From the Tsars to the Stars: A Journey Through Russian Fantastik Cinema August 11 Ė 24
Presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Seagull Films and the American Cinematheque in collaboration with Concern Mosfilm, Russian State Archive Gosfilmofond and M-Film Studio.
Russian cinema has an inspired tradition of fantastic filmmaking, drawn equally from modern technology and ancient folkloric traditions, and resulting in a treasure trove of cult classics that remain sadly unknown to American audiences. Beginning with the pioneering animation of Ladislaw Starewicz, through the silent classics Aelita: Queen of Mars and A Spectre Haunts Europe and on through Vasili Zhuravlevís early talkie Cosmic Voyage, science fiction and fantasy have remained important presences throughout the history of Russian filmmaking.
In the cold-war era and then throughout the age of Sputnik and beyond, sci-fi elements dominated. More than a decade before 2001, visual-effects pioneers Pavel Klushantsev and Mikhail Koryukov created stunning visions of man's voyage to outer space in such films as The Heavens Call and Planet of Storms, drawing upon the latest technical advances to present a highly detailed (and optimistic) view of space exploration. And in 1962, Kazansky and Chebotarevís charming The Amphibian Man, a cross between Jules Verne and Hans Christian Andersen, became one of the biggest smash hits in Soviet history. Ironically, a great deal of imagery from these astonishing works did end up Western screens ó albeit mauled beyond recognition. Enterprising U.S. producers like Roger Corman purchased Japanese and Soviet sci-fi films at bargain prices, and gave them to up-and-coming American directors (Francis Ford Coppola and Peter Bogdanovich) to re-fashion (via newly shot connecting narratives) into drive-in fodder. Thus Klushantsevís Planet of Storms was the basis for not one but three new movies.
This series examines the history of Russian Fantastik, with rare screenings of the aforementioned films as well as an encore showing of Aleksandr Ptushkoís delightful Ruslan and Ludmila in a brand new print, Aleksandr Rouís classic adaptation of Nikolai Gogolís Christmas story Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka, the new version of Richard Viktorovís 1982 To the Stars by Hard Ways, and Karen Shakhnazarovís remarkable, black comic meditation on Soviet history during the perestroika era, Zero City. Itíll be revelatory, itíll be mind-expanding, and itíll be fun.
Generous support is provided by the Russian State Agency for Culture and Cinematography, George Gund III and Iara Lee and Titra California Inc.
Special thanks to Brandon Maurice Williams, Gwen Deglise, Robert Dekker, Karen Shakhnazarov, Sergey Lazaruk, Nikolay Borodachev and Mikhail Kosirev.
Sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts.
This series was curated by Alla Verlotsky, Robert Skotak and Dennis Bartok. Introduction and descriptions written by Kent Jones and Robert Skotak.