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 Post subject: Grigori Kozintsev
PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2005 6:32 am 
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Everyone goes on about Eisenstein, Tarkovsky, Pudovkin, and so on but I'm really surprised at the neglect suffered by one the greatest Russian directors of the Soviet era, Grigori Kozintsev. His cause certainly hasn't been helped by the scarcity of his films available on DVD. I have old VHS tapes of Maxim's Youth and The Overcoat and DVDs of Hamlet and his last film, King Lear. His King Lear is one of my favorite films and I think it's fair to say that it's one of the greatest films ever made. No less a Shakesperean than Sir Lawrence Olivier claimed that he believed Kozintsev's King Lear to be the greatest adaptation of Shakespeare he had ever seen on film.

Hopefully, Criterion will turn their attention to this neglected corner of cinema some day. For now, the only DVDs available of Kozintsev's films are the aforementioned Shakespeare films and they can be found at the Russian Cinema Council's website. I heard they might be releasing his Don Quixote soon, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

I second your request wholeheartedly! As a student at the university (a hundred years ago) I had the luck attending a lecture on Russian silent cinema, where his Gogol adaption of "The Overcoat" was shown, and ever since I was searching for good versions of Kozintsev's works. He's totally original, sometimes dark and gloomy, sometimes bordering on the surreal. A genius of characterization through symbolism and lighting.
Another overlooked master!

Nick, are you listening?

Here`s the link to Kozintsev on Ruscico's website


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2005 11:56 am 
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"King Lear" is by far his best film, and perhaps the greatest Shakespeare film ever made. "Don Quixote" is a crashing bore, although some of the location shooting is kind of interesting.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2005 2:36 pm 
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Barmy wrote:
"King Lear" is by far his best film...


...of the films you've seen. What else did you see?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2005 3:05 pm 
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I have been shouting into the wind about Kozintsev for years and years -- but since virtually nothing was available, it's been hard to make converts.

The new Ruscico Hamlet DVD is quite good -- and the film (and its Shostakovich score) is pretty much equal to "King Lear" in greatness. Alas, while Ruscico's "Lear" DVD is a big advance over previous versions, the transfer (or print source) is not as good as that of "Hamlet".

Ruscico has been promising a "Don Quixote" DVD for years -- I wonder when, if ever, the y will deliver one. The film itself isn't quite as stunning as the Shakespeare adaptations (and the score by Shostakovich "student" Kara Karaev is not as good as the work of DS himself) -- but Cherkassov as the Don and Yuri Tolubeyev as Sancho Panza are both superb.

Unfortunately, there is no acceptable DVD version of Kozintsev and Trauberg's "New Babylon" (I've heard of a Russian one which omits Shostakovitch's indispensable music). Thre Facets video of this is rubbish (no Shostakovich score there either). There is an unsubbed Russian video of Odna" (Alone) that does have DS's score (but the soundtrack is sometimes quite degraded). Alas, the climactic reel of this film is lost (including the section in which a Theremin was first used in a movie score). There is a decent Russian video of "Maxim's Youth" (no subs, of course).


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2005 3:05 pm 
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In addition to the 2 I mentioned, I've seen "Hamlet", "Alone" and "New Babylon" (all in cinemas not video). I'm pretty confident none of his other work surpasses "King Lear".


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2005 1:55 am 
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shirobamba wrote:
I second your request wholeheartedly! As a student at the university (a hundred years ago) I had the luck attending a lecture on Russian silent cinema, where his Gogol adaption of "The Overcoat" was shown, and ever since I was searching for good versions of Kozintsev's works. He's totally original, sometimes dark and gloomy, sometimes bordering on the surreal. A genius of characterization through symbolism and lighting.
Another overlooked master!

Nick, are you listening?

