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.11 The title for Father Sergius appeared. Sergius was deadly serious from the beginning, Mosjoukine’s expression fierce, his nose and eyebrows drawn in with dark lines. His character, a prince, becomes a solitary monk, renouncing flesh and the world. Then, in the middle of a long winter night, a divorced woman seeks him out to seduce him. She slithers around his cell, trying to tempt him. To resist her, Father Sergius picks up his ax and, with a swift blow, cuts off his own finger. I turned off the TV and went into the kitchen. I wasn’t sure I could watch Mosjoukine’s work if more of his films were like Sergius than Kean. I wasn’t nearly Slavic enough for such grimness. I could hear Ilya’s voice, “Don’t forget to eat something,” so I found a banana on top of the refrigerator, peeled and ate it, washing down each bite with a mouthful of water. I felt as dry as dust, as if by crying so much in the weeks since the accident I’d been emptied of everything living or moist, even my own spit. My eyes felt gritty, my eyelids scraping each time I blinked. I sat at the table, moving crumbs around with my finger—the same finger Mosjoukine chopped off with his ax in Father Sergius—as if the crumbs were parts of a complex jigsaw puzzle I couldn’t quite solve. I thought about going out for a walk. I thought about going to the bakery, the butcher, the market to buy food and make dinner. I had loved to cook for Ben and Julia. I closed my sand-dry eyes, remembered Ben at the table, saying , “Look at all this wonderful food your mother made us!” Food was love. Food was showing every day you cared. Now I couldn’t remember a thing I’d made them. I took the water and went back into the living room, afraid that if I stopped now, after Father Sergius, I would never start in again. 106 The next film, L’Enfant du Carnaval, was as different from Father Sergius as thesetting,semitropicalNiceinsteadofSiberia.AsmilingMosjoukineappears in a harlequin’s outfit. This is Mosjoukine transformed, as if leaving Russia had let centuries drop from his shoulders. He stands beside a dark velvet curtain, then he yanks it aside to reveal dancing carnival crowds below. L’Enfant du Carnaval, John’s list said, was the first film Mosjoukine directed as well as wrote. The plot was standard farce. A woman abandoned by her husband leaves a baby boy on the rich playboy Mosjoukine’s doorstep. Thinking the child is his, he tries to care for the baby alone without knowing so much as how to fasten a diaper. Then enters the baby’s mother, hired as the muchneeded nurse. Just another comic turn, but Mosjoukine falls in love with her, and his intensity changes the film. They both love the baby, a boy Mosjoukine names Paul. Mosjoukine has no idea the woman is the baby’s mother. But love, like a tight band, pulls them closer and closer. Mosjoukine’s character finds meaning in his son, in family. I wanted to believe this. Believe, if given a chance, Mosjoukine would have been the best of fathers. Every time he cooed at Paul, I thought, That’s my father, looking at Paul the way he would at Ilya, his own little son. The plot builds toward happiness, and I found myself hugging my knees, I wanted a good end so badly. The woman is told her husband has gone down on anAtlanticsteamer.Bynow,Mosjoukineknowssheistheboy’smotherandthat he is not the real father. He asks her to marry him, begs her, finally overcomes her objections. Happiness is about to break out. But returning home from their wedding, whom do they find but the missing husband, waiting to reclaim his family.Mosjoukinesaysgood-byetohisnewwife,inascenewhereheislimited to straightening her collar, to touching the flowers on her dress. He lets her go. Then in the last scene, Mosjoukine runs to the balcony, throws open the doors, and cries out not for his wife but for the boy he loves as his own, My son, my son Paul! How can you take him from me! How could Ilya watch this and doubt that Mosjoukine had it in him to love a son. I ran the last scene again. I wanted to cry and cry more. I tried, I felt it, but my eyes...


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