, Rehman still hand
crafts his poster art, just like his father did before him. He carefully signs
each weekly masterpiece of sneering, gun-toting Bollywood idols, even though he
knows he will paint over it in seven days’ time.
Bollywood fans might expect something flashier than the Heinzens’ meditative approach,
there is something about the Alfred Talkies that old fashioned cineastes will
find seductively compelling. It is a real deal movie palace, with a large
balcony in everyday use (not that they need the extra seating). Any Fantastic
Fest patron who happens to be in Mumbai will want to take in a screening there,
just the faded glory experience. In a world of cookie-cutter multiplexes, you
just don’t see theaters like that anymore.
course, Rehman is crusty in a manner befitting an underappreciated master. You
could say he can be a little curt with his apprentices, but at least he livens up
the studio scenes. His paintings are also works of exquisitely sensationalistic
beauty. Arguably, he is the world’s greatest oil painter of hand guns and
You might have to be in the right mood to appreciate
Copy, but its vivid sense of place
makes it far more compelling than the average observational documentary,
largely because the Alfred Talkies is just the sort of place most cineastes
would love to wander around. Recommended for Bollywood fans with grown-up
attention spans, Original Copy screens
tomorrow morning (9/23) and Tuesday afternoon (9/27), as part of this year’s
Labels: Documentary, Fantastic Fest '16