Dersu Uzala (1975)

“Why man live in box?”

Synopsis:
A Russian captain (Yuri Solomin) on a military expedition in Siberia befriends a bow-legged trapper (Maksim Munzuk) who saves his life.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
I agree with Peary that this Oscar-winning Soviet/Japanese film by Akira Kurosawa is “enthralling” and “eerily beautiful”. While slow-going at times, especially in the beginning (Kurosawa’s later films often are), you will nonetheless quickly get caught up in this touching tale of cross-cultural friendship. Maksim Munzuk as the wizened Dersu is a wonder to behold — watch as he quietly aims his rifle at a swinging rope and hits his target dead on, or uses his wits and the scant materials at hand to design a life-saving shelter on the tundra. How refreshing that the Captain is smart enough to overcome any cultural or racial biases of the time, and form a genuine friendship with someone from such a different world.

Note: I’m not the first to liken Dersu to Yoda from the Star Wars trilogy, but watch and see if you don’t agree!

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Maksim Munzuk as the inimitable Dersu
    Dersu and Captain
  • The touching friendship between Dersu and the Captain
    Friendship
  • Dersu and the Captain building the temporary shelter that will save their lives
    Building Shelter
  • Gorgeous cinematography
    Cinematography
  • A haunting film score

Must See?
Yes. This is an unusual entry in Kurosawa’s oeuvre, and well worth watching.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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3 Responses to “Dersu Uzala (1975)”

  1. I really need to see this film again. I saw it on video, and I think it may have been the first Kurosawa film I ever saw. I really didn’t have the patience to enjoy such a slow-moving film at the time, but a friend of mine who is a big Kurosawa fan raves about it.

  2. Interesting comment… I actually tried watching “Dersu” years ago and remember giving up after about ten minutes. Now that I have a better understanding of Kurosawa’s work as a whole, however, I have a new appreciation–and a new patience–for it.

  3. A must – with reservations.

    I’ve seen just about all, if not all, of Kurosawa’s work. After the first viewing of ‘Dersu Uzala’, my feeling was rather like the assessment here. However, I’ve now seen it three times – on return visits, I’ve very much wished he had cut out a good twenty minutes (in a number of places, cutting would have lost nothing).

    A number of other Kurosawa films are as long or longer than ‘DU’. So it’s not the length that’s the problem, it’s the needless length. I can’t help but think that a little pruning would have increased its power and widened its audience (it’s no surprise that some viewers think it’s too ponderous for comfort).

    That said, it’s otherwise a unique film; the two leads and their relationship are memorable.

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