Wednesday, October 14, 2015

578. Dersu Uzala (1975)

Running Time: 137 minutes
Directed By: Akira Kurosawa
Written By: Akira Kurosawa, Yuri Nagibin, from journals by Vladimir Arseniev
Main Cast: Maksim Munzuk, Yurly Solomin, Mikhail Bychkov, Vladimir Khrulev, V. Lastochkin
Click here to view the trailer


I managed to finish up the longest movie still left among the final twenty-five - Dersu Uzala - on Tuesday morning. However, a nice day off with Ruth (my wife) prevented me from getting around to a review yesterday, hence being one day late. Read on...

The film is pretty long, considering the fact that it doesn't seem to have enough material to warrant a nearly two and a half hour running time. Aside from the title character, the main character is Captain Arseniev (Solomin), a mapmaker on a topographic expedition, surveying an area of Russian wilderness, circa 1902. He is joined by a troop of men and together, the group happen upon Dersu Uzala (Munzuk), a little, old Goldi tribesman who agrees to show the mapmaker around, be his guide. The group, being led by Dersu, wander around the wilderness doing a whole lot of nothing. At the film's most interesting sequence, a vicious storm threatens the life of Captain Arseniev and Dersu, who have been separated from the rest of the group. Quickly, Dersu instructs the Captain to cut down high pieces of grass and together the two build a makeshift hut, so that they won't freeze to death in the night. They're eventually found. The film is split into three parts: the first part taking place in 1902, the second taking place in 1907 when Arseniev returns to the region to finish his expedition and the final part taking place before 1910, when Arseniev invites an ailing Dersu back to his home in the city, to live out the remainder of his days.

Before I get into how much I hated this, can I bring up one thing. I've always heard how Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress was a direct inspiration for Lucas' Star Wars. Whether it is or not, I can't say first hand, as I've never seen The Hidden Fortress. Anyway, was it just me or was anyone else reminded of Yoda while observing the character of Dersu Uzala. I mean, Dersu talked like Yoda, he was a short little, very wise man AND he was very old. At one point, Dersu is even asked his age and he gives a vague response, but makes it sound like he's supernaturally old. If the Hidden Fortress stuff is true (which a quick Google search seems to show that it is) and the Dersu/Yoda similarities (again, Google confirms my suspicions), then I feel like Akira should've been knocking at the Lucas house with his hand out. It was blatantly obvious that Yoda was patterned directly after Dersu. So Star Wars fans may love this, if only to see where George Lucas got his inspiration.

Anyway, it sucks the big one otherwise. Man, what a freaking chore this movie was! It's yet another example of THE BOOK forcing me to sit though stuff that clearly is NOT a must see? Is this one really heralded as one of Kurosawa's greats because I find that hard to believe, despite the film's 8.3 rating on IMDB. I feel like Yojimbo, The Bad Sleep Well, High and Low or even The Hidden Fortress would've been better choices, based strictly on what I've heard, as I've never actually seen any of those movies. I have a hard time believing anyone even pretends to hold this in the same esteem as Seven Samurai, Rashomon or Ran. Hell, I don't even care for Rashomon that much, and even I can see that it's clearly better than Dersu Uzala and deserving of it's spot in THE BOOK. This was just so boring, with big chunks dedicated to the characters just walking through the woods and spouting nonsensical, poetic mumbo jumbo about tigers and other old men. Whatever - to each their own, but I I've officially given up trying to avoid using the word "boring" to describe films. When you have movies like Dersu Uzala floating around, it's damn near impossible not to let the word enter into your reviews.

RATING: 3/10  I'll give it a few points for the well done scene that I mentioned in the plot synopsis, but that's clearly as high as I'll go. Only one Kurosawa left - Throne of Blood, which I have seen before and remember not caring for it THAT much.


October 14, 2015  3:46pm


  1. I'm afraid you get an agree for this . I don't know why, but .. yes, it was a chore.. Again, as I often do in such circumstances, I tend to blame myself for not getting it .. but not even one I feel prepared to give a second chance to.

    1. Yeah, I didn't think Kurosawa had such a boring film in him. Even when I dislike his films, I always get SOMETHING out of them. This was mind numbing.


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