4 September 2002 | baltimpex
Although far removed from Tamara Gabbe's original theater play of the same name, Gorod Masterov is an excellent work in its own right. A good example of the so-called "po motivam" Soviet adaptation policy which allowed filmmakers unlimited freedom when it came to changing the plot, characters and even the idea of the original story, Gorod Masterov used that freedom only to emphasize the main points of Gabbe's tale. That turned a meticulously researched, beautifully worded historical play inspired by the events of the famous Marseille rebellion into a never-never-landish children's fantasy movie.
And it did so with class. Excellent music and camera work plus the director Vladimir Bychkov's good taste made Gorod Masterov one of the most charming children's movies of the Soviet times. The only thing to complain about is casting which indeed prevented the film from becoming a possible Russian kids' all-time favorite. Actors of different style and temperament, from the slapstick comedian Saveli Kramarov to the sweet and docile -- but unfortunately, not quite beautiful -- Marianne Vertinsky, are all left to their own devices with little help from the director. As a result, the film lacks a hero. Phlegmatic and hapless, Georgi Lapeto is just not up to the task of representing the fearless and witty young hunchback Caracol, the instigator of the rebellion.
But all possible shortcomings of the movie can be forgiven for its cathartic ending when the hero arises from the dead, summoned by the townspeople's sorrow, to lead their uprising against a foreign duke. A few tears and a load off your heart will justify the time spent watching Gorod Masterov, whether you are 7, 17 or 70.