Sunday, October 02, 2011

Mzago da Gela / [Mzago and Gela]

(Mzago i Gela / Na volne 900 metrov / Devushka s gor / Radio v gorakh) [Mzago e Gela / Sulla lunghezza d’onda di 900 metri / At the Wavelength of 900 Metres; La ragazza delle montagne / Girl of the Mountains; Una radio sulle montagne / Radio in the Mountains] (Sakhkinmretstvi/Goskinprom Gruzii, Georgia SSR, SU 1934) D: Shalva Khuskivadze, Lev Push; SC: Shalva Khuskivadze, Lev Push; DP: Vladimir Polikarpov, Vladimir Poznan’; AD: Valerian Sidamon-Eristavi; ass. D: Aleqsandre Lortqipanidze; cast: Rimma Mkheidze (Mzago), Levan Khotivari (Gela), Aleqsandre Tsitlidze (tourist), Siko Vachnadze (Khevsur), Olga Kejeradze (Mzago’s mother); filmed: 1930; released: 10.1934; 35 mm, 1658 m, 60’ (24 fps); from: Gosfilmofond of Russia. Russian intertitles. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone, with e-subtitles in English and Italian, grand piano and violin: Günter A. Buchwald, 2 Oct 2011.

Sergei Kapterev (GCM Catalogue): "Mzago and Gela completes the exploration of Lev Push’s limited but fascinating contribution to cinema. This film was his last directorial assignment for the Georgian Studios to appear on Soviet screens. It was produced in 1930 but released only in October 1934, in an atmosphere significantly different from the time of its production: the film’s premiere took place exactly two months before the assassination of the Bolshevik leader Sergei Kirov, an event which led to what became known as “the Great Terror”; and close to the official end of the silent era in Soviet cinema: the last silent films were produced by Soviet studios in 1935."

"Although the opening credits cite Push as Mzago and Gela’s sole director, the film was directed by him in collaboration with Shalva Khuskivadze, a versatile actor who had appeared in Push’s Gypsy Blood. Mzago and Gela’s explanatory title, “A Khevsur’s story reproduced by photorecording,” establishes an overall tonality of ironic but positive attitude to the described events and their participants, an attitude emblematized by the hero’s encounter, in the streets of Tiflis/Tbilisi, with a giant plywood figure of a heroic Khevsur, an advertisement for the already-famous film Eliso. The lightness of touch which characterizes the film (and definitely makes one question its past categorization as “drama”) makes us look at Lev Push’s work from a new angle: here we deal with the author of a romantic comedy only slightly marred by the obligatory Soviet didacticism. One can only guess how this development was linked to his directorial collaboration with Shalva Khuskivadze. However, the fact that in his other films Push actively explored the potential of the “bourgeois” genre of melodrama may explain his interest in another, lighter form of traditional cinema."

"Mzago and Gela is a film of considerable pictorial and ethnographic value: the exotic physical types, costumes, and traditions of the Khevsurs, highlanders inhabiting the mountains of Northern Georgia, are displayed with expertise and gusto. The film confirms Lev Push’s interest in pictorialist patterns and his fascination with decorative qualities of movement. However, his “decorative” mind did not exclude profundity – as in the episodes of Mzago’s first experience of radio transmission and her daydreaming during the urbanite’s recounting of the pleasures of urban life, where short montage sequences provide acute representations of her discovery of modernity. Recently it has been established that Push headed the editing department of the Georgian Studios, and this experience is evident both in the general smoothness of his editorial style and in his skillful application of symbolic montage sequences."

"Push has re-entered the history of cinema because of his consistent decorative style, healthy eclecticism, spare but skillful use of cinematic tricks, respect for high production values, and, above all, joyful immersion in the practice of cinema." – Sergei Kapterev

AA: A delightful humoristic account of a traditional Georgian village facing modernization, the most important emblem of which becomes the radio. I like the sense of nobility and grandeur in the account of the traditional way of life in the mountain village. The young protagonists enter the capital Tbilisi separately, facing the urban modernity for the first time in their lives. It is an original interpretation of a familiar theme (in Finland the classic version is Juhani Aho's story Rautatie / The Railway). The visual sense is excellent, the montage is sharp, the intertitles are witty, there is a joy of cinema. A film to remember. The print is ok to watch although the contrast is a bit on the low side.

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