A real little film miracle comes to us from India. A wonderful film that could be described as the Indian answer to the wonderful “Cinema Paradiso” by Giuseppe Tornatore, because “Last Film Show” is also an incredible and playful tribute to the film, but also to that incredible country, India. This film is also an Indian candidate for the Oscar, and “Last Film Show” was shown at numerous world festivals. It is partly an autobiographical story because the main character, the nine-year-old boy Samay, was created by screenwriter and director Pan Nalin based on his own upbringing in a village in the province of Gujarat in the west of India. Samay is a playful and imaginative boy who is not really hot for school, and he helps his father who cooks and sells tea next to the train station.
And it’s a typical poor Indian family that lives modestly, and the world will completely open up for this boy when he discovers that there is a movie. This is the first and last movie you will see, Samay’s father explains after taking the whole family to a local town for a screening of a religious film. This will be enough for Samay to become completely mesmerized by the film and he will befriend the projectionist Fazal, whom he will bribe with food prepared by his mother to let him into the hall to watch this film magic. Samay himself will soon start playing with light, colors and filmstrip, and this boy, fascinated not only by film as a medium, but also by filmstrips, will start organizing impromptu screenings for his friends in the village.
From the first scene to the last, “Last Film Show” is a film that completely delights and that perfectly portrays that boyish playfulness, carefreeness, curiosity and desire to learn something himself. It is a film that exudes that true Indian colorfulness, and of course Samay’s first encounter with the film will be the typical Bollywood kitsch, but he will be completely mesmerized anyway. He will slowly understand what his new projectionist is doing with film tape, light, shadows, and he will also get his friends interested in playing with the film. It was one of those real feel good movies, a nostalgic and simply wonderful adventure coming-of-age humorous drama that is equally a tribute to the film, but also to childhood.
In that period of life when we absorb everything around us, when imagination develops and when practically everything seems somehow possible and achievable. So for this kid from that real Indian backwater, nothing in life will be interesting anymore once he discovers film and realizes that it is his calling in life. When he becomes interested in the film, everything else will become completely unimportant to Samay, to the horror of the traditional and strict father who, although he belongs to the upper caste of Brahmins, does not have a lot of money, but claims that the film is not suitable for them. Nalin managed to make a great film that we almost watch through the eyes of a boy who practically sees everything around him as something new, colorful, exciting, fascinating.
It is clear that it is a film that also plays on the note of nostalgia, but not in the pathetic and sugary way, but charming, witty and fun. Although I’m usually extremely cautious when it comes to Indian films because their kitsch, the creepy howling, squealing and dancing brings me to the brink of a stroke, in “Last Film Show” even those occasional, fortunately short parts, didn’t seem irritating. Moreover, it seemed a bit ironic as if Nalin wanted to show that this is also the beginning that everyone who loves film in his country has to go through. And that this awful Bollywood swindle is actually just the first step on the way to Leone, Tarkovsky, Ray, Fellini and Kurosawa, which you will soon discover.