Absent from the screen for two years or more, Akira Kurosawa returns as director of a heartwarming film shot entirely in Eastern Siberia and on interiors in Mosfilm Studios. Contribution of each country to this project (Japan provided only Kurosawa, his cinematographer, and Toho as coproducer) is secondary since the subject matter dwarfs boundaries in its human uplift.
Film [from Vladimir Arsenyev’s novel] takes place at the turn of the century in Eastern Siberia where a small army detachment is surveying the unexplored forests and Taiga land. The encounter with a Siberian trapper, Dersu Uzala (Maksim Munzuk), sets the stage for an inseparable friendship between hunter and explorer Vladimir Arsenyev (Yuri Solomin) on three long and difficult survey missions.
The story is told in flashback after explorer Arsenyev returns to the Taiga to search for Uzala’s grave only to find the area lacerated by human progress.
Munzuk, a stage actor in Eastern Russia, emerges as the life-long trapper with plenty of stature. Solomin as the explorer plays with elegant dignity.
1975: Best Foreign Language Film