With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Friday, January 13, 2012

ACF 1306: Raj Kapoor's MY NAME IS JOKER screening tonight and tomorrow at MoMA

Imaga courtesy Indian International Film Academy
 My Name Is Joker / Meera Nam Joker
Directed by Raj Kapoor
India, 1970, 224 minutes
Where: The Museum of Modern Art
Theater 3 (The Celeste Bartos Theater), mezzanine
The Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building 
4 West Fifty-fourth Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues, NYC
In Hindi with English subtitles

Kapoor’s legendary film maudit was condemned throughout the Indian film world as an exercise in self-pity. A colossal failure, its reputation has been gradually revived by Western critics, who saw in it echoes of Chaplin’s Limelight and proclaimed it a self-reflexive masterwork.

Here Kapoor completely undermines the tramp persona he had so carefully evolved over two decades, removing from it all traces of heroism and social justice: this tramp is a saccharine, mopey, love-obsessed clown whose one goal in life is to follow in his father’s footsteps as a trapeze artist so he can “make Jesus laugh.”

Joker mirrors the three-story, three-ages structure of Kapoor’s first film, Fire, tracing the clown’s trio of pathetically failed relationships. As a sign of love, he sends each a sad clown doll and, later in life, gathers them all together at a circus performance for a kind of send-off monologue that begins and ends the film. This is a compulsively watchable, astonishing train wreck of a film. 

These screenings of My Name Is Joker are part of MoMA's Raj Kapoor and the Golden Age of Indian Cinema film series, which runs through Sunday January 15th.

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