Satyajit Ray’s films to be showcased in New York

April 6th, 2009 - 11:21 am ICT by IANS  

Slumdog Millionaire New York, April 6 (IANS) The work of India’s greatest filmmaker and one of cinema’s greatest auteurs, Satyajit Ray, will be showcased in a special series by the prestigious Film Society of Lincoln Centre in New York April 15-30.
Featuring over 20 films, with six in new 35 mm prints from the Academy Film Archive, “First Light: Satyajit Ray from the Apu Trilogy to the Calcutta Trilogy” concentrates on what is roughly the first half of Ray’s career, when he broke out internationally as an important new voice in world cinema.

“A Ray film invites you in, but also demands that you accept it on its own terms,” says Richard Pena, the Film Society’s director of programming. “And those who open themselves to Ray’s method are in for some of the richest experiences the cinema has to offer.”

The recent spike of interest in India - from its propitious emergence as a major economic power to the worldwide success of “Slumdog Millionaire” - makes this an especially apt moment to witness and celebrate Ray’s accomplishments, said the society.

Ray won the Honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement at the 1991 Academy Awards, “for his rare mastery of the art of motion pictures and for his profound humanitarian outlook, which has had an indelible influence on filmmakers and audiences throughout the world”.

“First Light” opens April 15 with the film that put him on the cinematic map, “Pather Panchali” (1955), which Pauline Kael wrote was “beautiful, sometimes funny, and full of love”.

With a brilliant soundtrack by Ravi Shankar, to which Wes Anderson paid tribute by using it in “The Darjeeling Limited” along with music from many other Ray films, “Pather Panchali” (Song of the Road) is the first part of the “Apu Trilogy” following a boy’s adventures in a remote Bengal village.

The trilogy’s second part “Aparajito” (The Unvanquished), made a year later, won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival (the Golden Lion). It follows Apu after his father passes away.

Finally, 1959’s “Apur Sansar” (The World of Apu), made two films after “Aparajito”, is considered by many as the trio’s masterpiece, a deeply affecting portrait of a more opaque, ambiguous Apu struggling to discover his place in the world.

Other new 35 mm prints made possible by the Satyajit Ray Preservation Project at the Academy Film Archive are “The Expedition” (1962), “The Coward and the Holy Man” (1965), “The Hero” (1966), “The Adventures of Goopy and Bagha” (1968) and “Two” (1965), a rare short made for the Esso World Theatre.

The series concluding with Ray’s “Calcutta Trilogy” is described as a tribute to the work of the Satyajit Ray Preservation Project at the Academy Film Archive in Los Angeles.

Together with the Satyajit Ray Film and Study Centre at the University of California, Santa Cruz, the archive has done much to preserve and promote the work of this major film artiste for future generations.

With the archive currently hard at work restoring the rest of Ray’s films, the society said it hoped to be able to present a series built around the second half of his career in the not-so-distant future.

In conjunction with this series, a major conference on Ray will be held at Columbia University April 25.

The conference will include a keynote lecture from Robert Young, Silver Professor of English and Comparative Literature, New York University, and talks by Samik Banerjee, theatre, film, and arts critic; filmmakers Shyam Benegal and Mira Nair, and Sandip Ray, film director and the son of Satyajit Ray.

Ray died on 23 April 1992 in Kolkata, a city where he lived and on which he based most of his acclaimed films.

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