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Envisioning Russia: A Century of Filmmaking

October 10, 2008 - October 30, 2008

Sadko, October 12

Although early film shows took place in Russia soon after the invention of cinema (Maxim Gorky’s “In the Kingdom of Shadows,” published on July 4, 1896, is one of the most beautiful early descriptions of motion pictures), continuous, serious film production was not established in Russia until 1908. Thus, the Russian Ministry of Culture has designated 2008 as the centenary of Russian cinema. We could have devoted an entire year’s programming to the occasion and still merely have scratched the surface of this most innovative, contradictory, and always provocative cinema. This series focuses on the work of Mosfilm, the largest and most productive film studio during the Soviet era, and Russia’s most important film institution even today. At its height, Mosfilm was the U.S.S.R.’s Hollywood, hosting the most popular stars, creating the most lavish productions, and generally setting the pace for the rest of Soviet cinema. Eisenstein, Romm, Tarkovsky, Konchalovsky, and Shepitko all created masterpieces there, while the extraordinary range of Soviet production was on full display. Alongside the classics, this commemoration showcases Soviet musicals such as the remarkable Tractor Drivers, as well as works like Carnival Night and The Cranes Are Flying that heralded the post-Stalinist cultural thaw.

Richard Peña
Film Society of Lincoln Center

Friday, October 10, 2008
6:30 p.m. The Battleship Potemkin
Judith Rosenberg on Piano. Sergei Eisenstein’s classic can be appreciated for “not only the perfection of its form, but the humanitarianism and enthusiasm that impregnated its revolutionary subject.”—Georges Sadoul

Friday, October 10, 2008
8:20 p.m. The Ascent
In Larissa’s Shepitko’s masterpiece, the partisan struggle against the Nazis in WWII provides the setting for a tale of morality and martyrdom. “A profoundly moving experience.”—Filmex ’78

Sunday, October 12, 2008
3:00 p.m. Sadko
Sinbad’s voyage is transformed by one of the great poets of fantasy filmmaking, Alexander Ptushko.

Thursday, October 16, 2008
6:30 p.m. Tractor Drivers
This musical prototype for the girl-boy-tractor romances “begins as a deceptively easygoing trifle, by the end becoming a reminder that with World War II in sight, tanks would soon replace tractors.”—N.Y. Sun

Thursday, October 16, 2008
8:20 p.m. Carnival Night
This deliciously witty 1956 comedy showed that, even in Stalin’s Russia, kids just want to rock ’n’ roll.

Saturday, October 18, 2008
6:30 p.m. The Cranes Are Flying
Mikhail Kalatozov’s stunningly visualized drama of young love and ambition destroyed by war, a key work of the post-Stalin era.

Saturday, October 18, 2008
8:30 p.m. The Letter Never Sent
Also by Kalatozov, “the most profound examination of man against nature ever filmed. It took a Russian to do it well.”—Dennis Jakob

Sunday, October 19, 2008
1:30 p.m. Jewish Luck
Judith Rosenberg on Piano. Sholem Aleichem’s classic is brought to the screen in an extraordinary meeting of Russian-Jewish talent.

Sunday, October 19, 2008
3:30 p.m. Uncle Vanya
Konchalovsky’s adaptation of Chekhov’s play, “a comedy that moves to the cadences of tragedy.”—Albert Johnson

Wednesday, October 22, 2008
7:00 p.m. Bed and Sofa
Judith Rosenberg on Piano. With its humor and naturalism, Avram Room’s intimate drama dealing with a ménage à trois brought about by a housing shortage appears modern even today.

Friday, October 24, 2008
6:30 p.m. The Mirror
The most poetic and inventive of Russian directors, Andrei Tarkovsky, sketches his youth through dream images of a young boy who is hypnotized in a clinic.

Saturday, October 25, 2008
8:45 p.m. The Russian Question
Mikhail Romm’s vintage Cold War film about a pro-Moscow American journalist is enlivened by its humanity, and a score by Aram Khachaturian.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008
7:00 p.m. Happiness
Judith Rosenberg on Piano. What happens when a slacker is invited to join a farming collective? “A dark and funny assault on peasant-class pieties.”—N.Y. Sun

Wednesday, October 29, 2008
8:30 p.m. The New Moscow
“Eye-popping amalgamation of country comedy, musical romance, and science fiction. . . . Alexandr Medvedkin shocks through the sheer audacity of his project.”—Richard Peña

Thursday, October 30, 2008
6:30 p.m. Elegy of Life: Rostropovich, Vishnevskaya
Aleksandr Sokurov’s deeply felt tribute to a remarkable musical partnership: cellist-conductor Mstislav Rostropovich and his wife, opera diva Galina Vishnevskaya.

Thursday, October 30, 2008
8:30 p.m. Alexandra
Sokurov stuns the senses, depicting humanity at its fiercest and finest, personified by the titular grandmother journeying through wartorn Chechnya. Galina Vishnevskaya stars.

Envisioning Russia is a presentation of Seagull Films in cooperation with the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Concern Mosfilm. The series is curated by Alla Verlotsky and Richard Peña, and organized at PFA by Susan Oxtoby. Special thanks to Karen Shakhnazarov. Presented in conjunction with the Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies at UC Berkeley.