Sat Apr 26th, 2008 at 10:06:06 AM EST
Update: Sven is wrong. Watching a movie and reading a couple of articles is NOT work. So PLEASE do not feel intimidated or overwhelmed. We're talking about movies here. It is meant to be ENJOYABLE. And it's a really painless way to learn about another culture. It's fun, in fact. So, I really hope you will give this a chance. I think it can be totally worth whatever "effort" you put into it!
Contemporary Russian Film (1991-) : Everything But the Kitchen Sink
I know everyone decided to nix the ET Film Blog Series, but I'm always the person who stays after they've started putting the chairs on the tables. So I'm going to still do mine. It's for May (date tbd), so you all have a month to prepare. And just to make sure you all show up for the final exam, I'm going to use this diary as office hours where you can drop by and tell me what movie you plan to see. I like office hours...
Anyway. I was originally thinking of limiting the May Film Blog to "The Cinema of Alexandr Sokurov." But I am worried about what is available to everyone in the ET diaspora. I also want it to be a learning experience for me. So, like, why write about what I already know?
Promoted by Migeru
I've chosen as the topic for May's Film Blog "Contemporary Russian Film: 1991-Present." There are many good reasons for this, including, in no particular order:
- If you are on ET, you live somewhere with Internet access, and if you live somewhere with Internet access you can also access at least one Russian (and loose definition thereof) film made in the last 17 years. Accessibility should not be an issue.
- Backing up, "Russian" film because that's what I like to write about, that's what I have a degree in (I lied about not wanting to write about what I already know) and because the Russian Film Blog blogrolled ET so I feel pressure to produce. Also, because they are the best. Russian filmmakers. To paraphrase Fran, "Russia has the best films and filmmakers! Why would we want British ones in our diaries?"
- It seems one of the big hurdles preventing the success of earlier ET Film Blogs was their focus on one or two films. If you'd not seen that film, you could not really participate. This way if all you can get your hands on is Burnt By the Sun or Russian Ark, you can participate; if you've taken my advice and already rented "4", Vozvrashchenie, or Father and Son, you could participate; if Brother or Nightwatch is more your cuppa, you can participate; and if you live a charmed enough life to have already seen the Irony and Fate sequel, 12, You I love, The Mermaid, or Aleksandra, you can generously share your wealth with us. I think opening up the topic may be more effective. Not only will participation be less limited, but the possibilities for discussion as well. For guidance, I will suggest some reading which you can think about in relation to the film you see. In the actual Film Blog, we can talk about what we liked, hated, learned, about themes, styles, etc. in the comments.
- I lied. I don't know anything about contemporary Russian film. I can tell you about Eisenstein and Vertov until you have no choice but to strangle me. But anything actually made in my lifetime? Er... Dunno. Maybe no one knows. Maybe we will be in the avant guard of post-Soviet film theory and criticism! It's a strange time. When film first showed up, Russia embraced it passionately and was responsible for some of the most innovative and insane filmmaking. Lenin came along and was all like "Из всех искусств важнейшим для нас является кино," and what he meant by that is, "for us (Russia) cinema is the most important of all the arts." (Take that, painters!) Why? Agitprop, my friends. Art+Brainwashing=Glorious Soviet Union. Then he died, and Stalin started scaring filmmakers and ditched a lot of the art side of that equation and left the world the gift of Socialist Realism (and we're about as thankful for it as we are for most of what he left us....) Krushchev was a little nicer, and so Tarkovsky was able to make some incredible films, so incredible that even now, pretty much every review of new films from Russia I read are some variation of "in footsteps of Tarkovsky," "the anti-Tarkovsky," or something in the middle. Then what happened? I'm not sure. Fall of Soviet Union, chaos and anarchy, which oddly produced a strikingly good film about pastoral but kinda evil Stalinist Russia and put Nikita Mikhalkov on the map. Now, stability with a dash of authoritarianism. What's the New Russian Film interested in? Let's find out!
My point there was not to bastardize the great and glorious history of Russian film. It was to illustrate the 1 thing (maybe 2 things) you need to know before May:
I. Pick a movie.
- Russian film has, from its infancy, been inextricably linked to the political climate. Documenting the Romanovs, letting the Chukchis know they're now part of the Soviet Union, glorifying the authoritarian leader and peasants and factories, reclaiming oppressed spirituality, asserting humanity, lamenting a crushed dream, etc. The movies don't EVER get made in a vacuum.
- Which is NOT to say all Russian films should only be looked at for their ulterior political motives. Frankly, the opposite is true. Or more interesting anyway. Lots of just fantastic art, lots of philosophy, lots of spirituality. Just keep these things in mind. There is always a political motive, even if the motive is to not have a political motive, but that's rarely the most interesting part of the these films.
You can choose any film you want to, so long as it is Russian and made after 1991. Don't know where to begin? Below are links to the films I mentioned above.
Award-winning, probably at a store or library near you:
Burnt By the Sun (Mikhalkov)
Russian Ark (Sokurov)
Artsy films I've already discussed here at ET:
Father and Son (Sokurov)
Mainstream action flicks:
Recent films with a lot of hype surrounding them:
Irony and Fate: the sequel (Bekmambetov)
You I love
Or pick something else.
II. Learn a bit about the subject, or, "Knowledge is power."
Technically no one has to do anything. But if you have the time, take a peek at some of these sites. In seconds you'll have a feel for some of the basic themes and motives and histories and stuffs which will help you better understand all kinds of references and such. You know, the same reason you had to learn Greek mythology...
Russian Film Blog They like us. Go say "Hi." Or "Privyet."
Kino Kultura Reviews galore for when you see a film and are like, "Whaaa?" They can help you out with that.
KinoEye Archives Archives. Get lost in em.
Context: It's everything.
An article on the New Russian Cinema.
Interview with crazy man who wrote "4"
Will Be On Test!!! I was hoping to find a nice practical excerpt from "Sculpting in Time" for you to read. I didn't immediately, and gave up, but know you will be more patient, find it, and read it. You over achievers, you!
Because some of you think you will do well if you say what I would have said, here is what I have said:
So, get your comments on, Cinephiles!