Total Pageviews

Monday, 8 October 2012

Pietro Marcello's 'Il Silenzio di Pelesjan' (The Silence of Peleshian)

In Pietro Marcello's Il Silenzio di Pelesjan (The Silence of Pelshian) there is some precious archive footage of an exam commission discussing one of Peleshian's films made at VGIK (Russia's major film school). Among the commission members are Lev Kulidjanov, Vasily Shukshin and Alexander Medvedkin (and in the audience sits Alexandra Khokhlova). The presence of Medvedkin in this group is a curious reminder of how this film is, in many ways, worthy of comparison to Chris Marker's portrait of Medvedkin in Le Tombeau d'Alexandre (The Last Bolshevik). Yet the comparison shows up many more contrasts than similarities. As Marker would point out in his film, Medvedkin was endlessly loquacious when they met while Peleshian is not so much taciturn as completely silent in his dialogue with Marcello. Marker's film was a posthumous letter to a recently deceased director, while Marcello's film is one which almost religiously follows Peleshian into the world indicated by Peleshian. Marker had to wait for Medvedkin to fall silent in order to compose his mot sincere dialogue with him and build a real dialogue with what he felt to be Medvedkin's silences whereas Marcello listens for those silence gestures of Peleshian which have an authentic eloquence. The commentary of Marker is full of a kind of hectoring love and reminiscence whereas Marcello's commentary is uttered sottovoce as though not to disturb an authentic sense of awe with which the gestures of Peleshian are received.

While it is Marker who pays homage to the dead Medvedkin at the end of the film, it is Peleshian who takes Marcello to the cemeteries where the tombs of his masters are buried: Leonid Kristi, Sergei Gerasimov and Elem Klimov. Peleshian stands back and then kisses their portraits in, perhaps, one of the most touching scenes of this deeply respectful homage to one of the world's true remaining masters of film. Marcello illustrates this scene with the images and music from Peleshian's film Kyanq (Life) almost as though it were an illustration of Peleshian's principle of distance montage. The mixing of scenes from Peleshian's films, archive footage, Marcello's extraordinary shots of Peleshian and of Moscow and the Moscow metro come together in this truly extraordinary homage to this living classic thanks also to the splendid editing work of Sara Fgaier. 

The scenes of Moscow and the metro shot by Marcello also are rather splendid explorations of faces and gestures as well as of a contemporary Moscow at times which at times allude to a Khutsievan lyricism (and surely the allusions to Ию́льский дождь -July Rain- are not amiss) as is his exploration of that wonderfully cinematographic station 'Ploshchad Revoliutsii' and its statue of the thinker which occurs throughout the film. The travelling collage of art towards the end of the film reminds me of Klimov's splendid collage of art and sport in his still underestimated film Спорт, Спорт, Спорт (Sport, Sport, Sport). Like Chris Marker before him, Pietro Marcello is someone who is truly well acquainted not just with his subject (in this case Peleshian) but with Soviet cinema as a whole and this portrait will surely remain as one of the truly significant explorations of this still too undiscovered world. It is, moreover, a portrait that takes in a whole world of reflections present in each moment and scene. A film that truly deserves an international audience and one of the great homages to Soviet film and to, perhaps, the only filmmaker alive today who has truly managed to keep alive the traditions of early Soviet montage cinema (the only true heir to the Eisenstein's, Vertov's, and Kuleshov's).


No comments:

Post a Comment