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Barnet, Boris

Born: 18 June 1902 (Moscow)
Died: 8 January 1965 (Riga, Latvia)
Long overlooked in the West, Boris Barnet, whose career began in the silent era and lasted until the 1960s, was one of the most popular, prolific, and admired filmmakers of Soviet cinema. His untypical surname belonged to his English grandfather who had opened a printing business in Moscow. He studied painting at the Moscow School of Art before leaving in 1919 to serve as a medic in the Red Army. After the civil war he actually worked as both a physical trainer and boxer, and this physicality drew the attention of director Lev Kuleshov who cast him in his first film. Joining Kuleshov's seminal film workshop, he took on various roles before and behind the camera, and finally directed his first film - a serial called Miss Mend - on which he co-directed with Thedore Osip. Toward the end of the silent era, he directed two wonderful comedies about peasant girls moving to the big city, Girl With the Hatbox and The House on Trubnaya Square. Though he directed several overtly political dramas, it was Barnet's comedies that made the greatest impact, continuing with Okraina - his first sound film - which has been regarded as his finest achievement. Interspersing comedy with tragic elements, and capturing on film a whole community of talented actors, Barnet accomplished impeccably orchestrated verbal and physical comedy that always felt natural. By the Bluest of Seas and Bountiful Summer were similarly accomplished, and their scenic locations are exuberantly shot. Throughout his career, he lent his storytelling talents to various genres and styles, such as film noir, literary adaptation, social drama, and musicals. After his final few films failed to make an impression on Soviet audiences in the early sixties, he took his own life in 1965.

Filmography

(as director unless otherwise noted)
  • Whistle Stop/ Polustanok, 1963; (also screenwriter)
  • Alyonka, 1961;
  • Annushka, 1959;
  • The Old Horseman/ Staryj nayezdnik, 1959;
  • The Wrestler and the Clown/ Borets i kloun, 1957;
  • The Poet/ Poet, 1956;
  • Lyana, 1955; (also screenwriter)
  • Ukrainian Concert Hall/ Kontsert masterov ukrainskogo iskusstva, 1952; (also screenwriter)
  • Generous Summer/ Shchedroye leto, 1950;
  • Pages of Life/ Stranitsy zhizni, 1948;
  • The Scout's Exploit/ Podvig razvedchika, 1947;
  • Dark Is the Night/ Odnazhdy nochyu, 1945; (also actor)
  • A Good Lad/ Novgorodtsy, 1943;
  • A Priceless Head/ Bestsennaya golova, 1942;
  • Collection of Films for the Armed Forces #10/ Boyevoj kinosbornik 10, 1942; segment "A Bestsennaya
  • golova/Priceless Head",
  • Courage/ Muzhestvo, 1941;
  • Collection of Films for the Armed Forces #3/ Boyevoj kinosbornik 3, 1941; segment "Manhood",
  • A Night in September/ Noch v sentyabre, 1939;
  • By the Bluest of Seas/ U samogo sinyego morya, 1936;
  • Outskirts/ Okraina, 1933; (also screenwriter)
  • The Thaw/ Ledolom, 1931;
  • The Ghost/ Privideniya, 1931;
  • The Production of Musical Instruments/ Proizvodstvo muzykalnykh instrumentov, 1930;
  • Living Things/ Zhivye dela, 1930;
  • The House on Trubnaya/ Dom na Trubnoj, 1928; (also actor)
  • The Girl with the Hat Box/ Devushka s korobkoj, 1927;
  • Moscow That Weeps and Laughs/ Moskva v oktyabre, 1927; (also actor)
  • The Adventures of the Three Reporters/ Miss Mend, 1926; (screenwriter, assistant director, and actor only)