Three Poplars at Plyuschikha

Another little gem of Soviet cinema is Tri Topolya na Plyuschikhe, from 1968, directed by Tatyana Lioznova and written by long-lived dramatist Alexander Borshagovski. It’s an unassumig story, visually simple yet rather touching, which, through a brief episode in the life of a villager, displays before us – with great narrative and interpretative skill – a number of very genuine and well defined characters, while sets forth several exquisitely chosen sides of rural and urban lives in mid XXth century Russia.

In barely 75 minutes runtime the creators of this rather unknown work manage to present to us the longings and joys, the hardships, problems, hopes and concerns of a few human types belonging to that country at that time: the rude frankness of peasants, the diverse attitudes -often ambiguous from a personal point of view- towards the bolshevik system, its goods and bads; the old shepherd whose wisdom and experience we’re only hinted at; a philantropist local courier, crippled of war, understanding and good-natured, who endures the best he can his bad tempered wife; an uncouth, dry man, unpopular because of his nondrinkenness, part time poacher, who tries to keep himself and his family, to some extent, free and independent from the omnipresent kolkhozy (collective farms in the Soviet Union, based on joint property of the produced goods, featuring an excessively rigid and bureaucratic administration); a fat grumpy woman, quite a character, who fully supports ‘the system’; the typically rustic way -almost devoid of sophism and artifice- in which friendships and relations arise; the child who listens to Edith Piaf’s Non, je ne regrette rien on a small radio without barely understanding the lyrics; and among them all, Nurka, a woman native to a neighbouring village who, with unhinhibited resignation, Continue reading “Three Poplars at Plyuschikha”

On Lem's Pericalypsis

perfectVacuumIn the foreword of that joke book that is Perfect Vacuum, where its author, the Polish essayist Stanislaw Lem, reviews a series of nonexistent literary works (they reside only in the universe of his boundless imagination), the prologue writer tells us that, with this, Lem tries to give life to — or perhaps get rid of some of his overabundant ideas, considering that he has much more literary projects than biological lifespan to accomplish them. Thus, by the resource of ‘reviewing’ a few novels that, attributed to equally fictitious authors, he would’ve written himself were his life to last longer, he at least can offer to us the thought arguments or plots, along with the possible, suggested controversy or debate the hypotetical lecturers of the nonexistent books might have come up with. By the way, and for icing the cake, by the end of the foreword we are hinted to suspect that this, too — the foreword itself — is, in turn, Lem’s own craft, and not another person’s. Quite a feat of literary juggling.
Perfect Vacuum is an excellent work; a display of dialectic dexterity, intelligence, logic, and fantasy in equal measure with imagination, all of which at some passages has made me swoon.
And because I have so much liked it, I’m quoting here four of such paragraphs; not necessarily the best, but in any case remarkable ones, most of all considering the decade (the 70’s) they were written, which should suffice to give us an idea of Lem’s amazing clearvoyance and prophetic dowry. All four quotes belong to Perycalipsis, one of the book ‘reviews’ featured in the volume. Continue reading “On Lem's Pericalypsis”

The wrestler

wrestler1If one decade ago I had been told, in light of Sin City and other films of the sort, that I’d ever be moved by Mickey Rourke on the screen, I would’ve not believed it. But welcome be the news: at this age (his, but also mine) it’s comforting to see that the autumn of life can still be very productive — when not terrific.
 
But it’s not always like that, of course; and such is the case of the main character of The wrestler, Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson, a decaying professional pushing sixty who, in the twilight of his career goes over the rings of the State performing in third class fights. When the many blows he’s taken along perhaps too many years in such job start passing him a serious bill, he tries to put some order in his life — only to find that it’s not so easy to make do for all his past mistakes. Continue reading “The wrestler”

I don’t love you anymore

Of all the memorable movie scenes, this is one of my very favourites: so straightforward, so descriptive, so harsh and life-like, so telling of women’s feelings…
It belongs to the film Closer (Mike Nichols, 2004. Very recommended). Dan and Alice have been arguing, and he leaves her hotel room in anger; but when he’s about to catch the elevator, he suddenly regrets and comes back to the room; back to Alice. But… unfortunately it’s too late. Wretched Dan! It’s simply too late:
— I don’t love you any more –she tells him, her eyes full of sadness, but determined, resolved, firm.
— Since when? –he asks. He is still unexperienced and has not gone through this before; so he doesn’t quite understand the full scope of her statement.
— Since now. It’s over. You can go.
Just like that. And Alice is completely serious. She means it. Oh, yes!, she does. In the lapse of a single minute she has gone from love to not-love. And there’s nothing, absolutely nothing he can do or say, make a fool of himself, now or later, for his years to come, to make her change back her mind. Thus young Dan learns tonight this little feature about women’s hearts, getting a wound that will never fully heal; while Alice, sweet Alice, will carry on her own way not ever thinking of Dan again; smiling; without looking back a single time…

Such is life, and such are women, indeed; for, what man in his thirties -leave aside his forties- has not gone through some I don’t love you any more or other? There are way too many Alices out there ready to perform on us this funny trick, and their passionate loves of a while ago, Continue reading “I don’t love you anymore”

Tarkovski revisited

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I was only a teenager when — by suggestion of a friend under the intelectual fever that, in the early 80’s, stroke some middle-class sectors in Spain — I went to an unlikely cineclub in a not so advisable district of Madrid, rather distant from home, for watching a so-called “independent” movie titled Stalker, supposedly of the science-fiction genre and directed by some exotic and unknown (for us) Russian filmmaker called Tarkovski.
Needless to say that, used as I was to the livelier -when not frantic- action pace of USAmerican or European films that (then exactly like today — nothing has changed in this respect) almost exclusively filled our billboards and TV channels, I found it desperatingly slow, mostly boring and virtually incomprehensible. Besides, since I was expecting a “proper” sci-fi work, I was rather disappointed.
However, there was something indefinably interesting about it that outstood; not just the fact that it was different from any other movie I had watched before, but something else that I could not quite grasp; and despite my uneducated taste of those times and my little knowledge of the world — let alone the Russian soul, I had the feeling that it contained some message worth apprehending, and that some kind of art was involved worth being understood. Continue reading “Tarkovski revisited”