Last Film Show (2021) A Love Letter To Cinema & Its Pioneers - Tribeca Review by Anna Miller
Pan Nalin’s Last Film Show (“Chhello Show”) recently had its world premiere at Tribeca 2021; it opened the festival’s spotlight section and has found itself being met with an abundance of well deserved praise and acclaim.
The mostly autobiographical Gujarati language film from director Pan Nalin begins with a message of gratitude to those who “illuminated the path” before, such as the Lumière Brothers, Kubrick and Tarkovsky. This sincere respect and appreciation for both film and it’s pioneers is a theme carried throughout the entirety of the film, as we discover just how Pan Nalin came to be where he is today. From a young boy growing up in a small village with a seemingly far fetched dream, to an acclaimed director with a film premiering at Tribeca.
Last Film Show does just this, and brings us back to Nalin’s origins as a child growing up in western India— filmed at the same exact locations from his childhood. We follow young Samay (Bhavin Rabari) as his life is interminably changed when he lays eyes on his very first film at the local Galaxy Cinema. Despite his father’s disapproval of his son’s newfound passion, Samay falls deeply in love with film and befriends the Galaxy’s projectionist, Fazal (Bhavesh Shrimali). They strike up a deal in which Samay can watch films for free in exchange for giving Fazal his homemade lunch, made by the boy’s mother (using Nalin’s actual mother’s scrumptious recipes.)
A heartwarming friendship emerges between the two as Fazal shows Samay the art of analog film from cutting and splicing to loading it onto the projector. It’s due to Fazal’s mentorship and support that wide eyed Samay becomes enthralled with light, for “light becomes stories and stories become films”. He gets his group of friends involved; the youngsters are mesmerized by light as it dances on the wall through the window of a lumbering train, or how the world becomes anew when peering through colored glass retrieved from the tracks.
Running parallel alongside this childlike wonder and discovery these young boys experience as they become more and more passionate about their recent findings, there is also the looming threat of a heartbreaking reality emerging: the death of celluloid film. At one heartbreaking point Samay is privy to witnessing firsthand the fate of the film rolls he had quickly grown to love and it’s impactful enough to surely have film lovers mourning along with him.
The film is riddled with gorgeous cinematography as well as authentic performances; these aspects along with being backed by a lovely script and talented direction assure Last Film Show to hit the mark as a solid, emotional and captivating flick that is surely worth catching.
In another touching tribute of sorts, there is yet more gratitude expressed to bookend the film, with name drops such as the likes of infamous Indian filmmakers Guru Dutt and Satyajit Ray. After a moment, others begin to be mentioned: Charlie Chaplin, Godard, Coppola, Hitchcock—before overlapping narration of more names like Scorsese, Spielberg, Tarantino and Kathryn Bigelow are spewed in quick succession, as if Nalin is desperate not to miss mentioning a single name in his catalog of thanks. In this way, the film begins and ends with an abundance of appreciation and a nod to those who have paved ways, inspired or left a lasting impact in cinema history. I’ll wager that Pan Nalin will be joining that long list of growing names in the future.
Last Film Show gets a 4.5/5!