Muratova, Kira 1934-
Muratova, Kira 1934-
(Kira Georgievna Korotkova)
Born Kira Georgievna Korotkova, November 5, 1934, in Soroca, Romania (now Moldova); married Alexander Muratov (a film director; divorced); married Yevgeni Golunbenko. Educa-
tion: Attended Moscow State University; All-Union State Institute of Cinematography, degree in film directing, 1962.
Home—Proletarsky Blvd. 14B, Apt. 15, Odessa, Ukraine 270015.
Film director and author. Filmmaker for Odessa Film Studio, beginning 1961; director of such films as (with Alexander Muratov) U krutogo yara, 1962, (with Alexander Muratov) Nash chestnyy khleb, 1964, Korotkie vstrechi, 1967, Dolgie provody, 1971, Russia, 1972, Poznavaya belyy svet, 1979, Sredi serykh kamney, 1983, Peremena uchasti, 1987, Astenicheskii sindrom, 1989, stvitelnyy militsioner, 1992, Uvlecheniya, 1994, Tri istorii, 1997, Lyst do Ameryky, 1999, Vtorostepennyye lyudi, 2001, Chekhovskie motivy, 2002, Spravka, 2005, and Dve istorii, 2005. Also acted in films Korotkie vstrechi, 1967, and Opasnye gastroli, 1969, and editor for film Ya tebya pomnyu, 1985.
Grand Prize, USSR Festival, and Fipressi Prize, Locarno International Film Festival, both 1987, both for Dolgie provody; Silver Bear and Special Jury Prize, Berlin Film Festival, and Nika Award, both 1990, both for Astenicheskii sindrom; Nika Award for best director, 1994, for Uvletschenia and for best director, 2005, for Nastroyshchik; Andrzej Wajda Freedom Award, American Cinema Foundation, 2000; Golden Lily awards, Wiesbaden goEast, 2001, for Vtorostepennyye lyudi, 2005, for Nastroyshchik; Fipresci Prize, Sochi Open Russian Film Festival, 2001, for Vtorostepennyye lyudi; Golden Aries for best director, Russian Guild of Film Critics, 2002, for Chekhovskie motivy, 2002.
(With Alexander Muratov) U krutogo yara (title means "On the Steep Cliff"), 1962.
(Under name K. Muratova; coauthor) Korotkie vstrechi (title means "Brief Encounters"), Odessa Film Studio, 1967.
Poznavaya belyy svet (title, loosely translated, means "Getting to Know the Big Wide World"), Lenfilm, 1979.
(Uncredited) Sredi serykh kamnei (title means "Among the Grey Stones"), 1983.
Peremena uchasti (title means "A Change of Fate"), 1987.
(With Sergei Popov and Aleksandr Chernykh) Astenicheskii sindrom (title means "The Asthenic Syndrome"), Odessa Film Studio, 1989.
(Coauthor) Chuvstvitelnyy militsioner (title means "The Sentimental Policeman"), 1992.
Uvletschenia (title means "Passions"), Nikola Film, 1994.
(With Sergej Chetvertkov) Vtorostepennyye lyudi (title means "Second Class Citizens"), 2001.
Chekhovskie motivy (based on the play Tatiana Repina and the short story "Difficult People" by Anton Chekhov; title means "Chekhov's Motives"), Odessa Film Studio/Nikola Film, 2002.
Nastroyshchik (title means "The Tuner"), Odessa Film Studio/Ministry of Culture and Art, 2004.
