1958, Movies

Jalsaghar [The Music Room] (1958, Satyajit Ray)

This is a pretty classic drama about an old, rich man failing to keep up with the times. There are echoes of lots of other films with this theme. I feel like I’m reminded of The Leopard, but I haven’t seen that movie in years and haven’t read the novel in decades, so I’m probably making that up.

The closest contemporary Hollywood equivalent I can think of is Sunset Blvd., but that film had to have a murder mystery stitched into it, because Hollywood didn’t tell stories like this in the 1950s. (I’m not trying to say bad things about that film, but rather that Hollywood didn’t make many movies like this back then.)

The film is set entirely in mansion that is slowly falling apart and features a score from what I assume is the period. There’s a great sense of place even if being a formerly rich Bengali landlord is nothing I can imagine. The desolation is kind of palpable and the lethargy of the main character is also palpable.

It’s a pretty impressive film, and it has the courage of its convictions in a way that much Western cinema didn’t at the time. There are redemptive opportunities here and a lesser film would have taken them. Instead, we get the bleakness associated with the various Neo Realist movements and it feels entirely appropriate for someone who has led the last part of their life this way. (Personally, I choose to interpret the drug as wealth rather than music.)

Well worth watching.


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