Neither Apu nor Durga had ever seen a train while they lived in their village. One might argue that the highlight of the movie is when they run through the fields waiting in anticipation for the train to arrive, as they share a moment of awe in silence. Although the movie was made in the 1950's, right after India's independence, it is shocking to note that half its population had not even seen what a train looked like. Apu's father in the film traveled by foot, and then by bullock cart when he needed to make his way to Benaras or another nearby town. But, with the coming of the train was ingrained a ray of hope for Durga who also wished to explore and move out of her village. Unfortunately, this dream was never fulfilled as she died due to a fever she caught while playing out in the fields in the rain. This exemplifies the level of underdevelopment and need for change within India, especially for the villagers who form a majority of India's population.
tagged development india by kjhalani ...on 10-APR-08
After watching Pather Panchali, and reading an article like this, it becomes evident that a Satyajit Ray injected aspects of his own personality when molding characters for his movies. The elegance and calmness with which he viewed the world seems to be reflected in the father's character in the movie. Also, Durga seems to be the quintessential example of Ray's view of Indian women of the time, as he shows a young girl full of life, yet extremely responsible towards her family. Therefore, in order to understand Ray as a person, it is of paramount importance to watch his first, and possibly last film.
This article is very pertinent to Pather Panchali because although it is meant to be a story about a young boy Apu, the dominant characters of the film are played by two women - Durga and her mother. Apu is brought up in a household of three women who are at different stages in their lives. Thus overall the movie has a very comprehensive and real take on women of all ages, living in poverty in a small village in Bengal. Ray's depiction of women here is a mixture of the two ideas of the portrayal of women in Indian cinema. Although the mother seems to be more wary of her relationship with her husband, she is the sole caretaker of her two children, thereby stressing her role as both mother and wife. This is a realistic depiction of women in cinema, and came about at a time where people (Indian audiences) were not ready to accept such a strong reality. Thus, the movie was termed as an art-house film in India, although it received worldwide recognition.
tagged bollywood ray women by kjhalani ...on 10-APR-08
This article not only shows Ray's global appeal and appreciation as a filmmaker, but also gives examples as to why he reached that status. His debut film Pather Panchali seemed to shake the world of Indian cinema, as well as put Indian cinema on a global platform. The kind of nuances and details Ray stresses upon are very visible in Pather Panchali. In the scene when the family's house gets broken down due to a storm as Apu's father returns from Benaras, yet his reaction to the broken house was not as startling as one would expect it to be. He takes it within his stride and realizes that he needs to take his family and leave for another village - a very practical decision to make in such harsh times. This is representative of Ray's own calmness and elegance with which he handled even the toughest situations.
tagged a tribute by kjhalani ...on 10-APR-08
In Pather Panchali, Ray seems to be greatly influenced by the Neorealists as he creates a film that shows the lives of an ordinary Bengali family living in a village in postcolonial India. His movie was a strict deflection from typical films made in India at the time. Like the Neorealist directors, Ray too cast non-actors for the major roles. Other than the character of Indir who was played by a theatre actress, Ray used first time actors to play the roles in his film. Additionally, given that this was his first film, Ray did not have the finances to shoot on a movie set with high tech cameras or a large crew. He scrambled finances and shot on location, and also resorted to shooting parts of the film in 16mm as opposed to 35mm, which would have increased his budget for film stock. Greatly influenced by the Italian neorealist directors, Ray's film is almost a tribute to the great Italian filmmakers of that time.
tagged [none] by kjhalani ...on 10-APR-08
The movie, which is also a translation from text to celluloid, potentially faces similar challenges for an audience unfamiliar with Indian culture. Injected into Ray's movie are symbols and stereotypical relationships that aid in the understanding of the characters themselves. These are ideas that might not be wholly comprehended by a non-native Indian. The usage of the train is a direct indication of factors such as progress and transformation of a society - a universally understandable idea. But, others such as the importance of the existence of the caste system that plays into the character development might not be quite as clear. Additionally, the portrayal of the fat, paan (tobacco) eating aunt who lives across from the family plays into the Indian stereotype of a disgruntled relative from the paternal side. Thus, the article's main argument about the essence of something being lost when translated from one text to another, holds true when translating this Bengali film into English for a non-Indian audience.
