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Thread: Satyajit Ray's APU TRILOGY restored: THE WORLD OF APU (1959)

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    Satyajit Ray's APU TRILOGY restored: THE WORLD OF APU (1959)

    Satyajit Roy: The World of Apu (1959) 4K digital restoration


    SOUMITRA CHATTERJEE, SHARMILA TAGORE, THE WORLD OF APU

    Ray's protagonist finally tested

    The World of Apu (Apur Sansar), initially, at least, seems less sweeping than the first two parts of Satyajit Ray's Apu Trilogy and feels independent of them, more like a short story. Actually it's the greater part of the second of the two novels adapted for the trilogy, along with Aparajito. But the images of Apur Sansar, especially as shown off in the breathtaking new 4K digital restoration, have a greater depth and range than those of the first two films, and there turns out to be a range of experience and emotion to match them. This is, of course, the part in which Apu finally is, or truly becomes, a man. And though it's only a five-year period, we see him essentially living three different lives, becoming three different men. Apu is now wonderfully played by Soumitra Chatterjee, who looks like the god Krishna but also like a sad young man; he was to be a Ray regular. And we do ideally watch this after just seeing the first two films and feel it as building on all the experience they encompass.

    At first this older, solider Apu is a somewhat idle young artist-intellectual, on his way to becoming a short story writer and a novelist but really very ignorant of the world. His friend Pulu (Swapan Mukherjee), who turns up, and will be central to the action, points out that if Apu is including a romantic interlude in his autobiographical novel, it will be pure fantasy, because he has had no romance or any women in his life.

    Second -- the real short story part -- Pulu invites Apu to come with him to a family wedding out in the country and Apu has nothing to do so he goes. He likes rural life. This is a wealthy family living in a big impressive house by the water -- and the architectural and outdoor images are lovely, like paintings, or sweeping but delicate nineteenth-century photographs. The extraordinary outcome is that Apu becomes the groom, because the intended one arrives having gone quite mad, and folk beliefs to which the family adhere require the bride to marry somebody at this propitious hour, lest she be forever cursed and never marry at all. This middle section turns into a strange but beautiful romance. The lovely bride, Aparna (Sharmila Tagore), quickly adapts to her new husband and comes to Calcutta with Apu, quite willing to live in poverty. They quickly fall in love. Apu works as a clerk and tutor, but she wants no luxuries like a maid, and disapproves of their taking a carriage home from a play instead of public transportation. She is pregnant and goes back to the family village to have the baby. This love idol is wonderfully pure and sweet, but also quite natural. It doesn't feel idealized or saccharine. These first two sections are as charming and surprising as the last one will be bitter and disturbing -- though it ends on a note of hope and promise.

    Tragedy comes, when Apu is about to go to the country to see Aparna: a messenger, whom he attacks, tells Apu that she has died in childbirth. Apu's world instantly disintegrates, and the third part begins, in which he becomes a bearded wanderer, angry, alienated and guility. He never even sees his son Kajal (Alok Chakravarty), who is a mischievous and ungovernable but pretty and probably bright boy, five years old when we first see him. Apu wanders around the country and works at odd jobs, sending money for Kajal, and is miserable: he throws away the manuscript of his novel, tossing the pages down a chasm.

    Pulu appears again, looking for Apu at his father-in-law's estate, then seeking him near a mine in a remote district where he is now working. Their rather strange encounter, in a rocky clearing, is a transformative experience for Apu. He comes out with the truth: he blames Kajal and can't face him because he lived, and Aparna died giving birth to him. Pulu asks Apu to come back and take care of Kajal, who needs him. Apu refuses. Pulu says, then, he has done his duty, and walks away. Apu calls to him and runs after him, but Pulu is gone.

    There is a spectral and strange quality about the final sequence: but really most of The World of Apu is spectral and strange. He turns up at his father-in-law's to meet, and claim, Kajal, but finds Kajal hostile and unwilling to believe Apu is his father. Apu has to use all his wiles to win Kajal's favor, and it's in vain -- until it isn't. Kajal has lived with the hope of having a father in Calcutta and if Apu can take him to that person, he will go.

    The beauty of The World of Apu is that it has both sweep and intimacy; that it makes sense as the conclusion of a bildingsroman, but also reads as an astonishing and fresh short story, or series of them, since the portrait of the aimless young intellectual; the wedding trip, with its surprise outcome; the romance of the young married couple; and the bitter wandering and reclaiming of the son, are all engaging and rich separate narratives, though they flow quite seamlessly together.

