In many of his films, the director appeared in the frame for a couple of seconds (such a micro-role of a famous person is called a cameo).  This is the famous scene from the movie Garage.  Photo: Frame from the film
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In many of his films, the director appeared in the frame for a couple of seconds (such a micro-role of a famous person is called a cameo). This is the famous scene from the movie Garage. Photo: Frame from the film

From the mid-1980s, his taste often changed: neither the moralizing youth drama “Dear Elena Sergeevna” nor the now forgotten melodrama “Quiet Whirlpools” was impossible to watch, and while watching “Old Nags” or “Carnival Night-2” I really wanted to crawl under a chair in shame. But the same fate awaited two other great comedians – Leonid Gaidai and Georgy Danelia. And we love them not for what they did at the sunset stage, but for what they filmed when they were at their zenith. How many directors can boast that half of the country knows their films by heart? That the whole life of millions of people passed under them? Ryazanov has a huge number of first-class paintings that are still alive, despite the fact that decades have passed since their premiere.

Accidentally entered VGIK

In his memoirs, Ryazanov said that at school he was not going to be a director for a second. He loved to read (one of his favorite books was “Martin Eden” by Jack London) and dreamed of entering a nautical school in order to travel around the world, accumulate knowledge and emotions, and then become a great writer. In a hurry to fulfill his dream, he passed the exams for the 10th grade as an external student (during the day he “swallowed” the textbook, and the next day he went to take the exam – and so 11 times in a row).

He did not wait for an answer from the Odessa Naval School. But I met a friend on the street and found out that he was submitting documents to VGIK. 16-year-old Ryazanov also decided to apply there so as not to lose a year. He chose the directing department for one reason. There was no need to be able to take pictures (which was required of those entering the camera room), or draw (future artists showed drawings). “It was required, however, to present literary works. And they just were! I, like the vast majority of young men, wrote poetry … “

And Ryazanov was accepted, despite the competition of 25 people for a place.

His naive student work did not delight his mentor, the famous Grigory Kozintsev. After the second year of study, he told the student: “We are expelling you from the institute. You are too young”. Ryazanov was not taken aback and replied: “When you accepted me, I was two years younger. You might notice it then.” What Kozintseva and “cut off”: he did not find what to answer, and left the student on the course.

At school, Ryazanov dreamed of becoming a sailor, a traveler, but he didn’t even think about cinema.

At school, Ryazanov dreamed of becoming a sailor, a traveler, but he didn’t even think about cinema.

The career of the director of feature films after VGIK turned out to be closed to him. And the reason was not in him, but in the general situation in the country. After the war, there was a period of low picture: there was simply no work for the young. And Ryazanov became a documentary filmmaker, unexpectedly fulfilling his school dream: he was able to travel all over the country, visit mysterious and exotic places. “I traveled around Sakhalin, Kamchatka, the Kuril and Commander Islands… I hunted whales with whalers. Wandered the tundra with geologists and reindeer herders. Drowned on a crab scout. He went down to the crater of Klyuchevskaya Sopka with volcanologists. Caught herring with fishermen. With crab fishermen he set nets for crabs. Together with the border guards, he pursued border violators … “

Dreamed of people crying

After Stalin’s death, the task arose of releasing 100-120 feature films a year, and young directors were needed. And after the film-revue “Voices of Spring” about the amateur performance of labor reserves (it was almost Ryazanov’s debut in feature films – he was one of two directors, and the film was semi-documentary), “Carnival Night” appeared.

Film frame "Carnival Night"

Shot from the film “Carnival Night”

In fact, Kozintsev’s student saw himself as a master of drama and dreamed that people would cry at his films. But the head of Mosfilm, Ivan Pyryev, invited him to shoot a musical comedy. Work on “Carnival Night” Ryazanov then recalled as a nightmare. He said that the script was like a phone book: not a single character, except for Ogurtsov, was written down. He did not like the lead actress Lyudmila Gurchenko – she seemed like a monkey (these are his words; they will make friends much later). Due to inexperience, he shot too many takes – and wasted valuable color film. He was going to be fired from the picture, because there was a complete feeling that he was destroying the film before our eyes. In the end, his only goal became “just to survive – at any cost.” But he didn’t just survive: “Carnival Night” became a hit at the box office, brought huge profits, and they began to look at the young Ryazanov with completely different eyes.

Film frame "The Man from Nowhere"

Shot from the film “Nowhere Man”

But in the future he had to overcome many more difficulties. Most often – with censorship. The harmless “Man from Nowhere” was removed from the screens because Suslov did not like him. “Say a word about the poor hussar” was filmed in torment. Ryazanov and co-author of the script, Grigory Gorin, gathered in it to prick the KGB (that is, it seemed to be about the Nikolaev Third Branch and Benckendorff, but everyone understood what was really meant). This was a challenge even in relatively calm times, but against the background of the introduction of troops into Afghanistan, it seemed like a provocation. It’s a miracle that the movie even got into production. And finally, the day before the show, scheduled for January 1, 1981, a scene was cut from the Hussar with a flyby of the church towards the end (there it became clear to the viewer that the hero of Yevgeny Leonov died of a heart attack). We decided not to upset people on New Year’s Eve. It is a miracle that Ryazanov himself did not have a heart attack after that.

Film frame "Say a word about the poor hussar"

Shot from the film “Say a word about the poor hussar”

The film is a cocktail. Or soup

Critics on it periodically trampled – especially after the “Cruel Romance”. During the days of the demonstration of the tape, Literaturnaya Gazeta organized a persecution – each issue came out with huge articles, where no stone was left unturned from the picture. And other publications are not lagging behind. Paratov – Mikhalkov was called a “sensitive superman”, they said about Ostrovsky’s play “Dowry” that she now looks flat, simplified, vulgar and playful on the screen …

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A photo: Dmitry POLUKHIN

Eldar Alexandrovich took all this extremely painfully. In his memoirs, he cites two culinary and restaurant comparisons. First, he writes that the film should resemble an exquisite cocktail in which different drinks are mixed “in very well-aimed proportions.” And then he adds, speaking about the combination of different genres and styles, that they “can merge together only if the soul of the artist plays the role of a saucepan and there the heterogeneous elements “boil”, “boil”, “combine” and get a delicious, unique a dish that combines signs of various gourmet tastes and smells … “

Film frame "Cruel romance"

Shot from the film “Cruel Romance”

Despite everything, he succeeded. And we will always be grateful to him for that.

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