Don't miss a single one of these great films on display at TIFF Bell Lightbox in the TIFF Cinematheque series "The Sun and the Moon: The Films of Satyajit Ray". From visionary programmer James Quandt, this is one of the most important retrospectives ever presented in Canada. If you care about cinema, you can't afford to miss even one. Heed the warning below!!! The Film Corner & Mr. Neeson mean business!!!
By Satyajit Ray
Pikoo [Pikoor Diary] (1980) *****
Dir. Satyajit Ray
Starring: Arjun Guha Thakurta, Aparna Sen, Promod Ganguli, Victor Banerjee, Soven Lahiri
Sadgati [Deliverance] (1981) *****
Dir. Satyajit Ray
Starring: Om Puri, Mohan Agashe, Gita Siddharth, Smita Patil, Richa Mishra
Prepare to be devastated. Satyajit Ray's in the house. Two short films he made for television during the 1980s and in glorious colour, no less (juxtaposing the lush, stunning compositions with the dark subject matter), are movies that pack enormous wallops from within their slender running times, a mere 28 minutes for Pikoo and a slightly longer mid-length running time at 52 minutes for Sadgati.
We're talking 80 minutes to be completely drained by Ray's staggering portraits of infidelity and India's foul, backwards caste system respectively. Both movies offer far more food for thought and dramatic punch than the vast majority of films made back then. As for now, most films do little more than offer ephemeral frissons for audiences too indoctrinated to realize they've being force-fed buckets of faecal matter by cash-grubbing, cynical nest-featherers. These two films are both monumental achievements and stand as a testament to their filmmaker, but also the visionary broadcasters who allowed Ray to make these stunning, short one-off dramas. There are certainly few, if any, contemporary broadcasters who'd allow this now and chances are, none of them know who Satyajit Ray was anyway and worse, wouldn't know great filmmaking even if it was represented by some meaty schwance slapping them in the face through a glory hole with a little sign dangling from said appendage that specifically indicated the content of the communion host they were about to receive down their greedy gullets.
Pikoo creates a slice of life in the acrimonious existence of an affluent family which results in a tragic event that should have been avoided, but given the social conditions a patriarchal society creates, it almost seems inevitable. Much of this tale is recounted through the eyes of a little boy, the title character. His love for his Mother and Grandfather are passionate and intense, though his feelings for his father seem almost non-existent. Ray provides a hint in the film's opening that the patriarch of this household is an uncommunicative, absent prig who spends more time preparing himself for a day at work than bothering to even acknowledge his sweet little boy. All poor Pikoo can get is a half-hearted wave from his Dad as the distracted breadwinner drives off to work.
Pikoo's mother affords the boy with love and attention, but even she is distracted. Firstly, she's more than a tad preoccupied by learning that her husband is aware of her infidelity. Strangely and just a bit selfishly, and in spite of the fact that she and her husband have argued all night (which we find out when Pikoo confides this to his ailing grandfather), the lonely Jezebel spends far too much time fretting that her lover (described to Pikoo as an interior decorator who must be addressed as "Uncle") will carve out time from his day to come over and deliver the vigorous poking she requires.
The story unravels with canny simplicity and leads to a horrendous moment of reckoning that affects everyone, but especially the innocent party in this whole sordid affair - a sweet little boy who is far too young to be aware of the sickening reality of his family's domestic strife and worst of all, having to make a discovery that will haunt him forever.
If Pikoo isn't enough to drag you through hot coals, Sadgati (aka Deliverance) will pretty much stuff you screaming into the flames dancing ever-so menacingly in a wood-burning stove. A tanner wishes to receive a blessing and advice on the most auspicious day to hold his daughter's wedding. The local Panditji (Hindu Brahmin Priest) is more than willing to oblige, but as the tanner is of the lowest social strata, our Man o' God cavalierly demands the father-in-law-to-be perform the most menial, back-breaking physical labour.
What occurs is one of the most harrowing and savage indictments of India's caste system imaginable. The Holy Man regards the Tanner with such contempt that his demands are tantamount to torture. He knows the poor guy recently suffered from a debilitating fever, yet he forces him to chop wood from a petrified log using only a dull, rusty axe. The task is impossible, but the Paditji takes an almost sadistic pleasure in both humiliating the man and forcing him to carry out the physically draining work in the hot sun, without food, drink or adequate rest. As the tanner goes about the business of sheer futility, the Panditji takes naps. Between naps, he barks out orders and insults.
The result of this act of psychopathic abuse is cruel and pointless. The aftermath is even more sickening. Ray uses colour in this film to its fullest juxtapositional effect. You will, I guarantee you, never forget the gorgeous sunset upon the rich dark countryside as a man's rotting corpse is dragged through the mud and unceremoniously dumped with utter disdain.
Pikoo and Sadgati are, once again, two more masterworks from Satyajit Ray. Whether he delivered feature drama, short works of fiction and even occasional documentary portraits, there are few filmmakers who have (or ever will) achieve the long string of greatness he delivered.
Pikoo & Sadgati are presented together at TIFF Bell Lightbox on July 11, 2014 at 9:30pm as part of the TIFF Cinematheque series "The Sun and the Moon: The Films of Satyajit Ray". This might be your only chance to see this masterpiece the way it was meant to be seen, so get your tickets NOW and GO. Visit the TIFF website for further details by clicking HERE.
DON'T FORGET TO BUY YOUR SATYAJIT RAY MOVIES FROM THE LINKS TO AMAZON.CA, AMAZON.COM and AMAZON.UK, BELOW. DOING SO WILL ASSIST WITH THE ONGOING MAINTENANCE OF THE FILM CORNER.
*BUYERS PLEASE NOTE* Amazon.ca (Canadian Amazon) has a relatively cruddy collection of Satyajit Ray product and generally shitty prices. Amazon.com has a huge selection of materials (including music and books) and decent prices. Amazon.UK has a GREAT selection of Satyajit Ray movies from a very cool company called Artificial Eye (second these days only to the Criterion Collection). Any decent Chinatown sells region-free Blu-Ray and DVD players for peanuts. Just get one (or several - they can be that cheap) and don't be afraid of ordering from foreign regions. The fucking film companies should just merge the formats into one acceptable delivery method worldwide. Besides, you can order anything you want from any country anyway.