The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

So, as I mentioned at the outset of this past weekend, I spent a large chunk of my time over the past couple of days at the Cinema of Agitation: Russian and Slavic Fantastic Film Festival at the Salvador Dali Museum. Time very well spent, too.

The crowd was pretty good. There was a preponderance of old Russians and a couple of younger ones, which I guess should have been expected. Also the usual suspects: Film buffs, amateur filmmakers, avant-garders, etc. Much better turnout than the usual bi-weekly Dali evening film showing, anyway.

The showcase movies, I felt, were during the second day's showings: Stalker and Man With A Movie Camera. Both were fantastic. Movie Camera was a fascinating piecing-together of snippets of life in Moscow and other Russian locales in the late '20s. The rapid-fire film editing techniques were years ahead of their time, and kept hitting you with so much visual imagery that you feel overwhelmed by the end. Stalker was an absorbing meditation that, in startling ways, foretold what would happen at Chernobyl a few years after this was filmed (one person at the showing brought up this little tidbit: The rumor that there was an antecedent, unpublicized Chernobyl-like disaster in the U.S.S.R. during the '50s, and this was what Tarkovsky was using as his source material, aside from the short story "The Roadside Picnic"). The animation clips were great, too; I really liked the early-20th century stuff.

That's not to say that Friday was lacking. Daisies lived up to it's billing: Very New Wave, and dripping with the symbolism that comes from living in a repressive regime. The Color of Pomegranates was a trip too. I originally described it as minimalist film-making; it was as far as dialogue and pacing, but certainly not in terms of cinematography. Breathtaking, if somewhat draining to watch. In fact, Friday was a draining day all around for me, to the point where I had to cut out early. I really wanted to stick around for W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism that night, but I felt I was so mentally out of it, I wouldn't be able to appreciate it properly. Just have to try to rent or buy it.

I also, ultimately, couldn't stick around late into the night for Underground on Saturday night. Seven hours seemed to be my limit for movie consumption, especially for movies so dense with concept and content. Another for the rental/purchase route.

All told, I really enjoyed it. It was a different way to spend a weekend. I wish there were more of these kinds of festivals in the area. Maybe this one will inspire others.