The Brilliance of Satyajit Ray

When 17 Jan 2014 - 31 Aug 2014
Where University of California Berkeley Museum & Pacific Film Archive
2625 Durant Avenue #2250
Berkeley, CA 94720-2250
United States
Cost varies depending on different films
Enquiry (510) 642-0808

“Ray has invariably preferred the intimate story to the grand epic, and is the poet par excellence of the human-scale, life-sized comedy or tragedy of ordinary men and women, journeying, as we all journey, down little, but unforgettable roads.”—Salman Rushdie

Before the “international art house circuit,” before “Third World Film,” before “slow cinema” and “rural realism,” there was Satyajit Ray, one of the greatest and most influential filmmakers of all time. More than a decade has passed since Ray was honored with a retrospective, and in that time cinematic trends have made his work even more necessary to see again.

Born in Calcutta in 1921 into a family of prominent Bengali intellectuals (Ray’s grandfather was a writer and publisher, while his father wrote children’s tales and satirical stories), Ray first worked in an advertising firm as a visual designer, creating covers for books and even film posters. Founding the Calcutta Film Society in 1947 fueled his desire to enter filmmaking, and in 1955 he debuted with Pather Panchali, part of his Apu trilogy. While this neorealist, rural-set trio of films launched Ray’s career (an infamous midnight screening at the Cannes Film Festival awakened the world to his talents), the great director seemed equally at home in a wide variety of genres and settings: period tales of urban elites, chamber pieces filled with music and song, documentaries on poets and artists, even children’s fables and detective stories. More than a filmmaker, he was also a composer, visual artist, intellectual, theorist, and even illustrator of children’s tales.

“Not to have seen the cinema of Ray means existing in a world without seeing the sun or the moon,” wrote Akira Kurosawa. Ray passed away in 1992, leaving behind a legacy of thirty-six films and countless short stories, sketches, illustrations, and even musical compositions. Our series, which continues through August, includes nearly all of his films. Discover—or rediscover—this legend of cinema.

Check back for the complete screening schedule.

—Jason Sanders, Film Notes Writer

About the preservation
The Academy Film Archive’s Satyajit Ray Preservation Project is an ongoing effort to preserve and restore Ray’s entire filmography. It began in 1992, after the producers of the Oscar telecast, who were gathering clips for the presentation of Ray’s Honorary Award, discovered that there were very few prints or video masters of Ray’s films in the United States, and that they were incomplete and in poor condition. The Academy decided to create a catalog of the surviving elements of all Ray’s films to assess whether any were in danger of being lost. The final report was chilling and prompted resolute action.

For its preservation efforts, the Academy has collaborated closely with the Satyajit Ray Society; a group of producers who worked with Ray; the National Archives of India; the Merchant and Ivory Foundation; the Film Foundation; and the Satyajit Ray Film and Study Center at the University of California, Santa Cruz. This teamwork has ensured that every element that still exists can be accessed to make the best restorations possible. To date, the Academy Film Archive has preserved eighteen of Ray’s feature films and one short subject.

Friday, January 17, 2014
7:30 p.m. Pather Panchali
Satyajit Ray (India, 1955). 35mm Restored Print! Introduced by Josef Lindner. Ravi Shankar provides the score for Ray’s debut film, a tale of a young boy in an impoverished Bengal village. The film won a special prize at Cannes: Best Human Document. (122 mins)

Saturday, January 18, 2014
7:30 p.m. Aparajito
Satyajit Ray (India, 1956). 35mm Restored Print! Introduced by Josef Lindner. The second film in Satyajit Ray’s beloved Apu Trilogy follows Apu’s family as they travel to the holy city of Benares along the banks of the Ganges. “Graceful, insightful, and moving” (SF Chronicle). “The characterization of Apu lies in the heart of modern India” (SFIFF). (106 mins)

