The Road Movie is a film one watches in a state somewhere between existential dread and morbid hilarity. Voyeuristic, yes, but there is something even more curious at work here, namely the capricious, occasionally malevolent force that for lack of a better term we call fate. It pops up in meteors streaking across the sky, in car crashes, runaway tanks, forest fires and pop-eyed madmen. Here it is, the nature of the universe — endlessly unpredictable, prone to sudden bursts of freaky weirdness, all helpfully captured by dashboard cameras, present in almost all Russian cars.
Chris Marker’s expansive, nay, insanely encompassing portrait of his friend and colleague, Aleksandr Ivanovich Medvedkin begins with Medvedkin assailing the screen and stating: “Chris, you lazy bastard, why don’t you ever write to me, send me a letter, even that short...” So begins this epistolary film, composed of six different letters, each corresponding to a period of Medvedkin’s life and work. The film is Marker’s post-mortem answer (and tribute).
Two of Chris Marker’s remarkable film portraits, including his masterful and deeply personal analysis of the work of Andrei Tarkovsky. Edited some twelve years after Tarkovsky’s death for the collection Cinéma, de notre temps (Cinema of Our Times), Une Journée d’Andrei Arsenevitch (One Day In The Life Of Andrei Arsenevich) is an extraordinary love letter from one filmmaker to another, and a memento mori of the most profound kind.
Katyusha: Rocket Launchers, Folk Songs and Ethnographic Refrains focuses on the role of song as cultural form, following the Soviet war-time hit song Katyusha, the rocket launcher that subsequently took on its name, and the tragic life of the secretly Mennonite Soviet pop star Anna German, who recorded an immensely popular version of the song in 1962.
French-Canadian filmmaker François Jacob captures life in contemporary Norilsk (the city alone produces 20% of the world’s nickel) with a roaming camera, depicting the city and its residents with care and curiosity. A mix of black and white archival footage and a minimalist piano score softens the industrial-strength grimness.