Author: Valentina REZNIKOVA
It is the first time in Azerbaijan that one of the films of the classic of Azerbaijani cinema, Tofig Taghizadeh, has been restored. This short film (19 min.) called Matteo Falcone is based on the same story by Prosper Merimee. The case is unique. The project was dedicated to the 100th anniversary of cult director, Tofig Taghizadeh, and implemented by Balans digital restoration studio with the assistance of the Azerbaijani Ministry of Culture, Azerbaycanfilm and the National Hero Chingiz Mustafayev Foundation.
Premier presentation of the restored film took place in the Nizami Cinema. The audience was presented a video clip, where the restoration specialists commented on the technology used for the restoration of film's negative. In essence, the complex restoration work included rebuilding of the negative, since only the negative remained in the archives, while the positive part is stored in the film archives in Moscow. It is almost impossible to get anything from the national cinema legacy from the Moscow archives today. Nevertheless, our specialists were able to create a unique system Info-Suret, which makes it possible to not only restore films, but also make them completely digital. As if by magic, all damage caused by time is removed from the film! According to experts, after a complex technological restoration process, the film becomes even better than the original itself and meets all the requirements of modern film distribution. The picture is transcoded, printed on a new film and transferred for storage in the archives of the State Film Fund of Azerbaijan.
The audience in the Nizami Cinema were told historical facts about the creation of a unique local system for restoring the lost film heritage of Azerbaijan. From now on, Azerbaijani specialists do not need to apply to Moscow film archives with requests that remain unanswered.
"Father of traitor!"
Taghizadeh made Mateo Falcone, which lasts a little under 19 minutes, in 1960. According to local experts, the crew used the film that remained after shooting On Distant Shores (1958), one of the films included in the Golden Fund of Soviet cinema. By that time, Taghizade has already been known for his full-length films, such as The Meeting (1955) and True Friend (1959). Of the 19 well-known stories of Prosper Merimee in the USSR, including the intriguing love story Carmen, Lokis, Double Mistake, Tofig Taghizadeh chose Mateo Falcone, a story that was absolutely contrary to Soviet principles of morality. Speakers made an analogy between the well-known Soviet pioneer Pavlik Morozov, who betrayed his father later shot by the Bolsheviks. In Merimee's novella, a boy named Fortunato commits an equally terrible betrayal, giving out the hiding place of a revolutionary bandit Gianetto to Sergeant Gamba. Fortunato's reward for the betrayal is a mechanical watch of the sergeant, which fascinated the boy. The watch turned out to be more important than money the deft lad received from the fugitive for hiding him in a stack of straw. Fortunato's father, Mateo Falcone, when he met soldiers on a mountain trail after they found the fugitive, heard from Gianetto a phrase insulting for any Corsican: “Father of traitor!”
This is a very tragic story: Mateo takes his son to a ravine and, to wipe out disgrace, kills his only child with his rifle. Neither the prayers of Mateo's wife nor the pleas of his son could not stop Mateo. That is where the censors' office of the Soviet period, apparently, saw something contrary to ideological standards of the regime: state interests always stay higher than personal ones. Although censorship jumped to this conclusion too quickly. After all, the only thing that a boy of ten did was his intention to make some profit. For the son of a rich man, who Mateo was, this was quite natural, for children tend to imitate adults, especially their parents. The fugitive became a “commodity” for him, which he then “resold” at a better price. But such relationships, as well as the qualities of character, contradicted the Soviet code of the builder of communism! That is why the censors had to treat Mateo, who shot his son, as a hero who punished a vice. However, this is not so simple. Indeed, from the point of view of Soviet morality, which many of us blame today, it would seem that Mateo praised the good name of his family above all, but his son, eventually, crushed the moral laws that Mateo instilled in his son in favour of mercantile interests. Mercantile spirit was not welcomed in Soviet times. It was equal to moral decline. So, it turned out that Mateo Falcone was a film about high moral values of the person who kills his only child not because of his own pride, but because he judges him in accordance with the law of supreme justice and even the established settings of Soviet society.
Why Taghizadeh did chose this piece for filming? Perhaps only he could answer this question. We do not know if such an intelligent person was one of the Soviet dissidents, but it seems that he did not need to, as all his films describe high moral values. The problems that Taghizadeh raised in his films are a moral quest for any person. At the centre of his creative and artistic research is the Man, love for Man with all his weaknesses, shortcomings, doubts and moral quests. Perhaps, Merimee's novella attracted Taghizadeh's attention as director because of Mateo's problem of choice. After all, he is not a murderer or a heartless maniac. He is a human. Just a person who needs to make a decision, to find a correct solution. That is why the problem of moral choice became also a problem for Tofig Taghizadeh.
Remarkably, director Taghizadeh also appeared in his own film playing the role of a runaway bandit Gianetto Sanpiero. Mateo is played by Nodar Shashik-oghlu, Sergeant Gamba by Anatoly Falkovich (Russian Drama Theatre), soldier by Murad Yagizarov (Russian Drama Theatre). Jeyhun Mirzayev played the role of Fortunato; his mother and Matteo's wife was Tamilla Aghamirova. Cameraman of the film was Rasim Ojagov, composer — Gara Garayev, scriptwriters — Tofig Taghizadeh and Nina German. By the way, Mateo Falcone was not the only experience of Taghizadeh in scriptwriting. It is also known that Tofig Taghizadeh was the author of scripts for I Will Dance (1962), Arshin Mal Alan (1965), Hello From Another World (1993).
One more thing… Creative legacy of Tofig Taghizadeh belongs not only to Azerbaijan. In the Soviet times, he was a very famous, popular and recognized director in the USSR. His films were known and loved. Long queues of spectators would line up at the box offices in Soviet republics. We often call directors of the similar level of recognition and audience as cult directors.
Taghizadeh's cultural view on the essence of things is interesting even today. Just as interesting is Prosper Merimee. Because the topic of moral issues will never become outdated. At least as long as we live...
According to Yuri Lotman, Soviet and Russian literary scholar, culture and semiotics expert, ingenuity of the writer is “in his impartiality, in his level of objectivity that he uses to describe the most subjective points of view. What sounds like fantasy and superstition for a European character seems to be the most natural thing for his counterparts brought up by cultures from different parts of Europe. For Merimee, there is no such thing as “enlightenment”, “prejudice,” but there is an originality of various cultural psychologies, which he describes with the objectivity of an external observer. Merimee's narrator is always outside the exotic world that he describes.”
Thus, the ingenuity of the Azerbaijani classic cinema artist Tofig Taghizadeh largely coincides with the position of Merimee. That is why he did not care about what the censors would say and think about his Mateo Falcone. He simply explored the cultural psychology of his hero. He researched himself and invited the viewer to become a co-author of this study. Because it was important for him, involving us in this process, to analyse: what is the truth of Mateo? Does he have the right to judge and execute the sentence? A short film, only 19 minutes... But these minutes do not let your brain think of anything else than asking yourself: did Matteo have a different way?..