Classic Movie Review: Pather Panchali (1955) #AtoZChallenge



#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter P

Welcome to the Panorama of the Mountains Blogging A to Z Challenge. This year I’m watching and reviewing movies from A-to-Z based on my ongoing Classic Movie Project. Most movies will be featured on one or more of three lists: AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies (USA), The Sight & Sound Greatest Films of All Time (UK), and Cahiers du Cinéma Greatest Films of All Time (France). In some cases, I will be very creative in assigning a Classic Movie to a letter of the alphabet, and in a few cases the movie I watch will not be Classic Movies at all.

Title: Pather Panchali
Release Date: 26 August 1955
Director: Satyajit Ray
Production Company: Government of West Bengal
Summary/Review:

Pather Panchali (translated, Song of the Little Road) is a story set in Bengal in the early 1900s.  It tells the story of a family’s slow descent into poverty over a period of a few years.  Much of the film is told from the point of view of the family’s youngest member, Apu (Subir Banerjee), a curious child.  His older sister Durga (Uma Dasgupta) dotes on him and teases him in equal measure, and has taken to stealing things to supplement the family’s meager income. Their stern mother Sarbajaya (Karuna Banerjee) is distressed by Durga’s thievery, her debts to their neighbors, and her husband’s directionless nature.  Their father Harihar (Kanu Banerjee) is a priest who wants to be a writer and is perhaps too casual about bringing in money for his family, but also spends significant amounts of time traveling to earn money elsewhere.  The final member of the family is an aged aunt, Indir (Chunibala Devi), a mischievous old woman who the children adore but is an irritant to Sarbajaya.

This is the first feature film directed by Satyajit Ray, beginning a career as one of India’s most notable auteur directors.  It also the first of three films, followed by Aparajito (1956) and Apur Sansar (1959), that tell the story of Apu’s life and are known as The Apu Trilogy.  The film is very crisp and has a silvertone quality that captures a lot of detail.  I’m reminded of Akira Kurosawa’s way of depicting the natural world overlapping the built world of humanity.  The movie also draws on Italian neorealism influences which means that it didn’t follow a strict script and depicts many of the basic pleasures of life and the ordinary human tragedies without a strict plot. The score of the movie was composed and performed by Ravi Shankar, one of the earliest works in his career that lead to him being one of the world’s most famous Indian musicians.

Pather Panchali is a sad but beautiful film.  It’s probably worth a rewatch at some future date when I have time to appreciate it better.

Rating: ****

4 thoughts on “Classic Movie Review: Pather Panchali (1955) #AtoZChallenge

  1. Loved this when I saw it 10+ years ago. When it was released it wasn’t designed as a trilogy but it found so much success that Satyajit Ray decided to make it into a trilogy. All 3 films are great and complement each other very well, but this is still the best one.

    Liked by 1 person

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