This is the seventeenth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2021-22", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 7th annual challenge, and my third time participating (my first year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20", and last year's at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21"). Week 17 is called "Parallel Cinema & New Indian Cinema Week":
Though not exactly the same movements, in the interest of availability, I've combined the two into one week.
"Parallel cinema, or New Indian Cinema, was a film movement in Indian cinema that originated in the state of West Bengal in the 1950s as an alternative to the mainstream commercial Indian cinema.
Inspired by Italian Neorealism, Parallel Cinema began just before the French New Wave and Japanese New Wave, and was a precursor to the Indian New Wave of the 1960s. The movement was initially led by Bengali cinema and produced internationally acclaimed filmmakers such as Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghatak, Tapan Sinha and others. It later gained prominence in other film industries of India.
It is known for its serious content, realism and naturalism, symbolic elements with a keen eye on the sociopolitical climate of the times, and for the rejection of inserted dance-and-song routines that are typical of mainstream Indian films."
This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen Parallel or New Indian Cinema film.
This was a good challenge for me, because I am woefully uneducated about Indian cinema. I've seen a handful of Satyajit Ray movies and a Bollywood movie or two, but I had never heard of New Indian Cinema, and didn't know any of the notable directors outside of Ray. I have no idea if The Cloud-Capped Star is indicative of the work of Ritwik Ghatak, or Parallel cinema in general, but it's an impressive movie on its own.
The Cloud-Capped Star reminded me of many other films. The heroine, Neeta, played by Supriya Choudhury, a legend in Bengali cinema who was new to me, suffers so much she could have been the central figure in a Lars von Trier movie. Neeta is too kind, too willing to put others ahead of herself. Ghatak often uses close-ups that seem like they came from silent movies. The faces tell us so much, even when the character is not speaking, but the acting styles are modern, not overdone as can be the case in silents. Only a small portion of the film takes place in the city, but when it does, it is reminiscent of the way real locations were used in the French New Wave:
Also, Ghatak gets eerie passages by his use of sound. If shooting in a natural setting seems "real", his use of sound is often surreal:
All of this may remind us of other movies, but the combination is unique. The Cloud-Capped Star is engrossing on many levels, and an eye-opener into the world of Bengali cinema beyond Satyajit Ray.