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Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Boris Barnet- A Video Commentary by Nicole Brenez

A commentary on one of Barnet's most delightful films 'By the Bluest of Seas'. While the Great Terror was about to get underway, this film by Barnet breathed a completely different air. Neither escapism like the musicals of Aleksandrov nor ideological justification of the oncoming Terror with the films of wreckers, spies and saboteurs, nor even one engaged in applauding the frenzy of construction and Stakhanovism. Barnet's path was another one. A lyrical one that emphasised desire above duty. In 'By the Bluest of Seas' there is little sense of two characters from the centre conquering the periphery. The main male charcaters are lost, shipwrecked, unproductive types whose behaviour corresponds only to the logic of desire and hopeless infatuation. That something like this could be made on the eve of the Great Terror is something of a small miracle. Of course, it was to be blacklisted when the ideologues got their claws into the film demanding that Barnet should work on "the ideological system of images based on thorough knowledge of real life" instead of being carried away by emotions. Fortunately Barnet was not to learn his lesson and when he made the odd ideologically acceptable film he would direct it so carelessly that it would become a flop anyway(or even according to Marlen Khutsiev and Otar Ioseliani he would just turn up to the shooting drunk and enjoy himself anyway).

This video commentary by Nicole Brenez puts a very French gloss on the film but there is something about Barnet that seems to make him only understood and applauded in Mediterranean countries. In France he was lauded by Rivette, Godard and Eisenschitz (and arguably Truffaut drew on this film in his 'Jules et Jim'), in Italy Enrico Ghezzi makes sure that Barnet is never forgotten by nocturnal Italian film buffs and in Spain Barnet's film was shown recently at the Filmoteca in Madrid. Only the UK seems to ignore this great director (and yet Barnet himself was a relative of London immigrants to Russia two generations earlier). Time for a rediscovery?

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