|Zvanyi uzhin / [Dinner Party] with Nina Mamaeva and Igor Ilyinsky. Click to enlarge.|
Viewed at Sala Scorsese (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato) (Late Spring), introduced by Olaf Möller, e-subtitles in English and Italian, 28 June 2015
Peter Bagrov (Il Cinema Ritrovato catalogue and website): "Fridrikh Ermler, a true and devoted communist, a member of the Party since 1919, considered himself a man of politics, “an artist of the Party”. He believed in the reasonableness of the ongoing political life, and did not try to varnish it. Thus, paradoxically, he made some of the most controversial and complex works of socialist realism in cinema, such as Oblomok imperii [The Fragment of an Empire, 1929], Krest’jane [The Peasants, 1934] and Velikij graždanin [The Great Citizen, 1937-38]."
"Razbitye mečty (‘Broken Dreams’, the film’s initial title) was supposed to be one of the three stories in a screen vehicle for Arkadij Rajkin, a legend of Soviet vaudeville. Leningrad’s leading film-makers, Grigorij Kozincev, Iosif Cheific and Ermler, were each to direct one of the stories. The project was never realized for multiple reasons, the most significant being Rajkin’s ethnicity (the early 50s were the years of state anti-Semitism known as the ‘anti-cosmopolitan campaign’)."
"None of the three directors enjoyed making comedies, but Ermler, rather unexpectedly, decided to complete his portion of the work. The main role was now played by Igor’ Il’inskij, a famous theatrical actor and – some time before – the number one comedian of the Soviet silent screen."
"Rajkin could never forgive Ermler, for the sketch was written exclusively for him."
"The story is an anecdote about a careerist who invites his boss to an imaginary birthday party but accidentally locks himself in and spoils the whole plan. Rajkin was awfully funny, miserable yet
sympathetic at the same time. Il’inskij was disgusting and horrifying – in his dream of a new career, he turned into a heartless maniac."
"Ermler was forced to shoot the film in colour – a standard for 1953 comedies. But he wanted a grim black and white atmosphere, almost expressionist in style. Il’inskij practically threatens the camera in his aggressive ecstasy. One must remember that Zvanyi užin was created still under Stalin – which makes this little comedy a unique link between the risky satires of the 1920s and the equally daring formal experiments of the 60s. It scared Lenfilm’s artistic council to such an extent that the scriptwriters thought it wise to hide under a pen name N. A. Stroev (which means ‘There are three of us’). But the trick did not save them: the film got ‘shelved’ for nine years, until 1962." (Peter Bagrov)
AA: A satire on bureaucracy in the great tradition of Gogol, Chekhov, and others. Igor Ilyinsky is the careerist official Pyotr Petrovich about to treat his boss to a lavish dinner in high hopes of advancement. When the door gets locked Pyotr sees fantastic dreams of power and launches a magnificent tirade exposing everything without knowing that his boss and his wife hear everything in the corridor. Print: good with the unreal colour adequate to the film.