The great Indian director Satyajit Ray died in April, shortly after receiving an Oscar for his lifetime achievements. His last film,The Stranger, is a deceptively simple but affecting moral story, and a fine. Parting from the esteemed filmmaker who was a guest of this festival in 1966.
The film centres on a wealthy upper-class Calcutta couple who live a comfortable life with their bright 11-year-old son. Out of the blue, wife Anila receives a letter from her long-lost uncle, the family's black sheep, who went overseas in 1955 (the year Ray completed his first film Father Panchali) and hasn't been heard from since.
"Husband Sudhindra is instantly suspicious. Suspicions aren't allayed once he arrives; he seems genuine but behaves in a strange and unworldly manner. But as they get to know the old man, they discover he's an almost mystical character who left because he wanted to be a painter. Since then he has travelled to countries where tribal people survive, seeking inspiration from their knowledge and wisdom.
"Ray tells this story with calm serenity, and the thematic charm and power only gradually creep up on the viewer, as indeed the charm of the uncle (beautifully played by Utpal Dutt) gradually imposes itself on the family. Mamata Shankar, too, excels as the wife who visibly mellows under uncle's influence.
"There's still quite'a lot of talk, but the static theatrical feel of Ray's last two films here gives way to a more graceful, cinematic style."
• David Stratton, Variety