Last Film Show (2021)

A gentle, heartfelt and beautifully-shot piece about why movies inspire us, from the point-of-view of an inquisitive village boy who befriends a 35mm film projectionist.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,340

Dir. Pan Nalin
2021 | India | Drama | 110 mins | 2.35:1 | Gujarati
PG13 (passed clean) for some coarse language

Cast: Bhavin Rabari, Vikas Bata, Richa Meena, Bhavesh Shrimali, Dipen Raval
Plot: When the magic of movies conquers nine-year young Samay’s heart; he moves heaven and earth in pursuit of his 35mm dreams unaware of heartbreaking times that awaits him.
Awards: Nom. for Audience Award – Narrative (Tribeca)
International Sales: Orange Studio (SG: Lighthouse Pictures)

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – 35mm Film; Cinema
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: The Projector
Spoilers: No

While it might be a bit reductive—and a tad inaccurate—to say that this is India’s Cinema Paradiso (1988), it is arguably the best way to sell the film. 

An inquisitive boy befriends a 35mm film projectionist at a local cinema a train ride away from his village.  They strike a deal—the young one offers daily lunches packed by his mother while the older man allows him in the projection booth. 

It is a heavenly place, also a nostalgic one, as we are transported to a time not long ago when films were projected on film rather than digitally. 

There, the little boy, Samay (Bhavin Rabari in an enthused performance), becomes entranced by the countless Indian movies that he gets to see.  But unfortunately for him, times would change. 

“I want to study light. Because light becomes stories. Stories become films.”

Seeing Last Film Show, directed by Pan Nalin, who is best known for Samsara (2001) and Angry Indian Goddesses (2015), is a trip down memory lane when I, like Samay, would accompany the projectionist as films were projected during the film festivals that I organised. 

The memories are still vivid—the projection room, the tools, the cans of reels, the whirling sound of the projector, even the smell… 

Nalin’s work is gentle, heartfelt and beautifully-shot (several scenes play with the cinematographic aspect of light, which is also a recurring visual motif), functioning effectively as both a family-type picture and an elegy for the fate of 35mm film. 

It’s also a reminder why movies and cinema spaces continue to inspire us.  If you are a true cinephile, the epilogue could overwhelm you. 

A bit of trivia: the last ever theatrical release that was exhibited in 35mm in Singapore was Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom back in 2012.

Grade: B+


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