In 1895, so the story goes, Auguste and Louis Lumière premiered their 49-second film The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station, introducing an audience to the new medium of cinema. Panicked filmgoers, unable to distinguish representation from reality, cowered in terror, apparently under the impression they were going to be crushed beneath the locomotive.
Kiarostami has become a favorite director of mine, and I’m grateful to the CutPrintFilm folks for giving me the opportunity to explore his body of work in more detail.
Earlier this week, The Washington Post’s Alyssa Rosenberg, one of the more nuanced pop culture writers around, published a piece titled “Art is about surrender. Stop asking for it to be custom-tailored.”
Framed as a rejection of the worrying, internet-age tendency to demand narratives that suit audience expectations — not to mention the even more worrying impulse to attack and threaten artists personally for failing to deliver the pre-fab stories some audience members crave to a frightening and pathetic degree — Rosenberg’s piece is reasonable enough.
The Big City, Indian master Satyajit Ray’s deeply feminist and empathetic 1963 depiction of a changing Calcutta, is nearly perfect in every way.
With nuanced performances, especially from the luminous Madhabi Mukherjee as Arati Mazumder and Anil Chatterjee as her wry, conflicted husband Subrata (Bhambal), and an effortless sense of place, custom, and the economic pressures that challenge tradition, the film is an utterly absorbing experience, by turns uplifting and heart-rending.