Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Cinema concert Shinel / [The Overcoat] (score: Maud Nelissen, for a quartet)

[Il cappotto] (Leningradkino, SU 1926) D: Grigori Kozintsev, Leonid Trauberg; SC: Yuri Tynianov, from stories by Gogol, principally “Il cappotto / The Overcoat”, “Nevsky Prospect”; DP: Andrei Moskvin, Yevgeni Mikhailov; AD: Yevgeni Yenei; ass D: Boris Shpis; asst: Sergei Shklyarevsky, Vladimir Petrov, Dmitri Fischov; cast: Andrei Kostrichkin (Akakiy Akakievich Bashmachkin), Antonina Yeremeyeva (“heavenly creature”), Sergei Gerasimov (drunkard), Alexei Kapler (Unimportant Person, Very Important Person), Vladimir Lepko (tailor), Yanina Zheimo (tailor’s apprentice), Tatyana Ventsel (barber), Nikolai Gorodnichiy (Pyotr Petrovich Ptitsyn, a landowner), Kseniya Denisova (Agrafena, a peasant girl), Antonio Tserep (lamplighter), Viktor Plotnikov (constable), Emil Gal, Pyotr Sobolievsky (bureaucrats [bit parts]); 35 mm, 5953 ft, 71' (22 fps); from: BFI National Archive, London. Russian intertitles, with English subtitles by Richard Taylor. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone, with e-subtitles in Italian, 4 Oct 2011.

Music composed and arranged by Maud Nelissen; performed by Lucio Degani (violin), Francesco Ferrarini (violoncello), Fábian Pérez Tedesco (percussion: marimba, vibraphone), Maud Nelissen (piano).

David Robinson (GCM Catalogue): "The Overcoat brought FEKS together with the scholarly philologist, historian, critic, novelist and script-writer Yuri Nikolaevich Tinyanov (1894-1943), who was also the outstanding authority on Pushkin. Tinyanov wrote the script of The Overcoat at the commission of Sevzapkino, and it seems to have been his proposal that it should be directed by FEKS, whom he had admired since Oktyabrina. According to Trauberg, the studio head, Liubinsky, was unenthusiastic, but agreed, giving the unit only 6 weeks to shoot. To meet this deadline, the two directors worked separately, with separate units. The prologue is taken from the story “Nevsky Prospect” and the main story from “The Overcoat”, but there are elements from other stories in the same collection, “Petersburg Tales”. The title “a cinematographic novel in the manner of Gogol” reflects the unit’s determination to break away from the conventional literal literary adaptation. Kozintsev recalled: “When we came to work in the Soviet cinema, we found the Leningrad cinema factory full of historical pictures taken on a naïvely naturalistic principle."

"“All the generals, tsars, soldiers, etc., were shot primarily in order to emphasize the products of the costume department of which the factory was so proud. They shot the costumes, with the actors inside them. That was the basic attitude of the time. “Now we wanted primarily to replace this parade of historical costumes across the surface of the film by a feeling of the epoch, in other words purposefully to replace it with a general style, and not the naturalism of details. From the cameraman’s viewpoint we were interested in obtaining an extremely pictorial photography. We wanted to get away as far as possible from the external form of the costume; we wanted to convey to the audience the atmosphere of the epoch.”"

"The studio wanted the central role of Akakiy Akakievich to go to an appropriately august actor, and the Moscow Arts Theatre star Illarion Pevtsov (1879-1934) read for the part. Instead the role went to the 25-year-old Andrei Kostrichkin, who had previously only played bits in The Mishkas against Yudenich and The Devil’s Wheel: his performance is alleged to be a parody of Pevtsov’s classical interpretation. Critics have endeavoured to trace the influence of German Expressionism on the film, and point out parallels between The Overcoat and The Last Laugh. The directors themselves denied this, pointing out that they held Caligari in great distaste, and that The Last Laugh was not distributed in the SU until long after The Overcoat was made."

"The Overcoat was greeted by a largely hostile press, shocked by the liberties it had taken with classic literature. To keep their crew employed, Kozintsev and Trauberg and their actors went on to make a modest comedy, Bratishka (Little Brother), about the devotion of a driver to his lorry, which he saves from the scrap-heap. Another project, from a script by Tinyanov’s brother-in-law, Veniamin Kaverin, Chudzhoi Pidzhak (Someone Else’s Jacket), was an approximate updating of Gogol’s The Government Inspector. This film was handed over to the assistant director Boris Shpis, launching his directorial career – though the film itself was instantly banned. Neither film has survived." – David Robinson

AA: Impulses from Expressionism and Surrealism in this FEKS adaptation of the world of Gogol. The radical distanciation from psychology makes it difficult to relate to the characters, but there are memorable bizarre visions in the delirious FEKS circus world. The visual quality of the print is variable.

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