06 July, 2009

Andrei Tarkovsky In The New York Spotlight

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

There are few filmmakers more controversial or more "difficult" for mainstream audiences to appreciate than the Russian existential master Andrei Tarkovsky. His films are indeed an acquired taste, but for those willing to take the complex cinematic journeys, there are many rewards to be had. A Tarkovsky fan is indeed a Tarkovsky fanatic, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York provides both devoted fans and those new to this important oeuvre a rare opportunity to sample the master's handiwork.

No less a film giant than Ingmar Bergman praised his Russian counterpart as a "master who invented a new film language." First and foremost a visual artist, Tarkovsky invested a mystery and melancholy in his films that shone a light on the human condition and the aspiration for belief in something greater than ourselves. The Film Society of Lincoln Center brings back the complete oeuvre of this astonishing artist in REVISITING TARKOVSKY, an eight film series beginning on Tuesday, 7 July.

Showcasing all seven of the auteur's landmark films, the series will also premiere Dmitry Trakovsky's provocative new documentary, MEETING ANDREI TARKOVSKY, featuring rare interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. The series opens with the director's 1962 debut IVAN'S CHILDHOOD, a coming of age story which earned the 30 year-old director the coveted Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

The series also features the director's best-known film, SOLARIS (1972), a sci-fi classic based on a novel by the great Polish writer Stanislaw Lem. Considered a spiritual cousin to Stanley Kubrick's landmark 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY, the film uses space bound scientist Chris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) as a medium for viewers to meditate on the ideas of perception, relationships and love. The film was later remade by Tarkovsky fan Steven Soderbergh in 2002, with George Clooney as the existential astronaut.

One of Tarkovsky's most controversial films was produced two years later. THE MIRROR (1974) is a loosely autobiographical and experimental film based on his father's poetic writings. Taking close to ten years to come to fruition, and banned by the Soviet film ministry on the eve of its Cannes Premiere, Tarkovsky's masterwork has developed a cult reputation among cinephiles.

The series also features rare screenings of ANDREI RUBLEV (1966), a sprawling tableau of the Russian icon painter that was mangled upon its initial release and later screened in a restored 205-minute cut; STALKER (1979), a sci-fi twinged thriller about a town that has been unalterably changed by a cosmic event; NOSTALGHIA (1983), a meditation on human relationships starring one of Russia's most famous actors, Oleg Yankovsky, opposite the Swedish actor Erland Josephson; and Tarkovsky's final film THE SACRIFICE (1986), a cri de coeur against nuclear proliferation that embodied the director's fears for the future and belief in the essential goodness of mankind.

For more information, visit the website of the Film Society of Lincoln Center:

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