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Monday, September 16, 2013

The Cranes Are Flying (1957) d. Mikhail Kalatozov

Tatyana Samojlova plays Veronika in The Cranes Are Flying (1957) d. Mikhail Kalatozov

Movie Review
The Cranes Are Flying (1957)
d. Mikhail Kalatozov
Criterion Collection #146

 Is there some alternate universe where a substantial number of people give a fuck about Russian film from the 1950s?  I've never met a single person who could kick knowledge about Russian cinema outside of Eisenstein, and that knowledge is typically limited to his silent work.  I don't ever remember seeing a vintage Russian film screening at repertory theater in any of the cities I've lived in.  The Cranes Are Flying is the first classic of the post-Stalinist era, when the Soviet Union briefly relaxed for just a god damn second and let Artists experiment with themes that would have been samzidat under the prior regime.

  The Cranes Are Flying was instantly recognized as having classic status and being the start of a new era in Soviet film.  It won the Palme d'Or at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival, for one.  It's also very watchable- clocking in at just over an hour and a half, with a war time setting that gives you some action with the melodramatic plot concerning separated lovers Veronika and Boris.  Spoiler alert: It ends tragically.

  The most stand out qualitiy of The Cranes Are Flying is the cinematography by Sergei Urusevsky.  Urusevsky creates drama and rhythm by his progressive use of hand held cameras- this in the early 1950s that he's doing this.  There are several moments of genuine emotional impact that are profoundly heightened by the editing.  Second to the cinematography is the performance of Tatyana Samojlova as Veronika.  Her unconventional (by Hollywood standards) beauty really draws the eye of the viewer.

  The plot is conventional melodrama: couple separated by war; will they find their way back together?  I'm not spoiling anything by saying they do not- you find less then halfway through the film that he is dead and after that it's just basically an exercise in torturing his unfaithful girlfriend- Veronika- who has hooked up with Boris' cousin, the rascally Mark.   The Cranes Are Flying is another legit Criterion Collection win- A movie you've probably never heard of before, which holds the eye and isn't overlong.

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