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Tony Grist

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Solaris [May. 2nd, 2005|09:42 am]
Tony Grist
It must be something like 30 years since I first saw Tarkovsky's Solaris. I watched it for the second time yesterday and it's amazing how well my memories of it hold up. But Tarkovsky is like that. You may not understand him, you may not even like him, but once you've seen one of his movies there's no way you're ever going to forget it.

Solaris is his most accessible film. It's still makes extraordinary demands on the concentration and patience of the viewer. Who else would begin a sci-fi adventure with 45 minutes worth of footage of people mooching around in a dacha? It's remarkable how the Soviet system was prepared to nurture this awkward, bloody-minded, intensely individualistic artist. The censorship gave him grief- Andrei Rublev was "edited" to ribbons- but no-one ever stopped him working. Solaris was followed by the magisterial, intensely difficult, intensely personal Mirror and Mirror was followed by Stalker, which is like Solaris with all the fun taken out. Great movies- alps of cinematic art- but pop-corn fare they ain't.

Compare and contrast with Orson Welles's experience in Hollywood.

Things to look out for in Tarkovsky.
Leaking roofs

[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-05-02 05:43 am (UTC)
Delightful! I just watched the same film, on Saturday.

Kate kept walking through the room saying fake things in Russian and laughing. She said, "What an ENDLESS movie!"

I loved it. I was so caught up in the thing, the glacial flow, the yearning for love and connection--I couldn't do anything. (Not understanding Russian, I was wedded to the subtitles.)

It was like spending a day with these people--

FINALLY I understood the George Clooney version, which I had enjoyed but with some irritation, because there was no real explanation. The discussion about the beings being made out of--what was it? Neutrinos!--instead of protein was entirely left out--

After the movie finally concluded I began watching the Clooney version, which I own, to see how the director caught the flavor of T. I think he did, really--the rain, the long soulful gazing into the camera--

I wondered why the black and white kept switching with color in T's version, and concluded that T was making a statement about the dreamlike nature of reality, or about what is real and what is not, or even about the Matrix...

(One thing kept creeping in as I watched: I kept thinking, who in Soviet Russia could have lived in such a lovely place, with horses and ponds--[aside: that lovely, sensually moving water-grass!]; I thought all good Soviets lived in apartments in grimy cities.)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-05-02 06:38 am (UTC)
Tarkovsky's movies are all cut from the same cloth. They share the same imagery, the same obsessions.

He loves rain. He especially likes it when it rains inside the house. I don't know what this means to him, but it's certainly dreamlike.

He keeps going back to the same countryside. The little farmhouses, the ponds, the wetlands, the horses browsing in the fields. I guess he's remembering his childhood home.

Isn't Natalya Bondarchuk wonderful? I fell in love with her when I first saw the movie back in the 70s. I find she's every bit as beautiful and moving as I remember.

I haven't seen the Clooney version. I'm not sure I could bear to. I'd be pining for Tarkovsky's vision (and for Natalya.)

Does Netflix carry any other Tarkovsky titles?

Andrei Rublev perhaps? Oh my, but that's another amazing film!

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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-05-02 06:49 am (UTC)
I just put Andrei Rublev in the queue, and already have The Sacrifice coming soon.

Here are some other titles. Are all these T's?



8 1/2

Aguirre: The Wrath of God


The Passion of Joan of Arc
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-05-02 07:32 am (UTC)
The Mirror is one of his.

The other Tarkovsky titles are

Ivan's Childhood

He only made 7 feature films.

L'Atalante is a French movie from the 1930s about people living on a barge.

81/2 is Fellini's autobiographical movie about a film-maker suffering from creative block.

Aguirre Wrath of God is a German movie starring Klaus Kinski, about a bunch of Conquistadors looking for the city of gold.

L'Avventura is by Antonioni.I haven't seen it.

There are several movies about Joan of Arc. I think this one is the silent by the Dane, Carl Dreyer.

They're all of them European art house classics. And all well worth a look.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-05-02 07:37 am (UTC)
Thanks! I like the idea of a movie about living on a barge. (And I should have known that was a French title. How lazy of me.)
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-05-02 06:57 am (UTC)
That was too lazy of me! I could research those titles easily enough for myself.

I just added some Bergman films, including one I saw and loved years ago, Autumn Sonata. I also ordered Wild Strawberries and Hour of the Wolf.

I love Netflix!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-05-02 07:38 am (UTC)
Bergman is my favourite director.

My personal recommendations are

The Seventh Seal
Smiles of a Summer's Night
Winter Light
The Passion of Anna
Cries and Whispers
Fanny and Alexander.

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[User Picture]From: four_thorns
2005-05-02 08:31 am (UTC)
that dream sequence in the mirror, when the ceiling is dripping and pieces of it are falling and his mother is washing her hair! i could never stop thinking about it.

tarkovsky always complained about the soviets allowing him to make "only" 7 films. i wish orson welles had received such a deal from hollywood.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-05-02 10:10 am (UTC)
The dripping ceiling had enormous significance for T. That image occurs (in some form or other)in all the films of his that I've seen. I wish I knew why.

Yeah, I think the Soviet Union was kinder to its film artists than Hollywood ever was. It's impossible to imagine The Mirror being financed by a Hollywood studio.
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[User Picture]From: silent_mouse
2005-05-03 01:31 am (UTC)
I remember his movies as the main source for my childhood fears and nightmares, I'm afraid. They are not very suitable for 7 years-old, I suppose. I really should watch them again now.

The book that Stalker movie is based on made a very big impression on me when I was a teenager. It is quite different from the movie, I think, and not written as well as it could have been, but it very interesting nevertheless.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-05-03 01:51 am (UTC)
Um yes, it would never occur to me to sit a 7 year old down in front of Tarkovsky.

Stalker is an odd movie. They go on this fearsome quest and then all chicken out at the end. It's as if Frodo had reached the base of Mt Doom and then decided he'd had enough and it was time to go home for tea. I felt cheated.

I've read Stanislaus Lem's Solaris. That's pretty good. I understand that Lem didn't much like what Tarkovsky did with his book.
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[User Picture]From: silent_mouse
2005-05-03 02:12 am (UTC)
To defend my parents a bit - it wasn't a case of "sit a 7 year old down to watch it". It was more like an extremly curious and I'm afraid rather neglected 7 year old playing at the back of the living room quite unnoticed, listening to the soundtrack and glancing occasionally at the screen. And it was shown on TV quite early in the evening.
I think Soviet Union had no real concept of "movies unsuitable for children" (because ther wasn't much violence of sex in them anyway) - or maybe that was just my parents.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-05-03 06:07 am (UTC)
I guess what's most unsettling about Tarkovsky is the way he merges dream and "reality". You never know quite where you are in his world. It's a place without boundaries, where almost anything can happen.
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[User Picture]From: hepo
2005-05-03 08:20 am (UTC)
Was the first Solaris really thirty years ago! I'm getting old.

It has to be said, I luv the old Sci-Fi movies they have that timeless quality.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-05-03 08:54 am (UTC)
Tarkovsky's Solaris came out in 1972.

Yes, I think Solaris and 2001 are probably the best sci-fi movies ever made.

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