A to Z of Films Meme ©

“Not to have seen the cin­ema of Satya­jit Ray means exist­ing in the world with­out see­ing the sun or the moon.”

- Akira Kurosawa



No points for guess­ing this one, my dear read­ers! Ray at his sub­lime best. The cam­era speak­ing more elo­quently than the dia­logue. Struc­turally per­fect. Emo­tion­ally sub­tle and com­plex. Vividly chro­matic cin­ema in mono­chrome. Immac­u­late art direc­tion. Pro­found char­ac­ter­i­za­tion ably sup­ported by ster­ling per­for­mances. A haunt­ing reflec­tion on the nature of human rela­tion­ships. Ray makes every shot and edit work in the film – there is not a sin­gle sec­ond of unnec­es­sary footage, every scene from the begin­ning to the end, is just perfect.

For those who haven’t already, do read my ear­lier post Light Rays on Charu­lata.

Run­ner Up

The Color Purple

The Color PurpleA Ben­gali house­wife in 1897 enrap­tures me – a 30-something male of more than a cen­tury later – in Charu­lata. A young black girl grow­ing up in the early 1900s in Amer­ica endears me in The Color Pur­ple, Spielberg’s mas­ter­piece. This is the power of cin­ema, of film-making at its best.

We meet Celie when she is 14 and preg­nant by her father. We live her life along with her for the next 30 years, despair­ing at her mis­for­tune, and exult­ing at her tri­umph. This is Whoopi Gold­berg in her first and finest per­for­mance, before being clos­eted by Hol­ly­wood into stereo­typ­i­cal roles. Danny Glover is ter­rific in por­tray­ing the phys­i­cal bru­tal­ity and out­ward strength mas­querad­ing as mas­culin­ity while betray­ing a weak­ness of char­ac­ter and inner strength. Oprah Win­frey, a first-timer like Gold­berg, is superb as the indomitable black woman who will not bow down to males or whites. The evoca­tive Sis­ter song! This is not a tale of a woman’s suf­fer­ing, but of her endur­ing strug­gle and ulti­mate vic­tory. The movie is not with­out flaws, but the story and per­for­mances are uniquely heart-rending.

When I first saw the film on the big screen in the mid-80s, I was young and impres­sion­able. I cried and cried and wept in joy. When see­ing it a few years ago, I did not break down emo­tion­ally, but was equally moved.

Note­wor­thy Mentions

Cit­i­zen Kane, the leg­endary Welles mas­ter­piece, that I’m still learn­ing to appreciate

Casablanca, the leg­endary, most-cited, most-beloved film of all time

A Clock­work Orange, cited by some as a great film-making, but did not go down well with me at all. I felt like hav­ing been food-poisoned after watch­ing the film. Not rec­om­mended by me.

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  • http://laviequotidienne.wordpress.com She­faly


    Much as I have seen other Satya­jit Ray work, I have not seen Charu­lata. I remem­ber your last post on the film and thought that would be your C film :-)

    Nor have I seen The Colour Pur­ple but I am glad to see there are other sen­si­ble peo­ple who cry in the cin­ema. I don’t always do but some­times I do.

    Would Char­i­ots of Fire have made it to your list if you were doing a top-10? :-)

  • http://mystic-life.livejournal.com mystic_life

    You have earned my deep­est respects for mak­ing “The Color Pur­ple” your run­ner up.

    I added Charu­lata to my net­flix queue after your last post, but I go through movies so slowly that I still haven’t seen it yet. School doesn’t leave much time for plea­sures, I’m afraid. But when I do see it, I’ll make sure to write a jour­nal entry and link it to you.

  • http://nitawriter.wordpress.com/ Nita

    Mahen­dra, you have indeed seen a lot of good cin­ema! I have seen nei­ther of these two films!

  • http://nabinatrisha.wordpress.com/ nabi­na­tr­isha

    Read the book Colour Pur­ple while I was in col­lege, yet to see the movie, yes­ter­day though I watched two I liked, one is called Transamer­ica about a man that goes thru trans­for­ma­tion to become a woman and how he/she copes with the fam­ily and his bio­log­i­cal son. the other is called Mother . Watch­ing AI and Amis­tad now. Both by the same direc­tor. Amis­tad would prob­a­bly be one of your favs too?

  • Dot­tie

    I must see Color Pur­ple now! Charu­lata is a film that stays with you long after you have seen it! Must watch it again now. I am enjoy­ing this series so much!

