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The Music Room
The Criterion Collection
(Blu-ray)

review by Zach B.

 

 

Not Rated

Running Time: 99 Minutes

Starring: Chhabi Biswas, Padama Devi, Pinaki Sen Gupta, Gangapada Bose, Tulsi Lahiri, Kali Sarkar, Begum Akhtar, Salamat Ali Khan, Roshan Kumari

Written and Directed by: Satyajit Ray

 


Studio: Criterion

Retail Price: $39.95

Features: Satyajit Ray Documentary, For The Love Of Music, Mira Nair Interview, 1981 Roundtable Excerpt

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen 1080p High Definition, Bengali PCM Mono, English Subtitles, Chapters (19 Chapters)

Released: July 19th, 2011







The Music Room is presented in a 1080p High Definition transfer, with the full screen aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Criterion ponied up for a new digital restoration of the movie, but unfortunately, the film has seen better days. The movie's black-and-white cinematography looks sharp, and detail is pretty good, but the film is awash in scratches — not to mention the dirt pieces and blemishes that are also there. The balance of grain Criterion put forth is decent, though. I'm sure the company used the best material available to make this transfer, but the constant rain of flaws can make this a distracting watch rather often. 


The Music Room features an uncompressed Bengali Mono track. It is a standard and straightforward track, that sounds decent. Thankfully, there are no audio defects or hisses and scratches. Dialogue is easy to hear, while the movie's music comes through well. It is what it is.

English subtitles are included.

 


The big supplement here is the documentary Satyajit Ray. Completed in 1984, this full screen doc runs a whopping 131 minutes. This is a pretty complete portrait of Ray, as it's framed by his filming of his thirty-second film, The Home and the World. Other than the requiste film clips, photographs and interviews, there's plenty to learn about the filmmaker: his filmmaking style, his use of form and music, his childhood, and details about some of his most famous films (such as The Apu Trilogy). Perhaps this documentary is a bit dry at times, as much of its shape is somewhat like "Inside The Actor's Studio": director Shyam Benegal asks Ray plenty of questions, he answers, and clips highlight what's being spoken of. Still, it's a must-see for those who have affection for Ray.

For The Love Of Music is an interview with Ray biographer Andrew Robinson, that runs 17-and-a-half minutes. This is a pretty fascinating and insightful interview, highlighted with clips from The Music Room. Robinson largely focuses on the movie's cultural aspects, Ray's background up until the point he made The Music Room and the actual music in the film. There's a lot to learn here. 

There's a near-16 minute interview with filmmaker Mira Nair, who admits right off the bat that she never saw a Ray film until she came to America when she was 19 years old. Nair provides her own analysis of elements of the film, all while expressing her love and appreciation of it. She also provides background on the releasing of Ray's films, too. This is a thoughtful tribute. 

On the eve of The Music Room's debut in France, Satyajit Ray appeared on French television in 1981, in discussion with film critic Michel Ciment and director Claude Sautet, moderated by Dominique Reznikoff. This excerpt runs nearly 11 minutes, and most of it praises Ray, the themes in some of his films and Ray putting what's brought up in context. A bit dry, but interesting nonetheless.

The Criterion booklet for this release is outstanding: there's an essay by Satyajit Ray about the movie's location, an essay from critic Philip Kemp and an interview with Ray from 1986 about the movie's music. 

 


The Music Room
is a beloved classic of foreign cinema, made by Satyajit Ray — one of the most important Indian filmmakers. While it's too bad Criterion couldn't clean up the movie any further, there are terrific supplements here, including a long documentary about the filmmaker (the included booklet is excellent, too). Given the quality of the film, this is an easy recommendation.