Pather Panchali

Film Criticism, Movies

I finally got a chance to see Pather Panchali, so I’m caught up with where I need to be. In terms of the chronological list of the BFI’s 50 Greatest Films of All Time, Pather Panchali was released the same year as Ordet and a year prior to The Searchers.

One of the most amazing aspects of Pather Panchali is that it was Satyajit Ray’s first film and that he had no film experience before coming to this project. The film tells the story of a poor Bengalese family. The father, Harihar (Kanu Bannerjee) who aspires to be a writer, frequently disappears to attempt to earn money in other towns. The story focuses primarily on his children, his son, Apu (Subir Banerjee), and daughter, Durga (Uma Das Gupta and Runki Banerjee as young Durga), who live in their village with their mother, Sarbojaya (Karuna Bannerjee) and an old aunt (Chunibala Devi). Tensions arise between this family and the other villagers due to the mother’s leniency. Durga often steals from others. The father’s eventual return home comes too late as tragedy strikes the family in his absence.

The film is beautifully shot by still photographer Subrata Mitra, with magnificent music by Ravi Shankar and with convincing performances by mostly non-professional actors.

Once again, watching these films in chronological order pays benefits. It’s interesting to contrast the way Ray’s film depicts family life to such films as Yasujirô Ozu’s Tokyo Story and Late Spring or even Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves.

While not one of the elite films I’ve seen so far, Pather Panchali is a fascinating and engaging film and one of the most accessible on the list.

In terms of rating films, I think I need to change my ranking system. Given how diverse the films are, ranking them is becoming more and more difficult. I think from here on out, I am going to just group them by Excellent, Very Good, Good and Questionable. The first three groups are self-explanatory. The last group will be for films I wouldn’t necessarily want to include on a greatest films list.

Excellent

Very Good

Good

Questionable

Next up: The Searchers

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