May 29, 2008

Exotica and narcotourism

Finally got around to seeing The Darjeeling Limited. It wasn't good, but since I like the colors blue, green, yellow and red, and have a weakness for just-so mise en scène, I was more than satisfied.

When the movie came out it got criticized for a) making too much of India being exotic, and b) Jack [one of the American brothers] wanting to bed Rita [the Indian train stewardess]. This seems odd.

a) Anyone who goes to to India for the first time and doesn't feel it's one of the most colorful and exotic places they've been to has been to a lot of places, or they've come from a neighboring country, or they're missing a basic sense of awe. For Western film-makers and audiences it's not your everyday location, and to elide that would be forced. Also, it shouldn't be forgotten that for all it's seeming dominance the West is a shaky concept, with America not entirely like France. [My students are so happy to say Westerners do this, Westerners do that, when what they really mean is Americans in popular culture and myth.] Plus, this supposed West is far in the minority with regard to numbers, and we're exotic too. Place an Englishman in New York and watch him freak out at the cool of being somewhere else, never mind a guy from Mumbai in L.A..

b) The first or second thought of any young man [and I can only speak for them] when he goes abroad is how to f*** either a local or another tourist. If I was a historian I'd make sex and empire my specialty, and then become an alcoholic. My secret history of the British Empire would be young men setting out for adventure, $ and harems, fueled by patent medicines full of cocaine, opium and hash. The only way to travel.

Clip from the still above follows:

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