MUMBAI: The Film Society of Lincoln Center in Los Angeles will celebrate filmmaker Satyajit Ray, with First Light: Satyajit Ray from the Apu Trilogy to the Calcutta Trilogy, at the Walter Reade Theater from 15 – 30 April.
Featuring over 20 films, with six in new 35mm prints from the Academy Film Archive, the series concentrates on what is roughly the first half of Ray’s career, when he broke out internationally as an important new voice in world cinema.
“A Ray film invites you in, but also demands that you accept it on its own terms. And those who open themselves to Ray’s method are in for some of the richest experiences the cinema has to offer.” The recent spike of interest in India—from its propitious emergence as a major economic power to the worldwide success of Slumdog Millionaire—makes this an especially apt moment to witness and celebrate the accomplishments of Satyajit Ray, who won the Honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement at the 1991 Academy Awards, “for his rare mastery of the art of motion pictures and for his profound humanitarian outlook, which has had an indelible influence on filmmakers and audiences throughout the world,” says The Film Society director of programming Richard Peña.
First Light opens on 15 April with the film that put him on the cinematic map, Pather Panchali (1955). Pather Panchali is the first part of the Apu Trilogy following a boy’s adventures in a remote Bengali village. The trilogy’s second part, Aparajito made a year later, which won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival (the Golden Lion), follows Apu after his father passes away. Finally, 1959’s Apur Sansar made two films after Aparajito, is considered by many as the trio’s masterpiece, a deeply affecting portrait of a more opaque, ambiguous Apu struggling to discover his place in the world.
Other highlights of the series are 1960’s Devi, 1964’s Charulata, 1958’s The Music Room.
Other new 35mm prints made possible by the Satyajit Ray Preservation Project at the Academy Film Archive are The Expedition (1962), The Coward and the Holy Man (1965), The Hero (1966), The Adventures of Goopy and Bagha (1968) and Two (1965), a rare short made for the Esso World Theater.
The series concludes with Ray’s Calcutta Trilogy; 1971’s The Adversary powerfully captures the turmoil of the late ’60s through reactions to Vietnam. Company Limited, also from 1971, is a thoughtful, biting satire of a Westernized India on the decline and is filled with inventive humor; its final scene is among the most poetic in Ray’s oeuvre. Finally 1975’s The Middleman follows a college grad who enters a life of corruption; Jonathan Rosenbaum has compared it to Billy Wilder’s The Apartment and John Cassavetes’s Faces.
This series is a tribute to the work of the Satyajit Ray Preservation Project at the Academy Film Archive in Los Angeles, which together with the Satyajit Ray Film and Study Center at the University of California-Santa Cruz has done so much to preserve and promote the work of this major film artist for future generations. The archive is restoring the rest of Ray’s films.
In conjunction with this series, a conference on Satyajit Ray will be held at Columbia University on 25 April.