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Cinema Junkie by Beth Accomando

Charulata and El Mariachi
MoPA Movies: Satyajit Ray's Charulata (Ray Family Collection) and Robert Rodriguez' El Mariachi (Columbia)

The diversity of the Musuem of Photographic Arts' film prgoram is clearly diplayed in this week's two film offerings. On May 13 at 7pm, the Indian Film Festival continues with another Satyajit Ray film, 1964's Charulata . Then on May 15 at 7pm, head off to Mexico for POP Thursday's offering of Robert Rodriguez' El Mariachi .

Charulata , as with last week's Ray film Teen Kanya/Two Daughters , is based on a story by Rabindranath Tagore. Set in Calcutta in the late nineteenth century (while India was still under British rule), the film centers on Charulata (Madhabi Mukherjee), the intelligent, beautiful but childless wife of Bhupati (Sailen Mukherjee), the publisher of a political newspaper. Bhupati has an interest in politics and the freedom movement while his wife prefers the arts and poetry. Since Bhupati is busy with work, he invites Charu's older brother and wife to stay at the house. In addition, Bhupati's younger cousin Amal (Soumitra Chatterjee) arrives. He's young, handsome and shares Charu's interest in poetry. Complications arise from here. Charulata was Ray's twelfth feature film, and reportedly the director's favorite apparently because he saw it as one with the least defects.

In contrast to Ray's mature, quiet eloquence is the brash, over the top debut feature of Robert Rodriguez, El Mariachi . Rodriguez used to watch John Woo's heroic bloodshed films in the late 80s and early 90s. These Hong Kong flicks made him wish he was Asian like the Chow Yun, whom he saw sliding down banisters and firing two guns at a time. That's why he decided to make El Mariachi as his first feature film. It was an action film featuring Latino talent. His hope was that he could make being Mexican cool. And he's succeeded. Rodriguez made three installments in his saga of a guitar-toting, gun-slinging lone Mariachi. The first chapter, El Mariachi , was made for a mere $7000 in 1992. Desperado upped the ante to 7 million in 1995. And Once Upon a Time in Mexico , a film that mixes Asian action with the epic scope of an Italian spaghetti western and sets it all to a distinctly Latin beat, cost $30 million, which is cheap by today's bloated budget standard. What makes all these films such fun rides is that Rodriguez doesn't take himself too seriously. There's not an ounce of pretension here, just a guy in love with filmmaking. And that's hard to resist.

So enjoy MoPA's eclectic film offerings this week.

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