Lev Kulidzhanov1961-1970DramaRomanceUSSR

Lev Kulidzhanov – Kogda derevya byli bolshimi AKA When the Trees Were Tall (1961)

World War II veteran Kuzma Kuzmich Iordanov has become a heavy drinker with no interest in finding employment of any kind. He joins a collective farm, claiming to be the father of Natasha, a resident there, and is forced to analyze his life when he finds himself falling in love.

New York Times Review:
THAT way-out or way-up title, “When the Trees Were Tall,” is about as lucidly earthbound as the new Russian drama ever gets. A pretty teen-ager is talking to her long-lost father. At least she thinks that’s who he is. The chap is actually an impostor, a foxy ne’er-do-well. “That’s the way I remember you,” insists the girl. “When the trees were tall.”

The import, which arrived last Saturday at the Cameo, is an odd, fumbling drama indeed, especially coming from Lev Kulidjanov, the brilliant young director of “The House I Live In” several seasons back.

In the first quarter of the new film, a string-bean actor named Yuri Nikulin shuffles around his home area in Moscow, bemoaning fate, refusing to work and rightfully earning his reputation as the neighborhood sad sack. The bachelor next pops up as the reappearing papa of Inna Gulaya, an energetic worker of a collective farm. A tender relationship develops between these two, as the girl is simultaneously courted by a spunky village lad (Lev Kuralev) in the most appealing scenes of the film.

Mr. Nikulin sheepishly confesses his impersonation to the girl, who couldn’t care less, and finally makes the motions of going to work. And this, more than anything else, seems the movie’s main concern: Will he or won’t he turn a finger? Our hero—or theirs—is the most negative, ground-down and dull protagonist the Soviet Union has sent us in a long time.

Furthermore, the simple story line slides its course crabwise, wedged in between oblique, pretentious photography—some of it fetchingly pastoral — and splintered, meaningless vignettes. The two young people are so right and convincing—especially in one idyllic barn scene—that they deserve the picture all by themselves. Also, the musical score is a good one—for them, at least.

Mr. Nikulin is an actor with sad, expressive eyes. Still, it’s hard to care about a hero who piously dodges responsibility for nearly two hours. “All people are hypocrites,” he whines at one point. Perhaps. But he’s the laziest one of this lot.

1.37GB | 1h 29m | 704×528 | avi



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