    Pauline Kael in her Devi review, which I referred to earlier (in discussing Pather Panchali), points out that The World of Apu "died at the box office," and was described condescendingly by Dwiight Macdonald (then a leading American film critic) as containing material too complex for Satyajit Ray to handle. She says people tended to prefer the idyllic primitive rural Bengal village world of the first film in the trilogy, Pather Panchali (about Apu's earlierst childhood); they were disapproving of the second and third films, but also turned around and held up the Apu Trilogy, which they'd underrated, as superior to anything Ray did after. But that was 1962, and now the Apu Trilogy is spoken of in such superlatives that the admiration clouds the understanding. We need for the exquisite and wonderfully clear Janus/Criterion 4K digital restoration of Ray's Apu Trilogy to lead viewers to watch these three film masterpieces with the eye and the mind as well as the heart, studying them closely, because there is much to be learned from them about the art of filmmaking as well as about life.

    The World of Apu Benngali অপু বিশ্ব Apur sansar, 106 mins., debuted 1 May 1959 in India, and won numerous awards. Screened for this review in the news 2015 4K digital restoration of the entire Apu Trilogy which debuted in New York (at Film Forum) 8 May 2015, and thereafter began showing at other theaters throughout the US, including Landmark Theaters in the San Francisco Bay Area. It will be issued in Blu-ray by the Criterion Collection and Janus.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-29-2015 at 08:17 PM.

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    PLAY DATES OF 2015 DIGITAL 4K RESTORATION OF THE APU TRILOGY
    (From Janus Films website)

    Opens May 8
    New York, NY – Film Forum

    Opens May 22
    Philadelphia, PA – Landmark Ritz at the Bourse

    Opens May 29
    Kansas City, MO – Tivoli Cinemas
    Los Angeles, CA – Landmark Nuart
    New York, NY – Lincoln Plaza Cinema
    San Diego, CA – Landmark Ken Cinema
    Salt Lake City, UT – Salt Lake Film Society
    Santa Fe, NM – Jean Cocteau Cinema

    May 30–June 18
    Baltimore, MD – The Charles

    May 31 and June 7
    Houston, TX – The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

    June 4–6
    Oklahoma City, OK – Oklahoma City Museum Of Art

    Opens June 5
    Chicago, IL – Music Box Theatre
    Los Angeles, CA – The Landmark
    Pasadena, CA – Laemmle Playhouse
    San Luis Obispo, CA – The Palm
    Vancouver, BC – The Cinematheque

    Opens June 12
    Berkeley, CA – Landmark Shattuck
    San Francisco, CA – Landmark Opera Plaza

    June 12–14 and August 23
    Detroit, MI – Detroit Institute of Arts

    June 18
    Buffalo, NY – North Park Theatre

    Opens June 19
    Portland, OR – Cinema 21

    Opens June 26
    Boston, MA – Landmark Kendall Square
    Denver, CO – Landmark Chez Artiste
    Washington, D.C. – Landmark E Street Cinema
    Seattle, WA – SIFF Cinema

    July 5, 14, 21, 28
    Austin, TX – Austin Film Society

    July 7, 9, 13
    Montreal, QC – Phi Centre

    Opens July 10
    Minneapolis, MN – Landmark Theatres
    Omaha, NE – Film Streams

    Opens July 11
    Coral Gables, FL – Coral Gables Art Cinema

    Opens July 17
    Nashville, TN – Belcourt Theatre

    July 19, 26 and August 2
    San Rafael, CA – Smith Rafael Film Center

    July 27–30 and August 17–30
    Albuquerque, NM – Guild Cinema

    Opens August 14
    Atlanta, GA – Landmark Midtown Art Cinema
    Hartford, CT – Cinestudio

    September 7–16
    Columbia, SC – The Nickelodeon

    September 10–24
    Columbus, OH – Wexner Center for the Arts

    September 13–27
    Amherst, MA – Amherst Cinema

    October 15
    Lewisburg, PA – The Campus Theatre

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    Hmm. Plays today in Montreal. And next week...No Toronto dates yet.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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    The dates are brief and patchy. I'd urge anyone to look for the DVDs or Blu-ray's when they come out, even thought will be gorgeous.

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    "The eye, the ear and the heart" indeed Chris!

