Monday, April 18, 2005

Days and Nights in the Forest (Satyajit Ray)

This would make a great double bill with Cassavetes' "Husbands." Both films are about a group of upper-middle class men who take a vacation from their lives, indulging in mammoth drinking binges and experiencing unsuccessful but consequential flirtations with a group of women, and both were filmed in 1970. The differences between the two (besides the obvious cultural differences between the United States and India) are even more interesting. In Cassavetes' film, the men are middle-aged, firmly entrenched in careers, married, and escaping from the suburbs of Long Island into New York City proper before spontaneously catching a plane to London to finish their drinking binge in a separate continent. The catalyst for the days-long binge is the death of a friend, and the men stay drunk for much of the film. In Ray's film, the men are in their late twenties or early thirties, single, rising up in their careers but worried about the impending loss of youth, and escaping from Calcutta to a resort in the country, which they fail to book properly but procure through a bribe. Like the characters in "Husbands," the men are immature and obnoxious, though likable, but they confine their drunkfests to the evening, freeing up their days to pursue three very different women. Ray's film is more overtly about class, while Cassavetes is more interested in the dynamics and theatrics of human behavior, but both films poetically evoke the need we as men have to get together and behave horribly in an attempt to achieve both catharsis and self-destruction and the lessons we can learn (or choose to ignore) from women. This might be my favorite of Ray's films, though it's only available on a shitty bootleg video with poor picture quality and even poorer subtitle readability. I'd like to see this in a good print on the big screen sometime as a part of my fantasy double bill. I wish I had my own movie theater and bags and bags and bags of money.

1 comment:

kristykay said...

Yes, be warned: if you rent the bootleg of this from Vulcan, you will be able to watch and enjoy it, but you will also have to sort of guess what people are saying half the time (unless you speak the language, of course). Also, parts of the screen are blurry all the time, but its always different parts. And sometimes people's heads turn into fuzzy black blobs.

All that and I still really liked the movie. So you know it must be good.

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