Thursday, December 3, 2015

#569: Apur Sansar (The Apu Trilogy)

Directed by: SATYAJIT RAY
1959, TSPDT Rank #249

Apur Sansar (also known as The World of Apu) is the third and final film in Satyajit Ray's monumental Apu Trilogy - newly released in a stunning restoration by the Criterion Collection. I had seen the first two films (Pather Panchali and Aparajito) about four years ago, but since I realized that I hadn't written a blog post for either of those films (even though they were included in my running count for the list), I decided to expand my post on Apur Sansar to cover the trilogy as a whole. The trilogy follows its main character, Apu, from his birth in a small Bengali village to his early adulthood in Calcutta - which is the subject of Apur Sansar. At first, the lightly comic tone of the final installment in the trilogy reminded me of Francois Truffaut's films about Antoine Doinel's early adulthood, but before long there is a notable shift in tone, and what follows is an attempt to convey the most sublime heights of life, as well as the most tragic depths - all in less than two hours. And while Pather Panchali and Aparajito both feature their fair share of tragic moments - with Apu experiencing the deaths of all his immediate family members before the age of 20 - Apur Sansar goes one step further by constructing a highly concentrated emotional journey through uncertainty, hope, confusion, fulfillment, absolute loss, and eventual reconciliation. However, despite the short running time, the series of events never feels contrived or predictable. Like the two previous films, this film is deeply felt and imbued with a sincere humanism that is rare throughout the history of cinema. In fact, the simple beauty and sincerity of these films is so consuming and profound that in retrospect it seems amazing the three films have a combined running time of less than 6 hours. Nevertheless, the trilogy manages to capture a diverse array of universally identifiable life moments without ever once falling back on saccharine sentimentality. These films certainly deserve their place among the greatest ever made - a place which will only be cemented and enriched with the release of Criterion's beautiful new restorations.

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