Friday, 14 August 2015

True Friends

Vernye druzhye; comedy, Russia, 1954; D: Mikhail Kalatozov, S: Vasili Merkuryev, Boris Chirkov, Alexander Fyodorovich Borisov

Three kids and best friends - Vasili, Boris and Sasha - enjoy floating a raft on a small river near Moscow. Decades later, Boris and Sasha team up to find Vasili again, who is now a respected director of the academy of architecture in Moscow, and persuade him to make a long planned voyage on a raft down the Volga river, which is still natural and free of cement and urban constructions. They embark on a raft, but Boris loses his shoes in the river, so they stop in a town to buy new ones, but get confused for three singers and are forced to sing in a full theatre. They continue they journey and stop in another town, where Sasha meets his old love again, Natalia, whereas Vasili gets arrested because he lost his ID and clashed with Nekhoda, an arrogant architect who was placed there by his administration and who thinks that he can construct the town's infrastructure as a personal fiefdom. The confusion is resolved, and Vasili replaces Nekhoda, thereby returning with Sasha and Boris on a draft back home.

"True Friends" seems to be a Russian version of those kitschy American musicals from the 50s, and is equally as dated. The adventure plot in which three friends embark on a journey on a raft down the Volga river sounds interesting and tempting, but is quickly "stranded" due to boring episodes of them singing while playing a guitar and mediocre comical adventures when they stop and land twice in two cities. Unfortunately, that is pretty much it and the film does not embark on a richer or more imaginative (movie) excursion of the potentials of the original concept, except in a dramatic subplot when one of them, Sasha, finds his long lost love again in the town. When the best comedy moments are only scenes of characters accidentally losing their shoes on the raft in the river or the misunderstanding of Vasili trying to convince his subordinate, Nekhoda, that he is his boss even though he does not have any ID, it is clear the humor is not enough to sate a viewer, though some could probably enjoy the story due to its nostalgic touch since it shows three business men trying to "run away" from the stressful city life and enjoy in the nature one last time. A far more dramatic version of this story was achieved in Boorman's "Deliverance" 18 years later, whereas Mikhail Kalatozov surprised when he directed a far more brilliant achievement three years later with his masterwork "The Cranes are Flying".

Grade;++

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