Archive for October 12th, 2015

Pather Panchali (1955 India) Directed by Satyajit Ray Shown: Subir Bannerjee

By Richard R.D. Finch

The raw material of the cinema is life itself,” wrote Satyajit Ray in a magazine article in 1948, adding that “the truly Indian film should…look for its material in the more basic aspects of Indian life, where habit in speech, dress and manner, background and foreground, blend into a harmonious whole.” This close examination of the details of Indian life within the context of a story comprehensible even to Westerners, was what Ray set out to do in his first film, Pather Panchali (1955), and as a guiding principle to filmmaking, it’s one he never abandoned for the rest of his more than 35 years as a director.

The film concentrates on one family. The father, a scholar, is the descendant of aristocrats fallen on hard times and has moved back to his ancestral village to find work and try to pay off his many debts. A rather feckless individual who dreams of being a writer, he isn’t a consistent provider for his family. The mother is frustrated by the family’s poverty and their status in the village as debtors, and often behaves in a shrewish and impatient manner. The father’s decrepit elderly aunt also lives with the family. Their daughter, Durga, is a mildly rebellious teenager who often seems to become the automatic focus of her mother’s dissatisfaction when she isn’t being petulant with the aunt. But for the viewer the most important member of the family is young Apu.

Apu is is no way the prime mover of any events in the film—he’s most often a passive watcher observed through numerous reaction shots—yet he is clearly at the center of the film, for nearly everything in the film is seen through his sensibility. This is one of the great films about childhood—perhaps the greatest ever—in the way it shows the viewer its world through the nonjudgmental but keen-eyed gaze of young Apu. To a child like Apu, the natural world is a source of wonder, so the film’s several montages of natural scenes and animals, sometimes used almost like the pillow shots in an Ozu film, convey the ineffable mystery of the natural world from a child’s point of view. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Columbus Day.  If you’re lucky you’ll get a day off from work.  Otherwise it is business as usual, though it seems the weather is mighty fine all over, and the fall season has set in.  Once the leaves start turning colors then we are really in business.  Yankees fans are crying in their beer, though Mets and Cubs fans are presently singing a more upbeat tune.  The football season is taking shape too, and New York-based teams are performing pretty well at this point.  The movie season still hasn’t arrived at crunch time, but some promising releases are upcoming now that the New York Film Festival has concluded.

We are down to the final three days of the long-running Greatest Childhood/Adolescent Films Countdown which began all the way back in mid-June.  When all is said and done, we will have had a total of 83 films featured in full reviews by a host of writers.  It has been quite a time-consuming project, and one that suffered a lag in the middle stages.  But it has picked up wonderfully in the past weeks, and there isn’t a single complaint against the consistent and high quality of the reviews.  After Wednesday’s Number 1 post is revealed, I will prepare a wrap-up, and a fun statistical rundown of the Top 10 ‘longest’ reviews in order, as well as the Top 10 reviews with the most comments and the Top 10 most viewed.  Ultimately meaningless for all sorts of reason, but still a way to look back at some of the posts that did receive a lot of attention.  Our very good friend John Grant has recommended we consider reviews of some films that didn’t make the cut but were most worthy.  We certainly will see if we can get that underway if there is interest. (more…)

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