Daily Archives: March 3, 2021

Arsenal

From the Chicago Reader (June 1, 2002). I’m delighted to be posting this around the same time that Godard spoke with reverence about this film in a lengthy tapedĀ interview just posted on Facebook. — J.R.

Earth (1930) is the most famous of Alexander Dovzhenko’s masterpieces, but this white-hot war film, made the previous year and screening only once in the Gene Siskel Film Center’s invaluable Dovzhenko retrospective, is in many ways his most dazzling silent picture. Though it was commissioned to glorify the 1918 struggle of Bolshevik workers at a Kiev munitions factory against White Russian troops, Dovzhenko’s view of wartime and battlefront morality is too ambiguous and multilayered to fit comfortably within any propaganda scheme. More clearly influenced by Sergei Eisenstein than any of Dovzhenko’s other pictures, it’s certainly the one that uses fast editing in the most exciting fashion, and some of the poetic uses of Ukrainian folklore that were Dovzhenko’s specialty have an almost drunken abandon here — as in the singing horses. (JR)

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Aerograd

From the Chicago Reader (June 1, 2002). — J.R.

The first feature Alexander Dovzhenko made outside his native Ukraine (1935, 93 min.) takes place in a vast Siberian forest on the Pacific coast populated by religious villagers, hunters and adventurers, and Japanese spies, where the Soviets planned to establish an airfield and a city. Frankly operatic in its portraiture and poetic sylization, this Soviet masterpiece began as propaganda but veers closer to pagan fantasy than any of Dovzhenko’s other sound films, and it quickly became a favorite of both Elia Kazan and James Agee when it opened in the U.S. under the title Frontier. As always in Dovzhenko, the depictions of death are especially memorable. In Russian with subtitles. (JR)

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