18th century Kazakhstan, a vast, pitiless region of austere and terrible beauty, bordered by China, Russia and Tibet. Here the proud and warlike Kazakh tribes have survived and fought for centuries – against invaders, against their formidable Jungar enemies and amongst themselves.
Oraz, a mystic and warrior possessed of great powers, foretells the birth of a new star, a hero. This boy -Mansur – is destined to unite the Kazakhs, and lead them to glorious victory against their enemies. Fearful of Oraz’ prediction, the Jungar ruler Galdan orders his General, Sharish, to find the child and slay him. However, Oraz saves Mansur and delivers him to his father, Sultan Wali. Continue reading
Roger Ebert wrote:
Every review of “Russian Ark” begins by discussing its method. The movie consists of one unbroken shot lasting the entire length of the film, as a camera glides through the Hermitage, the repository of Russian art and history in St. Petersburg. The cinematographer Tillman Buttner, using a Steadicam and high-def digital technology, joined with some 2,000 actors in an tight-wire act in which every mark and cue had to be hit without fail; there were two broken takes before the third time was the charm.
The subject of the film, which is written, directed and (in a sense) hosted by Alexander Sokurov, is no less than three centuries of Russian history. The camera doesn’t merely take us on a guided tour of the art on the walls and in the corridors, but witnesses many visitors who came to the Hermitage over the years. Apart from anything else, this is one of the best-sustained ideas I have ever seen on the screen. Sokurov reportedly rehearsed his all-important camera move again and again with the cinematographer, the actors and the invisible sound and lighting technicians, knowing that the Hermitage would be given to him for only one precious day. Continue reading
Angelopoulos moves his forces like a juggernaut to stage formidable set-pieces, coups de thιβtre that impress with their vast scale without necessarily engaging our emotions. In his most remarkable feat, he constructs a low-lying town in a dry lakebed only to drown it for a spectacular inundation. There follows a floating funeral on a water-borne raft, players posed beside the open coffin, as a flotilla of boats proceeds with a flourish of black flags. Prows part the water as the camera glides ahead, like a courtier preparing the way, but a sudden change of angle confronts us with a massive phalanx of figures reflected in the floodwater, with blue sky streaking the top of the frame. Continue reading
One of the most beautiful, poetic films ever made. The opening scenes are pure, unbeatable art. Rather than the unwinding of the complex narrative itself, it is the visual power of the images that Angelopoulos offers us that make this work so disturbing and beautiful. You have to watch the film as a series of paintings, poems, installations and performances rather than a conventional movie. The acting is superb, especially Harvey Keitel’s performance, one of the best that this great actor has ever delivered. Especially memorable is the scene in which an old woman is taken for a ride to her hometown in Macedonia by Keitel. The woman left Macedonia before the advent of Communism and is now returning to her country for the first time in decades. Since her absence, her place has been transformed in a nightmarish communist city, filled with gray, impersonal, concrete buildings. We see the woman helpless and bewildered in an environment that she no longer recognizes, while Keitel goes away. A powerful metaphor of the fast and tremendous transformations suffered by the Balkans during the 20th century. Continue reading
from Jump Cut, no. 10-11, 1976, pp. 5-6
copyright Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, 1976, 2004
“In THIASSOS even though we refer to the past, we are talking about the present. The approach is not mythical but dialectical. This comes through in the structure of the film where often “two historical times” are dialectically juxtaposed in the same shot creating associations leading directly to historical conclusions… Those links do not level the events but bypass the notions of past/present and instead provide a linear developmental interpretation which exists only in the present.”
— Theodoros Angelopoulos Continue reading
Like Tolstoy’s novel, this epic-length War and Peace is rough going, but worth the effort. Winner of the 1969 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and widely considered the most faithful adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic, Sergei Bondarchuk’s massive Soviet-Italian coproduction was seven years in the making, at a record-setting cost of $100 million.
Bondarchuk himself plays the central role of Pierre Bezukhov, buffeted by fate during Russia’s tumultuous Napoleonic Wars, serving as pawn and philosopher through some of the most astonishing set pieces ever filmed.
Bondarchuk is a problematic director: interior monologues provide awkward counterpoint to intimate dramas, weaving together the many classes and characters whose lives are permanently affected by war.
Infusions of ’60s-styled imagery clash with the film’s period detail; it’s an anomalous experiment that doesn’t really work. Undeniably, however, the epic battle scenes remain breathtakingly unique; to experience the sheer scale of this film is to realize that such cinematic extravagance will never be seen again. Continue reading
Although Eric Rohmer’s fresh, unadorned style rarely sits heavily on his films, The Romance of Astrée et de Céladon, his adaptation of 17th century writer Honoré d’Urfé’s 5th century fable of affronted love, not only features an usual absence of intellectual banter, but is more importantly the lightest and silliest the director has been in ages. These are not pejorative descriptions—the film’s wholesome delight in d’Urfé’s modest whimsy amongst the 5th century Gauls of druids, nymphs and many amorous declarations of assured sincerity and flighty infidelity, the director’s own sweet, unexpected eroticism, and the film’s gentle spirit simply make a work that is light, lovely, and strange.
- D. Kasman (D-kaz.com) Continue reading