Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Leonid Gorovets: Ladies Tailor -Дамский портной (1990)

Director: Leonid Gorovets
Writers: Aleksandr Borshchagovskiy (play), Aleksandr Borshchagovskiy (screenplay)
Stars: Innokenti Smoktunovsky, Tatyana Vasilyeva,Yelena Kozelkova

Set in Kiev, Russia, on 29 September 1941, this feature chronicles the last 24 hours in the lives of a Jewish tailor and his family just prior to their deportation and execution at Babi Yar. IMDB


Leonid Gorovets' 1990 film Ladies' Tailor opens like a documentary, with the shot of a notice posted in Kiev on the day before the infamous massacre by the Nazis at Babi Yar:

On Monday, Sept. 29, 1941 at 8:00 a.m., all Jews of the city of Kiev and its surroundings are to report to the corner of Melnikovaia and Dokterivskaia Streets (by the cemeteries). To be taken along: documents and valuables, as well as warm clothes, underwear, etc. Any Jew who does not follow these instructions will be found and shot. Any citizens who enter apartments abandoned by the Jews and take their goods will be shot.
The notice itself shines brightly, in contrast to the amber hues of most of the movie, the action of which takes place in the hours from an autumn afternoon to morning the next day. Verisimilitude, however, is only one--and perhaps not the most important--impetus for the dark lighting choice in what turns out to be a highly symbolic, even allegorical study of the dark days of Soviet Jewry. As realism gives way to symbol, we are inclined to ask why Gorovets (and Aleksandr Borshchagovsky, on whose play this film is based) should choose a ladies' tailor as his hero doomed to Nazi destruction. Indeed, we might ask if this is principally a Holocaust film at all. Although the tailor's Yiddish affect and the remnants of his Hebrew ritual could still be found in war-torn Kiev, his milieu had essentially died much earlier in Soviet history, so that the Nazis killed many more Jewish engineers, teachers, and trolley drivers than Tevyes, tailors, and traditional Jewish tavern-keepers. In Ladies' Tailor, the director takes a figure reminiscent of the Sholem Aleichem world of the early 1910s, rather than the Soviet Union in the 1940s, and, [End Page 180] as we will see, propels him 30 years further ahead, to the mass Jewish emigration of the 1970s and 1980s. ...

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