Viewer's Discretion: Meet a Bollywood poster painter; solve Nordic murders
For as long as the films of Bollywood have existed, there have been humongous hand-painted posters — more like billboards, really — that accompanied their screening. As a presentation, these works mirror the bigness of the movies they announce, larger-than-life and walking a strange thin line between a personal artistic interpretation of a commercial project and a communal event.
German film directors Florian Heinzen-Ziob and Georg Heinzen try to capture this world in "Original Copy" by spending time with the so-called last poster painter in Mumbai, Sheikh Rehman. Mostly filmed in his studio in the theater he paints for, the camera follows his process, including his micro-managing direction of his assistants, who take the brushes when he steps back, but bear the pressure of his instructions. Rehman is also given plenty of space to talk candidly about his work, often with exasperation and even anger when it comes to his sons' rejection of the business.
"Original Copy" also takes the time mirror Rehman's paintings, insofar as they seem like panoramic tableaus promising an experience. Great care is taken with the story of the theater itself, Alfred Talkies, and the woman who runs it, inherited from her grandfather, who had hoped for a male heir for the job. And the experience of seeing these Bollywood films in a theater in India is well-represented, too, with plenty of documentation of the audiences before, during and after screenings.
If you are a lover of the film experience, "Original Copy" is a meditative examination of a corner of that experience that you probably haven't encountered. It shines a light on people and process and provides awe for one man's Sisyphean devotion to capturing what is intoxicating about what dominates the screen.
"OUT OF THIN AIR: MURDER IN ICELAND" (NETFLIX)
The current popularity of true-crime podcasts and Nordic-noir TV shows gives this documentary a guaranteed enthusiastic audience. It's an episode of the BBC show, "Storyville," looking back on one of the most notorious murder cases in Iceland. There aren't very many murder cases in Iceland — the country has been ranked as having the third lowest murder rate in the world, though if you pay attention to the news, you know there have been two murders this year that have made headlines outside of the country.
"Out of Thin Air" concerns itself with the disappearances of two men in 1974 and the subsequent convictions for their murders. At issue is that all of the concerned contend that they gave false confessions. At the center of this story is Erla Bolladottir who, through interviews, tells her personal story and her entanglement with the magnetic S var Ciesielski, supposed ringleader of a crime gang who engineered these murders.
While this is about the crime, and in particular, the psychology of confession, it's also about Iceland itself. Nowadays, we think of it as a tourism hotspot, but this story captures it in quieter times, providing a compelling examination of how crime can create emotional change within a society and how such transgressions become part of a community's maturation process.
John Seven is a writer in North Adams who has never been satisfied by movies and television that are easy to come by. He likes to do some digging. Find him online at johnseven.me
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.