I've never seen The Chekist
, but Rogozhkin's earlier film The Guard
is near the top of my
'best films you've never heard of' list, and seems to be similarly elusive.
For most of the film, it documents the bleak, dreary routine of a soldier on a train, with the ingenious twist that there are no straight cuts, only dissolves, which gives the numbing routine a suspended, dreamlike quality (sort of like a squalid and brutal Picnic at Hangng Rock
) - at least until events finally reach a crisis point and
the man is killed, at which point the film enters an actual dream / point-of-death hallucination, which employs conventional cutting despite its fantastic content. And in fact, you realise that the disjunctions of traditional montage actually do a better job of reproducing the illogical juxtapositions of a dream than the typical filmic markers of dream sequences. It's one of the most thought-provoking subversions of conventional film syntax I've encountered.
I know I've banged on about this before, but it seems to me that post-Soviet cinema is the last bastion of hardcore European art-film values, and it's frustrating that so many of the great films of the last quarter century have never emerged on DVD - not even in their countries of origin.
You can easily add to the AWOL Rogozhkins a half-dozen Muratova masterpieces, Kanevsky's Freeze, Die, Come to Life
and An Independent Life
, Bobrova's In That Country
, German's The Last Train
and Paper Soldier
, and Balabanov's Morphia
. Aside from the surprising number of Sokhurovs available, I can only think of two films of that calibre that are available subbed (Cargo 200
and - soon - My Joy
). (For the record, good as he is, I think Zvyagintsev is still a tier or two below that level, but he may well get there one day.)
The big problem for a Second Run release of these films is that, until they get a decent release somewhere else, you have to assume that there isn't a good transfer ready and waiting, and they're very unlikely to be able to fund one from scratch. And until post-Soviet cinema becomes a lot more fashionable and visible in the marketplace, most of the better-resourced companies (Criterion, MoC) won't be interested.