The song is old (1941), the movie is old (1979)… but the question of which music is allowed to be heard by a mass audience continues to be a current one.
In Moscow Does Not Believe In Tears, a truly soviet movie, there is out of a sudden Bésame Mucho in two scenes. The song is popular in the whole world in many versions and implemented into different music styles. A composition by the Mexican composer, Consuelo Velázquez, Bésame Mucho stood for the mere imagination of how a kiss would be. The composer herself was 19 at the time she composed the song and never experienced a kiss.
In the movie, the protagonist, Katerina focused on her work and studies apparently never experienced love before. In that sense the song is absolutely right to be placed in the first scene where it plays, and Rudolf, the first man in her life, kisses her. The second time it rather stresses the line “I fear to lose you after”, when Katerina’s lover Vladimir brings her to his home and almost acts violently, as if he wants to enjoy the moment his wife is still away.
On the other hand, and why in general, I thought of coming up with this topic, is that Bésame Mucho was a hit in the United States from the 1940s on. Jimmy Dorsey (1944) “americanized it“ in terms of translating lyrics to English and giving a big band accompaniment. After that it was performed by numerous US jazz musicians: Wes Montgomery Trio (1963), Dave Brubeck (1967), Dizzie Gillespie (1969), Caetano Veloso and Joaõ Gilberto (1977), Art Pepper Quartet (1981). During the years 1960-80 it was unthinkable, that foreign songs would be played in Soviet Union.
Soviet Union had its own jazz scene, strictly controlled by the state, and independently evolving from the US jazz scene. From time to time some famous US jazz musicians were touring in the countries of Soviet Union and could have played Bésame Mucho in concerts.
If we try to do the same research of how the song was implemented into Russian popular music, then we don’t find obvious indicators that this song was played at all. In general all foreign pop music was excluded from a broad audience to be performed by oneself. Scores of Bésame Mucho among other foreign hits were published in 1987, two years before the Soviet Union dissolved.
Having this in mind, why didn’t any Soviet talented composer write a new song? Why was it explicitly Bésame Mucho in Moscow Does Not Believe In Tears? Probably, by putting Bésame Mucho, the director of the movie, wanted to underline the ambiguosity of the society back in the late seventies. Although the authentic socialist values: hard-working proletariat, family, collectivism are promoted by all personages in the movie; there is obvious criticism on the society: increase of singles in big cities and popularity of the TV among other media. For those interested watching Moscow Does Not Believe In Tears in Russian with English subtitles: first series and second series can be found here.
As simple and memorable as this hit is, the more unclear the motives to be featured in a soviet movie remain. The fact that the 76 years old song is known to listeners from any corner of the world remains. A good summary about Bésame Mucho with many sources in Russian can be found here.