The Cigarette Girl of Mosselprom (a J!-ENT DVD Review)
September 7, 2011 by Dennis Amith
Hilarious, fun and entertaining from beginning to end! “The Cigarette Girl of Mosselprom” is a delightful Soviet silent romantic comedy worth watching!
© 2007 La Cinematheque da Touloouse. All rights reserved.
DVD TITLE: The Cigarette Girl of Mosselprom (Papirosnitsa ot Mosselproma)
DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1924
DURATION: 112 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: B&W, Russian, Full-Frame 1:33:1, 2.0 Stereo
COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber
RATED: NOT RATED
RELEASE DATE: August 16, 2011
Directed by uri Zhelyabuzhsky
Written by Aleksei Fajko, Fyodor Otsep
Cinematography by Yuri Zhelyabuzhsky
Art Direction by Vladimir Ballyuzek, Sergei Kozlovsky
Yuliya Solntseva as Zina Vesenina, Cigarette Girl
Igor Ilysinsky as Nikodim Mitushin, Accounting Assistant/bookkeeper
Anna Dmokhovskaya as Maria Ivanovna (Woman who wants to get married)
Nikolai Tsereteli as Latugin, Cameraman
Leonid Baratov as Barsov-Aragonsky, film director
M. Tsybulsky as Oliver MacBride, American
Exploding the myth that the Soviet silent cinema was limited to political propaganda, Yuri Zhelyabuzhsky’s The Cigarette Girl of Mosselprom is a playful romantic comedy set on the streets of 1924 Moscow, occasionally peeking behind the scenes of the Mezhrabpom-Rus Studios.
Yuliya Solntseva stars as a tobacco vendor on the sidewalk outside Moscow’s Mosselprom Trade Center, who must juggle the attentions of three disparate suitors: a young cameraman, a romantic and slightly zany bookkeeper, and a wealthy American industrialist.
From filmmaker Yuri Zhelyabuzhsky, the filmmaker/cinematographer known for his short “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and filmmaker/producer Fyodor Otstep comes a silent comedy from Russia showcasing the complexities of love titled “The Cigarette Girl of Mosselprom” (Papirosnitsa ot Mosselproma).
The film which had aged quite a bit (and many have watched it in its darken, bad quality version), fortunately in 2007, the Cinematheque de Toulouse (in cooperation with the L’Immagine Ritrovata and the Foundation Groupama Gan pur le Cinema) did a restoration of the film featuring a master from its original 35mm elements.
And now, that restoration is available on DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber’s Kino Classics line.
“The Cigarette Girl of Mosselprom” is a film that focuses on a few individuals.
We are introduced to the cigarette girl (played by actress Yuliua Solntseva, who would win the Best Director Award at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival for “The Chronicle of Flaming Years”), a beautiful woman who sells cigarettes to make ends meet.
Meanwhile, an investor from America named Oliver MacBride (played by M. Tsybulsky) is planning to arrive to Russia to check on his film investment, where Latugin, a cameraman (played by Nikolai Tsereteli) is working with the bossy and irritating film director Barsov-Aragonsky (played by Leonid Baratov).
Meanwhile, at a bookkeeping business, secretary Maria Ivanovna (played by Anna Dmokhovskaya) dreams of getting married, while accounting assistant Nikodim Mityushin (played by Igor Ilyinsky) is always thinking about romance.
But how these characters are relate to each other is that Maria loves Nikodim, but Nikodim has a big crush on the cigarette girl. In fact, everyday he always sees her despite being a non-smoker and wants to confess his love to her.
Meanwhile, the American investor MacBride has arrived to Russia and during a stop to grab some cigarettes, he meets the beautiful cigarette girl and becomes smitten with her.
And while film director Barsov-Aragonsky is working on his film, his cameraman, Latugin, happens to be near the area where the cigarette girl is standing and he also begins to fall for her, to the point where he wants to know her so much that he offers an acting job to her, despite her not knowing how to act.
Feeling that she no longer has to work the job as a cigarette girl, she decides to put her all into acting and give up her previous job. As for Nikodim, he finally has the bravery to propose to the cigarette girl with a box of candy (with a handwritten proposal) but when he finds out that she is no longer working at the location, he becomes depressed and ends up giving the chocolates to his co-worker Maria, who now thinks that Nikodim has asked her hand in marriage and now she is attached to him, despite giving the proposal letter to her by mistake. His heart still lingers for the cigarette girl.
And as for the camera man, as he tries to get closer to the cigarette girl, his director doesn’t like an actress with no acting skills to be part of his film but knowing that the American investor for his film also likes the cigarette girl, the director has plans of his own.
