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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Big City aka Mahanagar [Blu-ray]

 

(Satyajit Ray, 1963)

 

Artificial Eye are releasing their Blu-ray edition in September, 2013

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: R.D.Banshal & Co.

Video: Criterion Collection Spine #668

 

Disc:

Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:16:05.740 

Disc Size: 46,812,164,185 bytes

Feature Size: 30,374,301,696 bytes

Video Bitrate: 26.05 Mbps

Chapters: 23

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: August 20th, 2012

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio Bengali 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

• New interview with actor Madhabi Mukherjee (16:33)
Satyajit Ray and the Modern Woman, a new interview with Ray scholar Suranjan Ganguly (22:25)
The Coward (Kapurush, 1965), a short feature by Ray that also addresses modern female identity and stars Mukherjee and Soumitra Chatterjee (1:09:48)
Satyajit Ray (1974), a documentary short by B. D. Garga (13:35)
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by scholar Chandak Sengoopta and a 1980s interview with Ray by his biographer Andrew Robinson

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: The Big City, the great Satyajit Ray’s first portrayal of contemporary life in his native Kolkata, follows the personal triumphs and frustrations of Arati (Madhabi Mukherjee), who decides, despite the initial protests of her bank-clerk husband, to take a job to help support their family. With remarkable sensitivity and attention to the details of everyday working-class life, Ray builds a powerful human drama that is at once a hopeful morality tale and a commentary on the identity of the modern Indian woman.

 

 

The Film:

There's a lot of meat in "The Big City.'' Through his story and his images, Ray always presents Arati in a positive light. No matter how bad things become at home, the viewer understands her good intentions, intelligence, quick-wittedness and resolve. She's also beautiful, as are her Bengali co- workers.

Ray's admiration and respect for women comes through clearly. His black-and-white images are clean and graceful, and he loves close-ups that allow viewers to see emotions flicker across the faces of his characters. Equally appealing is the opportunity to listen to the Bengali language, with English phrases tossed in, mostly in the course of office dialogue (a ``none of my business'' here, a ``strictly speaking'' there).

Somewhat more difficult to accept, for me at least, was the pace of the movie, which moves along in such a quiet and stately manner that I was squirming in my seat. There are so many ways in which Ray is entitled to demand respect that I felt absolutely naughty wanting something to happen quickly.

Excerpt from the San Francisco Chronicle located HERE

Satyajit Ray, India's premiere film director, takes a rare foray into social satire with 1963's The Big City. Anil Chaterjee stars as the typically subjugated wife of an Indian bank official. When the banker loses his job, he orders Anil to find work to make ends meet. The wife subsequently runs the household finances so brilliantly that soon she is in the driver's seat, in direct opposition to long-established Indian matrimonial custom. Seen by some critics as a subtle plea for improving the status of Indian womanhood, The Big City was based on a novel by Narbenda Nath Mitra.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

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

The Big City arrives on Blu-ray from Criterion. It is on a dual-layered disc. It doesn't look as good as The Music Room but is still an advancement over the boosted SD. The image is a shade crisper and tighter than the PAL DVD.  Contrast has been positively affected by the 1080P resolution but we can only suspect that the source has density issues. We will probably compare to the upcoming AE Blu-ray soon. It is in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio and the thick visuals are consistent and can occasionally look a bit waxy. There is no noise but a smattering of grain. They isn't a lot of depth appearing relatively flat. This Blu-ray has no damage and supplied, by far, the best presentation I have yet seem of the film.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Artificial Eye - Region 2 - PAL Reviewed HERE TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

 

 

Artificial Eye - Region 2 - PAL Reviewed HERE TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

 

 

Artificial Eye - Region 2 - PAL Reviewed HERE TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

 

 

Artificial Eye - Region 2 - PAL Reviewed HERE TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

 

 

More Blu-ray Captures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

The audio is in the form of a linear PCM mono track in original Bengali. It is clean and unremarkable but consistent. There are few effects but some original music by Satyajit Ray - offering subtle support for his own film.. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A' disc.

 

Extras :

Criterion offer some substantial extras. There is a new 17-minute interview with actor Madhabi Mukherjee (Arati Mazumder in the film) conducted by Criterion in 2013. There is also a new 23-minute interview with Satyajit Ray scholar Suranjan Ganguly entitled Satyajit Ray and the Modern Woman. He discusses how Ray presents women facd with the challenges of modernity in The Big City, Charulata and The Coward. Speaking of which Criterion generously add the latter, The Coward (Kapurush, 1965), a short feature by Ray that also addresses modern female identity and stars Soumitra Chatterjee as an aspiring screenwriter who encounters a former lover (Mukherjee) when his car breaks down near her home. The Coward was originally released in India on a double bill with Ray's The Holy Man (Mahapurush) It runs one hour 10-minutes and like all video extras is in HD. Lastly, in digital in 13.5 minutes of Satyajit Ray (1974), a documentary short by one of India's pioneering documentary filmmakers, B. D. Garga. It is a short profile featuring narration by director Satyajit Ray and on-set footage from the making of The Big City. The package also contains a liner notes booklet featuring an essay by scholar Chandak Sengoopta and a 1980s interview with Ray by his biographer Andrew Robinson.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Another Ray film dealing with his important themes involving modernity and women. The Big City is expertly crafted - Ray gets great performances and his deft touch adds distinctive impact to the narrative. This is a masterpiece and the Criterion Blu-ray package offers the best a/v presentation with important extras. Strongly recommended! 

Gary Tooze

July 30th, 2012

Artificial Eye are releasing their Blu-ray edition in September, 2013


 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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