Sunday, January 19, 2014
4:45 p.m. The World of Apu
Satyajit Ray (India, 1958). 35mm Restored Print! Introduced by Josef Lindner. Part three of Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy finds Apu as an adult, and in love. “In essence the film is a love story so fresh and spontaneous that one feels Ray created it entirely out of his own spirit, as if it were the world’s first love story” (Pauline Kael). (103 mins)

Thursday, January 23, 2014
7:00 p.m. The Bicycle Thief
Vittorio De Sica (Italy, 1948). De Sica’s masterpiece of a father and son searching the streets of Rome for their stolen bicycle is considered one of the greatest films ever made, and cited by Satyajit Ray as an inspiration. “An allegory at once timeless and topical” (Village Voice). (93 mins)

Saturday, January 25, 2014
6:30 p.m. The Music Room
Satyajit Ray (India, 1958). 35mm Restored Print! A turn-of-the-century aristocrat whose funds and holdings are dwindling continues to spend money on lavish concerts in his music room, in Ray’s rueful, Chekhovian masterpiece, “one of the greatest films in the history of Indian cinema” (Kent Jones). (100 mins)

Sunday, January 26, 2014
3:00 p.m. Ray: Life and Work of Satyajit Ray
Goutam Ghose (India, 1999). Noted Bengali filmmaker and documentarian Ghose was handpicked by Satyajit Ray’s widow to create this moving eulogy and tribute to the great director, which acknowledges his influences and draws inspiration from Ray’s original red notebook of sketches, first drafts, and musings. (105 mins)

Sunday, January 26, 2014
5:10 p.m. The River
Jean Renoir (France, 1950). IB Technicolor Print! Based on a novel by the author ofBlack Narcissus, Renoir’s wise, warm Technicolor masterpiece follows several young girls coming of age on the River Ganges. A young Satyajit Ray served as a location scout. “The artist, medium, and location combine, as though effortlessly, to produce an experience of surpassing loveliness” (NY Times). (99 mins)

Sunday, February 2, 2014
4:45 p.m. Devi
Satyajit Ray (India, 1960). 35mm Restored Print! A teenage Sharmile Tagore delivers one of her most riveting performances in Ray’s tale of faith and obsession, set in rural Bengal circa 1860. A wealthy landowner offers his beautiful daughter-in-law as an incarnation of the goddess Kali. (93 mins)

Sunday, February 9, 2014
3:00 p.m. Three Daughters
Satyajit Ray (India, 1963). 35mm Restored Print! In honor of the centenary of the writer Rabindranath Tagore’s birth, Ray made this feature based on three Tagore stories. (171 mins)

Saturday, February 15, 2014
5:45 p.m. The Big City
Satyajit Ray (India, 1963). 35mm Restored Print! Ray sets his ironic and humorous eye on the plight of the Bengali middle class, caught amid the changing moralities of urban life. Focusing in particular on the role of women in this metamorphosis, Ray tells a story that is both minutely particular to Calcutta and universally recognizable. (135 mins)

Sunday, February 23, 2014
2:00 p.m. The Expedition
Satyajit Ray (India, 1962). 35mm Restored Print! The great Bollywood superstar Waheeda Rehman stars in one of Ray’s most atypical films, a commercially successful noir melodrama filled with taxi drivers, drug smugglers, and prostitutes that became the director’s most popular film in his native Bengal. (150 mins)

Thursday, February 27, 2014
7:00 p.m. Rabindranath Tagore
Satyajit Ray (India, 1961). Two essential Ray documentaries on his greatest influences:Rabindranath Tagore, on the Nobel Prize–winning poet and painter, and Sukumar Ray, on the director’s father, a writer and critic. (84 mins)

Presented in partnership with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Series curated by Senior Film Curator Susan Oxtoby. BAM/PFA wishes to thank: Michael Pogorzelski, Josef Lindner, May Haduong, Matt Severson, and Jane Glicksman at the Academy Film Archive; Dilip Basu, the Satyajit Ray Film and Study Center at the University of California, Santa Cruz; Julie Pearce and Waltraud Loges, BFI; Brian Belovarac, Janus Films; and Goutam Ghose.

Photo courtesy of the organiser/s

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