Friday, June 29, 2012

Kubanskie kazaki / The Cossacks of the Kuban

Кубанские казаки / Kubanin kasakat / I cosacchi del Kuban. SU 1950. D: Ivan Pyriev. SC: Nikolaj Pogodin. DP: Valentin Pavlov - Magicolor. ED: Anna Kulganek. AD: Jurij Pimenov, Georgij Turylev, Boris Cebotarëv. M: Isaak Dunaevskij (testi delle canzoni di Michail Vol’pin, Michail Isakovskij). S: Vjaceslav Lešcev. C: Marina Ladynina (Galina Peresvetova), Sergej Luk’janov (Gordej Voron), Vladimir Volodin (Anton Petrovic Mudrecov), Aleksandr Chrylja (Denis Koren’), Sergej Blinnikov (Marko Dergac), Klara Lucko (Daša Šelest), Michail Pugovkin (contadino), Ekaterina Savinova (Ljubocka), Andrej Petrov (Vasja Tuzov). PC: Mosfil’m. Premiere: 27. febbraio 1950. 35 mm. 97’. Italian subtitles. From: La Biennale di Venezia - ASAC e Fondazione Cineteca Italiana. Friday 29 July 2012, Cinema Lumière - Sala Scorsese (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). E-subtitles in English.

Olaf Möller: “One of the most astute studies of postwar Soviet cinema remains Sergej Kapterev’s way-too-little-read dissertation Post-Stalinist Cinema and the Russian Intelligentsia, 1953-1960 (2005), which despite its title, also has quite a lot to say about the years 1945-1952. Here’s a passage about Tales of the Siberian Land and The Cossacks of the Kuban: “According to Barbara Klinger, Melodrama may become ‘a crucial social barometer during times of ideological crisis [...] due to its heightened visual expressiveness, the psychic and social foundations of its mise-en-scene and its ‘double-leveled’ meaning’.

“This characteristic can be applied to Pyriev’s late Stalinist works: the fantasies of comfort and prosperity in Tales of the Siberian Land and The Cossacks of the Kuban hid war-inflicted personal dramas, which were ‘incidentally’ disclosed by scores in a minor key and verbal and visual hints of loneliness and desire. One of the most striking instances of this hidden, fragmentary melodrama is a sequence in The Cossacks of the Kuban, in which the estranged heroine’s song (we hear “All through the war I waited for you”) is transformed into an anxious choral crescendo and a shot of deliriously singing young females – an image close to many in the late-1940s Soviet Union, where millions of males did not return from the war”. That nails it.” Olaf Möller

AA: High Stalinist propaganda, a colour musical comedy set on the steppes of Kuban. This is the kind of movie that represented Soviet reality for Stalin according to Nikita Khrushchev. Abundance, excitement and joy are keywords. But as distinct from Hollywood musicals there are many everyday faces and no glamour in the Hollywood sense. There are montage sequences devoted to the harvest, the autumn fair, and the ploughing of the fields. The Isaak Dunayevsky songs are great, with themes such as "why do you sing those sad songs, doesn't the steppe fill your heart with joy", "you haven't changed, eagle of the steppe", and "our destiny walks alongside us in our native Soviet land". There are satirical aspects but only targeted on private weaknesses and characteristics. The women are powerful, and a central theme is that they may be so powerful that men feel estranged. In the harness race Galina (Marina Ladynina) lets Gordei (Sergei Lukianov) win. Galina and Gordei are the directors of their respective kolkhozes called The Teachings of Ilyich and The Red Partisan. Behind the situation of matriarchy is the tragedy of war in which many women (including Marina) have lost their husbands and many children their fathers. Ivan Pyriev has the talent to breathe a sense of vitality to a tale like this. There is an irresistible drive in his yarn, and a feeling of dynamic force in this major piece of socialist anti-realism. Behind the almost relentless joy there is a subtle feeling of profound grief which may be the true source of the movie's power. The print is clean, the colour gamut feels true to the original Magicolor, and the fine electronic subtitling originally produced by Sub-Ti for the Venice festival helps make sense of the movie.

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