Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

The Apu Trilogy 

Wednesday, Jun 10 2015

Even before The Simpsons, the whole world knew the name Apu. That began with an unprecedented portrait of rural Indian boyhood in Satyajit Ray's 1955 debut Pather Panchali (which won Best Director and Best Picture awards at the very first San Francisco International Film Festival). As is clear from our first proper introduction to the character, when he peeks with one eye out from a blanket and then rises into an embracing closeup, this Apu is enduringly sensitive, observant, and intelligent. For the family into which he's born, poverty is a bane, but education is a priority. Eventually he aspires to be a writer — but fate seems capricious, and life itself seems precarious. In Aparajito (1956), he reaches adolescence and goes away to school; in Apur Sansar (1959), he becomes a father. Any summary is reductive; what makes the films work is the sense they give of accumulating life experience. In his prime Ray offered an oasis of sorts, a comparative quietude among the formal, political, and metaphysical provocations put out by other art-house titans of his time. Here was something fixed lower in the human hierarchy of needs, something gracefully grounded. "No amount of technical polish can make up for artificiality of theme and dishonesty of treatment," Ray once wrote, and since it's not okay to tattoo those words on some people's foreheads against their will, recommending the Apu films will have to suffice. They've aged well because they were made with complete conviction, and it's hard to understate the value they place on human dignity. Don't miss the chance to check them out.


About The Author

Jonathan Kiefer

SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.


Comments are closed.

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed
  1. Most Popular


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"