Leonid Ejdlin & Sergei Yutkevich – Lenin v Parizhe AKA Lenin in Paris (1981)

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Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin spent four years in Paris (1909–1912), and this historical docudrama explores those years with a certain amount of humor. Lenin is shown visiting with friends, the meetings with his later mistress Inessa Armand (in the movie she is in love with a young communist, Trofimoff), while several of his philosophical views and economic and political theories are mouthed by a former colleague who narrates the film and brings the material into the present. Continue reading

Irina Poplavskaya & Sergei Yutkevich – Dzhamilya AKA Jamilya (1969)

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The film is based on the story of the same name by Soviet writer Chinghiz Aitmatov. It is set in a remote Kirghiz village during the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945). A young wife of a soldier, Djamilya, fell in love with Daniar, a wounded war veteran living in her village. Daniar reciprocates her feelings. But suddenly Djamilya receives a letter from her husband with the news of his forthcoming return from the hospital. This forces the lovers to make a final decision. Years later, their young friend, Seid, who was a witness to their beautiful, albeit uneasy, love, reminisces about this wonderful couple… Continue reading

Semyon Aranovich & Aleksandr Sokurov – Altovaya Sonata. Dmitriy Shostakovich AKA Viola Sonata. Dmitriy Shostakovich (1981)

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The life and work of the great Russian composer Dmitriy Shostakovich is presented in this documentary through rare images and audios from many archives, at one time censored by the Soviet government. A brief take on his life, from his transition as an early prodigy to a first rate artist, his celebrated compositions and the final years with a declining health. Continue reading

Dziga Vertov – Chelovek s kino-apparatom aka Man with a movie camera (1929)

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This playful film is at once a documentary of a day in the life of the Soviet Union, a documentary of the filming of said documentary, and a depiction of an audience watching the film. Even the editing of the film is documented. We often see the cameraman who is purportedly making the film, but we rarely, if ever, see any of the footage he seems to be in the act of shooting! Continue reading

Andrei Tarkovsky – Stalker [The Criterion Collection] (1979)

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Andrei Tarkovsky’s final Soviet feature is a metaphys­ical journey through an enigmatic postapocalyptic landscape, and a rarefied cinematic experience like no other. A hired guide—the Stalker—leads a writer and a professor into the heart of the Zone, the restricted site of a long-ago disaster, where the three men eventually zero in on the Room, a place rumored to fulfill one’s most deeply held desires. Adapting a science-fiction novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Tarkovsky created an immersive world with a wealth of material detail and a sense of organic atmosphere. A religious allegory, a reflection of contemporaneous political anxieties, a meditation on film itself—Stalker envelops the viewer by opening up a multitude of possible meanings. Continue reading

Grigori Kozintsev & Leonid Trauberg – Novyy Vavilon AKA The New Babylon (1929)

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The Paris Commune was an epic phenomenon in the early history of the socialist movement. The Commune was located in the workers quarters within the centre of Paris. An important location was the emporium LA NOUVELLE BABYLONE, still existing at Metro Babylone. The main character in the film is Louise, a salesgirl in the shop. She is a communard. Her counterpart is a soldier that helps to wipe out the Commune. Thus, the enormous social and dialectic complications and contrasts between the workers on one side, and bourgeoisie and army on the other side, are projected on two characters. And of course they fall in love. Louise is a fierce heroine. Jean a naïve soldier, a farmer who is ordered and abused. In the end they meet not in bed but on the barricades. Jean is a conscript in the army that defeats the Commune fighters in the bloody week in June 1871. Thousands of the Communards were killed in action or shot at Père Lachaise cemetery. Continue reading