In 1955, the year Satyajit Ray's beautiful first feature, Pather Panchali, won the grand prix at Cannes, no less a humanist than Francois Truffaut walked out of a screening declaring, "I don't want to see a film about Indian peasants." Time and critical opinion have been much kinder to this family melodrama--derived, like its successors in the Apu trilogy, Aparajito and The World of Apu, from a 30s novel by Bibhutibhusan Banerjee--than to Truffaut's remark. Yet there's no question that Ray's contemplative treatment of a poor Brahmin family in a Bengali village, made on a small budget and accompanied by the mesmerizing music of Ravi Shankar, is a triumph of mood and character rather than an exercise in brisk Western storytelling. This new print launches an exciting retrospective of Ray's important, long-unavailable work, perhaps the closest thing to a genuinely "classical" and novelistic oeuvre in the Indian cinema. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, August 11 through 17.

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