July 12, 2020

45th anniversary of Dersu Uzala

At the 9th Moscow International Film Festival, which was held from July 10 to July 23, 1975, the premiere of Akira Kurosawa's film "Dersu Uzala" took place. We do not know exactly on which day of this festival this premiere took place. But why not July 13th?

The script for the film "Dersu Uzala", created by Yuri Nagibin and Akira Kurosawa himself, is based on the novels by the Colonel-Lieutenant of the Russian Tsarist Army Vladimir Arsenyev "Over the Ussuri Territory" and "Dersu Uzala", which were written between 1906 and 1915.

When, as a schoolboy, I read the book "Dersu Uzala" and later, as a student, when I watched a film by Akira Kurosawa, I literally enjoyed the descriptions of the Far Eastern nature, the adventures of Arsenyev and Dersu ... And I was completely unaware of what political passions led to the creation of this film.

To some extent, the background of the creation of the aforementioned literary works of Vladimir Arsenyev and the film based on his books is disclosed in a very good article by Yegor Kholmogorov, which rightly notes that one of the most important aspects of the mission of Vladimir Arsenyev as a researcher-scout in his campaigns was the search ways to solve the Chinese problem in the Far East. But we would like to add "our five cents", based on the specifics of our channel.

Of course, to fully cover the issue of the prerequisites for creating Arsenyev’s novels and Kurosawa’s film, I would like to take a deeper look at history, recall the storming of Beijing by Russian troops, the connection between Vladimir Ulyanov-Lenin’s family and Chiang Kai-shek, and much more. But this would require a whole monograph, and not a separate article on our channel. Therefore, we touch only on those events that directly preceded the creation of the film.

Recall that in our publication “Years and Movies: 1949” we noted as one of the most important events of that year: “The many years lasted civil war in China ended in victory for the communist forces. The power of the Kuomintang has been preserved only on the territory of the island of Taiwan. On the territory of mainland China, the People’s Republic of China was established under the leadership of the Communist Party. USA declared boycott to China". In the same year, the then leader of the PRC - Mao Zedong - arrived in the USSR to meet Stalin.

Literally immediately upon arrival in Moscow, Mao Zedong declared that "there must be a difference between the attitude to old Russia, tsarist Russia, and the socialist country; this difference can exist and manifest on its part only when the current Russia (USSR) proves by deeds that it does not identify itself and it's politics, its attitude towards China with the politics of tsarist Russia." In other words, the Chinese leader made it clear that the country proclaiming "Renounce the old world, shake off its ashes from our feet" should shake off this ashes (in the form of Siberia and the Far East) at the feet of the great Chinese people.

For two months, Mao Zedong was in the USSR, negotiating with Stalin. The main content of these negotiations for Mao Zedong was to beg for financial assistance and impose an anti-Japanese defensive agreement. As a means of blackmail, Mao Zedong used the threat of "lie under the States." Well, the Chinese leader has achieved his aims. The anti-Japanese treaty was signed on February 14, 1949. On the same day, a loan agreement was signed, according to which the USSR provided China with a loan of $ 300 million at 1% per annum, which was supposed to be repaid within 10 years, starting in 1954. In addition, thousands of Soviet specialists were sent to China to build 250 factories (free of charge for China), 20 thousand young Chinese were sent to study at universities of the USSR (also free). And all this - for the constant praise of the "wise leader of the peoples." Well, and for the promises "not to fall under the States". And this despite the fact that the Soviet people were making ends meet at that time, and many were starving at all. Yes, and again: the Soviet Union transferred to China the technology of creating atomic weapons.

Naturally, in these years - the end of the 40s - beginning of the 50s - the PRC chairman did not stutter about any territorial claims against the Soviet Union. But he kept this in mind, and in the circle of his associates he constantly complained about the stinginess of the Russians.

But human life has its own laws (which leaders and rulers often forget): in 1953, Stalin moved to another world. In 1956, at the XXth Congress of the CPSU, the cult of his personality was condemned. Mao Zedong realized that "the freebie ends". And rightly so: the successors of the "Great Chief of the peoples", with all their sins and twists, turned out to be more sane and did not intend to feed the "great Chinese people". Comrade Mao understood this and condemned the decisions of the Twentieth Congress. However, this did not immediately affect relations with the USSR: China was busy settling territorial problems with Taiwan, India, Tibet. In addition, in 1959, Mao Zedong was replaced by Liu Shaoqi as Chairman of the PRC. And the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, on the contrary, made his first trip to the United States.

However, in the ruling - communist - party of China, Mao Zedong retained his supremacy. And since 1960, articles criticizing the USSR and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union began to appear in the CCP's press organ, the newspaper "People's Daily". True, at first they were declarative in nature: China (and Albania adhering to it) condemned the Soviet Union for the revisionist policy of peaceful coexistence proclaimed by the USSR and the conclusion of a non-aggression pact between NATO and the Warsaw Treaty.

But in 1964, the masks were dropped. The Great Pilot demanded from the Soviet Union neither more nor less than half the country: “There are too many places occupied by the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union covers an area of ​​22 million square kilometers, and its population is only 200 million people." According to the statements of the Chairman of the Communist Party of China the Khabarovsk and Primorsky Territories, Transbaikalia, Sakhalin and part of Central Asia - totally 1.5 million square kilometers - turned out to be "vilely occupied Chinese land". It was not by chance that this happened precisely in 1964: it was in this year that China conducted the first tests of nuclear weapons. In short, "the foresight of the "Great Chief of the peoples" once again affected.

