Letter Never Sent (1959/Criterion Collection Blu-ray)
B Sound: C+ Extras: C+ Film: B
Kalatozov became the next major, great Soviet/Russian filmmaker after the likes
of Eisenstein and just before the arrival of Andrei Tarkovsky, especially with
the huge international success of The
Cranes Are Flying (1957, issued a while ago by Criterion on DVD and
hopefully soon on Blu-ray) and he followed that with Letter Never Sent (1959), which is now on Blu-ray from
Criterion. Just as compelling as his
previous film, a four person geological group goes to Siberia to find diamonds
for the motherland, but instead find conflict, harsh elements and other
unexpected events that interfere with their plans early on.
they are not smart or do not know what they are doing, but this sometimes
surreal film is somewhat of a character study, yet fits into the group
mentality such cinema had at the time and gets away with certain sentimentality
(romance and love are considered decadent, so maybe those involved in that
aspect are being punished for being human?) and the quest intended is still the
order of the day and night et al.
minutes, the film is tight and never wastes the audience’s time, with Kalatozov
in his element as the film moves with a flow that shows he is in total control
of his film. The actors are as good as
they are convincing and I like the interesting ways they are shot and lit,
which tells us more than the dialogue or letter writing alone can. Even with some propaganda going on here, the
overall film (53 years after it was made and 23 since the USSR collapsed) far exceeded any of that pretense
and is far better than so many commercial (and bad Hollywood
variants lately, in particular) of the same situation. It may seem simple and a simple idea, even
with a simple start, but Letter Never
Sent eventually delivers more than you would ever suspect and is a Russian
Cinema classic that all serious film fans should consider a must-see.
1.33 X 1 black and white digital High Definition image transfer comes from a
new 35mm print than looks better than any previous edition or footage I have
seen, with better detail and depth overall.
Longtime Kalatozov Director of Photography Sergei Urusevsky takes every
approach possible with the people and their environment to further the
narrative visually and it makes the whole situation more intense and involving
as a result. Video Black and Gray Scale
are as good as they are going to get and that is good. The uncompressed PCM 1.0 Mono comes from a 35mm
optical soundtrack positive, but despite the cleaning up of that track, it
still shows its age and sonic limits.
Still, this is cleaner than better for the most part than before and Nicolai
Kryukov’s score is as effective as it is interesting.
include another nicely illustrated booklet on the film including informative
text as usual with Criterion including tech info and an essay by film scholar
Dina Iordanova, but this is one of those rare Criterion Blu-rays with no
supplemental material on the actual disc.
sadly only made two more films, including a landmark film that was pulled after
its release and a big epic with Sean Connery that was a big screen epic
production. You can read about them at
I Am Cuba: The Ultimate Edition
The Red Tent
- Nicholas Sheffo