The main thing to bear in mind when undertaking Aparajito is that it is not a slickly produced film — even by the standards of 1957 Indian cinema. It looks older than it is, which may actually enhance the sense that this is another world and another time. I mentioned that it was crude, and by this I mean that aspects of it are almost amateurish. The dissolves linking some scenes together are very clumsy and their obvious poetic intent can be blunted by this by drawing your attention to the rudimentary post-production technique instead of the images themselves. (It’s no wonder that Ray himself was shocked when the film won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.) At the same time, there are moments of such delicacy — Apu’s father’s death announced with a cut to pigeons flying away — and beauty — the train on the horizon in the distance — that these “shortcomings” fade into inconsequential trivialities once you get into the flow of the film. Ostensibly adapated from a novel, the film is peppered with incidents from Ray’s own life, making it at least partially autobiographical (though that can be said of most personal films). The film has the sense of being open-ended — stopping at a point where the grown Apu (Smaron Ghosal) makes a decision about his life — but it seems Ray wasn’t at that point planning to make a third film.
Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Aparajito Friday, July 10 at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). Info: 273-3332, www.ashevillecourtyard.com