For decades, modern-dance pioneer Uday Shankar’s one and only film, the radical Kalpana, was locked away in the National Film Archive of India because of a copyright dispute. “A dance fantasy in celluloid,” as the posters for the film on its 1948 release boldly stated, it features hyperstylized cinematography, spectacular dance sequences, and a layered, melodramatic narrative that warns the Indian film industry and the newly independent nation itself of the perils of pursuing commerce over culture. Kalpana should have been an inspirational classic of postcolonial Indian cinema for generations of artists, academics, filmmakers, dancers, and cinephiles. But this was not to be. Needless to say, such erasures forever alter history, and it is only over seventy years later that we can discover in Kalpana a truly modern cinematic form, created by an artist who was well ahead of his time, and a manifesto for a secular, democratic-socialist India that could have been.
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A pivotal early film from legendary Hong Kong director John Woo, this martial-arts classic explores the heroic ethos of youxia, Chinese warriors willing to sacrifice their lives to fight for justice and fulfill their promises.
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One of the towering figures of postwar French literature, Marguerite Duras was also an innovative filmmaker whose rarefied cinematic style dared audiences to see less and listen more.
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In his directorial debut, Robert Townsend channeled his frustrations with the typecasting of Black actors, resulting in a satire whose hilarious critique of Hollywood still resonates today.
Romeo and Juliet: Star-Crossed Spectacle
Entrenched as an authoritative adaptation, this Oscar-winning hit is still admired, taught, and studied today for its spectacular re-creation of the past and its reinvention of the Shakespearean spoken word.