Old Man’s River: Dersu Uzala

Following on from yesterday’s post, carrying on with the experiment:

Recommendation 2: (Film)

Dersu Uzala. I could pretend to be a high-falutin’ film critic and tell you all the reasons why Akira Kurosawa is such a fantastic film-maker, why Dersu is such a fantastic film, how many Oscars and Globes and Bears and Roses the film won, and so on. But I’m not going to, because I don’t know how. What I do know how to do is to point you at imdb in case that helps you.

I was around 19 when I saw the film. Normally, wild horses would not have dragged me into a film made by a Japanese director, in Russian, with stilted English subtitles, and only available for viewing at the local Soviet Cultural Centre (if memory serves me right, this was on Lower Circular Road, maybe 10 minutes walk from where we lived in Moira St in Calcutta). When I found out that it was over two hours long, and that I couldn’t smoke in there either, wild elephants could not have dragged me in there to see it.

Yet I went. Dragged there by my girlfriend. Amazing, the wild-horse-power of the fairer sex. And sat there, rebellious, mute, uncomfortable, nicotine-withdrawn, trying my best not to show any of this.

As you can imagine from the above, I was not predisposed to like the film. Anything but. Yet, after sitting quietly for 140 minutes, I could not forget it. The acting, the photography, the starkness of the landscape, the raw yet deeply moving relationship between the two main characters.

And I love the quote for which the film became famous amongst its small but select cult following:

Why man live in box?

Yes, why indeed?

So if you get the chance, rent or buy the film. It’s powerful, it’s moving, and it teaches you something.

One thought on “Old Man’s River: Dersu Uzala”

  1. The transition from day to freezing night still sticks in my mind, and I haven’t seen the film for about 20 years.

    Because of Kurosawa, I will see any Japanese film at the drop of a hat. Wheras because of Velvet Goldmine, I tend to steer clear of British films unless completely sure they are not crap.

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