A still from Apur Sansar


Satyajit Ray was an art director at a Calcutta ad agency when he was inspired to make a movie based on Bibhutibhushan Banerjee's autobiographical novel about a Bengali boy, Apu, and his family. That picture, "Pather Panchali," was released in 1955 to great acclaim, but it hadn't come easily: Ray spent all of his earnings and sold his own belongings and his wife's jewelry to complete the film. In doing so, though, he changed the course of movie history. "Pather Panchali" and its sequels, "Aparajito" (1957) and "The World of Apu" (1959), which together trace Apu's journey to adulthood, opened the world of Indian cinema to the West. And for me these three pictures, known as the Apu Trilogy, constitute perhaps the greatest experience the movies have to offer. Ray's mode of storytelling is simple, sharp and sweet; each frame is essential. And his compositions shimmer with a purely organic beauty: in "The World of Apu" our first glimpse of the hero's young bride - she's shown in three-quarter profile, as if the full view would dazzle us into blindness - represents the promise of everything youth has to offer.

- Stephanie Zacharek in New York Times