  • http://litterateuse.wordpress.com lit­ter­a­teuse

    Wow, you’re on a roll! Will look up The Color Pur­ple. Yes, had put my bets on all of the rest, Cit­i­zen Kane, Charu­lata & Casablanca :) And yay on Clock­work Orange too; it’s gen­er­ally one of the men­tion­ables, wasn’t sure if you would.

    I think for me per­son­ally, the tim­ing of see­ing Clock­work Orange was crit­i­cal. I saw it 4 years ago, and I echo your sen­ti­ment. But I remem­ber think­ing at that time, had I seen it when I was immersed into lit­er­ary crit­i­cism / film appre­ci­a­tion, I’d have seen it from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive. Not nec­es­sar­ily liked it, but seen it dif­fer­ently nevertheless.


  • http://lotusnova.blogspot.com/ Amit

    Your posts tell me I still have to watch some movies. Haven’t yet seen “12 Angry Men” or “The Color Pur­ple”. Or “Schindler’s List” (the pre­vi­ous two reminded me of it, not that it’s on your list.).

  • http://techntrek.wordpress.com/ Prax

    what about Cidade de deus ?
    id rate it above Kane (though it is well made)!

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com Mahen­dra

    Charu­lata is one of Ray’s films not influ­enced by Ital­ian neo-realism, so no poverty here. :-)

    There are some films at which if peo­ple do not become emo­tional (I do not mean actu­ally cry), they’re either insen­si­ble or insen­si­tive. :-) Color Pur­ple is one such film. As I men­tioned, in the first view­ing in the mid-80s, I cried profusely.

    I haven’t seen Char­i­ots of Fire. Have heard of it cou­ple of times, but never saw it. Now it’s on my list!

  • http://laviequotidienne.wordpress.com She­faly

    I agree. But many are also able to keep a lid on their emo­tion well in public. :-)

    Char­i­ots of Fire is shot, in part, in Gonville & Caius in Cam­bridge. It is a good film, and I like it enough to own it on DVD.

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com Mahen­dra

    Yes. I don’t like exter­nal fac­tors to curb my emo­tional response to a film. That’s why some­times I pre­fer watch­ing alone. I like to com­pletely sur­ren­der myself. :-)

    I will look out for Char­i­ots of Fire. Thanks again.

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com Mahen­dra

    Havah Negila, thank you very much. Finally, I find some­one who admires The Color Pur­ple as much as I do.

    Take your time watch­ing Charu­lata. Maybe this review by a new­comer to Ray will help.

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com Mahen­dra

    And I’m only on to D so far! :-)

    But we did have one com­mon choice till now: A Beau­ti­ful Mind!

  • http://mystic-life.livejournal.com mystic_life

    So it turns out I have already seen a movie by this direc­tor and loved it (Mahana­gar). I have a great feel­ing about Charu­lata, and thanks for the link, the review was very well writ­ten and any­one who men­tions code-switching gets brownie points in my book.

    p.s. added you on lj. U should be able to see my entries now.

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com Mahen­dra

    My DVD is the orig­i­nal NTSC ver­sion; I’m relieved there’s no con­ver­sion to PAL!

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com Mahen­dra

    Haven’t read the book Color Pur­ple — I hear it is darker than the film!

    Nope — haven’t seen Transamer­ica or Mother, or Amis­tad either. Am I get­ting a lot of recommendations…wow!

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com Mahen­dra

    :-) Thank you. Your feed­back keeps me going!

  • http://litterateuse.wordpress.com lit­ter­a­teuse

    Meant to add — there’s this Dutch movie, Char­ac­ter. (Well, Karak­ter). That would be a men­tion if I were to list mine.

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com Mahen­dra

    I think you will like Color Pur­ple. And yes, some­times I do get tempted to pro­mote lesser-known films as well, in this meme exer­cise. What’s the point of re-hashing the “Top 10″ films lists that pro­lif­er­ate like swine flu? :-)

    I share your view regard­ing Clock­work Orange. I might have seen it dif­fer­ently too, when I was more involved in film appre­ci­a­tion. But I am sure I would not have liked it. Food poi­son is poi­son, whether you’re young or old. 😀

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com Mahen­dra

    Dear lit­ter­a­teuse, I know you’ve been hav­ing late nights lately, so very much appre­ci­ate your tak­ing the time to com­ment and rec­om­mend films as well.

    Haven’t seen Karak­ter — the For­eign Oscar win­ner for 1997. Thank you.

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com Mahen­dra

    I would say all three are must-watch! :-)

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com Mahen­dra

    Haven’t seen it, didn’t know about it — thanks a lot! Adding to list.