Friday, February 20, 2009

Soviet Cult Films at Margret: Dersu Uzala by Akira Kurosawa

Poster: Soviet Cult Films Night at Margret February 28, 2009:
Dersu Uzala (1975) by Akira Kurosawa
The Arts Junction presents
Soviet Cult Films at Margret Movie Night

Saturday, February 28, 2009
6:00 pm to 8:30 pm

Dersu Uzala (Дерсу Узала: Russian / Derusu Uzara: Japanese)

director: Akira Kurosawa
year: 1975
genre: Adventure / Drama
country: Soviet Union / Japan
language: Russian with English sub-titles
color: Color (Sovcolor)
runtime: 72 + 72 = 144 min
company: Atelier 41

Margret Bar / Lounge for the Junction
2952 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON

*Admission: Free

The sixth night of the Soviet Film club screens with a joint Soviet-Japanese film production, directed by Akira Kurosawa. Akira Kurosawa, known more for his samurai adventure films, directs this beautiful portrait of a man too noble to stand by as his world is swallowed up by civilization. Made at a turning point in Kurosawa's life (shortly after Kurosawa attempted suicide on December 22, 1971), Dersu Uzala is an exploration of loss, friendship and natural ties to the land we inhabit.
This film is set in the Sikhote-Alin region of Siberia in the period 1902-10 and is based upon the 1923 memoir of the same title by Russian explorer Vladimir Arsenyev. In the film, Arsenyev (played by Yury Solomin) leads a series of mapping expeditions in the region, where he and his team soon encounter an old local hunter, Nanai Dersu Uzala (1849-1908). In the film the Nanai people are referred to by their obsolete Russian name Gol'ds. Dersu Uzala (played by Maxim Munzuk) teaches the men many valuable lessons about wilderness survival and the meaning of life, eventually becoming a close friend of the explorer.
Dersu Uzala is the most Soviet movie for a Japanese director. Also the most Japanese movie shot in the USSR. From the Siberian wilderness Kurosawa crafted some of his most striking imagery. This movie about wisdom, friendship and harmony that now is almost extinct.
The film won the Grand Prix at the Moscow Film Festival and the 1975 Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film.

The Arts Junction

** The AJ (artjunction) is an independent, local blog dedicated to arts and culture events in the Junction area of Toronto West, and Russian cultural events coming up in Toronto.

links: Dersu Uzala. Interview with actor Vitaly Solomin. Part 2. Movie Review: Dersu Uzala (1975)
Contrasts Evident in Japanese-Soviet Movie
Published: October 5, 1976 Dersu Uzala (Derusu Uzara): Synopsis
"Against a backdrop of the treacherous mountains, rivers and icy plains of the Siberian wilderness, acclaimed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa (The Seven Samurai, Rashomon) stages an extraordinary adventure of comradeship and survival... " From the Current: Dersu Uzala
"Kurosawa made the acquaintance of Desu Uzala thirty years earlier, when he read Vladimir Arseniev’s account of charting the Russian-Manchurian border in the earlier part of this century."
Published: July 18, 1995 : Dersu Uzala
"In the course of their travels, a real-life character, Dersu, was revealing to his friend, the secrets of the Ussuri taiga, the animals’ special ways, the traditions and beliefs of the indigenous people."

eventful: Soviet Cult Movies at Margret
Soviet Cult Films at Margret: Opening Night
Soviet Cult Films at Margret: The White Sun of the Desert
Soviet Cult Films at Margret: Ashik-Kerib

Soviet Cult Films at Margret: Seasonal Classic and Masterpieces of Animated Shorts
Soviet Cult Films at Margret: Ivan's Childhood
Soviet Cult Films at Margret: Dersu Uzala by Akira Kurosawa
Soviet Cult Films at Margret: The Dawns Here Are Quiet by Stanislav Rostosky

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1 comment:

olga said...