tagged [none] by kjhalani ...on 10-APR-08
Apu's father in the movie is faced with a similar situation, whereby he is living an impoverished life. A man, who is greatly respected by fellow villagers due to the fact that he is educated and wishes to be a poet, is given no respect when he travels to the city in search of a job to earn a living to feed his family. In the movie Harihar Ray wishes to be a writer because he is born into a family of writers, because he belongs to the Brahmin caste. But, given the lack of jobs in the village itself, he wonders to a nearby city where he is ill-treated, firstly because he is looked upon as a villager, and secondly is unable to get jobs that ‘villagers' would get because they are all reserved for ‘villagers' from a lower caste. Given that this movie was made in 1958, it goes to show that people all over India suffered from such problems post independence as well. And although the movie is set in Bengal and not in Tamil Nadu, Brahmin's around the country seemed to live lives similar to the ones articulated by Satyajit Ray in this film, as well as ones written about by Bellman in the newspaper article.
The characters in the movie have personalities that have been profoundly influenced by the caste system they grew up in, as well as their immediate families. The movie is an exploration of their personalities, and tends to draw audiences in as we go on a journey along with these characters. The protagonist, Apu, is a young boy whose identity is a loose combination of facets seen in his sister Durga, as well as in his father. Durga and her father on the other hand, seem to have personalities that match their neighbor's; this alludes to the idea of identity existing in accordance with one's social surroundings. This further goes to show the importance generated by a community on one's personal identity. Durga's overpowering sense of self, along with her father's unusually quiet persona translate beautifully onto Apu, showing the importance of age, and gender in shaping one's identity.
Satyajit Ray's debut film was one that stood out when it was released due to the fact that it failed to follow a specific formula. Although it is a Bengali film, and not a Hindi film, Indian audiences (specifically) still expected it to adhere to traditional cinematic story telling styles. His story is a very real depiction of a poor family living in a village, and its humane aspect steers clear from typical song and dance escapist films Indian directors tend to gravitate towards. Additionally, this film does not reflect upon religion either implicitly or explicitly in its narrative; another point that the author of the article claimed was almost inevitable in Hindi films. It is due to this atypical storyline that the movie took a while to rise to popularity for a domestic audience, but won international acclaim almost immediately. Thus, Pathar Panchali stands out as an anomaly to the films that were created in India during that specific time period.
tagged [none] by kjhalani ...on 09-APR-08
Pather Panchali literally translates to "path of song" or "song of the little road." Panchali here specifically refers to a type of narrative folk song that was performed in Bengal in the early twentieth century. Thus the name of the film is itself representative of the time period it was made in, as well as the culture it alludes to. Composed by maestro Ravi Shankar, the music stays noticeably in tune with the emotional stability of the characters that live in a remote village in Bengal in the 1950's. The art of the music is wedded to the truth of the characters themselves and thus the movie as a compositional whole becomes reflective of the lives of a poor family living in Bengal.
In this article, Landy discusses how with respect to films by Godard, there are two hypothesis that she proposes come into effect while studying Godard. The first hypothesis is that “cinema is not a reflection of a reality, rather a reality of a reflection”. In her second hypothesis she states that there is no “just image”, rather there is only “just an image” – a concept which she relates to her first hypothesis. On other words, her claims are that Godard’s films are not produced for the viewer to interpret the “correct meaning” of the images that add up to a sense of the truth, but the scenes put forth something that is conceptual – the theory of cinema, which is also a philosophy. The relations that his characters share are in a sense still molding with the unfolding of the film, in a fashion which is not necessarily structured. The addition of sound, particularly classical music plays a hefty and important part in Godard’s films and serves as more than just background tunes or pieces. However, in his movies, Godard does not make a special effort to make sure that a one-to-one correspondence exists between visual and sound image. Together they serve the role of provoking associations regarding character, landscape, memory and event. This is an important concept for Une femme est une femme as Godard explains that “sounds have the value of images. I have never used music otherwise”.
