Radhe Radhe – Rites of Holi (2014)

Radhe Radhe – Rites of Holi (2014)

Film Director: Prashant Bhargava
Cinematographers: Bhargava & Craig Marsden
Music: Vijay Iyer
Music Performers: International Contemporary Ensemble & Vijay Iyer
Actor Etc.: Actress Anna George and people of the Braj region of Uttar Pradesh
Studio: ECM 5507 378 3934 [11/17/14]
Video: 16:9 color
Audio: Stereo PCM
No region code
Extras: Iyer & filmmakers talking about the production (18 min.)
Length: 53:34
Rating: *****

This is a most unusual 53-minute film which grew out of an invitation to create something to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Being East Indian, Iyer had a filmmaker shoot some of the eight-day-long Holi festival and borrowed only the 12-episode form Stravinsky had used in his music score, although the filmmaker speaks of listening to The Rite of Spring while editing the footage. The festival and the film is a journey of devotion for the mortal goddess Radha, whose contact with the god Krishna personifies our interactions with the forces of nature. There are a few sounds of the actual celebration (and no narration) but most of the music is by Iyer, and the film is often shown in live performance together with the ensemble of musicians. Fore and aft of the actual dancing scenes are quiet and meditative East Indian scenes. Frankly, I had no idea of The Rite of Spring while watching the film.

Throwing powders of various prime colors at one another is a major part of the Holi festival, so these images are twice as colorful as the normal Indian scenes. Three hours of original footage were edited down into the 53-minute film. Actress Anna George is the only professional on the screen, playing the part of Radha viewing the festivities. The entire feeling of the project is one of joyousness and positive vibes vs. the rather dark scenario of Stravinsky’s ballet.

This would best be experienced on a really large screen of highest quality, with the stereo soundtrack fed to a 5.1 speaker system with one of the pseudo-surround codecs. The film is also available in a Blu-ray version, which was unfortunately not provided us for review.

—John Sunier

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