THE FIRST STEP IS THE HARDEST
“The time is out of joint”, says a horrified Hamlet (cited in Boris Pasternak’s famous Russian translation). Remembering the classic quote about the condition and, so to say, the perspective of development for Russian cinema, we have to reject at once the state of excitement into which the Prince of Denmark once lapsed. There is no shock, no emotions in general. Simple a statement: the link of time in our cinema is completely out of joint.This is no classical conflict of generations. This is an unwillingness to recognize in the opponent the right to be different. And this is not the time to establish who is right: the honoured national artists, the impulsive young filmmakers, or the viscous and malleable times in which we live.Now something else is at stake. “How to set it right?” and piece together the fragments, turning again to His Highness the Prince of Denmark.Maybe like this?Call on four masters, four of the golden classics of Russian cinema, and show how they started their paths. In fact, the best-known director too was once just an unknown fellow enamoured with cinema. And he tried, and he suffered: how would the senior colleagues rate his first work. Then the link of time was not out of joint, and the opinion of the reverred colleagues was much appreciated.
It is completely irrelevant whether you like Mikhalkov (diploma work “A Quiet Day at the End of the War”), whether you like Soloviev (diploma film “From Nothing to Do”), where you appreciate Abdrashitov (coursework-diploma film “Stop Potapov!”) or are indifferent to Govorukhin (coursework “The Pharmacist”). These people have created the glory of our cinema. Look at their first shorts. Listen to what the masters say about cinema. They have something to show and to say.
They too listened to somebody in their time. Of course, young Russian directors are poorly known outside Sochi and Rotterdam, Vyborg and Thessaloniki. But that, in fact, is not their fault, and certainly not that of our remarkable classics.
We shouldn’t be angry at the young directors that their films are full of dirt and naked people, who sometimes do not quite the things that they should do. We shouldn’t take offence at the masters that their films were seen by millions of spectators and that television nowadays often shows their old films, because they are audience favourites. We should simply meet and talk. In fact, the acquaintance with another experience is always more useful than ignoring that experience. And what if suddenly those bits can be set right? “In cinema, nothing’s impossible,” sounded the lyrics parodying a Soviet variety show hit of the 1960s.
Director Stanislav Govorukhin
USSR, 1964, 12+
FROM NOTHING TO DO
Director Sergei Soloviev
USSR, 1969, 12+
A QUIET DAY AT THE END OF THE WAR
Director Nikita Mikhalkov
USSR, 1970, 12+
Director Vadim Abdrashitov
USSR, 1974, 12+
MASTER-CLASS BY ALEXANDER MITTA
SIMPLE EVENTS. COMPLEX CHARACTERS
Director, scriptwriter, producer
Master-class. The Structure of an Idea
The main problem for a director is the form, in which the author’s idea and the audience’s perception meet. A film lasts 1.5 hours, and each minute must be controlled. The ancient Greeks considered this most important: they pulled the spectator towards the catharsis. Therefore, Oedipus searched for answers, killed his father, lived with his mother as his wife, and as punishment blinded himself. But the process elicits artistic emotions. They are our greatest treasure: through these emotions we transform the characters’ actions. The control over the development of a creative idea is not only a technical problem. There is another important component: the intuitive sense for form. But this comes under the word “talent”. The rational part can be subjected to analysis and control. I would like to share some practical advice.
JOINT MASTER-CLASS YEVGENI MARGOLIT AND MARIANNA KIREEVA
THE AUDITORIUM AS ENGINE OF THE CINEMATIC PROCESS: THE HISTORY OF SOVIET CINEMA THROUGH SPECTATOR HITS
Film historian, PhD, winner of prizes of the Guild of Film Scholars and Film Critics and of the festival “Belye Stolby”.
The uniqueness of our cinema – at least for the last 90 years – lies in the fact that it never, in a variety of historical circumstances, fully focused on a concise audience. Russian cinema must reconcile with the presence of a real cinema-goer in the here-and-now, but no more. To this day, the film community cannot get rid of the notion that success with mass audiences is of low value, if not altogether reprehensible. Real success has always resembled the suddenness of a natural cataclysm, because it was never planned seriously. Therefore Russian spectators were and remain like a homeless child that is left to its destiny, and who is sometimes quite unexpectedly showered with “luck” – not without reason homeless children were the heroes of one of the commercially most successful films, Ekk’s Road to Life (Putevka v zhizn, 1931).
We tend to study the history of cinema on topmost achievements – from the point of view of their agitation and propaganda value or their aesthetic quality. But is it not time to consider cinema under new aspects, namely the history of the film process against the background of box office hits? What patterns would we find then?
BEFORE THE MIRROR: SOVIET FILMS “FROM FOREIGN LIFE” AS A WAY TO APPROACH TABOO SUBJECTS
Film historian, documentary filmmaker, winner of the TEFI award.
On the one hand, the notorious “most important of all the arts”, the main ideological loudspeaker of the epoch; on the other, a tool that, by definition, reflects concisely the troubles and expectations of the mass national consciousness. It is impossible to speak and impossible to be silent… How did Soviet cinema behave in this situation?
Of course, it resorted to the Aesopian language so typical for Russian art, turning other places and times into the territory for free expression. Thus, the catastrophe of the great crisis on the threshold of the 1920s and 1930s generated a series of films about the World War I; the full horror of the mass reprisals of 1937 reached the screen in films about the future war. There are dozens of examples, but perhaps most indicative is the thematic line about fascist Germany, where films, required to expose the main ideological and military opponent, functioned like mirrors that filmmakers held in the face of their own country.
