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Soviet Art HouseLenfilm Studio under Brezhnev$

Catriona Kelly

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780197548363

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2021

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780197548363.001.0001

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Regulated Immediacy

Regulated Immediacy

Viktor Sokolov, A Day of Sunshine and Rain (1967)

Chapter:
(p.229) 7 Regulated Immediacy
Source:
Soviet Art House
Author(s):

Catriona Kelly

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780197548363.003.0008

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the work of Viktor Sokolov, a much-admired director at Lenfilm whose extensive work in genre films (production dramas, sports films, literary adaptations) made him relatively invisible to the critical establishment of his own day and later. Sokolov’s combination of emotional surges and a precise and critical eye for cinematic patterning made him difficult to classify at any time, and never more so than in A Day of Sunshine and Rain (1967), an unusual children’s film that explores the unexpected and fragile friendship of two young boys who have skipped school, but also the nature and purpose of art.

Keywords:   Viktor Sokolov, Filmmakers’ Union, childhood, school life, urban exploration, metacinema, immediacy, artistic control

Viktor Sokolov (1928–2015) was the most enduring, yet also the most elusive, of Lenfilm’s so-called young directors. Between 1960 and 1985, he made twelve films, an impressive total for the era (of his contemporaries, only Vitaly Melnikov clocked up more). At the same time—uniquely for a major figure at the studio—two of his films were completed with the help of other directors. In the case of My Life (1971), an adaptation of Chekhov’s story, the senior director Grigory Nikulin was dispatched to Sokolov’s aid. The reinforcements parachuted into the 1975 war film To Survive till Dawn came in the shape of politically reliable, if by common consent uninspiring, Mikhail Ershov. In both cases, the ensuing film owed far more to the original director, but the demotion was a matter of record.

The assignation to Sokolov of “responsible projects,” those with significant ideological resonance, followed by panic and the scrambling of rescue forces, was a telling sign of the ambivalence that those responsible for kontrol felt toward his work. Consistently recognized as a leading director, Sokolov at the same time inspired acute unease in successive general directors, senior editors, and Party secretaries.1

Among his peers, his artistic gifts were widely acknowledged. The austere and exacting Grigory Kozintsev called him “a big favorite of mine.” Aleksei German hailed Sokolov’s sweeping panorama of the Stalin and Khrushchev eras, Friends and Years (1965), as “one of the best films ever made.”2 But this warm admiration was not universal. Awards at film festivals and foreign promotions eluded Sokolov, let alone State Prizes.3 Indeed, some of his most widely admired titles in the professional community, including Friends and Years, failed to achieve top categories in the official ranking, which in turn impacted on audience figures. To Survive till Dawn had reached only 1.6 million by 1981, well under half the audience of Aleksei German’s Twenty Days without War (1976), itself considered “disappointing.”4

A crucial factor was that Sokolov remained throughout his career a figure shaped by the circumstances of the Khrushchev Thaw. As he was nostalgically to reminisce in 1980:

(p.230)

I well remember 1955—I was immediately assigned to Alien Kin. A family drama, you’d think at first glance, nothing to it. But what a film, what a collective, what an atmosphere! After that, I worked on Soldiers—also a wonderful collective, and what visuals! And people worked with huge enthusiasm and a huge sense of self-sacrifice.5

Mikhail Shveitser’s Alien Kin (1955), portraying a tussle between an idealistic Komsomol leader and supporter of modernization in the countryside, and his in-laws, resolutely opposed to collectivization, was one of the most noted Lenfilm movies of the 1950s. Aleksandr Ivanov’s Soldiers (1956), based on Viktor Nekrasov’s gritty war novel, In the Trenches of Stalingrad, had inspired discussion and controversy across the country.6 Officially, Lenfilm’s glory days still meant prewar classics such as Chapaev, The Maxim Trilogy, and A Member of the Government. Sokolov looked to a very different political and aesthetic heritage—one where moral and political commitment did not exclude the capacity to challenge received opinion.

This was not just a question of the distant view. As the discussion of his first film, When the Bridges Go Up, in the presence of deputy minister Filippov, neared completion, Sokolov paid an emotional tribute to the atmosphere in which he had worked:

The first thing I’d like to talk about is the purely human feelings that have made themselves felt in me—the sheer joy of being accepted in the collective, of walking in step with a troop. For that I am deeply grateful to the comrades sitting here. That sense of being part of a collective gives me wings.7

The sense of larger social purpose evoked here was characteristic of Thaw-era remobilization. Both walking in step and soaring, Sokolov associated his personal development with the transformation of the community in which he lived. As he commented at a meeting of the Third Creative Unit’s Party organization in 1963,

We must uncover and develop in our creative unit a specific studio spirit, a unified creative position. The main risk is triviality [melkotemye]. Truth can be domesticated, turn into something shallow and miniature [melkaya pravdyonka]. . . . Often we get excited when someone is simply “not lying.” But that’s not enough.8

In return, the Third Creative Unit’s management recognized Sokolov as a mouthpiece of its core values. Speaking at the same meeting in 1963, chief editor Yakov Rokhlin presented a negative image of the kind of conventional film that was precisely not needed. He went on to suggest that some projects in the unit, including Sokolov’s, promised to achieve something radical:

We are dealing in the studio with entrenched ideas about “necessary” and “palatable” films, which to a significant extent ignore artistic criteria and the accumulated (p.231) experience of artistic realism, without which serious discussions of contemporary art are quite impossible. We must reclaim those criteria, and we should insist upon them as uncompromisingly as possible. . . .

I think that over the past year, we have started to see the first signs of such a program. They are variously evident in [Vengerov’s] The Trip without a Load, in [Sokolov’s] When the Bridges Go Up, in [Karasik’s] The Wild Dog Dingo, in [Ermler’s] From New York to Yasnaya Polyana, and [Tregubovich’s] Last Summer [= A Hot July].9

“Artistic criteria” were indeed of the first importance to Sokolov, who combined commitment to truth-telling in a moral sense with distaste for the formulaic. Not just a “Thaw artist” by virtue of his commitment to the representation of social conflict, he also embraced an aesthetic that sought to challenge viewers of his films. His comments in studio discussions record an acerbic readiness to ridicule cliché, however august the occasion. Commenting in 1966 on a script by Vladimir Voinovich, already a celebrated satirist, Sokolov remarked that the characters “make us smile because they are so hackneyed.” Maybe the film should simply be repackaged as a vaudeville?10

Where other members of artistic councils remarked, critically or approvingly, that a particular artistic strategy or device was a radical innovation, Sokolov would set them right:

No, it has been done before, both here and in international cinema. . . . There are large numbers of films where everything moves slowly, to the rhythm of a song on the soundtrack, at walking pace. You do get such cases, and I saw precisely that as a big fault of this film.11

This distaste for the familiar did not mean that Sokolov propounded an avant-garde aesthetic. For example, Voinovich’s script suffered, in his view, not just from stereotypicality, but from fragmentation:

This isn’t a script, it’s notes, a writer’s incidental observations. It’s a book of jottings without any dramaturgical content. So you get a scene with the calf being dragged out from under a bridge and then a scene with a piglet, and in principle you could end up with 150 or 200 scenes like that.12

Sokolov emphasized that psychological depth was essential: “No one suffers, no one weeps—it’s just strolls round the stage,” he commented on Voinovich’s work. “I love psychological detail and everyday detail”—summing up why Shpalikov’s A Long Happy Life left him dissatisfied.13

