Dersu Uzala DVD
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Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Produced in 1975
Main Language - Russian with English subtitles
Maxim Munzuk, Yuri Solomin
The ten years that separate Red Beard (1965) – the last film Kurosawa ever made with Toshiro Mifune – from Dersu Uzala (1975) probably qualify as the worst of Akira Kurosawa's life. He spent five years labouring over Dodesukaden, his first colour film, an odd Japanese echo of Samuel Beckett's Happy Days, only for the film to receive a critical and commercial drubbing in his native Japan. Amid rumours of mental ill-health, he undertook production duties on the Japanese leg of Tora! Tora! Tora! only to be sacked and replaced by Kinji Fukasaku (a large number of aerial shots in the finished film come from an uncredited Kurosawa). No wonder then that the 70s began with Kurosawa attempting to take his life. What is perhaps surprising is just how life-affirming Dersu Uzala, the first film he managed to secure funding for, actually ended up.
Based on a 1923 memoir written by Russian explorer Vladimir Arsenyev and concerning a series of mapping expeditions around the Sikhote-Alin region of Siberia in the company of an old Nanai (Russian/Asian) hunter (the eponymous Dersu Uzala, a beautiful, craggy-faced performance from Maxim Munzuk), Dersu Uzala is generally passed over these days as lesser Kurosawa, despite the fact that the film snagged the Grand Prix at the Moscow Film Festival and the 1975 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
It's certainly worthy of re-evaluation, though. The vast Siberian wilderness provides Kurosawa with a canvas and a scope that arguably breed much of the widescreen action of Kagemusha and Ran. Whether you take the trees glowing red from the embers of a fire, the ethereal blue smoke rising as Dersu points out his family's burial site or the long static shot of Dersu and Arsenyev as they look at the horizon, juxtaposed between the rising moon and the setting sun, there is much in Dersu Uzala that will take your breath away.
What's more, in these days of climate change and carbon offsetting, Dersu Uzala's message, that man should really start to look long and hard at what he is doing to the world, takes on a resonance that wouldn't have existed thirty years ago and lends Kurosawa a strangely prophetic eye.
Peter Wild on 1st February 2007
Author of 99 reviews
Winner of the Best Foreign Film Oscar in 1975, Akira Kurosawa's Dersu Uzala (his only film produced outside of Japan) was filmed in 70mm on location in the peaceful vastnesss of the Siberian ice desert, and is one of Kurosawa's most beautiful films as well as a tale of great humanity. It is based on the turn of the century journals of Tsarist officer Vladimir Arseniev, who meets and befriends the hunter Dersu Uzala, who in turn teaches him to survive in the wilderness.
Publisher: Artificial Eye
Length: 135 mins
Cat No: ART565DVD
Format: DVD Colour
- This 2011 release has an improved print from the previous release.
by Anon on 10th October 2002
In 1974 Akira Kurosawa recovered from his suicide attempt three years earlier to start work on his dream project Dersu okhotnik (Dersu The Trapper), in collaboration w... Read on
In 1974 Akira Kurosawa recovered from his suicide attempt three years earlier to start work on his dream project Dersu okhotnik (Dersu The Trapper), in collaboration with the Mosfilm Studios. This was the travel autobiography of Vladimir Arseniev, a Russian officer and explorer in the early 1900s, who met and befriended the hunter Dersu Uzala. Akira Kurosawa's film follows their adventures and real-life relationship as they come to be overawed by the frightening but peaceful vastnesss of the Siberian ice desert. A huge film filled with enormous landscapes such as the incredible moonrise/sunset and the raging storm at sunset catching Dersu and Arseniev unawares, Dersu Uzala has the unending beauty of greatness which surrounds us all.
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