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Grigori Kozintsev Poster

Biography

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Overview (3)

Born in Kiev, Russian Empire [now Ukraine]
Died in Leningrad, RSFSR, USSR [now St. Petersburg, Russia]
Birth NameGrigori Mikhailovich Kozintsov

Mini Bio (1)

Grigori Mikhailovich Kozintsev was born on March 22, 1905, in Kiev, Russian Empire (now Kiev, Ukraine). His father, named Mikhail Kozintsev, was a medical doctor. Young Kozintsev studied at the Kiev Gymnazium. There, in 1919, he organized experimental theatre "Arlekin" together with his fellow students Sergei Yutkevich and Aleksei Kapler. During 1919 and 1920 Kozintsev studied art at the Kiev School of Art under the tutelage of Alexandra Exter.

Experiments. In 1920 Kozintsev moved to Petrograd (Leningrad or St. Petersburg). There he studied art at the "VKHUTEMAS" at the Academy of Fine Arts for two years. In 1921 Kozintsev with Sergei Yutkevich, Leonid Trauberg, and Leonid Kryzhitsky organized and led the Factory of Excentric Actors (FEKS). There Kozintsev directed radically avant-garde staging of plays "Zhenitba" (Marriage 1922) by Nikolay Gogol and "Vneshtorg na Eifelevoi Bashne" (Foreign trade on Eiffel Tower 1923). They were based in the former Eliseev Mansion on Gagarinskaya street No. 1 in St. Petersburg. Kozintsev and FEKS collaborated with writer Yuri Tynyanov, cinematographer Andrei Moskvin, young actor-director Sergey Gerasimov, artist Igor Vuskovich, and young composer Dmitri Shostakovich among others. Initially FEKS was the main platform for experimental actors, directors and artists, and was strongly influenced by Vsevolod Meyerhold and Vladimir Mayakovsky.

Artistic position. In 1924 Kozintsev and Trauberg came to "SevZapKino" Studios (now Lenfilm Studios). There Kozintsev continued his FEKS experiments in his first eccentric comedy 'Pokhozhdenie Oktyabriny' (1924). Kozintsev's early films were strongly criticized by official Soviet critics. His film 'Shinel' (1926) was compared to German Expressionism and accused of distortion of the original classic story by Nikolay Gogol. Kozintsev strongly argued against such comparisons with German expressionism; he was unhappy until the end of his life about such criticism of his early experimental works. Kozintsev insisted that his cheerful experiments were essential in the city of Petrograd (St. Petersburg) after the Russian Revolution of 1917, which brought destruction, depression, crime, and degradation of culture.

Early films. Kozintsev made twelve films together with Leonid Trauberg. Their collaboration began in 1921, in Petrograd (St. Petersburg). Their film-trilogy about Russian revolutionary hero Maxim was made from 1935-1941, when people in the Soviet Russia were terrorized under the most brutal dictatorship of Joseph Stalin. In departure from experimental youthfulness and freedom of their FEKS years, the Maxim trilogy was a trade-off blend of experiment and Soviet propaganda. It was still a powerful work and was even banned by censorship in the United States from the 1930s-1950s. For that work Kozintsev and Trauberg were awarded the Stalin's State Prize in 1941. After the Second World War Kozintsev and Trauberg made their last film together: 'Prostye Lyudi (Plain People 1946), which was censored and remained unreleased until 1958, when "Nikita Khrushchev' lifted the ban imposed by Stalin's censorship.

Highlights. Grigori Kozintsev ascended to his best works after the death of Stalin. Then Nikita Khrushchev initiated the "Thaw" which played a role in some liberation of individual creativity in the Soviet film industry. Kozintsev's adaptations of classical literature combined some experimental elements of his earlier silent films with the approach of a mature master. His Don Quixote (1957), King Lear (1969) and especially Hamlet (1963) were recognized worldwide as his highest achievements. In _Korol Lir (1969)_ Kozintsev made a brilliant decision to cast actors from the Baltic States as the Lear's family. Jüri Järvet, Regimantas Adomaitis, Donatas Banionis, Juozas Budraitis, and Elza Radzina together with Oleg Dal, Galina Volchek, Aleksey Petrenko made a powerful acting ensemble.

Hamlet and King Lear. Kozintsev first staged Shakespeare's "Hamlet" and 'King Lear" in 1941. His collaboration with Boris Pasternak began in 1940, when Pasternak was working on his Russian translation of the Shakespeare's originals. Both plays were prepared for stage under direction of Kozintsev. King Lear was staged in 1941, but further work was interrupted because of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. Hamlet was staged in 1954. At the same time Kozintsev continued developing the idea of filming _Gamlet (1964)_, until everything came together in his legendary film. The adaptation by Boris Pasternak, the music by Dmitri Shostakovich, the direction by Kozintsev, and the acting talent of Innokentiy Smoktunovskiy produced special creative synergy. Innokentiy Smoktunovskiy was praised as the best Hamlet by Sir Laurence Olivier.

Legacy. In the 1920s Kozintsev taught at the Leningrad School of Acting. From 1944-1964 Kozintsev led his master-class for film directors at the Soviet State Film Institute (VGIK). Among his students were many prominent Russian directors and actors such as Sergey Gerasimov and others. Kozintsev was the head of master-class for film directors at Lenfilm Studios from 1964-1971. He wrote essays on William Shakespeare, Sergei M. Eisenstein, Charles Chaplin, and Vsevolod Meyerhold and published theoretical works on film direction. Grigori Kozintsev lived near Lenfilm Stidios in Leningrad (St. Petersburg) for the most part of his life. His work and presence was essential to the status of Lenfilm Studios as well as to the film community in Leningrad during the political and economic domination of Moscow as the Soviet capital. From his early works of the 1920s to his masterpiece _Gamlet (1964)_, Kozintsev was faithful to creative experimental approach.

Kozintsev was designated the People's Artist of the USSR. He was awarded the State Lenin's Prize of the USSR (1965), and received other awards and nominations. He died in Leningrad (St. Petersburg) on May 11, 1973, and was laid to rest in the Necropolis of the Masters of Art in St. Aleksandr Nevsky Convent in St. Petersburg, Russia.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Steve Shelokhonov

Spouse (1)

Sofiya Magarill (? - 15 October 1943) (her death)

Trivia (4)

Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945". Pages 573-579. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.
Member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1960
"The Youth of Maxim" (1935) details the conversion of an ignorant factory worker into a revolutionary in the years 1905-1907. The film, as was part of a series, was meant to make Bolshevism attractive, and it engendered censorship controversies when it was released in the U.S. The police commissioner of Detroit, Michigan, acting as censor, banned the film as being "pure Soviet propaganda and likely to instill class hatred of the existing government and social order of the United States." When the ban was challenged in the local courts, it was upheld on the principle that motion picture exhibitors were constitutionally bound to eschew showing films that were either "obscene" or "immoral."
Survivor of the Siege of Leningrad during WWII.

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