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Russian cinema

Related: Russia - world cinema

Movements: kino pravda

People: Sergei Eistenstein - Dziga Vertov

Films: Aelita (1924) - Planeta Bur (1962) - Russian Ark (2002)

Aelita, The Queen of Mars (1924) - Yakov Protazanov

Russian Ark (2002) - Aleksandr Sokurov [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Russian Ark is film that was actually a single shot. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Ark [Feb 2006]

Andrei Tarkovsky (1932 - 1986)

Andrei Arsenyevich Tarkovsky (April 4, 1932 - December 29, 1986) was a Russian film director, opera director, writer, and actor. He is generally regarded as the foremost important and influential filmmaker of the post-war Soviet era in Russia and one of the greatest in the history of cinema.

Tarkovsky's films are characterised by Christian and metaphysical themes, extremely long takes, and memorable images of exceptional beauty. Recurring motifs in his films are dreams, memory, childhood, running water accompanied by fire, rain indoors, reflections, and characters re-appearing in the foreground of long panning movements of the camera.

Tarkovsky developed a theory of cinema that he called "sculpting in time". By this he meant that the unique characteristic of cinema as a medium was to take our experience of time and alter it. Unedited movie footage transcribes time in real time. (The speedy jump-cutting style that is prevalent in music videos and many Hollywood movies, by contrast, overrides any sense of time by imposing the editor's viewpoint.) By using long takes and few cuts in his films, he aimed to give the viewers a sense of time passing, time lost, and the relationship of one moment in time to another.

Up to and including his film Mirror, Tarkovsky focused his cinematic works on exploring this theory. After Mirror, he announced that he would focus his work on exploring the dramatic unities proposed by Aristotle: a concentrated action, happening in one place, within the span of a single day. Stalker is, by his own words, the only film that truly reflects this ambition; it is also considered by many to be a near-perfect reflection of the sculpting in time theory. --[1]

The Color Of Pomegranates (1968) - Sergei Paradjanov

  • The Color Of Pomegranates (1968) - Sergei Paradjanov [Amazon.com]
    Sergei Paradjanov (1924-1990) has been acclaimed as the greatest Russian filmmaker to appear since the golden age of Eisenstein and Dovzhenko. His baroque masterpiece, The Color Of Pomegranates, was banned in the Soviet Union for its religious sentiment and nonconformity to "Socialist realism"; its director, a tirelessly outspoken campaigner for human rights, was convicted on a number of trumped-up charges and sentenced to five years of hard labor in the gulag. A wave of protest from the international film community led to his release in 1978.

    Aesthetically the most extreme film ever made in the U.S.S.R., Pomegranates, his hallucinatory epic account of the life of the 18th Century Armenian national poet, Sayat Nova, conveys the glory of what a cinema of high art can be like. Conceived as an extraordinary complex series of painterly tableaux that recall Byzantine mosaics, the film is a dreamlike icon come-to-life of astonishing beauty and rigor. It evokes the poet's childhood and youth, his days as a troubadour at the court of King Heraclius II of Georgia, his retreat to a monastery and his old age and death.

    There has never been a film like this magical work. It fully justifies critic Alexei Korotyukov's remark: "Paradjanov made films not about how things are, but how they would have been had he been God." (www.kino.com)--danielh


    from the book Film As a Subversive Art (1974) - Amos Vogel

    To anyone acquainted with the Soviet cinema of the Stalin era -- a numbing succession of academic, conventional, "bourgeois" works reflecting the ossified ideological superstructure -- a return to the great Soviet masterpieces of the 1920s is the equivalent of a trip to another planet. As in politics, the two periods are aesthetically and thematically poles apart.

    Never before had there existed a state-financed, nationalized cinema entirely devoted to subversion as was built in Russia after the October revolution. The creation of a new conciousness, the destruction of reactionary values, the demolition of myths of state, church, and capital -- these objectives were to permeate the ideological superstructure of the proletarian state, its arts, its education. And the cinema --- in Lenin's view, the most important of the arts -- was to assume a central role in the struggle; for it was the art form most accessible to the dispersed, illiterate masses.

