Sunday 15 May 2022

Sydney Film Festival 2022 - Essential Satyajit Ray: Selected by David Stratton - Introduction by Jim Poe

Sydney Film Festival has two major retrospectives for its 2022 event. The first is a ten film tribute to the master Bengali filmmaker Satyajit Ray. More information on the second tribute to Frederick Wiseman will be sent out shortly.

Below is the introduction to the Ray season that appears in the SFF catalogue. It has been written by Jim Poe. Notes on all the films and session  times, tickets  and the format, including some screenings on 35mm, etc can be found  IF YOU CLICK HERE


One of the world’s most revered filmmakers, Satyajit Ray revolutionised India’s cinema, beginning with his 1955 debut Pather Panchali. He was foremost a bold and visionary director and writer, but his genius was broad ranging, as evidenced by the wonderful scores he composed for many of his films. 


Ray’s films were acclaimed worldwide in their day but are even more relevant now. Their influence on directors including Martin Scorsese and Wes Anderson is huge. Ray’s languidly-paced, observational approach puzzled some critics at first, but slow cinema is a more widely embraced style now with director Kelly Reichardt (Meek’s CutoffFirst Cow) among Ray’s avowed fans. Ray’s dialogue has a freshness and an acerbic zing that also feels very modern. He was far ahead of his time in depicting strong, complex women. 


Ray found a unique balance between naturalism and formalism, between simplicity and complexity. There is an almost documentary approach to the detail of daily life, from cleaning to mealtime. His characters feel like ordinary people with real problems. But the cinematography is frequently stunning, especially in the films shot by Subrata Mitra: deep-focus landscapes with trains or animals in the distance; shadowy expressionist closeups, dreamlike images of insects and spiders. There are often layers of literary and religious allusion and political subtext concerning Indian independence or class struggle. 


Ray’s films are almost all set in what is now West Bengal. They are beautifully, proudly specific to Bengali culture and society, and often adapted from Bengali literature. At the same time, they are universal, exploring themes of family, work, personal growth and love that anyone can relate to. As David Stratton says, “Ray is one of the great humanist filmmakers.” 


Introduction and film notes compiled by Jim Poe 

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