Payal Kapadia's 'All We Imagine As Light' bowls over critics, gets 8-minute ovation

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New Delhi, May 24 (IANS) Payal Kapadia and the cast of her film, 'All We Imagine As Light', made a fashion splash -- and left quite an impression on international critics -- at its world premiere at Cannes on Thursday night.

'All We Imagine...' is the first Indian movie in 30 years to qualify for the festival's competition section, which makes Kapadia a contender for the prestigious Palme d'Or. The eight-minute standing ovation at the end of the film's screening was definitely among the longest of this edition of the film festival.

Kapadia is in competition with "European heavyweights such as Jacques Audiard and Yorgos Lanthimos, American auteurs David Cronenberg and Paul Schrader, and Asian visionary Jia Zhangke", as 'IndieWire' reminds us.

Whether the film gets the trophy or not, it did leave international critics impressed after the screening, with Peter Bradshaw of 'The Guardian' showering praise on it for its "freshness and emotional clarity" and comparing Kapadia's "fluent and absorbing" storytelling with Satyajit Ray's in his classics, 'Mahanagar' and 'Aranyer Din Ratri'.

Before the screening, the internationally funded film's star cast adorned the red carpet on the steps of the Palais du Festival, with Kani Kusruti standing out with her watermelon clutch (the green and red clutch was literally designed like a cut section of the fruit!); Divya Prabha looking a world apart from her character in the film in her classy copper-hued gown; and Hridu Haroon appearing in a veshti and long embellished kurta. Kapadia and her co-producer/cinematographer, Ranabir Das, however, settled for formal blacks.

The early reviews to pour in after the screening were glowing. In her review of the 'gorgeous and absorbing film', Sophie Monk-Kaufman of IndieWire wrote: This casual everyday vignette is brimming with a sensuality (the rain, the clothes, the food, the women) that people don't tend to notice when caught up in the rhythm of life. It takes a snapshot from a photographer removed from the situation to make you realise how full these moments are."

In the words of Fionnuala Halligan, "This fiction debut from a talented documentarian brings to mind the work of Lucrecia Martel or Alice Rohrwacher, yet there's a strong romantic streak that also calls to mind Wong Kar-wai's great love affair with the city of Hong Kong."

And Jordan Mintzer of 'The Hollywood Reporter' could resist comparing the languorous film with the cinema the world now expects from India. He commented: 'All We Imagine as Light' is about as far as you can get from the stylistics of Bollywood's masala musicals, even if there is one short and memorable impromptu dance scene toward the end. And yet its story of women looking for love and happiness in a calamitous world brings to mind those popular Mumbai-set movies, in which heroines suffer plenty of heartbreak before things eventually work out."

Will the jury share the emotions behind the gushing reception to 'All We Imagine...', or hear the eight-minute standing ovation? Will Kapadia come back home with the Palme d'Or? We will know only when the awards are announced.