The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A Ray of genius, a bouquet of classics
- American Center lines up tribute to maestro with a festival of films he admired

He always made it a point, baritone and all, to admit the influence Hollywood and Western classical music had on him and his films. So, come Friday, some Hollywood classics will bask in a new Ray of light. The American Center, in collaboration with Chitrabani, will present ‘Satyajit Ray’s Hollywood’, a special package of films bound by a common thread — each one of them was a Ray favourite. The novel, weeklong film festival, to be held in Lincoln Room of the American Center from September 27 to October 4, will also feature discussion and Q&A, involving scholars, critics and movie buffs— on what else but our films, their films.

“The film festival represents a wonderful opportunity for the American Center to represent the Bengali filmmaker who enjoyed American movies. It’s a great exercise to try and trace the amazing man’s link with Hollywood,” says American Center deputy director Paul Narain. The festival commences with the screening of Buster Keaton’s The General and concludes with Charlie Chaplin’s The Immigrant. Other classics to be featured are A Night at the Opera, Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, Stagecoach, West Side Story, The Little Foxes, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Broken Blossoms, The Maltese Falcon, Man of Aran, The Playhouse and Wagon Master. Most of these films hit the screen between 1917 and 1948.

These titles were dredged out from Ray’s books like Our Films, Their Films, Bishoy Chalachitra and My Years With Apu, besides numerous interviews, according to the festival organisers. A collection of three Ray interviews by Jyoti Dutta, published as Ray in the Looking Glass, and Shyam Benegal’s documentary on the master filmmaker also served as source for selection.

The American Center will also distribute copies of a rare Ray article on John Ford it has “chanced upon” while researching for the festival. “We would have loved to screen Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity and Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, both huge favourites of Ray’s. But unfortunately, we don’t have screening rights to these films,” laments one of the organisers.

Amit Patra, who will speak on ‘Orson Welles: Beyond the Studio System’, feels the festival is a tribute to Ray on the one hand and to the narrative structure of Hollywood cinema on the other. “There is no doubt that Ray was deeply influenced by the logic of this narrative structure. In view of the recent resurgence of Hollywood cinema, this festival can serve to review these films and put those in context,” says Patra.

Rev. Gaston Roberge of St Xavier’s College will explore Ray’s penchant for Hollywood’s narrative structure in his talk, ‘Ray: Fascination for a Time Structured’. Samik Bandopadhyay will speak on Ray’s Storytelling.

Other topics chosen for discussion are ‘John Ford: The Auteur in Hollywood’ (Shubhabrata Bhattacharya), ‘William Wyler and his Films’ (Subhajit Chatterjee), ‘John Huston and his Films’ (Gopalan Mallick), ‘Leonard Bernstein’s Film Music’ (Sudeshna Banerjee), ‘Robert Flaherty and Realist Documentaries’ and ‘Our Comedies, Their Comedies’ (Sanjoy Mukhopadhyay).

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