Jalsaghar

Nashville Scene

DIRECTED BY: Satyajit Ray

REVIEWED: 12-08-97

There's more to director Satyajit Ray than his classic Apu trilogy, as evidenced by the recent video release of a half-dozen other masterworks. One of the least seen of these, Jalsaghar (1958), examines the twilight years of a spoiled, aging aristocrat (Chhabi Biswas). Presiding over a decaying mansion and a dwindling fortune, this childish Bengali zamindar, or feudal landlord, spends much of his time slumped on an unroyal throne, lazily sucking smoke from a hookah as if it were a teething ring. His only other pacifier is music. Despite the fact that he's down to his last remaining jewels, he continues to host concerts by classical musicians in his dusty music room--boasting to an increasingly uninterested audience. The director's moody visual style befits his complex look at a character not unlike Orson Welles' Charles Foster Kane--a misanthrope who, despite his wealth of toys, has doomed himself to living arrogantly impoverished and alone. Jalsaghar's "Rosebud" is revealed in the film's first and last shots of a cobwebbed chandelier--Ray's symbol of antiquated opulence.

--Rob Nelson

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