At the same time, Sokolov’s own filmmaking, while relishing detail, by no means eschewed fragmentation. To be sure, the director’s debut, Goodbye till Spring (1960), evoked a single sequence of time, and focused on just three lead characters. But most (p.232) of his other films employed an episodic, discontinuous structure, moving between different characters and temporally distinct, sometimes disjointed scenes. His historical films—Friends and Years and Let’s Meet in the Metro (1985)—were particularly ambitious, showing a cast of friends and workmates over a swathe of eras (the “cult of personality,” the Great Patriotic War, the postwar years, and the revival of socialist construction under Khrushchev). But discontinuity was characteristic of his smaller-scale films also. Bridges moved from school graduation day to a series of moments in the four young friends’ search for professional and personal satisfaction, while You Can’t Choose Your Parents (1982) was organized as a series of encounters between absentee mother, Natalia, and her son, Kolya. In this, and the pointed use of jump cuts to underline the disjuncture of the fragments, Sokolov had more in common with the Thaw-era work of Mikhail Kalatozov or Marlen Khutsiev than with Melnikov, Mikaelyan, Averbakh, or other post-1961 Lenfilm directors.

With their shifting settings and engagement with broad casts of characters who disappeared and reappeared unpredictably, Sokolov’s films departed significantly from the usual requirements of the Soviet well-made film. Equally challenging was their eschewal of visual narrative conventions. Commenting on Grigory Aronov and Aleksei German’s The Seventh Companion (1967), Sokolov demonstrated the meticulous eye exercised in his own editing practices: “That group of officers highlighted in the wide-angle view look like puppets. Check that when you do the re-edit. . . . And that camera pull-away into a panorama with the plow in it doesn’t work at all. Unwanted symbolism.” Some shots of the officer should be taken out too: “The framing is very predictable.”14

Sokolov’s own films, from Bridges onward, eschewed such standard devices as the splicing of shot-counter shot in dialogue or the progression from establishing shot to medium close-up. Characters were shown at oblique angles, from overhead, from the point of view of a small child or indeed an inert object, or (sometimes and) placed in the periphery of the frame. Frames were busy with detail: in Bridges and Friends and Years, attention was often divided between static figures in the foreground and more distant figures (behind glass in a corridor, say) passing in mid-shot. Of Friends and Years, Sokolov himself commented: “Most of the scenes are pairings, duets. . . . That forces the director to work hard to avoid monotony in composition; there’s a risk it’ll be repetitive in terms of modeling.”15

Many films contained sequences photographed in semidarkness. In To Survive till Dawn, depicting a single nighttime raid on a Nazi encampment by a crack team of ten Red Army soldiers, dark predominated. In This Is Our Home, the main illumination came from vats of molten metal and ineffective factory strip-lighting. Blue Ice, a fictionalized documentary about two Soviet international ice-skating champions, reduced color to a largely monochrome palate. This was less a question of gritty realism—as Sokolov commented elsewhere, “Any level of artificiality is fine by me”16—than of an aesthetic preference for black and white.

After Bridges, where viewers were allowed to wallow in sonorous “cinema music” that suggested life’s larger promise, Sokolov began to work in just as challenging a style (p.233) with the aural dimensions of film. Some scenes were shot in near silence, others with a repertoire of natural sounds; others again had diegetic music (strummed on guitars or pianos by some of the characters). All this worked alongside extradiegetic “theme music,” itself in radically different styles, from the symphonically sweeping melodies of the 1950s to the edgy syncopation of the 1960s and 1970s, and even 1980s pop. Just as Sokolov used visual blurring, distracting the viewer with subsidiary levels of motion in the frame, so he developed a love of dissonant clashes between music playing in different places. In We’ll Meet in the Metro, Zarubin, leader of the construction project, visited Perm on a strictly private mission—to find Anya, the daughter of a woman he had fallen in love with at the start of the blockade. As he progressed from studio to studio in her ballet school, an overlapping wave of different pianos, all tuned to different wavering pitches and thumping out different classical standards, swept down the length of his path.

Explicit and unusual, too, was Sokolov’s commitment to metacinematic devices. In Friends and Years, Lyalin sits down at a piano in the middle of the Soviet invasion of Austria and sings, to a haunting melody by Veniamin Basner, a ballad evoking prewar cinema:

  • At an evening viewing
  • In a far-off small town
  • An actress was singing
  • In a tongue not her own.
  • Old tales of Vienna
  • I heard at that show,
  • It was all only recent,
  • It was long, long ago.

The song later separated itself from the film and had a secondary life as a nostalgic tribute to lost youth and love (a version sung by crooner Eduard Khil was particularly popular). But as sung in Friends and Years, it acted as an ironic commentary on these themes and their cinematic realization, rather than an invitation to sentimental musings.

Friends and Years was also shot through by arch citations. Overheads of Tanya (Nina Veselovskaya), as she moved through the streets of her southern resort town and up a staircase, had clear echoes of The Cranes Are Flying. In later films, Sokolov was not above citing himself, to ironic effect. So the hit song “It was only yesterday, it was long, long ago” is heard playing on a radio in Let’s Meet in the Metro, and both this film and Friends and Years featured a ship called Turgenev.17

Complex camera work and metacinematic effects can produce a sense of distance—as in the films of Visconti, for instance, or Alain Resnais. In this respect, though, Sokolov was inconsistent. The psychological effect of his cinema could be described as “approach-avoidance,” the unsettling alternation of openness and withdrawal. This helps explain the radically different responses of viewers to his films.

(p.234) Aleksandr Shpagin, in a 2015 tribute, went so far as to claim that Sokolov’s cinema was entirely an exploration of just one emotion, “the history of disillusion.”18

For Sokolov’s contemporaries, on the other hand, the situation looked very different. Evgeny Enei, one of Lenfilm’s most senior production designers and a long-term collaborator with Kozintsev, commented after the studio viewing of Bridges, “No senior director could film a graduation evening with such immediacy, sincerity, and truth-to-life, could show the kind of things that we see in this film.”19 There was not a hint, in this reaction, of the world-weariness attributed to Sokolov more than three decades later.

Disillusion would indeed seem a likely emotion from a director of Sokolov’s patent cinematic intelligence and commitment to artistic distance. Yet Enei’s evocation of “immediacy”—a behavioral complex embracing spontaneity and frankness with rawness and unpredictability—was perspicacious. Goodbye till Spring, for instance, was an unusual film for the early 1960s, an exploration of the “traumatic memory” more often associated with the endgame of Khrushchev’s Thaw in the closing years of the decade.20 A young teacher, Vera (the elegant, doe-eyed Lyudmila Marchenko), arrives in a remote village, small daughter in tow, and is immediately not at home. She tersely tells her village landlady that she is a widow (“I’ve buried mine too,” the woman sympathetically replies).

In fact, Vera’s personal wound is of a very different order. She has split up with the father of her child and stormed out of Leningrad without completing her degree. The outcome of the experiment seems to promise further flight: when the young woman’s father appears, she breaks down and beseeches him to take her home. A frank-talking local teacher, Aleksei (Innokenty Smoktunovsky), has been unable to bridge the distance between her and the local community. But the end of the film shows the process suddenly reversed: Vera halts on the jetty, as her pupils arrive with flowers, and announces, “Who told you I was leaving?” She then quits the jetty in a triumphal procession with the jubilant children, and returns again to her temporary lodgings. Is this self-imposed illusion or a sudden recognition of the inevitable, or then again, a sign of inner healing? No certain judgment emerges. In emotional terms, though, it represents an absolute and unexpected break with the heroine’s previous behavior. The sense of unpredictability is enhanced by Sokolov’s carefully lit, angled shots of Marchenko’s expressive face as it registers in turn alienation, cautious rapprochement, fatigue, vulnerability, and finally resolution.

