It's tender, beautiful and utterly heart-breaking. The sheer poverty of the individuals is overwhelming and each one exhibits their poverty and destitution differently. But Ray doesn't sentimentalise or condemn; he merely observes. And in doing so he's created one of the greatest films the world has ever seen. Watch the entire trilogy and you'll wonder afresh at what cinema, at its best, is capable of achieving.
Just had the opportunity to see the new 4K restoration in a movie theater. Revelatory. I have never been a full-on Satyajit Ray convert and have not seen Pather Panchali since the late 90s. It always struck me as something naked and simple, almost primitivist. Which is wrong. Totally backwards, in fact. The level of sophistication in terms of narrative, blocking, camera positioning, and the use of actors is stunning.
Shares much of its DNA with the Italian neorealism of The Bicycle Thieves: small ripples having devastating effects in the lives of proud, desperate people. It may be the first part in Apu's trilogy, but really this is Sarbojaya's story, focusing on her gritted determination, and her bitterness at the cards that life has dealt her.
Re-rating this, since the new restoration on the big screen makes all the difference over a fuzzy video tape. Beautiful, heartfelt, elliptical—more stunning shots than you can count, and the ways it chooses to show (or not show) vital plot points may be its biggest breakthrough. I still think there's something to the criticism that it's constructed too loosely; even beauty can be numbing. But you won't forget it.
It's one of those films that makes you realize that makes you realize how large the world really is. It's a story created individually by each character and by the end of the film you know who's the author. I wish children could watch this movie or at least find the patience to, because it feels like it was made for them.
Taking inspiration from Italian neorealism, Ray's debut brims w/ authenticity that's gripping from calm beginning to tragic end. If it's slow, it's only because it's source material (& rural life in a Bengali village) is slow. It captures life's ups & downs in a way that's foreign to most but relatable to all. Beautiful and heartbreaking...
What both bothers me and pleases me about the film is that many actions by the children are (and remain) mysterious to the viewer. Is Durga's strange ceremony in the rain a kind of mock "marriage" with nature? And where does Apu go afterwards with the umbrella? Is he running away from home, or going off in search of his father? Although a very pure and simple film, Pather Panchali still has its mysteries.
While quite an achievement to make, and a beautifully shot film from a first time director working with a completely untrained cinematographer, it lacks a narrative or through-line to carry the viewer. As a document of rural Indian life, it's marvelous.