Surprise Russian Oscar winner Vladimir Menshov dies at 81



Vladimir Menshov, the prolific Soviet actor and director whose film “Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears” won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1980 but was exhausted by many American critics, died on July 5 in a Moscow hospital. He was 81 years old.

Mosfilm, the Russian film studio and production company, said the cause was complications from Covid-19.

“Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears”, a soapy, melodramatic crowd-pleasing film, drew some 90 million moviegoers in the Soviet Union even after it aired on television, shortly after its theatrical release in 1980. Its Theme song, “Alexandra”, written by Sergey Nikitin and Tatyana Nikitina, has become one of the country’s most beloved film scores.

Even so, when “Moscow”, only the second film Mr. Menshov had directed, won the Oscar, it was a surprise, given the competition that year. It preceded “The Last Metro” by François Truffaut and “The Shadow Warrior” by Akira Kurosawa, as well as “The Nest” by Spanish director Jaime de Armiñán and “Confidence” by Hungarian director Istvan Szabo.

“There was more condescending goodwill than aesthetic discrimination behind the Oscar voted for ‘Moscow’,” wrote Gary Arnold of the Washington Post during the review of the film, which was released in the United States after its Oscar victory. .

The film follows three girls staying in a Moscow hotel for young women in the late 1950s as they seek the company of a man, then revisits them 20 years later. It starred Vera Alentova, the director’s wife and the mother of their daughter, Yuliya Menshova, a television personality. They both survive him, as well as two grandchildren.

Mr. Arnold noted that Mr. Menshov’s film “brings to life a genre that Hollywood has failed to support, as reliable as it may sound: the chronicle of provincial girls, usually a threesome, looking for careers and / or buddies in the big city ”- a genre that went chronologically, at the time, from“ Stage Door ”(1938) to“ Valley of the Dolls ”(1967).

Vincent Canby of the New York Times conceded that the film was “decently played” but said that at half past two it “seemed endless”.

From time to time there are suggestions of social satire, “Mr. Canby wrote,” but they are so sweet that they might surprise and interest only an extremely prudish and unreconstructed Stalinist. “

While he considered it understandable that ‘Moscow’ was one of the most successful films of the Soviet Union, Mr Canby concluded: ‘One can also believe this part of Mr Menshov’s biography ( contained in the program) which reports that he failed his first three years. at the Moscow Film Institute and was not much more successful as a drama student at the Moscow Art Theater.

“I guess we’re being told these things,” he added acerbically, “to underline the meaninglessness of those early failures, which however seem to be summed up in his Oscar winner.”

Vladimir Valentinovich Menshov was born on September 17, 1939 to a Russian family in Baku (now in Azerbaijan). Her father, Valentin, was a secret police officer. His mother, Antonina Aleksandrovna (Dubovskaya) Menshov, was a housewife.

As a teenager, Vladimir held blue-collar jobs as a stagehand, miner and sailor before being admitted to the Moscow Art Theater School. Graduated from the school in 1965 and from the Gerasimov Film Institute in 1970, he worked for Mosfilm, Lenfilm and Odessa Film studios.

He had over 100 credits as an actor, most notably in the hit “Night Watch” (2004), and was also a screenwriter. He made his directorial debut in 1976 with the movie “Practical Joke”.


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