Letter Never Sent (Kalatozov, 1959)

Letter Never Sent (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1959)

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie that sent me on such a roller coaster of reactions. At my peaks, when in my mind I was calling this a masterpiece, it was because I was staring at one of the most beautifully shot films I’ve seen. Gorgeous use of light, shadow, and especially silhouette coupled with an ever-moving camera across such amazing landscapes; the forest fire segment, full of extended tracking shots, was a visual jaw-dropper. Sadly, one of the dips in this ride was Kalatozov’s strange choice to double-expose a closeup image of a rippling fire right on top of otherwise amazing images. (The odd thing was this even happened before the forest fire segment as, what I have to assume was, a very poor use of foreshadowing.) As if this technical feature wasn’t distracting enough, the musical score is awful – invading entirely too many scenes in a way that was not only insulting as a tool to animate the on-screen drama but also completely against the tone of the film. To Kalatozov’s credit, the on-screen drama is often harrowingly poignant, and I feel like if he has a film that even just tones down the terrible flaws, it will sweep me away. This one did not quite do that.  8.25/10

letter never sent


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