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Archive for February 5th, 2010

by Allan Fish

(USSR 1928 75m) not on DVD

Old grandfather time

d  Alexander P.Dovzhenko  w  Yuri Tyutyunik, Mikhail Johansson  ph  Boris Savelyev  ed  Alexander P.Dovzhenko  art  Vasili Krichevsky 

Georgi Astafyev (Leader of Skyths), P.Otava (Okasana/Roksana), Nikolai Nademsky (Grandfather/The General), Les Podorozhnij (Pavel), Ivan Selyuk (Ataman), Semyon Svashenko (Timoshko),

There’s something eerily appropriate about the way Alexander Dovzhenko’s first masterpiece has been forgotten by modern critics.  Like many such films to suffer such a fate, availability is again the problem.  Trying to find this film, let alone sitting through it, is hard enough, and it’s fair to say that it’s an acquired taste eighty years on.  Upon seeing the film, his contemporaries Sergei Eisenstein and Vsevelod Pudovkin apparently invited Dovzhenko for an evening’s drinking session to celebrate the arrival of a new comrade, but in truth the very term ‘comrade’ say most uneasy on Dovzhenko’s shoulders.  On the surface, there may be things to say about the Soviet way of life, but underneath, in its simplistic essence, it’s really about anything but.       

            Zvenigora has been called a tone poem by many people, and not without just cause.  It begins with a caption; “soaked with blood, sealed in secrecy, shrouded in legend, treasures of the country have been buried for ages in Ukrainian soil.”  The action then opens with a prologue sets several hundred years earlier in which Cossack raiders and bandits try to persuade the old legendary guardian of the treasure to disclose its whereabouts.  They don’t succeed in getting the treasure, and the old grandfather has the task of protecting it, as if by ageless magic, from future potential thieves.  Or, as the film refers to the old man, “the centuries old guardian, preserver of antiquities, a moss-covered grandfather.” (more…)

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