17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indian Dream
"This is the story of my first love, growing up on the banks of a river', young English writer Harriet (Patricia Walters) narrates as she starts her recollection of a childhood on the Ganges delta during the last days of the Raj. It could have happened anywhere, she adds, `but the flavour is Indian'.
Shot on location in 1951, this adaptation of Rumer `Black...
Published on 15 Mar 2008 by Billy Ray Cyrus
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice film.
If you make allowances for the age of this film, you will appreciate its beauty. Storyline predictable, but still moving. Worth watching.
Published 10 months ago by Mr. G. J. Fisher
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indian Dream,
This review is from: The River  [DVD] (DVD)"This is the story of my first love, growing up on the banks of a river', young English writer Harriet (Patricia Walters) narrates as she starts her recollection of a childhood on the Ganges delta during the last days of the Raj. It could have happened anywhere, she adds, `but the flavour is Indian'.
Shot on location in 1951, this adaptation of Rumer `Black Narcissus' Godden's semi-autobiographical novel was Renoir's first excursion into colour - and not the least of its pleasures are visual, its gently idealised Bengal rendered in unostentatious dappled greens by cinematographer Claude Renoir.
The acting may now seem wooden now, but the feelings, thoughts and emotions are only too real. This great little movie encompasses the whole cycle of life and is told with a stoic wisdom and simplicity that's as beautiful as it is moving.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ideal Restoration,
This review is from: The River  [DVD] (DVD)The BFI and partners again achieve a first class restoration (see also Criterion Collection: Black Narcissus [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] or The Red Shoes - Restored [DVD] for other examples of their expertise). The film looks *beautiful*. It's as good as new, and there is nothing to detract from your enjoyment.
The extra features on a second disc are also worthwhile. I'm not sure why but they don't get a mention in Amazon's description. Here is what you get (as described by the BFI):
"Specially commissioned filmed introduction to The River by Indian filmmaker Kumar Shahani
Seven rarely-seen short films set in India (1899-1945), preserved in the BFI National Archive. Among them are two silent films showing the changes in jute production and two 1930s films photographed in Technicolor by British cinematographer Jack Cardiff
Fully illustrated 24-page booklet including film essay and Rumer Godden interview by David Thompson; director biography and notes on the seven short films"
Changes in jute production? Unmissable! I'd started to worry that the differences I kept noticing between early and mid 20th century sacking were all in my mind. Now I know I'm not going crazy after all. Do you get the feeling that the BFI aren't the greatest marketing experts? The other short films that are apparently either too dull to mention at all or unworthy of being explicitly named (no jute, no comment) are:
Panorama of Calcutta (1899)
Picturesque India or, In and About Calcutta (1913)
A Road in India (1938) - Dir. Hans Nieter, Technicolor photography Jack Cardiff
Temples of India (1938) - Dir. Hans Nieter, Technicolor photography Jack Cardiff
District Officer (1945)
These are some very interesting films and if you watch especially closely you may even see some jute, but please try to stay calm.
If you've any room left in your favourite old jute gunny sack then don't hesitate to fill it with this superb edition of The River.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Moment by the Timeless River.,
This review is from: The River  [DVD] (DVD)A film much admired by Wes Craven who was so enamoured that he went on to make his own film set in India "The Darjeeling Limited", a film that I incidentally enjoyed very much. Craven was apparently shown a print of the film by Martin Scorcese, a walking wikipedia on film lore. The film also kick started the career of Satyajit Ray, who assisted on the film, and also Ray's celebrated cinematographer Subrata Mitra who met up during the filming. They went on to collaborate on the monumental Apu trilogy, without doubt India's greatest contribution to world cinema. Sorry Bollywood! Also directed by Jean Renoir, and I am going through a bit of a Renoir appreciation period at present, the film was a must watch. I was not disappointed! This is a real cinema connoisseurs purchase. Beautifully restored by the BFI with a fascinating second disc full of decent extras it proved to be an excellent purchase.
Typical of Renoir, the films story is rather inconsequential to the film itself. It is simply a canvas for him to splash gorgeous colours across and bask in the sights and sounds of India. It captures a moment in time, all the while being conscious that the celestial clock is ever ticking. The vast meandering river of the story simply conveys the inexorable passage of time. Shot in a documentary style the film follows the lives and loves of the family of a British jute mill owner on the banks of the Ganges river in Bengal India. The ills of colonialism is really not an issue with this film, it is simply an impartial snap shot of a moment in time, captured by Renoir's artists eye. Ray himself was to provide a greater Bengali flavour with his own films. Renoir's work was clearly influenced by his artist father Pierre-Auguste, and the vivid colours of the sub continent would have held great appeal. It is no surprise then that the film is infused with colour at every opportunity. There are wonderful shots of majestic trees in glorious bloom, and all the bright colours of the bustling markets. Renoir also throws in a stunning dance routine which is quite beautifully choreographed. His eye for beauty is uncanny, and this sequence is worth buying the film for on its own. Unusually and quite brilliantly Renoir avoids using western music, instead using the wonderful Indian sounds of M A Partha Sarathy to great effect.
