(Satyajit Ray, 1964)
A cursory internet search tells me that I might be the only person in the world to be bothered by the camera movement in Charulata
. The other aspects of the cinematography - lighting, composition, contrast - are all pretty exquisite. But the movement of the camera really bothered me. The film as a whole is so tightly composed that the uncertain pans and tilts seem very out of place. The camera reacts unknowingly to the actors, letting their moves dictate its moves. When an actor moves away to the left, the camera tracks to the right but pans back to the left, always maintaining distance. When an actor bobs and weaves within the frame, the camera bobs and weaves in reactive counterpoint. There's even an ill-advised POV shot in which the camera attempts to mimic the bob of an actor's head.
It wasn't until after my viewing that I read - I think in a Criterion essay - that Charulata
was the first film in which Ray added "camera operator" to his auteuriat resume of duties. If that's true, it might well explain some of the amateurish technique on display in a film that's otherwise very controlled and polished. Ray's musical score, for instance, is much more successful, adding immeasurable charm and character to the film.
The other oddity of Charulata
is its tendency to build upon subtlety after subtlety, only to yield to big, overdramatic moments, most of which are entirely needless. These moments echo the camera operation in the way that they are too effortful for a film that is otherwise effortlessly compelling and beautiful.Grade:
Up next: Ritwik Ghatak's The Cloud-Capped Star