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March 3 - April 28

Dziga Vertov and the Soviet Avant-Garde

This series of screenings is hosted by renowned scholar of Russian and Soviet cinema and visiting professor Yuri Tsivian, in conjunction with his course Dziga Vertov and His Time: Left-Wing Art, Avant-Garde Filmmaking, Radical Politics. Placing Vertov's work alongside and in the context of his contemporaries, these programs illuminate the differing styles and approaches of artists who contributed to one of the richest, most significant periods in the history of cinema. The filmmakers' views clashed most famously in the public polemic between Vertov and Eisenstein. As Tsivian suggests in his book Lines of Resistance: Dziga Vertov and the Twenties, "for Eisenstein, art was an essential condition of human society, its inalienable asset," while for Vertov art – like religion – is an opiate of the people; it "becomes otiose in a society where everyone works, and will be banished from such a future republic, where the only form of art will be the art of the artisan."

Screenings will be introduced by Yuri Tsivian, Visiting Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures. Program notes for films by Dziga Vertov are adapted from Le Giornate Del Cinema Muto's program. Special thanks to Yuri Tsivian, Alexander Horwath and the Austrian Film Museum, Richard Suchinski and the Yale Film Study Center, David Shepard, and the Pacific Film Archive.


Live Piano Accompaniment by Martin Marks
Special Event Tickets $10

Monday March 3 at 7pm

Kino-Eye (Life Off Guard) (Kino-Glaz)

Directed by Dziga Vertov.
USSR 1924, 35mm, b/w, silent, 70 min. at 20 fps.
Russian intertitles with English electronic subtitles

Kino-Eye is Vertov's first feature-length documentary made not of
found footage but of purpose-filmed shots. The strategy was announced in a newspaper shortly before the film's release: "… the Kino-Eye – the movie camera and two or three people – has gone off on a journey from the Pioneer camp, through the peasant courtyards, through the fields, through the markets and slums of the town, with an ambulance car to a dying man, from there to workers' sports grounds, and so on and so forth, peering into all the little corners of social life. It has looked at and captured life, which has not been changed by its presence, has not smoothed down its hair or taken up a pose, because it has not noticed it." Print courtesy of the Austrian Film Museum.

Strike (Stachka)

Directed by Sergei M. Eisenstein.
With Grigori Aleksandrov, Yudif Glizer
USSR 1925, 35mm, silent, b/w, 102 min. at 16 fps.
Russian intertitles with English electronic subtitles

Full of dazzling cinematic conventions, Eisenstein's first full-length film depicts the story of a 1912 strike by factory workers in Tsarist Russia and its brutal suppression by the authorities. Eisenstein's dialectic montage is on full display, incorporating caricature, visual metaphor, and shock cutting. Made with members of the Proletkult Theatre, Strike is an essential work of the Soviet Constructivist art movement of the 1920s.

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Live Piano Accompaniment by Donald Sosin
Special Event Tickets $10

Monday March 17 at 7pm

Kino-Pravda No. 21 (Lenin Kino-Pravda)

Directed by Dziga Vertov.
USSR 1925, 35mm, silent, b/w, 29 min. at 20 fps.
Russian intertitles with English electronic subtitles

Lenin Kino-Pravda is a special, longer-than-usual issue of Kino-Pravda in which Vertov jumps with boldness and ease between newsreel and drawn animation to illustrate Soviet Russia's way up under Lenin's leadership, the decline in Lenin's health, and the year elapsed since his death. One notable sequence representing Lenin's illness can be seen as a tour de force of Vertov and Alexander Rodchenko's animated titling. In another, an animated caricature shows the face of a capitalist changing from gloating to despair – as he sees more and more people, crowds of them, join the Communist Party after Lenin's death.

Battleship Potemkin (Bronenosets Potyomkin)

Directed by Sergei M. Eisenstein.
With Vladimir Barsky, Grigori Alexandrov
USSR 1925, 35mm, silent, b/w, 75 min. at 18 fps.
Russian intertitles with English electronic subtitles

In rendering his account of the 1905 Black Sea mutiny and the sympathetic response it received from the people of Odessa, Eisenstein makes brilliant use of montage – the juxtaposition of individual shots – to provide drama by altering space and time to create striking metaphoric relationships that bolster his political arguments. The film's formal beauty is balanced by the stark power and humanity of its realist depiction of the suppression of an outraged populace.
"One of the immortal classics of world cinema." – Richard Peña

Stride, Soviet! (Shagai, Sovet!)

