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Thursday, 8 April 2010

Three generations of the German family- Yuri and the two Alexei's

At Moscow's 'Eisenstein Library' a retrospective of films by three generations of the German family or linked to them is being shown. The first German was Yuri German, a novelist and script writer for a number of classic films like 'Dorogoy moj chelovek' directed by Kheifits, 'Doctor Kaliuzhny' one of Erast Garin's (see previous post) only experiments in film direction and Kozintsev's 'Pirogov'. Yuri German was also the author of the novel on which arguably Aleksei German's best film was based upon 'My Friend Ivan Lapshin'. Aleksei German Sr. has made few films in his career and few of these had an easy fate: his 'Proverka na dorogakh' was shelved for over a decade). The film had a hard time not just amongst the cinema bureaucrats but also part of the Soviet intellighentsia took a dislike to this film- in fact, Larisa Shepitko's 'Voskhozhdenie' (Ascension) was shot in a polemical response to this film. Shepitko and German had a very different attitude to the themes of betrayal and atonement but this was a polemic of the highest order.

German's last film 'Khrustalev, my Car!' requires several viewings but each viewing strengthens the view that German is an absolute master of detail. Martin Scorsese who was presiding in the jury at Cannes when the film was shown was said to have remarked that German obviously deserved the Palme d'Or but how could Scorsese give the main prize to a film that he simply couldn't make head or tail of himself.

Perhaps the central strand that one can find in German's is his persistent and stubborn search for historical truth. Something of German Sr's reconstruction of historical truth is to be found in his son's work which was shown on Sunday along with a Master Class. German Jr has made some fascinating films reconstructing different periods of twentieth century history (his 'Last Train' was set during World war Two, his 'Garpastum' on the eve of World War One and, most recently, his 'Paper Soldier' which is set at the time of the space exploration programmes). A discussion of this film at the London Film Festival is visble on youtube- )

The retrospective of films also includes some Lenfilm classics as well as films made by filmmakers who had worked with Aleksei german (including Barabanov, Bobrova, Sergei Popov).

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