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PATHER PANCHALI

India, 1955 (MIFF 1957, Programme 38)

Director: Satyajit Ray

The 1956 Cannes Festival was remarkably rich in entries from famous directors. ^ Yet-in warmth, humanity and poetic sensitivity none could measure up to the first work of an outstanding film-maker - Pather Panchali, by Satyajit Ray.

"It is one of those rare works in which noth¬ing seems to happen, but where we feel that we are being given a piece of life itself, un-embellished, where we see before our eyes people living their daily lives with their small joys and their great affliction. All this without-false exoticism, honestly and without exaggerating the facts."

It is the story of a poor family living in a patched-up hovel in a Bengali village. The father is a dreamer, sometimes paid in his job as a clerk. His wife has to make do from day to day. There are two children, a girl and a boy, and an incredibly wizened, capricious old lady whom they know as "Auntie". The lives of these people are all the story of the film: there is no tight dramatic construction or conventional plot, the tension is poetic rather than dramatic, created by the artist's intimate contact with his material, physical as well as emotional.

Everything is significant, small joys, bitternesses and tragedies intermingled with the hard routine of every day. The mother prepares a meal, and the children play. Around the wretched house are shady, woodland paths, stretches of water, fields of tall feathered grass. The children have no lack of delights and mysteries: the sweet seller passing down the track calling his wares: an express train charging powerfully across the plain.

The film's rhythm is slow, absorbed, reflecting the rhythm of simple lives. There are too many mouths to feed and the old lady, grown irritating beyond endurance, goes off to die alone in the forest. The rains begin; the little girl becomes ill: rain heats into the hut, the little girl dies. In the end the rest of the -family move away into the city. With this sad humanistic affirmation, tenaciously holding his people's faces, Ray ends his film. The sense of this unsubtitled version will be rendered by an English commentary.

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