Monday, September 07, 2015

Pather Panchali

1955, India, directed by Satyajit Ray

A big-screen outing for the brand-new restoration of a film I'd only ever seen on TV, this was hugely compelling. It's quite extraordinary how skillful and resourceful Ray already was as a filmmaker, whether in individual shots -- a dolly into a face to emphasize a point, for instance -- or entire sequences, such as that opened and closed by the auntie rocking the infant Apu, or the multiple scenes intercutting parallel action (the children off in search of a train while the mother and auntie interacted, among other examples). Given the shared importance of Italian neo-realism in their development, it was hard not to think of early Sembène, although they are of course very different filmmakers: as much as both were quite consciously creating an alternative to commercial cinema, Sembène was a good deal more uncompromising in that regard, and while he was a very sophisticated filmmaker in terms of his editing and symbolic techniques, from the earliest days, I'm more reserved as to his skill with the camera -- indeed, even quite late in his career I thought he made rather poor use of things like the zoom. Of course, since silky camera movement, for instance, tended to imply commercial filmmaking perhaps this was a more conscious rejection than I give Sembène credit for -- and that's where personal taste also comes in.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States