The Return of Maxim, op. 45 (1937)
Film on YouTube (ten-minute segments) via SHOSTAKOVI.CH
My experience of watching the second entry in Kozintsev’s and Trauberg’s “Maxim Trilogy”, now that I’ve finally quit dragging my heels and done it, was much the same as that of watching Maxim’s Youth, accomplished with YouTube and without English subtitles. The Return of Maxim keeps all of the hallmarks of the earlier film’s style: Its easy-to-watch editing, an abundance of diegetic song and instrumental tunes, and, most pleasantly, Boris Chirkov’s puckish on-screen magnetism in the title role, which remains charming if not particularly interesting despite the language barrier. The story here seems to focus on printing and delivering issues of Pravda and swaps out most of the original’s factory scenes for depictions of heated backroom discussions and raucous parliamentary sessions. The film and score both perk up a little bit at the movie’s climactic showdown between workers and police but there is nothing as lively as the earlier film’s sleigh-ride prologue.
Shostakovich produced more original music for this film than for Maxim’s Youth but his contributions — presumably written during or soon after the onset of his political trouble — are still sparse. He provides thirty seconds of interesting, or comparatively interesting, murky music for a nighttime parting of Maxim and his beloved, before the hero is waylaid on the street; his score for the climactic street scenes hits the required somber and defiant notes. The most high-spirited music accompanies a billiards contest between Maxim and a drunken, bourgeois antagonist, for which Shostakovich supplies a characteristically energetic but rather perfunctory dance number:
It’s workmanlike stuff, which makes it fine enough film music due to the uniformly high level of Shostakovich’s work, but it doesn’t draw deeply from the composer’s talents.