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November 25, 1988 - Image 82

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-11-25

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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• 100% Soybean Oil Used.
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• Senior Citizen Menu Bet-
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Mon.- Sat.
• Carry-Out Service
• Excellent Reviews By Ma-
jor Newspapers
• Ching Tao is "leader em-
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—Detroit Free Press

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FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 1988

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BIPIH DI I K I; I OuNDAIION

Pictured in a scene from "Commissar" are, from left, Raisa
Niedashkovskaya, Nonna Mordyukova and Rolan Bykov.

'Commissar' Film Took
20 Years To Be Released

AVIVA KEMPNER

Special to The Jewish News

T

he commercial release
of Alexander Askol-
dov's Commissar is
one of the positive cultural ef-
fects of glasnost. Shot in 1967,
Commissar was shelved for
20 years because the director
stubbornly refused to change
the Jewish-themed plot to
comply with censorship.
Based on the story A City of
Berdish by Vasily Grossman,
the film contains a simple
story. A female commander,
who is leading a unit during
the Civil War, finds herself
too advanced in her unplann-
ed pregnancy to lead the
fighting and must seek refuge
to await the birth of her child.
A poor Jewish family
becomes her reluctant host
until her child is born. And in
the end, the commissar must
fact the classic female dilem-
ma of choosing between
motherhood and the patriotic
duty of her country.
Although the story does not
possess a complicated plot,
Askolodov's screenplay adap-
tation and directing has
created a black and white
film, rich with symbolism,
surrealism and allegory. The
audience is constantly
challenged to interpret and
draw conclusions about the
director's purposes in the in-
tercutting of certain vivid im-
agery and political themes.
For example, the birth of the
commissar's baby is brilliant-
ly interwoven with battle
scenes and horses running.
The camera work by Valeri
Ginzberg and musical score

Former Detroit filmmaker
Aviva Kempner is working on
a documentary about baseball
great Hank Greenberg.

by Alfred Schnittke are
superb.
Although the film takes
place in 1922, the film con-
tains many references and
scenes for foreshadowing the
Jewish fate during World War
II. The head of the Jewish
household, Yefim Mazaga-
nick, portrayed both playful-
ly and poignantly by Rolan
Bykov, states on several occa-
sions his pessimism about
their future. In one of the
most powerful scenes of the
film, Askolodov depicts our
female commissar coming
across a round-up of Jews
with yellow stars marching to
their death.
The portrayal of Jews is
slightly stereotypical in the
beginning, but ends up
positive as the Jewish family
is seen in a loving and caring
light. When the commissar,
Klavidia Vavilova, played
powerfully by Nonna Mor-
dyukova, first comes to the
family, she embodies the
tough and committed woman
persona. The portrayal of
Yefim appears equally
stereotypical as he is shown
as a weak, suffering Jewish
man. He dances in the morn-
ing in a Thvye-like routine
and cites lines that sound like
lines from Sholom Aleichem.
As the family is first in-
troduced to her, his worries
are over having enough food
and room. But as the
pregnancy progresses the
family comes to adapt to the
intrusion of their "foreign
visitor?' By the time the child
is born a friendship is also
nurtured between the com-
missar and her host family.
She softens in motherhood
and Yefim becomes more of a
philosopher and less of a
caricature. The wife, Mariya,
performed by the beautiful
Raisa Nedashkovskaya, keeps

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