Monday, November 10, 2008

Ivan's Childhood

Andrei Tarkovsky, Russia, 1962, bw (8.8*)
Russian cinema emerged after Stalin when both restrictions were relaxed and the state doubled the number of movies funded to over 100 per year by the early sixties. Andrei Tarkovsky, son of a poet, was one of the new directors to emerge, and directed some well known films, including Andrei Rublev, Solaris, and Ivan's Childhood, his first big film, actually a stalled project he took over, turning it into a personal statement of his own. Tarkovsky is poetic and lyrical, and mixes dream and fantasy imagery with harsh reality, in this case a bleak war-torn Russian landscape during World War Two. Ivan's reality is scouting the invading German troops for the Russians, often involving wading through swampy forests, and as he's driven by vengance, he knows no other purpose in his young life. We also see Ivan's dreams or perhaps pre-war memories, playing on a beach with other kids, running happily through the surf, riding in a truck full of apples.

This is a powerful anti-war statement, beautifully shot in a misty, expressionistic black and white (the cinematographer was Yusov), deservedly put Tarkovsky on the map. Rublev is also worth seeing, though too long at over three hours, but I found Solaris nearly unwatchable, simply a boring attempt at post-2001 science fiction.

Note: Tarkovsky gets a lot of attention and critical acclaim for his minimalist and abstract films, such as Solaris and The Sacrifice, yet this remains my favorite of his. Of the more experimental films, try The Mirror, it has for more to offer than the 'S' films, which I find less rewarding and slower than watching paint dry.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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