back to search back to search   Italiano

Festival Year Festival Section
2003 Mozhukhin: The Paths of Exile

Alternative Title 1
Alternative Title 2
Alternative Title 3
Country France
Release Date 1926
Production Co. Ciné-France-Film/Films de France-Société des Cinéromans
Director Viatcheslav Tourjansky [Vyacheslav Turzhanski]

Format   Speed (fps)
35mm   20
Footage   Time
3845m   169'

Archive Source Cinémathèque Française
Print Notes Didascalie in francese / French intertitles.

Ivan Mosjoukine, Nathalie Kovanko, Acho Chakatnouny, Henri Debain, Gabriel de Gravonne, Eugene Gaidaroff, Tina de Izarduy, Boris de Fast, Wladimir Kwanine
Other Credits
sc.: Viatcheslav Tourjansky, Ivan Mosjoukine, Boris de Fast, from the novel by Jules Verne; ph.: Léonce-Henri Burel, Nicolas Toporkoff, Fedote Bourgassoff; art dir.: Alexandre Lochakoff, Pierre Schildknecht, César Lacca, Wladimir Meinhgardt
Other Information
Program Notes
Whatever reservations one might have about the film and its star's contribution to it, Tourjansky's film remains to date the best screen version of Jules Verne's famous historical romance, bar none - I would even say it is one of the greatest film adaptations of a work of popular literature ever brought to the screen.
There are several reasons for this: the first obviously being that the world of the novel - the Imperial Russia of Tsar Alexander II - was recreated by a group of émigré Russian filmmakers who for the first time had the golden opportunity to indulge all their nostalgia for their usurped homeland in a film (and it was a double nostalgia, since the story was set in their own historical past). Having just taken part in another kind of "exile" - from Montreuil to Billancourt, where producer Noë Bloch, having just split with Albatros co-founder Alexander Kamenka, created Ciné-France-Film, the French affiliate of the powerful new German-led Westi production consortium - these Russians suddenly found themselves with the financial and technical resources to evoke the splendors and vastness of Mother Russia - from the opulence of the imperial balls (shot at Billancourt) to the savage pomp of the rebel Tartar camp (shot on location in Latvia, with considerable logistical support from the local government and military).
But if this Strogoff works, most of the credit is due to writer-director Tourjansky (in what certainly remains his best work). The film has all the panache, epic sweep, and naïve charm of Verne's novel - the battle scenes, with their pathetic detail, are especially evocative of Griffith's Civil War scenes in The Birth of a Nation, and the opening ballroom scenes, with their rushing dancers intercut with shots of advancing Tartar hordes, bear the influence of Gance's rapid cutting techniques - let's not forget that Strogoff and Napoléon were shot virtually back-to-back at Billancourt studios in 1925! (It was only after completing Strogoff that Tourjansky would give Gance a helping hand directing Napoléon's Toulon battle scenes in 1926.)
Most importantly, Tourjansky doesn't betray Verne's final coup de théâtre. If Strogoff doesn't lose his eyesight to the executioner's burning hot sword, it is indeed because he sheds tears for his poor mother and thus saves his vision - not because (as later film versions would have it) the executioner is bribed to fake the blinding! And Tourjansky's fidelity in dramatizing this physiological miracle prepares us for one of the film's great moments: the close-up of Mosjoukine's slowly opening eyes as the villainous Ogareff lets out a terrified cry: "He can see!" This is great popular moviemaking.
And then there's Mosjoukine. This may not be one of the summits of his acting career, but in this best of film versions of the book, he is the best of Strogoffs, cutting a splendidly romantic figure of the man of action, sacrifice, and loyalty, despite some unfortunate moments of bathos and a interminable delirium sequence which seems like a parody of the dream scenes in Le Brasier ardent and is at odds with the tone of the film. In fact, these interpolations seem to have been Mosjoukine's principal contribution to the screenplay (which Tourjansky claimed to have basically written alone), and they suggest the actor's uneasiness about moving into large-scale spectaculars in which he might finally lose his artistic soul. - Lenny Borger