Thus the cinematic image that Godard offers confronts a nearly impossible task of restoring “belief in the world”, rather than offering an “illusion” of the world and thus he introduces a “reflection into the image itself”.
In this article Davit talks of the scriptwriting for Une femme est une femme, and compares it to Godard’s others works like My life to live and Breathless. Godard refers to Une femme est une femme as “my first real film” and “the one I like best” as he moved to the radically different genre of color cinematography, while shooting this musical comedy on studio soundstages. The scriptwriting for this movie, along with other ones like My life to live and Breathless were extremely unorthodox, as Godard would finish scenes and write some finishing touches to scenes while the actors were getting their make up done. He was able to find and weave into the story some last minute inspirations which he thought would add productively to the overall feeling the film would generate. At one point though, after the filming of Le petit soldat, Godard had decided to say no to improvisation and wished to stick strictly to the script. Soon enough he realized the impossibility of his decision, and just termed it as his “method” of working. He also realized the potential of this “theatrical realism”, which he later termed as theatre verite. His methodology of working on a film was also very unlike contemporary directors of the time – he liked to shoot the film in sequence as it would be in the movie, take only one shot of a scene and chop out and delete any scene which he couldn’t relate to and have the final production with minimal editing. This is a very important trait that Godard was very well known and respected for, and even people who don’t know much about Godard know this fact about his films and their impact on New Wave French cinema.
In his later period Godard developed a new camera style, one that was primarily comprised of a log slow tracking shot that moved laterally in one direction across a static scene. Henderson states that this technique gives the shot the form of a 'planimetric painting'. He then goes on to contrast Godard's shot with Ophuls, saying that they are similar in their lateral nature but differ in that they are following shots. In addition he states that Ophuls tracks are 'uncritical of their subjects' while Godard’s shot is its 'critical distance from what it surveys. Godard also never interposes objects in the foreground between the character and the camera, something that Ophul does often. Next Henderson compares Godard’s shot with that of Fellini, stating that there are two main differences between the two: Fellini's camera gives life and directly affects the character it interacts with the reality it is filming, and his shots are often subjective. Godard's shot comparatively does not affect the reality and are never subjective.
After his comparisons, Henderson moves on to criticisms of Godard’s work, primarily from Andre Bazin who believes that Godard’s shots are flat and lack depth.
This essay by Solomon stresses on the stylistic movements in film during the new wave era. He starts by emphasizing that experiments in film, by various French directors have frequently found “quick acceptance” and have been followed by either strong public support, or critical acclaim. Due to the changes in the style of film and production, the American film industry began to lose out to the dominant European film market in the thirties and forties, although it became more susceptible to foreign influence. This resulted in avant-garde filming gaining familiarity with the mass audiences. Far from having any similarities to contemporary cinema, the French New Wave challenged the traditional well-made films. Rather than building characters and relationships, in order for audiences to understand the motivations of these characters, movies would just start up and get into the story, sometimes giving the audience the idea that the characters themselves may have been unaware of the reality in their own lives. For example, in Truffaut’s Breathless, the movie starts off with Michel stealing a car and progresses into him actually killing the cop who is following him. Not at any point during this scene does the audience get a sense of the main character or his motivation in terms of the way his mind works. He simply finishes this scene and then continues with his usual business. Godard likes his audience to form an image about the character based on what we have seen them do, and not on what we might interpret as their personality. While making his movies, Godard likes his audience to have a sense of imagination and does not influence every opinion that the viewer might have of the character. We feel like we are in a world where we are watching and observing the characters, who themselves might be examining their own activities. Through the movies we do not feel like we are left in the dark, rather in a space where we are allowed to judge the characters as we please, and unlike Hollywood films, can enjoy the movie thoroughly without having to develop a relationship with the characters on screen.
