Starting today, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles will celebrate the centennial of Satyajit Ray with a two-part retrospective. The graphic designer, essayist, novelist, and composer won immediate international acclaim as a filmmaker when his debut feature scored several prizes around the world, including two in Cannes. Pather Panchali (1955) was the first of his adaptations of Bibhutibhusan Banerjee’s novels that became The Apu Trilogy, which tracks the fortunes and misfortunes of an aspiring writer from rural Bengal.
Ray had grown up in Kolkata but studied in Santiniketan, far north of the big city, at the university founded by Bengali poet, composer, novelist, painter, and playwright Rabindranath Tagore. “While Tagore’s prodigious gifts ranged across several of the arts,” wrote Girish Shambu in the essay accompanying our 2015 release of The Apu Trilogy, “Ray orchestrated a fusion of art forms—and of the universal and the close to home—in that modern medium of synthesis par excellence: cinema.”
The first part of the museum’s retrospective will run through December 29 and focus on Ray’s first decade as a filmmaker. Most of the fifteen features will be screened as 35 mm prints from the Academy Film Archive. Among the highlights besides The Apu Trilogy is The Music Room (1958), which, as Philip Kemp wrote in 2011, “can be seen as an early pointer to the future breadth and variety of Ray’s work, as well as to the grace, lucidity, grasp of social resonance, and sympathetic insight into complex human emotions that make him one of the world’s finest filmmakers.”
Devi (1960) “stands out for the brutal honesty and cynicism with which it renders a woman’s dispossession,” writes Devika Girish. In 2013, Chandak Sengoopta pointed out that The Big City (1963), too, is “a major work incorporating Ray’s long-standing interest in women’s lives, while foreshadowing the grand themes of his later films on contemporary Kolkata: the impact of work—and its absence—on people, the agony and ecstasy of metropolitan life, and the place of individual morality in modern capitalist society.”
Since opening in late September, the museum has been drawing visitors eager to take a look at Judy Garland’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz (1939) or the tablets from The Ten Commandments (1956); to attend the local premieres of such films as Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho or Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley; or to see a film in one of the museum’s two new state-of-the-art theaters. Programmers Bernardo Rondeau and Kiva Reardon have loaded the holiday and early winter calendar. The current Hayao Miyazaki series is running through January 1, but the exhibition dedicated to the master storyteller and animator mentioned in last week’s books roundup will be on view through June 5.
From December 11 through January 31, Vienna in Hollywood: Émigrés and Exiles in the Studio System will spotlight work from such directors as Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder, Michael Curtiz, Otto Preminger, and Josef von Sternberg as well as screenwriters (Salka Viertel and Vicki Baum), actors (Paul Henreid and Peter Lorre), and composers (Max Steiner and Erich Wolfgang Korngold). The museum will also present a Roberto Gavaldón retrospective, the first of three series devoted to Mexican cinema, from January 6 through 23.
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