Saturday, June 14, 2014

Moscow, My Love

Moskva, lyubov moya; romantic drama, Japan/ Russia, 1974; D: Kenji Yoshida, Aleksandr Mitta, S: Komaki Kurihara, Oleg Vidov, Makoto Sato, Tatyana Golikova

Yuriko is a Japanese girl who goes to Moscow to study ballet. She is an excellent student, masters speaking Russian and meets other artists while living there, among them sculptor Wolodja, whom falls in love with her. Complicating matters is Yuriko's friend, Tetsuyo, who visits her in Moscow because he also discovered feelings for her. Unfortunately, Yuriko's mother was in Hiroshima during the Atomic bombing, and it is discovered that Yuriko herself inherited her disease. Yuriko tries to commit suicide in the sea, but Wolodja saves her. Still, her health deteriorates further and further, until she dies in the hospital.

Few Russian films achieved greatness during the rigid Totalitarian Soviet regime, which handicapped a great deal of their creative control and made a lot of them feel as if every little scene is cautiously approved (to avoid the term "controlled"), yet there were still interesting achievements here and there. Among them is the joint Japanese-Russian production of the romantic drama "Moscow, My Love", a refreshingly relaxed, smooth and humble 'slice-of-life' story revolving around a Japanese girl studying ballet in the eponymous city. In certain areas, just like most Soviet films, it is a little bit dated by today (for instance, the relic decision that the Japanese dialogues are not subtitled, but atrociously "dubbed" by only one (!) male voice), and thus, congruently, the Japanese director Yoshida did a better job than his Russian counterpart Mitta, whereas the love triangle made an unnecessary turn into the 'terminal ilness' genre which turned out overtly melodramatic in the finale, yet it has honest, touching emotions and a good shot compositions thanks to the dynamic camera (one of the best is the almost three minute long shot, filmed in one take, where Wolodja and Yuriko enter a store and sit to order something to drink, while the camera is filming them from outside, while it is still raining). As much as Oleg Vidov is badly miscast for the leading male role, so much is Komaki Kurihara perfectly cast as the leading female role of Yuriko, because she truly has an enchanting screen presence: every gesture she makes is so genuine, charismatic and charming that she truly proves to be one of the most underrated actresses of her time, and the storyline owes 90% of charm to her.


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