[IVAN THE TERRIBLE, PART I (1944)]
Have you ever used Russian Wikipedia?
Because you can’t just type Ivan the Terrible.
You can’t even type Ivan Grozny.
Not least, you cannot type NBaH rpo3HbIN yactb I.
No, certainly not.
But by that point, you are close.
Funny thing about the Cold War was that it was cold.
At least the big guns.
It was an economic war.
It would really be unfair to capitalism to claim that it didn’t win.
Ah, good old capitalism.
Capitalism is bad in a lot of ways, but it is an economic beast.
Communism is good in a lot of ways, but it got its butt kicked by capitalism.
But our story predates Marx and Lenin by centuries (even though it was commissioned by Stalin).
What we have here is a masterpiece of Soviet film: Ivan the Terrible (Part I).
It’s important. Part I. Часть I.
Because Часть II wouldn’t appear for another 14 years (Stalin was a fickle patron).
And Часть III would never appear. [It was destroyed after the director’s death.]
And what a director!
Sergei Eisenstein was a true auteur in every sense of the word.
When he died in 1948, Часть III more or less went with him.
Considering that, it’s amazing that Часть II itself even survived.
It was only the “Khrushchev thaw” which occasioned its eventual release in 1958.
But the year is 1944.
And the year is also 1547.
16 January 1547.
And Ivan (though he doesn’t look it in the film) is 16 years old.
It’s not Reims.
But it rhymes with…Bosco?
If it had a rhyme, Bob Dylan would have smacked it right down in the middle of The Freewheelin‘ or Another Side…
Good old Moscow! Москва́
Something like that…
And so we see a truly riveting coronation (this is not really a spoiler…1547).
We must remember what “the Terrible” meant.
As I understand it…it’s neither good nor bad.
Terrible as in terror…but also as in “fear God”.
Perhaps I have botched it.
grozny (miniscule). As opposed to the capital of Chechnya.
Let me just say this:
Nikolay Cherkasov (in this film) is the spitting image of Nick Cave.
[God forbid an iconoclast get ahold of a spitting image!]
Some might need a further clarification.
I mean the Nick Cave from Warracknabeal, Australia.
Not the one from Fulton, Missouri.
“2000 years of Christian history baby/and you ain’t learned to love me yet”
Something like that.
Ivan the Terrible “read that book from back to front”.
“It made a deep impression” (on his forehead).
But they didn’t have BBC Radio 4 in Russia in 1547.
So not even a gift of a chess set could cause Queen Elizabeth to beam a broadcast of Gardeners’ Question Time over to Ivan.
Alas, he was on his own…
Boyars be boyin’ [if you know what I mean].
I must admit, I’m rather proud of myself for figuring this out.
To wit, Михаил Названов looks like Gene Wilder as Jesus.
Tsk tsk, English Wikipedia.
Which is to say, Andrey Kurbsky is played by Mikhail Nazvanov.
Every epic needs a great beauty 🙂
And Lyudmila Tselikovskaya is no exception.
She is chaste (and chased).
English Wikipedia gives no hypertext love.
But there is an article.
She was from Astrakhan.
And here she portrays Ivan’s bride Anastasia.
Such a lovely word…tsarina.
And by Astrakhan we certainly don’t mean Canadian military fur wedge cap.
Ivan the Terrible is basically Donald Trump (for anyone needing a reference).
Which is why Stalin identified with Ivan.
Putin is another good reference point.
For that matter, Pavel Kadochnikov’s effeminate, moronic character is a good symbol for the past 16 years of American presidency. Imagine W. as a metrosexual in 16th-century Russia. You’ve got it! 16 & 16.
Marriage is the end of friendship (in more ways than two).
And so Philip II, Metropolitan of Moscow heads off to the monastery.
But at this time he was just Feodor Kolychev.
Family Glinski mentioned. Family Zakharin mentioned.
But the House of Romanov takes an extra effort.
Do you remember Kazan from Quantum of Solace?
I never properly expressed my admiration for that film.
Tosca in Bregenz. Exquisite!
Back to Kazan… Poor saps vs. rich saps.
And military strategy comes to the fore. That of Ivan.
Their strength was sapped. One letter from tapped.
That would be Operation Gold!
There’s a Tartar sauce of brutality (?) reminiscent of ¡Que viva México! (remember the horses and the buried guys???).
Same camera angles.
En plein air version of coronation. The doubters. Maybe Eisenstein took a thing or two from Welles?
Because Citizen Kane was 1941.
The Soviet Union joined the Allies in June 1941.
Citizen Kane premiered the previous month and would open in theaters across the U.S. the coming September.
So we wonder whether one of the first “chess sets” of understanding was a copy of Welles’ film.
Back to these Tartars. That’s just the Western version of Tatar.
An extra R (gratis).
You may need some tarragon as well.
It certainly wasn’t “Palisades Park” for these poor Tartars.
No Freddy Cannon sound effects to distract them before being picked off by (demonym-for-people-from-Kazan) arrows.
It’s almost a Thelonious goatee. Pharaonic. Sun Ra-nese.
Over and over we hear of Livonia.
Reval (which is today Tallinn, Estonia).
An iron curtain required iron men.
Oprichnina. A policy.
Oprichnik. Of the Oprichniki. Political police.
Oath of allegiance (starting to sound like Dale Cooper).
But lets not get caught up in bikeshedding.
This film is a masterpiece throughout.