Aleksandr Sokurov

Aleksandr Sokurov

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Faust Review


Good
Sokurov's fractured version of the Goethe play is something of an oddball masterpiece. It's meandering and fairly impenetrable in its madcap excesses, but is packed with eye-popping imagery and challenging ideas about human nature.

In a medieval German town, Dr Faust (Zeiler) is struggling with the meaning of life and the idea of God. Frustrated by the limits of his knowledge, he embarks on a quest that takes him to a chattery old moneylender (Adasinskiy), who gets his autograph and then follows him everywhere, pushing him into a variety of situations. Along the way, Faust falls for the young Margarete (Dychauk), although his chances with her are somewhat lessened when he kills her brother (Bruckner). But the moneylender can help. For a price.

Continue reading: Faust Review

Alexandra Review


Excellent
Nothing much happens in the Russian art-drama Alexandra. A grandmother (legendary opera diva Galina Vishnevskaya) gets on a train to Chechnya to visit her grandson Denis (Vasily Shevtsov), a soldier living on a makeshift base. Once she arrives, she sees her grandson for a bit, talks to some of the other soldiers, goes to a local market, and makes friends with some elderly marketplace traders. Again, it doesn't look like much, but those familiar with the work of Russian auteur Aleksandr Sokurov know that the man doesn't need much when creating his specialized brand of cinematic enigmas.

Like the bright balloon of Hou Hsiao-hsien's upcoming Flight of the Red Balloon, Alexandra serves as an allegory for several things, but, as political as it might be, Sokurov's film comes off as a metaphor. Vishnevskaya, in a bold, hypnotic performance, is at once Mother Russia, the grandmother of every man on the base, the ghost of humanity, the regiment's inner compass and, yes, even herself. The soldiers are at times equally mesmerized and frustrated by her very existence, mostly as she complains about the overwhelming heat. Though the war between Chechnya and Russia in the early 1990s is felt, Sokurov's film feels oddly undated, and when the grandmother fires a gun, remarking on how easy it is, it sounds like the universal history of conflict psychology delivered in a thick, Leningrad accent.

Continue reading: Alexandra Review

Russian Ark Review


Good
I don't know where to begin with a critique of Russian Ark. The most natural point is to mention that it's shot in one continuous take that lasts 90 minutes and includes hundreds -- maybe 1,000 or more -- actors. While Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov would have you believe this was a pioneering idea, Mike Figgis did this in Time Code two years earlier -- and he used four cameras, all running continuous photography and displayed in a split screen.

The real ambition in Russian Ark comes not from its technical challenges, but from its cast and setting. The film takes place entirely within the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg and comprises dozens of vignettes as the camera and its nameless narrator (Sergei Dontsov) flit from room to room on a journey through Russian history. The finale, which includes 300 pairs of dancers in a grand ballroom in the Hermitage, not to mention a full orchestra and countless spectators, is impressive to the point of being jaw-dropping. But the bulk of the film feels too much like filling time. Our hero (who bears a striking resemblance to Phyllis Diller) spends 20 minutes just figuring out what country he's in, and encounters with Catherine the Great, Anastasia, and other notable Russian luminaries are brief and cursory. (And where is Rasputin!?)

Continue reading: Russian Ark Review

Aleksandr Sokurov

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Aleksandr Sokurov Movies

Faust Movie Review

Faust Movie Review

Sokurov's fractured version of the Goethe play is something of an oddball masterpiece. It's meandering...

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