Eclipse Series 11: Larisa Shepitko

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domino harvey
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#51 Post by domino harvey » Mon Aug 04, 2008 4:18 am

Yes. I always assumed they were more or less "written by committee"

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Tommaso
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#52 Post by Tommaso » Mon Aug 04, 2008 6:44 am

I always wondered about that, too. Written by commitee or not, I found them susrprisingly informative for a one-page text, and that goes for all the Eclipse discs I have. So if they are written by individual writers, they should be credited to them.

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Matango
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#53 Post by Matango » Fri Aug 08, 2008 4:55 am

Similarly, I have often wondered about subtitling. So many Criterion DVDs have "new and improved English subtitle translation" on the list of extras, but you need a magnifying glass to find out who did them, if there's even a credit at all.

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jbeall
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#54 Post by jbeall » Fri Aug 08, 2008 9:13 am

Matango wrote:Similarly, I have often wondered about subtitling. So many Criterion DVDs have "new and improved English subtitle translation" on the list of extras, but you need a magnifying glass to find out who did them, if there's even a credit at all.
Sometimes the subtitling credits are in the booklet. The last time I saw a subtitling credit on the film itself, it appeared at the very end of Wooden Crosses.

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headacheboy
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One masterpiece and one okay film by Larisa Shepitko

#55 Post by headacheboy » Mon Aug 18, 2008 8:49 pm

Just curious, did anyone get the Larisa Shepitko box that actually has "Two Masterpieces by Larisa Shepitko" printed on the slip cover? Mine is simply "Larisa Shepitko" which is preferable since I couldn't seem to get behind Wings. I'll need another couple of viewings of that film. The Ascent however is quite an astounding film (if for no other reason than wondering how the two actors survived rolling around in the snow like they did).

Murasaki53
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#56 Post by Murasaki53 » Tue Aug 19, 2008 3:15 am

Mine just says 'Larisa Shepitko' too.

Having only ever watched The Ascent on video, this DVD is just so welcome. One of the all-time great war films in my view.

However, I'd really like to have been able to learn more about this production. It seems to have been filmed under quite extraordinary Herzog-like conditions and I bet some of the cast and crew would have a few stories to tell.

Is there anything much in print (in English) about Shepitko?

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tavernier
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#57 Post by tavernier » Tue Aug 19, 2008 1:29 pm


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Thomas J.
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Re: One masterpiece and one okay film by Larisa Shepitko

#58 Post by Thomas J. » Tue Aug 19, 2008 9:05 pm

headacheboy wrote:Just curious, did anyone get the Larisa Shepitko box that actually has "Two Masterpieces by Larisa Shepitko" printed on the slip cover? Mine is simply "Larisa Shepitko" which is preferable
Glad to hear Criterion listened to me on this issue. That's a start.

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Tommaso
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#59 Post by Tommaso » Thu Aug 21, 2008 7:10 am

Sometimes I'm really happy if I can watch a film that I know nothing about and don't even have a conception about its director. So it was with this Shepitko set, and I started with "Wings" expecting nothing in particular apart from probably seeing a reasonably good film. Actually, the thing was close to a knock-out; I can't really understand how one cannot 'get' this film. I liked absolutely everything about it: the wonderfully restrained, but always to-the-point acting, the almost documentary insight we get into 60s Russia, the subtle, unintrusive but very effective camera work, and not least its humour. For instance, that scene where Bulgakova accidentally sits on an exhibit chair makes her situation and her personal problem of being a 'relic' so effortlessly clear. I guess that is the scene briefly mentioned by Donald Trampoline above; I'd say: if that had been done in close-up or with more 'visible' camera-work, the effect would have been spoiled. Things just happen in this film, but behind their apparent insignificance are whole layers of emotion, meaning and personal history. There are many such moments; her search for the student gone missing is of course only a metaphor for her own search for herself, but Shepitko almost treats this 'in passing', never hammering in the message. And don't get me started on the glorious performance of Bulgakova itself...amazing all the way in its subtleness, depth and warmth; not even a master of directing actresses like Bergman would have gotten it any better. The film may be very melancholic, but it is a 'joyful' and radiant melancholia (quite the opposite of 'depressing'). Deeply touching and, in the end, curiously uplifting.

And now you guys are all telling me that this is nothing next to "Ascent". I'm looking very, very much forward to seeing that other film, then. If it's even better than "Wings", then CC could easily have retained the 'Two Masterpieces' moniker. I'm sure it fits here more than with most of the films they released in the main line this year. And dammit, if any release this year cried out for extras and the full treatment (and a somewhat sharper transfer), it would have been this one....

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Matango
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#60 Post by Matango » Sat Aug 23, 2008 12:05 am

Notice the amazing rate of ascent when the plane took off? She must have given that joystick a righteous tug. An excellent film...great depth without brooding. A rare thing for soviet cinema.

