New prints at the Academy Theater this weekend!

hero719_apuThere was a time when only Hollywood made movies. OK, that’s not true of course, but it was as far as most Americans were concerned. Even after the Academy finally began acknowledging foreign language films (in 1947 Vittorio De Sica’s “Sciuscià” was recognized but the category would remain honorary until Helmut Käutner’s “The Captain of Köpenick” in 1957), most Americans had never seen a foreign film, even though extraordinary movies were being made in Japan, Europe, India and elsewhere.

After World War II, art house cinemas began to appear in major US cities. But there was no guarantee of the quality of the prints – or the cleanliness of the theaters. In the ’80′s, the appearance of home video meant more access but generally a poorer movie watching experience. 

And that is how I was was introduced to Satyajit Ray’s 1955 “Pather Panchali” and the two other films (“Aparajito” and “The World of Apu“) that make up the stunning “Apu Trilogy.” Frankly, the VHS tapes I rented were so bad I might as well have been watching scrambled cable (sorry if you’re too young to get that reference). And that is a shame, because these are the kind of movies for which the term “cinematic” was coined.

Well, if you had the same experience as I did, or it’s been 20 or 30 years since you’ve spent time with Apu, or you’ve never seen them at all, this weekend is your, um, lucky day. The Academy will screen new prints of all three films preserved in their archive at their awesome theater on Wilshire in Beverly Hills.

On Friday the 6th, they’ll show first two films (with very special guests!) and conclude with Apu, now all grown up, on Monday the 9thTickets are cheap – just $5!

I love movies that take you to a time and place, and these movies do that and so much more – and not having seen great prints of these films, I know I’ve missed much of that transcendent journey. Alas, I’m disgusted to report that I’ll be out of town for these screenings. If you’re around you won’t miss them. In the mean time, enjoy Roger Ebert’s wonderful overview HERE.

The famous rain scene - note the music (pun intended) by a young Ravi Shankar…
If the video doesn’t play, click HERE.

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