Years & Movies: 1959

According to FilmGourmand, the best film of world cinema of 1959 was recognized by the film "Ballad of a Soldier" by Grigory Chukhrai.

"Ballad of a Soldier" was released on the screens of Soviet cinemas on December 1, 1959.

For the first year, more than 30 million Soviet moviegoers watched the film. Six months after the premiere in the USSR, the triumphal procession of the picture on the movie screens of the whole world began.

Despite the fact that at that time the attitude to Soviet works of art was, to put it mildly, biased, the film received 6 international film awards, including the prestigious British BAFTA, Italian David di Donatello, Danish Bodil. The "Ballad of a Soldier" also participated in the competition for the Palme d'Or of the Cannes Film Festival, but lost to Federico Fellini's "La dolce vita".

We could admit that the festival successes of "Ballad of a Soldier" are to some extent due to the sharp improvement in Soviet-American relations in 1959. After all, in one year the visit of the then vice-president of the United States Richard Nixon to the Soviet Union and the return visit of the leader of the USSR, Nikita Khrushchev, to America took place. But no: the American Film Academy, always keeping its nose to the wind, allowed Grigory Chukhrai's film to compete for the Oscar in only one nomination - Best Original Screenplay. Winning this nomination went to William Inge, scriptwriter for "Splendor in the Grass".

The film received the most enthusiastic reviews of film critics everywhere. Even the usually pungent and picky movie reviewer of The New York Times, Bosley Crowther wrote in his review that the small adventures that movie's heroes experience during the film, "become the moving episodes, the stanzas, in a profound and cumulative lament for the disorder, the grief and the frustration of people borne down upon by war. They become the heart-rending dilemmas and the strength-testing challenges set one upon the other in a ballad that states the cruelties of a monstrous agony.Yet Mr. Chukhrai has made his picture to flow in such a swift, poetic way that the tragedy of it is concealed by a gentle lyric quality... He has done such lovely things as use his camera to pace the tempo of his story with the train, to catch the poetry of a girl's hair blowing wildly in the wind, to note the irony of a child's soap bubbles floating down a stairwell as the hero descends from his dismal discovery in the apartment where he went to deliver the soap. It is with such lyric touches that the deathless beauty in the tragedy is traced."

It would probably be wrong to say that the "Ballad of a Soldier" received extremely positive reviews in the West. Otherwise, it would be difficult to understand why the rating of critical ratings on the Rotten Tomatoes website is 93%, and not all 100. With difficulty, but I found the very negative review of the film, which became a fly in the ointment. This review says that the only reliable heroes in the film - "venal guard on the train and a woman who has taken a lover while her husband is at the front". That Pvt. Alyosha Skvortsov in no way can be "a symbol of that Red Army which raped and looted from Budapest to Berlin with a ruthlessness not seen in Europe for centuries."

Naturally, I wanted to know more about the author of this "review". It turned out that its author is a certain Dwight McDonald, who began as a Trotskyist, then shied away from socialism to libertarianism, and at the time of writing the above-mentioned review, he was an active participant in the so-called Congress for Cultural Freedom, which was a CIA-funded front organisation meant to ideologically influence and control cultural élites in the Cold War (1945–1991) with the Soviet Union.

But the fake Dwight McDonald, paid for from US taxpayers, did not achieve its goal: viewers around the world gave the film masterpiece Grigoriy Chukhray the highest rating: 75% of IMDB and Kinopoisk users rated the film as 8 or higher.

According to FilmGourmand, "Ballad of a Soldier" has a rating of 9.750 and ranks 59th in the Golden Thousand.

