Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Kosmicheskii reis / [Cosmic Voyage]

KOSMICHESKII REIS / Космический рейс / [Viaggio cosmico / Cosmic Voyage] (Mosfilm, SU 1936) D: Vasilii Zhuravliov; SC: Aleksandr Filimonov; DP: Aleksandr Galperin; AD: Aleksei Utkin, Yuri Shvets, Mikhail Tiunov; ass. D: Kirill Eggers; M (1936): Valentin Kruchinin; C: Sergei Komarov (accademico/Academician Sedykh), Vasilii Kovrigin (Professor Karin), Nikolai Feoktistov (Viktor Orlov), Viktor Gaponenko (Andriusha, fratello di Orlov/Orlov’s brother), Kseniya Moskalenko (Marina), Sergei Stoliarov (comandante/launch commander); filmed: 1933-1935; première: 1.1936; 35 mm, 1915 m, 75' (22 fps); print source: Gosfilmofond, Moscow. Russian intertitles, English subtitles. Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone), with e-titles in Italian, grand piano and band: Günter Buchwald & The European Silent Screen Virtuosi, 9 Oct 2013

Sergei Kapterev: "In February 1931, the film-producing factory of the state film trust Soyuzkino moved to new Moscow facilities. This move was part of the campaign to modernize the Soviet film industry, one of the goals of the first Five-Year Plan adopted with the aim of transforming the USSR into an industrial nation."

"Among those who got an opportunity to use the new facilities was film director Vasilii Zhuravliov, who started his career in cinema in 1924 with a screenplay in which he touched upon the theme of space travel and which inspired the satirical animated cartoon Interplanetary Revolution (Mezhplanetnaya revoliutsiya). Zhuravliov is chiefly remembered as a founder and practitioner of Soviet cinema for children and adolescents, and as a second-tier filmmaker who preferred adventure plots and was able, in the best films, to overcome his own limitations with the assistance of closely interacting professionals."

"At one point, Zhuravliov worked at the Soyuzkino factory under the artistic supervision of Sergei Eisenstein. According to Zhuravliov, Eisenstein commended his idea of a film for younger audiences about a flight to the Moon and initiated a screenplay contest."

"Zhuravliov’s ambitious project was started in 1933 and finished in 1935, after the reorganization of the film factory into the Mosfilm Studios. Cosmic Voyage premiered as a silent film with a synchronized score by Valentin Kruchinin in January 1936. The fact that 1935 was officially regarded in the USSR as the last year of silent cinema possibly explains why Cosmic Voyage has been traditionally put in the category of sound films."

"In its title sequence, Cosmic Voyage was designated as a “fantastic novella”, but it was indelibly linked to Soviet rocket research. The year 1933 saw the establishment of the Research Institute of Jet Propulsion in Moscow and a number of Soviet missile tests. In 1934, Sergei Korolev, the future mastermind of the Soviet space program, published a key text entitled Rocket Flight in the Stratosphere (Raketnyi polet v stratosfere). And, most importantly, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935), a founding father of the theory of space flight, became Cosmic Voyage’s scientific consultant."

"The action of Cosmic Voyage – involving the preparation and implementation of the first flight to the Moon – unfolds in the near Soviet future, namely in 1946. The film is full of futuristic technological and architectural details influenced by Soviet Constructivism, which at that time was being supplanted by a quasi-classicist style, represented in the film’s panoramas of the future Moscow by the most utopian of Stalinist architectural projects, the Palace of the Soviets, whose construction was terminated by World War II."

"The film’s set designs were by Aleksei Utkin, a one-time associate of Evgenii Bauer and a respected expert in architectural styles; Yuri Shvets, a talented designer with valuable experience of working in the fantastic genre (he would return to designing science fiction films in the late 1950s); and newcomer Mikhail Tiunov. The sets and innovative special effects were implemented in close coordination with Tsiolkovsky and Aleksandr Galperin, a cameraman whose readiness for experiment, discriminating expressiveness, and ingenious use of lightning added monumental scale to the models and authenticity to the details of the interplanetary journey. A cinematic spectacle unique for its time as an attempt to present a scientifically precise picture of space flight, due to the efficiency of its special effects Cosmic Voyage is not only an enjoyable state-of-the-art production and its director’s most complex work, but a visionary achievement sometimes strikingly relevant to later real-life developments in space exploration."

"In 1953 Cosmic Voyage was remade as a 30-minute animated cartoon, The Flight to the Moon (Polet na Lunu, directed by Valentina and Zinaida Brumberg). A mixture of children’s fantasy and popular science, Flight faithfully followed the structure of Zhuravliov’s feature film, but its romantic conviction in the power of science was substituted by a less-exciting didactic tone." – Sergei Kapterev

The Music. "Kosmicheiskii reis was shot silent, but issued with a synchronized music score arranged by Valentin Kruchinin (1892-1970), a composer known for his popular songs and jazz compositions: his biggest successes were the 1923 “Little Bricks” (“Kirpichiki”), a “city romance” about love and revolution in a brick factory, and the 1938 “Trot-March” ( Kruchinin subsequently wrote original scores for two short children’s films and a brief documentary by Medvedkin; but his contribution to Kosmicheiskii Reis is an uninspired compilation score from popular classics. More significantly, the soundtrack requires the film to be projected at 24 frames per second – often absurdly speeding up the action of a film which was evidently shot silent at a maximum of 22 fps. For this screening, it has therefore been decided to screen the film at 22 fps, with live accompaniment devised by Günter Buchwald and the European Silent Screen Virtuosi." - David Robinson

AA: Cosmic Voyage is a spirited, humoristic action adventure, a well-made piece of light entertainment.

"This happened in 1946 in a city of the future." Rocket USSR 1 is called Joseph Stalin, Rocket USSR 2 is Klim Vorochilov. Wife is packing clothes in a suitcase. The hero himself only packs books to take with him. Вперед в космос! The space travellers take protective baths, put on protective suits, and are covered via television monitors. The sequence of weightlessness is quite funny. The spaceship approaches the Moon. They wear impenetrable suits and heavy shoes. In the cleaning cupboard there is a boy, a stowaway who has not slept in 48 hours. The imagery is interesting and consistent. The moonscapes are impressive with rocks, landslides, cave-ins. They see the "earthlight" (a Finnish expression might be "maatamo"). They receive the message from the Earth: "USSR". The cat is alive. They rescue the member of the Academy. They examine the frozen remains of the Moon's atmosphere. "You collect the atmosphere, I'll look for the cat". A triumphant return. Both the old member of the Academy and the young stowaway have made it (the former "without a cardiac arrest"). The road to space is open.

The print is fine.

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