[L’ultima attrazione] Int. t.: The Last Attraction. T. alt.: Agitfurgon. Sog.: da un racconto di Marietta Šaginjan. Scen.: Viktor Šklovskij. F.: Aleksej Solodkov. Scgf.: Aleksej Utkin. Int.: Naum Rogožin (Klim, direttore di un circo itinerante), Elena Maksimova (Polly, ballerina, sua moglie), Raisa Pužnaja (Maša, equilibrista), A. Sašin (Serge, equilibrista), Leonid Jurenev (Vanečka, acrobata), Ivan Bykov (Kurapov, agitatore politico) Prod.: Sovkino. Pri. pro.: 9 settembre 1929. 35mm. L.: 2041 m. D.: 79’ a 20 f/s. Bn.
In the Gosfilmofond archives several versions of the original film story by Viktor Šklovskij, are preserved, as well as transcriptions of discussions with his colleagues and film studio heads, and 224 opinions expressed by some critics. It becomes clear that Šklovskij developed the treatment, inspired not only by the story by Marietta Šaginjan but also by the novel by Furmanov, Cˇapaev, which by 1927 he had already recognized for its cinematic qualities. In the first draft of the film story titled Agitfurgon, Ochlopkov (later renamed Kurapov), both a poet and a political commissioner, tries to bring some order to the world of the circus with the help of diagrams, rules and absurd pamphlets. Fallen, however, into the hands of the White Russians, he shows heroic qualities and transforms from an object of derision into an idol for the performers. The scene of his escape with the help of tightrope walkers and circus animals is written so emotionally and ingeniously, that when the White Cossacks swing to the side of the Bolsheviks shouting “Happy people, we are with you!” it comes off not as ridiculous, but convincing, and in the studio there was talk of it being a new Krasnye D’javoljata (Little Red Devils), capable of beating box office records set by Perestiani. Sergej Jutkevicˇ described the screenplay by Šklovskij “notable for its material and development” and “credible and human despite its eccentricity,” offering to direct the film (“I ask you passionately for this opportunity”); the director already chosen by the studio however was Abraham Room, who insisted that the script, written for him personally by Šklovskij, would be accepted with no alterations whatsoever, promising to consider all reasonable suggestions during the shooting. The top critics of the era (Valentin Turkin, Chrisanf Chersonskij) vigorously supported Šklovskij’s script, but Ippolit Sokolov expressed some cautious concerns about potential censorship, given that the agitfurgon (the agit-prop van which was transformed into a bandwagon in the film) would hit a little too close to home for the Soviet institutions. The concerns weren’t unfounded: Pavel Bljachin, an official at Sovkino (author, among other things, of the story Krasnye d’javoljata and co-writer of the screenplay of the film by Perestiani), requested drastic interventions on the script and insisted on Šklovskij being supported by “a scriptwriter capable of creating some plot”. The plot proposed by Comrade Bljachin corresponds to the version of the screenplay by Preobraženskaja and Pravov, also to be found preserved in the Gosfilmofond archives. Ultimately these two were entrusted to the direction of the film (though not credited for the script). The Last Attraction achieved some success and remained in the theaters for a long run. According to the critics, the film united “the idyll of Pierrot and Columbine” in the first part with the “lubok of adventure” [the lubok was the popular press in Russia] in the second half. Everyone acknowledged the fine work of the actors, from the elder Rogožin and Jurenev to the younger Bykov, Sašin and Maksimova. Raisa Pužnaja was also particularly praised. Nevertheless, the ordeal surrounding the development and making of The Last Attraction seems to show that, while being a perfectly good film, it might have been a masterpiece.