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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

PATHER PANCHALI (1955)

Satyajit Ray’s famous first film belongs near the top of what is a surprisingly long list of masterpiece debut pics. (Think OUR HOSPITALITY, CABIN IN THE SKY, CITIZEN KANE, THE 400 BLOWS, CHICAGO.) Ray’s clear-eyed view of a family struggling against poverty & disintegration in rural India clearly stems out of the post-WWII neo-realist style and, of course, the humanism of Jean Renoir, under whom Ray apprenticed on THE RIVER. Ray always maintained a certain distance between himself and that film, but Renoir's quietly assured, subtle technique certainly made its mark. And do those exquisitely held contemplative landscape shots, used as punctuation, show a knowledge of Yasujiro Ozu's manner? No matter, Ray instantly developed a voice of his own that perfectly delved inside his own artistic rivers of life. Here, we meet a tragic dreamer of a father, an embittered yet sympathetic mother, a headstrong daughter to cherish while she's with us and the bright-eyed son who takes in each unforgettable moment for us/with us. And for Ray it was only the beginning.

CONTEST: Name and defend two more debut pics that belong up there with the ones mentioned above. (This is a rare non-factual/opinion-oriented CONTEST, so grab it.) The first convincing answer gets our usual priceless prize, a MAKSQUIBS Write-Up on any NetFlix DVD of your choice.

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