Bridges introduced equal notes of spontaneity into the core situation, standard for the time, of dissonance between older and younger generations. The film began with vigorous footage of what appeared to be a group of children running from their school toward the embankment of the Neva. As they emerged, the alteration to mid-shot revealed that these were actually adolescents, on the verge of adulthood, which lent an edge of menace as the boys gestured appreciatively at a passing young woman in a revealing outfit, while the girls squabbled with an elderly woman shocked at their invasion of the pavement.

(p.235) While Bridges never fully realized this original sense of menace, the film hinged on two acts of minor violence. In one key scene, Valerka’s father, driven to fury by the boy’s patent indifference to his moralizing speeches, and particularly by his insolently bobbing foot as he sprawled on a divan, lashed out with a stinging slap across the face. In another, its mirror image, Inga responded to the sexual overtures of an odiously smug young Muscovite TV producer who had inveigled her to a luxurious hotel with an equally ringing blow across the cheeks. The two parallel attacks had opposite results. Valerka reluctantly started to search for what his father would have called a “real job”; Inga’s hopes of a career were brought abruptly to an end. In a brilliant image, her last appearance—the result of an accidental meeting as Valerka himself strolled round looking at job ads—showed her next to a gleaming container of spinning lottery tickets, the modern Soviet version of a wheel of fortune. The elders in Bridges could pontificate how they liked: in the end, the reason why ballet dancer Ira succeeded with her ambitions and others did not was mainly down to luck.

Friends and Years at one level had an appreciable narrative line, an explicit downward trajectory, following the loss of hope and social commitment among most members of a group of friends. “The core idea of dramaturge Leonid Zorin and director Viktor Sokolov is that there is no genuine happiness or internal satisfaction outside an elevated social ideal,” commented the artistic council in its submission to Goskino.21 Yet Platov (Aleksandr Grave), the most ethically reliable of its central characters, the one who appeared to escape the downward pull into conformity and self-interest, was also the least predictable. The scene in which he first emerged as a major figure, the arrest of Lyuda’s father in 1937, was also the point at which he asserted his sudden desire to join the Communist Party. Not a likely prospect for Lyuda (Natalya Velichko) at the outset, Platov became her staunchest ally and then, during brief wartime leave, her husband. His military service was mainly characterized by an episode in which he narrowly escaped serious punishment for disobeying orders so that he could protect Mozart’s house from being destroyed. An unexpected friendship with Lyalin (Oleg Anofriev), one of the investigators, followed, and later the adoption of Lyalin’s son, for reasons never clear. The tragic death of Lyuda in a wintertime car accident represented an unpredictable trick of fate. But just as hard to prophesy were Platov’s recovery, sudden flowering as a civil engineer, and eventual split from the original group of friends as he left their dire reunion down south and traveled happily back with Lyalin and son, turning before the viewer’s eyes into a vignette glimpsed momentarily through the window of a Moscow metro carriage.

Clever, witty, and subtle though Sokolov’s early films might be, they also rode an emotional roller-coaster. The artistic effects might be carefully planned, yet the narrative outcome was impossible to predict. Such was the contradictory combination of strict artistic control and a sense of waywardness and redundancy, of contemplative disengagement and emotional upheaval.22 Overall, regulated immediacy is perhaps the best description.

(p.236) The crucial example of Sokolov’s art of regulated immediacy was the apparently straightforward, innocent A Day of Sunshine and Rain, completed in 1967. The movie traced the relationship of two boys in their early teens as they unexpectedly bonded during a day in the backwaters of Leningrad. Presented in the studio Party Committee while in production as “an instructive tale for adolescents and their parents,” the film as released had little in common with this deadly description.23 Eduard Radzinsky’s script had drawn an obvious and (as editorial commentaries made clear) predictable contrast between Alyosha, the schoolroom comedian, in constant conflict with his teacher, and diligent Mukhin (his last name is used throughout), what children’s slang would have termed “a botanist,” with no life outside his schoolwork.24 But Sokolov pared down the school scenes and underlined the uncongenial and even absurd atmosphere of the homework routines and playground drills—the elderly, unbending mathematics teacher, particularly, was far less sympathetic than films about Soviet childhood usually allowed. His choice of child actors—pert Sasha Barinov (later a successful actor, then a schoolboy from Riga) and lugubrious Tolya Popov (son of Naum Birman, and previously cast as one of Gurov’s children in Lady with a Dog)—was also unconventional and astute (figure 7.1).

(p.237) During most of the film, the main drive was the discovery of a world new to the audience and to at least one of the boys. Here Alyosha, rather than Mukhin, was the leader. “We don’t want to make a children’s film that reflects adult ideas, where the children are moved around like pawns,” Sokolov told the Second Creative Unit. This was a film about the city and about a particular day as well as about the boys’ relationship; indeed, it had a strongly personal flavor:

Probably any movie is at some level a personal confession, but especially this one. What I want to do in this film is to tell the story of my own back courtyard, of my sister, of my mother, and so on. I find that an emotional business [menya volnuet, suggesting both excitement and anxiety]. That’s unavoidable, because the people I know are no longer with us. I am going to make this film as a tribute to them. The only way that will work is to adopt a raw approach. The faintest shadow of indifference, or even a cool and calm attitude, and the desired effect will disappear.25

In the course of making the film, some of the “rawness” of the original intent disappeared. Alyosha’s typist mother, superciliously described by scriptwriter Mikhail Bleiman, in a review of Radzinsky’s script for Goskino, as “practically a prostitute,”26 was replaced by a father whose work as a taxi driver gave him a more wholesome excuse for frequent absences. But the rapport between the two boys and a stray cat suggested both their need for affection and the lack of an object for their own. The intensity of their unlikely friendship was easy to understand as the effect of disengaged parenting.

Regulated ImmediacyViktor Sokolov, A Day of Sunshine and Rain (1967)

Figure 7.1 Viktor Sokolov with Sasha Barinov as Alyosha and Tolya Popov as Mukhin

Yet “regulation” in an artistic sense was tangible too, as Sokolov’s colleagues in the Second Creative Unit were quick to recognize. Evgeny Shapiro hailed the film as comparable only to A Long Happy Life in terms of its status as an all-round work of art, with direction, camera, mise en scène, design, and sound all working harmoniously together. Nikita Kurikhin also saw it as championing new artistic values: “I wouldn’t swap this film for one with a thousand cavalry offers, 150,000 troops, and sweeping panoramas,” he commented, in a patent dig at Sergei Bondarchuk’s celebrated adaptation of War and Peace. “It’s a much more important movie than the ones we usually see as such.”27 And indeed, A Day of Sunshine and Rain was not just sumptuously filmed in tactile black and white (Vladimir Chumak providing comparable visual pleasures to those on view in A Boy and a Girl), but complex in its offsetting of perspective. In a scene at a cafe, the camera eye suddenly dropped to the level of a small boy approaching Alyosha and Mukhin at a round-topped chromium table, to be rewarded by the gift of a bun. The shot made a neat point about the “adultness” of the two boys, from a toddler’s point of view, but it was also an exemplary case of what literary theorist Viktor Shklovsky termed “making strange.” Shiny new cafes were a trope of Leningrad cinema, but seldom did they appear so eccentrically framed.28

