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June 4, 2019

Mosfilm on YouTube

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It's on — literally.

From Mike Hale's "Arts, Briefly" item in the May 2, 2011 New York Times:

For Eisenstein, you can go to Netflix and stream "Battleship Potemkin" or "Ivan the Terrible." For Dovzhenko, you can stream "Earth" at Netflix or "Arsenal" at Amazon. For Pudovkin, "Mother" is at Amazon.

But what if you're looking for a more recent, if less familiar, brand of Russian cinema? Like, say, Vitali Moskalenko's 2002 Volga river-boat comedy, "The Chinese Tea-Set." Or Emil Loteanu's 1979 adaptation of the Chekhov novella "The Shooting Party" (original title "My Tender and Affectionate Beast").

For those, you'll need to go to the YouTube channel of Mosfilm, the Russian film studio and production company. Over the last month 50 or so films from the company's library, with English subtitles, have been posted.

Determining exactly how many films are available, or what they are, takes a little work for a non-Russian-speaker, since the site is entirely in Cyrillic. With the help of your browser’s translation function and a little cross-referencing on the Internet Movie Database, it's possible to identify what you’re looking at.

There are some older, more familiar titles in the mix, like Andrei Tarkovsky's "Andrei Rublev" (1966) and "Solaris" (1972) and Mikhail Kalatozov's 1957 film "The Cranes Are Flying." Perhaps the most noteworthy director represented is Kurosawa, whose Siberian adventure "Dersu Uzala" was a Soviet-Japanese co-production.

Other films, while little known in America, have opened here and won praise, like Mr. Loteanu's "Shooting Party," which Vincent Canby of The New York Times called "a fascinating, almost intoxicating experience."

Five films will be added to the channel each week.

Kristin M. Jones wrote about the Mosfilm channel in a May 10, 2011 Wall Street Journal article, from which excerpts follow.

 Karen Shakhnazarov, Mosfilm's general director and also a filmmaker, producer and screenwriter, released a statement saying in part: "For us the project with YouTube is very important and interesting. The aim is to offer users the possibility to view online legal quality video content and prevent illegal use of our films." Fifty titles were initially made available, and five more are being uploaded each week; by the end of the year, Mosfilm aims to have uploaded more than 200 movies to Mosfilm's YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/mosfilm). Many are subtitled.

What does this unprecedented access mean for Mosfilm and for film enthusiasts? One benefit is to show Western cinéastes that Soviet cinema encompasses more than Socialist Realism and groundbreaking classics.

The array of movies viewers can explore includes not only masterworks by Tarkovsky, such as his complex, dreamlike meditation on memory, "The Mirror" (1974), but also comedies, live-action and animated fantasy films, musicals, melodramas and action and adventure films. Seagull Films has shown hundreds of Mosfilm titles, many in collaboration with New York's Film Society of Lincoln Center. "It looks like a sketch of all the programs we've done," Ms. Verlotsky said, citing a string of examples. They include Mr. Shakhnazarov's perestroika-era "Zero City" (1988), a surreal allegory laced with absurdism, which screened in a series on Russian fantastic cinema. "Nine Days of One Year" (1961), Mikhail Romm's ambivalent tribute to technological progress, appeared in a retrospective of Soviet films from the 1960s. And Vladimir Motyl's folktale-western mash-up "White Sun of the Desert" (1969), a favorite among cosmonauts, recently ran in a series on Soviet "Easterns."

Watching movies online may be a radically different experience from viewing them on the big screen, but the partnership highlights the complicated forces behind the trend. And in this case there is something magical about being able to click open a treasure box of Russian and Soviet cinema on one's computer screen.

There goes the day.

June 4, 2019 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


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