Monday, March 28, 2016

#782: The Apu Trilogy

 (Satyajit Ray, 1955-59)

After more than 800 spine numbers and nearly twenty years, there are few titles that can compete with The Apu Trilogy for the title of most significant achievement in the Criterion Collection. As the spectacular (but brief) documentary on the supplements explains, the three films' negatives were heavily damaged in a fire, leaving Criterion and its partners with a painstaking task of restoring the damaged film and/or reconstructing a master print from various prints sprinkled throughout the world (the process used most generally for Apur Sansar). The finished versions of the films we see on these blu-rays are absolutely stunning, especially Pather Panchali, the crown jewel of the set. This film - certainly one of the ten or fifteen most important works in cinema history - has been transformed from a barely functional relic of a forgotten era to a pristine jewel in cinema's rich history. There have been glorious transfers in Criterion's day. But it is quite clear that nothing compares to this.

But what's most amazing about the story behind these restorations is that the stature of the films themselves is equal to this remarkable product. These are living breathing artifacts of a crucial turning point in cinema, monuments to a new era yet every bit as relevant today as they were when they were released. Quite simply, if you are receptive to the average Criterion film, The Apu Trilogy will have an enormous impact on you. It's the kind of movie experience that brings to mind only a handful of comparisons that can compete with its humanism, its cinematic sophistication, and its importance to one of the five major centers of filmmaking. You owe it to yourself to watch these movies.

Links to individual reviews:

783. Pather Panchali
784. Aparajito
785. Apur Sansar

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