Though Kira Muratova's career as a film director was seriously hindered by the censors of the Brezhnev-to-Gorbachev-era Soviet Union, she still managed to emerge as one of the leading figures in contemporary Russian cinema. She was born in 1934 in Soroca, Romania (which is now part of Moldova), with her family background being partly Western. Raised by a Russian grandmother while her parents were in prison for their Communist activities, Muratova moved to the Soviet Union in 1954, attended Moscow State University for one year, then studied under the director Sergei Gerasimov at the Soviet state film school. She then joined the Odessa Film Studio (located in what is now Ukraine), where she has since made most of her films. Having directed two films with her first husband, Alexander Muratov, in 1967 she solo-directed Korotkie vstrechi ("Brief Encounters"), a love-triangle tale with Muratova playing a role in one of the few acting parts of her career; then, in 1971, she directed Dolgie provody ("A Long Goodbye") which centers around a middle-class, mother-son relationship. Both of these black-andwhite films were effectively banned from general release, although Korotkie vstrechi did receive a very limited release to some film clubs. On the surface, it seems puzzling why two intensely personal, relationship-oriented films would run afoul of the censor. In all of her films, though, Muratova has been intent upon depicting daily life in an honest manner, warts and all, and it was evidently the details that she included—water shortages in Odessa, stockings that
run, contractors who cheat their clients—that made them threatening. Dolgie provody was also condemned for its rather gloomy ending and its bourgeois sensibilities.
Dolgie provody caused Muratova to be stripped of her film degree and blacklisted from directing. She worked at a variety of jobs for the next several years, and tried without success to gain permission to film a couple of her scenarios. In 1978 Lenfilm invited Muratova to direct any of several scenarios they had on hand. She chose a story about another love triangle, this one taking place at the construction site of a huge new tractor factory. This was the 1979-produced, 1980-released (rather limitedly) Poznavaya belyy svet ("Getting to Know the Big Wide World"), Muratova's first film in color. Though not banned outright, the authorities criticized the director for depicting negative types of characters, and she was barred from filming contemporary subjects.
Even when Muratova drew on a literary classic for her next film, 1983's Sredi serykh kamney ("Among the Grey Stones"), she ran into trouble. An adaptation of an 1883 story by Russian writer Vladimir Korolenko, the film is a story of haves meeting have-nots, specifically a neglected son of a powerful judge befriending a strange community of hobos who live among the ruins of a castle. Again criticized for making a pessimistic film, Muratova saw her film mutilated in the postproduction editing, leading her to request that her name be taken off the film. (It was finally released in 1987.)
The turning point in Muratova's career came with the advent of glasnost and the 1986-initiated review of banned films by the Filmmakers Union's Conflict Commission. This led to the 1987 release of all of her banned films, and Korotkie vstrechi and Dolgie provody in particular received long-overdue acclaim both at home and abroad. That same year, Muratova directed the aptly titled Peremena uchasti ("A Change of Fate"), which she adapted from another literary classic, Somerset Maugham's short story "The Letter."
It was her next film, however, that has come to be considered her masterpiece. Astenicheskii sindrom ("The Asthenic Syndrome") is one of the key films of the glasnost period, and in its withering portrayal of a society in moral decay even managed to be briefly banned. In Muratova's vision, the syndrome of the title, which manifests itself in the face of extreme stress, implies not only a torpor, as in the dictionary definition of asthenic, but also extreme aggression. The film is extremely complex in its construction, including a film-within-a-film (which is in black and white), an innovative use of documentary style, and a long second sequence which is largely plotless and consists of a variety of vignettes that surreally and effectively depict a society thoroughly out of control. Yet as much as it is of its late-glasnost time and place, Astenicheskii sindrom is actually much more universal; its critique can be seen as applying to contemporary Western society, whose stressed-out public face alternates between mean-spirited aggression and excessive apathy.
With this rather apocalyptic film behind her, Muratova next offered some hope in the comedy Chuvstvitelnyy militsioner ("The Sentimental Policeman"), which was filmed as the Soviet Union was collapsing. The title character is a young policeman who finds an abandoned baby in a cabbage patch, takes her to the station house, and later returns with his wife after the couple decide they wish to adopt the child. Complications then arise. Though set in the same indifferent society as her previous film, Chuvstvitelnyy militsioner offers portraits of a few people persevering in a positive way through this chaotic world.
