David Giorgobiani

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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

Russian Ark Review


Excellent

There is a genius to the experimental and utterly surreal historical epic "Russian Ark" that has nothing to do with the fact that it was shot in one uninterrupted, mind-boggling 93-minute take that passes dreamlike through three centuries of Russia's royal past.

If this movie had been made traditionally -- several takes of every scene edited together with close-ups, two-shots, etc. -- its story would still be enthralling as it follows a traveler (or is he a ghost?) set adrift in time inside the breathtakingly grand Hermitage Museum of St. Petersburg, the former Winter Palace of the czars.

As writer-director Alexander Sokurov ("Mother and Son") turns you, the viewer, into this traveler with psychologically seamless first-person cinematography (by Tilman Buttner, "Run Lola Run"), the film becomes almost literally transporting, bringing alive the courts of bygone Catherines and Nicholases as it whisks you from room to room and era to era.

Continue reading: Russian Ark Review

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Russian Ark Movie Review

Russian Ark Movie Review

There is a genius to the experimental and utterly surreal historical epic "Russian Ark" that...

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