Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Cranes Are Flying directed by Mikhail Kalatozov (starring Tatyana Samojlova)

The Cranes Are Flying (1957). Screenplay by Viktor Rozov from his play.

I saw The Cranes Are Flying on Turner Classic Movies several months ago, and I can't get it out of my head. I think that's the mark of a truly great movie.

The Cranes Are Flying is a sad and beautifully shot film about young love around World War II. The relationship and its aftermath are far more dark and complex than I expected — I understand the earlier restrictions in the Soviet Union on subjects suitable for filmmaking had just been lifted prior to filming.

The cinematography by Sergei Urusevsky is breathtaking (especially in the train-station scene), and the lack of sentimentality (though not of emotional impact) is refreshing. The film has obviously aged very well. It is not perfect, with a few slow spots, but even those are softened by the constant appearance of its stunning star, Tatyana Samojlova.

Words fail me regarding this gorgeous movie, so I'll just end by saying that The Cranes Are Flying won the 1958 Palme D'Or in Cannes, and you can read an essay by Chris Fujiwara at The Criterion Collection. (Those seeking more indepth scholarship can pick up a copy of The Cranes Are Flying: the Film Companion by Josephine Woll.)

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