Every Friday Chris hand-selects a streaming recommendation for your weekend.
This Week’s Featured Flick
Satyajit Ray’s The Big City on Hulu
The Big City, the great Satyajit Ray’s first portrayal of contemporary life in his native Kolkata, follows the personal triumphs and frustrations of Arati (Madhabi Mukherjee), who decides to take a job to help support her family.
Satyajit Ray is a director who’s entire catalogue qualified for my War Crimes list until quite recently. I knew his work was important, and I suspected I’d probably even enjoy it, but I spent years telling myself, “I’ll get to these… some day.” I’m sure you know that feeling. The man directed a lot of films, and I was never sure where to start. Luckily Filmspotting stepped in to lead the way with their Satyajit Ray Marathon earlier this year. I love the Filmspotting marathons. They help provide structure and motivation to finally mark those “some day” movies off my impossibly long list. Adam & Josh went through the films more or less in chronological order, beginning with The Apu Trilogy and concluding with Charulata. There wasn’t a bad film in the bunch. In fact, they all fall somewhere between masterpiece and borderline-masterpiece in my book. However, The Big City is the one I’ve been absolutely unable to shake since seeing it.
I know very little about the cultures portrayed in Satyajit Ray’s films, but I think it’s safe to assume The Big City was an extraordinarily modern movie when it was released in 1963. Set in Kolkata, It follows Arati, a young housewife who decides to temporally take a job as a door-to-door saleswoman to ease her family’s growing financial pressure. She soon discovers she enjoys life as a working woman as it transitions from an act of necessity to one of fulfillment.
All the Ray films I’ve seen feature characters clashing with modernity. The thing that sets The Big City apart from the others is its contemporary backdrop. Here Ray isn’t looking back on the rise of industrialization, he’s looking forward to a shift in social mores.
Madhabi Mukherjee delivers an infectious performance as Arati, and in addition to his directing talent, Satyajit Ray provides a beautiful score.