Permanent armed provocations began on the Sino-Soviet border. In March 1969, these provocations escalated into an open military clash on Damansky Island. From that moment on, China and the Soviet Union "turned from friends-comrades into enemies-traitors." At least, that is how the Chinese Communist press evaluated the consequences of the events on Damansky Island. And this despite the fact that Soviet troops, by decision of the government, left the island to the Chinese side.

This is the historical background on which the film was made. And now in more detail - about the film itself and its creation. In December 1970, the cinematic world was shocked by the news of the unsuccessful suicide attempt of the great Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa. The reason is that throughout the 60s the director was harassed by failures, and the last in the series of these failures was the failure of his 1970 film “Dodes'ka-den”. In Japan, only 1,000 people watched it during the year.

Shortly afterwards, in February 1971, the famous Soviet film director Sergei Gerasimov, who had long known Kurosawa, ended up in Japan. He invited Kurosawa to Moscow and offered to show the film "Dodes'ka-den" at the Moscow International Film Festival out of competition. And Kurosawa agreed. Then he shared with Gerasimov his long-standing idea to film the story of Vladimir Arsenyev's “Dersu Uzala”. Kurosawa read this story back in the 40s. Then he asked his screenwriter to write a script for this story. But Kurosawa himself realized that the script turned out to be too "Japanese" and to put on it a film in Japan that would not become a "pork pie" would fail. And he said goodbye to this idea. But the meeting with Gerasimov resurrected this idea of ​​Kurosawa.

In Moscow, Kurosawa met Lev Kulidzhanov, at that time Chairman of the Union of Filmmakers of the USSR. He invited Kurosawa to film the script, which will be co-written by Kurosawa and Yuri Nagibin. The director agreed. Goskino USSR allocated 4 million dollars to create the film. For the Soviet film in those years, it was more than a significant amount.

And one more important point: for the role of Arsenyev Yuri Solomin was invited. That is, the actor, shortly before that in the series "Adjutant of His Excellency" created the external image of a noble officer of the tsarist army. Thus, without further ado, everyone was given to understand that no one was going to abandon the conquests of our ancestors. And everyone who needed it understood.

Before the film was released, several articles authored by two organizations: the Japanese Research Society Dersu Uzala and the Japanese Critical Circle Dersu Uzala appeared in in Japan media. These articles contained approximately such passages: "So far this purest anti-historical, anti-Chinese evil film has not been released, but its disgusting image has fully manifested itself." Or: "The renegade clique of Soviet revisionists does not miss the chance to use literature to propagate their expansionist policies. Recently, they sniffed with a Japanese bourgeois director, lounged the film “Dersu Uzala“, which is clear evidence. The script was created from the books of an officer in Tsarist Russia Serniev. The renegade clique of Soviet revisionists thought to implement their plan, but in reality the result was completely different. The script not only describes a number of actions of the Tsar to occupy Chinese territory, but also revealed the new Tsar’s claim to our territory at present." Literate Japanese quickly realized that under the signs of Japanese societies and circles "Chinese comrades" were speaking.

The situation surrounding the creation of the film was personally controlled by the head of the KGB of the USSR Yu.V. Andropov, as evidenced by his letter to M. Suslov about attempts by the "Chinese comrades" to prevent the filming of the movie.

And the film, despite its political background, turned out to be wonderful. Confirmation of this - several film awards of the highest dignity. The fact that the film received the main prize of the Moscow International Film Festival (along with the films "Ziemia obiecana (The Promised Land)" by Andrzej Wajda and "C'eravamo tanto amati (We All Loved Each Other So Much)" by Ettore Scola) is understandable. But the film also won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, ahead of, among others, the film "Ziemia obiecana (The Promised Land)", as well as two Italian awards David di Donatello, including one prize - for Akira Kurosawa as Best Director. Thus, the film "Dersu Uzala" played in the history of world cinema, among other things, another important role. It regained in the great Akira Kurosawa his self-confidence, which, allowed after "Dersu Uzala" to made a number of films, including movie masterpieces such as "Kagemusha" and "Ran".

And this is especially striking against the background of a review of a certain Gary Arnold from The Washington Post, in which the author wrote: ""Dersu Uzala" may be endured in a mood of respectful regret by movie freaks who consider it essential to see every work by a greater director. Akira Kurosawa is unquestionably one of the greatest, but this pastoral epic about the inherent superiority of a man who lives alone and in harmony with nature reflects a decline in dramatic power and a doting, futile taste in sentimental hero-worship. It's a contemplative work by an aging artist whose thought processes seem to be slowing down as his thoughts resolve themselves into grandfatherly platitudes." Imagine: the director who will make "Kagemusha" and "Ran" a few years later is called "grandfather with slow thought processes". Such “experts” work in the influential US newspaper!

However, it is clear that this Arnold belongs to those 99% of film critics who commissioned to write about the film exactly what will be paid. Therefore, in our studies we pay attention only to a very small group of film critics who have earned our trust with their objectivity. Even if we do not always agree with them. But the opinion of moviegoers, expressed in a vote on the IMDB and Kinopoisk websites, we always take into account. So: 66% of IMDB and Kinopoisk users around the world gave the film "Dersu Uzala" ratings from 8 to 10.

Based on the foregoing, the rating of Akira Kurosawa's film “Dersu Uzala” according to FilmGourmand’s version was 9,407, which made it 83rd in the Golden Thousand.