Concentration Camp (Bolotnye soldaty, 1939), Young Fritz (Iunyi Frits, 1942), and The Murderers are Coming (Ubiitsy vykhodiat na dorogu, 1942) involuntarily challenged man to resist his own regime of occupation. (It is for a good reason that not all of these films reached the screen.) How? In search for an answer, the whole country looked at a film that crowned this tradition, the well-known documentary Ordinary Fascism (Obyknovennyi fashizm, 1965) by Mikhail Romm. Again, it is no accident that Romm’s answer almost literally coincided with the pathos of the great Life and Fate (Zhizn i sudba, written by Vasili Grossman around the same time and on the same topic): “I am a free person. I can say ‘no’.”
MASTER-CLASS BY ANNA KACHKAEVA
A CHARGE FROM NETWORKS: HOW WE LIVE IN THE WORLD OF MODERN MEDIA
Dean of the Faculty of Media-Communications of the Higher School of Economics (Russia)
The Image of the Media-Future: the “Digital Generation”, the “Economy of Impressions” and “Multi-media Content”
The media-future. The architecture of technologies and product technology.
Many parents today understand that they are dealing with a “digital generation”, which overtakes them in the assimilation of the possibilities offered by new communication technologies. This generation of new users of the future media-content and of those working in the “economy of impressions” is called the “multi-task” generation: a generation that is used to simultaneously using three to four communicative devices and access several media-spheres); that is “watching” (the world is increasingly perceived through information visualized through “pictures”); that is voyeuristic (modern communication has legalized peeping and the broadcast of personal lives); that is interactive (plugged into people’s lives and communities through mobile devices and social networks); that is projectable (communication is frequent, accessible – even remotely, virtual, and becomes the basis for creative projects which do not require work in an office, but an idea, followers, a notebook and internet connection are sufficient). We can already talk about contemporary man as a communicational being.
The philosophy of “digital media”. Multi-media, cross-media, trans-media.
The role of communication increases. Why do events that are important for people – from the point of view of evaluation and comprehension – turn into a game, into obvious visualization, into a joint and partial self-expression of network users about what they have seen? How does the power of networks change habitual patterns in the economy and politics, how does it affect social interaction and the media-sphere?
Today, not only print media and traditional radio, but even television all stand way behind the Internet, which is the main channel for communication. Speed, mobility, multi-mediality, universality, and interactivity – these are the keywords of modern publications and the media-space. The audience – more frequently called “providers of media-content” – becomes an accomplice in the process of producing multi-media information, above all visual (photo, video, clips).
Social media and mass-media. User-charging from the net.
As the Internet is also a power, it is important to understand how millions of people live in “networks”. Russia occupies the first place in Europe in terms of the popularity of social networks. The average Russian user “sits” on social networks for 9.8 hours (about 10 hours) a month, while the European user is active on various networks for only four hours. The communication with an audience 24/7, the use of trans-media storytelling, the realization of digital projects, the creation of a Second Life, of “implantation” – all this leads to a literal integration of man and the device.
OPEN LECTURE BY JOEL CHAPRON
THE HISTORY OF RUSSIAN AND SOVIET CINEMA IN FRANCE (1896-2012)
Translator and interpreter, vice-chairman of the company Unifrance for Eastern Europe, foreign correspondent of the Cannes International Film Festival, Associate Professor of the University of Avignon, Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2012).
The history of Russian and Soviet cinema in France goes way beyond the sphere of cinema. The foreign policy of our countries, as well as the internal policy of each of them, the perception by the French people of Russia and the USSR (for a long time evoking iridescent feelings in some), the mutual influence of great filmmakers of both countries – these are the essential features for a correct understanding of this history.
This lecture invites you to make a journey in time, from the first newsreel frames which reached France at the end of the 19th century (and which were shot mainly by French cameramen) to the films of Andrei Zviagintsev and Sergei Loznitsa.
This journey covers the upheavals that occurred in Russia and the USSR, as well as in the world; changes in France’s political direction over the past 120 years; major trends in Soviet cinema; fights between the USSR and the Cannes festival; the influence of Soviet dissidents; and the rise and fall of the French Communist Party… Then came perestroika, which wiped away all reference points, leaving Soviet cinema without the special place that it had occupied for decades in the history of world cinema; it acquired a new status: the right to take a place among a number of other film nations and to be treated like the cinema of any other country.
The timid appearance of Russian cinema on French screens concerns the period before World War I, but the Revolution – which sent a number of Russian cinematographers into emigration – helped French cinema, which took from its ranks producers, directors, technicians and actors; they would work for the glory of French cinema right until the middle of the 1930s. At that time Soviet films hardly reached the French market, and massive efforts were required from activists of the French Communist Party to screen them in film societies, which blossomed in France during that time.
Soviet films completely disappeared from the screens between 1939 and 1944, when they made a powerful comeback, supported by the positive image of the USSR following the victory in World War II. But after 1947, the Cold War showed its effects: Russian films only returned to the French spectator after 1958 with the film “The Cranes are Flying”, the only Golden Palm winner at Cannes.
However, over the course of time, the image of the USSR has faded: interventions into the internal affairs of other countries, as well as the way of dealing with dissidents scared off political sympathizers and fellow travellers of the French Communist Party. Soviet cinema for the masses (“War and Peace”, “Queen of the Gypsies”) gradually gave way to the films of Tarkovsky, Paradjanov, Panfilov, and then, with approach of perestroika, to the works of Muratova, Konchalovsky, Askoldov, Gherman, Mikhalkov, Klimov, thus forming an image of auteur cinema which would gradually be associated with Russia at film festivals, and which in due course would be supported by Zviagintsev, Loznitsa, Gai-Germanika, Lungin…