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aka - Song of the Road, The
India 1955
Directed by
Satyajit Ray
115 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars

Pather Panchali

Satyajit Ray's first film, a study of life in a remote Bengali village through the experiences of one family over a 5 year period is a remarkable achievement. A one-time painting student, Ray made the film with virtually no money over the course of 3 years, the Bengali government finally kicking in enough to complete it.

Ray was influenced by the work of pioneer documentarian, Robert Flaherty, and the Italian neo-realist school and his film is as much a documentary as a work of fiction. Capturing the comedy, tragedy and uniqueness of life, it is justly regarded as a classic of humanistic film-making.

My only reservation is that the film is so beautifully shot (his cameraman had some experience with still photography) and the performances (all by non-professionals with the exception of the wonderful Auntie, played by Chunibala Devi) so sedate, that the grinding poverty that is at the core of it is more intellectually-perceived than felt.

Surprisingly, when shown at Cannes the critics panned it, Truffaut apparently walking out mid-way. It is slow and relatively long but it deserves its place in the cinematic pantheon. It was followed by two other films, Aparajito (1956) and The World of Apu (1959) the three collectively known as the Apu Trilogy, which whilst certainly being commendable do not have the impact of this masterpiece.

DVD ExtrasSatyajit Ray, Filmmaker, a 130m documentary on Ray's career;

 

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment

 

 

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