Volume 17, Issue 8 / August 2013

Alexander Sokurov: Early Masterworks

In this issue we place a spotlight on Russian cinema, specifically Alexander Sokurov and the much anticipated 2012 Box-Set of his early films released by The Cinema Guild. Alexander Sokurov has been a favorite here at Offscreen for a very long time, and enchanting international filmgoers for decades with some of the most formally challenging (and archly conservative in other respects) cinema of his generation. When Sokurov first broke onto the international scene he was seen as the rightful heir to Andrei Tarkovsky. However, before long he established his own even more idiosyncratic style that routinely mirrors Russian 19th and 20th century art and history. In the two pieces devoted to this extensive box set I give an overview of both the fiction and documentary works included; while in the second piece Nathaniel Carlson concentrates on the films with a direct literary lineage, Save and Protect, Stone and Whispering Pages. The third essay, an appreciation of Russian cinema great Vadim Yusov, ties in to Sokurov through the Tarkovsky connection. Yusov, who passed away at the age of 84 on August 23, 2013, was an important creative partner for Tarkovsky, being his cinematographer from his student diploma film The Steamroller and the Violin, straight on through his first three features, Ivan’s Childhood, Andrei Rublev, and Solaris. The final two pieces in this issue revolve around film festivals. Up first is Philip Gillet’s exemplary festival report on the 19th edition of the Bradford Film Festival. Gillet situates the film festival at an important juncture, not only between the 35mm and digital divide, but as a potential player in the field of distribution and exhibition. Film festivals have been a crucial meeting spot for cinephiles, filmmakers, producers and distributors for many years now; but far too many excellent films are screened and then become lost in the post-festival shuffle. Gillet wonders whether festivals will one day mutate into distributors of films, if only in digital versions. As an added note, Gillet spends considerable space discussing the retrospective of Russian director Aleksey Balabanov’s career; alas, Balabanov’s died at the age of 54 on May 18, 2013, just as Gillet was writing his report. Concluding the issue is Professor Peter Rist’s thoughts on the retrospective on Canadian-born Hollywood director Allan Dwan at the 27th edition of Il Cinema Ritrovato, held in Bologna, Italy (29 June–6 July, 2013). The re-evaluation of Dwan’s work as a pioneering director of early Hollywood made possible by retrospectives such as Il Cinema Ritrovato continues with a recent initiative taken by Brooklyn-based filmmaker Gina Telaroli and film writer and editor David Phelps: a remarkable (and free) e-book entitled Allan Dwan: A Dossier. The e-book, a massive undertaking at 460 pages and in multiple languages (at least the original language version) can be read online or downloaded here. (Donato Totaro, ed.)

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