Apu Trilogy, The: Satyajit Ray’s Masterpieces Restored

There’s cause for real celebration: the 4k restoration of master Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray’s seminal work, The Apu Trilogy.

Grade: A (***** out of *****)

The Apu Trilogy
The Apu Trilogy.jpg

Region 2 box set cover

Acknowledged as one of the top accomplishments in film history, the trilogy helped bring India into the golden age of international art-house cinema.

A fire severely damaged the original negatives in 1993, but the remains left were salvaged by the Academy Film Archive, and recent technological improvements made this restoration possible.

Meticulous attention and hard labor were spent to rehydrate the brittle film, rebuild sprocket perforations on the sides of the film and remove melted tape, glue and wax.  Suitable replacements were found for the non-usable or missing sections of the original negativess.

Based on two books by Bibhutibhusan Banerjee, The Apu Trilogy follows a free-spirited child in rural Bengal who matures into an adolescent urban student and then into a sensitive and sophisticated man.

Shot over the course of five years, the films are among the most visually radiant, richly humane works ever made.

The films will open on Friday, May 8 at Film Forum in New York City followed by a national release.

Father Panchali (Song of the Little Road)

India 1955  125 Mins B/W, in Bengali with English subtitles

In 1955, the release of Satyajit Ray’s debut, Father Panchali, introduced to the world an eloquent and important new cinematic voice.

A depiction of rural Bengali life in a style inspired by Italian neo-realism, this naturalistic yet poetic evocation of several years in the life of a family centers on Apu as a young boy and the women who will help shape him.

There are three of them, his independent older sister, Durga; his harried mother, Sarbajaya, who, with her husband often away, must hold the family together; and his kindly and mischievous elderly “auntie.”

Resplendent photography highlights the film’s young protagonist’s sense of discovery.

The Cannes Fest-awarded Pather Panchali is an immersive cinematic experience of tremendous power.

Aparajito (The Unvanquished)

India 1956 109 Minutes B/W in Bengali with English subtitles

Originally, Satyajit Ray had not planned to make a sequel to Pather Panchali, but after the film’s international success, he decided to continue Apu’s narrative.

Aparajito picks up where the first film leaves off, with Apu and his family moving away from the country to live in the bustling holy city of Varanasi (then known as Benares).

Apu evolves from wide-eyed child to intellectually curious teenager, eventually studying in Kolkata. The director observes his academic and moral education, as well as the growing complexity of his relationship with his mother.

This tenderly expressive, often heart-wrenching film, which won three top prizes at the Venice Film Fest, including the Golden Lion, extends and deepens the tale of Apu.

Apu Sansar (The World of Apu)

India  1959 105 Minutes B/W in Bengali with English subtitles

By the time Apur Sansar was released, Satyajit Ray had directed not only the first two Apu films, but also The Music Room.

This final chapter brings the protagonist’s journey full circle. Apu is now in his early twenties, out of college, hoping to live as a writer. Alongside his professional ambitions, the film charts his romantic awakening, which occurs as the result of unlikely turn of events, and his eventual, fraught fatherhood.

Featuring Ray’s regular actors, Soumitra Chatterjee and Sharmila Tagore, and demonstrating Ray’s skills as a filmmaker of cinematic imagery, Apur Sansar is a fitting conclusion to a monumental trilogy.

Credits:

Produced, directed by Satyajit Ray
Screenplay by Satyajit Ray, based on Pather Panchali and Aparajito
by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay
Music by Ravi Shankar
Cinematography Subrata Mitra
Edited by Dulal Dutta

Production company: Government of West Bengal

Distributed by Edward Harrison
(Pather Panchali)

Release date: August 26, 1955 (Pather Panchali), October 11, 1956 (Aparajito), May  1,1959 (The World of Apu)

Running time: 342 minutes (total)
Language Bengali