June 26 in Russian history

1927: 80 years ago a Soviet film director Vladimir Motyl was born. His father was arrested by Cheka in 1930 and sent to a concentration camp in Solovki, where he died a year after. His grandfather refused to join a kolkhoz, so the family was sent to the Far North and their house was robbed. In the exile his aunt went mad and one of his uncles died from cancer. During the war, two other uncles volunteered to the Soviet Army. One of them was killed and the other returned from the war without legs. The grandfather and grandmother died in the occupied Belorussia. When the family was sent to exile, Motyl's mother was in Ukraine, where she worked with a famous Russian pedagogue Anton Makarenko, so she and little Volodya escaped the exile. Several years later, though, they were sent to the Northern Urals, where Volodya's mother worked in a children's prison. Volodya became interested in theatre. As a schoolboy, he staged short plays, drew decorations and performed in these plays. After the school, he graduated from the theatre institute in Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg). He worked as a theatre director in various theatres in Siberia and Urals. For all this time he dreamed about cinema and at last he got a job at the Sverdlovsk movie studio. Then he moves to Tajikistan and in 1963 he at last makes his first film — "The Children of Pamir" about a young teacher who comes to Tajikistan in the first years after the revolution. The film was welcomed by critics and received some awards in the USSR and abroad.

Soon he makes another, his first famous film, "Zhenya, Zhenechka, and «Katyusha»" together with a popular (and good!) writer, poet and singer Bulat Okudzhava. It was a romantic tragedy of love on the war. There were some funny episodes in the movie which were considered "inappropriate" and even "blasphemous" for a war movie and Motyl was prohibited from making other movies. However, he was invited the the movie studio of Grigory Chukhray, who had an outstanding position in the Soviet movie industry. At this studio in 1969 Motyl makes one the evergreens of the Soviet cinema — "The White Sun of the Desert".

"The White Sun of the Desert" was one of the first "ostern", or "eastern" movies (parody on western movies). The adventures of a Red Army soldier Sukhov became the unquenchable source of quotations and the favourite movie of the three generations. The song "Your Excellence Lady Luck" remains to be one of the best known film songs. Soviet and Russian cosmonauts traditionally watch this movie before every flight ("If you haven't seen the movie five times, you're not ready to fly". AFAIK, the foreign members of space teams who depart from Russian launchpads also participate in the ritual). They even enjoy quizes exclusively dedicated to this movie, with questions like "What was the name of Abdullah's third wife?" or "What was the size of Ekaterina's thigh?" (the correct answer is "half-screen") or "What hand grenades were used in the movie?" (the correct answer was "the grenades of the wrong system"), etc.

When the script was still in preparation, one deputy minister said: "Look, what is this? You write: there were 5 Uzbeks, 7 Kazakhs, 4 Kirgiz, 3 Turkmen among the bandits. Do you understand that on the very next day the secretaries of the Central Committees of every republic will call me and ask why there are more Uzbeks than Kirgiz? Let there be 5 bandits from every republic. The East is a delicate matter." This phrase, "the East is a delicate matter", became a part of the movie and one of the favourite quotations.

When the work was over, the censors prepared a list of 27 changes which had to be made. Motyl refused and the film was suspended. Then, one Sunday evening, when Leonid Brezhnev was at rest on his villa, the staff lost a Western action movie he wanted to see. "The White Sun of the Desert" was proposed as a replacement. After the movie Brezhnev called to the minister of culture and said "Thank you for the film. You're making good movies." Soon, the "White Sun" was released. In 1995, it won the poll "The most favourite movie" in Russia.

In 1975, Motyl made yet another very popular movie, "The Star of Captivating Bliss" about the Decembrists revolt in 1825 and about the wifes of the rebels who followed their husbands to the exile in Siberia. The name is often translated into English as "The star of captivating fortune", or "happiness", or "joy". This is a line of the Pushkin's short poem "To Chaadayev".

Now, Motyl is making a new film, "The Purple Colour of the Snowfall".


Vojislav said...

At the risk of repeating myself, I have to say your writing emanates so much warmth... And I wonder whether people west of Vienna can relate with stories like this one..

Dmitri Minaev said...

I know they can :). Really.