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The Middle Man

The Middle Man – 1976
aka Jana Aranya
Satyajit Ray

Satyajit Ray
Manisankar ‘Sankar’ Mukherjee – novel

Satya Bannerjee
Arati Bhattacharya
Gautam Chakraborty


Review by Zetes

A fairly disappointing picture from Ray,

It starts out well enough, with a recent college graduate (Pradip Mukherjee) desperate for work. The montage of his looking for work is great, especially a scene where he is interviewed for a job and asked the most irrelevant questions imaginable, including “How much does the moon weigh?” He looks at the interviewer in disbelief. “What does that have to do with the job?” “I’ll ask the questions here, son!” After several months of unemployment, he runs into an old friend who sets him up as a “middleman,” where he can make a huge profit with very little effort. It’s immoral, and Mukherjee can feel his soul slipping away. But he can’t quit, because he doesn’t want to disappoint his elderly father (Satya Bandyopadhyay, who gives the film’s best performance).

The main problem with the movie is that it’s just too talky, and no one’s talking about anything interesting. It wouldn’t work if the characters were talking out loud about the moral dilemma; that would make the film too obvious. But they just talk endlessly about how they are going to go about their business and so forth. The movie just drags on forever, and then it throws in this utterly contrived ending.

Well, I was almost happy for the contrivance, because, although false, at least it didn’t involve endless prattle. It’s quite overlong. I miss the economy of his better films. A dud by a master. 6/10.

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