Sunday, November 06, 2005

Ritwik Ghatak

Additional recent viewing was Ritwik Ghatak's mind-blowing The Cloud-Capped Star (1960), which is as amazing as people say. Raymond Bellour has what looks like a pretty amazing "close reading" here at Rouge, where he "accompanies" the film. (I've read only the first fifth or so.) And Moinak Biswas has an article on Ghatak in the same issue. (Speaking of Rouge, when will the next update be!?)

Ghatak has a sensibility that startled me, but I was put in mind of Mizoguchi a bit. Both of these filmmakers have a way of bridging broad sociological insight (e.g., characters exploit other characters out of poverty, hunger, greed, etc.) with sharp psychological resonance. They make social webs palpable with their articulations of individualized nodes; inversely they place individual feelings into deeply social contexts. You always have, or come to have, a decent idea of why characters act in certain ways, or why certain events take place, but you don't necessarily feel abstracted from the action.

2 comments:

Mubarak Ali said...

I was pretty amazed by the film's unique soundscape - the sound of a passing train mingled with crickets chirping in the lakeside scenes, the distant folk songs that can be heard at Nita's household, and (in the humorous sequence when Sanat visits Nita) the sound of boiling water as her mother wonders what the two are upto! Kumar Shahani (a student of Ghatak, and a very interesting filmmaker in his own right) has written much about the film too, and I remember him attributing certain mythical qualities to the women of the film, to do with Hindu goddesses. In this way, the film becomes a truly complex mix of melodramatic (melodrama as in the traditionally "Indian" forms of theatre), mythic and cinematic impressions. Mizoguchi is an excellent comparison.

Thanks for that awesome Rouge link - "close reading" indeed.

Zach Campbell said...

Glad to hear of another fan of this film. It's not underrated, exactly, because almost everyone who talks about The Cloud-Capped Star talks about it glowingly. But there are just so few people who talk about it!

I think maybe four or five of Ghatak's films can be found online on DVD with English subtitles, and only of two of those (the BFI ones) are likely to be of decent quality.