Here`s the link to Kozintsev on Ruscico's website:

http://www.ruscico.com/eng/persons/65


Keep a eye on RusCiCo's for their 06 release of Alexander Medvedkin's HAPPINESS. One of the greatest films nobody has ever seen. Monty Python meets the Soviet Silent Avant Garde. Beautiful film.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2005 5:30 am 
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[quote="HerrSchreck
Keep a eye on RusCiCo's for their 06 release of Alexander Medvedkin's HAPPINESS. One of the greatest films nobody has ever seen. Monty Python meets the Soviet Silent Avant Garde. Beautiful film.[/quote]


Lieber Herr Schreck,

No need to wait for Ruscico, because it's on the bonus disc of the French Chris Marker. Le tombeau d'Alexandre release.

http://www.alapage.com/mx/?type=4&tp=F& ... ERO=859694

Contient : - Le Tombeau d'Alexandre - Le Bonheur + Livret de Bernard Eisenschitz avec une anthologie des textes sur Marker et Medvedkine
Alexandre Ivanovitch Medvedkine : les années "ciné-train" (1920-1925)
Interview d'Alexandre Ivanovitch Medvedkine
3 reconstitutions animées de Nikolaï Izvolov de films de Medvedkine

Contents:
- The Last Bolshevik (Marker)
- Happiness (Medvedkin)
- Booklet by Bernard Eisenschitz with an anthology of texts on Marker and
Medvedkin
- Alexander Ivanovitch Medvedkin: the "film train" years (1920-1925)
- Interview with Medvedkin
- 3 animated reconstructions of Medvedkin's films by Nikolai Izolov

The package is a real treat, but je suis désolé, French is required.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2005 10:41 pm 
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Quote:
The package is a real treat, but je suis désolé, French is required.


Actually, it's not. There are English subtitles on everything. (There's an optional English VO on "The Last Bolshevik.")


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jan 02, 2006 4:36 am 
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jonah.77 wrote:
Quote:
The package is a real treat, but je suis désolé, French is required.


Actually, it's not. There are English subtitles on everything. (There's an optional English VO on "The Last Bolshevik.")


Thanks Jonah for the correction, and my apologies to Mr Schreck. I'm getting old, memory doesn't serve anymore, and I'm seeing far too many movies these days.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Feb 25, 2006 6:48 am 
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The "Silent Movies on DVD" website lists three Kozintsev and Trauberg films as being available from Karmen Video in Russia. However I cannot locate a place to purchase these nor any information on whether they include anything other than Russian intertitles.

The films are:

The New Babylon: http://www.silent-dvd.net/?v=fiche&id_dvd=658&lang=en

The Cloak: http://www.silent-dvd.net/?v=fiche&id_dvd=660&lang=en

Alone: http://www.silent-dvd.net/?v=fiche&id_dvd=659&lang=en



Any information anyone might provide would be greatly appreciated.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Feb 25, 2006 3:39 pm 
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My understanding is that this New Babylon DVD does NOT use Shostakovich's essentially indispensable score. I don't know if the Alone DVD does or not. I have a vague recollection that the NB DVD did not get especially good reviews.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Mar 24, 2006 4:53 pm 
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Well Kerpan, ya bastard, thanks primarily to you I done gone and ordered King Lear from Ruscico. As a Shakespeare enthusiast as well as a cinephile, it looks like I can't go wrong, and I've been looking for an impetus to go region-free anyway. Now I've got 4 to 6 weeks to pick up a player.

-Toilet Dcuk


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Mar 24, 2006 5:32 pm 
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I ordered my first Japanese R2 DVD (Takahata's "Our Neighbors the Yamadas") before I had a DVD player. ;~}

Actually the Ruscico Lear DVD might be all-region. (Did you order the PAL version or the NTSC one?)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Mar 24, 2006 5:42 pm 
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I'm pretty sure it is all-region, but between the horror stories of the NTSC conversion and the urge to go region-free, I threw caution to the wind and went PAL, but with the English cover (I can only do so much daring in one day).

-Toilet Dcuk


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 2:39 am 
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Great print by Facets of this russian widescreen masterpiece - however it is not anamorphic! What gives?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 2:57 am 
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No idea, but I can confirm that the Ruscico version definitely IS anamorphic, and is clearly the one to go for - it's one of their better transfers.

(As ever with Ruscico, though, you should go for the PAL original rather than the NTSC conversion)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 4:18 am 
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I agree with MichaelB to choose the Ruscico PAL DVD if you have a region free player. This film is a great interpretation of Hamlet and I am so impressed with the entrance of the Ghost of Hamlet's father. One of the most dramatic and impressive visuals ever put to film with this introduction of the character IMHO.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 7:04 am 
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Ovader wrote:
One of the most dramatic and impressive visuals ever put to film with this introduction of the character IMHO.


