(If you haven't seen it, Dusted Off has a nice summary in her post here.)
With one caveat: there are no women who speak in this film. There are only two women of any stripe, and they appear in the last few minutes only to serve as wish-fulfillment (i.e. pretty, royal wives) for the two heroes. In the week since I saw this film, I have not been able to come to terms with this aspect of the script. Whatever justification is offered—namely that the original story (by Ray's grandfather) has no women in it—I am unsatisfied, although it has been very interesting thinking about what responsibilities one has to one's own time and/or culture when selecting a base story from another. There is no particular reason evident in the film itself why some of the characters couldn't be female, and I cannot accept the idea that "of course royal advisors and soldiers couldn't be female" in a film that has dancing ghosts, boons, and @(#*&^! magical shoes.
You can read more on this issue in the comments on Dusted Off's post on the film and even more in a mighty essay at the Journal of the Moving Image (Jadavpur University) called "Conditions of Visibility: People's Imagination and Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne" by Professor Mihir Bhattacharya. There is a ton of interesting stuff in there, but this sentence is heavy with the feeling of fundamental truth: "This exaggerated depopulation...constitutes no mystery, for it is customary to hold that boys have more interesting lives, that the majority of the readers will be boys, and that boys constitue the more precious half of the child population."
I fancy myself at least moderately sensitive to gender issues, especially blatant ones like "Where—literally where—the frack are the women in this film?!?", but GGBB is so delightful that even I did not notice any of this until about three-fourths the way through the film when one of the heroes spots a princess far up on the balcony of a palace tower. That is how wonderful this movie is. It's so full of charm and interest and humor that you don't even notice your pet peeve howling at you through its entire run time.
Like most great children's films, it works on multiple levels simultaneously (or so I imagine, not having seen it until just last week) and has as much to offer adults as children: not only some commentary on being an imperfect human, but also basic cinematic assets like characterization, music, and visuals. This just may be one a film that falls into the elite category of "If you don't like this, there is something seriously wrong with you."
|"In three days, bring five horses and meet me at the pyramid. We will cross swords in the mountains. At least one royal personnage will be very unhappy, for collapsed is the body that wears the crown and eats the donut."|
|Am I crazy or is this headboard based on rangoli? Isn't that the coolest thing you've ever seen?|
Read more at SatyajitRay.org. Thank you, Samit, for encouraging me to watch this. You were so right.