THE SMALL FORM OF THE CINEMA: MUSICAL WE RODE AND RODE. THE SHTEPSEL AND TARAPUNKA COMEDY DUO
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The fifth session of the Seven Brief Meetings: the Cinematic Unconscious of the 60-s series will be held on February 5 and will be devoted to the “small” form of the Soviet cinema – a musical film, or simply a musical. The program features little-known post-Stalinist musical We Rode and Rode from legends of the Ukrainian Soviet stage and cinema.
Year 1961 in the Soviet Union can be seen as the starting point of two major interconnected journeys. The first was Gagarin’s journey into space, with all its ideological implications. The second was the beginning of the road to communism, announced at the XXII Congress of the CPSU. A year later, in the film We Rode and Rode (1962), a group of performers led by the Tarapunka and Shtepsel comedy duo set off on a less epic yet still important cinematic journey from Kyiv to Moscow.
This musical comedy was filmed in 1962 at Oleksandr Dovzhenko Film Studio in Kyiv by the comedy double act of Yuriy Timoshenko and Yefim Berezin. A total of seven films were made by this Union-famous star duo, who performed the functions of director and screenwriter, and also starred in all of the movies. The comedy project Shtepsel and Tarapunka per se was created by two graduates of Kiev Theater Institute.
In 1941, Yuriy Timoshenko and Yefim Berezin were among the winners of the first round of the All-Union Competition of Variety Performers. However, due to the outbreak of war, they never made it to the final concert in Moscow. Basically, this sublimated experience became the basis for the cinematic journey from Kyiv to Moscow in the film We Rode and Rode. During the war, both of them performed in an ensemble on the South-Western Front – Yefim Berezin as chef Galkin, and Yuriy Timoshenko as bathhouse attendant Mochalkin. The Shtepsel and Tarapunka comedy duo was born a year after the Second World War ended.
And then there was patronage of Oleksandr Dovzhenko and Ostap Vyshnya, creative maturity and state- and nation-wide recognition. Dovzhenko starts to correspond with Timoshenko immediately after the war, and he not only recognizes the creative achievements of the comedy duo, but also offers collaboration and patronage, “You and I will be doing comedy. I believe in you. I will help you with whatever I have in my art”. Dovzhenko even invited Timoshenko to be his assistant at the production of Taras Bulba. According to Dovzhenko, the film adaptation of this comedy by Gogol was ordered by Stalin himself (!). He had to make a film that would cheer up the whole post-war Soviet Union. In order to achieve this, Dovzhenko was willing to request for Timoshenko to be dischargedfrom the armed forces, using his contacts in the Central Committee of the CPSU (B) and with personal appeals to Marshal Zhukov.
We Rode and Rode
Oleksandr Dovzhenko Film Studio
Directed by Yuriy Timoshenko, Yefim Berezin, Vasyl Lapoknysh
We Rode and Rode is a musical comedy (a utopian genre by definition) about an epic cinematic journey from Kyiv to Moscow of a group of performers led by theTarapunka and Shtepsel comedy duo. If we take a closer look, we will see that despite the seeming simplicity of the film, it raises a question of the social and cultural context of the early 1960s, the specifics of the entertainment genre in the USSR, the genre of (post-)Stalinist musical comedy (in particular, the narrative-to-spectacle ratio in it) and its correlation with the musical comedy of the Stalinist era.
The film will be presented by Stanislav Menzelevskyi - culture researcher, film critic, translator, Head of Research and Programming Department at Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Center, member of the Editorial Board of Medusa publishing house.