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Dersu Uzala (1975)

Winston T. Boogie

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Title: Dersu Uzala (1975)

Tagline: Kurosawa's Academy Award Winning Masterpiece

Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama

Director: Akira Kurosawa

Cast: Yuriy Solomin, Maksim Munzuk, Mikhail Bychkov, B. Khorulev, Vladimir Kremena, Aleksandr Pyatkov, Svetlana Danilchenko, Dmitri Korshikov, Suimenkul Chokmorov, Daniil Netrebin, Serafim Zaytsev, Nikolay Volkov, Vladimir Prikhodko, Sovetbek Dzhumadylov, Igor Sykhra, Nikolai Volkov St.

Release: 1975-08-02

Runtime: 141

Plot: A military explorer meets and befriends a Goldi man in Russia’s unmapped forests. A deep and abiding bond evolves between the two men, one civilized in the usual sense, the other at home in the glacial Siberian woods.

 

Winston T. Boogie

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Well, this was a Kurosawa picture I had never seen. I purchased the new Imprint Blu-ray of it and just got around to watching it recently. I have to say, wow, I loved this. Definitely an interesting picture in the Kurosawa canon. Had I not known Kurosawa directed this, I would have just thought it was made by a Russian filmmaker. It is an absolutely wonderful film. Shot in gorgeous outdoor locations as the men travel the mountains and forests encountering other men and various wildlife, I was transported watching this. It feels almost like a Ford Western crossed with a Tarkovsky picture (though not that slow and contemplative).

The acting is excellent and the story of how these two men bond was very engaging. I love outdoor adventure films and here we have one shot by Kurosawa in Russia. When I watched this I wondered why it took so long for me to see it but I don't think this picture was that easy to see for a long time.

On the Imprint Blu, yes, whatever the source is for this transfer is not the best. So, there is plenty of room for improvement there. It is apparent that it is a film that features absolutely gorgeous photography, but I wonder if there are materials to create a better transfer than what we have here. I assume this is one of the pictures that Mosfilms did a transfer for not that long ago.

I will say the special features on the disc are wonderful and the story of how this picture happened is very interesting. I think this disc is worth getting, the quality of the transfer did not diminish my love of the picture. The opening title sequence looked a bit like VHS but it gets better. Still, you don't get a lot of fine detail in things like the leaves on trees and I could see some sequences, like the crossing of a snow-covered field while a red sun glows in the sky probably would have been stunning in a theater. It's a beautifully photographed film that deserves a better transfer but I will take this as I think it is at present all we have. I think the picture is available to watch on the Criterion channel but I have not seen the version they are showing there.
 

Angelo Colombus

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I also have the Imprint Blu-ray and it looks good compared to what i have seen and a nice improvement over the Kino & Ruscico dvd's and the TCM broadcast. Been waiting for Criterion to release it since they did release the laserdisc version that i have.
 

Winston T. Boogie

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It's funny, when you watch that trailer it reminds me so much of a John Ford picture. It's like John Ford goes to Russia. Also the characters and their interactions remind me of a Ford film. I love the scene where Dersu asks the captain for salt and rice to leave in the hut for the next people that might end up there. Plus the way Dersu refers to everything as a "fellow" had a Ford feel to me. When he explains that animals, the wind, water, fire, they are all fellows we must respect. Great stuff.
 

Winston T. Boogie

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I also have the Imprint Blu-ray and it looks good compared to what i have seen and a nice improvement over the Kino & Ruscico dvd's and the TCM broadcast. Been waiting for Criterion to release it since they did release the laserdisc version that i have.

Yes, I am thrilled to have the Imprint Blu. I can't compare it to any other version of the film as this was the first time I had seen it. So, I have no idea what it looked like in theaters or on other home video formats. I think it is well worth picking up. I thought Criterion might be doing it but I assume that if they did, Mosfilm would supply the source material for the film, so not sure how much better than the Imprint it would be.

I recall not long ago Mosfilm was doing a bunch of new digital transfers of their pictures, so my guess was that is what the Imprint Blu uses as a source. I don't think it looks horrible, but it is not going to be the best looking transfer in anybody's collection by any stretch.
 

Lord Dalek

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For obvious reasons, I don't think you're going to be seeing much Russian anything from Criterion for the foreseeable future.
 

Winston T. Boogie

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For obvious reasons, I don't think you're going to be seeing much Russian anything from Criterion for the foreseeable future.

Maybe but with the time it can take for Criterion to get out one of their editions it is possible they already have some Mosfilm stuff that they got access to a while back. So, there could be some stuff in the works.
 

JoeStemme

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One of the best films of the 70s. Kurosawa's stirring adventure film set (and filmed) in Russia's upper far east region in the early 1900s. Russian Captain Arsenyev (Yury Solomin) is guided on his expedition by a native of the region, Derszu Uzala (Maxim Munzuk).
Despite the unfamiliar setting, the great Director's use of the forbidding landscape and the themes of honor, tradition and respect ring through. It's an impressive physical production filmed with Kurosawa's unwavering eye.
Somewhat surprisingly, the win here for Best Foreign Language Film (a Russian entry) was the only competitive Oscar that Kurosawa ever won (RASHOMON won an Honorary Award and the great man himself got a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award in 1990).
 

Winston T. Boogie

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Well, Kurosawa was a big fan of Ford's movies.
Oh yeah, there is that back and forth between great directors happening here. You always get the sense of American Westerns in his samurai pictures but this film really just plays like a straight Western in so many ways. I guess officially, we'd have to call it an Eastern.
 

JoeStemme

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Oh yeah, there is that back and forth between great directors happening here. You always get the sense of American Westerns in his samurai pictures but this film really just plays like a straight Western in so many ways. I guess officially, we'd have to call it an Eastern.

And, has been often said, Sergio Leone was a big fan of Kurosawa. So, it came full circle in a way
 

Winston T. Boogie

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And, has been often said, Sergio Leone was a big fan of Kurosawa. So, it came full circle in a way

I enjoy the idea that these guys all sort of played off one another. It is like this amazing conversation between them taking place that we can actually indulge in when we watch these films.
 
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