Directed by Dziga Vertov.
USSR 1926, 35mm, silent, b/w, 65 min. at 20 fps.
Russian intertitles with English electronic subtitles

What began as a commission by the sitting Moscow Soviet for a promotional movie, one which would show all the good things the Soviet had done for its city, was transformed by Vertov into something else entirely: a film experiment, an emotional film – anything but a picture that would help the Mossovet be reelected. In the end, the Mossovet refused to recognize Stride, Soviet!, and it was largely boycotted by film theaters. One can imagine the distress authorities must have felt when they saw what had been made of their election rally. No people are seen, just buses, cars, and various other vehicles gathered in the square to listen to the loudspeaker: one mechanical device talking to other mechanical devices about weapons and tools.

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Live Piano Accompaniment by Donald Sosin
Special Event Tickets $10

Monday March 31 at 7pm

A Sixth Part of the World (Shestaia Chast Mira)

Directed by Dziga Vertov.
USSR 1926, silent, b/w, 60 min. at 22 fps.
Russian intertitles with English electronic subtitles

Another commission, this one to promote Soviet products, a means to the modernization of the USSR. While the film drew criticism for its ample use of poetic intertitles, others praised not only its inventive approach to the rhythm between the lyrical text and image, but Vertov's creation of a cinema symphony whose extra-ordinarily daring and complex montage connects documentary footage from across the territories in a paean to its peoples and landscapes. For Vertov, it was "more than a film… already the next stage after the concept of 'cinema' itself." Revolutionary in its form and ideological content, A Sixth Part of the World was also, for the Kinoks, "the complete victory of facts" over Hollywood's factory of dreams

Bed and Sofa (Tretya Meschans-Kaya)

Directed by Abram Room.
With Nikolai Batalov, Vladmir Fogel
USSR 1927, 35mm, b/w, silent, 80 min. at 20 fps.
Russian intertitles with English electronic subtitles

Bed and Sofa tells the simple story of a domestic ménage à trois – simple, that is, until the female member of the trio discovers she is pregnant. Once believed lost, the film was rediscovered in the 1970s and has since become regarded as a Russian masterpiece of the silent era, notable for its unusual frankness, for the extraordinary fluidity of its camera work in a confined set, and for the actors' natural performances.

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Live Piano Accompaniment by Rob Humphreville
Special Event Tickets $10

Monday April 7 at 7pm

Miss Mend

Directed by Boris Barnet and Fedor Otsep.
With Natalia Glan, Boris Barnet
USSR 1926, 35mm, b/w, silent, 240 min. at 20 fps.
Russian intertitles with English electronic subtitles

This three-part serial "fuses elements of Fairbanks, Feuillade and Lang with brilliant location shooting in city and countryside...The film's prolific visual invention and amusingly convoluted plotting take in a Nosferatu-like body in a coffin, mysterious encounters in a chateau, kidnappings on a jetty, and culminates in an extended, accelerating pursuit involving cars and horses. Barnet exploits all the serial conventions and improves on them, winding down to a charming, poetic epilogue." – John Gillett, National Film Theatre

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Live Piano Accompaniment by Rob Humphreville
Special Event Tickets $10

Monday April 14 at 7pm

The Eleventh Year (Odinnadtsatyi)

Directed by Dziga Vertov.
USSR 1928, 35mm, b/w, silent, 52 min. at 20 fps.
Russian intertitles with English electronic subtitles

Fired from Sovkino studio after A Sixth Part of the World, Vertov
(and his brother-cinematographer Mikhail Kaufman and wife-assistant director Elizaveta Svilova) was soon hired by the All-Ukrainian Photo Cinema Administration. The trio's first assignment was a documentary celebrating the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution – more or less the same kind of ode-inpictures as Stride, Soviet! and A Sixth Part of the World. But while the political theme of The Eleventh Year may be orthodox and plain, its photography and editing are daring and complex. In the eyes of a left-wing artist of the twenties, ten years of Socialism was a radical social experiment, and as such, deserved, nay, required to be presented in a radically experimental way.

