Comrades-in-Cameras

Austin Film Society Presents Soviet New Wave Cinema

Well-intentioned critics often regard the better-known films of Soviet cinema, like those of Andrei Tarkovsky, as hallmarks of individual genius created in spite of political hostility, not as products of a vital filmmaking tradition that rose and fell with the tide of historical circumstance. This approach doesn't give proper credit to the numerous talented filmmakers associated with Soviet film production, particularly in the 1960s, during a flowering of the cinematic arts that introduced the Western world to the Soviet cinema's leading lights.

The 11 films presented by the Austin Film Society and UT-Austin's Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies demonstrate that for the Soviet filmmakers of the day, audacity in form and content was the rule, not the exception. The features in this free series span almost a decade of work that illustrates the arc of the so-called "Soviet New Wave" -- works of formal beauty, inventive and even radical storytelling technique, moral circumspection, and sly political comment.

The New Wave began in earnest with the "Khrushchev Thaw" of 1956, when the renunciation of Stalinist doctrine paved the way for new innovations in the arts and a decline in socialist realism. The following year, Mikhail Kalatozov's The Cranes Are Flying won the grande prix at Cannes and set the stage for international appreciation of the renewed Soviet cinema. There was much to appreciate. Soviet New Wave films were staggeringly diverse, from prestige pictures based on literary works, such as Grigory Kozintsev's Hamlet (Nov. 20), to politically and socially challenging material like Mikhail Romm's Nine Days of One Year (Nov. 6), a drama about the ambitions of two nuclear physicists symbolizing the competing ways of life in a changing, post-Thaw nation.

The AFS program highlights both the well-known and the overlooked. Perhaps the best-appreciated of the New Wave filmmakers is formalist master Andrei Tarkovsky. His directorial debut My Name Is Ivan (Nov. 13), based on a short story by V. Bogomolov, was conceived as a heroic yarn about a young spy behind enemy lines during World War II. But Ian Christie, writing in Film Comment, described how the young Tarkovsky "transformed it into a powerful explosion of an orphan's yearning for a lost maternal paradise," producing a film that is moving yet unsentimental in its message about war and the loss of innocence.

Unfortunately, the movement was short-lived. Khrushchev formally attacked "liberalism" in the arts in late 1962, and the axe quickly fell on the progressively minded New Wave films. Marlen Khutsiev's I Am Twenty (Dec. 11) suffered a harsh fate, renamed (from Lenin's Guard) and reshot in response to an official attack on its plotless structure and anti-authoritarian themes. 1964's Goodbye, Boys (Nov. 15) and 1967's Brief Encounters (Dec. 4) were shelved until the advent of glasnost in the Eighties, when the political climate once more was willing to bring to light the innovation of Soviet New Wave cinema. end story


The AFS series "The Soviet New Wave: Films of the 60s & 70s" runs Tuesdays and Thursdays through December. Admission is free, and all screenings begin at 7:30pm at the Arbor 7 (10000 Research). For more information, call 322-0145 or visit www.austinfilm.org.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Soviet New Wave, Austin Film Society, The Cranes Are Flying, Khrushchev, Nine Days of One Year, Mikhail Romm, My Name Is Ivan, Andrei Tarkovsky, Goodbye Boys, Mikhail Kalik, Hamlet, Grigory Kozintsev, The Letter Never Sent, Mikhail Kalatozov, No Ford in the Fire, Gleb P

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