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Farewell, America (1949)

Proshchay, Amerika! (original title)
Anna Bedford, a young and idealistic girl from Pennsylvania, accepts a State Department assignment to serve in the US Embassy in Moscow shortly after the allied victory over fascist Germany... See full summary »
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Cast

Credited cast:
Liliya Gritsenko
Nikolai Gritsenko
Grigori Kirillov ...
Walter Scott, American Ambassador in Moscow
Janis Osis
Lyudmila Shagalova
Grigoriy Shpigel
Aleksandr Smirnov ...
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Anna Bedford, a young and idealistic girl from Pennsylvania, accepts a State Department assignment to serve in the US Embassy in Moscow shortly after the allied victory over fascist Germany. Immediately upon her arrival at the new post, she discovers that virtually the entire staff at the embassy is engaged either in espionage or in slandering and vilifying the Soviet state. Her open-minded approach to Soviet reality quickly brings her into conflict with her superiors, who send her back to the States to attend her mother's funeral. While back in Pennsylvania, Anna discovers a changed America, plagued with massive unemployment and hatred fueled by anti-communist hysteria. Even death provides no escape from this national insanity: the cemetery where her mother is buried is plowed under in order to build a new military air base. The film was to end with Anna's return to Moscow, embraced by the masses of the Soviet people and marching with them across Red Square. Work on the film was ... Written by Anonymous

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12 January 1996 (Russia)  »

Also Known As:

Addio, America!  »

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1.37 : 1
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Reconstructed Dovzhenko
20 February 2004 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

'Farewell, America' is the last film Alexander Dovzhenko worked on as director. Production was stopped by the government half-way through (like many films under Stalin's regime) and the footage that had been shot was stored away somewhere in Moscow. Only recently (in the 1990s?) was it rediscovered. The version I saw (and probably the only version 'available' to the public) is a reconstruction in which the scenes that were shot have been interspersed with some Russian man, with the help of Dovzhenko's original script (including some sketches he'd drawn), describing the scenes that are missing.

The basic plot concerns an American woman, Anna, who goes to work at the American embassy in Moscow just as World War Two is ending. There she finds that everyone has an extreme irrational hatred of the Russians, bordering on fascism, and they all want to start a new war against Russia. She and one man are more sympathetic towards the Russians, and even are friends with a Russian family, much to the disapproval of the embassy. She goes on an assignment to Ukraine to investigate collective farming and show how unhappy the masses are with it, but finds only kind and happy farmers. Not satisfied with this report, the embassy orders her to change it, before she is sent back to America. Here she finds the same bias and hatred, and when she returns to Russia she does not return to the embassy, but becomes a citizen of the Soviet nation. It must be noted that this for the large part, is a comedy, poking fun at Americans.

The only scenes that were shot were those taking place in the American embassy and a few of those set in America. This is a great shame, since from the evidence of his earlier films, and from a few seconds of footage of Dovzhenko walking through fields (included in this reconstruction), the scenes set in rural Ukraine would have undoubtedly been the most beautiful. As it is, the remaining scenes are heavily studio-bound, which makes it incredibly difficult for Dovzhenko to display his skill and beauty and as a director. Nevertheless, to a certain extent he does succeed.

His use of colour, which for obvious reasons is not seen in his earlier films, is very good, much better than most colour films this early. He has a powerful sense of shade, often tinting the whole scene with a subtle red. Also good are his close-ups, particularly of Anna. But Dovzhenko's real success is as writer. Given an extremely unsubtle and obvious propaganda piece, he has turned it into a clever and often very amusing comedy, much in the style of American comedies of the late 30s. Of particular note is a hilarious scene depicting a completely absurd American band, each man making a different sound to create a tune. Most of the jokes make fun of the Americans, but obviously that was necessary for Dovzhenko to have any chance to be allowed to make the film.

The reason for the abandonment of the film seems a mystery to me. This is by far the most anti-American, pro-Russia film I have ever seen. Perhaps Dovzhenko's attempts once more to focus on Ukraine, his homeland (about which he had been previously reprimanded) angered the government. Or perhaps comedy was just not acceptable - they wanted obvious to-the-point propaganda. Either way this film remains a sad reminder of the unjust fate of yet another great director - Dovzhenko himself once said it saddened him how few films he completed during his lifetime. Even after stooping to a film so unsuited to his style - he was desperate for any job he could get behind the camera - he once more had the project snatched away from him.


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