(p.238) In Bridges, world-famous sights such as St. Isaac’s Cathedral had appeared in passing, glimpsed through windows, while the camera lingered on roofs and rear courtyards. The same technique was employed and broadened in A Day of Sunshine and Rain. A famous building (the spire of the Peter and Paul Cathedral) is glimpsed only once, offset in the distance, the chimes of its carillon acting as the main identifier. Otherwise, the boys move through cinematic rather than topographical reality, as Aleksandr Zhuravin pointed out at the discussion in the studio’s artistic council:

You’ve just been on the Pryazhka and suddenly you end up in the metro, you see boys running past wooden sheds and suddenly you’re in front of the Aleksandrinsky Theater. Those unexpected contrasts create variety in the perception of life and our city, of the natural world.29

This radical estrangement of the city at two levels—the reordering of its layout and the focus on sights usually hidden from view—was widely welcomed in the artistic council. If the writer Leonid Rakhmanov expressed tongue-in-cheek anxiety that “now the chief architect will start tearing down all those old sheds,” he nevertheless saw them as essential to the “poeticization” of the city.30 Commentators accepted that they were seeing an idiosyncratic form of realism—a humanized version of the new wave, with more “heart” than Antonioni, or indeed Danelia’s I Stride around Moscow.31

Summing up at the end of the discussion, Sokolov accepted the “realism” classification, but explicitly distanced himself from the moralizing comments:

When it gets into the hands of teachers and the discussions start about those sheds and the fact that the adults aren’t very sensitive, the ruination of the film will begin. It’ll be nothing more nor less than lacquering reality. And unfortunately we’ll lose an awful lot. Mikhail Grigorievich [Shapiro] said that if we’d sent Andrei Rublyov to Cannes, it would have had a huge political impact and brought fame to Russian art, but we didn’t. I think we should take a different view of things. Everything changes, including propaganda. We should use realism and sincerity to give our ideas conviction.32

Sokolov’s remarks had a clear strategic objective: to reassure the more conservative members of the audience. Significantly, he did not engage at all with the film’s longest scene (a full ten minutes), in which the two boys end up at Lenfilm during the filming of At Dawn, a musical by Oscar Sandler set during the Russian Civil War, with a gyrating line of chorus girls and men with corkscrew moustaches. The sequence was a nod in the direction of Sokolov’s own unhappy encounter with the genre, in Neva Melodies (1959, recalled by Kozintsev as “near-catastrophic”).33 But it may also be a sly dig at Gennady (p.239) Poloka’s Intervention, filming at the same time as A Day of Sunshine and Rain, and being trumpeted for its “significance.”34 A moment of slapstick where the two boys managed to drop a jar that they have brought for Alyosha’s actress neighbor and the director yells, “What twerp brought cooking oil on set?” was a sly echo of Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita, the first publication of which started in November 1966, a couple of months before production of Sokolov’s film began.35

As Innokenty Gomello, deputy chief editor and long-term member of the studio Party Committee, noted at the artistic council’s discussion, A Day of Sunshine and Rain was “not nearly as unpretentious” as Sokolov preferred to suggest.36 And indeed, the boys’ voyage round the city might, as Sokolov put it, be “naive and comical,”37 but the presentation of it was not. The casting of Alyosha and Mukhin—one small, nimble, and mischievous as a nine-year-old, while the other was lanky, stooped, and had the mannerisms and conversational style of a middle-aged professor—echoed the visual effects of silent film comedy (figure 7.2).

Regulated ImmediacyViktor Sokolov, A Day of Sunshine and Rain (1967)

Figure 7.2 Alyosha (Sasha Barinov) and Mukhin (Tolya Popov)

Indeed, throughout, Day employed classic visual gags, from short Alyosha insisting to lanky Mukhin, “That’s my place” when the boys were lined up in order of height, to the sequence where the duo, sulkily dragging back home a large enamel washtub, abruptly employed it as a weapon against a lounging youth who had impugned the reputation of Alyosha’s sister.

All in all, A Day of Sunshine and Rain is much closer in feel to Boris Barnet’s Girl with a Hatbox and House on Trubnaya than to a celebrated school drama also released in 1967, Stanislav Rostotsky’s We’ll Survive till Monday.38 While the latter dwelt on the incapacity of adults to overcome emotional hurt, in A Day of Sunshine and Rain, the boys’ friendship survived—though only just—the discovery that Alyosha had lied to Mukhin when telling him the class had been released from school for the day, turning the exemplary pupil into a truant. Yet the dependence of pleasure on deception and self-deception added an edge of regret, making the film lapsarian rather than paradisiacal. Since viewers knew about the lie from the beginning, they could not share Mukhin’s glad innocence.

Sokolov’s regulated immediacy and emotional approach-avoidance presented significant challenges during the process of filtration. His first independent excursions into filmmaking had already provoked controversy among some. With Bridges, (p.240) the disturbance significantly increased. Partly the fuss was caused by Aksenov’s script: “Some people say this is a harmful work, others the opposite,” noted Innokenty Gomello during discussions in 1961.39 With the making of the film, the free play for misunderstanding increased significantly, as Sokolov himself noted:

I really like the polemical character and expressions of extreme opinion this script has stirred up. I remember what Maupassant said, that every reader has different requirements: one says, entertain me, another, give me food for thought, a third, tickle my nerves, and so on. In a word—there are as many desires as there are people.40

This openness to varying interpretation was to a significant extent derived from the unpredictability of Sokolov’s films, their eschewal of easy moral, artistic, and indeed emotional solutions. This was exactly what caused problems with A Day of Sunshine and Rain.

Both in Lenfilm and at Goskino, some observers had hesitantly expressed a sense that some aspects of the film might be too bold. The concentration on Leningrad’s underside—might it be excessive? Was the parody scene in the studio perhaps a case of artistic lèse-majesté?41 But the real problems set in when the movie reached the (p.241) Regional Committee of the Communist Party at the end of May. The fuss provoked by The Pathfinders of Pervorossiisk and A Boy and a Girl two months earlier may explain how Sokolov’s film crossed the committee’s radar to begin with: by and large, Party high-ups did not condescend to fret about children’s films.42 But Tolstikov and his colleagues were incensed by the representation of the city and by the equivocal ending. The changes that they stipulated took thirty-one working days and delayed submission to Goskino by over a month.43 Sokolov himself was deeply uncertain about the merits of the result.44 All the same, the revised version found favor with Goskino and was even honored with the first category.45

Regulated ImmediacyViktor Sokolov, A Day of Sunshine and Rain (1967)

Figure 7.3 Alyosha (Sasha Barinov) and his sister Sveta (Svetlana Savelyeva)

At this point, Sokolov, who had observed gloomily when Day was praised by the Second Creative Unit, “Something always rains on my party,”46 perhaps allowed himself a little optimism. Yet, eccentrically, things continued to go wrong even at a stage when most films were home and dry. In October 1967, Goskino’s film distribution board, working at 180 degrees to the editorial college, refused to clear Day for distribution. (p.242) An incensed letter from Kiselev to the Central Committee (“an arbitrary decision that expresses contempt for those in charge of art cinema”) prevented an actual ban.47 But then, on November 16, the Filmmakers’ Union unexpectedly called “an expanded meeting” to discuss Sokolov’s movie, not as a major contribution to new cinema, but as an artistic disaster.

