FILM

29 12 2011
Pirates of the XXth Century

Finally found – a highly recommended to me movie that I’ve been searching for after hearing all about it from my friends in the film industry in the late 90s. Why the buzz? The answer is in the movie’s history.

Shot in 1975 (yes!) but released only several years later, this Russian blockbuster became an internationally acclaimed box office topper of the year, and held its position many years to come.

Watching this movie in the 21st century, one can’t help the sad feeling of the past gone forever. Not only have the decades passed, actors been taken with the wind, but also the country that produced this lovely work of cinematography, is no more. So what is going on in the Pirates of the XXth Century?

The thrill begins with the name. Not very laconic, but nevertheless an attention catcher, the title draws you right in, anticipating an adventure. And oh boy, do you get one!

At the time, the global interest in martial arts grew stronger, passionate fighters and actors from all over the world – dominated by Hong-Kong of course – got on the set and popularized the sport and the love of a hand-to-hand combat. Pirates of the XXth Century celebrated that.

The plot revolves around a theft of a highly valuable cargo, and the crew’s attempt to salvage it. The script has one or two flaws that don’t really stand out and don’t spoil the pleasure, but are noticeable to an attentive critic. Still, because of the film’s foundation in the Soviet Russian aspirations of the time, all you see on screen is an exceptionally outplayed performance and a dedication of the cast and crew to make their message culturally acceptable and recognizable worldwide.

Dashing main character, a super-hero, doesn’t rival with the Hollywood standard of a Rambo-style figure – but he is. On a different scale, in a different dimension, in 1975 Russia told the world that they can film a product that will sweep the audience off their feet, and duly so.

The movie has all elements of a good and fast moving action story, with a romantic drive and a heroic exhibit of the noblest of the human nature – as opposed to the criminal and low one. Playing on contrast was done well by means of a clean cut elegant acting,  very accurately placed scenes, specifics of the language – and yes, the crew spoke English – and by the work of a masterly underwater cameraman.

This film also carries a refreshing change to the over-done semantic mess that the trend of contemporary blockbusters suffers from. Neat and courteous, this movie here doesn’t have excessive colorful language that cripples one’s ears, doesn’t have adult scenes that one can see no more for there have been too many in all genres.

Interesting to note that at the time, such exotic locations as were featured in the movie, were off limits to many citizens of the former ‘red’ zone. So to them, seeing on screen how their fellow men and women cross international waters on a cargo ship – and then get in a very big trouble and flee on a boat – was a completely and insanely amazing experience. Sesame opened! And so it did for me, when an opportunity to witness a different type of a master class on screen presented itself last week and I saw Pirates of the XXth Century.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2011. All rights reserved.

Full movie Pirates of the XXth Century available on Youtube under Fair Use terms:

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