Monday, March 22, 2010

Dersu Uzala (1975)


Asian Hunter, Dersu Uzala (Maksim Munzuk), joins several expeditions with Captain Valdimir Arsenyev (Yuri Solomin) over a multiple year period, developing a strong friendship along the way.

Kurosawa's Oscar winning Soviet Film (only non-Japanese film he ever made) is a quiet buddy film, of sorts, that analyzes two men's relationship over a many year period. In many respects Dersu Uzala is a love note to nature. It's slow pace is only such as to allow the viewer to grasp all the beauty, and harshness, nature presents our protagonists, and how said events affect them. And Kurosawa, utilizing his much beloved long shots, grabs all of these moments and presents them to us, the viewer, with the utmost care.

Dersu in many respects represents the traditional mountain man character. Seasoned in the hills, and strong lover of nature, and respectful to the animals he kills, he struggles to understand. While Vladimir represents a more modern man, whose tact with his job, is matched only by his great ability to relate and adapt to Dersu's way of doing things. Their relationship is one of pure enjoyment of the other's company and tact. The two don't ask for much from each other, and simply being around one another seems enough. As we get to know them throughout the course of the film, we gain a good understand as to what drives them. And Yuri and Maksim deliver two strong, and deep performances, that really drives the emotional impact home.

While watching the film I really felt apart of this journey. The sort of way a great documentary can make you feel inside the events. My only real complain would be that while there is a lot of things going on, there's a lot of watching people walk, with a few moments of thrills thrown in. It's nice as a nature lover to see these, as Kurosawa goes all on location shooting, but it's not exactly the most thrilling of stuff to witness.

In many respects the tale of Dersu Uzala is a real life, Soviet look at a Tarzan story... minus all the implemented romance stuff. It's captivating because it's personal, because those involved existed, and traversed such events. They're tale is deeply founded in personal relationships, and how they deal with what matters to them most. Their character changes, and struggles all feel so authentic, and I greatly admired Kurosawa's capturing of them. This is especially important as the final half hour comes into play, and Dersu struggles with his signs of aging. It's a powerful series of events, and it really gets you to feel for his character.

A great story, supported by some great performances, that suffers heavily in its first hour+ with far too little going on.

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