USSR, Lenfilm, 1966, 76 minutes
Scriptwriter and director: Gennady Shpalikov
Director of photography: Dmitry Meskhiev
Production designer: Boris Bykov
Composer: Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov
Cast: Inna Gulaya, Kirill Lavrov, Pavel Luspekaev, Marina Polbentseva, Viktor Perevalov, Georgy Shtil', Larisa Burkova, Liliya Gurova, Olya Tarasenkova, Elizaveta Akulicheva, Oleg Belov, Natalia Zhuravel', Elena Chernaya
After the premiere at the festival, the restored film will be re-released with the participation of the Gosfilmofond, the Lenfilm studio, and the magazine “Iskusstvo kino”.
This film is characterized by unexpectedness, incorrectness. When it came out, the reaction to it was quite varied. From total rejection to recognition at the Concorso internazionale del film d'autore in Bergamo, where it received the main prize and very good press.
Many considered “A Long Happy Life” an unprofessional film.
It seemed to me that this was not cinema, but some other art form. No knowledge or understanding of the "cinematic" techniques: Shpalikov worked completely against them. But this is the greatest quality of this picture. It is free and it is absolutely original. Nobody makes pictures like that. This is not what normal people do in cinema.
When Shpalikov started working, the atmosphere at Lenfilm was absolutely wonderful. It was the mid-1960s when Aleksei German, Gleb Panfilov, and Ilya Averbakh got their start. Somehow everything was filled with energy and hope for a good future.
I was working at the Third Creative Association headed by Vladimir Vengerov and Fridrikh Ermler. Vengerov was in charge of everything. He himself was both sympathetic and very energetic in attracting people. It was the time when Viktor Tregubovich and Rezo Esadze also entered the Association.
Vengerov then had just made the film "The Workers' Settlement", in which Oleg Borisov played the main role. And it featured a song by Shpalikov. Gennady was then already a popular person and was famous for "Ilyich's Gate" (“I am Twenty”) and for "I Walk Around Moscow". When "A Long Happy Life" was going into production at Lenfilm, I was already completing my second film, "Boy and Girl". He wrote songs for both films.
He was not always satisfied with how film based on his scripts were made. It seemed to him that in his scripts everything was not as obvious as it eventually appeared on the screen. And so he decided to make something himself and wrote the script especially for Inna Gulaya, to whom he was then married.
The desire for happiness and its impossibility is one of the main impressions left by this picture. But the film is not about their relationship. Although... Gennady also wanted a long and happy life with Inna. But this did not happen.
The Association received the film very well. Ermler read the shooting script just before the start of shooting and made an angry call at a meeting of the artistic council not to give the people’s money to such a trifle, nonsense, when there are much bigger problems. The members of the council got quiet. Nobody objected immediately. “He is a great director, People’s Artist, and, moreover, the artistic director of the Association”. And at that moment I stuck my neck out to defend the script with the impudence that characterized me then: "It seems to me that you, Fridrikh Markovich, have a philistine attitude to art: you judge it in monetary terms".
When the first rushes started coming, I watched quite a lot of them; it seemed to me that it was terribly unprofessional. But he had a wonderful cameraman, Dmitry Meskhiev. He is a world-class professional, they became very good friends. Gennady freely did what he wanted, and Dmitry helped him to do it the way Gennady envisioned it.
He also made friends with Kirill Lavrov. Working with an actor is shamanism. How is it done? There is Raizman, Romm, Gerasimov. They knew how to do something with an actor... And Gennady... He said to Lavrov: “You understand what this is about, don’t you? Do it!” And he did it so sincerely and freely. And the picture turned out well.
There are amazing things in this film. The main character's ideas about the firefighter whom she fell in love with. A strange holiday home on a ship.
Both the ship and the barge from the film's ending had come from afar.
In theaters, people sometimes even walked out during that super-long ending. The barge linters to the music of Ovchinnikov and it goes on and on. A kind of tribute to Jean Vigo and his “Atalanta”. Shpalikov even has a dedication to Vigo in free verse:
"...And so I - in your memory - shot an insanely long ending of my first picture, - in memory of you, Vigo, in memory of you, Vigo, and once again in memory of you – it’s scary that we are the same age now".
Written down by Elena Pisareva
The only film directed by the poet and scriptwriter Gennady Shpalikov.
Viktor and Lena meet by chance on the bus. Viktor is passing through the city, while Lena is local. The young people strike up a casual conversation; they get closer and spend the evening together. Viktor promises to take Lena with him to the big city, where "a long happy life" awaits them. But in the morning, he realizes that he wants to leave alone.