Pather Panchali (1955)


Summary: A young boy and his family live in poverty, which is only made more challenging when his father leaves for five months to search for a job somewhere else.

Thoughts: As the plain summary reveals, this film isn’t strongly plot driven, like most modern American films.  It’s one of those slower-paced episodic look-at-life sort of films, the sort you see when exploring older foreign films or indie films.  (Which is not to say the film is without a plot, only that the plot is more thematic in nature.  That is, it’s the themes that run through the various “episodes” that unite them.)  One particular theme is easy to pick up on: The film shows how mean-spiritedness can spread from one person to another as characters take out their frustrations on undeserving victims.  But this is always portrayed in a naturalistic distant non-judgmental fashion, allowing the audience to empathize with the characters even when their mean-spiritedness is aggravating.  And, of course, the story ends in naturalistic tragedy, not uncommon in these sorts of films.  The film is sorely in need of restoration, but after you get used to the old film artifacts (scratches and dust and shaky frames, etc.), it’s a pretty engaging film.  (At least, if you like these sort of slow-paced episodic films.)

Trivia: According to this article, Francois Truffaut said of the film: “I don’t want to see a movie of peasants eating with their hands.”  Thankfully he didn’t remain a film critic.  Though I vaguely recall hearing on a DVD bonus feature that Truffaut didn’t like seeing people eat in films at all, so I guess people eating with their hands was extra torture for him?

Also, at least one kitten was harmed in the making of this film.  But don’t worry, the character who throws the animal gets her comeuppance!

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