Screen: Russian Drama:Cameo Theater Shows ‘Optimistic Tragedy’
HOWARD THOMPSON Feb. 24, 1964
THE two-hour Soviet feature called “The Optimistic Tragedy,” which won the last Cannes Festival prize for “the best film dealing with a revolutionary theme,” is the most deadly, dehumanized and pretentious bore in years to come from the Soviet studios in the guise of entertainment. The Artkino presentation arrived Saturday at the Cameo—like a dead whale.Based upon a play by Vsevolod Vishnevsky, the film describes the organization of the first Communist naval regiment by a strong-minded young woman commissar against the background of civil war. So much for the dramatic core. The human content is stifled with layer upon layer of ideological gab. Two poetical-tongued sailors appear as sideline commentators just to rub it in, often peering out at the audience. Considering the fine, rounded screen dramas—on war and peace, both—that the Russians have sent us for several seasons, this photographed tract almost has to be seen to be believed.Except when the firm-jawed heroine, Margarita Volodina, is hiking her restless troops across the steppes or into battle, the footage and the burly supporting cast generally freeze respectfully for her discourses. Except for some rather messy skirmishes, the director, Samson Samsonov, has staged the proceedings with awesome, creeping reverence.Miss Volodina is a young and pretty woman with level eyes who looks capable of more than propaganda, given a chance. Evidently Vyacheslav Tikhonov, as a handsome sailor, thinks so, too. For toward the end he dares to murmur a counterrevolutionary line: “Here’s some human words for a change—I love you.”But the fadeout, from those jack-in-the-box commentators, is the mixture as before: “There is no death for the revolution.”
The Cast THE OPTIMISTIC TRAGEDY, screenplay by Sofiay Vishnevetskaya and Samson Samsonov, based on a play by Vsevolod Vishnevsky; directed by Mr. Samsonov and presented by Artkino.
At the Cameo Theater, Eighth Avenue and 44th Street 22 February 1964. Running Time: 120 minutes.
Commissar . . . . . Margarita Volodina
Boss . . . . . Boris Andreyev
Aleksei . . . . . Vyacheslav Tikhonov
Husky . . . . . Vsevolod Sanayev
Vainonon . . . . . O. Byorninon
Bering . . . . . D. Safonov
Boatswain . . . . . I. Zhevago
Выпущен в советский прокат 12 июня 1963 года.
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