The first speaker, Ilya Nusinov, scriptwriter on Elem Klimov’s famous comedy about a Khrushchev-era Pioneer camp, Welcome—and Keep Out, seems entirely to have misplaced his sense of humor before he watched A Day of Sunshine and Rain. “I detested the entire scene in the film studio. . . . It is offensive to us. We cannot allow it. Yet again schoolchildren telling a film director what to do. And how to do it too! Naive. Banal.” That was not all. “I’m intensely irritated by the bogus detail, by the ridiculous coincidences. They step into the street—and bingo, there’s dad in a taxi! They walk into a store—and just happen to meet the kid’s sister!” Where Antonioni’s films, Nusinov raged, were rich in associations and reflections, Sokolov provided zero. At Lenfilm, the movie had been heralded as part of a new era. Nusinov also thought so, but in a bad way.48 Equally negative was children’s film director Ilya Frez, upset by the “lack of depth” in the film and its perplexing structure—“It just doesn’t add up.”49

The attacks hammered on: “a frivolous attitude to the great work of raising our children,” “a terrible, truly terrible script.”50 Even urbane Dmitry Moldavsky was provoked beyond endurance. When scriptwriter Aleksandr Khmelik lamented the difference between Elizaveta Timé’s performance as the elderly actress and a star of the Moscow stage in a similar role, Moldavsky snapped, “Hasn’t it occurred to you that she’s from a completely different acting tradition?” Conceding that some of the comments might be “helpful,” Moldavsky rejected others “from beginning to end. Not to speak of the fact that some people, for instance Comrade Frez, have adopted a tone that I, relatively new to cinema and with experience mainly of the literary world, haven’t encountered since I left school.”51 Moldavsky’s intervention checked the frenzy a little. Later speakers managed to find points to admire in A Day. But charges of artificiality and pretension persisted.

Summing up the gathering’s anxieties, film critic Aleksandr Karaganov, secretary of the Union’s board, commented that the film demonstrated a “good European level of direction and camera work. But there’s no good Lenfilm level to be seen, and most of all, no Sokolov level. And if Sokolov doesn’t grasp that and continues magnifying his own faults, then he will disappoint all of us who have hopes for his talent and won’t achieve what he could achieve as a director, at any rate in the near future.”52

This clumsy bullying presented as helpful guidance would have been difficult to endure for anyone. Sokolov’s response was defiant. “Comrade Frez, I have to say that I can’t stand your Traveler with Baggage; it was just torture. I Bought a Dad may have been a box (p.243) office hit, but I can’t stand that either.”53 As for charges that the film went over the heads of children, he’d been in the audience himself when it was shown at Leningrad’s House of Film. “You can argue as much as you like that it’s a failure, but the children mobbed me. I simply couldn’t get out of the hall.’ He acknowledged that there was artistic tension at the heart of the project. Radzinsky “loves carnival, he loves masks. I trained with Gerasimov, but the script is more like the Vakhtangov Theater”– a house with a long tradition of stylization. Yet this was no mere interplay of artistic modes: it was an emotionally engaged film also, the portrait of an intense relationship—“The boys are just in love with each other.” One again, Sokolov underlined that the film was autobiographical: “By the way, that boy in the movie is me, and the girl’s my sister. It’s all from my own experience. . . . I love the shot when he’s looking at the boy in glasses and saying, ‘Something comes over me at times.’ And bites his leg. It’s a boy whose life force has not yet awakened” (figure 7.3).

Having defended this scene of startling immediacy, Sokolov went on to insist that “European cinema” had simply not been in his mind when he shot A Day. “We never see anything in our House of Cinema. They simply don’t show any foreign films. It’s a mass of cobwebs. My life is home, the wife, telly in the evenings. I never imitate anyone. I couldn’t. I’m a hopeless provincial. I wasn’t thinking of Antonioni. I was only thinking of myself, of running through the courtyards.” Yet he insisted that, despite everything, the film would live. “It’s got something to it. There just isn’t a film like it—maybe that’s for the best, but there just isn’t.”54

To anyone who knew the Leningrad House of Cinema, with its regular programs of foreign movies, or indeed the tenor of discussions at Lenfilm, it was clear that Sokolov was making fools of his tormentors.55 Karaganov, sensing that the proposed lesson in taste had gone awry, stuttered about “a hint of overconfidence” and brought the session hastily to a close. But the meeting, risible as it was, had at least allowed Sokolov to defend his methods of filmmaking, and to underline his disinclination to be set on the right road. Indeed, throughout the rest of his career, he continued to espouse regulated immediacy, though his commitment to it brought increasing difficulty and personal frustration.

Sokolov had come into filmmaking at a time when discursiveness and controversy were political virtues, rather than managerial faults. That was one issue. Another issue, though, was one of temperament. Though sincerity and spontaneity continued to have an honored place in rhetoric even after Khrushchev, in practice enthusiasm and lack of calculation were increasingly seen as gauche (socially as well as politically). In Sokolov’s case, there was also a nuance of class: unlike the majority of directors at Lenfilm, he came from an authentically working-class background. Before training at GITIS (the State Institute of Theater in Moscow), a brief career as an actor, and study on the directing faculty of VGIK, he had attended a technical school and had worked in an (p.244) aviation factory, “putting the tails on airplanes.”56 Sokolov never forgot this early life. When studio colleagues criticized A Day of Sunshine and Rain on the grounds that the family home of working-class Alyosha was unconvincing because there was too much new furniture, Sokolov riposted by saying this was drawn from life. His sister worked in a shop and his mother-in-law in a factory.57

Aleksei German was later to claim that Sokolov’s conformity, once Friends and Years was made, was directly traceable to the director’s fear of ending up in a lumpenproletarian role like his own father, who had worked in a bathhouse.58 This is snobbish nonsense, as the case of A Day of Sunshine and Rain makes clear. Rather than “cowed,” Sokolov was volubly committed to working by his own lights. Though he assured his critics at the Filmmakers’ Union, “I’ll do any movie, given the right script,” he had an actor’s ear for dialogue and did much uncredited work to transform the projects he took on.59 Yet, unlike some of Lenfilm’s other leading directors—Averbakh, Asanova, Mikaelyan, German—he depended on having a script to start with. Rather than originating ideas, he saw them into performance and visual realization. Perhaps the sense of coming from a nonstandard educational background did, in the end, inhibit him.

Whichever way, the years spent in physical labor made Sokolov place high demands on those who worked with him: Blue Ice, where the heroine falls repeatedly and painfully on the rink as she and her partner rehearse moves, was an exact evocation of how the director worked himself.60 On set, too, Sokolov was immediate in a way that could be frankly alarming, as the Party bureau of the Creative Workers’ Section heard during production of Days and Years: “We were afraid he’d have a fit. Everyone in the entire studio got to hear about it. We stood in terror and watched him swearing and cursing and throwing himself around for an entire two hours.”61

Oaths and shouts were standard practice among foremen in Soviet industry generally. But a film factory, and particularly one located in a city where refinement was a vital part of the surrounding city’s self-image, was something quite different. Sokolov saw himself as exacting; others found him insufferable. Once the Thaw era dropped into the past, conflicts proliferated. “Sokolov’s had three changes of production director. How can we allow it? . . . Shapiro, Blek, Azizyan, Shorokhov have all stormed off set. How does Sokolov get away with it?” asked an exasperated administrator during production of Blue Ice in 1969.62 “Sokolov is the pure essence of bullying and rudeness,” remarked Igor Karakoz during filming of My Life two years later.63 As well as falling out (p.245) spectacularly with the lead actor, Stanislav Lyubshin, who was rushed into hospital with suspected heart failure after yet another screaming match, Sokolov also contrived to quarrel “irreconcilably” with star camera operator Dmitry Dolinin, accusing the latter of “intriguing” against him.

