Monday, 7 March 2011

Mikhail Kalatozov, Biography

Mikhail Kalatozov was a famous Georgian and Russian film director and a Soviet and Georgian People’s Artiste. His films were loved in the USSR as they still are today in Russia and around the world.

Mikhail Kalatozishvili was born on 28 December 1903 in Tiflis (now Tbilisi, Georgia). When Mikhail was young, he dreamed of becoming a film director. On the way toward achieving his dream, the future People’s Artiste worked as a cinema operator, a film editor, a cameraman at the Tbilisi film studio and even a simple driver.

Mikhail began working at the age of 14 when he was hired as a driver. At the age of 17 he started studying economics, but the subject did not interest him, so he soon quit and turned to what really attracted him – directing and film-making.

Kalatozov began his career in Georgian filmmaking in 1923.

While working as a writer and a cameraman he participated in the making of such films as “The Case of Tariel Mklavadze (1925), “Gulli” (1927), “Gipsy Blood” (1928), for which he was both a co-author and a camera operator, and some others. He even took a shot at acting thanks to his extraordinarily beautiful appearance.

In 1928, with the help of Nutsa Gogoberidze, a Soviet-Georgian director and scriptwriter, and some rare documentary recordings, he produced his first movie “Their Empire,” which affirmed him as a young film director.

The year 1930 marked an important moment in Mikhail’s career – he made his debut as a freestanding film director with the movie “Jim Shuante.” The film was an astounding success partly due to the talent of the young director and partly thanks to the superb ethnographic recordings (the movie was filmed in a small Svan village buried in the heart of a mountain range), the expressive montage and the highly charged political topic – the establishment of the Soviet government in the Caucasus.

The beginning of the 1930s was the beginning of a new era in cinematography – motion pictures acquired sound and the poetical aesthetic was slowly dying away. This was a tough period for Mikhail as he had tried to adapt to the transforming industry. The film he shot at the time, “Nail In The Boot” (1932), was never released.

In 1933 Kalatozov became a doctoral candidate at the Art Studies Academy in Saint Petersburg and a year later he was appointed director of the Tbilisi motion-picture studio; Mikhail occupied the post for nearly four years.

In 1937 Mikhail Kalatozov finished his traineeship at the Art Studies Academy in Saint Petersburg then worked at the Tbilisi film studios for a short period of time. Here, Mikhail did his best to equip the studios with brand new technological facilities, which still function properly to this day.

But Mikhail soon quit the studio as he was accused of “implementing bourgeois ideology.” Kalatozov, however, did not stay unemployed for long - he was soon hired by the “Lenfilm” motion picture studios as a director. Mikhail immediately put his head down, creating two highly successful films about pilots one after the other – “Courage” and “Valery Chkalov.” The principal character of “Valery Chkalov,” a Soviet flying ace, was so popular with audiences that his popularity nearly surpassed that of Chapaev - a celebrated Russian soldier and Red Army commander during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922 about whom books have been written and several films shot.

At the beginning of the 1940s Mikhail’s success and the people’s affection for him made him the representative of Soviet cinema in the West, particularly in Hollywood.

In 1942, during World War II, Kalatozov, together with Vladimir Gerasimov, the well-known Soviet film director, shot a military drama about the notorious Leningrad blockade entitled “Invincible.” The blockade was the cause of the unsuccessful German military operation to capture Leningrad; it lasted 872 days and caused thousands of civilian deaths. Later another film appeared - “A Concert Dedicated to the 25th Anniversary of The Red Army” - that was co-directed with Vladimir Gerasimov and Efim Dzigan but it was not very popular with audiences.

A new period in the life of Russia’s most famous film director was ushered in by the year 1943 when Kalatozov started working at the “Mosfilm” motion picture studios in Moscow. In 1944 he was appointed Head of the Central Administrative Board that dealt with film production. Mikhail held this post for two years – until 1946.

That year, Mikhail’s career reached its peak – Kalatozov was appointed Deputy Film Industry Minister of the USSR, remaining in the post until 1948. ...

Russiapedia Cinema and theater Prominent Russians

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