Jan 28, 2009

1st Feb 2009 screening; The Cranes Are Flying

The Cranes Are Flying
A Film by Mikhail Kalatozov
Country : Russia
Year : 1957
Runtime : 95 min
Russian with English sub titiles
1st Feb 2009; 5.45 pm
Ashwin Hospital Auditorium

Winner of the Palm d'Or at the 1958 Cannes film festival, Mikheil Kalatozishvili's The Cranes Are Flying is visual poetry, stunningly photographed with extreme close-ups, tracking crowd scenes, and gorgeous long shots in every sequence.

Boris (Alexei Batalov), a young factory worker, and his fiancée Veronica (Tatyana Samojlova) are blissfully in love. Every evening, they rendezvous at the riverbank to spend a few precious hours together before he starts the night shift. Then, as the sun comes up and his shift ends, they meet again, walking through the streets of a still-slumbering Moscow. This idyllic routine is violently interrupted on June 22, 1941, when Germany launches a surprise invasion on Russia. Having secretly volunteered to serve his country, Boris receives orders to report for duty the day before Veronica's birthday. Denied a proper goodbye by circumstances and bad timing, the two lovers must face different, but equally harrowing aspects of the war — his on the frontline, hers on the home front.

There is much to admire: the vital performances, notably that of the dark-eyed Tatyana Samojlova as the left-behind Veronika; Sergei Urusevsky's beautifully composed b/w camerawork; the urgent crowd scenes and dynamic mise-en-scène. 

Thanks to Mr. Kalatozov's direction and the excellent performance Tatyana Samoilova gives as the girl, one absorbs a tremendous feeling of sympathy from this film—a feeling that has no awareness of geographical or political bounds. She is simply a fine, fecund-looking young woman torn from her lover by war. And he, played by Alexei Batalov, is a pleasant and credible young man moved by romantic impulses and shattered by fates outside himself.

Vasily Merkuryev as the soldier's father, Alexander Shvorin as the pianist and Alla Bogdanova as the grandmother make solid characters, too.

Mikhail Kalatozov 

Georgian-Russian film-director Mikhail Konstantinovich Kalatozov (true surname Kalatozishvili) was born on December 28, 1903 in Tbilisi (earlier named Tiflis). As a youth he worked as a driver and projectionist, and later as a film-cutter, cameraman and scriptwriter at the Tbilisi filmstudio; took part as scripter and cameraman in creation of Geroy nashego vremeni (The Hero of Our Time, 1925) (dir. Ivane Perestiani), and Giuli (1927) (dir. Nikoloz Shengelaya)

In 1928 together with N.Gogoberidze he directed Ikh tsarstvo (Their Empire) using news-reel materials. In 1930 Kalatozov made his debut in film-directing on his own with Sol Svanetii (The Salt of Svanetia) that became famous all over the world.

He finishing a post-graduate course at the Academy of Art Studies in Leningrad (1937) From 1943 Kalatozov worked at Mosfilm studio and represented Soviet cinema in Hollywood, in 1945-1946 he was at the head of Central directorate on feature film production, and in 1946-1948 he held the post of Deputy Minister of Cinematography of the USSR. 
Among his most famous and most important films are his four final features: Letyat zhuravli (The Cranes Are Flying, 1957); Neotpravlennoye pismo (The Unsent Letter, 1959); Ya Kuba (I Am Cuba, 1964); and 'Krasnaya palatka' (The Red Tent, 1971). These are marked by very long, complex takes filled with startling, often surreal images and among the most virtuosic camerawork of that or any other era.

Mikhail Kalatozov died in Moscow on March 29, 1973.

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