Saturday, March 1, 2014

#496: Dersu Uzala

1975, TSPDT Rank #378

Dersu Uzala is just the kind of film that I treasure most - sweeping yet understated, genuinely emotional and sincere, simple yet difficult to pin down, and overflowing with images of pure, sublime beauty. It's an odd film in Akira Kurosawa's filmography - made with the Soviet Union during the mid-1970s, and set in the vast wilderness of Russia's Far East region in the first decade of the 20th century. It was made well after most of Kurosawa's popular, established masterpieces, and it was only the second film he shot in color. Despite this, the film contains some of the most mesmerizing and graceful color cinematography of any film I can think of, and is likely my favorite of all the Kurosawa films I have seen so far. The story - depicting the friendship between a Russian military explorer and the titular nomadic hunter - is slight compared to the samurai epics and crime thrillers Kurosawa is mainly remembered for today, and a basic plot description doesn't do justice to the poetic transcendence of the film. Its profound effectiveness is a testament to the unique power of cinema as well as Kurosawa's status as one of the medium's greatest artists. I wouldn't hesitate to call it a masterpiece, and it is a film that I will look forward to revisiting throughout my life. 

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