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Michael Winterbottom gets it all together

With a film that sets “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” in contemporary Mumbai

Nicholas Barber | March/April 2012

“Trishna” could be the film that Michael Winterbottom has been working towards throughout his restlessly prolific 20-year career. After labouring over big-budget adaptations of Thomas Hardy’s “Jude the Obscure” and “The Mayor of Casterbridge”, he slipped the studios’ yokes for the freedom to shoot on-the-hoof indie films with improvised dialogue and real-life locations, including last year’s twisted gastro-travelogue for the BBC, “The Trip”.

On “Trishna”, those two approaches come together to remarkable effect. The film is based on another of Hardy’s novels, “Tess of the D’Urbervilles”, but set in contemporary India, which Winterbottom sees as analogous to late-19th-century England. The dizzyingly beautiful Freida Pinto (above left) from “Slumdog Millionaire” stars as an innocent country lass from Rajasthan who is whisked away to the bright lights of Mumbai by a silver-tongued Anglo-Indian hotelier’s son, Riz Ahmed (“Four Lions”), an amalgam of the book’s two male leads, Alec and Angel. Despite the liberties taken with the text, “Trishna” is recognisably Hardy’s tragedy of male condescension.

But Winterbottom’s footage of genuine locals going about their daily lives gives it the immediacy and naturalism of a fly-on-the-wall documentary. And bleak as the story may be, the sun-baked temples and deserts could just entice as many tourists to the north of India as “The Trip” did to the north of England. ~ Nicholas Barber

Trishna is released in Britain on March 9th and in America on July 13th

Films at a Glance

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (March 16th)

A posse of policemen and officials search for a dead body among the hills of Turkey, but they're just as intent on finding the meaning of life itself. Nuri Bilge Ceylan's odyssey, which won the Grand Prix at Cannes, fully justifies the use of that Leone-esque title

Mirror Mirror (March 16th)

Tarsem Singh's candy-coloured epics, "The Fall" and "Immortals", are more like high-end fashion shoots than typical Hollywood blockbusters, so his version of "Snow White" should be a sight to behold. Julia Roberts plays against type as the wicked queen; Phil Collins's daughter Lily is Snow White. Visual CV, page 122

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists (March 28th)

After the digital animation of "Arthur Christmas", Aardman gets its hands dirty again, returning to the claymation for a seafaring comedy. The pirate captain is voiced by Hugh Grant, the most unlikely corsair since Johnny Depp.

Headhunters (April 6th)

Jo Nesbo's bestseller becomes a farcical thriller about an art thief (Aksel Hennie) who gets on the wrong side of a convoluted conspiracy. Like every film based on a Scandinavian crime novel, it's due to be remade in Hollywood.

This Must Be the Place (April 6th)

Paolo Sorrentino, director of "Il divo" and "The Family Friend", makes his American debut- and one of the year's strangest films. Sean Penn, looking like Edward Scissorhands' maiden aunt, plays a retired gothic rock star turned Nazi hunter.

The Cabin in the Woods (April 13th)

A cunning deconstruction of the stupid-teenager-gets-bumped-off-in-the-sticks genre, written by Joss Whedon, the creator of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", and Drew Goddard, who wrote for "Buffy" before scripting "Cloverfield". ~ NB

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