“How can we tolerate a situation when we go through two or three designers a picture, or camera operators, or when people are carried away on stretchers after a heart attack?” demanded Ilya Kiselev. Lyubshin had written from his hospital bed that Sokolov “tortures actors every day from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and looks on to see whether you bite your lip and say nothing, or pass out.”64 The change of director on To Survive till Dawn was provoked not just by technical hitches, but by rows. “Sokolov upbraided camera operator Boris Timkovsky in front of the entire crew, using obscene and insulting language, and circulated rumors that the ‘production director has been robbing the budget,’ and threw a microphone on the ground that his inexperienced young assistant, Valentina Boikova, had handed to him in a way he didn’t like. He then made her give it to him several times in succession, in a manner that was rude and insulting to her personal dignity,” the Party Committee heard.65

The disaster with To Survive till Dawn was followed by the longest ever interruption to Sokolov’s career at Lenfilm. Nothing came of a project to shoot four “cinepanoramas” on the arts in Leningrad for a Goskino series designed to raise hard currency from foreign TV stations. Also scrapped was Being Unhappy Is Shameful, based on a script by Aleksandr Volodin. Sokolov was the first choice for the children’s film Klava K. Is Responsible for My Death, but in 1978, he was replaced by the doyen of Leningrad cinema for juveniles, Nikolai Lebedev (in tandem with novice director Ernest Yasan).66 Only with the biopic I Am an Actress (1980) did Sokolov return to production, and as Lenfilm chief editor Lev Varustin lamented to general amusement in 1979, “We’re having to work with Sokolov, and you know what that means!”67

Sokolov, defending himself in 1971, riposted that he was “renowned for two features: fidelity to my wife and fidelity to actors. All the actors in all my films write me letters of thanks.”68 Be that as it may, almost none of the actors with whom he worked were willing to sign up for further films. An exception was Petr Velyaminov, who played leading roles in both This Is Our Home and We’ll Meet in the Metro. But Velyaminov, who had spent nine years in a labor camp after he was arrested for “participation in the anti-Soviet organization ‘Rebirth of Russia,’ ” was certainly more inured to strong language and public scolding than most.69

Sokolov’s talent continued to be recognized by his colleagues. Where others who created far less disturbance were sacked or assigned to second-director status, he went on making movies, and movies that were seen as “important”: production dramas, war (p.246) films, films of contemporary life.70 But at the same time, the role of this “major” director became increasingly marginal. Prepared to work in genres that the 1970s generation avoided as “unreconstructedly Soviet” (kondovo sovetskie), he obstinately eschewed the conventional treatments that would have made these subjects palatable to administrators and indeed audiences. His best film after A Day of Sunshine and Rain, This Is Our Home (1973), hinged on a classic situation in socialist realism: the dispatch of a principled but politically isolated young outsider to a responsible post in a leading Soviet factory. Yet, rather than obstacles triumphantly overcome and subjectivity purified in the industrial crucible, the film reflected ambivalence. Aleksei Cheshkov, the engineer protagonist, had the fiery, resolute character of a classic Soviet hero, surging in his white cap through the furnace room, or curtly repudiating efforts to massage plan targets. He was a mouthpiece of Soviet virtues, such as refusal to compromise. But he offended everyone in sight, and his phrases about honesty and commitment seemed to reflect more the naivety of a visiting provincial than transcendent Soviet virtues. “You pitch in here like a foreigner,” one of his many antagonists drily commented. Yet, by the end of the film, Cheshkov was on dangerously close terms with the woman accountant he had insulted when he arrived, was content to receive a gesture of patronizing reconciliation from the new Party secretary (“We admire Cheshkov, but we also condemn him”), and had even exchanged his white cap for one of a less symbolically loaded mid-brown.71

Had Cheshkov sold out to the local in-group, for whom the highest praise was, “He lives right across the landing from me”? Had he adjusted to a new humanity and realism (as Party secretary Ryabinin said, “Soviet people can’t always behave as if there’s still a war on”)? Sokolov’s film did not attempt to answer, and recorded, in the end, a clash of temperaments rather than a contrast of ethical standards.72 Indeed, the movie was above all preoccupied with visual collisions—from the overblown banqueting hall where his new colleagues entertained Sokolov, with its Soviet-baroque side-chairs, to the production lines lit by vats of molten steel. There were no simple binaries: Cheshkov, rivetingly played by Vladimir Zamansky, had the inherited charisma of 1930s worker heroes, but he was also a Soviet everyman (sovok) of the Brezhnev-era present, comically out of place in the nation’s second city. He represented historical redundancy more than a return to roots.

The original title of This Is Our Home had been The Outsider. “You pitch in here like a foreigner” was uncomfortably relevant to Sokolov’s own position. If Friends and Years evoked his youth and A Day of Sunshine and Rain his childhood, This Is Our Home looks, (p.247) in that perspective, rather like an echo of his professional autobiography. By the mid-1970s, Sokolov’s commitment to art was increasingly old-fashioned—he was never going to make an entertaining blockbuster—and his relentless drive assorted badly with the swelling egos of top actors and the sensitivities of film crews. The director’s self-imposed isolation was all the more tragic in that the precise and lyrical sight and sound effects of his best films depended on the harnessing of talent across the board. As Aleksandr Zhuravin pointed out, Chumak deserved as much credit for A Day of Sunshine and Rain as did Sokolov himself.73 Indeed, Sokolov acknowledged as much, warmly thanking not just Chumak, but “the girls who did the editing” (“It was their first film”), his script editor, Mikhail Kuraev, and composer Georgy Portnov, “who’s sitting here and not saying a word.”74

On set, though, camaraderie seemed to be erased. Other directors (German and Panfilov particularly) are remembered as tricky, exacting, and capricious. But only Sokolov’s behavior required regular intervention on the scale of a United Nations peacekeeping operation. The subject of affection in the cafe or the corridor, Sokolov was universally regarded as a monster while at work. As a result, he—unlike the other directors of his generation who worked at Lenfilm long term—never created a “firm” of his own, an established team of operators, designers, and administrators that smoothly progressed from film to film. This made him in some respects the closest equivalent to a Western auteur at Lenfilm. But making an art film in the Soviet context required collaboration, and particularly with other men (who seem mainly to have been the target of Sokolov’s animus). Rather than a lone genius, from the point of view of Lenfilm, he became an outcast, izverg.

