Chiffon

***1/2

Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Chiffon
"There is much to admire here beyond the immediate perceptions, sensibilities too."

It opens with pictures of the back of the eye, describing that surface as if it were textile, fabric, not focal. There is a word used, "rafu", one new to me as a collector of argot and jargon. It is from Urdu, from Hindi further than that from Persian. Though somewhat homophonous it is no cousin to "ruffle", though each has a sense of disturbed smoothness, even nuisance or wounding. It is a repair to a hole in a garment made by stitching across the gap, pulling with further stitches perpendicular to bring the edges closer to each other.

That sense of closure, of threads drawing in, of seeing what is behind the act of seeing, key to Roopkatha Purakayastha's film. From the photographs on the wall or the mist of the curtains, from the small neat hand of measurements for an unseen body, the rustle of wind and the howling fabric, one small moment and then another. Texture abounds, even in the colder colours of a subcontinental winter.

Bijoli tailors clothes, a seamstress, her small shop draped with colour and light, the small frame of her Singer sewing machine the powerhouse of the operation. A customer, a bachelor, has a commission for her. She cannot take the measurements herself, they are provided for her. The work is still to be done.

Bijoli tends carefully, a grandchild, her small grandmother losing track of time and date, the small frame of Mashima a cause for concern. A customer, a mystery, has a commission for her. She will come to take her measurements herself, arrangements have been made. The work is still to be done.

Bijoli that's cast, a delicacy, her actor Prija Sada Ray with grace and poise, her small movements and emotions the heart of the film. As customer, Rishav Pani, a complement to her. Their measure is taken within the film, care has been taken. The work is good.

There are streets between these worlds, alleyways and cathode ray tubes, railings and rugs, doors of glass and their attendants, coffee tables and their coasters. These distances are not just of class and comfort, of opportunity and propriety, they are of sex and self and certainty.

In certain circles of film much is made of materiality, that grain and grind of sprocket and shutter, the mixture of light and lense, the ineffable and the inflammable. For other communities different materialities, leather, lace, pink angora or the eponymous chiffon. All, however sensed, about comfort, within or upon the skin, or both.

There is much to admire here beyond the immediate perceptions, sensibilities too. The clutter of different lives united by circumstance, acceptance, speaking in part through the act of speaking, and satisfying too. Short film has not the time to waste and though it is slow to unfold it is a graceful revelation and not an unraveling, no hem and haw here but a definite, and elegant, end

Reviewed on: 13 Oct 2021
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Bijoli is serene until a mysterious visitor shows up in her small tailoring shop with a commission.

Director: Roopkatha Purakayastha

Writer: Roopkatha Purakayastha

Year: 2021

Runtime: 30 minutes

Country: India

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