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Friday, 17 February 2012

Pietro Marcello on Peleshian and Soviet cinema

I have written a number of times on this blog about the many links between Italian and Russian or Soviet cinema and this is another occasion in which I will do so. The motive is a new documentary film by the director of 'La Bocca del Lupo', Pietro Marcello. Marcello's attentiveness to Russian and Soviet cinema was highlighted in an interview published in the Russian review 'Seance'. A wide-ranging interview occasioned by the showing of his documentary film 'The Silence of Peleshian'. The film, commissioned by Italy's Rai Tre (at times an oasis of cultural excellence that somehow survived the asphixiation of culture by Berlusconian videocracy), is a portrait of the figure of Artavazd Peleshian and was shown to great acclaim at the Venice and Rotterdam film festivals. Peleshian has been described by Russian film critic Oleg Aronson as the only real successor to Soviet montage cinema of the 1920s and it is an immense shame that his name is not known more among cinephiles. While Jean Luc Godard is reported to have said that he is willing togo down on his knees in fornt of the director, Peleshian is not a household among either in Russia or abroad. Marcello stated that half of the film journalists at the press conference had never heard of Peleshian and the other half were surprised that Peleshian was still alive.

Marcello in this film- made with the agreement of, in the presence of and with the participation of Peleshian (even though Peleshian is not interviewed in the film, hence the title) - also attempts to display his own relation to Soviet cinema. In the interview with Seance, Marcello talks about his favourites. He rates Sokurov's 'Faust' as the strongest film and has a rather critical view of Zviagintsev's 'Elena'. He praised Khomeriki's film 'Hearts Boomerang' («Сердца бумеранг»). In terms of periods in Soviet cinema, he singles out the Thaw period stating that he believes Khutsiev's 'July Rain' («Июльский дождь») to be the best film of that epoch. He adds that Shukshin is a kind of Russian Pasolini (albeit without the bourgeois origins of the Italian master). Pietro Marcello's acknowledgment of his debt to soviet cinema and the 'distanced montage' of Peleshian (which becomes explicit in his film homage) is yet another sign that Russian/Soviet (Peleshian like in part the great Paradjanov being Armenian rather than Russian) and Italian cinema have extremely strong ties. (Sokurov's insistence that his book of essays and sketches should be first printed in Italian is yet another sign of these close links). Marcello's extraordinary and hitherto lesser known film 'Il Paesaggio di Linea' (available on youtube was shown by Sokurov to his students in Nalchik as an example of how to treat reality in documentary cinema.

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