Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Nichnyi viznyk / [The Night Coachman] (2011 digital restoration, 2K DCP, Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Film Centre)

Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Centre, Kiev
NICHNYI VIZNYK / Нічний візник / Yökuski / [Il vetturino notturno / The Night Coachman] (VUFKU, Odessa, SU - UkrSSR 1929) Russian title: Nochnoy izvozchik / Ночной извозчик. D, P: Heorhii Tasin; SC: Moisei Zats; DP: Albert Kühn; AD: Yosyp Spinel, Heinrich Beisenherz; M: Vsevolod Rybalchenko, Yulia Meitus; C: Amvrosii Buchma (Hordii Yaroshchuk), Maria Ducimetier (Katia, sua figlia/his daughter), Yurii Shumskyi (agente del controspionaggio/counterintelligence officer), Mykola Nademskyi, Karl Tomskyi (Borys); première: 8.4.1929 (Kyiv), 7.10.1936 (Kyiv, with synchronized score); orig. l: 1800 m.; [2K?] DCP, 54' (24 fps); source: Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Film Centre, Kyiv. Russian intertitles. Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone), with e-titles in English and Italian, grand piano: Arseniy Trofim, 9 Oct 2013

Ivan Kozlenko: "Hordii the night coachman serves many rich passengers, including a number of officers of the Russian Volunteer army fighting against the Bolsheviks. One day he learns that his only daughter Katia is a member of the Bolshevik-Anarchist underground, and that she is hiding her comrade Borys, with whom she prints Bolshevik proclamations, in the attic. Wanting to protect his daughter from possible arrest, Hordii reveals Borys’ hiding place to the White Army officers. However, when they come to search, Katia is in the attic. She is arrested and killed in front of her father. Stunned by this, Hordii drives the carriage with Katia’s killer down the Odessa Steps (of Potemkin fame), thus saving Borys, who has just been arrested."

"Heorhii Tasin, who began his career as a scriptwriter and then graduated to directing at the Odessa film studio in 1923, first specializing in propaganda films, was almost the only consistent follower of psychological drama, a genre that was severely criticized in Ukraine by politically committed critics. In 1928 he shot his two best silent films, The Night Coachman (Nichnyi viznyk) and Jimmie Higgins (Dzhimmi Higgins). They demonstrated the qualitative shift of Ukrainian cinema from revolutionary outlined pseudo-historicism to highly artistic realism. Amvrosii Buchma, an actor from the Berezil Theatre, played the main roles in both films. The intimate personal drama of The Night Coachman’s characters, following Tasin’s favourite scheme, unfolds during the Revolution and highlights the uncertainty and Existential anxiety of the characters."

"Filmed by Tasin amid the dark settings of a city at night, the core of this minimalist drama is the complex performance of Amvrosii Buchma, the best actor of the Berezil theatre company of the innovative director Les Kurbas. Kurbas developed a theory of stage transformation which perceived the actor as a philosopher, a rational Harlequin, who had to maintain perfect control over his body. Buchma, who was only in his 30s at the time the film was made, convincingly acted the part of an old coachman, employing Kurbas’ revolutionary psychophysical acting techniques. The camerawork of German cinematographer Albert Kühn is also original, showing the acute tension of the plot via close- ups of the actors and using uneasy acrid lighting in the night scenes. The Night Coachman caused “a war against psychological insight” in Soviet cinema. Inspired by committed Partocracy critics, and supported by avant-garde directors who accused the film of being “bourgeois” and “individualist”, “anti-psychological” demonstrations were stage-managed at some plants, with workers proclaiming such slogans as “We are sick of Buchma’s psychological acting” and demanding that the production of films focused on “petty bourgeois” individuality be discontinued."

"Restoration. A digital restoration of the film was implemented in 2011 by the Dovzhenko National Film Studios on the orders of the State Film Agency of Ukraine."

"Music: In 2010 a new score for the film was created by the Russian composer Arseniy Trofim at the request of the Mute Nights festival of silent film and contemporary music in Odessa. A year later the film was presented at the GogolFEST international contemporary art festival in Kyiv, with live accompaniment by the Ukrainian multi- instrumentalist, improviser, and avant-garde jazzman Yurii Kuznetsov. At the 2013 Pordenone festival The Night Coachman will be screened with Arseniy Trofim accompanying the film live on piano." Ivan Kozlenko

AA: A powerful drama from the days of the revolution. The father, the night coachman, is caught between the counterintelligence and the revolutionaries to whom his daugher belongs. When the father fingers the commissar it means the demise of his own daughter, as well.

Georgi Tasin / Heorhii Tasin is in full command of the late silent cinema syntax. He is a master of an intensive analytic editing. The structuring of the scene into shots is vigorous, the interiors are dark, the framing is bold. There is a natural montage approach to the bustle of the city and a fine sense of movement in the scenes with the horse. Tasin knows also rapid cutting, even lightning fast cutting. The tavern is depicted with deft, expressive details. The imagery has a relative independence from the plot. When the coachman is driven mad by the murder of his daughter the rapid cutting accelerates into a wild frenzy. The montage escalates and goes over the top in the ending; also this movie finds a climax on the Odessa steps.

This film seems to have been imported into Finland at the time since it has a Finnish release title, but I could not find information of a release date in our land. Perhaps it was banned by our industry self-censorship as Soviet films as a rule (but not always) were. Revolutionary films were banned, some non-political films could be shown.

The quality of the digital remastering resembles a dvd look at times, perhaps due to the condition of the source material. It seems to be in the worst shape towards the end, as the image is horribly disfigured.

Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Centre, Kiev

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