Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Dosvidaniya, Star of the Volga

Now and again, the obituary column summons up, not just someone of whom one has not previously heard, but a whole vanished world: for example, yesterday's announcement of the death of Nonna Mordyukova, who was, we are told, one of the great stars of Russian cinema.

She made dozens of films between the late forties and the turn of the century, pictures with titles like The Young Guard, A Simple Story, and They Fought for Their Country.

She had a definite Eastern-bloc glamor, handling husbands, lapdogs, and paparazzi with much of the ease and flair of her Western counterparts.

Her trademark, if photos are to be trusted, was a coleendewhurstian sort of gravitas - large serious eyes, fine features and dramatic bone structure.

Mordyukova emerged, post-glasnost, as a utility character player, used to summon up the kind of mixed feelings about the past that, in the German context, is sometimes called ostalgie...

But one is glad to see that she also indulged in a certain amount of post-Soviet dressing up - a flattering auburn rinse and a makeover giving her something of a Lynn Redgrave air:

In any case, perhaps I'll have to dig up one of her pictures. The Commissar, made in the mid sixties, sat on a shelf for twenty years, its story of an unwed apparatchik and her friendship with a Jewish family too hot to handle in the days of Brezhnev. It got her a special prize when it finally emerged at the Berlin Film Festival in 1988.


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