Sunset

A Jewish smorgasbord from the former Soviet Union, a fantasy on Isaak Babel’s story of the same title, directed by Alexander Zeldovitch. This freewheeling 1990 feature interweaves erotic pageantry, illustrated tales from the Old Testament, and diverse stylistic exercises around the central story of a son of a Jewish laborer who becomes involved with the decadent Odessa underworld in the 20s. Sergei Eisenstein planned his own film version of this story with Babel himself in 1925, and while this is undoubtedly another kettle of gefilte fish, some over-the-top acting and lively mise en scene keep it watchable. (JR)

Published on 01 Jan 1994 in Featured Texts, by admin

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The Harms Case

If Ken Russell invented the postmodernist biopic, Slobodan D. Pesic has taken the form to delirious extremes. Pesic directed this daffy tragicomedy about the late Russian literary visionary Danil Harms in Yugoslavia in 1988. Apart from a prologue and epilogue in color, the picture is in black and white with occasional dabs of yellow; several characters (both male and female) are played arbitrarily in drag; and among the anachronistic elements is post-50s elevator music that accompanies scenes from the 30s and 40s. Harms sounds like a fascinating figure, though something tells me this picture isn’t the best way to find out about him. Still, it can be recommended as an intriguing novelty, bursting with irreverence and eclecticism. (JR)

Published on 01 Jan 1994 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Grass: A Nation’s Battle For Life

A fascinating (and fascinatingly dated) 1925 silent documentary by Merian Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack, the codirectors of King Kong, about a U.S. travel expedition through the mountains of Turkey and Persiamore specifically, about the annual migration of more than 50,000 Bakhtiari tribesmen with their cattle in search of fresh pastures. Topographically beautiful and historically potent. 64 min. (JR)

Published on 01 Jan 1994 in Featured Texts, by admin

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