Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Nonna Mordyukova, Rolan Bykov, Raisa Nedashkovskaya, Lyudmila Volynskaya, Vasili Shukshin
Director: Aleksandr Askoldov
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Special Interests
Studio: Kino International Release Date: 03/06/2007 Run time: 105 minutes
A Tale From The Russian Civil War
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Based on the story "In The Town Of Berdichev" by the great Ukrainian Jewish writer Vasily Grossman (author of "Life And Fate"), this film was originally shot in 1967. It was "shelved" for over 20 years by being denied funds for its completion, finally coming to light in the Glasnost era.It concerns a woman commissar (military political officer) named Vavilova in a Red Army cavalry unit during the Russian Civil War of 1918-20. She finds herself pregnant to a fellow officer who has recently been killed, and is billeted with a poor Jewish tinker, Magazannik, his wife and six kids. From her initial hostility to her new surroundings, she eventually becomes involved in the life of the family, before giving birth to her child - and then disappearing to join the first Red Army unit that passes her way.It's not difficult to understand why the Soviet authorities didn't want this film to be seen. Besides the fact that Grossman wrote the original story (he died in 1964 after falling from favour when he submitted "Life And Fate" for publication in 1960), the ambivalence between her roles as agent of the Revolution and mother of her child would have been more than the Soviet censors could have tolerated.This is one of the most moving war films that I have ever seen."
Unmissable, in THIS edition
Greedy Collector | IL, USA | 12/22/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Komissar is a movie very dear to me. I watched this for the first time in my life in November 1989, in Romania. I was quite young, Ceaucescu had his last Communist Party Congress - he was to fall with a (literal) bang soon, in December 1989. I still remember how shocked I was that the Communist censors allowed this amazing anti-Communist movie into the cinemas... it must have been ignorance rather than courage.
This 1967 movie was banned during its own time, the director Askoldov never made a movie again, his very life was in danger for a while. Even as late as 1987, in full-blown perestroika, he had troubles to get his movie out of the censors' hands. Finally he could do it, and the movie was a triumph with international critics and audiences.
If you believe this is an obsolete, half-boring movie, the main quality of which would be that it was courageous for its own time, think again. This is a poetic masterpiece which endures fantastically well the test of time. If you only like American movies, avoid this. If you're reasonably cultivated movies-wise, if you like Dreyer, Fellini, Carne, Kadar, and the like, by all means, do not allow yourselves to die before watching this movie. Askoldov, the director of one and only serious movie, is on the same level with the ones named above. Apologies for the apparently shrill sale pitch, but yes, this is a one-of-a-kind masterwork. It is deep, tragic, subtle, it deals with the ethics and chaos of war, without the gore nor the guts. I would place this movie on the same pedestal as I place Kadar's (also unique) The Shop on Main Street.
A few words about this particular edition, which made me throw the old, worn-out VHS tape to the garbage: it is extraordinary as well. Everything is ideal. (OK, the English translation could have been better, perhaps.) The transfer, both in its video and audio aspects (terrific soundtrack from a young Schnittke!!) made me experience this, on a plasma TV, like I was back in the cinema.
What was even more unexpectedly generous and good was the second DVD, containing special features. I have never seen, not even in my many beloved Criterion DVDs, such a generous, relevant, well-made bunch of interviews - with priceless historical context, contemporary documentation and the like. Watching the special features was almost as riveting as re-watching the movie itself.
Do not buy this in any other edition. This is cinema at its true best, offered in an ideal packaging.
A stunning humanistic movie
Sylvie Finkielsztajn | Paris, France | 07/29/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As beautiful as an Eisenstein movie, "Commissar" focuses on the contrast between a cold brutal woman soldier from the Red Army and a poor tender intense Jewish family. A deep insight into the 1920s Civil War and life in the Pale of settlement, children, motherhood. A unique masterpiece!"