Wild Courtesy: Dersu Uzala (1975)
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Based on a memoir by famous Russian explorer Vladimir Arseniev, Dersu Uzala (1975) is a heartwarming adventure tale exploring the unlikely friendship between a man of civilization and a man of the wilderness. On a mission to map the Russian Far East, Arseniev encounters Dersu Uzala, a hunter and member of the Goldi people, from whom he learns much about the strange courtesies of life in the wild, based on a respect for all beings. But while this heartfelt friendship is not defeated by profound cultural differences, neither can it fully overcome them.
Though Akira Kurosawa is better known for his samurai films, this late-career work of his was picked for the Vatican film list under the heading of Values. Dersu Uzala is distinct from his other films not only in its subject matter but because it is his only non-Japanese-language film (as a collaboration with the Soviet production company Mosfilm), and his only film shot in 70mm.
Dersu Uzala is currently streaming on the Criterion Channel and (in somewhat video quality, with out-of-sync subtitles) on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EWdAnJsfdc
The next Vatican film list selection we are discussing is Andrei Rublev (1966), the deeply spiritual 15th-century historical epic about Russia’s greatest icon painter. You can watch it with a 14-day free subscription to the Criterion Channel streaming service. (Contains some nudity.)
Akira Kurosawa: Composing Movement https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=doaQC-S8de8
Films compared with Dersu Uzala:
Werner Herzog, Happy People: A Year in the Taiga and Aguirre, The Wrath of God
Terrence Malick, The New World
Jean Renoir, La Grande Illusion
Music is The Duskwhales, “Take It Back”, used with permission. https://theduskwhales.bandcamp.com
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