Monday, September 6, 2010

Finally getting back to recommending real movies

With the Internet absence and this being the Labor Day weekend, I haven't felt like doing full-length blog posts. (Actually, there are several movies I would love to have recommended that aired while I was waiting for the new modem, but that's another story.) A movie that is really worth watching, however, is Dersu Uzala, which is coming up overnight at 3:30 AM ET on TCM.

The story is a fairly simple one: back in the first decade of the 20th Century, a group of surveyors in tsarist Russia is sent to Siberia to survey some of the land for the Trans-Siberian Railway that's being built. They don't know the land well, and it's fairly forbidding. However, they meet Dersu Uzala, a hunter of Mongolian descent who can speak Russian, and is willing to help the Russians out with their surveying in exchange for some of the not-quite-as-difficult living that the Russians will have, working together as a group. Together, the head of the surveying team and Dersu become friends.

However, problems ensue for Dersu, as he's getting old and his eyesight is beginning to fail him. The captain of the surveying team offers to take Dersu back to Vladivostok to live with him, but city life definitely does not suit Dersu. It's the old tradition versus modernity debate, only this time with a man completely incapable of making the transition to modernity.

Dersu Uzala was directed by Akira Kurosawa at a difficult point of his life. He had attempted suicide not too long prior, and couldn't get the financing to make a movie in Japan. The Soviets wanted to make a prestigious movie, and one that could get attention in the West with a name that people in the non-Communist world would recognize. Kurosawa was just such a name, but it turned out that he didn't like working with the Soviet authorities (who could blame him?). That didn't stop him from making a movie that's visually gorgeous, even if the story is nothing particularly groundbreaking.

Dersu Uzala has been released to DVD, although since it's one of those foreign films with a lesser interest, the DVD is more expensive than normal.

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