Movie: Every once in awhile I'll stumble across some movie held to be a cultural treasure of a foreign land and proceed to apply my usual standard of "what does everyone see in this piece of crud" standard to it. After all, times change and a great many movies made decades ago simply don't hold up very well (no matter what some overpaid, overweight, and ancient critic thinks). Well, I was treated to a couple of movies by famed Indian director, Satyajit Ray (R.I.P.), this week including the second movie in the popular Apu Trilogy, Aparajito (AKA: The Unvanquished).
If you read my review of the first in the series of movies, Pather Panchali, you'll know that the family left its small village to escape what they deem their "bad luck". With his sister Durga dead, Apu, now the lead character of the movie, plays with his friends like life is one big game. After his father dies, he begins to study (it's more involved than that but I don't want to spoil it for you) and seems to have a good mind for it. The head of his school prepares him for more advanced studies and he goes to Calcutta in order to make a life for himself. His mother, not ever having been educated, would rather he tend to her and move back home but this is not meant to be-the universe has plans for Apu, no matter what she wants to believe.
As in all things, when his family is completely gone, young Apu moves on with his life and that sums up, rather quickly I'm afraid, the second chapter of the trilogy. The central themes here, beaten into the viewer more than a few times, mostly revolve around the conflict between duty and destiny. Which path you take will ultimately alter who you are, even though who you are pushes you down a particular path. I'm not a Calvinist so I don't believe in predetermination (unlike Director Ray obviously) but I can see parallels between the themes here and in a great many domestically made releases. This movie showed a good amount of growth on the director's part in terms of story telling and technique, even if the print used for this DVD wasn't all that great either (yet worlds better than the previous chapter).
I think the movie followed more along the lines of traditional cinema this time and that is a good thing. There was still a lot of symbolism and use of creative imagery but this time it was put in better context to understand. The acting was decent, if a bit hooky, and the story seemed to pick up speed this time. One of my biggest problems with the first movie in the series was how slowly paced the project was. A lot more happened this time and I can only wonder if the final episode improved as well. I think this was more solidly worth a rating of Rent It than Pather Panchali but opinions vary on its value to the body of Director Ray's works.
Picture: The picture was presented in 1.33:1 ratio full frame Black & White. It had more print scratches than I prefer, even for an older movie, but a lot less than the first release in the trilogy. There were some moments of video noise but the same problems plaguing Pather Panchali were present (if to a smaller degree).
Sound: The audio was presented in monaural but cleaned up a bit with Dolby Digital processing. The audio was just as bad as the picture but other than the problems with the vocals and music not being mixed properly (this may be due to the latter processing), it was about what I'd expect from a moderate budget Hollywood release from the 1920's.
Final Thoughts: The movie has historical significance and is therefore something movie buffs should consider renting but to be fair, it was very dated in terms of content. I will admit that this was not as big an issue as with the first movie but if you really watch the series, you'll be able to see what I mean. By all means, check out the movie if you want to see what the fuss is about but the entertainment value for the vast majority of people is very limited.