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(aka "The Music Room" or "Jalsaghar" )

 

directed by Satyajit Ray
India 19
58

 

With The Music Room (Jalsaghar), Satyajit Ray brilliantly evokes the crumbling opulence of the world of a fallen aristocrat (the beloved actor Chhabi Biswas) desperately clinging to a fading way of life. His greatest joy is the music room in which he has hosted lavish concerts over the years—now a shadow of its former vivid self. An incandescent depiction of the clash between tradition and modernity, and a showcase for some of India’s most popular musicians of the day, The Music Room is a defining work by the great Bengali filmmaker.

***

India's greatest director, Bengalese Satyajit Ray was recipient of numerous awards in his career. Typical of the styling of cinema he created, he kept them unceremoniously out of view under his bed, aware of the lavish presentation they would make displayed out in the more public rooms of his Calcutta home. This noble air of subtlety is also apparent in his film-making with Jalsaghar (The Music Room) being a perfect example. The film's major character is Huzur Biswambhar Roy who is a zemindar (the now ancient concept of an aristocratic landlord). He is shown as a tragic figure who is both a victim of his selfish pride and superfluous belief in his own nobility.

Ray has made a profound and magnificent exploration of one man's obsolescence in a modern developing society in 1920's India.

Criticized for the lack of Indian cultural acceptance of his films, Ray purposely included a few musical numbers in Jalsaghar, although totally different from the Bollywood style cinema that is so popular with his countrymen. The sheer beauty of the final dance sequence is almost an acceptable gesture to understand Huzur's only visible interest; hosting concerts in his grand music room. Too apathetic to even ascertain what month or season it is, he smokes his hookah pipe on the terrace while his ancestors palace visibly crumbles around him. Tragic but also accurate as his egotistical and extravagant exhibitions to upstage his un-pedigreed, self-made neighbor Mahim Ganguly become more and more transparent. His gestures are all an attempt to maintain his presumed superiority granted to him by his birthright.

With comparisons of brass bands and electrical generators over traditional music, as well as the scenes of elephants instead of cars as a means of transport, Ray displays the encroachment of modernization into India. His beautiful film displays the ever-present fact that change is unavoidable. As the music room's lavish chandelier flickers, Huzur's most frightening personal affirmation comes when he views himself in a clouded mirror realizing what his behavior has wrought. The damage that his chosen path has dealt him is devastating. His realization is also our own with pride being shown as an overwhelming negative trait. It is a totally gripping cinema experience allowing for days of reflective thought.

Excerpt from Gary Tooze review HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: August 1959 (Moscow Film Festival)

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Comparison:

Films sans Frontieres - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Films sans Frontieres - Region 0 - NTSC LEFT vs. Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray RIGHT

DVD Box Cover

 

Distribution

Films sans Frontieres - Region 0 - NTSC

Criterion Collection, spine #573 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:33:42 1:38:55.971
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.33 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,520,832,263 bytes

Feature: 22,015,242,240 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 25.99 Mbps

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Bitrate Blu-ray

Audio Bengali Dolby Digital 2.0 (mono) LPCM Audio Bengali 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Subtitles English, French, none English, none
Features Release Information:
Studio:
Films sans Frontieres

Aspect Ratio:
Original - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Film History (scrolling screen in French text)
• Director Filmography

DVD Release Date: September 20, 1999
Standard Keepcase

Chapters 43

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion Collection

 

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,520,832,263 bytes

Feature: 22,015,242,240 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 25.99 Mbps

 

Edition Details:
• Satyajit Ray (1984), a feature documentary by Shyam Benegal that chronicles Ray’s career through interviews with the filmmaker, family photographs, and extensive clips from his films (2:04:12 in 1080i)
• New interviews with Satyajit Ray biographer Andrew Robinson - For the Love of Music (17:36 in 1080P) and filmmaker Mira Nair (15:44 in 1080P)
• Excerpt from a 1981 French roundtable discussion with Ray, film critic Michel Ciment, and director Claude Sautet (10:36 in 1080i)
• 36-page booklet featuring an essay by critic Philip Kemp, a 1963 essay by Ray on the film’s location, and a 1986 interview with the director about the film’s music

Blu-ray Release Date: July 19th, 2011
Transparent Blu-ray Case

Chapters 18

 

Comments

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - July 11': I was in keen anticipation for this release as I consider it Satyajit Ray's best film - and one of my favorite all-time films as well. Let's get to it...

The Blu-ray improves as much as I can recall over a DVD counterpart in my recorded memory. In a word - incredible - as hopefully you can determine for yourself from the below screen captures. The Criterion image is in another dimension from the Films sans Frontieres DVD in terms of contrast. Where the SD boosted and removed detail - Criterion have brought an array of grays to the frame with dynamically graded black levels. The 1080P image still shows some scratches but this is far more preferable to blanket brightness boosting to hide them. The scratches are minimized by being frame specific and are generally of lesser intensity - under the surface. Overall, I couldn't be happier with the Blu-ray that shows more information the frame, consistent, even grain visibility. Detail is a jump far beyond the 'video-to-film' comparison we often refer to. Even with its limitations of the source this may be my favorite transfer of the year, 2011, to date.

The Music Room's sound often haunts m and it is a vitally important cog in the mechanism of the film experience. Criterion have done what they can with a linear PCM mono track at 1152 kbps in original Bengali. The music numbers are so much cleaner and less-tinny than the 2000 DVD. The Blu-ray also has optional English subtitles and predictably it is region 'A'-locked.

Supplements are extensive highlighted by an excellent 2-hour documentary from 1984 by Shyam Benegal simply titled Satyajit Ray. It chronicles Ray’s career through interviews with the filmmaker, family photographs, and extensive clips from his work including his 32nd film - His Home and The World. Director Benegal covers an immense amount having interviewed Ray over a 2-year period. The documentary is in 1080i. There are also new interviews with Satyajit Ray biographer Andrew Robinson (Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye: The Biography of a Master Film-Maker) in a piece entitled For the Love of Music running 17.5-minute in 1080P. Here he is discusses the film's cultural significance. There is another HD interview - with filmmaker Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding) running 16-minutes in HD where she discusses her admiration for Ray and the film - The Music Room. We get a ten-minute except from a 1981 French roundtable discussion with Ray, film critic Michel Ciment, and director Claude Sautet during the program L'invite de FR3 with host Dominique Reznikoff. It was broadcast just before the theatrical premiere of The Music Room in France - more than 20 years after it was shown in India. lastly is a 36-page booklet featuring an essay by critic Philip Kemp, a 1963 essay by Ray on the film’s location, and a 1986 interview with the director about the film’s music.

This film impacted me like few others the first time I saw it on the inferior DVD over a decade ago. Seeing it on Blu-ray I have had a similar but more profound reaction. The SD transfer has kicked around in various copied forms on eBay for years but Criterion have put together a package worthy of Blu-ray of the Year status. I'm as content a cinephile as I have been in years after my viewing. This has our strongest recommendation!

Gary W. Tooze

***

ON THE DVD: Despite the poor transfer and quality of the single-layered, interlaced, Films sans Frontieres DVD - I was so pleased to have it - in what I presumed to be NTSC and unavailable through superior transfer channels.

It was obviously boosted, shows some damage but had English subtitles and Ray's genius still shown through despite the mediocrity of the visual presentation. Audio was equally poor - the high-end was screechy and didn't represent the wonderful music numbers well at all. Extras consisted of static screens (one rolling text in French) on the director and his oeuvre.


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Distribution

Films sans Frontieres - Region 0 - NTSC

Criterion Collection, spine #573 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray




 

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