FAUST (Aleksandr Sokurov, 2011)

Unhappy people are dangerous, Russian writer-director Aleksandr Sokurov has opined, and Heinrich Faust, alchemist and dirt-poor scholar, is miserable. In his filthy quarters, Faust’s anticipation of Frankenstein hovers over the cadaver he is dissecting and ruminates about the soul he is unable to locate. Ostensibly, he is talking to his Igor-like laboratory-servant, but, solitudinous, he […]

SAVE AND PROTECT (Aleksandr Sokurov, 1989)

Long, slow and quirky, Aleksandr Sokurov’s Spasi i sokhrani is a highly creative filming of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. Written by Yuri Arabov, it is a thing of interiorities, images that express the deepest feelings of its characters, especially Emma Bovary, who feels strangled by her marriage and the provincial village into which it tightly fits. […]

MARIYA (Aleksandr Sokurov, 1978, 1988)

Robust, in her element working the earth, 41-year-old collective farmer Mariya Semionovna Voinova provides a smiling portrait of Soviet industry, strength, endurance. This is the centerpiece of the first of the two segments of the short documentary Mariya that Aleksandr Sokurov made nine years apart. This first segment is in color, and this color, which […]

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT (Pierre Chenal, 1935)

Stark, sturdy, Pierre Chenal’s Crime et châtiment strips Dostoievski’s novel nearly bare, dispensing with its plot density and philosophical richness, to focus on two things: dropout law student Raskolnikov’s anguished poverty, which motivates his rash acts (whatever his rationalizations, including the compensatory one of his intellectual and moral superiority, hence, existence above the law); after […]

NEZHNO (Aleksandr Sokurov, 1999)

The visible part of the blocked screen’s shape, narrow and vertical, suggests (along with the muted colors) hashira-e, nineteenth-century Japanese prints; Aleksandr Sokurov thus runs the risk in Nezhno (Dolce) of anasesthetizing his images by aestheticizing them. Nonetheless, Sokurov prevails. His focus is Mikho, the widow of Japanese writer Toshio Shimao, whose principal grief is […]