As the 70th edition of the world’s oldest film festival at Venice races towards its opening on August 28, the first of the selections are being unveiled.
The much sought-after Venezia Classics will include the Indian master, Satyajit Ray’s Mahapurush (The Holy Man) and Kapurush (The Coward). Both movies will be screened in their digitally restored versions.
I have seen some of the restored editions of Ray’s masterpieces like Pather Panchali (The Song of the Little Road) and Charulata (The Lonely Wife) at Cannes. Also Mrinal Sen’s Khandar (The Ruins). All these sparkle as if they have just popped out of the lab, and what a delight they are to watch.
Venezia Classics is a section that the Festival introduced in 2012 and is devoted to restored features and documentaries. It comprises a choice of the finest classic film restorations – the rediscovery of neglected or underrated movies of the past – completed over the past year by cinema libraries, cultural institutions or production companies the world over.
Sorcerer (1977), the masterpiece by the Golden Lion winner for lifetime achievement, William Friedkin, will open Venezia Classics. Warner Brothers has restored the film for the special occasion.
Sorcerer is a gripping tale of outcasts working in a South American oil drill who are forced to choose between freedom and slavery, but the path to an unshackled life is dangerously dynamited.
Coming back to Ray, it is not just Venice but even Britain which will celebrate one of the greatest auteurs the world has ever known.
The British Film Institute will release a superbly restored version of Ray’s Mahanagar (The Big City) to mark the 50th anniversary of the movie.
“Satyajit Ray’s wonderfully enjoyable portrait of mid-1950s Calcutta, a society still adjusting to Independence, infuses warmth, wit and genuine insight into its large, multi-generational cast of characters, including Arati’s conservative old father-in-law, her studious teenage sister-in-law, and her benevolently despotic boss,” says Margaret Deriaz of the BFI.
She adds: “The Big City, with its emphasis on conflicting social values – and most particularly on the role of women – feels as fresh and relevant as ever.”
Mahanagar won Ray a Silver Bear for Best Direction at the Berlin Film Festival in 1964. It features Madhabi Mukherjee and Anil Chatterjee in lead roles.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran will be covering the Venice Film Festival for Hindustan Times)