Satyajit Ray's latest film, "The Chess Players," originally scheduled for an American theatrical premiere at the K-B Janus following a preview showing at the American Film Institute Theater's upcoming anniversary series, has had to scratch from both engagements. Ray himself had been scheduled to introduce the film at the AFI showing and help promote festival or theatrical openings in Paris, London , Chicago, New York and Washington.
Sources close to the filmmaker indicate that the movie, a study of the inertia of the Indian nobility during the heyday of the East India Company, is being held up at the insistence of the Indian distributor, who refuses to release prints for export and subtitling until the producer considers certain undefined changes.
"The Chess Players" is the first movie that the Bengali Ray has shot in Bombay in the Hindi language, and there are rumors that the Indian distributor may prefer a few more mass audience diversions as well as "less English." Some of the supporting characters in the film happen to be English, and actor-director Richard Attenborough appears in one of these roles.
The AFI is substituting the anthology "Metropolitan Opera Stars on Film" for the spot originally reserved for "The Chess Players" - Saturday, Nov. 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the Eisenhower Theater. The scheduled Nov. 13 opening at the K-B Janus has been postponed indefinitely, awaiting the eventual arrival of a print in the United States.
The AFI will utilize its own theater and screening room as well as the Eisenhower and the Opera House on a part-time basis to accommodate all the programs planned for its 10th-anniversary celebration. The film programs begin Sunday, Nov. 6, with such attractions as a matinee showing of Walt Disney's "Three Caballeros" and an evening showing of "Singin' in the Rain," introduced by Gene Kelly himself, at the Eisenhower and a complete showing of the 1918 French serial "Tih Minh," directed by the legendary pioneer of the genre, Louis Feuillade, beginning at 2 p.m. in the AFI Theater and ending at around 11 p.m. or so.
Prices have been advanced considerably for some of the special programs, but there are also many free screenings scheduled for such attractions as "The Adams Chronicles," anthologies of TV highlights and surveys of children's avant-garde and AFI-supported films.
The splashiest events are reserved for the Eisenhower Theater: Irene Dunne will introduce her 1937 tear-jerker "Love Affair" on Monday, Nov. 7; director Michael Cacoyannis and actresses Irene Papas and Tatiana Papamouskou appear with "Iphigenia" on Nov. 8; producer David Merrick and director Michael Ritchie are scheduled to accompany "Semi-Tough" on Nov. 9; and producer Alberto Grimaldi and director Bernardo Bertolucci, having buried the hatchet, are supposed to do the honors with "1900" on Friday, Nov. 11.
A complete schedule of events will be available at the AFI box-office. The anniversary capper is a benefit gala at the Opera House on Thursday, Nov. 17, due to be telecast as a CBS special on Monday, Nov. 21, at which the results of the AFI's membership poll of "the 10 greatest American films" will be announced.
The management at K-B plans to move the Japanese film "Sandakan 8" over to the Cerberus and Janus on Wednesday, Nov. 2, when "Heroes" a new romantic comedy co-starring Henry Winkler and Sally Field, opens at the Fine Arts. Sneaks of "Heroes" are scheduled at a number of theaters this Friday, so check the ads for the obvious clues.