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 Mikhail Kononov

Born:   25 April 1940
Deceased:   16 July 2007



Mikhail Kononov was one of the most brilliant Russian film actors. His characters were as a rule kind, naive and always charming. In all of his roles, both big and small, the actor appeared infinitely truthful.

Mikhail Ivanovich Kononov was born in Moscow on April 25, 1940. He first appeared on stage when at school yet.

In 1963 Mikhail Kononov graduated from the Shchepkin Drama School and was admitted to the Maly Theatre. However, after five years of acting in theatre, in 1968 he quit the stage forever.

The actor made his debut in filming when a student: in 1961 he appeared in Ivan Pyryev’s drama Nash obshii drug (Our Common Friend). With that film already his typical image started taking shape: a simple-hearted and unaffected fellow. In the first two decades he played quite a number of such characters, among them Kol’ka in the lyrical film novel Pervyy trolleybus (The First Trolleybus) (1963) by Isidor Annensky, Vit’ka Anikin in Mikhail Kalik’s film Do svidaniya, malchiki! (Goodbye, Boys) (1964), Alesha Semyonov in Gleb Panfilov’s V ogne broda net (No Crossing Under Fire) (1967), the junior lieutenant Maleshkin in the heroic comedy Na voyne, kak na voyne (At War as at War) (1968) by Vladimir Tregubovich, and others.

Similar was Kononov’s character in the historic and revolutionary tragic comedy Nachalnik Chukotki (Chief of Chukotka) (1966). Mikhail Kononov and Alexei Gribov created a brilliant comedy duet in that film. The actors seemed to bask in the film material, yet not overstepping the bounds of good taste; they generously let each other solo by turns.

The same year saw the release of another film with Kononov’s participation: it was the outstanding drama Andrei Rublev directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. Mikhail Kononov performed the small role of Foma, which proved to be one of the actor’s best works, as he stated himself.

By the early 1970s the actor was already very popular with the public and played a wide range of diverse roles in films.

One of the most popular films starring Mikhail Kononov was the series Bolshaya Peremena (The Long Recess) (1972), where he brilliantly played the young teacher Nestor Petrovich. The light and merry comedy at once won the hearts of viewers and is still beloved by many.

In 1975 Mikhail Kononov for the first time acted in a children’s film. The film director Gennady Vasiliev invited him to play a supporting role in the fairy tale Finist - Yasnyy sokol (Finest, the brave Falcon) (1975). His character turned to be unexpectedly vivid. The supporting comic personages played by Mikhail Kononov, Georgi Vitsyn and Mikhail Pugovkin actually proved to be the central images, adding zest to the film.

Right after the release of the Finest Gennady Vasiliev invited the actor to play in his new film Poka byut chasy (While the Clocks Are Ticking) (1976). Lots of viewers remember Kononov as the sly and crafty space pirate Krys in the legendary children’s sci-fi movie Gostya iz budushchego (Guest from the Future) (1985).

From the late 1980s Mikhail Kononov appeared on screen less and less. He played a KGB officer in Yuri Kara’s film Piry Valtasara, ili noch so Stalinym (The Feasts of Valtasar, or The Night with Stalin) (1989), Kliment Voroshilov in Andrei Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky’s drama Blizhniy krug (The Inner Circle) (1991) and some other roles. However, the actor rejected most of producers’ offers.

Of late years Mikhail Kononov almost did not play in films and rarely appeared in public.

“You see I’ve been brought up in a bit different way – I am guided by the precepts with which our generation regarded art. This is why I desperately refuse to act in the TV-serials I am offered. I am terrified by the scripts I read: they are horrible! Everything is so unprofessional and awkward, that I have no right to allow myself playing in such nonsense. In the name of my friends who are no longer alive. During one role test I even burst into tears. They all thought I was weeping because of growing into my role, while I cried for the horrible state of today’s cinematography and TV. I rejected the role, though it offered big money. One cannot meet the viewer on such a low moral and intellectual level. If we follow the mass public tastes we can loose our way. This is what is happening in cinema today. This is anti-art, anti-aesthetics. We must not support vice and mass psychosis. Otherwise our profession is not needed. Neither artists nor writers are needed” – the actor said.

In the last years of his life the famous actor Mikhail Kononov was working on a book, in which he wanted to tell about the film directors he has worked with, about his partners in cinema and theatre, about enemies and friends, about treachery and friendship.

Mikhail Kononov died after a painful and long illness on July 16, 2007 in Moscow.



Tags: Russian cinema Russian actors    

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