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Boris Barnet’s The House on Trubnaya follows Vera Maretskaya’s Russian peasant into Moscow. Stranded in the city with a pet duck, she’s the epitome of the yokel entering the city, a theme that Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton would certainly use effectively in the United States. She nearly gets run down by a streetcar chasing her duck, but eventually runs into a friend from the village who is now a chaffeur. He’s also a member of the workers’ union and takes her back to the big house (really an apartment building) shared by a lot of people. The place is a mess, with people doing a lot of chores they used to do back in the countryside, including chopping wood. Maretskaya gets a job with the building’s wealthy tenets, a hairdresser and his wife. Perhaps they were the former owners before the USSR. It’s hard to say but they are of a different class, hate the workers’ union, and treat their new maid atrociously. Eventually, there’s a case of mistaken identity and comeuppance for the mean rich people. The union saves the day for Maretskaya.

Typically of Soviet silents, The House on Trubnaya has tremendous faces of great proletarian intensity, especially in the scene during the play. And while this is a less political film than the classic early Soviet films, the proletarian intensity is necessary to stand up to the many challenges of the early Soviet period. Inspiring solidarity, even in a comedy, was a political act of great importance. This was a huge hit in Moscow, which isn’t surprising given its relatively complex narrative, a protagonist a lot of recent urban migrants could relate to, and a lighter political touch than a lot of its contemporaries.

The poster of Bukharin was also amusing.

I like the classic Soviet silents of Eisenstein and Pudovkin and the like, but this is a fresher film that amusingly captures the everyday life of Soviets in the late 20s. Individuality is hardly suppressed to collectivism here, either in the artistry or in the characters. And the scene after the political rally where our hero is standing around trying to figure out where to go while holding the workers’ flag is a real gem.