Satyajit Ray Geoff Brown - Essay

Geoff Brown

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The Middleman is no exact sequel [to Company Limited], for Ray's portrait of the sad inter-relationship between amorality and success is painted in far greater detail and in darker colours. There is more explicit emphasis on the break-up of India's past traditions…. Religion is specifically degraded…. Unlike many other directors (Altman, for instance), Ray can depict sour and cynical characters or events without being sour himself: from the opening scenes the film bristles with the warm, involving comedy of everyday oddities and indignities, conveying Ray's moral and message with far more effectiveness than any strident tub-thumping…. Ray's camera observes the comic disasters and follies with his customary dry detachment: during a drive …, a dashboard compartment repeatedly flaps open every time the vehicle hits a pothole—an event deliciously signalled by shots of one of the car's wheels hurtling fatefully along the road. The film runs for a little over two hours, and the narrative drifts and drags its feet slightly; a couple of flashback scenes seem curious intrusions. But nothing can detract from the film's overall success and its penetrating charm.

Geoff Brown, "Feature Films: 'Jana-Aranya' ('The Middleman')," in Monthly Film Bulletin (copyright © The British Film Institute, 1977), Vol. 44, No. 518, March, 1977, p. 43.