Pirosmani jolts into motion with a haunting score and an ambiguous painting that offers a silently menacing backdrop for the opening credits. A wonderland of deep focus compositions emerges as we track through living paintings that are saturated with color, texture, and culture. We are presented with surreal imagery and disorienting cuts that tell the story of Georgian primitivist painter Niko Pirosmani …
Browsing: Soviet Union
Varlam Aravidze (Avtandil Makharadze), the former mayor of a small town in Soviet Georgia, has died. His passing is met with tears and solemn songs in praise of the dead. The day after his burial, however, Varlam returns, still dead, but propped up in the garden of his son Abel (also played by Makharadze). After causing a bit of a stir, Varlam’s dusty, stiff body is reburied that evening, but reappears the next …
The Red and the White is not a film that seeks to rationalize nor define the reasons of the senselessness of war. It simply presents it as a confusing and ubiquitous element of the human condition that is as ultimately illogical as it is insignificant. Battles will be won and lost through the course of human history, and the reasons for these battles will be long forgotten in the endless cycle of ebbs and flows that define and torture our existence.
With the recent passing of Amos Vogel, I have decided to take Subversive Saturday back down the path that initially inspired it. The column will act as direct homage to the man that both inspired it and played a key role in the history of film as he brought world cinema as cineastes know it in to the public consciousness. Through his efforts with Cinema 16, he took every possible measure to oppose and subvert the censorship of film, act as a motivational catalyst for aspiring filmmakers that would now have a venue for their work, and bring unseen masterpieces through the history of film back to light.
The films of Sergei Eisenstein were powerful explorations of the capacity of film as a subversive art-form, boiling down the conflicts of the world in to their base elements of good versus evil, with a frenetic energy that charged forward with the explosive power of the pistons in a steam engine. His was not a cinema rooted in the nuances of human emotion or the complexities of the human animal. He spoke to our reactionary tendencies and manipulated our perceptions through his mastery of editing. He condenses complex issues to their base elements to create art that is instantly accessible despite generational or sociopolitical differences. With his montage technique and mastery of cinematic shorthand, we not only know who the collective protagonists are, but we have a clear indication of their struggles, the hardship of their daily lives, and the evils of their oppressors within a matter of minutes. His slogan as an artist in the cinematic realm was “Away from Realism – To Reality!”, which succinctly illustrates the self-awareness of his technique. By boiling complex truths down to their core essence, he is purposely ignoring the complexities of the issues to create populist art that is still compelling after nearly a century.
Wisps of fog drift lazily over a seemingly desolate Georgian landscape. We hear the whinny of far away horses before they slowly break through the lazy mist. The film jarringly cuts to the indifferent mechanical drones of a tractor as it traverses the landscape and heralds the impending changes. Big Green Valley is a neorealist fable of the Georgian new wave cinema from the 1960’s, and it lives in the lazy mysticism of agrarian culture just before the impending modernization that would come after the discovery of oil in the vastness of a valley suited only for cattle. The cows are about to give birth, but the entire landscape is about to be forever changed as monolithic oil derricks would soon add to the jagged skyline that had already been perverted by enormous power lines. These structures of the modern world make man seem insignificant in their grandiosity, and their imposing power makes one forget about the more important elements of life. This is a film uncertain of the promises of modernization and the time rending effects that it has on human life. It occupies a space somewhere between the mystical and the real, when the subjective course of time was marked by the agricultural cycles and natural order of the world instead of the rigid unbending time of modern society.