Jalsaghar (The Music Room) 1958
The ominously swaying chandelier in the opening credits gives away the whole movie. Doom, gloom, and hopelessness are played out in lovely acting and musical performances that are encumbered by heavy, unexpectedly clunky symbolism. It's by far my least favorite of the ten Satyajit Ray films I've seen, though I did love the sense of archaeology whenever the camera wandered over the landscape and sets. It's visually very rich, but ultimately it didn't move me. Maybe I'm too much like Ganguly to appreciate this gem of another era—and mindset.
A note on the Criterion Collection blu-ray: this movie looked and sounded beautiful, no question about it. My one complaint is that the subtitles in white lettering were too faintly outlined to be legible when the footage behind them was light. This led to some real problems over scenes of light-colored floors or people in white clothing, which is what everyone in this film seemed to wear most of the time. Slightly heavier outlines would have solved this problem without sacrificing the size of the picture to a black bar at the bottom. I appreciate that the credits were subtitled too, but the English was smacked on top of the Bengali text, rendering both hard to read. And even though I don't read Bengali, I love looking at the writing. #Criterionfail.
Hira aur Patthar 1977
What a stinker. Despite interesting seeds—anger at the gods, labor unions, a corpse that must be hidden—and people who know their masala (Shashi Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, Ahsok Kumar, Bindu, Asrani), this movie goes nowhere and does nothing worth watching. One notable exception: a creative elopement wedding ceremony on a truck as the bride's family gives chase. I remember thinking the meet-cute was nice too, though a week later and I've forgotten why. For Shashi or Shabana completists only, such as Filmi Geek, with whom I snarked enjoyably through the whole film.
Aside: this film is directed by Vijay Bhatt, who also did a film with Meena Kumari and some anipals in the 30s called, of all things, Leatherface. If you have seen this, please, for the love of Helen, tell me all about it.
The most idiotic, unrealistic, and destructive plot I have ever seen in a Hindi film. Why anyone would want to make it is completely beyond me. It's just so dumb that I couldn't give a sh*t about any of its totally forced drama. Total waste of Shashi, Rakhee, and Rekha. The next time someone praises Gulzar to the skies, I'll give them a special stinkeye for this steaming pile of sacrifice porn. Another lesson learned: if you find your kid sister lying on your garland-bedecked bed on your wedding night, get that restraining order pronto.
And now I'm off to watch Charulata, which I am assured is amazing. It's about time.