The Apu Trilogy¸ considered the greatest work of Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray, was recently the subject of a meticulous 4K restoration by the Criterion Collection in partnership with The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, aided by MTI Film’s industry-leading restoration software DRS® Nova. The newly-restored series, which includes the films Pather Panchali,Aparajito and Apur Sansar, will be released by the Criterion Collection for a theatrical run in May, followed by Blu-ray distribution later this year.
Originally released between 1955 and 1959, The Apu Trilogy is Ray’s sweeping story of a boy, Apu, growing up in rural India during the early part of the 20th century. A milestone in neorealism, the films took top prizes at Cannes, London and Venice and are credited with establishing the new Indian cinema.
“We are excited to reintroduce the public to The Apu Trilogy,” said Criterion Collection Technical Director Lee Kline, who oversaw the restoration. “These films are masterpieces that have not been seen in good condition, quite possibly, since their initial release.”
The new restorations were produced largely from original camera negative that was recently discovered after being damaged in a fire in London. Those film elements first went through physical restoration at Cineteca Bologna in Italy. The restored film elements were then scanned at 4K and digitally restored at the Criterion Collection’s facility in New York, a process that took six months.
“We were able to salvage 50- to 60-percent of the original camera negative for the first two films, although the fire had caused massive shrinkage and stabilization problems,” recalled Head Restoration Artist Phoebe Harmon. “The underlying elements were gorgeous, but there was a huge amount of work to be done.”
Scanned elements initially went through automated image processing using Pixel Farm PF Clean and Digital Vision Phoenix. That was followed by manual restoration by a team of restoration specialists using MTI Film DRS® Nova. “The MTI software allowed us to address artifacts left behind by the automated processing,” Harmon explained. “We used it to correct for severe problems with flicker, dirt, tears, scratches, mold and slices, all of which were present in all three films.”
MTI Film’s restoration software has been Criterion’s “workhorse” for digital restoration for more than 20 years. “It is flexible intuitive and easy-to-use,” Harmon said. “Our operators are comfortable with the software. Whenever we encounter a difficult problem, it goes to MTI.”
Criterion Technical Director Lee Kline will make a special presentation on the restoration of The Apu Trilogy on February 25th at Ohio State University’s Wexner Center for the Arts as part of its Cinema Revival series.