In Satyajit Ray’s psychologically rich character study The Hero, Bengali film star Uttam Kumar draws on his real-world celebrity to play Arindam Mukherjee, a matinee idol on the brink of his first flop. When Mukherjee boards an overnight train to Delhi to accept an award, a journalist (Sharmila Tagore) approaches him seeking an exclusive interview, which initiates a conversation that sends the actor reeling down a path of self-examination. Seamlessly integrating rueful flashbacks and surreal dream sequences with the quietly revelatory stories of the train’s other passengers, this graceful meditation on art, fame, and regret is now streaming on the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck in its full edition, with an interview from 2008 with actor Sharmila Tagore, and a program featuring film scholar Meheli Sen.
Also up this week: a Criterion Channel original documentary on the world of Yasujiro Ozu, a short and a feature about modern consumerism, and a delectable culinary double bill.
In this original documentary, filmmaker Daniel Raim delves into Yasujiro Ozu’s remarkable late work, in which the master made the leap from black and white to color. In his stirring tribute to the great filmmaker, Raim examines Ozu’s life and work through archival treasures such as his diary and the red teakettle from the family drama Equinox Flower (1958); sits down with Ozu’s nephew and the producer of the director’s gently elegiac final film, An Autumn Afternoon (1962); and interweaves many scenes and images from the vibrant and humane films with which the director capped his career. Alongside the documentary, we present five of Ozu’s color films, including Equinox Flower, Floating Weeds (1959), Late Autumn (1960), The End of Summer (1961), and An Autumn Afternoon (1962).
Two critiques of consumerism that make dazzling use of tracking shots. In Greek filmmaker Yorgos Zois’s sinuous debut short, Casus belli (2010), an apparently continuous dolly shot observes different queues of people, from the supermarket checkout line to the wait at the betting-agency counter—and back again—wryly revealing the social divisions among those standing in place. Jean-Luc Godard’s acid comedy Weekend (1967), in which a bourgeois couple set out to secure an inheritance from a dying relative, opens with a famous seven-minute-long shot of a massive traffic pileup, setting the tone for the entropic satire to follow.
Food represents the highest of arts and the basest of cruelties in this cinematic banquet. Gabriel Axel’s Oscar-winning Babette’s Feast, adapted from a short story by Isak Dinesen, tells the moving story of a French housekeeper with a mysterious past who brings quiet revolution in the form of one exquisite meal to a circle of starkly pious villagers in late-nineteenth-century Denmark. It’s paired with an outrageously decadent masterpiece from Peter Greenaway, who stages a modern Jacobean revenge tragedy in a lavish restaurant, where a brutal gangster (Michael Gambon) holds court while his wife (Helen Mirren) sneaks away to her paramour. With vivid cinematography by Sacha Vierny and a hypnotic Michael Nyman score, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover culminates in a memorably gruesome feast.