A River Called Titas / Dry Summer
A River Called Titas
The Bengali filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak’s stunningly beautiful, elegiac saga concerns the tumultuous lives of people in fishing villages along the banks of the Titas River in pre-Partition East Bengal. Focusing on the tragic intertwining fates of a series of fascinating characters—in particular, the indomitable widow Basanti—Ghatak tells the poignant story of an entire community’s vanishing way of life. Made soon after Bangladesh became an independent nation, the elliptical, painterly A River Called Titas is a grand epic from a director who has had a devoted following for decades.
Ritwik Ghatak’s A River Called Titas is the third film featured in Criterion’s first World Cinema Project box set. The film is presented in this dual-format release in its original aspect ratio of approximately 1.37:1. The film also shares the same dual-layer disc with Metin Erksan’s Dry Summer, also presented in the same aspect ratio. Both films have been given 1080p/24hz high-definition encodes. Each film is also presented in standard-defintion on their own respective dual-layer DVDs. Neither have been window-boxed.
Titas provides one of the more problematic presentations. Though not nearly as tattered as the print used for Redes, the multiple sources used for this restoration (the original negative, a fine-grain master, a couple of positives) have all seen better days. Vertical scratches are fairly rampant throughout, along with other knicks and bits of debris. There are some shifts and jitter, and evidence of mold and other stains, as well a faded, worn look that occurs a lot through the latter half of the film. Grain is present and can get fairly heavy, though looks mostly natural (there are a few times in darker areas of the frame that look more like digital noise.)
The high-def transfer delivers the film as best it can. Sharpness can vary substantially throughout but it appears any issues of softness are in the source itself. Otherwise, at its best, the image delivers a substantial amount of detail and depth. As mentioned previously noise can be a bit of an issue in places, but I didn’t detect any other artifacts.
The DVD’s standard-definition transfer uses the same master but comes off noticeably noisier in comparison to the Blu-ray version. I also detected some halos around objects that I don’t recall being visible in the Blu-ray’s transfer.
There are some limitations in the source but in the end it’s a solid presentation, with a transfer that adequately represents the source materials as best it can.
Dry Summer, on the other hand, looks marvelous. There are a few minor blemishes in the source, the restoration work obviously being thorough. But the digital transfer itself presents no notable flaws, delivers a high amount of detail, excellent depth, sharp contrast, and distinct grey levels. Edges are clean, with no noticeable artifacts, and it delivers natural looking film grain.
The DVD’s transfer also delivers a decent standard-definition presentation of the same transfer. Compression is a little more noticeable and there are some obvious shimmering effects in a few tight patterns but as a whole it’s very clean and upscaled it looks very good.
I have nothing to really complain about with this one. It’s sharp, is in great shape, and looks spectacular overall. Another great transfer in this impressive box set.
A River Called Titas (1973): 7/10 Dry Summer (1964): 9/10
Titas' mono track, presented in 1.0 lossless linear PCM on the Blu-ray and Dolby Digital 1.0 on the DVD, is also limited by the source materials. It sounds as though most dialogue may have been recorded over in post-production, and that lends a detached feel. The track is also tinny and hollow, with no fidelity or depth, and it also has a faint hiss.
Dry Summer receives a 1.0 mono track, presented in lossless linear PCM on the Blu-ray and Dolby Digital on the DVD.
As the film begins the sound effects sound pleasant enough. They come off a bit flat but they’re clean and acceptable and I was prepared for a generally good mono track. And then the characters start talking. It’s more than likely a product of shooting conditions and audio equipment but I found dialogue unusually edgy and distorted. Eventually I did get used to it and was able to overlook it, but it was a bit of a shock initially.
Like the other films in the box set, both films first come with an interview with Martin Scorsese. For A River Called Titas where the director talks about Indian cinema, the film, and Ghatak for less than 3-minutes. For Dry Summer he just talks a little about the film and points out the aspects he admires, this one running 2-minutes.
Filmmaker Kumar Shahani then offers a 16-minute interview where he talks about Ghatak’s brief career and work while offering a decent analysis of Titas. One of the stronger additions to the entire set, though, is a 15-minute segment featuring an interview with filmmakers Metin Erksan and Faith Akin, with Erksan’s taken from excerpts of a 2008 interview, and Adkin’s being recorded exclusively for this release. Akin recalls winning the Golden Bear for Head-On, technically a German film, though Turkey considered it one of their own. This led Akin to track down Dry Summer, the first Turkish film to win the award. Akin talks a little about the political climate in Turkey at the time, comments on Erksan’s style, his favourite moments in the film, the sexuality, and so on. This is intercut with Erksan’s comments where he recalls making the film and some obstacles that came up, like the censors who objected to a plot point which would have involved the older brother marrying the widow. He has some unkind (rather humourous) comments about those “useless people” who only know how to “get their salaries.” Akin provides some decent insight but I actually wish there was more footage of Erksan who proves to be a rather lively interview subject.
Again, I’m disappointed there isn’t a bit more, and I still wish Criterion included some more information on these restorations. The interviews do add a little bit of value.
Like the other films in the set, both films are sparse on supplements but deliver excellent digital presentations, only limited by source materials.