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SATURDAY LETTERS : To Understand Movie, Know the Culture

June 26, 1993

I take strong exception to Peter Rainer's review of the Indian film "Khuda Gawah" (" 'God Is My Witness': Why Over the Top Works," June 11). One has to have some knowledge about the cultural ethos of a country to understand its films, for a film is the reflection of historical development, cultural mores and the present-day political and social reality of its society.

Such movies as "Khuda Gawah" are not made "largely for the poor and illiterate Indian audiences." The Indian audience is neither largely poor nor largely illiterate.

Indian cinema is roughly divided in two categories: commercial and art. Films under the commercial division are mostly musicals. Cross-cultural symbolism, as well as clan, caste, religion, are passionate themes. Most films are built around love, loyalty, morality, sacrifice and religious beliefs. In Indian culture, sexual relationship between a man and a woman is not flaunted, neither by the attire nor by the actions. Hence, a lot of subtlety is involved in depicting passion.

By no means is "Khuda Gawah" a classic or even a sensible film, but surely not targeted for the poor and illiterate. I have a master's degree and pursue medical research, and I still enjoyed the film.


Van Nuys

The Sound and Fury

Part of the promotional frenzy for Universal's "Jurassic Park" included a new sound system, DTS. You know what DTS is, right? Digital sound? Yes. But did you know that there are two types of DTS?

There is DTS-6, which is a full six discrete channels of sound, somewhat comparable to 70-millimeter, and there is a somewhat cheaper DTS-S (as in stereo), which is two tracks only. Basically, it works the same as listening to a two-track print master: The sound is digital, true, but its source is only two channels, which are passed through the theater's decoder matrix to derive four "pseudo-channels" that then play in the theater.

DTS has made no effort to explain or distinguish the difference in advertising--and there is a distinct difference in quality and effect, if for no other reason than that DTS-6 has split surrounds (separate left and right channels).

I work in a location that has one of each systems installed. We have had complaints from people who have heard the sound first in the DTS-6 house, then have come back for another show and, unaware of the different systems, ended up in the DTS-S house. They were most displeased !


Los Angeles

Value Judgment

Re "Sprinkle's Brave, Witty Journey to 'Post-Post Porn Modernist' " (June 12): My wife and I would like to thank The Times and Jan Breslauer for their assistance in raising our young daughter.

We are no longer swayed by the "hot and bothered" members of the "religious right." Instead, Annie Sprinkle's "brave, witty journey" will serve as a role model for young Mary. We have canceled her baptism and first communion and are now eagerly awaiting the day she demonstrates that she is a "powerful woman" by inviting "viewers up to look at her cervix" during a "Public Cervix Announcement" and "douche break."

When will "Sen. Jesse Helms and his cronies" stop their misguided efforts? Thank God, rather than the National Endowment for the Arts, that such an important message receives significant taxpayer funding above and beyond the $12 per person paid by the "overflow crowd."


San Pedro

Korda's 'Jungle Book'

About Disney's planned "live-action" production of Rudyard Kipling's "Jungle Book" (Morning Report, June 12): It's always mentioned as if there had never been a "live action" version of that story.

The 1942 United Artists release of the unbelievably Technicolored Zoltan Korda version of this story starring Sabu is the stuff that dreams are made of. For sheer Technicolored extravagance, it belongs right up there in the pantheon alongside "Black Narcissus," "Blood and Sand," John Ford's "Three Godfathers," and maybe two or three others.

It was a wondrous congress of delights that, while straying further from Kipling than it probably should have, presented images of such lush, poetic fantasy that any of them would stand today.

Sabu never had a role before or after that was as perfect for him. The supporting cast had the strongest character actors that the era had to offer, Rosemary DeCamp and Joseph Calleia among them.

And, as in almost any Zoltan Korda film, the visuals were near perfection. Has a fire ever been photographed with such hypnotic exoticism as the one that consumed Mowgli's jungle? The King's Treasure Chamber in the Lost City has lived in my mind's eye since first I ever beheld it.

But don't look to be impressed by "The Jungle Book" in any of the three variously marketed versions that are available on videocassette. These 10th- or 20th-generation prints committed to tape are so dark and drained of the vibrant, three-strip Technicolor palette that there is no comparison to the original.

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