    I saw the glorious Criterion Collection 4K restoration of Pather Panchali last night. It was fairly sublime, pure cinema.
    I can see why Akira Kurosawa loved Satyajit Ray.
    Each shot was carefully composed. Gorgeous cinematography by Mitra and the Ravi Shankar music really lifted the story up- the music swirled around the characters in synch with their interesting yet profound lives. Even the animals had character here! (cats, a dog, geese, emaciated cows, etc..)
    But the main focus is the characters. The children are playful, wide-eyed and the boy who plays Apu is quite memorable.
    "Life is hard, but it's also good" seems to be the overall theme, and the characters have their share of hope, modest prosperity, despair and anguish. The ending didn't satisfy me, but I know why Ray did it that way. It leaves you sad and it leaves you wanting to see what happens next. (Even tho you may surmise it will go even further south than it already has for Apu's family!)

    Masterful film, thankfully rescued from destruction and restored is essential viewing. Satyajit Ray imposes the characters on you in a way that demands empathy. It's probably the most human movie I've ever seen. Slow zooms, close-ups, amazing Master shots- great use of lighting! Every shot seems to be carefully composed, and yet it feels completely natural, documentary-style.

    This is one of those pillars of cinema. It's probably the greatest film from India, next to Mother India. You get hard-life experience tinged with sublime moments of calm. Those shots of the insects skimming the water, dragonflies, lilypads and the effects of the weather were sublime. You could hear a pin drop while watching this movie- big crowd at the Bytowne Cinema, and they were locked in on this Masterpiece. I'm very happy to have seen it in it's intended shape. See it at all costs!
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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    I'm glad you got out to see it and wrote this appreciation and I hope you see the rest of the trilogy. As books, it's a whole. I talked to an Indian film writer the other day waiting to see BRIDGE OF SPIES and he said the book is still very important today, especially in the region he comes from. Thanks for mentioning the music as "swirling around the characters" -- I tend to notice music too little. But then you rapidly say it is all about the characters and that is true.

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    It was a priviledge to see it. I plan on seeing the next two installments. The Bytowne is showing one Ray film a week in October.
    I'm curious to see what Apu gets up to later in life...

    You want World Cinema, look no further than Pather Panchali. The old bent-over "Auntie" was the star to me, not Apu. :)
    The shots near the electric power lines/transformers were beautiful, with the wheat blowing, the clouds...even in black and white it looked gorgeous. No wonder Cannes awarded it a prize- it's a bright work of art showing us life in a very specific time and place.
    I wonder what modern audiences would think of the "kitchen", the cooking. No microwaves, no stoves, no broilers...just a flame and your hands. I think most people today can't conceive of the sparseness on display- they wouldn't be able to handle such hardships.
    Most people today are pampered sots who wouldn't know struggle if it up and slapped 'em. Or as Patton Oswalt famously said: "Remember rock-bottom? Remember when you used to be able to hit that???"

    This movie would seem unbearable to most folks today I gather. They probably couldn't relate to the characters or would even try.
    God Bless Sayajit Ray.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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    I hope that is not true. I think greatness still moves people if you can get them to experience it. We must thank Bologna, Scorsese, and others who are restoring one film classic after another. Why say it's beautiful "even though" it's black and white? I'm old enough so that when I was young, all movies were black and white, and when color came I felt it gave me a headache to watch it. Only in time did it become routine and start to look beautiful and not just garish and distracting.

    The director of the remarkable Auschwitz film SON OF SAUL said to a question that he definitely did not want to make it in black and white. He did not explain why, but he also said he did not want the film to be pretty. In FATELESS, which also depicts a concentration camp, the protagonist finds the twilights beautiful, but he was not in Saul's situation, he was a 16-year-old who got sent to a work camp without crematoria.

    I recently saw a restored cut of Visconti's ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS. It did not strike me as beautiful as the APU TRILOGY did. Also recently restored to 4K is Carol Reed's THE THIRD MAN, and that does have an intense contrasty black and white that's beautiful. What recent film has been shot in black and white that is not an "art film"? Maybe Baumbach's FRANCIS HA. It got a certain amount of distribution. It grossed $4 million.