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bkimball
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#61 Post by bkimball » Sat Aug 23, 2008 12:42 am

I just got this set in the mail! I look forward to sitting down and spending some good times with Soviet cinema. I know little about it, so hopefully, these spur my appreciation of it.

Godspeed!

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souvenir
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#62 Post by souvenir » Sat Aug 23, 2008 12:51 am

bkimball wrote:I just got this set in the mail! I look forward to sitting down and spending some good times with Soviet cinema. I know little about it, so hopefully, these spur my appreciation of it.
bkimball, your post and avatar are appreciated, but do check back in after watching the films. Good luck to you sir.

Murasaki53
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#63 Post by Murasaki53 » Tue Aug 26, 2008 8:35 am

Tommaso, very much enjoyed reading about your impressions of Wings. Could you do the same for The Ascent as well?

A question: why is it that throughout Wings , the main character is addressed by her full name rather than her first name or the Russian equivalent of 'Ms', or 'Comrade' or something?

Presumably, this is a Russian social convention of some sort but could someone elaborate on it?

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Tommaso
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#64 Post by Tommaso » Tue Aug 26, 2008 9:08 am

Murasaki53 wrote:Tommaso, very much enjoyed reading about your impressions of Wings. Could you do the same for The Ascent as well?
Nice you liked it. I'll give my thoughts on "Ascent" once I manage to watch it. But just a few minutes ago "Vampyr" and "Judex" arrived, and these will definitely take priority :wink:

No idea about the full name address, but I vaguely remember other Russian films also have it.

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zedz
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#65 Post by zedz » Wed Aug 27, 2008 12:04 am

Tommaso wrote:No idea about the full name address, but I vaguely remember other Russian films also have it.
Haven't seen the film, but are you sure it's not her first name and patronymic (e.g. "Maria Nikolayevna"), which is a very common form of address. Addressing somebody by their first name alone implies extreme informality and intimacy.

For example, Tarkovsky's full name was Andrey Arsenyevich Tarkovsky (his father being called Arseny), and he was probably addressed by acquaintances as "Andrey Arsenyevich" nine times out of ten. His immediate family and very closest friends (and foreigners who didn't know better) may have called him "Andrey". In bed he might have been "Andrushka" or some other squooshy diminutive.

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Tommaso
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#66 Post by Tommaso » Wed Aug 27, 2008 5:49 am

zedz wrote:Haven't seen the film, but are you sure it's not her first name and patronymic (e.g. "Maria Nikolayevna"), which is a very common form of address.
Yes, that's probably what it is. Thanks for the info, zedz.

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HerrSchreck
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#67 Post by HerrSchreck » Sat Aug 30, 2008 11:34 am

I've run thru this set as well. Wings felt like a bit of a tightrope walk at first.. deftly intimate, amazingly close to the character without setup in any direction... as the second half of the film approached I was hugely impressed with the lead performance but wasn't clear that the film could sustain an engaging tempo thru the last.. when bang, the film just opened up like a freaking carnation, and Shepitko nearly levitates her way thru the second act. As the weariness of the character builds, the subtlety of the mise-en scene becomes freighted to the bursting point. A wonderful film that will no doubt explode with additional meanings on subsequent views.

The Ascent was just a teency bit the reverse-- clearly a masterpiece, but the christlike aura which enveloped the stoical prisoner felt a bit hokey to me, and didn't entirely work right at the end of the film. But of course the film is a dazzling piece of work, innovative to the bursting point. The use of the frozen landscape reminded me of another all-location masterwork, Sir Arnes Treasure.

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tartarlamb
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#68 Post by tartarlamb » Mon Oct 20, 2008 5:49 pm

Wings, for me, was the more impressive of the two films in this set. It is a bit jarring at first, but the pay off is great in the latter half of the film if you learn to accept and invest in the lead character. A very interesting tone in the movie, as others had said -- subtly comic, but also sober and even a little dark.

I think The Ascent is a beautifully made film. I loved the visual nods to Ivan's Childhood (although the film suffers any comparison), and the first 45 minutes or so are especially powerful. Shepitko directed the hell out of it, no doubt, and succeeded. But I still felt that, at heart, the film was a somewhat ordinary war story with a simple ethical conflict at its center. And, like HerrSchreck, I was a little turned off by the saintliness of the more stoic partisan.

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zedz
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#69 Post by zedz » Mon Oct 20, 2008 6:28 pm

I thought I'd commented on Wings after I watched it a while back, but it looks like I didn't.

It's a really fine film, symptomatic of a fairly fertile period in the 1960s when a bunch of young filmmakers were finally emerging in the USSR (several of whom were about to get knocked back with a censorship whammy or two), but it's seriously overshadowed for me by Muratova's Brief Encounters from the same period, which tackles a lot of the same material but adds much more: a Resnaisian / Roegian associative flashback structure; a more intensive feminist critique of local power structures (with Muratova herself doing the hard work in the lead role); and the daring (and, apparently, bannable) provocation of casting dissident troubadour Vladimir Vissotsky as, basically, himself.

