Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Films of Mikhail Kalatozov

BAM is organizing a mini-retrospective of films of Russian director Mikhail Kalatozov. Details here.

I have seen two of his films and they are both visually ravishing works. The Cranes are Flying, a love story set in the second world war, is about a young girl dealing with the trauma of separation. A common enough love story, even a sentimental one but what makes it exceptional is its stunning camera work. It is not surprising that they have named the retrospective "The Emotional Camera." The restless moving camera, the endless tracking shots, extreme angles... every single scene in the film is a marvel. In some ways it anticipates Andrei Tarkovsky's Ivan's Childhood which is more elliptical and perhaps as a result less emotionally immediate as compared to The Cranes are Flying. It is also available in a nice dvd from criterion. I had mentioned this film briefly before on the blog too.

I am Cuba, the Cuban-Soviet co-production, is even more extreme in its style, specially in its use of the same long tracking shots. It is a very strange film actually. Ostensibly a propaganda documentary about the Cuban revolution, it is a defiantly formalist and experimental exercise in film making. No wonder both the Cuban and Soviet cultural authorities were pissed off with it and the film was virtually forgotten. It was rediscovered and promoted by the noted Cuban novelist Guillermo Cabrera Infante following which it was picked up by various filmmakers most notably Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola both of whom added their endorsement for the re=release of the film. You can watch the entire film here. It is quite long (over three hours) though the first 15-20 minutes is enough to convince you of its sheer strangeness and uniqueness. The monologue spoken by "Cuba" in the film was actually written by the famous poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Lots of interesting stuff to read on the internet about this film. A review from Sight and sound here.

Another article about the retrospective here.

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