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.
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