A long-lost uncle, a stranger to the family who has almost been given up for dead, signals his existence in a letter expressing his desire to spend a few days in Calcutta with his niece. Driven by the suspicions of the husband, the family thinks he might be an impostor, if not a common thief, who may have come to claim an inheritance. The uncle, a world traveller, is put to the test by various bhadralok, friends who try to probe him: is he really the uncle or only pretending to be him? When questioned by a lawyer friend, the uncle shows legal acumen in defending himself. The niece’s little boy has accepted the uncle from the start. The niece also gradually comes to accept him, whereas her husband, like everyone else, cannot understand this mysterious visitor. The uncle departs as abruptly as he arrived, leaving some wise observations on the qualities of “civilization” and human nature.
An emotionally charged film, Ray literally, plants his own voice in it. He briefly sings three times in place of the enunciator-protagonist. The film voices his global concerns; against narrowness of all sorts, against boundaries, borders and barriers. –Satyajit Ray Film and Study Center
Satyajit Ray is one of cinema’s truest Renaissance men. In addition to his films, he is a reputed writer of short stories, a music composer (scores for his own films and other film-makers, notably Merchant-Ivory’s Shakespeare Wallah) and a painter and graphic designer of considerable skill. Appropriately enough, Ray derived from a background of great culture, the son of poet Sukumar Ray who died when he was three years old. His interest in fine arts, literature and painting led him to reside at Rabindranath Tagore’s Santiniketan (an intellectual retreat for artists and thinkers) for a significant period of time. Ray’s true love however was the cinema. The cinema of 30s Hollywood, which included Fred Astaire musicals and comedies by Ernst Lubitsch; Russian films he devoured in repeated viewings at the Calcutta Film Society (which he co-founded in 1947) and later the Italian neorealist films which he discovered in London.
At the time of the Second World War, and the final period of… read more
I went ahead and watched this before poring through all the middle films. It's the perfect artist's statement: Ray having to shake off all of India's centuries-long social codes to be the unique voice that he is. It's just about the best sort of personal, narrative filmmaking you can get.