My Universities (Moi universiteti) is the last installment of Russian director Mark Donskoy’s “Maxim Gorki” trilogy. Having endured a painful youth in My Childhood (1938) and a torturous sojourn as a serf in My Apprenticeship), future writer Gorki (Alexei Lyarsky) reaches maturity with an insatiable desire for personal and artistic freedom. The “university” of the title is actual the school of Hard Knocks, as Gorky goes to work in the shipyards and commisserates with the hard-drinking, philosophical dockworkers. Donskoy’s depiction of street life under the Czarist regime of the late 19th century as unrelentingly depressing, filled with disenfranchised derelicts. This, of course, was meant to be a contrast to the “perfection” of the Stalin years. We can forgive this propagandizing in the light of Donskoy’s indisputable cinematic brilliance.
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