A chance to witness the rebirth of the Apu Trilogy…
Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy – Recovering a Gem
Have you ever met Apu – Satyajit Ray’s Apu? If not, this is your chance to finally make his acquaintance – and he’s looking better than ever before. As film fans know, ‘The Apu Trilogy’ is master filmmaker Satyajit Ray’s seminal work, a story that is bound to touch whoever sees it, because it is our story. We may never have stepped into a Bengali village or lived in that simple yet hard world a century ago but this tale of family, struggle and aspirations speaks to something so universal, so human that it affects us all.
Many of us have seen Ray films in all sorts of settings: I myself have seen some in random morning shows in half-empty theaters in India; on scratchy DVDs; and one of them even at an acquaintance’s apartment in Kinshasa, Zaire, on a shabby screen via an aging, creaky projector. The prints were never really good but the content always moved you, and Apu’s sorrows and triumphs were always your own.
Here’ s a bit of history on how the film world almost lost Apu. In 1993, a year after Satyajit Ray won the Honorary Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a project was initiated to restore Ray’s films, including ‘The Apu Trilogy’. The negatives which were being stored temporarily in a film laboratory in London were massively damaged in a nitrate fire which took place on the premises.
Was one of the great cinematic treasures going to be lost forever?
Fortunately all our shining new technology has come to the rescue and Janus Films has released a 4K restoration of the three films in the Apu Trilogy – ‘Pathar Panchali’ (Song of the Road), ‘Aparajito’ (The Unvanquished), ‘Apur Sansar’ (The World of Apu). These remarkable films can now be seen in their restored form at Film Forum in New York on May 8 and at Landmark’s Nuart Theater on May 29, and will be shown at art house cinemas in various cities this summer, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit, Houston and Vancouver.
The Rebirth of ‘The Apu Trilogy’
It has been a major team effort extending over 7 years. The Criterion Collection in association with the Academy Film Archive at The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences teamed up with L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna, one of the world’s premiere restoration facilities.
Here is a fascinating recap of all that which made this restoration possible: “Close to a thousand hours of meticulous hand labor were spent to rehydrate the brittle film, rebuild sprocket perforations on the sides of the film and remove melted tape, glue and wax. Using fine-grain masters and duplicate negatives preserved by Janus Films, the Academy, and the British Film Institute, suitable replacements were found for the non-usable or missing sections of the original negatives.
In the end, forty percent of ‘Pathar Panchali’, and more than sixty percent of ‘Aparajito’ were restored directly from the original negative. ‘Apur Sansar’ restoration is comprised of a fine grain and a safety dupe negative, as the original negative was too damaged by the fire to be usable. Over the course of six months of steady work, the Criterion Collection restoration lab handled the digital restoration. Emphasis was placed on retaining the look and character of the original material, when necessary, preferring to leave damage rather than over-process digital images that might lose the grain and feel of the film. ”
Pathar Panchali, Aparajito and Apur Sansar – The Restoration
Peter Becker, President of the Criterion Collection and partner in Janus Films, has noted: “There’s a lot of discussion about how much irreplaceable film history we have lost from around the world, but this is one of the rare cases where the dedicated work of archivists have saved three masterpieces, allowing a whole new generation of film-goers to see them as their filmmaker intended.”
Master filmmaker Akira Kurosawa famously once said, “Never having seen a Satyajit Ray film is like never having seen the sun or moon.”
Well, now thanks to this wonderful restoration effort, here’s your chance to see the sun and the moon and also enter into the joys and tribulations of Apu’s world – seeing it all beautifully and with clarity. You will be enriched.