Russian films were all dark and heavy, right? Especially the Soviet one. Well, no. In fact, some of the best belly laughs in silent comedy are to be found in Soviet comedies.
Before we begin, I suppose I should address the hammer and sickle in the room: In United States, jokes tire of you! Mention Russian humor and, well, one tires of Yakov Smirnoff quickly. The irony is that most Russian comedies I have read and seen are quite self-deprecating with a keen eye for human foibles. (This is where I leave my plug for the glorious Evgeny Petrov and Ilya Ilf’s books.)
Russian silent film can be roughly divided into three categories: pre-Revolution films, Soviet films and the films made by the Russian emigres in France. I love all three categories, of course, but I do think that most people tend to associate any Russian film with darker, heavier topics. Not so! While Russian films certainly could head to very dark places, Russians also know how to show audiences a good time.
I hope you will enjoy this little Russian detour and maybe even experience a few belly laughs of your own courtesy of these films.
As an appetizer, here are some Russian comedies I have already reviewed:
The House in Kolomna (1913) is adapted from a Pushkin poem and involves a saucy young lady with a conservative mother sneaking her boyfriend into the house by disguising him as the new cook.
The Cameraman’s Revenge (1912) is a stop-motion animated film about love, adultery and the sexual double standard among insects.
Emigres in Paris
The Burning Crucible (1923) is a mystery-comedy about a detective named Z who is hired by a husband to find and return his wife’s affection. Ivan Mosjoukine (with his pet bulldog) directs and stars.
The Nose (1963) is a pinscreen animation adaptation of Gogol’s short story about a nose that detaches from its owner and sets out to live its own life.
The Girl with the Hat Box (1927) is a comedy about apartment hunting, lotteries and a marriage of convenience directed by Boris Barnet and starring Anna Sten. It is one of my favorite silent rom-coms, bar none.
Chess Fever (1925) is a sharp and witty look at gaming addiction and is every bit as fresh today as it was the day it was released.
Like what you’re reading? Please consider sponsoring me on Patreon. All patrons will get early previews of upcoming features, exclusive polls and other goodies.
A fascinating topic – I look forward to your posts. May I recommend The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr West in the Land of the Bolsheviks? A hilarious study of early 1920s Soviet and American misconceptions about each other.
I think you’ll have a good time 😀
That’s a wonderful one!
Andrei Rublev is my favorite film ofalltime. So I’ll be very happy to view some lighter Russian stuff.
Yes, it’s always nice to mix things up now and again.
Have you seen Dovzhenko’s 1930 silent Earth? If you like Rublev, it’s a great one to see next.
Thanks again, Fritzi, for introducing me to a section of the silent film that I’m unfamiliar with. Looking forward to reading more about these as well as watching them, of course!
Russian Comedy Month? Yippee! Be it Pre-Revolution, Soviet, or Emigré à France, cannot wait!
By the way, yesterday’s SFSFF A Day of Silents was simply superb, pure joy to attend. Tiresome, bumpy flights both to and from, but so worth it. Re: Exit Smiling: I think I’m in love with Bea Lillie (have always been in love with Janet Gaynor) 😀
Lillie’s a gem!
Oh (shameless self-plug) and did you see the piece on The Red Kimona. 😉
Yes indeed- very fine!
Internet sputtering- because of high winds again, I suppose. Will leave off posting for a while ’til things calm down. Looking out my office window, and would hate to be putting out to sea right now. Notice no one is.
Oh dear, stay safe!
Just discovered that everyone can now read your piece on The Red Kimona!
Comments are closed.