With the release in 1955 of Satyajit Ray’s debut, Pather Panchali, an eloquent and important new cinematic voice made itself heard all over the world. A depiction of rural Bengali life in a style inspired by Italian neorealism, this naturalistic but poetic evocation of a number of years in the life of a family introduces us to both little Apu and, just as essentially, the women who will help shape him: his independent older sister, Durga; his harried mother, Sarbajaya, who, with her husband away, must hold the family together; and his kindly and mischievous elderly “auntie,” Indir—vivid, multifaceted characters all. With resplendent photography informed by its young protagonist’s perpetual sense of discovery, Pather Panchali, which won an award for Best Human Document at Cannes, is an immersive cinematic experience and a film of elemental power.
“Ray never had a finished script for the movie because, he said, he saw and heard it in his head. Perhaps that accounts for the film’s remarkable evenness of rhythm, its mood of sustained contemplation. The story of Pather Panchali is episodic, but it moves forward with the force of a held thought.” TERRANCE RAFFERTY, CRITERION
“There’s a great deal of joy in the Apu movies, balanced by the pendulum swing of loss. Yet even in these early films, Ray’s mastery is so fluid that you barely notice the segue. And as you watch, that thing we call artistry melts away in the service of something both greater and more fragile.” VILLAGE VOICE
“The impetus in BICYCLE THIEVES is to find the bicycle; the impetus in PATHER PANCHALI is simply to live. Time, as it is felt in Ray’s film, expands and contracts not with breaks but rather a gummy elasticity that reveals both the sufferings caused by the ceaseless march of time and the perpetual chance for rebirth and renewal. Ray’s characters, trapped by their economic conditions, brutally compound this effect.” CINE-FILE
“What Ray knew was good graphic design and the Soviet cinema of the 1920s and 1930s, especially the films of Sergei Eisenstein and Vsevolod Pudovkin. The compositional values of both come to play in the movie’s two most celebrated scenes: little Apurba (Subir Banerjee), called “Apu,” seeing a train for the first time, as it cuts through the landscape; and the rainstorm sequence, which begins with a close-up of a single drop of water hitting the top of a bald man’s head.” AV CLUB
- 5/14 | 8:00PM