Does the idea of free access to hundreds of Soviet film classics appeal? The answer is a no-brainer for anyone with the slightest interest in Russian cinema. Head over to the Mosfilm channel on YouTube and enjoy the embarrassment of riches that are on show.
As reported by Open Culture, back in 2011, such delights include the work of Andrei Tarkovsky and Stalin‘s favourite: Volga Volga. The perfect musical-comedy to enjoy when taking a break between purges. Possibly. It’s probably fair to assume that some of its appeal is likely to be lost in translation.
Tarkovsky has been described as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, his work and style admired by Ingmar Bergman and other cinematic luminaries. Such was his impact on cinema that his name has lent itself to the adjective Tarkovskian; attributed to works in an allegorical, dream-like style of immersive long-takes and pans coupled with striking imagery of lingering beauty and power. To see this for yourself, simply browse the net for stills from his films and note the feeling that even static moments of his work conveys.
As far from mainstream Hollywood as we can imagine, he pursued his cinematic theory of ‘sculpting in time’, and criticised the unrestrained use of colour, wholesale; considering it a distraction from the reality of the tale being conveyed.
His statement that art “requires sacrificing of yourself” is uncannily close to the oft-quoted cliché “suffering for your art” – so close in fact that perhaps he could almost have been the source of our modern cast-off quote, subsequently Chinese-whispered over recent decades?
At any rate, all elements and clues to Tarkovsky’s process delineate a fascinating creative outlook and methodology that produced landmark works which are still admired today. Sadly he died of lung cancer in 1986 at the ridiculously young age of 54, although his statement and legacy endures.
Although he was easy to pigeonhole as an ‘art’ director (but so what, frankly?), such was the breadth and reach of his vision that he and Hollywood glimpsed at one another from diametrically opposing sides.
You may assume that such an ‘artist’ would sneeringly dismiss the ‘pulp’ output of the Hollywood studio system outright, well; you may also be wrong. Tarkovsky praised The Terminator – one of the most ‘Hollywood’ franchises ever created – for depicting the inevitable(?) collision between man and machine on an equal stage and some of the questions that are raised as a result (answered albeit bloodily).
Hollywood (almost) delved into Tarkovsky territory by re-adapting and remaking Solaris (2002), directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring George Clooney and Natascha McElhone. Tarkovsky had previously adapted Stanislaw Lem’s novel for Russian TV in 1972. It even made it over to the BBC. Greatness cannot be stopped!
Next week: the horrors of Gogol.