But for these three men who each have fallen for the cigarette girl, each man will do all it takes to make the cigarette girl their wife. But which one of them has a chance of winning her heart?
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“The Cigarette Girl of Mosselprom” is presented in 1:33:1 full frame, black and white. As mentioned, this film is the restored version done back in 2007 by the Cinematheque de Toulouse (in cooperation with the L’Immagine Ritrovata and the Foundation Groupama Gan pur le Cinema).
While the picture quality is not pristine as it does have print damage in the forms of scratches. But for a complete silent film that is 87-years old and also 112 minutes long, compared to many silent films that I have watched, the fact that it is complete and does not feature any major tears or nitrate decomposition or any degradation (save for one small few second scene at the end of the film), “The Cigarette Girl of Mosselprom” looks very good!
In fact, if you go on to YouTube, you will see how many people have watched the film in the past with its darkness and problematic picture quality. With this 2007 restoration, you see none of that. The film looks very good!
Audio quality is presented in Russian 2.0 stereo and features a composition and performance by Charlotte Castellat and David Lefebvre. While the film is entirely silent with music, there is one scene where Nikodim Mituyshin is playing the guitar and then you hear a vocal performance in Russian. But for the most part, the music compliments the film very well and the music is quite vibrant and enjoyable to listen to.
There are no special features in this DVD release of “The Cigarette Girl of Mosselprom”.
I have to admit that “The Cigarette Girl of Mosselprom” was quite a surprise because many silent films that we have access to on DVD are typically politics or military-driven. But the fact is that Soviet silent cinema existed in various forms of entertainment.
Not just politics and military but in the case of “The Cigarette Girl of Mosselprom”, you get a romantic comedy that no only showcases Moscow society at the Mosselprom Trade Center but how people on the street became background talent for the film.
The film captures the elements of a modern day romantic comedy as each of the three men have fallen for the cigarette girl but you also get a dose of comedy courtesy of actor Igor Ilyinsky, who plays the accounting assistant Nikodim Mityushin. Lovestruck and deeply in love with the cigarette girl, one scene shows him trying to find her as she has been replaced in the location that she usually works. When Nikodim tries to look for the brunette beauty, he is told to go across the street and when he goes to approach the brunette, we see a not-so-beautiful woman instead and Nikodim starts spinning, deliriously after he sees the woman.
Another scene features the cigarette girl who looks as if she will jump off a bridge. While walking with his fiance (while still thinking of the cigarette girl), Nikodim finally finds his true love and when he sees her jump off the bridge, he tries to be a hero and rescue her, not knowing that what went over the bridge is a mannequin prop for the film that is being made (which stars the cigarette girl).
And these fun, comedic scenes with Nikodim do not end as you get quite a few of them throughout the film.
Meanwhile, you get the dramatic portion of the film as the cameraman and the cigarette girl are enjoying each other’s company during the making of the film but not so thrilled about it is the director who wants to do all he can to drive a wedge into their new relationship and the fact that the American investor Oliver MacBride also is smitten with the cigarette girl, the more incentive the filmmaker has to making MacBride happy in hopes it would lead to better opportunity for his film.
I absolute found “The Cigarette Girl” to be quite delightful and entertaining but there is one caveat that I found. The film is rather long and during the silent era, editing was not exactly a strong point for filmmakers. Many times throughout the film, I was thinking…this scene could have been eliminated in order for better pacing but this was a common problem during the silent era. But also many early Soviet films that I have seen (especially Eisenstein films) tend to run a bit long.
As for the DVD release, I have to applaud Kino Lorber for continuing to bring silent cinema from other countries to the United States especially Soviet cinema.
With the release of the Eisenstein films on Blu-ray to the earlier release on DVD, including “The 3 Silent Soviet Classics” and “Man with a Movie Camera”, it was great to see “The Cigarette Girl of Mosselprom” to be released on DVD, as a silent cinema fan, you can’t help but be excited about this release. Sure, as much as I would have love to have seen this on Blu-ray, it’s not up to the quality level that Kino Lorber accepts for Blu-ray release, nor is there any special features included. But still, as a silent film fan, it’s hard to complain when there are very few companies bringing silent cinema to the United States. I would rather have the opportunity to see watch these films, even if it means not having any special features.
But for a romantic comedy, “The Cigarette Girl of Mosselprom” was hilarious and fun to watch from beginning to end and what a delightful film it turned out to be. Fans of silent cinema, especially early Soviet cinema should definitely give this film a chance.
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