    Several factors contributed to the unprecedented explosion of creative energy forever linked with the towering achievements of the early Soviet cinema. Among these were the profoundly liberating, innovative tendencies freed by the liquidation of the former regime, the exuberant hopes for the creation of a first society of equality and freedom, and the Lenin-Trotsky-Lunacharsky decision, despite their insistence on proletarian dictatorship, to permit freedom of expres- sion to the various artistic tendencies beginning to develop. This was particu- larly significant, since Lenin's views on the arts were conservative and tinged by that same ascetic puritanism so often found in the revolutionary movement.

    The result was an unprecedented flowering of diverse avant-garde and intellectual tendencies in theatre, painting, literature, music, and cinema -- unique also in being self-financed. This cultural proliferation saw the growth of constructivism and futurism and the absorption into the Soviet experience of expressionism and surrealism. From 1917 into the early twenties, the congruence of avant-garde art and radical ideology, the fusion of form and content (so hotly debated in the West ever since, and not so secretly the subject of this book) existed in action. For a brief, glowing second of historical time, the commitments of the vanguard artist and the society around him almost coincided. This achievement of the October revolution will never be eradicated; yet, just as the promise of a new society faded into the gruesome obscenities of Stalin's state-capitalist totalitarianism, so did the wedding of avant-garde and state prove temporal. The eternal tension between organized society and creative artist reasserted itself in the particularly brutal form of suicides, secret deaths, exile, emigration, or abject surrender. The price paid by Stalin in the arts for the internal consolidation of a regime of terror was -- as in Hitler's Germany -- the total eradication of modernity and the creation of a perverse picture- postcard Kitsch "art", criminally referred to as "socialist realism". Since social liberation is impossible without personal freedom (which includes the freedom of all art forms to develop), the only person truly "subversive" of the values of the October revolution was Stalin.

    In retrospect the basic political and aesthetic tenets of the early So- viet cinema can be summarized as a fundamental subversion of filmic content and form. In content, it constituted rejection of the individual- ism, sentimentality, and aestheticism of ruling-class art, a passion for the grasping and taming of reality, and the creation of archetypes and revolutionary conciousness. In form, early Soviet cinema manifested an aggressive rejection of conventional methods and systems and a pro- found concern with the theory and language of film, influenced by the formalist critics Shklovsky and Jacobson, forerunners of structuralism. These elements recur in the philosophical and aesthetic writings as well as in the films of the director-theoreticians who created an entire art in their image and made the Soviet Cinema world-famous.

    Runaway Train (1985) - Andrei Konchalovsky

  • Runaway Train (1985) - Andrei Konchalovsky [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    RUNAWAY TRAIN is one of the rare good movies produced by the Laurel & Hardy of Hollywood production : Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. An original story of japanese director Akira Kurosawa filmed by Andrei Kontchalovsky, RUNAWAY TRAIN, 14 years after its theatrical release, is still steaming.

    With a breath-taking rythm, Jon Voight, Eric Roberts and a Rebecca DeMornay in her prime brunette youth, the Alaskan landscapes that Kontchalovsky transforms in a Siberian goulag, this movie is one of the more brilliant cat and mouse films of the last decades.

    Terribly pessimistic movie also since Jon Voight and Eric Roberts will only taste an illusion of liberty. An almighty God, the informatician that controls the railtracks, is leading the runaway train in any direction he wants. The shadow of Akira Kurosawa can be recognized behind this idea of men believing to be free while the Fate has already marked the end of the journey.

    The last scene of RUNAWAY TRAIN is a lyrical masterpiece worthy to be compared to the most visionary works of german director Werner Herzog or to the silent films of King Vidor. A haunting vision.--wdanthemanw via amazon.com

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