November 14th 2012. Pick of the Day.

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Three offerings from the art-house circuit beg your attendance this day. Richard Roemer's Jim Crow era quasi-doc NOTHING BUT A MAN finishes out its last couple of days at the Film Forum. The Film Society's Keisuke Kinoshita retrospective also draws nearer its end with today's screening of A JAPANESE TRAGEDY. Yet I proffer a Pick Of The Day that trumps both of these, or so my gumption dictates.

Satyajit Ray graduated the University of Calcutta with a B.A. in Economics. Which is rather a shame as he then went on to become one of the leading visionaries of world cinema. Funny how this stuff works out.

Ray was earning a living as head of graphic design at the Indian offices of Signet Press when he was assigned a children's book version of the classic Bengali novel PATHER PANCHALI, and the book had a lasting effect on him. In the years following independence India's film world struggled to find the kind of independent voices that informed other cinematic cultures, particularly the neo-realist movement thriving in postwar Italy, a particular influence on our protagonist. After founding the Calcutta Film Society in 1947, which served as one of the few outlets for foreign cinema in India at that time, Ray bagged a gig as location scout for Jean Renoir's production of THE RIVER, and the two men quickly bonded. Ray shared his vision of a film version of PATHER PANCHALI, and Renior encouraged his new friend. Ray took a page from his beloved neo-realist movement and gathered mostly amateur actors and inexperienced crew to film on-and-off over the course of three years, egged on during difficult times by even newer iconic pal John Huston, scouting locations for an early yet aborted version of THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING. Huston caught some of the assembled footage Ray had to show. Huston alerted MOMA. Monroe Wheeler, then head of the Department of Exhibitions at the museum, took an interest, and not only helped gather additional financing but promised a spot on the venue's prestigious exhibition schedule if finished by the following year.

Finally in 1955, PATHER PANCHALI had its U.S. premiere in that very same museum. It remains one of the most beloved films of all time and a treasure of world cinema, and set forth one of our foremost cinematic storytellers on a path he may otherwise have spent moving numbers from the credit to the debit columns. For which we are eternally thankful. For the next three days you may view this gem for the first or thousandth time in the venue where it first premiered in the states. Satyajit Ray's debut film PATHER PANCHALI screens today, tomorrow and Friday at MOMA, all showtimes 1:30pm.

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-Joe Walsh