Techno Blender
Digitally Yours.

235,000,000 review – interestingly groovy portrait of the Soviet Union in the 1960s | Film

0 22


With Adam Curtis’s ordeal-montage Russia 1985-1999: TraumaZone still streaming on BBC iPlayer, and all of us goggling at his extraordinary mosaic of TV news clips about the day-to-day agony of post-Soviet Russia in psychological freefall, now is maybe the time to experience that work’s polar opposite.

This 1967 film, made to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the October revolution, is an archival classic from the Latvian director Uldis Brauns and screenwriter Herz Frank: an amazingly audacious attempt at documenting the ordinary lives to be seen all across the vast Eurasian landmass of the Soviet Union, whose population was then 235 million. (The equivalent total figure for the ex-Soviet states now is about 297 million.) This film is ideological of course, celebrating everyone’s harmonious coexistence under communism, but notably without any shrill stridency, and with a distinctly pro-western, pro-American attitude.

Brauns was a disciple of Dziga Vertov, whose 1926 travelogue film A Sixth Part of the World is clearly an inspiration, but so also evidently was the huge photographic series The Family of Man by the American artist and curator Edward Steichen, which Brauns asked his team to look at. Brauns and his camera crews ranged far and wide across the USSR, shrewdly and humorously capturing vignettes big and small. There is almost none of the traditional Soviet piety about work and industrial productivity: this is mostly about people relaxing at weddings, community gatherings, there are crowds at an art exhibition (where Tolstoy’s portrait frowns down), couples kissing, a couple going shopping for pram (cause and effect?) and families going to the beach, where youngsters do the twist and the helicopter seen above them seems to be doing the twist as well.

The street scenes have a kind of New Age grooviness to them and the musical accompaniment is a very non-Soviet jazz; the film’s single most startling scene shows a young Soviet girl with a very good American accent singing and scatting her way through the Ella Fitzgerald jazz standard You’ll Have To Swing It (Mr Paganini). That’s real détente.

There are military displays and military manoeuvres, and a mass skydiving exercise, in the course of which Brauns gives us a staggering midair shot of skydivers falling down towards his upturned camera, the operator apparently strapped to one of the skydivers. But the most fervent military sequence shows mothers and girlfriends sobbing as their menfolk go away for military service. There is also footage of the annual party congress in Moscow, with shots of Khrushchev and Brezhnev (this was released only a couple of years after Brezhnev had actually ousted Khrushchev as First Secretary of the party). But actually, we are not shown much of the solemn proceedings, but instead the delegates in hilarious conversation in the lobby outside; the whole event looks more like something at the United Nations.

Most importantly of all, the film picks out faces: whatever is happening, the action can usually be relied on to slow to a standstill to linger on someone’s face. This is even true, paradoxically, when a young woman turns her face away from the camera to sob, distraught at her boyfriend going away to do his national service. It’s a vivid picture of the age.

235,000,000 is released on 14 December on Klassiki.


With Adam Curtis’s ordeal-montage Russia 1985-1999: TraumaZone still streaming on BBC iPlayer, and all of us goggling at his extraordinary mosaic of TV news clips about the day-to-day agony of post-Soviet Russia in psychological freefall, now is maybe the time to experience that work’s polar opposite.

This 1967 film, made to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the October revolution, is an archival classic from the Latvian director Uldis Brauns and screenwriter Herz Frank: an amazingly audacious attempt at documenting the ordinary lives to be seen all across the vast Eurasian landmass of the Soviet Union, whose population was then 235 million. (The equivalent total figure for the ex-Soviet states now is about 297 million.) This film is ideological of course, celebrating everyone’s harmonious coexistence under communism, but notably without any shrill stridency, and with a distinctly pro-western, pro-American attitude.

Brauns was a disciple of Dziga Vertov, whose 1926 travelogue film A Sixth Part of the World is clearly an inspiration, but so also evidently was the huge photographic series The Family of Man by the American artist and curator Edward Steichen, which Brauns asked his team to look at. Brauns and his camera crews ranged far and wide across the USSR, shrewdly and humorously capturing vignettes big and small. There is almost none of the traditional Soviet piety about work and industrial productivity: this is mostly about people relaxing at weddings, community gatherings, there are crowds at an art exhibition (where Tolstoy’s portrait frowns down), couples kissing, a couple going shopping for pram (cause and effect?) and families going to the beach, where youngsters do the twist and the helicopter seen above them seems to be doing the twist as well.

The street scenes have a kind of New Age grooviness to them and the musical accompaniment is a very non-Soviet jazz; the film’s single most startling scene shows a young Soviet girl with a very good American accent singing and scatting her way through the Ella Fitzgerald jazz standard You’ll Have To Swing It (Mr Paganini). That’s real détente.

There are military displays and military manoeuvres, and a mass skydiving exercise, in the course of which Brauns gives us a staggering midair shot of skydivers falling down towards his upturned camera, the operator apparently strapped to one of the skydivers. But the most fervent military sequence shows mothers and girlfriends sobbing as their menfolk go away for military service. There is also footage of the annual party congress in Moscow, with shots of Khrushchev and Brezhnev (this was released only a couple of years after Brezhnev had actually ousted Khrushchev as First Secretary of the party). But actually, we are not shown much of the solemn proceedings, but instead the delegates in hilarious conversation in the lobby outside; the whole event looks more like something at the United Nations.

Most importantly of all, the film picks out faces: whatever is happening, the action can usually be relied on to slow to a standstill to linger on someone’s face. This is even true, paradoxically, when a young woman turns her face away from the camera to sob, distraught at her boyfriend going away to do his national service. It’s a vivid picture of the age.

235,000,000 is released on 14 December on Klassiki.

FOLLOW US ON GOOGLE NEWS

Read original article here

Denial of responsibility! Techno Blender is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Leave a comment