Cannes Short Film Corner: Afternoon with Julia – Review

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Who are these two people? What’s their relationship to each other? You might wonder at first. Meet Anthony and Julia, a couple who meet at a coffee shop and start discussing about random stuff: The boss who frustrates her, his argument about why there are two kinds of people in this world – one who drinks espresso and the other who drinks coffee – and cinema, among other things. The first thought that came to my mind after watching 22-yr old Bengali filmmaker Abhiroop Basu’s impressive little short film Afternoon With Julia is, “This looks like a Richard Linklater film.” Here’s a film that’s all about conversations, mood and feelings. You see some random shots here and there and you wonder what’s their significance. I’m not going to tell you. You’ll find out when you watch the film. I’m here to tell you why you should watch this film.

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Abhiroop’s film is a wet dream of every Francophile who yearns to go to Paris – especially the Paris of old – and every hardcore cinephile who dreams of watching a film inside a Parisian movie theater with their favorite director. The girl talks about her wish to go back to 1940s’ Paris and if you have a wish like that of your own, you’ll immediately relate to it. I have one like that and this is one of the reasons why I loved Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. And just like the Allen film, this is Abhiroop’s own tribute to Paris – the city of love…and cinema! The best moment in the film comes when Anthony mentions a quote by French filmmaker Godard (of whom Abhiroop is a big fan of), about how a man and woman who do not share the same taste in cinema will eventually divorce. And in response, the girl asks him a question and they gaze at each other for a while. This is such an intensely romantic moment. The last time I saw a moment like that was in Linklater’s Before Sunrise. These are conversations that you wish you had with some girl who shares your taste in cinema.

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The film oozes class and sophistication from the very first frame. I have to applaud Abhiroop’s decision to use a pleasing jazz score as another mood enhancer. The languages spoken are English and Bengali (with English subtitles). And I’m sure many young cinephiles will relate to them, provided you catch all the references. Abhiroop shot the film in monochrome and there is a good reason for it. There is also a mention of monochrome in one of the girl’s lines (the one about 1940s’ Paris) and I nodded my head in agreement because that too is something that I wish to see happen to me. The two leads Samadarshi Dutta (who plays Anthony) and Neha Panda (Julia) have put in some convincing performances. their interaction reminded me of Uttam Kumar and Sharmila Tagore’s from Satyajit Ray’s Nayak. Hey, Uttam Kumar actually pops up in their conversation! Afternoon with Julia is one of the six Bengali short films selected out of a total of 40 from India to compete in the “Cannes Short Film Corner” that will be held between May 11 and May 22. Merci beaucoup, Abhiroop, and wishing you all the best.

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