review for The Stranger on AllMovie

The Stranger (1991)
by Tom Vick review

Satyajit Ray's last three features, Enemy of the People, The Branches of the Tree, and The Stranger, were made while he was in extremely poor health. Filmed in studio settings, they have a stripped-down, bare-bones feeling very different from his more visually expansive earlier films. Of the three, The Stranger is the most successful. A graceful swan song from a universally acknowledged master of world cinema, it manages to distill his themes and ideas into a simply told but infinitely complex story of identity and loss. Manmohan Mitra (Utpal Dutt), alienated from his own family and more at home among the native peoples of the world than he is with his own sophisticated urban milieu, functions as a kind of poignant metaphor for the artist as eternal outsider. It's not too much of a stretch to imagine that Ray must have seen Manmohan as a reflection of himself as well. Even as he single-handedly brought Indian cinema to the world's attention, he faced criticism at home throughout his career for straying from his Indian roots. But at heart, The Stranger is more about questions of identity that are at once larger and more intimate. Manmohan's mysteriousness and his endless stories don't so much establish who he is as cause each member of his supposed family to question their assumptions about themselves. Probing the mysteries of human behavior with the sensitivity that Ray was always known for, The Stranger is a fitting end to a truly illustrious career.