The Pool

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The Pool
Directed by Chris Smith
Vitagraph Films
Opens September 3, Film Forum

Leaving Milwaukee to tell an indigenous tale of life on India's west coast, director Chris Smith inevitably brings an outsider's eye. Instead of a collection of souvenir-tchotchke exotic vistas, The Pool is an album of observed human minutiae: of kids hustling rupees by reselling plastic bags, and the touching curiosity that passes between the subcontinent's young men and women. The exposition occurs incidentally, slipped into a bustling schedule of repetitive chores. The protagonists are two overemployed country boys, teenage Venkatesh and 11-year-old Jhangir (played by local, non-professional actors), transplanted to the provincial capital to earn a living. Bits of "business" anchor a succession of task-oriented scenes (beds turned down, water from the well, street food gobbled on the fly); this heightened consciousness of objects and obligations ballasts the drama-light, class-conscious fable with tactile life. Venkatesh spends his rare off-hours shimmying up a tree to contemplate the water of a posh house's swimming pool—and the girl beside it—with inchoate longing; it's his Gatsby green light. He gets behind the walls working for the sullen patriarch (Nana Patekar), never more expressive than when halving a green coconut, or spinning the child's top that itself practically gives a supporting performance.

 
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