Saturday, September 29, 2012

Flights in Dreams and in Reality

We found ourselves watching Полёты во сне и наяву the other night, featuring Oleg Yankovsky and Lyudmila Gurchenko.  The film dates to 1983 with Yankovsky's character, Sergei, having a hard time coming to terms with his 40th birthday.  The architecture studio where Gurchenko's character, Larisa, worked reminded me a lot like the one my wife shared with colleagues when I first came to Vilnius in 1994. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Morning of Our Motherland

I was watching a History channel special on Socialist Realism art of the Soviet Union and this was one of the grand canvases that is now stuffed away in the Tretyakov State Gallery.  The painter was Fyodor Shurpin and he had a wonderful eye for detail, right down to the secret service black car on the road to Stalin's right.  To the left, one sees a row of combines turning over the field of golden wheat, which became symbolic of Stalin's Soviet Union.  Утро нашей Родины is from 1949, with Stalin radiating a post-war confidence.  It is also known as Dawn of our Fatherland and other titles.

Shurpin was one of the better artists to carry over from the pre-war years.  The narrator pointed out how socialist realist art changed dramatically as a result of the war, becoming much more static and propagandist in appearance.  He pointed to two stops along the Moscow subway as an example of this divide.  Here, Shurpin essentially transposes Stalin for an earlier "Mother" image,

Interesting that she is more firmly rooted in the earth, where Stalin looks like he is standing before the canvas.  Even the light seems artificial, meant to further accentuate him as a "heroic figure" rather than link him to Mother Russia.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Viktor Pelevin and the Trouble with Werewolves

Here are a few tantalizing clips from the title story in this early collection, A Werewolf Problem in Central Russia.  Wolves have figured heavily into the Russian imagination, but Pelevin twists this metamorphosis into an existential experience not much unlike those encountered in his book, The Life of Insects.  It is less a parable, as say Bulgakov's classic Heart of a Dog, than it is an invocation of a return to a natural order.  Ultimately, Pelevin through his first person, Sasha, finds himself having to encounter another werewolf in a battle for his life.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Dangerous Tour

What a treat it was to see Опасные гастроли  the other night on  Дом Кино television.  Vladimir Vysotsky stars as George Bengalsky, the leader of a traveling cabaret group, which also serves as a cover for early Bolsheviks in Tsarist Russia.  The action swirls mostly around Odessa, but travels to St. Petersburg for its climactic scene.  The film features a great number song and dance routines, with the great Bard singing a few signature songs.  The story is exploited mostly for comic effect, with Vysotsky donning a number of disguises to keep one step ahead of the police.  It was released in 1969.  Here is the film in its entirety on kinopod.   Unfortunately, no subtitles.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ivan Vasilievich: Back to the Future

My wife and I found ourselves watching this Soviet classic the other night.  Reminded me a little of Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.  Yuri Yakovlev is one of my favorite actors.  He was great in The Irony of Fate.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Happy Birthday, Lev!

I'd be most remiss if I didn't note the birthday of Leo Tolstoy.  It was Sunday, September 9.  The Count left a rich legacy that is still being widely disseminated today.  A legacy that influenced Gandhi and many others