We end Season 7 with some slapstick as Laurel and Hardy yuk it up in their classic short Another Fine Mess. In our end of the year Megasode we also take a look back at all the movies we’ve watched, induct new members into the Hall of Fame and generally have a great time. In Seen It, we discuss odd men, followed birds and a little obscurity you’ve probably never heard of called Star Wars.
I discovered this show just a couple weeks ago after watching “Saturday Night Fever” for the first time ever. I was surprised and kind of blown away and I wanted to get some commentary on it to help me process what I had see.
Back when Roger Ebert was still alive, I’d always look for his reviews after seeing a movie. Your commentary was just the kind of intelligent and engaged conversation I needed.
Since then, I’ve been burning through the episodes in whatever order YouTube decides to give them to me. Regardless of whether I’ve seen the featured movie or whether it was good or bad, I always learn something from your conversations. I’ve even watched a few movies after hearing you talk about them, including “The Third Man” and “Angel Heart.”
And after so many episodes, you still have the ability to surprise me, because just now I saw your episode on “Aandhi.” I wasn’t expecting to see an Indian movie, and as usual you offered something to think about.
Now that I am aware of the broad scope of your net, I’d love to see you do a Satyajit Ray movie. Everyone always talks about The Apu Trilogy, but I’d love to see you do one of his other films.
Unlike Bollywood musicals, with a Ray movie you won’t have to wonder whether you’re missing some subtext or culture-specific cinematic language. Many of his films are very passionate romances, but they aren’t the cartoonish romances of Bollywood films. They feel very adult and real, even if (or especially because) there’s very little explicit physicality.
Here are several Ray movies I like better than The Apu Trilogy—
“The Home and the World” (Ghare-Baire) (1984) — Set in the time of the Bengali uprising after the Partition of Bengal in 1905, a man seeking a more modern and enlightened relationship with his wife breaks the upper-class tradition of secluding women from outsiders and introduces her to his best friend, a revolutionary.
“The Music Room” (Jalsaghar) (1958) — A Bengali zamindar (landlord) loses everything in his bid to show up his new neighbor—who made his money in business rather than inheriting it.
“The Goddess” (Devi) (1960) — The aging head of an extended family decides that his younger son’s wife is a manifestation of the Mother Goddess, and makes his family and the local community worship her as a living god. And the family members, including the young girl who is being treated as a god, now has to figure out how to live in this situation.
“Charulata” (1964) — The wife of a political newspaper publisher lives a very sheltered life, until her husband’s young cousin comes to visit, and shares her interest in literature and poetry. This movie doesn’t sound like much when you sum it up, but it’s possibly one of his most subtle explorations of love and romance.
“Nayak” (The Hero) (1966) — A movie star takes an overnight train from Calcutta to Delhi to accept an award. Along the way he meets a beautiful young journalist, whose questioning reveals his deepest secrets and regrets.
“Days and Nights in the Forest” (Aranyer Din Ratri) (1970) — Four friends — A businessman, an aspiring author, a jock, and a goofball — go to the countryside to party down and meet chicks. The women they meet teach them more than they bargained for.
“The Middleman” (Jana Aranya) (1975) — A recent college graduate decides to go into the office supply business after his exam scores fail to help him get a respectable job. He learns that success in business requires the kind of moral compromises that he can’t tell his middle-class family about.
“The Chess Players” (Shatranj Ke Khilari) (1977) — Set in Awadh (Oudh) in 1856, this movie is in Hindi/Urdu and English rather than Bengali. Two courtiers of the Nawab of Oudh become obsessed with playing chess while the East India Company schemes to annex the kingdom.
“The Big City” (Mahanagar) (1963) — The son of a lower-middle class family loses his job in a bank and his wife gets a job to help pay the bills, disturbing the conventions of traditional family life.