For Reel

Pather Panchali (1955)
June 17, 2015, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Satyajit Ray
4.5 Stars
Pather PanchaliWhen Bosley Crowther, the highly influential critic of the New York Times, reviewed Pather Panchali in 1958, he drew attention to the film’s “mosaic” quality. That is, unlike a conventionally structured Hollywood film, Satyajit Ray’s debut feature progresses as a series of episodes, as if serving as a loosely structured tour of an impoverished Indian village and of a way of life. While the patient rhythm wasn’t unique to cinema at the time (even classical American directors such as John Ford favored a steady poeticism in their images), nor was the sense of realism in the images of poverty (the neorealism movement was a decade old at this point), there was something different about Ray’s approach. Besides the universality of his themes regarding the relationships and the roles that we form within our households, there’s a terrifically elegiac quality about the images. The shots of aged auntie (Chunibala Devi), cast aside and knowingly marching to her death, carry the weight of not only the action in the present tense, but of the very idea of a discarding of the past. Apu’s (Subir Banerjee) development in this first installment of the trilogy is mostly as an observer–a watching eye, trying to grasp the relationships between those around him and the world he inhabits. The famed image of his confrontation with a train doesn’t quite suggest his desire to leave home, but of his growing awareness of a world outside. To a child, that thought is as magical as it is bewildering.

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