Few of those Sokolov worked with attempted to understand what underlay the Sturm und Drang. An exception was the veteran director Nadezhda Kosheverova, who, commenting in 1971 that he was “unforgivably lacking in self-control and rude,” also observed, “and in that way he makes life very difficult for himself.”75 Indeed, Sokolov appears to have agonized over this too. Though he never publicly admitted to being at fault, pummeling away all accusations as though unworthy of his notice, in his films, creative artists, and particularly those with organizational responsibility, are always ludicrous or worse. The predatory TV producer in Bridges and Yuri, the self-serving writer in Friends and Years, are striking examples (the latter movie also contains a wickedly ironic staging of a Soviet grand opera about collective-farm life). Once again, A Day of Sunshine and Rain offers the clearest illustration, contrasting as it does the elderly actress who has worked with Eisenstein and silent film goddess Vera Kholodnaya, and the impatient, aggressive, but fundamentally diminished film director, whose entire authority comes down to glasses with intimidating frames and a megaphone.76 The immediacy that fueled Sokolov’s talent was also what made him, over time, a misfit in the very community where he longed to be accepted. But compulsive exposure to rejection was also the emotional matrix from which his best films were created.

Notes:

(1) For acknowledgment of Sokolov’s importance, see, e.g., his inclusion in a list of “thirteen” (actually eleven) directors who could be counted on to ensure delivery of plan targets in 1961 (PA, d. 35, ll. 23–24) and in a list of leading “young cadres” of 1965 (PA, d. 69, l. 9). On the “unease,” see my discussion here.

(2) For Kozintsev’s comment, see stenogram of a studio artistic council meeting, January 20, 1966, SD, op. 18, d. 1462, l. 12. Aleksei German in Lyudmila Donets, “Mne stalo skuchno,” IK 10 (1996), http://kinoart.ru/archive/2013/03/aleksej-german-mne-stalo-skuchno.

(3) You Can’t Choose Your Parents (1982) was an exception, since it did receive a festival prize (PA, d. 261, l. 128). The production drama This Is Our Home received a “highly commended” certificate (diplom), but no actual prize.

(4) V. P. Ostashevskaya, “Lenfilm i zritel” (August 11, 1977), PA, d. 191, ll. 59–60; O. N. Khaneev, “Nashi filmy i zritel” (January 21, 1981), PA, d. 249, l. 35.

(5) “Zhit, rabotat i borotsya po-leninski”: Creative Workers’ Party meeting, March 27, 1980, PA, d. 230, l. 84.

(6) There is an extensive discussion of these films in Josephine Woll, Real Images: Soviet Cinema and the Thaw (London, 2000).

(7) Meeting of Third Creative Unit’s artistic council, April 25, 1962, SD, op. 18, d. 294, l. 59.

(8) PA, d. 60, l. 40.

(9) Ya. N. Rokhlin at a Third Creative Unit Party meeting, January 21, 1963, ibid., l. 37.

(10) Third Creative Unit Artistic Council, January 26, 1966, SD, op. 18, d. 1480, l. 18.

(11) Third Creative Unit Artistic Council, March 29, 1966, ibid., l. 84.

(12) Third Creative Unit Artistic Council, January 26, 1966, l. 17.

(13) Third Creative Unit Artistic Council, March 29, 1966, l. 84.

(14) First Creative Unit Artistic Council, November 24, 1967, SD, op. 18, d. 1732, l. 155.

(15) “ ‘Druzya i gody’: iz rezhisserskoi eksplikatsii V. Sokolova,” K, July 25, 1965, 3.

(16) On Shpalikov’s A Long Happy Life, March 29, 1966, SD, op. 18, d. 1480, l. 85.

(17) A dramatic reading from the conclusion of Fathers and Children in A Day of Sunshine and Rain is another echo of Turgenev.

(18) A. Shpagin, “Umer Viktor Sokolov,” Seans, August 21, 2015, https://seance.ru/blog/xronika/viktor_sokolov/.

(19) Studio artistic council, October 15, 1962, SD, op. 18, d. 293, l. 56.

(20) See the interesting discussion by L. Kaganovsky, “Postmemory, Countermemory: Soviet Cinema of the 1960s,” in A. E. Gorsuch and D. P. Koenker (eds.), The Soviet Sixties (Bloomington, IN, 2013), 235–250.

(21) SD, op. 18, d. 1189, l. 55.

(22) Oleg Kovalov, “Viktor Sokolov: Za kulisami,” Seans, March 14, 2016, http://seance.ru/blog/viktor-sokolov-za-kulisami/, seeks to defend the director from “customary accusations of elusive intonation,” though this could be seen as part of his subtlety. As Peter Bagrov has pointed out in a perceptive reading of Friends and Years (Belye Stolby XX [Belye Stolby, 2016], 112), another important feature of Sokolov’s work is unpredictable pace—here, time seems at some moments infinitely extended.

(23) PA, d. 82, l. 176.

(24) Officially, Mukhin’s first name was Kolya (Nikolai), but this is given only in the documentation relating to the film.

(25) SD, op. 18, d. 1478, l. 41.

(26) GK, d. 1002, l. 6.

(27) SD, op. 18, d. 1734, l. 184, l. 192.

(28) The use of the child’s eye as the justification of estrangement went back at least to Andrei Belyi’s writing in the 1920s, but it was also a notable feature of Thaw cinema. See Evgeny Margolit, Zhivye i mertvoe (SPb., 2012), 443.

(29) Discussion at Second Creative Unit Artistic Council, May 27, 1967, SD, op. 18, d. 1719, l. 247. The Pryazhka is a river on the periphery of historical Leningrad, at least half an hour’s walk from any metro station existing at the time, while the Aleksandrinsky Theater (known officially as the Pushkin Theater at this period) is close to Nevsky Prospect, many blocks away from any areas with wooden sheds.

(30) Discussion at Second Creative Unit Artistic Council, May 27, 1967, SD, op. 18, d. 1719, l. 252.

(31) Ibid., l. 245, l. 255.

(32) Ibid., l. 262.

(33) SD, op. 18, d. 293, l. 76. Officially, Sokolov was an assistant on this film, which was credited to Iosif Shapiro.

(34) In fact, the original film within a film was a “revolutionary movie,” but this was switched to a scene from At Dawn “after an intervention from the artistic management”: SD, op. 18, d. 1634, l. 14, l. 22.

(35) The original shooting script dated from May 1966 (SD, op. 18, d. 1766), but at that point the metacinematic sequence was set on the street, and Sokolov extensively reworked it before filming, which began in early 1967. For an interesting discussion of the different metacinematic references in the film, including the boys’ visit to the Gorky Palace of Culture (which is advertising the 1926 FEKS film, Satan’s Wheel, but they actually watch a completely different movie, Denys de La Patellière’s La grande famille), see Oleg Kovalov, “Den solntsa i dozhdya,” in Kinofestival XX (Belye Stolby, 2016), 114–116. The original French title of Patellière’s film is the same as the title of Heifitz’s famous Thaw drama of working-class life, a very different representation in every respect from Sokolov’s.

(36) “Prosmotr i obsuzhdenie filma II-go tvorcheskogo obyedineniya ‘Den solntsa i dozhdya,’ ” May 27, 1967, SD, op. 18, d. 1719, l. 244.

(37) Ibid., l. 262.

(38) This is perhaps coincidental, because Barnet’s early work was not rereleased till the 1990s. However, his later films also had echoes of the same comic genius, and his suicide in Riga on January 8, 1965, had given his life a particular topicality. Cf. Viktor Shklovsky’s tribute to Barnet as the author of The Outskirts and The Horseman and expression of regret for “not taking more care of my comrades” at the inaugural meeting of Goskino’s artistic council, February 11, 1965: RGALI, f. 2944, op. 1, d. 214a, l. 113.

(39) Meeting of the Creative Workers’ Party organization, June 22, 1961, PA, d. 36, l. 22.

