Yuli Raizman, the undisputed patriarch of the Soviet film industry, whose career stretched from the early, post-revolutionary days of silent film to the generation of perestroika of the 1980s, died Dec. 13 in Moscow. He was 90.
Born Dec. 15,1903, Raizman’s career began in 1924 as a literary consultant for Mezhrabpom-Russ, the German-funded film production and distribution company. He later worked as assistant director to Yakov Protozanov, one of the greatest figures of early Russian cinema. Raizman’s first two films as director, “The Circle” (1927) and “Hard Labour” (1928), were silents. His first major success came with “The Early Thirsts” (1930), a film imbued with the romantic spirit of adventure typical of the first decade of the revolution; it was Raizman’s first film to be released with its own soundtrack.
Raizman’s collaboration with writer Yevgeny Gabrilovich began in 1937 with “The Last Night,” a story of the Moscow uprising of 1917, which won Raizman the Grand Prize at the Paris Intl. Exhibition in 1937. Their working partnership would continue for the next 40 years.
One of Raizman’s masterpieces, “Mashenka,” appeared in the early years of World War II, and opened a new direction in Soviet cinema with its concentration on the elements of a love story, albeit one set against the unfolding canvas of the war.
Raizman also distinguished himself as a documentary filmmaker. His “Berlin” (1945) followed the advancing Fifth Strike Army of the First Byelorussian Front right up to the German capital, including footage shot during the final storming of the German Parliament. A second war documentary, “On the Truce with Finland,” appeared in 1946.
The period after Stalin’s death brought Raizman new opportunities to develop his probing social conscience. His first such work was “The Lesson of Life” (1955), but it was in his other classic film of the 1950s, “The Communist,” made to mark the 40th anniversary of the October Revolution, that his revisionist treatment of a traditional subject was particularly effective.
Raizman’s later film, “Your Contemporary” (1968), was a follow-up to “The Communist.” Raizman’s other outstanding work of the decade of the thaw came at the very beginning of the 1960s, with “And If It’s Love,” a story of tragic early love set against a striking picture of a generation gap and the stifling forces of society.
Raizman’s other films included “Virgin Land” (1940) after Mikhail Sholokhov’s novel; “The Train Goes East” (1948); and “Cavalier of the Golden Star,” winner of the main prize at Karlovy Vary in 1952.
Raizman was an active figure in the Soviet official film world, whose influence was strongest as head of one of the creative associations at Mosfilm, known as the “Comrade” studio, later renamed the “Third Association.” As perestroika took hold, his voice was among the first to be raised against the monopoly of Goskino.
Raizman won his first U.S.S.R. State Prize in 1937 for “The Last Night,” and his films would later win that award, the Soviet Union’s most prestigious, another seven times, making him among the most decorated of Soviet cultural figures. Raizman was the first recipient of the Honour & Dignity Award for Lifetime Achievement awarded by the Soviet Union’s Academy of Cinema Arts.