In this essay, Lack talks about the significance of reference to chronologically specific material like newspapers, magazines, and graffiti etc. which seem to be a theme in Godard’s first three films. He claims that reference to these nearly concealed hints of time and history, serve as a means of access to the political importance of the films. He brings to light the fact that the film was shot between November 1960 and January 1961, but was set in November 1960. A scene in the movie shows Angela (Anna Karina) looking at a calendar which shows that the date is November 10th. This date is the ‘narrative center of the film’, the date of the 11th is shown as while, however the scenes of that day are littered with imagery of the passage of time that is shown by the usage of old magazines, newspapers and video clips. In addition there is an elaborate football scene in the movie, one that is completely contrived, an oddity for this specific director. Godard is known for stressing the realistic elements in his movies and this scene is a somewhat contradiction to his style. A match such as this would have been played on a Wednesday not a Friday, something that would have been evident to all viewers. Godard additionally leaves a goal that is scored by Real Madrid as a goal, rather than having it disallowed by the referee which is what happened in actuality. As Lack stresses, this specific change has even further implications for Godard’s commentary on time within the film. Godard’s use of time in imagery and displacement illustrates the fact that he uses his films to afford one an escape from the constraints of time. He even omits any concurrent political events that were going on during the time of the movie, deciding instead to set it in a future time after the war of Algiers. Though the politics of the time are not made obvious in the film there are references to them as in the scene with the policeman and the possible terrorist threat.
In this article, Mesplomb brings the issue of women and sexuality in films, and women in French cinema, during the 50’s in particular. He starts off by explaining the influence of other cultures, especially Hollywood on French cinema. It was only after the Second World War that a generation of female actresses began to work their way onto the silver screen. Unfortunately, it was the over done, and patronizing image of the “female fatale”, that for most actresses seemed like the only way of hoping to make it as an actress. They had to make a decision – to seduce or to perish. It was simple. French cinema too started with that idea, but soon enough progressed to women playing roles in “reactionary and squalid melodramas”. There were two images that the audience had at that time of women in film – either they were innocent virgins or they were prostitutes. One of the main aspects of the New Wave films was that they showed the audiences a new image about sex and developed a new relationship that women on screen would have with the audiences and their characters. The New Wave also stayed away from the dominant myths of earlier French cinema – those of patriarchs and eternal feminine. Another point mentioned in his essay, was that scenes from films made in the 1960’s portrayed women and nudity in a form that it was reduced to clean eroticism, although in movies like Une Femme mariee by Godard, the audience would get a view that would be opposite to the innocent and arty nudity that most filmmakers claimed to focus on in this era. On the whole, the French New Wave did manage to break from the “sex object” reputation that women on screen had at the time, and also manages to break free from this “intrinsically male direction of relation to image”, but at the same time did not rid of this notion of men dominating the screen and women have a certain character or style from which the actresses could not deviate.
Godard's films in the time period of Une Femme est une femme deal with the flowering consumer culture of the time. He was concerned with what commodity culture meant for relationships and subjectivity, and how this would translate into imagery in both film and literature. This article considers that though Godard is concerned with reality, in some ways his interrogation of objects in his films becomes overkill and deconstructs meaning instead of making it more concrete. Just as advertising cites certain objects to have certain meanings (freedom, love, romance, etc.), Godard works on his own explicit citing and sometimes "over-cites," thus imbuing objects, and often connected people and relationships, with more meaning than is usually given through the homogenization which comes as a result of commodity culture.