And aurals - the Dmitri Shostakovich score makes a crucial contribution to that particular scene.

Shostakovich is hugely underrated as a film composer in comparison with Prokofiev, possibly because none of the films he scored ever achieved the cultural impact of Alexander Nevsky. Yet the music he wrote for his old friend Grigori Kozintsev's films (King Lear as well as Hamlet) fully merit comparison with the supreme director-composer partnerships: Eisenstein/Prokofiev, Leone/Morricone, Hitchcock-Herrmann - all cases where the composer has an uncanny understanding of exactly what's needed.

I also never realised until very recently just how close the language of the Hamlet score is to Shostakovich's 13th symphony 'Babi Yar', one of his most powerful works. Then again, less than two years separate the two, and the subject matter is not dissimilar, so that's not too surprising.

Incidentally, I thoroughly recommend this DVD-Audio recording of the full Hamlet score - quite apart from the joy of hearing it in 5.1 surround sound, it's on Naxos so can be had for peanuts.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 10:09 am 
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Hamlet is not my favorite Russian film --- but only because Kozintsev's King Lear comes in first place (by mere millimeters). Shostakovich's scores to both these films are two of the best ever. Not surprising that he had such an affinity for film music -- as his first job (at age 14 or so) was playing music for silent films. He worked with Kozintsev for 40 years or so.

The best extra for these Kozintsev's films is his own book -- the Space of Tragedy. His prior "time and Conscience" is also excellent -- but focused more on Shakespeare than on his Shakespeare films.

The Ruscico NTSC of Hamlety is also decent -- for those unable to deal with PAL DVDs (the NTSC Lear is a bit more problematic -- but still adequate). One may need to order these from Ruscico directly -- as online sources in the US no longer seem to carry them.

BTW -- Kozintsev's Don Quixote has supposedly been released by Ruscico -- but I don't know of anyone who has actually seen a copy yet. (Alas -- this a rare Kozintsev film that Shostakovich was not able to score).


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 11:57 am 
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Michael Kerpan wrote:
BTW -- Kozintsev's Don Quixote has supposedly been released by Ruscico -- but I don't know of anyone who has actually seen a copy yet. (Alas -- this a rare Kozintsev film that Shostakovich was not able to score).

It is non-anamorphic. I saw a screen-captured review somewhere a few weeks, but I can't remember where, sorry. The transfer looked pretty poor, typical of color Soviet films of the 50s and early 60s.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 12:21 pm 
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Gordon wrote:
Michael Kerpan wrote:
BTW -- Kozintsev's Don Quixote has supposedly been released by Ruscico -- but I don't know of anyone who has actually seen a copy yet. (Alas -- this a rare Kozintsev film that Shostakovich was not able to score).

It is non-anamorphic. I saw a screen-captured review somewhere a few weeks, but I can't remember where, sorry. The transfer looked pretty poor, typical of color Soviet films of the 50s and early 60s.

Are you sure this was a screen capture of the brand new Ruscico DVD -- there is an older Russian DVD out there (unsubtitled) and also a French one, I believe (probably based on this older Russian DVD).

To return to the topic of Hamlet, a nice discussion of the film:

Doug Cummings' comments on Hamlet.


Last edited by Michael Kerpan on Mon Nov 27, 2006 1:37 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 12:48 pm 
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The links that kinjitsu gave include a link to the Barton comparison, but that links has expired, it seems.

Sure enough, Ruscico list it as 16:9, here.

But we need confirmation.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 1:24 pm 
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Given that I can't think of a Ruscico widescreen title that isn't anamorphic (and I'm a subscriber, so have seen dozens), I'm tempted to assume that if they say it is, it probably is.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 4:48 pm 
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Hamlet is great, but King Lear is much better. Is it on DVD?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 5:21 pm 
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Yes - also on Ruscico in PAL and NTSC versions, though the PAL is definitely the one to go for. DVDBeaver comparison here.


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