|Born||Lev Vladimirovich Kuleshov
13 January [O.S. 1 January] 1899
Tambov, Russian Empire (now Russia)
|Died||29 March 1970
Moscow, Soviet Union (now Russia)
|Occupation||Film director, screenwriter|
Lev Vladimirovich Kuleshov (Russian: Лев Влади́мирович Кулешо́в; 13 January [O.S. 1 January] 1899 – 29 March 1970) was a Russian and Soviet filmmaker and film theorist, one of the founders of the world's first film school, the Moscow Film School. People's Artist of the RSFSR (1969).
Life and career
Lev Kuleshov was born in 1899 into an intellectual Russian family. His father Vladimir Sergeevich Kuleshov was of noble heritage. He studied art in the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, despite his own father's disapproval. He then married a village schoolteacher Pelagia Alexandrovna Shubina who was raised in an orphanage, which only led to more confrontation. They gave birth to two sons: Boris and Lev. At the time Lev was born, the family became financially broke, lost their estate and moved to Tambov, living a modest life. In 1911 Vladimir Kuleshov died; three years later Lev and his mother moved to Moscow where his elder brother was studying and working as an engineer. Lev Kuleshov decided to follow the steps of his father and entered the Moscow School of Painting, although he didn't finish it. In 1916 he applied to work at the film company led by Aleksandr Khanzhonkov. He produced scenery for Yevgeni Bauer's pictures, such as The King of Paris, For Happiness and others. With time Kuleshov became more interested in film theory. He co-directed his first movie Twilight in 1917. His next film was released under the Soviet patronage.
During the 1918-1920 he covered the Russian Civil War with a documentary crew. In 1919 he headed the first Soviet film courses at the National Film School. Kuleshov may well be the very first film theorist as he was a leader in the Soviet montage theory — developing his theories of editing before those of Sergei Eisenstein (briefly a student of Kuleshov). Among his other notable students were Vsevolod Pudovkin, Boris Barnet, Mikhail Romm, Sergey Komarov, Porfiri Podobed, Vladimir Fogel and Aleksandra Khokhlova who became his wife. For Kuleshov, the essence of the cinema was editing, the juxtaposition of one shot with another. To illustrate this principle, he created what has come to be known as the Kuleshov Effect. In this now-famous editing exercise, shots of an actor were intercut with various meaningful images (a casket, a bowl of soup, etc.) in order to show how editing changes viewers' interpretations of images. Another one of his famous inventions was creative geography, also known as artificial landscape. Those techniques were described in his book The Basics of Film Direction (1941) which was later translated into many languages.
In addition to his theoretical and teaching work, Kuleshov also directed a number of feature-length films. Among his most notable works is an action-comedy The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks (1924), a psychological drama By the Law (1926) adapted from the short story by Jack London and a biographical drama The Great Consoler (1933) based on O. Henry's life and works. After directing his last film in 1943, Kuleshov served as an artistic director and an academic rector at VGIK where he worked for the next 25 years. He was a member of the jury at the 27th Venice International Film Festival, as well as a special guest during other international film festivals.
Lev Kuleshov died in Moscow in 1970. He was buried at the Novodevichy Cemetery. He was survived by his wife Aleksandra Khokhlova (1897—1985) — an actress, film director and educator, granddaughter of Pavel Tretyakov and Sergey Botkin — and Aleksandra's son from the first marriage.
Awards and honours
|Year||English Title||Russian Title||Notes|
|1917||Twilight||Сумерки||co-directed with Andrei Gromov|
|1918||The Project of Engineer Prite||Проект инженера Прайта|
|1919||An Unfinished Love Song||Песнь любви недопетая|
|1920||On the Red Front||На красном фронте||short; film is lost|
|1924||The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks||Необычайные приключения мистера Веста в стране большевиков|
|1925||The Death Ray||Луч смерти|
|1926||Locomotive No. 10006||Паровоз No. 10006|
|1926||Po Zakonu (By The Law)||По закону|
|1927||Your Acquaintance||Ваша знакомая (Журналистка)|
|1929||The Merry Canary||Веселая канарейка|
|1929||Two-Buldi-Two||Два-бульди-два||co-directed with Nina Agadzhanova|
|1931||Forty Hearts||Сорок сердец|
|1933||The Great Consoler||Великий утешитель|
|1941||Incident on a Volcano||Случай в вулкане|
|1942||Timour's Oath||Клятва Тимура|
|1943||We from the Urals||Мы с Урала|
- Lev Kuleshov, Aleksandra Khokhlova, 50 Years in Films. Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1975, 303 pages. (Autobiography)
- Kuleshov, Lev. Kuleshov on Film, translated and edited, with an introduction by Ronald Levaco. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974.