I don't want to slight Shepitko's excellent film - surely one of Criterion's most interesting releases of the year - but anybody who liked what they saw here should definitely look out for an opportunity to catch Muratova's film. (Stylistically, it's nowhere near as eccentric or abrasive as her later work.)

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Tommaso
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#70 Post by Tommaso » Tue Oct 21, 2008 4:41 pm

Tartarlamb, thanks for your post, because it actually reminded me that "Ascent" was still lying on my kevyip, although it's two months now that I watched "Wings". Well, I thought of righting the situation and have just watched it.

And I have to agree with you and with Schreck's earlier post; while this is a very impressive piece of film-making, I also find the Christ analogy superfluous and almost somewhat distracting from the overall effect. The 'saintliness' that you describe is never really explained: why would an ordinary officer, even though he might behave ethically 'correct', would not only take-on a Christ-like aura by means of the way he is photographed, but would have the same effect apparently on the characters? They actually do confirm his saintliness by their behaviour, especially Rybak at the very end, and it simply doesn't make a lot of sense to me; unless you want to read Sotnikov's behaviour as equivalent to underlining the necessity of 'Russian patriotism', which I'm not so sure about, either. But the execution sequence takes on an unnecessary air of pathos, and while Solonitsyn's performance as Portnov is fantastic, the character remains one-dimensional to me nevertheless. Had this been made in the late 40s or so, it would have been good propaganda....

I found interesting what Dave Kehr wrote in his review:
Where Sotnikov seems, paradoxically, to have escaped his imprisonment by surrendering to it (frontal, iconlike compositions place him against the whited-out landscape, as an eerie instrumental buzz rises on the soundtrack), Rybak is cursed to live in the real world of mud, pain and dank basement holding cells. There will be no transcendence for him; he is not a saint but something more pathetic, more familiar and, in the end, perhaps more inspiring: a human being grappling with human weakness.
This is absolutely true, of course, but all this would have been perfectly clear without the religious allegorising, perhaps even more so. For me Rybak was by far the more interesting and indeed more human character, in the end either being swallowed up by the lurking black hole of the cellar (also a little too obvious a symbol for my taste) or in a living hell of Kurosawa-ish proportions.

Now I don't want to sound more critical than I am about "Ascent". For the most part, it is a very gripping, thought-provoking and visually marvellous film. But I think I'd rate "Wings" higher.

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bkimball
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Re: Series 11: Larisa Shepitko

#71 Post by bkimball » Fri Dec 19, 2008 2:44 pm

I had the opposite experience that many of you had: I found Wings to be inferior to The Ascent. Wings ending really made that film whereas The Ascent was sublime throughout. I was enamored by how Shepitko would allow the camera to veer off Sotnikov as almost to show his soul leaving his body. Allowing the camera to veer away from the main action or characters in this context was refreshing. I have been watching Antonioni as of late, and he uses this technique to show the disconnection of people in modern society. Similar technique, different results.

With this set, Eclipse's future prospects have almost become more intriguing than Criterion's main titles.

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oldsheperd
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Re: Series 11: Larisa Shepitko

#72 Post by oldsheperd » Tue May 26, 2009 12:47 pm

While I understand many of your complaints about the overwrought use of the one soldier as a christ figure, I think some appreciation should be attributed to the archetypal symbols that each prisoner represented.
IMO I don't think the whole soldier=christ figure was inexcusable and did nothing to lessen the film as an exellent piece of narrative and artwork.

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knives
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Re: Series 11: Larisa Shepitko

#73 Post by knives » Tue May 26, 2009 5:31 pm

It would have been perfectly fine, after all Platoon does a similar thing blatantly, but there is something to say for a stab at subtlety. Going off saying in big bright letters, "Yo that's Jesus, respect," brings the movie to a screeching halt. Something like a christ death pose or a fake rosary around his head would have worked just as well, but just saying your character is to be taken as a christ figure is pathetic and lazy. The very objectivism like stance of the character is also obnoxious, but isn't blatantly bad writing like the christ, its not really a metaphor anymore I suppose, character is called christ by himself and others.

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tartarlamb
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Re: Series 11: Larisa Shepitko

#74 Post by tartarlamb » Wed May 27, 2009 3:59 pm

knives wrote:It would have been perfectly fine, after all Platoon does a similar thing blatantly, but there is something to say for a stab at subtlety.
I was put off by the blunt characterization of The Ascent as well, but Platoon does not really strike me as a working example of subtle allegory. If I recall correctly, doesn't Willem Dafoe, riddled with about 80,000 bullet wounds, lift his hands to the sky to the blaring tune of Barber's Adagio for Strings? Shepitko's film isn't perfect, but its not that bad by a long shot.

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knives
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Re: Series 11: Larisa Shepitko

#75 Post by knives » Wed May 27, 2009 5:41 pm

That's why I used Platoon. It may have no visual subtlety, but compared to The Ascent it's Ivan the Terrible. Stone doesn't have somebody telling Dafoe that he's Jesus.

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