A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Nine Days of One Year (Mikhail Romm, 1962)

Aleksey Batalov in Nine Days of One Year
Dmitri Gusov : Aleksey Batalov 
Lyolya : Tatyana Lavrova 
Ilya Kulikov : Innokentiy Smoktunovskiy
Prof. Sintsov: Nikolai Plotnikov
Narrator: Zinoviy Gerdt

Director: Mikhail Romm
Screenplay: Daniil Khrabovitsky, Mikhail Romm
Cinematography: German Lavrov
Production design : Georgi Kolganov 
Film editing : Yeva Ladyzhenskaya
Music: Dzhon Ter-Tatevosyan

The Soviet film Nine Days of One Year, about nuclear physicists, appeared in 1962, which makes for an interesting counterpoint to the major news event of that year, the nuclear standoff known as the Cuban missile crisis. But for all its geopolitical significance, Mikhail Romm's film is a love story, a blend of the eternal triangle and a conflict between marriage and career. Dmitri Gusov, known as Mitya, is a dedicated scientist who in the first of the film's nine days -- they aren't consecutive but spread out over the year -- receives a dose of radiation while overseeing an experiment conducted by his mentor, Prof. Sintsov. The professor gets a lethal dose, but Mitya is told that he's safe as long as he doesn't get exposed to another large burst of radiation. Mitya is in love with a fellow physicist, Lyolya, who is also involved with Mitya's friend Ilya, a theoretical physicist. Ilya and Lyolya are on the verge of telling Mitya that they're going to get married, but the accident propels Lyolya into marrying Mitya instead. It's a rocky marriage, to be sure, with Lyolya worrying that Mitya is putting himself in harm's way while at the same time fretting that she's not doing enough to overcome his coldness and obsession with work. Through all this there's much talk, especially between Ilya and Mitya about the morality of nuclear science, the nature of humanity, and even about whether they're doing enough to advance the future of communism. Fortunately, the ideological talk is kept to a minimum. Romm directs all of this with great style: long takes shot at low angles and a camera that moves restlessly between the characters as they talk. Somehow the film never falls into the obvious clichés, maybe because Aleksey Batalov, Tatyana Lavrova, and Innokentiy Smoktunovskiy bring their characters to life.

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