music friday: 29 singers
touki bouki (djibril diop mambéty, 1973)

the cranes are flying (mikhail kalatozov, 1957)

I've seen one other film directed by Mikhail Kalatozov, the interesting I Am Cuba, which shared cinematography by Sergei Urusevsky, who does the same here. Based on those two films, Urusevsky is a master. The Cranes Are Flying won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, and is #442 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time.

The film also benefits immensely from the lead performance by Tatiana Samoilova in only her second film. Her natural acting, combined with her natural beauty, made her a popular actress with Soviet audiences. (Wikipedia tells us that Samoilova remembered receiving a watch from her East German fans during a festival there. The gift featured the inscription: "Finally we see on the Soviet screen a face, not a mask".)

The Cranes Are Flying takes place during World War II, and focuses on the people at home during the conflict. While an underlying theme of patriotic heroism on the front exists, the brutality of the war is also apparent, and the effect on the home front is heartbreaking. So many of the most memorable scenes are made so by the work of Urusevsky. Hand-held camerawork in particular affects our feelings for what we are seeing.

Here is a lovely montage, from "Movies in Movement":


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