In addition to the “Ballad of a Soldier”, the following films were included in the “top ten” of the best films of world cinema of 1959 according to FilmGourmand:

- Ben-Hur. Director William Wyler, USA. Movie's Rating - 9,496; 85th Rank in the Golden Thousand.
- Ningen no joken I 人間の條件 I (The Human Condition I: No Greater Love). Director Masaki Kobayashi, Japan. Movie's Rating - 9,013; 161st Rank in the Golden Thousand.
- Die Brücke (The Bridge). Director Bernhard Wicki, Germany. Movie's Rating - 8,881; 195th Rank in the Golden Thousand.
- Les quatre cents coups (The 400 Blows). Director François Truffaut, France. Movie's Rating - 8,698; 246th Rank in the Golden Thousand.
- Some Like It Hot. Director Billy Wilder, USA. Movie's Rating - 8,671; 258th Rank in the Golden Thousand.
- Apur Sansar অপুর সংসার (The World of Apu). Director Satyajit Ray, India. Movie's Rating - 8,603; 277th Rank in the Golden Thousand.
- La dolce vita. Director Federico Fellini, Italy. Movie's Rating - 8,596; 280th Rank in the Golden Thousand.
- Судьба человека (Fate of a Man). Director Sergey Bondarchuk, USSR. Movie's Rating - 8,565; 291st Rank in the Golden Thousand.
- North by Northwest. Director Alfred Hitchcock, USA. Movie's Rating - 8,547; 301st Rank in the Golden Thousand.

10 most "cinegenic"*, in our opinion, events of 1959:


- The victory of the revolution in Cuba. The revolutionary movement in Cuba, which began in 1953, ended in victory for Fidel Castro and his associates. The United States was the first country to establish diplomatic relations with the new government of Cuba. Three days later, the new Cuban government was recognized by the Soviet Union.
- The death of the Dyatlov group. In the USSR, in the Northern Urals, under mysterious circumstances, a group of 9-person ski tourists, led by student Igor Dyatlov, died.
- Tibetan uprising. In Tibet, there was a massive uprising of the Tibetans against the government of the PRC. The rebellious Tibetans came out for the restoration of independence, against the Sinification of Tibet. When the uprising was suppressed by Chinese troops, 87,000 Tibetans were killed. Another 25 thousand people were arrested. The 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyamtsho fled to India.
- Kitchen debates. In the USSR, in Moscow, the first American industrial exhibition was held, which was opened by N. Khrushchev and the US Vice President R. Nixon. During the exhibition, several informal conversations took place between Khrushchev and Nixon, called the "kitchen debate". Khrushchev promised Nixon "to show Kuzkin's mother."
- Khrushchev's visit to the USA. The leader of the USSR N. Khrushchev and his wife made their first official visit to the United States.
- Typhoon Vera. Typhoon Vera, also known as Typhoon Isewan, hit Japan in September 1959, becoming the most powerful and deadliest typhoon on record in the country. Typhoon Vera in Japan killed more than 5,000 people. About 40 thousand people were affected and over 1.5 million people were left homeless.
- The first battle of the Vietnam War. The first major military action took place in Vietnam. Two companies from the 23rd Division of the Vietnamese Army were ambushed by a well-organized Vietcong force of several hundred and were destroyed.
- Dark side of the Moon. For the first time in the history of mankind, the Soviet automatic interplanetary station for the study of Luna 3 received and sent to Earth images of the dark side of the Moon.
- The Rwandan Revolution. Rwanda's independence resulted in the dominant Tutsi tribe, backed by the Belgian government, attacked by the oppressed Hutu for many years. About 400 thousand Tutsis were forced to flee to neighboring countries.
- Liu Shaoqi: the ascent or the beginning of the end? In China, the National People's Congress elected Liu Shaoqi, who was considered the No. 2 man in the party and state hierarchy of China after Mao Zedong, as Chairman of the People's Republic of China. In this post, Liu Shaoqi replaced Mao Zedong, who retained the post of Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party. After 10 years, Liu Shaoqi ended his days in prison.


Besides Aleksey Balabanov was born.

* -With "cinematic" in the present context, we mean events that either have already found their reflection in world cinema, or deserve to become the basis of the plot of a future film.