    What about 3D? Do you like it? It was absolutely justified for the ending of Zemeckis' THE WALK. He is very aware of technical stuff, and said he would not have made any of his other films, including FLIGHT, in 3D. THE MARTIAN I had to see in 3D (it's available in both formats but the theater was booked on the first day in Union Square). There was no justification for it. For GRAVITY there obviously is -- it's out in space -- but desite the fus about that movie I could do without it in 3D and without the whole movie. But some take GRAVITY much more seriously than THE MARTIAN because THE MARGIAN is light and cherful. I think that quality is very welcome in this genre where so much is lonely and doon-ridden.

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    India is still a country of extreme poverty. There are probably plenty of people who live in much the same way, without gas stoves or microwaves. Lots of places have no gas system, only Butagas tanks that you buy. That was true in Egypt and Morocco when I lived there. Americans like to go camping, don't they? With expensive accoutrements from REI.

    We should really be on this thread: http://www.filmleaf.net/showthread.p...ATHER-PANCHALI

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Knipp View Post
    India is still a country of extreme poverty. There are probably plenty of people who live in much the same way, without gas stoves or microwaves.
    Agreed. I was referring to the West, mainly. Westerners for the most part are quite complacent and comfortable, aren't we?
    Regarding black and white, all I meant was that it would look gorgeous in color. I admire black and white films and always have. But color films rule the roost for me. Some people exclusively like only silent films, some only like color, some prefer documentaries or only music docs. I know people like that. Personal preference reigns I guess...

    3-D is awesome if it suits the film. I'm thinking of Avatar and Scorsese's Hugo, here. Those two films and Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams are my choices for the three best 3-D films ever made. It's hard to make 3-D effective. James Cameron truly wowed us with the 3-D in Avatar. The movie is massively commercial and speaks action in any language, hence it's monstrous success. But the 3-D was where he moved the medium forward. My expectations for the Avatar sequel are sky-high in the 3-D department. Most action or tentpole blockbusters are working 3-D into every movie, but how effective or amazing is it? Avatar set that bar high.

    We got off Satyajit Ray here...yes, we should be on the other thread. (My bad:)
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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    I find black and white very satisfying, and color too sometimes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Knipp View Post
    There is a spectral and strange quality about the final sequence: but really most of The World of Apu is spectral and strange. It will be issued in Blu-ray by the Criterion Collection and Janus.

    Spectral and strange indeed.
    I didn't expect Apu's story to take these turns. The World of Apu is a fitting conclusion to the trilogy, but I'm a little perplexed by the ending. The ending leaves it open for yet another movie. His son doesn't accept (or know) Apu is his father yet he's willing to go with him as "a friend"? Are we to suppose that the relationship will work out happily ever after? Maybe it will.
    Maybe it won't. Given what Apu has gone through in three films, anything's possible.

    To me the best parts of APUR SANSAR are with Aparna, Apu's new wife. Specifically when she willingly goes with him to live in poverty. The previous scene in the bedroom showed that she was attracted to her new husband even though they've just met and were wedded. (In a bizarre switcheroo of grooms when the first groom goes batshit insane...)
    The actress who plays her (Sharmila Tagore) is a beauty. What a face for cinema! I was just as gutted at her death as Apu was.

    Apu's reactions to tragedy are irrational in my view. He's a brilliant writer, a great mind, and yet he throws it all away when tragedy strikes. I know life's sad events can send you into a tailspin, but Hope should always prevail...as the old woman told him: "You can marry ten times over. You'll be fine" (paraphrase)
    Once again the music is wonderful (even though I noticed Ravi Shankar's music was used much less than in the first two films), and the cinematography is as great as the first two as well. Subrata Mitra is a master, and so is Satyajit Ray.

    The Criterion Collection (and AMPAS and others) have delivered a special restored trilogy here. I think I'll be buying the DVD set.
    It's bedrock. Essential cinema, full-stop.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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    Bedrock indeed.

    I'm not sure now about the ending. The boy is a naughty one. I thought he did know Apu was his father, but just didn't want to acknowledge him, but then does, to escape with him. The whole series of stories are about transformation, we can believe Apu will become a responsible father and the responsibility will make him make something of himself. I did not find his despair implausible. "Hope should always prevail"? Yeah, but it doesn't always go that way. The narrative throughout the trilogy is operatic, but so moving we are wrapped up in it. Indeed the time of Apu and his unexpected lovely young bride is a magical moment and its tragic ending devastating to the viewer. The Apu Trilogy is a profound experience. I can't think of anything more moving in cinema that I've known, and it's a soaring aesthetic as well as deep emotional pleasure. It's wow. It's A++++++++. It's beyond category.

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