12 July 2005 | Mozjoukine
Early Russian sound comedy of outrage.
This early Russian sound film is actually a part talkie - like the THE THEFT OF THE MONA LISA or THE WHITE DEVIL with much of the action carried in inset titles and a music and effects track. This one is however more interesting in it's mixing of the two forms. The talking crew go to a screening of the silent movie (shown in the old format) and, at the end, the Bishop's sermon becomes a lying voice over for the actual silent movie coverage of events.
Yacov Protazanov is one of the most intriguing figures of the early Russian film. His QUEEN OF SPADES may well be the most remarkable Tsarist era movie and his career continued to WW2, though only his AELITA, the science fiction movie with Mrs. Dovzhenko getting about in a constructivist bikini is at all known.
This rarely seen film was presumably a dodgy release prospect outside it's home market, with it's unstinting anti clerical content. The priests, stock market officials and police conspire to squeeze income out of pilgrims come to see relics of a Christ like figure. The con man duo beat their time by passing the lead off as the resurrected saint.
Ilinsky (Protazanov's THE TAILOR FROM TORZOK) only gets to speak a couple of times but does some routines, of which his Cathedral steps dance is a highlight. The design is often striking - big exterior sets, mobs of pilgrims (which are cross cut with sheep.) Like Medevkin's HAPPINESS this one contradicts the accepted notion of early Soviet film as montaged dramas of class struggle - and it's fun.