Reel Life #28: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, His Girl Friday, Charulata, and Close-Up

It’s the beginning of a new year, and I’ve decided to bring back an old feature on this site: Reel Life. For those of you who don’t know what this is, back in 2018, I would write these small, informal reviews every week to complement my game reviews. However, they eventually became more elaborate, so I ended up writing full reviews – my reasoning being that, because they generally aren’t as long as my film reviews, I could critique them after watching them. However, the film reviews became even longer – to the point where my longest one (The Last Jedi) is actually longer than some of my game reviews. I therefore stopped writing film reviews regularly in order to give myself some breathing room.

Plus, that proposition only works out if the film holds up in the long term; if it doesn’t, the review is then worthless. The opposite is true too, though a bit rarer given that I only ever tend to see acclaimed films. Much like how a middling Rotten Tomatoes score shouldn’t be taken at face value if the film in question postdates the site’s inception and has been retroactively vindicated in the years since its release (The Prestige being my go-to example of this occurring, being hailed as one of the best films of the 2000s despite possessing a fairly modest 76% on that site), I realized that reviewing a film immediately after seeing it is often a bad idea. With games, I usually know where I stand after I finish because they require far more investment of one’s time, and you’re regularly confronted with their objective qualities. Meanwhile, if a film successfully goes for a style-over-substance approach, it can be pretty difficult to look past that and realize that things aren’t adding up. It’s the reason I’m glad I didn’t formally review films such as District 9, The Last Jedi, Annihilation, Uncut Gems, and Knives Out immediately after seeing them because all five of those films would’ve undeservedly gotten passing grades had I done so.

While I still spoke of the films I watched at the end of each month, that proved a bit troublesome when I would often put off my thoughts on the film until I was typing up the monthly update. Therefore, I’m hoping that by making it a weekly update, that I can fall out of that bad habit and type up my quick takes immediately after seeing them and that my update posts will be less overstuffed.

These takes will be roughly as long as those in my update posts and whether or not I recommend it will be made clear at the end. These posts will also not contain any spoilers. As a result, some of my descriptions may be vague, but hey, if it’s a good film, then you’ll get to see why it’s good for yourself. So, with that introduction out of the way, let’s get started.

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Apur Sansar (Satyajit Ray, 1959)

A young man named Apurba Kumar Roy – or Apu – has recently graduated from school. Apu is encouraged by his teacher to attend university, but he cannot afford it. After having lost his entire family due to tragic circumstances, he tries to find a job. Though unemployed, he manages to get by providing private tutoring lessons. He seeks to write a novel based off of his own life with the intent to publish it one day. Things take a turn for the interesting when an old friend, Pulu, invites Apu to attend the wedding of his cousin.

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Aparajito (Satyajit Ray, 1956)

In the year 1920, a young boy named Apurba Roy – or Apu – has left his home in rural Bengal with his parents, Harihar and Sarbajaya, settling into an apartment in the bustling city of Varanasi. Working as a priest, Harihar has been making a decent amount of money, and with the tragic death his first child weighing on his mind, he is determined to make as good of a life as possible for Apu. The family couldn’t possibly have known at the time exactly what plans fate had in store for them.

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Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray, 1955)

In the rural Bengal village of Nischindipur, Harihar Roy does whatever he can to provide for his family. He lives with his wife, daughter, and an elderly cousin – Sarbajaya, Durga, and Indir. Indir and Sarbajaya cannot stand one another, though Durga has a fondness for the former, often stealing fruit from a wealthy neighbor’s orchid for her. Harihar is especially determined to find work because his wife is pregnant with their second child. When he is born, they name him Apurba – or Apu.

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