Friday, October 07, 2011

Tariel Mklavadzis mkvlelobis saqme / [The Case of Tariel Mklavadze]

ტარიელ მკლავაძის მკვლელობის საქმე / Дело Тариэла Мклавадзе (Delo Tariela Mklavadze / Delo ob ubiistve kniazia Tariela Mklavadze / Geroi nashei strany) [L’affare Tariel Mklavadze / The Case of Tariel Mklavadze; Il caso dell’assassinio del principe Tariel Mklavadze / The Case of Prince Tariel Mklavadze’s Murder; Un eroe della nostra terra / A Hero of Our Land] (Sakhkinmretstvi / Goskinprom Gruzii, Georgia SSR, SU 1925) D: Ivan Perestiani; SC: Shalva Dadiani, Ivan Perestiani; DP: Aleksandr Digmelov; AD: Sergei [Semion] Gubin-Gun; cast: Kote Miqaberidze (Spiridon Mtsirishvili, schoolteacher), Nato Vachnadze (Despine, his wife), Mito Qadagidze (Prince Tariel Mklavadze), Mikheil Kalatozishvili [Mikhail Kalatozov] (Samson [Samora], innkeeper); 35 mm, 2040 m, 98’ (18 fps); from: Gosfilmofond of Russia. Russian and Georgian intertitles. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone, with e-subtitles in English and Italian, grand piano: John Sweeney, 7 Oct 2011.

Sergei Kapterev (GCM Catalogue): "In histories of Georgian cinema, The Case of Tariel Mklavadze holds the position of a tactful and professional interpretation of a classic literary work, which discarded a few outdated conventions but generally belonged to the “old school” of filmmaking. This historically viable and respectful evaluation somehow neutralizes the film’s considerable artistic merits: directorial maturity, complex narrative logic, and tonal and stylistic consistency."

"The Case was directed by Ivan Perestiani, a major contributor to Georgian cinema’s development into a formidable cultural force. Perestiani moved to cinema from Russian theatre, starting as an actor – most prominently, he appeared in Yevgeni Bauer’s melodrama A Life for a Life (1916) – and then gaining experience in scriptwriting and directing. In 1920, after a teaching job at Moscow’s First State Cinema School (where his students included Vsevolod Pudovkin), Perestiani moved to Georgia, where, after the Soviet intervention in Georgian affairs, the ideologically important medium of cinema was being given a boost."

"The first film directed by Perestiani in Georgia, Arsen Jorjiashvili (1921), was also the first production of the new Georgian film establishment. In a tribute to the political situation, Arsen described heroic deeds of a famous Georgian revolutionary. The film’s popular success guaranteed Perestiani future commissions from the new regime. In 1923 Perestiani produced his most-remembered work, a lively, Western-like adaptation of a Russian Civil War adventure novelette, Red Imps. This immensely successful foray into dynamic genre cinema was followed by the director’s parallel work on two adaptations of classic works of Georgian literature, Three Lives (finished in 1924) and The Case of Tariel Mklavadze, whose strong social motifs both met Soviet ideological requirements and popularized national Georgian culture."

"In spite of the demand for new topics, more than a half of early Georgian films were based on national literary classics. The Case of Tariel Mklavadze was an adaptation of “A Knight of Our Land,” a story by Egnate Ninoshvili, a prominent 19th-century writer and publicist whose story “Qristine” became the basis for the first fiction work of Georgian cinema in 1917. Ninoshvili’s stories contrasted the cynicism of the moneyed classes with the tragic vulnerability of the poor. In The Case, this conflict was rendered through an unusually understated combination of satirical and melodramatic intonations. While in Three Lives Perestiani continued experimenting with the improvisatory mode of Red Imps (both films were shot without scripts, directly from the literary originals), in The Case he took a different path. As if recalling the disciplined world of Bauer’s cinema, Perestiani chose a tightly controlled dramatic structure built upon an innovative use of flashbacks, supported by psychologically credible acting. The latter was entrusted to a young cast, which included Nato Vachnadze, a future star of Georgian cinema who later praised Perestiani for understanding actors’ psychological moods; and future film directors Kote Miqaberidze and Mikheil Kalatozishvili (Mikhail Kalatozov). Perestiani’s co-contributor to the dramaturgy of The Case was Shalva Dadiani, one of the earliest Georgian champions and theorists of cinema, an influential playwright long interested in scriptwriting and responsible for the screenplay of Arsen Jorjiashvili. Dadiani’s literary talent is revealed in the compact and reflexive intertitles, which avoid dialogue and enhance the audience’s involvement in the film’s emotions and ideology."

"Dramatic sophistication was supported in The Case by the meticulously crafted cinematography of Aleksandr Digmelov, one of the first cameramen to record textures of Georgian life in ethnographic sketches and newsreels – and an organizer of Georgia’s first film shows. His versatile, consistently skillful work included Qristine, Red Imps, and other important early Georgian films, and put him in the ranks of the best Georgian cinematographers.Using time-tested literary material and their own diverse experience in the establishment of the solid values of “old” cinema, the makers of The Case of Tariel Mklavadze produced a masterwork of emotionally compelling narrative filmmaking, indispensable for the understanding of Georgian national cinema." – Sergei Kapterev

AA: A court drama about social injustice told in flashbacks. Set in the 19th century (1880s?) it makes digressions a feature of the narrative, starting with the birth of the evil son and details about his vicious pranks (torturing flies, setting his grandpa's beard on fire). The actual case is about the callous princes' harassment of the gentle bride and his noble husband. The story unfolds in surprising ways, full of striking images, of a sabre dance, a maid swinging on a garland, the nightmare of an eagle devouring its prey, a still alive bird. There are beautiful close-ups of faces. The movie is an indictment of macho mentality and feodal oppression with its jus primae noctis attitude (it existed still even in Finland during its years as a part of the empire, although Finland was never feodal; the classic literary text is Minna Canth's Lain mukaan / Dura lex, based on which Roland af Hällström directed his final film). I was able to see the first hour of the movie. It is possible to appreciate the beautiful cinematography in this print of uneven visual quality, sometimes with an obviously duped character, sometimes with low contrast.

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