In the post-Soviet period, Muratova has continued to experiment with the cinematic form, though somewhat more obscurely. As she has throughout her career, Muratova continues to work with little-known actors, to rely on the spontaneity of these nonprofessionals, and to make frequent use of montage—her favorite cinematic device. Uvletschenia ("Passions"), for instance, is a largely plotless, difficult to fathom film, centering around male jockeys and female circus trainers and their obsessions with horses. Vtorostepennyye lyudi ("Second Class Citizens") takes a comic/tragic look at an absurdist world as a woman drags her formerly abusive, now dead, boyfriend around with her in a suitcase and encounters bizarre people. Variety contributor Eddie Cockrell found the film to be less than successful mostly because Muratov's use of "extended takes and strident delivery … grows wearisome."
Such techniques do annoy a number of film reviewers, but in some cases they have been praised as particularly effective. Such is the case in the director/writer's
more recent Chekhovskie motivy ("Chekhov's Motives"), a film based on the play Tatiana Repina and the short story "Difficult People" by Anton Chekhov. An unusually constructed film, it begins with a family arguing over money after a son comes home asking for financial help for his schooling. After the debate gets too heated, he runs from the house and ends up at an elaborate wedding attended by nouveau riche Russian families. What follows is an hour-long, highly detailed scene all about the seemingly endless wedding and all its trappings. Ruslan Janumayan, writing in Senses of Cinema online, commented that not only is Muratova "making a statement about trivialisation of spirituality in Russian society," but she is also manipulating the audience: "Muratova is comparing wedding guests who can't wait to leave, but stay for the prestige of attending the ceremony, with a lot of her own audience, who might not enjoy watching her films but watch them out of pure vanity, only to have the satisfaction of having another ‘difficult’ film under their belt."
With Nastroyshchik ("The Tuner"), Muratova continues her critique of a society she feels has become sick and depraved. Ostensibly, the film is about two elderly women who have separated themselves from the rest of society and retreated into their home. One day, a suave, witty, charming man visits them, entering their lives and gaining their trust to take advantage of them. "The Tuner is about the clash of two worlds," explained Yuri Shevchuk in an article reproduced on the Columbia University Web site: "the old world of Soviet Odesa, where official immorality was compensated for by close-knit ties between private individuals, and the new world of Kuchma's oligarchic capitalism with its degradation of human values and disappearing distinction between good and evil." Shevchuck concluded that the film "is Muratova's brilliant portrayal of a sick society on the verge of complete moral collapse."
Although Muratova's directing style and story choices admittedly appeal to a restricted audience, the director has accepted that only special viewers will appreciate her work, and she can now relish the fact that a more open Russian society has allowed her to express herself artistically. She told Dmitry Desyaterik in an interview for the Russian Journal: "There can be absolutely no comparison between then and now. In the Soviet times I felt I was an ideological slave. Now I feel I'm free;h3 . I feel good because I can say what I want;h3 . You tell me my films are for a restricted audience. That means that some people don't like me, that the returns are small, and consequently, I don't get money for my new films;h3 . I can understand that. It means that I'm unable to make a film for everyone;h3 . But in the Soviet times everything was altogether different, inane and senseless."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Russian Journal, September 11, 2002, Dmitry Desyaterik, "Kira Muratova: ‘What Is Most Important to Me Is to Please Myself,’" interview with Kira Muratova.
Variety, March 12, 2001, Eddie Cockrell, "Second Class Citizens," review of Vtorostepennyye lyudi, p. 39.
Village Voice, February 22, 2005, J. Hoberman, "Close-Up," review of Dolgie provody.
Boston Phoenix Online, http://www.bostonphoenix.com/ (July 30, 2006), Chris Fujiwara, "Difficult People: The Microcosms of Kira Muratova," remarks on a Kira Muratova retrospective at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in 2005.
Chicago Reader Online, http://www.chicagoreader. com/ (July 30, 2006), Jonathan Rosenbaum, review of Astenicheskii sindrom.
International Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com/ (July 30, 2006), credits for Kira Muratova.
Senses of Cinema, http://www.sensesofcinema.com/ (July 30, 2006), Ruslan Janumayan, biography of Kira Muratova and critical assessment of her films.
Ukrainian Film Club of Columbia University Web site, http://www.columbia.edu/cu/ufc/ (July 30, 2006), Yuri Shevchuck, reprint of article originally published in Ukrainian Weekly about Muratova's films, especially Nastroyshchik.