Blu Ray Review: The Apu Trilogy – Pather Panchali (1955)


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Directed by Satyajit Ray
Screenplay by Satyajit Ray
Based on Pather Panchali
by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay
Starring Subir Banerjee
Kanu Banerjee
Karuna Banerjee
Uma Dasgupta
Chunibala Devi
Tulsi Chakrabarti
Music by Ravi Shankar
Cinematography Subrata Mitra
Edited by Dulal Dutta
Production
company
Government of West Bengal
Distributed by Aurora Film Corporation(1955)
Edward Harrison (1958)
Merchant Ivory Productions
Sony Pictures Classics(1995)
Release date

26 August 1955 (India)

Running time
112–126 minutes
Country India
Language Bengali

Technical Aspects On the Blu ray Disc:

Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 1.37:1
Original aspect ratio: 1.37:1
Audio Bengali: LPCM Mono
Subtitles English
Discs Single disc (1 BD-50)
Playback Region A (locked)

Movie Review:

Satyajit Ray is truly a master story teller; Pather Panchali cements this sentiment; it is a sensitive film about relationships and life itself. The reality that is shown in this movie is scary, it’s like Ray was just filming a common family and showing the world what goes on in some corners of the world, which they probably never thought existed.

In all its simplicity, the gamut of emotions that arise from this ‘daily life’ is massive.

Harihar, Sarbojaya, Durga, Apu and the elderly aunt are a treat to watch, not once do they make you feel conscious of you watching them, they are just living. The elderly aunt deserves a mention, her stark facial features and expressions are a wonder to watch, I wonder how old she really was, but she was superb. When she is with the children, there is a naughty streak in her, making her come alive.

Essentially the films deals with life around Sarbojaya and her children. The struggles she goes through to keep her family going physically, emotionally and mentally. Karuna Bannerjee plays Sarbojaya with great detail, she epitomises motherhood and women. From the combing of hair, to the preparation of food, to ultimately making decisions about her family, Karuna is fantastic. Having watched the trilogy, her character transition is also just as good. Uma Das Gupta and Subir Bannerjee as Durga and Apu, respectively, are amazing. They share a great brother-sister rapport. All the inconsequential smaller incidents between them are beautiful, especially the incident that leads to Durga leading Apu to the view the train for the first time. Subir Bannerjeee as Apu is also a revelation, at such a young age, to be so natural in front of the camera. His interaction with the family and his observances make for fantastic viewing. These also stay with Apu through the next two films which embed into his character.

The tragedy that is shown in Pather Panchali is mirrored in the characters expressions, we see whatever tragedy that takes place, as a real live emotion, the characters expressions. This has an even bigger effect on the viewer.

Ravi Shankar’s score for Pather Panchali is sublime, and fits the film really well. It never overshadows the characters or the story, in fact it blends in beautifully, and creates a pulse of its own. The themes are melodious and dramatic as meant to be. Ravi Shankar uses Dhun’s and Ragas to portray the happenings of the film in sound. Whenever it rain, Raag Megh and Raag Desh is played. Raag Todi and Raag Patdeep express the tragedies.

I have previously watched Jalsaghar, Mahanagar and Charulata of Satyajit Ray, but Pather Panchali has had the most impact on me, it was an emotional punch to the heart. Beautifully simple in all aspects, with themes that I am sure most people would identify with, despite the circumstances.

Picture Quality
“For Pather Panchali and Aparajito, new 4K digital transfers were created on an ARRISCAN film scanner with wet-gate technology from the Academy Film Archive’s original negatives. Additional film elements used for Pather Panchali included a 35mm duplicate negative from the Academy Film Archive and a 35mm fine-grain from the BFI National Archive; additional film elements used for Aparajito included two 35mm duplicate negatives, from from the Academy Film Archive and one from the Harvard Film Archive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, jitter, and flicker.

4K digital scanning: L’Immagine Ritrovata, Bologna; Colorworks, Culver City, CA; Goldcrest, New York; Deluxe Digital, London.
Transfer supervisor and colorist: Lee Kline.
Additional color correction: Russell Smith.”

That above piece of information appears at the beginning of the movie and this is truly a remarkable upgrade to High Definition; I was astounded to the detail and clarity. Pather Panchali is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1.


Audio Quality
Pather Panchali is presented in Bengali: LPCM 1.0; and it does the job. The dialogue is clear and detailed; the background score, when it appears, is quite good too. The Sitar strums are excellent on this track, a much richer sound in exuded.

Blu Ray Special features:

• Ravi Shankar – presented here are excerpts from the documentary film The Song of the Little Road (2003), in which the legendary sitar player and composer Ravi Shankar recalls his interactions with Satyajit Ray and discusses his directing methods as well as the music he composed for the films in The Apu Trilogy. The documentary was produced and directed by Priyanka Kumar. In English, not subtitled. (6 min, 1080i).

• Soumendu Roy – in this video interview, Soumendu Roy, who assisted Satyajit Ray during the shooting of Pather Panchali and became his main camera operator, discusses the production history of the film, the shooting process (the shoot took place in the remote village of Boral), the unique treatment of light and the important role of nature in the film, Subrata Mitra’s lensing, etc. The interview was conducted exclusively for Criterion in 2013. In Bengali, with optional English subtitles. (13 min, 1080p).

• Shampa Srivastava – in this brand new video interview, actress Shampa Srivastava, who plays the young Durga (credited as Runki Banarjee), remembers her interactions with her mother in front of the camera, the various instructions Satyajit Ray gave her, how different sequences were shot, etc. The interview was conducted exclusively for Criterion in 2015. In English, not subtitled. (17 min, 1080p).

• Soumitra Chatterjee – in this video interview, actor Soumitra Chatterjee, who plays the adult Apu in Apur Sansar and appeared in a number of other films directed by Satyajit Ray, discusses the cinema scene in India during the 1950s and how the great Bengali director changed it. The interview was conducted exclusively for Criterion in 2013. In Bengali, with optional English subtitles. (8 min, 1080p).

• A Long Time on the Little Road – in 1957, Satyajit Ray wrote an article for Sight & Sound about the maing of Pather Pinchali. Soon after, film critic Gideon Bachmann recorded the director reading his account aloud. The audio recording is presented here. In English, not subtitled. (15 min, 1080p).

• Booklet – 44-page illustrated booklet featuring Tettence Rafferty’s essay “Every Common Sight”; Satyajit Ray’s storyboards for Pather Panchali; Girish Shambu’s essay “Behind the Universal”; and notes about the 4K restoration of The Apu Trilogy.

I have watched / read all the special features included in this pack, It really enhances the movie experience in a richer way, you understand certain nuances that you might have missed, at least with the first viewing. Just a note to those who have not watched the trilogy before in totality before watching the special feature, the do contain lots of spoilers about the next two movies, so beware!

Film: /
PQ: /
AQ: /

Blu Ray region Coding details:

blu-ray-region-code-map

Region A East Asia (except Mainland China and Mongolia), Southeast Asia, North America, South America and their dependencies.
Region B Africa, Southwest Asia, Europe (except Russia and Kazakhstan), Oceania (including Australia and New Zealand) and their dependencies.
Region C Central Asia, East Asia (Mainland China and Mongolia only), South Asia, central Eurasia and their dependencies.

 

 

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