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The Lonely Wife (Charulata) [UK] Blu-ray Review

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Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(The below TheaterByte screen captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray Discs and losslessly compressed in the PNG format. There should be no loss of picture quality with this format. All screen captures should be regarded only as an approximation of the full capabilities of the Blu-ray format.)

The Film

[Rating:5/5]

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Curiously and, one might even say “scandalously”, rejected by the 1965 Cannes Film Festival committee, Satyajit Ray’s 1964 film Charulata was the Indian filmmaker’s most favorite film. Pure poetry from its dialogue-free opening sequences to its now famous freeze-frame ending, the film marked a turning point for the director. One can immediately spy the incorporation of the Western influences, the avant-garde and nouvelle vague, creeping into his visual language.

Set in the 19th century colonial period of India, Charulata concerns itself with a rich, upper-middle class housewife Charu (the immeasurably beautiful Madhabi Mukherjee) who finds herself isolated from her husband, a politically-minded owner of a newspaper. Her isolation from both her husband and the world outside is best reflected in Ray’s opening sequence in which we see Charu following passersby her window through opera glasses. When her husband’s brother Amal (Soumitra Chatterjee), a free-spirited poet, arrives, Charu and Amal begins spending much time together in deep discussions and he encourages her to begin writing. She gradually falls in love with him, forming a love-triangle that not only serves as the basis for the film’s romantic conflict, but is also a metaphor for the film’s larger theme, that is the changing of the social mores, from past, to present, from colonialism, to independence, just as Charu has transformed from traditional housewife, to modern woman. But is Ray offering up an opinion on which is best or worse either way, or just that change is inevitable? The beauty of it is, he leaves it open to interpretation, different people can come to Charulata and come away with completely different understandings.

Ray’s directorial language in Charulata is the catalyst for the film’s poetic beauty, whether he is zooming in on Charu’s opera glasses as she speeds to the window, in a sequence that looks like a tiger prowling through tall grass, or meditating on a face as the music swells, he transports us as if in a dreamworld, most definitely of his own creation. His own take on the realism of the new wave entangled with his more surrealist leanings leads to a beautiful language, expressed so marvelously here in Charulata, both in its characters and mise en scène.

Video Quality

[Rating:3/5]

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Charulata comes to Blu-ray Disc with an AVC/MPEG-4 1080p encodement from Artificial Eye. The non-critical masses and non-videophiles will probably be pleased with the presentation, which is immaculately clean. I, however, am scratching my head trying to figure out where the heck all the grain went in this film from 1964? Someone (or something) obviously went haywire with the DNR on this release, and it is completely devoid of grain, noise, texture. I challenge anyone to make out a fiber on the clothing or to find pores or fine stubble on faces in midrange, or even close-up shots. It’s unnatural, waxy looking, smooth, and flat.

Audio Quality

[Rating:2.5/5]

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The bilingual English/Bengali monaural soundtrack is provided in LPCM 2.0 (48kHz/24-bit). It sounds a bit boxy and boomy, and somewhat veiled, but it does what it is supposed to do.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:0/5]

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There’s nothing included.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]

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An opus to love, isolation, neglect, and the winds of change, the beautiful and poetic Charulata (The Lonely Housewife) is a fantastic film that cineastes should all consume, even if this Blu-ray from Artificial Eye scrubs too much of the natural grain (and detail) from the image.

Additional Screen Captures

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[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B00BSX68RM[/amazon-product]

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