An interesting link: presents...
A Tarkovsky/Kurosawa Timeline

The question has been raised as to when and where did Tarkovsky first encounter Kurosawa. SATO Kimitoshi of Japan has done some research for us, and we here present some preliminary results.
From the detailed biography of Kurosawa [References: "Retrospective Akira Kurosawa" Gendai Engeki Kyokai Japan 1983 (no ISBN), "The Complete Akira Kurosawa," Vol. 6 Iwanami Shoten Publishers, Japan 1988 ISBN 4-00-091326-3], one might glean the following timeline:

* Kurosawa was in Rome, in the Alps, and in Venice in 1960.
* He was in Manila in 1966.
* In February of 1971, Sergei Gerasimov, then-Mosfilm secretary general, visited Japan, and suggested that Kurosawa shoot a movie in Russia. Kurosawa had two plans: From The House of The Dead by Dostoevsky and Dersu Uzala by Arseniev. And he picked up the latter.
* Kurosawa visited Russia, attending the Moscow Film Festival in July. Dodeskaden was shown and won the Special Prize there.
* He returned home by way of Leningrad, and Europe.
* Around this time, there was a rumor among Soviet film people that Kurosawa was going to shoot Dersu Uzala.
* Kurosawa attempts suicide on 22 December 1971. It fails.
* Solaris opens in Japan in 1972.
* In 1973, he was in Europe in February, and came to an agreement with Mosfilm about Dersu Uzala in Moscow on 14 March, 1973.
* He attended Moscow Movie Festival on 9 July. On a return trip to Japan, he went location scouting in Siberia.
* On 11 December he, together with his crew, arrived in Russia.
* In 1974, he returned to Japan for a brief period, starting 8 February.
* In 1975, he came home to Japan on 19 June.
* Dersu Uzala opens in Japan on 2 August, 1975.
* In September the film was released in Russia, and Kurosawa and his wife visited Russia again to attend the Film Festival and made a trip around Russia. He was at that time in an exile to Russia, almost literally, as a movie director, for he was deprived of the opportunity to shoot in Japan.

Other clues:

* Kurosawa writes in an article for the Asahi Shinbun Newspaper on 13 May, 1977 (also reproduced in the Solaris pamphlet) to celebrate Solaris opening in Japan: "My first encounter with Tarkovsky was when I attended my welcome luncheon at the Mosfilm during my first visit to Soviet Russia." He also mentions that Tarkovsky was shooting Solaris in Moscow. And after the luncheon, he visited the Solaris set. That story is found here.
* See also excerpts from A Dream is a Genius
* Yoshio Shirai a movie critic writes [Reference: Solaris pamphlet, Japan 1978]: "Tarkovsky came here in the autumn of 1971. He was with Yusov, quite naturally, as he was to shoot here."
* And the caption of the Kurosawa+Tarkovsky photo reads, "With Andrei Tarkovsky who came to Japan in 1971." [Reference: this photo is found in the Asahi Kurosawa article referred to above, as well as in the Solaris pamphlet.]

The most probable assumption:

Kurosawa met Tarkovsky in Moscow on his first visit in July 1971, and Tarkovsky then came to Japan to re-pay the visit, in a sense, that same fall.

Further clues, from Tarkovsky's own diary (Martyrolog):

13 September 1971, Zvenigorod: On 24 September we're flying to Japan. [...] 22nd — 8th October: Japan [...].

19 September 1971, Zvenigorod: We are to leave for Japan on 24th, but we are not through with shooting the sun. The weather is awful. The sun scenes are going to have to be handed over, to be filmed while we're away. We have to decide what we're going to film in Japan, and how. The question is — exactly what?

14 October 1971, Moscow: We came back from Japan on the 10th. Utterly exhausted. And with my nerves shattered. Masses of impressions. But it's better not to write them down straightaway; let them settle a bit. We filmed a certain amount for Berton's drives through the "town."

We may gather AT stayed in Japan from 24 September through 10 October 1970. It is perhaps somewhat perplexing that AT never alludes to his visit to Kurosawa in Japan. Kurosawa is first mentioned in the Martyrolog on 30 December 1973:

30 December, Moscow: I saw Kurosawa at the studio, we had dinner together. He is in an appalling position: they won't give him any Kodak film, and keep assuring him that Soviet film is wonderful. They have wished Tolya Kuznetsov onto him. His team is frightful, informers and cretins. He must somehow be warned that everybody is lying to him.

Footnote: Mr Yamada writes another piece on Andrei Tarkovsky in the 1978 Solaris pamphlet. The most remarkable aspect is his discovery that Andrei is not what he was on their first encounter, in July of 1963. In 1963 he was young, mercurial and talked a lot. In 1971 Mr Yamada met him at the welcome party at the Embassy. He almost failed to recognize Andrei, initially. Andrei looked fatigued and thin, talked little, and appeared quite nervous. Silences slipped into the conversation. Mr Yamada gathers he has suffered a lot during the 8 years in between; possibly a "personal Rublov experience."