The film was made on location in India using a number of lesser known actors. It was based on a book by Rumer Godden, who also wrote the screenplay, and whose own childhood was spent in India. Perhaps best known of the cast were Nora Swinburne and Arthur Shields, an old John Ford 'oirish' favourite, and a veteran of the Easter Rising. The film has a lovely languid feel to it with a memorable sequence showing the different characters in a drowsy hot afternoons siesta. There is also a nice sequence showing the myriad steps leading down into the sacred river, some so old they are crumbling into the river as times eroding effect takes grip. The BFI have restored those beautiful colours in a way that I am sure Renoir himself, and perhaps even his father would have approved of. This is a beautiful piece of restoration work. The second disc contains an interesting short documentary about the film. There are also several short films from the BFI about India, which include one made as far back as 1899. There is also one about the Jute industry in Bengal which is certainly relevant to the film. All in all a lovely little purchase. True lovers of good cinema should enjoy this one in their collection.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful movie of great humanity by Jean Renoir,
This review is from: Criterion Collection: River [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)This is a movie of great calm and humanity, which moves at its own rhythms. It's also a beautiful movie, shot in India by one of the great visual directors of our time. The story may seem simple on the surface, but it moves deeply into the currents of life, using India and the Ganges as metaphor. I can only say that the movie is an affecting look at how life goes on and how we grow within our lives.
The River tells its story through three girls on the brink of adulthood. Harriet, the daughter of the English manager of a jute mill on the banks of the Ganges; Radha, the daughter of their English neighbor whose mother was Indian; and Valerie, the daughter of a wealthy English couple whom we never meet. The three are close friends but each is dealing with with their changes in their own way. Then one day the American cousin of their neighbor arrives to stay for awhile. He lost his leg in the war and is handsome. All the girls develop feelings for him and suddenly their own feelings for each other begin to change. And he has problems of his own. He hasn't come to grips with having only one leg, nor with what he feels is the pity toward him he has encountered. The reality of his life weighs on him. As the most mature of the girls tells him, "After a war yesterday's hero is only a man with one leg."
The story is told through the narration of Harriet as an adult. "Suddenly" she says, "we were running away from childhood and rushing toward love." In the course of four seasons they experience the ebb and flow of emotions just as the river ebbs and flows. There is a death, a birth, and life goes on. And by the end of the movie they, and we, have learned a good deal more about ourselves.
I like this movie a lot, and I have a great respect for it. The Region 1 Criterion DVD restores the picture to all of its Technicolor glory. It looks stunning. There are several extras. A short introduction by Renoir gives a fascinating look at what it took to get the film made. Martin Scorsese gives an appreciation of the film which is enlightening.
One sidelight is that the actor, Esmond Knight, who plays the father, was for all practical purposes blind. He enlisted in the royal navy at the start of WWII. During the battle to sink the Bismarck he had one eye destroyed and lost nearly all sight in the other. After he was invalided out he was determined to resume his acting career. His wife would teach him the lines for his movies and stage plays; he would memorize them (and everyone else's) by hearing them. She and others would block out his movements on the sets so that he could memorize exactly where the director wanted him to be, where he had to move, and all this in relation to the movements of the other cast members. Since he was blind, he had to master the technique of knowing exactly where to look so that it would appear he was looking where he should be. I challenge anyone to watch this movie and not be utterly convinced Knight was sighted. To my knowledge, he never played a blind man...and he had a long career in the movies (including five Powell/Pressburger films) and on the stage.
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice film.,
This review is from: The River  [DVD] (DVD)If you make allowances for the age of this film, you will appreciate its beauty. Storyline predictable, but still moving. Worth watching.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Utterly UTTERLY boring,
This review is from: Criterion Collection: River [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)First of all, I will admit that the cinematography of this movie is great. You watch it and simply get carried away by the beautiful colours, the great frames the directors chose as well as the great portrait shots of the actors. Nothing can be said to negate this fact; and if one actually watches the Criterion version of the movie, then all the better as they have done a magnificent work at remastering this film. I have some very very minor issues with it (that I will get to towards the end of this) but these are too minor to affect my overall opinion of the restoration work.
I am afraid that's where it ends with the positives. Despite the great cinematography, the film is an utter bore. Nearly half of the film is a documentary on India, where we get a female narrator (it is actually one of the characters of the movie) presenting us with life and the various local customs in India and keeping the plot in the background. It feels like the director forgot that he has to shot a story and started walking around India, shooting scenes of everyday life. Again, remember that the cinematography is great - but so is the cinematography in a BBC or a National Geographic documentary for that matter - this is a MOVIE!
Then, at some point after all this pointless wondering around, we get to the first interesting moment of the movie: the main male character is introduced. And our screens are getting filled up with this guy, who is supposed to carry the film forward. And the guy looks like anybody, acts like nobody and makes me wonder: "is that the best they could come up with?". The director (or the producer or whoever else was responsible) made a huge error in casting.
OK, so we don't have a great cast. Do we at least have a story? Hmmm, no. Nothing special there as well. Just ordinary people, doing whatever was ordinary for them to do back in that part of the world at that time, locals again doing the same thing. Dialog: flat, uninteresting. Characters: uninteresting. Drama (you know, that thing that theatre and movies are all about): in one or two scenes and that's it. Moral: India is an interesting place and there are some people living in it.
Of course, *when* the movie was made, it brought the culture of India on the silver screen. And lots of Europeans (and maybe Americans) got to see it and be exposed to it, which must have been interesting in its own right. But today, it is not the same. We leave in a globalised world and most of the things this movie presents to us are common knowledge. This is why the documentary aspect of it diminishes its value today to such an extent.
Along with that of course, I think that the director simply got carried away with his love for India and there was probably no one around to moderate this (or he felt independent enough and he wouldn't listen).
This movie is perhaps seen as a masterpiece because it comes from a great director. However, I think that it is one of his weak pieces of work and pretty weak overall.
Proceed with caution, no cinema magic here.
PS: My only nag about the Criterion remaster is that occasionally the colour balance was fluctuating a bit on several sequences. You would see a bit more "blue" or "green" entering for a few frames and then back to the original colour balance. This is mentioned merely as an observation and NOT as a criticism. I can very well appreciate what Criterion has to do to achieve this quality and truly respect their achievement.
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The River  [DVD] by The River (DVD - 2006)