A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Charulata (Satyajit Ray, 1964)

Madhabi Mukherjee and Soumitra Chatterjee in Charulata
Charulata: Madhabi Mukherjee
Amal: Soumitra Chatterjee
Bhupati Dutta: Shailen Mukherjee
Umapada: Shyamal Ghoshal
Manda: Gitali Roy

Director: Satyajit Ray
Screenplay: Satyajit Ray
Based on a story by Rabindranath Tagore
Cinematography: Subrata Mitra
Production design: Bansi Chandragupta
Music: Satyajit Ray

Watched on Filmstruck Criterion Channel

Charulata is the beautiful, bored wife of the wealthy Bhupati, who spends his time working on his newspaper devoted to the independence of India. At the start of the film, behind the opening credits, we watch as she embroiders a handkerchief for him, then Ray's ever-fluid camera follows her as she wanders through the richly appointed rooms of their house, gazing at the outside world through opera glasses and searching for something to read. At one point, Bhupati enters the house, smoking his pipe and reading a book, and walks right by her, not seeing or acknowledging her. But he becomes conscious of his wife's ennui and invites her brother, Umapada, and his wife, Manda, to live with them, and turns over the management of his business affairs to Umapada so Bhupati can devote more time to his newspaper. But Manda is empty-headed and prefers playing card games to providing intellectual companionship. Then Bhupati's cousin Amal, an aspiring writer, comes to visit, and Charulata is immediately attracted to him because of his literary interests and his sensitive poetic nature. In a scene set in the neglected garden of Bhupati's house, Amal writes poetry while Charulata soars on a swing, the camera tracking her movements. Their conversation inspires Charulata to express herself in writing, and she succeeds in getting a piece published about her memories of the village where she grew up -- even inspiring a little envy on Amal's part. Then we learn that Umapada has embezzled money from Bhupati and he and Manda have disappeared. Despondent, Bhupati tells Amal that he has lost trust in everyone but him, which stirs Amal's guilt: He realizes that he and Charulata have fallen in love, and rather than add to the burden of betrayal that has already been unloaded on Bhupati, he leaves suddenly. Charulata's grief at Amal's departure opens Bhupati's eyes to what has happened between his wife and his cousin. At the film's end, Charulata and Bhupati reach out for each other, but Ray chooses to depart from his usual mobile camera and to record the moment in a series of still photographs, over which he superimposes not the title of the film but that of the story by Rabindranath Tagore on which it was based: "The Broken Nest."

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