Sunday, 18 January 2015


“What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.”  ~ Yiddish Proverb

For Movie Monday, today, a classic Peter Sellers comedy. I remember seeing this movie when I was a child of 10, and even then enjoying it so much that it made me laugh till I cried. I have seen the film a few times since then and always derived the same enjoyment from it. It is Blake Edwards’ The Party of 1968. This is classic Sellers in one of his best roles. He doesn’t need to speak, his gestures, his mannerisms, his glance, his hands all act magnificently and when he does speak, he makes one dissolve into a cascade of laughter.

Sellers plays Mr Hrundi V. Bakshi, an Indian film extra who has been employed to play the bit role of a dying bugler in a big budget costume war epic. During the making of the film, which we see in the first few shots, he manages to wreak havoc and cause several hundreds of thousands dollars damage. Even though he is polite and well-intentioned, his ill-starred bumbling attempts at making things better create even bigger problems for the film crew. Finally, he is given the sack, but an error back in Hollywood results in Mr Bakshi being invited to an exclusive Hollywood party instead of being blacklisted.

The movie mainly concerns Mr Bakshi’s (mis)adventures at the party and his encounters with all sorts of Hollywood stereotypes, but how refreshingly! There are directors and starlets, a cowboy and many socialites, bright young things and lecherous men, an ingénue, a caged bird (“Birdy-num-num!” ;-) and when you thought you had seen everything a painted elephant appears…

Although the film is riotous, prima facie, it is a rich satire of the film world of Hollywood of the 60s and there is a warm and tender message hidden in its superficial farce-like action. It is about culture clash, the herd instinct and the desire to fit into a culture one admires (whether or not it is really worthy of admiration!), it is about snobbishness, and contempt of one’s fellow man. The direction is wonderful and I’m sure Blake Edwards and Sellers were paying homage to Jacques Tati’s  comedies and were aspiring to that great director’s work. Closer to the present time, watching this movie one understands that Mr Bean’s frolics obviously owe a lot to this movie.

If you haven’t seen it go and get it and watch it, NOW! Even after watching it many times, I still laugh till it hurts!

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