Monday, October 18, 2021

The Criterion Release of Satyajit Ray’s Devi (1960)

Soumitra Chatterjee and Sharmila Tagore (foreground) in Devi (1960).

By the nineties, the films of the great Indian director Satyajit Ray were in a shocking state of disrepair. Merchant Ivory re-released eight of them to arthouses in 1995, but the company didn’t make any attempt to restore them to their former glory; it simply found the best prints available, and I guess that was better than nothing. But the wizardry performed by the Criterion Collection and L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna on The Apu Trilogy, which collaborated to reconstruct negatives burned in a fire at a London laboratory, resurrected three premier masterpieces of world cinema. (They were returned to theatres six years ago; a thrilling documentary on the Criterion Channel details the process by which they were rebuilt.) Now you can access seventeen Ray pictures on Criterion, including his documentary about the Indian author Rabindranath Tagore, and Three Daughters, the complete short-story film anthology previously unavailable in North America: when I was introduced to it in my twenties – in the years when I discovered Ray and fell deeply in love with his work, it was called Two Daughters. The Ray collection is a treasure trove. A realist-humanist on the order of Jean Renoir, who was his chief influence, Ray ought to be essential viewing for anyone who reveres the art of filmmaking.