The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, the largest museum in the United States devoted to the arts, sciences, and artists of moviemaking, has arranged an extraordinary programme featuring the works of Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray.
“Not to have seen the cinema of Satyajit Ray means existing in the world without seeing the sun or the moon,” the great Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa once said. If the great Indian filmmaker Ray had lived, he would have been 100 years old this year in May.
The Academy Museum in Los Angeles is making sure we are not left blind to the beauty of the sun or the moon. Celebrating Ray’s films in a centennial retrospective, it offers a two-part screening series that focuses on the master’s oeuvre.
The Indian master, who won an honorary Oscar in 1992 – the first Indian/Bengali to do so –, created many masterpieces, including the Apu Trilogy. “After a career as a graphic designer, Ray became a director in his early thirties with the ground breaking “Pather Panchali” (1955), which together with “Aparajito” (The Unvanquished, 1956) and “Apur Sansar” (The World of Apu, 1959), forms the phenomenal Apu Trilogy that follows the titular protagonist from childhood to adulthood,” Variety reports.
The screening programme, which started in late November with Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road, 1955), continues through December, with the second part coming in 2022. “Ray became a director in his early thirties after a career as a graphic designer and quickly became a prolific storyteller,” the Academy Museum notes. “After the global phenomenon of Pather Panchali, and the subsequent films that make up the Apu Trilogy, … Ray explored a range of genres over his thirty-plus films, continually returning to themes of tradition sparring with modernity.”
Ray reportedly wrote all the screenplays for his films, was the director of photography, composed the music, and based many of his films on real events, mostly from his life. He filmed dozens of pictures during his prolific life, which ended in 1992.
“Throughout his career, Satyajit Ray maintained that the best technique of filmmaking was the one that was not noticeable,” satyajitray.org maintains. “For him, technique was merely a means to an end. He disliked the idea of a film that drew attention to its style rather than the contents. He never used cinematic embellishments for their own sake.”
“Villains bore me,” Ray once said. His characters operated in “complex shades of gray,” satyajitray.org comments. “He explored a range of characters and situations. Many of these were alien to popular Indian cinema, as they were not considered suitable film subjects in India. He brought real concerns of real people to the screen – villagers, city middle-class, intellectuals, rich and famous, detectives, kings…”
The 1960s “saw Ray confronting religion in “Devi” (The Goddess, 1960); focus on women’s perspectives with “Mahanagar” (The Big City, 1963) and “Charulata” (The Lonely Wife, 1964); take a dark detour with “Abhijan” (The Expedition, 1962); explore the fragile male ego with “Nayak” (The Hero, 1966); and create a magical, musical adventure with “Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne” (The Adventures of Goopy and Bagha, 1969),” Variety annonunces.
“All films will screen on preserved 35mm prints from the Academy Film Archive, except where noted,” the Academy Museum website notes. “These include the Academy Film Archive’s landmark restoration of the Apu Trilogy from camera negatives nearly lost in a fire.”
The retrospective is organized by Academy Museum senior film program director Bernardo Rondeau.
The second part of the retrospective will take place in 2022.