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Thursday, 14 January 2010

Amateur, Parallel and Underground Cinema in the Soviet Union & other articles from Kino Kultura

The January edition of the brilliant online journal, Kinokultura, dedicated to Russian cinema has just become available. This journal has some fascinating reviews of contemporary films and usually two or three brilliant scholarly articles and reports from film festivals. This time in the journal a fascinating account of the Amateur film movement of the late Soviet period was given by Maria Vinogradova. Amateur film was established in a number of contexts and it is not correct to suggest that amateur film was necessarily less conformist (or even less susceptible to state control) than professional cinema. Sometimes it was under double censorship but Vinogradova details the ways in which amateur auteurs like Evgenii Iufit & Irina Evteeva (pictured above) managed to develop their own unique styles and what material circumstances led to the development of the Underground style of Iufit and Kondratiev.

I have yet to watch all my Iufit DVDs but my viewing of 'Papa, umer ded moroz' (Dad, Father Christmas is Dead') certainly led to curiosity about how this director could be working in the early 1980s. Vinogradova's article suggests a whole new area of research could be opened up given that amateur cinema was in some way linked to different epochs of Soviet cinema. The 1920s and the 1950s were significant periods (the director Grigory Roshal played an important role after the war) but the 1980s was when the whole movement lifted off.

Vinogradova's article is interesting in that she suggests that an undiscovered treasure trove of potentially fascinating hitherto unknown artworks may come up which could have considerable consequences for a writing of the history of Soviet film and maybe will expand our knowledge of Soviet experimental film beyond the 1920s.

In the same edition of Kino Kultura is a review by David Gillespie of last years Moscow International Film Festival's winner 'Peter on the way to heaven' by Nikolai Dostal. I think Gillespie is right in his scepticism about the film. It certainly didn't overwhelm me at the Festival and was way below the superb film by Muratova 'Melody for a barrel organ' which was reviewed in the previous edition of Kino Kultura by Nancy Condee. Muratova, of course, was Soviet cinema's answer to Underground in her own inimitable way. The excluded professional who returned to Formalism and made the bleakest of portraits of the perestroika period in her Asthenic Syndrome. Muratova who has been able to make the most uncommercial of cinema in the most commercial of times.

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