Pather Panchali

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(1955, directed by Satyajit Ray)

- inducted 2015 –

"It’s easy to look at Satyajit Ray’s first film, Pather Panchali, and see in it an Indian version of Neo-Realism. It is a Neo-Realist film in so far as it conforms to an aesthetic that values natural performances from (mostly) non-actors and an unsentimental look at poverty and struggle. You could also argue that Pather Panchali and the Apu Trilogy generally (of which Pather Panchali is the first film) fulfill the ultimate aims of Neo-Realism by finding a kind of luminous transcendence in small, quotidian things. These things it certainly does, and the impact of its unfussy humanism is what I remembered about the film twenty years after I last saw it. Watching it anew, though, I realize that I’m selling the film short by framing it in this way.

"There’s something about Pather Panchali that transcends Neo-Realism. Ray was a first-time director working with a first-time cinematographer and you can sometimes catch them groping their way through film grammar and arriving at their own imagining of what cinema is. That something is uniquely their own. You see it in the grace of its film-editing, in the beautiful density of its shot compositions, and in the way it allots the burden of representation to its various characters. This film isn’t just about Apu, even though the trilogy bears his name. It’s about his sister, Durga, his ancient vagabond aunt, his mother, and the illusions of his father, whose endless optimism is balanced both by the realistic nature of his wife and the crushing poverty in which his family lives. There’s a completeness to this film’s world, even if it’s a world in microcosm. It extrapolates the universal from the specific like few other films. It’s a film that’s more expansive than its resources, one that builds on the bones of Neo-Realism and adds a poetry and grace that mark the film indelibly as one of the greatest ever made."

~ Christianne Benedict

Principal cast: Kanu Bandyopadhyay, Karuna Bandyopadhyay, Chunibala Devi, Uma Dasgupta, Subir Bandyopadhyay, Runki Bandyopadhyay, Reba Devi, Apurna Devi, Tulsi Chakraborty
Screenplay by: Satyajit Ray
Based on the novel by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay
Cinematography by: Subrata Mitra
Production design by: Bansi Chandragupta
Film editing by: Dulal Dutta
Music by: Ravi Shankar
Sound by: Bhupen Ghosh (sound recordist)

Duration: 119 minutes
Languages: Bengali
Filmed in black and white
Sound mix: Mono
Cinematographic process: Spherical
Aspect ratio: 1.37:1
Printed film format: 35mm

Produced by Government of West Bengal
Released in USA by Edward Harrison
Premiered in India on 26 August 1955
USA release date: 22 September 1958

Awards and honors:
- Selected as one of Roger Ebert’s “Great Movies,” 4 March 2001 (along with Aparajito and The World of Apu)
- Cannes Film Festival, 1958: Best Human Document (won)
- Cannes Film Festival, 1958: OCIC Award – Special Mention (won)
- Cannes Film Festival, 1958: Palme d’Or (nominated)
- BAFTA Film Awards, 1958: Best Film From Any Source (nominated)
- National Board of Review, 1958: Best Foreign Film (won)