The great Soviet director Mikhail Kalatozov, known for his virtuosic, emotionally gripping films, perhaps never directed one more visually astonishing than Letter Never Sent. This absorbing tale of exploration and survival concerns four members of a geological expedition who are stranded in the bleak and unforgiving Siberian wilderness while on a mission to find diamonds. Luxuriating in wide-angle beauty and featuring one daring shot after another (the brilliant cinematography is by Kalatozov’s frequent collaborator Sergei Urusevsky), Letter Never Sent is a fascinating piece of cinematic history and a universal adventure of the highest order. –The Criterion Collection
Mikhail Kalatozov’s film career followed a circuitous path. By dint of birth, he belonged to the zeitgeist of the 20s, the generation of Eisenstein, Pudovkin, Kozintsev and Vertov. However the long gaps in his filmography did not allow for a consistent development of cinematic style and theme. These ruptures are results of the fluctuating changes of the Soviet Union’s film policy. It’s shift from the avant-garde in the 1920s to a major cog in Stalin’s propaganda factory and finally its resurgence during the “thaw” of de-Stalinization. A Georgian by birth, Kalatozov’s early career had strong local roots. At the Tiblisi Film Studio, he apprenticed as a camera operator, writer and editor on films such Gulli and Gipsy Blood. His directorial career began with Their Empire and The Blind Woman.
His first major work was the experimental Salt for Svanetia, made in 1930. The film was an ethnographic portrait of the distinct culture of the people of Svanetia, a mountainous region in northwestern… read more
Blackest of blacks and whitest of whites. Great use of crossfades and landscape to create a labyrinth in the wilderness -you really do feel lost watching this. The story is somewhat lackluster. The psychological drama is only partially relatable and so things feel a bit hysterical during the second act.
Struggle for survival on the Siberian frontier, directed with searing intensity by Mikhail Kalatozov and featuring the dynamic, visceral cinematography of Sergei Urusevsky, gripping score, startling spatial sound effects, and another heartfelt, impassioned performance from Tatyana Samojlova.
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