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Urusevskiy, Sergey

Born: 23 December 1908 (Moscow)Died: 12 November 1974 (Moscow)
Sergei Urusevsky is remembered as one of the most innovative and resourceful personalities in the history of cinematography. He was a proponent of a filmmaking in which a subjective camera narrates the film. Influenced by one of the main figures of Soviet Cinematography, Eduard Tisse (cameraman of S. Eisenstein), he developed a specific camera technique, which edited the film with its own movement and made the montage obsolete and this became his main "signature".

After the studies at the Institute of Fine Arts, in 1930s he started to work as a graphic designer and photographer. During the war, he worked as a front/line cameraman. After the WWII, he finally started to work as a director of photography with directors like Mark Donskoy and Yuli Raizman, as well as on the last picture of famous Vsevolod Pudovkin. A little of his formalist philosophy can be recognized in earlier work. Grigoriy Chukhrai's "The Forty-First" (1956) is the best known film from Urusevskiy's earlier period.

Urusevskiy's deep interest in cinematic "formalism" became the main mark of the films, only when he began working with Mikhail Kalatozov. "Cranes are Flying" (1957), their second collaborative work, received the top award at Cannes and Urusevsky's innovation in film narrations was fully recognized. This film is mostly remembered today as a technological triumph. After this two collaborated on "The Letter Never Sent" (1959), a romantic story of geologists facing a hostile nature. It is said, that some elements of the cinematography in this film have influenced some scenes in F.F. Coppola's "Apocalypse Now".

Urusevskiy's and Kalatozov's final masterpiece remains their last collaborative picture "I Am Cuba" (1965), financed joined project of the Soviet Union and newly socialist Cuba. Urusevskiy's camera became the protagonist of the film, his intrepid camera operators yields many marvelous moments: writhing sugar cane stalks shot on high contrast infrared stock become whiter-than-white knives of sugar menacing a field worker. Urusevskiy was awarded with Archival Award from the National Society of American Film Critics for this film.

In the end of his life, Urusevskiy turned to directing, but his directing work never followed the success of previous cinematography masterpieces. "Farewell, Gulsary! (1969), based on the short novel by Kirghis writer Chingiz Aitmatov and "Sing Your Song, Poet/Poy Pesnyu, Poet" (1971), based on the works of Russian poet Sergey Yesenin, are the best known from his directorial period. He died in Moscow in 1974.

Filmography:

  • Sing Your Song, Peot... / Poy Pesnyu, Poet..., 1971 (as director)
  • Proshschay, Gyulsary! / Beg Inokhodtsa!, 1968(also director)
  • I Am Cuba / Ya Kuba, 1964
  • The Letter Never Sent / Neotpravlennoye Pismo, 1960
  • The Cranes Are Flying / Letyat zhuravl, 1957
  • The Forty-First / Sorok Pervyi, 1956
  • Conflict / Urok zhizni, 1955
  • The First Echelon / Pervyy eshelon, 1955
  • Vasilis Return / Vozvrashcheniye Vasiliya Bortnikova, 1952
  • Dream of a Cossac / Kavaler "Zolotoy Zvezdy", 1952
  • Alitet Leaves for the Hills / Alitet ukhodit v gory, 1949
  • The Village Teache / Selskaya Uchitelnitsa, 1947
  • Sinegoria, 1946
  • Military Secret / Poedinok, 1944