His focus on objects and their relationship to people translates into a visual fascination, expressed in cinematic technique. He also considers gender differences in reactions to objects, in that he tries to portray whether men and women have different reactions to different objects. Though he is, in many ways, an observer in this fashion, through his conception of active filmmaking he also takes on a participant role in the definition and communication of what is real. "Realism as he practices it, however, requires a high level of artifice and manipulation on the part of the filmmaker, who is deeply mistrustful of given meanings, and of what in narrative and filmmaking is the most palatable, most reassuring to our a priori expectations and 'common sense.'" This article will inform my sense of Godard's reality, and work in conjunction with other articles in order to construct a perspective on how and why Godard reaches his often over-developed sense of reality.
Godard, in his films, combines the landscape of French culture and art, both old and new. In doing so, Godard becomes very focused on style above all else and draws on stylistic elements from artists as diverse as Rene Clair or Jean Renoir, Jean Vigo or Abel Gance, etc. He is also gives much importance to the written word, and as such is a very literary filmmaker. Also, having been widely traveled, Godard lets his experiences in ethnology and travel-filmmaking informs the nature of his work. These factors together, along with the idea that Godard is an extremely curious person who is constantly struggling with his sensibility in terms of good and reality, make his work a sort of "verbal delerium."
This, in a sense, explains and brings to light Godard's use of montage, which is driven by dialogue and meant to reflect the reality from fiction that he began to feel from reciting written works aloud. Though his works (such as Une femme est une femme) sometimes take an unrealistic, often dramatic stance on their message, this is, in fact, Godard's attempt to translate fiction into a reality that he – through his literary and theatrical perspective – can understand. He quotes Brecht, "Realism does not consist in reproducing reality, but in showing how things really are." This reality is often portrayed in a pseudo-nihilistic fashion, with Godard's apparent ambivalence towards good and bad. He often takes this reality a step further with improvisation.
Une femme est une femme is one film in which he uses a great deal of improvisation, while also using synchronous sound (direct recording) in order to develop the work. This gives the reality he is portraying in the film an all-important continuity. Two examples cited here are the scene in the apartment of Jeane-Claude Brialy and Anna Karina, where Anna cries leaning against the wall, as well as a café scene done in a long, continuous shoot. With synchronous sound and chosen music, and using improvisational camera techniques to keep it flowing, we are able to really get a feel for the emotions of the characters. Herein lies his connection to the old – his desire to flush out reality through the true expression of the attitudes and emotions of the characters. That he does so in an original fashion through the use of color, sound, and cinematography, is his connection to the new.
This article talks about the use of color in Godard's films, especially pertinent to “Une Femme est une femme” as it was his first color film. Primary colors, red and blue specifically, dominate the color landscape in Une Femme est une femme. Understanding the thematic implications of these color choices is important, and equating them with the major structural elements such as love triangles and the portrayal of female nudity is helpful in gauging those implications.
"Red, Blue, and Godard" compares Une Femme to Contempt and, in doing so, highlights many characteristic traits about the former, such as fragmented editing and the use of a wide variety of locations. Une Femme est une femme is an experimental work for Godard in some senses, as he had had no experience with the medium earlier. Trying to convey themes with the use of color is difficult for him, and his reliance on the presence of recurring colors is indicative of this. On page 25 of the article, there is a good discussion of different occurrences of red and blue, the main colors in the film, and the thematic implications of their use and the scenes in which they dominate. Through this section, and understanding when red is used and when blue is used, will indicate that "color is used as a leitmotif which parallels and comments upon the narrative theme."
The colors in the film serve a structural, organizational purpose, in that they move beyond serving a strictly sensual purpose and instead move into creating a "functional" system of organization which indicates to the viewer a consistent method of association in order to establish certain emotional responses. Filtering and the juxtaposition of hues are used to this end. Much of the rest of the article is spent discussing Contempt. I plan to use the portion of this article focused on Une Femme est une femme to inform and give structure to my conceptualization of Godard's system of colors.