113 minutes, U.K., 2011, Colour, D-Cinema

The ever-enterprising Michael Winterbottom tackles Thomas Hardy with a twist in this intriguing cross-cultural melodrama. Since the social strictures of Hardy’s time are no longer with us, and he already tackled a period adaptation in 1996’s Jude, Winterbottom moves his spin on Tess of the d’Urbervilles to modern-day India, where it proves a disarmingly appropriate fit.

Slumdog Millionaire star Freida Pinto is alluring indeed as the titular poverty-stricken Rajasthani maiden who falls for English-educated Riz Ahmed, son of wealthy hotelier Roshan Seth. Splendid in Eran Creevy’s Shifty, Ahmed again demonstrates a sleek charm masking a duplicitous inner nature while Hardy’s fateful plotting does the rest. It’s all set in context by Winterbottom’s vividly authentic location work, which takes the story from the sleepy provinces to the buzz of contemporary Mumbai. As the tragic tale of hypocrisy unfolds, soaring Bollywood anthems provide local colour, while the soundtrack by In the Mood for Love composer Shigeru Umebayashi adds a dash of lilting melancholy in the Wong Kar-wai manner. (Notes by Trevor Johnston.)

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