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The Music Room(1958)
Biswambhar Roy is a zamindar (landlord) and the last of his kind. With the title, he has none of the perquisites, inheriting diminishing lands that are being eroded by the neighbouring river. But he must maintain the lifestyle of his heritage. This ostentation is most apparent in the grandest room of his mansion, the music room. Here he inports the finest musicians and dancers to perform, and invites the area's most important commoners. His wife's entreaties to control spending are ignored, and the puberty party he throws for his son bring him down to the last few sacks of family jewels. Then, struck by tragedy, he locks the music room and slips into lethargy - until a final grand soiree consumes the last of his funds.
For more about The Music Room and the The Music Room Blu-ray release, see the The Music Room Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on August 2, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Satyajit Ray
Writer: Satyajit Ray
Starring: Chhabi Biswas, Padmadevi, Pinaki Sengupta
» See full cast & crew
The Music Room Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, August 2, 2011
Satyajit Ray's "Jalsaghar" a.k.a "The Music Room" (1958) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include an interview with critic and writer Andrew Robinson; video interview with acclaimed director Mira Nair; excerpt from the French television program L'invite de FR3; and a documentary film directed by Shyam Benegal. In Hindi, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Though its setting is very different, Satyajit Ray's The Music Room has plenty in common with Luchino Visconti's legendary The Leopard. The two films tell the stories of two proud and powerful men who begin to realize that their worlds are changing, slowly but irreversibly.
In Visconti's film, the great Burt Lancaster plays Prince Don Fabrizio Salina, who witnesses the birth of a new country. He is the last of its kind, a man of vision and integrity, who understands what is underway and does not attempt to confront it. Throughout the film, Prince Don Fabrizio Salina is also routinely imitated by Don Calogero Sedara, a simpleton who has suddenly become rich and started moving up the social ladder.
In Ray's film, Huzur (the famous Indian actor Chhabi Biswas), an aging aristocrat, witnesses how everything that he has loved and cherished through the years begins to fade away. He spends most of his time in his palace, where he often holds large parties in his favorite jalsaghar (music room). Famous musicians and dancers regularly visit the place.
These parties, however, are not cheap. Because the nearby river has flooded a lot of his land, and thus dramatically reduced his income, Huzur has started selling jewelry and other valuable possessions to pay for them. His wife (Padma Devi) urges him to reconsider his lifestyle, but he ignores her. For him, hosting the lavish parties is an important tradition that must be preserved. Pride and reputation are also at stake. A low-caste neighbor, who has recently become rich, has started hosting similar parties and many of Huzur's regular guests have begun praising him.
A tragedy forces Huzur to close the music room and he becomes seriously depressed. Meanwhile, his neighbor's reputation continues to grow as musicians and dancers from all over the country visit his home.
Like Visconti's The Leopard, Ray's The Music Room is a nostalgic film about the end of an era. The dilemmas Huzur faces are very similar to the ones Prince Don Fabrizio Salina is presented with. Both men are of noble blood and staunch traditionalists who eventually come to realize that their time has passed.
What separates the two aristocrats is their attitude towards music. For Huzur, music is part of his identity and it literally makes him feel alive -- he is recognized and appreciated by his neighbors only when they attend his parties; the rest of the time Huzur is a lonely ghost wandering around his lavish palace. Prince Don Fabrizio Salina is also fond of music, but he can live without it. Unlike Huzur, he is also constantly surrounded by family members who respect his words and keep his spirits up.
What makes Ray's film so fascinating to behold is the fact that it looks exotic but its themes are undeniably universal. It was inspired by a short story written by Tarashankar Banerjee and it is deeply rooted in Bengali culture, but everything in it reflects a world-view towards life and people.
The Music Room was lensed by Subrata Mitra, arguably India's greatest cinematographer, who also collaborated with Ray on his celebrated The Apu Trilogy.
Note: In 1959, The Music Room was screened at the Moscow International Film Festival where it won Silver Prize for Best Composer (Ustad Vilayat Khan).
The Music Room Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.34:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Satyajit Ray's The Music Room arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit 4K Datacine from an original 35mm fine-grain master positive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS system and Pixel Farm's PFClean system, while Digital Vision's Phoenix system was used for small dirt, grain, noise reduction, and scratches.
Telecine supervisor: Maria Palazzola.
Color correction: Gregg Garvin/Modern Videofilm, Los Angeles."
Considering the fact that the original camera negative of The Music Room was destroyed (though a second-generation fine-grain master positive was made directly from it), the quality of the high-definition transfer Criterion has used for this Blu-ray release is indeed very impressive. Detail is consistently strong, clarity very good throughout the entire film, and contrast levels well balanced. Color reproduction is also very convincing -- the blacks are rich but not boosted, while the grays and whites are stable and looking fresh. Edge-enhancement is not an issue of concern. There are only a few scenes in the film where extremely mild traces of sharpening are visible. There are no traces of heavy denoising either. Naturally, grain is prominent, though not always evenly distributed and well resolved. There are various small frame transition issues -- skips, jumps, etc., -- but none of them are overly distracting. Small scratches and cuts are also visible, but it is obvious that they could not be removed completely without affecting the integrity of the image. All in all, this is a strong, very convincing presentation that does the film justice. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Music Room Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: Bengali LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original 35mm soundtrack print. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation."
I noticed some very small dynamic fluctuations, mostly during the performances in the music room, but I assume that they are inherited from the soundtrack print. On the other hand, the dialog is crisp, clean, stable, and easy to follow. There are no distortions, pops, or annoying hiss either. The English subtitles are excellent and easy to read.
The Music Room Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Music Room Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Satyajit Ray's The Music Room is a fascinating film about a powerful man in love with music and the end of an era. As expected, Criterion's presentation of the film is of exceptionally high quality and is complimented with a set of very good supplemental features. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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