(40) Discussion of the film at the studio-wide artistic council, October 15, 1962, SD, op. 18, d. 293, l. 83.

(41) On the possibly excessive attention to Leningrad’s “slums,” see E. M. Pavlov, SD, op. 18, d. 1719, l. 260. Concern over the comical studio episode began even when Sokolov’s shooting script was discussed (see, e.g., Irina Golovan, SD, op. 18, d. 1478, l. 49). Granik expressed particular reservations at the Second’s discussion (SD, op. 18, d. 1734, l. 187), as did Shredel (l. 190), who found Elizaveta Timé’s portrayal of the elderly actress “uncomfortable” (unlike Gloria Swanson’s deeply moving performance in Sunset Boulevard), though the scene was defended by Kazansky (l. 189). Golovan was still worried about the cinema scene when the film was complete (“a skit from a New Year’s Party” [kapustnik], SD, op. 18, d. 1719, l. 256). For objections to the “backyards,” see particularly E. M. Pavlov, ibid., l. 260; for the most part, though, commentators defended them, seeing them as an essential part of the film’s “poetry” (see, e.g., L. N. Rakhmanov, ibid., l. 252).

(42) For the condemnation of Pervorossiyane and Malchik i devochka, see TsGAIPD-SPb., f. 24, op. 134, d. 122, ll. 43–44, l. 133, and my discussion in chapter 1.

(43) See the production report, SD, op. 18, d. 1634, l. 2 (timing), l. 3 (list of cuts to the city scenes). On objections to the ending, RGALI, f. 2936, op. 4, d. 90, l. 13.

(44) See his plea to participants in the discussion at the Filmmakers’ Union not to judge the results too harshly: RGALI, f. 2936, op. 4, d. 90, l. 13. Unfortunately, as customarily with decisions by the Party leadership, there is no written record of exactly what was required.

(45) SD, op. 18, d. 1722, l. 52.

(46) SD, op. 18, d. 1478, l. 197.

(47) SD, op. 18, d. 1722, ll. 52–53.

(48) RGALI, f. 2936, op. 4, d. 90, ll. 3–12.

(49) Ibid., ll. 16–18.

(50) E. G. Godin, ibid., l. 19; A. Ya. Kapler, ibid., l. 22. As Julian Graffy has pointed out to me, Kapler detested Grigory Plotkin’s libretto for At Dawn, which he denounced in an article for Literary Gazette, so here was a second line of affront (though he had failed to notice that Sokolov’s attitude to the material was as sarcastic as his own).

(51) Ibid., l. 29, l. 36.

(52) Ibid., l. 71.

(53) Yan Frez’s Traveler with Baggage was released by Gorky Studios in 1966, I Bought A Dad in 1962.

(54) RGALI, f. 2936, op. 4, d. 90, ll. 75–80.

(55) Indeed, a discussion at the Leningrad branch of the Filmmakers’ Union on October 13, 1967, had proceeded very differently, with compliments to Sokolov on the “cinematic quality” of the movie and admiring comparisons to Truffaut’s Les quatre cents coups, and only one dissenting with a claim that A Day was inferior to Mikhail Kalik’s A Person Follows the Sun (Moldova Film, 1961). Sokolov’s reaction to these appraisals had differed commensurately. TsGALI-SPb., f. 183, op. 2, d. 42, ll. 1–25.

(57) SD, op. 18, d. 1719, l. 262.

(58) Godet, La pellicule, 189.

(59) For the comment, see RGALI, f. 2936, op. 4, d. 90, l. 78. Sokolov was credited as scriptwriter for My Life and To Live till Dawn, but this was mainly because he had been demoted to co-director on both films. Otherwise, it was only his last film, Let’s Meet in the Metro, where his work on the script was publicly acknowledged (he and Albina Shulgina were given as coauthors).

(60) An eyewitness of location work on You Can’t Choose Your Parents remembered: “When I was doing military service in the Pskov Marines back in 1982 . . . the filmmakers picked a wood near our barracks to shoot a few scenes, and they used us and the NCOs as extras. I saw them with my own eyes filming the fight between two soldiers (the actors were Andrei Smolyakov and Anatoly Rybakov). One of them, Rybakov, I think, had to fall face-downward in the mud, and he had to repeat that for at least five takes.” Aleksandr Galushkin from Ryazan, March 16, 2010, teatr.ru/kino/movie/sov/6027/forum/print/.

(61) PA, d. 72, l. 116.

(62) PA, d. 98, l. 49.

(63) PA, d. 111, l. 106.

(64) See discussion at the presidium of the studio-wide artistic council, June 22, 1971: SD, op. 21, d. 463, ll. 113–114 (Lyubshin), l. 122 (conflict with Dolinin).

(65) PA, d. 161, l. 31.

(66) SD, op. 21, d. 463, l. 134 (“cine-panoramas,” December 17, 1975), SD, op. 24, d. 990, ll. 27–28 (Volodin project, autumn 1976), TsGALI-SPb.,. f. 257, op. 36, d. 30, l. 47 (Klava K., July 12, 1978).

(67) PA, d. 218, l. 46.

(68) SD, op. 21, d. 463, l. 115.

(69) On Velyaminov’s experience in the camps, see Aaron Zyus, “Ya vsegda igral s nekotorym vozmushcheniem k sebe,” Argumenty i fakty, June 15, 2009, http://www.aif.ru/culture/person/11761.

(70) As well as This Is Our Home and Let’s Meet in the Metro, Sokolov had a range of unrealized film projects of this kind, including a three-hander for the twentieth anniversary of the lifting of the Leningrad blockade (with Nikita Kurikhin and Herbert Rappaport) (see records of studio-wide Party meeting, April 25, 1963, PA, d. 57, l. 54) and Courage Square (Ploshchad Muzhestva), with a script by Albina Shulgina (Party actif meeting, February 24, 1983, PA, d. 264, l. 12), etc.

(71) Exactly this annoyed film critic Raisa Messer, who commented at a 1976 Filmmakers’ Union discussion of modern heroes that, unlike the protagonist of scriptwriter Ignaty Dvoretsky’s original (and popular) play, The Outsider (1972), Sokolov’s Cheshkov was “pensive” and “flabby,” fatally lacking “passion,” even his love affair conducted through “half hints” (TsGALI-SPb., f. 183, op. 1–3, d. 323, l. 36).

(72) Cheshkov is morphologically similar to names such as Chistov (pure) or Chestov (honorable), but also to the verb chesat, “to scratch,” suggesting the character’s uneasy social role. Sokolov himself commented, “He isn’t at all a positive character. He’s a dramatic character placed in complicated circumstances.” L. Aleksandrova, “Utverzhdaya svoi ideal,” K, December 28, 1978, 2.

(73) SD, op. 18, d. 1719, l. 247.

(74) Ibid., l. 262.

(75) SD, op. 21, d. 463, l. 128.

(76) In a passage cut from the final film, the caricature of Kholodnaya in At Dawn was used to further point home the contrast between the golden age of the cinema and modern hackwork. See Kovalov, “Den solntsa i dozhdya.” Sokolov’s celebration of the actress here looks forward to his I Am an Actress (1980), based on the life story of the famous star of Russian theatrical realism, Vera Komissarzhevskaya. For a discussion of this film as an exercise in “crisis aesthetics” and as Sokolov’s most artistically successful creation, see E. Margolit, “Ya—aktrisa,” Belye Stolby XX, 116–117.