Zvenigora

Directed by Alexander Dovzhenko.
With Semyon Svashenko, Nikolai Nademsky, Alexander Podorozhny
USSR 1927, 35mm, b/w, silent, 91 min.
Russian intertitles with English electronic subtitles

Dovzhenko referred to Zvenigora as "unusually complicated in structure, eclectic in form… a catalogue of all my creative abilities." Anchored in a legendary tale of the search for buried treasure in Zvenigora mountain, the film proceeds to take in centuries of Ukrainian history and folklore through a series of unexpected jumps between time periods and stories. A visually exhilarating mixture of the mythical and the modern, it ultimately arrives (by train) at an ode to industrialization.

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Live Piano Accompaniment by Dan Gross
Special Event Tickets $10

Monday April 21 at 7pm

The House on Trubnaya Square (Dom na Trubnoi)

Directed by Boris Barnet.
With Vera Maretskaya, Vladimir Fogel
USSR 1928, 35mm, b/w, silent, 75 min. at 20 fps.
Russian intertitles with English electronic subtitles

A spunky country girl lands a job as a servant in Moscow and gets her first taste of the middle classes when she becomes entangled in the lives of the residents of an entire block of flats. An observant, essentially loving character sketch of a community that never seems to stop to catch its breath, The House on Trubnaya Square mixes perceptive satire (including some well-placed anti-bureaucratic barbs) with cinematic surprises (from surrealism to stop-motion) and burlesques of other Soviet stylists (Eisenstein and his crowds, Vertov and his tramcars). Adapted from Pacific Film Archive program notes.

Man with a Movie Camera (Chelovek S Kinoapparatom)

Directed by Dziga Vertov.
USSR 1929, 35mm, b/w, silent, 65 min. at 24 fps.
Russian intertitles with English electronic subtitles

Man with a Movie Camera is a film about film production, unique for the ways it lays bare the process of its own creation – from the cameraman and the editor to the projectionist and the orchestra involved with the exhibition of the film we see being made. This self-reflexivity is consistent both with the principle of Constructivist transparency and with the Productionist doctrine, in which the work itself – not its end results – will become the aesthetic value. The future belongs to the art of work, not to works of art.

In Spring (Vesnoy)

Directed by Michail Kaufman.
USSR 1929, 35mm, b/w, silent, 71 min.
Russian intertitles with English electronic subtitles

Brothers Michail Kaufman and Dziga Vertov became alienated from one another during post-production for Man with the Movie Camera (for which Kaufman worked as cameraman). Kaufman's own film essay, made the same year, was praised by Joris Ivens as a combination of "the acid rigorousness of Vertov with the humanistic approach of Cavalcanti."

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Monday April 28 at 7pm

Enthusiasm (Symphony of the Don Basin) (Entuziazm)

Directed by Dziga Vertov.
USSR 1931, 35mm, b/w, 67 min.
Russian intertitles with English electronic subtitles

A masterpiece of early sound film, Enthusiasm deals with the Five
Year Plan of the late 1920s. Vertov's stated aim was "to grasp the feverish reality of life in the Don Basin, to convey as true to life as possible its atmosphere of the clash of hammers, of train whistles, of the songs of workers at rest." The film was praised by artists like Charlie Chaplin, was subsequently forgotten, and then rediscovered by the avant-garde movement of the 1960s. We are thrilled to present filmmaker Peter Kubelka’s restoration, which re-syncs image and sound, allowing the viewer to experience what Vertov considered the new language of sound cinema. Print courtesy of the Austrian Film Museum.

Outskirts (Okraina)

Directed by Boris Barnet.
With Aleksandr Chistyakov, Sergei Komarov, Yelena Kuzmina
USSR 1933, 35mm, b/w, 98 min.
Russian intertitles with English electronic subtitles

Set in a Russian village during World War I, Okraina is Barnet's first sound picture, and as in some other early Russian talkies – Dovzhenko's Ivan, Pudovkin's The Deserter, Vertov's Enthusiasm – the stylized sound track is highly inventive and original. This is a volatile film full of raw emotions, and as Russian film historian Jay Leyda once put it, "You can't be sure whether the next scene will be funny or pathetic, gentle or violent. Seemingly irrational shifts in mood and plot ultimately create a profound sense of war as a state of chaos.” – Jonathan Rosenbaum

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